November 22, 2015

Alternate injury rules

I've set myself the task of writing a few alternate injury/wounding systems for games I play.

I've got a good idea for one of them, but I'm struggling with a few things.

The first is that I cannot occupy my usual writing environs. I find it difficult to sit at my desk and write and type, because the blood drains to my injured foot and, well, hurts. Makes it hard to concentrate. I can somewhat avoid this by wearing the Cursed Boot of Confinement, but that still requires propping my leg up on the desk. Distracting.

The second issue is technical, in that I kinda know where I want to start, and where I want to wind up, but connecting those dots in a playable fashion is problematic. It's the playable that's the key, of course. I could write a great system that would adjudicate with multiple die rolls and table lookups, all implemented using a computer or spreadsheet. But that's not my goal, even though it would be really cool.

So, I do a lot of thinking and jotting down stuff in my Notebook of Pretentiousness.

I think I know what I have to do next, actually. Just have to do it.

November 18, 2015

The Lorica Project: Final

The lorica proect is completed.

Good: definitely doable, and the pattern works out ok. The insertion of coat hanger wires to make the cardboard hold its shape works great.

Mediocre: really need the system of hinges, pins, and ties that the actual romans used. I tried to "simplify' with velcro, which ironically means that you need flush-fit for all the connections. Pins and ties bridge gaps better. Also, elmers glue is ok for gluing the ribbon for the inner harness, but hot glue gun? Works wonders.

Bad: you really need to make these to fit. I cut the original to fit the typical smallish person, and that was too large for my slender girl's neck and shoulders. i had to buff out the shoulder guards, and she'll need to wear a shirt with shoulder pads (historically accurate!) to make it hang right.

The inner harness/ribbon is very important, and while ribbon works, you really want the hot glue gun to secure it to the cardboard rather than the elmers, which isn't tenacious enough to manhandle.

I finally embellished it a bit. The originals have brass hinge-work, so I figure it's legit.

Final product and larger pix after the break. Hey, maybe next time I'll take the time and make some for myself, too . . .

More uses for Tactics in GURPS

This was a bit of off-the-cuff, but I wonder if there should be a few more uses for Tactics, or the re-rolls granted by virtue of a successful Tactics contest, in GURPS. Tactics seems like it should do more, to me, anyway.

Things like:

  • Make a Tactics roll to get the benefit of partial cover when doing a retreating Dodge and Drop vs. an explosion. This would be to get the benefit of micro-environmental cover (that six to eight inch wave in the ground? Find it!) where such exists.
  • I wonder if you could use re-roll points to declare a Wait-and-Move on your turn. Basically, represent outguessing the enemy's actions by letting him move first, then adjusting accordingly - even interrupting his move. He rushes you? You were waiting, and can move away.
  • As combat starts, when setting the turn order, look up your margin of success on a Tactics roll on the Size (and Speed/Range) Table. Make the Tactics roll by 5? You get +2 to your Speed for the purpose of setting initial turn order.
What other uses of Tactics (or Evaluate, for that matter) have you played with in your GURPS games?

November 17, 2015

Grappling at The Flagon

Over at The Dragon's Flagon, the wayfarer penned something about grappling. Naturally, since I've had a few things to say about it myself, I was drawn in as the proverbial moth to the flame.

He's writing a "fantasy-heartbreaker" RPG. What is that? I had to look it up, and found this definition over on The RPG Museum:

"A fantasy heartbreaker is, essentially, a Dungeons & Dragons knock-off. Ron Edwards coined the term to describe a species of games published in the RPG boom of the 1990s, long after their purported innovations could be considered original. The term usefully describes games which are mired in preconceptions arising from the D&D paradigm. A criticism of the term is that it implies dismissal of the idea you can make "D&D, but better," which might be a desirable goal for some designers." 
Here speaks Ron Edwards: "The basic notion is that nearly all of the listed games have one great idea buried in them somewhere.... That's why they break my heart, because the nuggets are so buried and bemired within all the painful material I listed above. - Ron Edwards, 2002"
So  he's making a D&D-like system that is a variant on the standard. Some examples from reading his combat overview:

  • The Combat Roll inflicts damage, capped at a maximum, based on margin of success (the degree to which the combat roll exceeds the Armor Class of the foe).
  • You can optionally apply your combat rating to defend instead of attack. This can be thought of as either soaking potential damage, or getting out of the way/parrying more effectively. The result is the same - either less or no damage on a one-for-one basis.
  • He's got some very interesting combat options built in - forcing movement on the battlefield, or using a long weapon to keep a foe at bay (this is a very useful addition, in my opinion).
  • All of the combat options are usable by anyone. I like this - fighters can do fighty-stuff better, but anyone can try. That might be my GURPS showing - or my WEG d6 Star Wars - but it's my favorite option setup in RPGs.

OK, so grappling. Here we go. I will likely refer frequently to my post on Rules for Grappling Rules, which still stands up well as a good way to think about designing a grappling system, or an RPG subsystem in general.

November 10, 2015

Zoned "mapless" combat for GURPS

I'm blog-stalking +Peter V. Dell'Orto these days. You should too. He's penned a few posts on mapless combat for GURPS that got me thinking, again, of borrowing concepts from other games. In this case, the concept of Zones from Fate.

Zones are a nice, abstract way of thinking about who's where in a narrative game. You can fight someone if they're in your zone, you can shoot someone at a penalty across zones (perhaps; depends). But by and large the only purpose of the combat zones - and it's a good  purpose - is to give a general narrative guideline of who's where. Character A can act on NPCs 1 and 2. Characters B, C, and D are dogpiling Boss 3. For A to act on Boss 3, it's more difficult.

GURPS has this too

What you say? Yes, it's true. GURPS Action 2: Exploits, also known as the gift that keeps on giving, introduces a Range Band Table on p. 31 (in boxed text). Each band is -4 farther away than the prior band.

One of the nice underlying mathematical truths about the range bands (or just the Size and Speed Range table in general) is the fact that each step is a constant multiple of the one preceding it. This is just the nature of logarithmic tables, and for GURPS, the scale is each six steps are a factor of 10, or each step is x1.47 the one preceding it. This is usefully rounded to x1.5, but really the way GURPS does it is to have short memorizable progressions. GURPS' favorites seem to be 1-3-10, 1-2-5-10, and the SSR progression, 1-1.5-2-3-5-7-10.

We'll return to this in a moment.

November 7, 2015

Random initiative and a fixed GURPS turn

+Christopher R. Rice laid down a post about using random initiative in GURPS that turned into both an interesting "GURPS 201" post (small house rules based only on the Basic Set) as well as a thought experiment.

Some notes:

  • GURPS combat is based on a fixed turn order. Mess with this at your peril, perhaps.
  • GURPS combat is based on a fixed person-to-person turn length and so messing with turn order might lead to the destruction of causality and the end of the world as we know it
  • GURPS maneuvers and action resolution frequently depend on turn order, especially things that resolve "on your next turn" or "until the beginning of your next turn."

That doesn't mean that rolling initiative can't work, though. The uncertainty of "roll for initiative" can be a real feature.

For more commentary, there's a thread going on the SJG Forums. Start here.

Every Point Counts

Having Basic Speed 6 instead of 5 can be expensive. It's a minimum of 20 points per level to buy it up (p. B17). And it can cost as much as 80 points per level for +4 to DX. So if you've shelled out the points, you're going to want to have an advantage there. In short, an extra point in speed should give a decisive advantage over a foe.

We probably want it non-linear, too. Each quarter-point of speed puts you even more decisively ahead in turn order.

Roll 3d6 of course

So if I were to do this, I'd probably ditch the concept of DX+HT/4 and just make it DX+HT for Speed. Move would still be divide by four and drop fractions.

But for turn order, take DX+HT (which for Joe Average is 20) and add 3d6. 

Combat Reflexes might add +3 as it's a 15 point advantage, and Enhanced Time Sense gives +9.  

Someone that has Basic Speed 24 will only be out-sped by someone with Basic Speed 20 roughly 10% of the time.

You could also just run this as a Quick Contest vs DX+HT. So the typical margin of victory will be 14 for he who used to be Basic Speed 6, and 10 for Basic Speed 5. Act in descending order of Margin of Success. That might even allow things like "if you fail your roll, you suffer partial surprise; crit fail and it's total - you were caught off-guard completely." Combat Reflexes and ETS would have their usual prohibition (perhaps) against total surprise.

Roll Every Turn

The above is a fun way to establish a fixed turn order that will trend with the current "descending order of Speed" rule. Roll once, at the beginning of combat. Turn order is thus set.

But what if you want to roll every turn?

This can be an issue. You can get two declarations in a row, or your foes can, making it hard to hard to adjudicate Waits and things like Judo Throw, where after a Parry, you can usually count on stepping in for a throw without your foe getting a chance to step away from you.

On the average, though, I suspect this cancels out. For every time that a Wait is ruined because your foe goes first, the PCs will get a chance to act twice and ruin the foe's day.

Where I think things get hairy is that typically, it's presumed that every character's action is a second apart from that character's last action, but you don't really know how much time elapses from character to character.

If you throw a grenade with a 3-second delay, it goes off presumably at the start of the thrower's third turn after the throw.  For randomly resetting turns . . . when does it go off?

One possibility is to declare that GURPS does in fact have a specific round, and people move around within that time scale.

And the grenade: Give it its own die roll, at the same basic speed as the thrower. On the average, it will detonate on the third second from being thrown. But specifically? You don't know quite when it will go off. So you might be able to run to it and throw it back. Or it might blow up in your face.

That would be another way to resolve long-distance sniper shots too. Hmm. Give the bullet a speed score, and have it arrive at some random time in a particular turn that makes sense based on the speed of the bullet. That might be able to be extended to even short-range shots (but I'd not bother) from guns, but might be an interesting way to figure out when ranged muscle-powered weapons hit (though again, the book-keeping factor here will tend to sink this idea).

Parting Shot

Random initiative or even turn-by-turn initiative might not break anything if done right, even in GURPS where some of the maneuvers and other options are built around the assumptions of fixed turn order. With the norming tendencies of the 3d6 roll, the basic tendency will be "descending order of Basic Speed," but with slight differences in order depending on who rolls well. 

Many people seem to play GURPS (and speak about it) with a bit of a "round-based" instead of "turn-based" mindset anyway - perhaps a legacy from Dungeons and Dragons, perhaps not. I'd be interested to actively play a few sessions with both styles (roll at beginning of combat, and roll every turn) to see specifically what breaks, if anything.

November 6, 2015

Apropos of Nothing: Recovery from crippling injury

So, it's two weeks post-op. The procedure apparently went as well as it could go, I guess - information hasn't been terribly forthcoming. They put in five surgical stainless screws (the phrase "living tissue over metal endoskeleton?" Yeah, it's come up.) to affix the broken pieces of the calcaneus (heel bone) back together.

Key questions I had sorta-answered today:

  • It will be another month before I am to start weight-bearing exercises, and I expect those to be light
  • Real activity must wait until three months post-op
  • Full remodeling can take as much as a year
  • I can expect to develop arthritis in the area in a bad way, likely leading to a bone fusion later in life. This cannot be good. 

November 5, 2015

Retreat, Better Defenses, and Evaluate

+Peter V. Dell'Orto has an interesting note today about the challenges of the Retreat defensive option when using mapless combat. It's worth a read.

I was intrigued by the option of just always giving people the benefit of increased defenses, the +1 for retreating for a parry/block, or the +3 for Dodge (or parry when using Karate, Judo, and Boxing).

Doing this will slow the game down, because there will be fewer hits and more trading of blows. Of course, I wrote The Last Gasp explicitly to slow the game down - or at least encourage pauses between frantic bits of action.

But these blog pages have seen a great deal of dialog on the subject of Evaluate, as well. In particular, the GURPS 301: Evaluate segment of Melee Academy.

Rereading my own work, I really like the idea of boosting basic "I'm standing there" defenses so that that "whoever attacks first is likely to win" flavor is diminished. In fact, one of the concepts that has been floating around for a bit is "Fully Enabled Defense," which has you roll against full skill (or really, Skill-4) for defenses. One potential downside about that (which as Tbone notes is also present in every other contest or test of skill in GURPS other than those rolled vs half-skill, like parries) is that above Skill-14, defenses go up fast. 

Which brings me back to Evaluate. If you have naturally high defenses just by standing there, then some sort of Evaluate mechanic will be required before you start swinging.

In my suggestion to make effect rolls for Evaluate you'd want to double them (use swing instead of thrust) if using FEND type full defenses.

In any case, I think the base concept of increasing defenses at least for the first blow in a fight makes some sense, and for mapless combat, higher defenses also make sense since the players and foes will always take care to optimize their actions, and there's little that's obvious to stop them. 

Leveraging Tactics to back someone into a wall or on to difficult terrain would make a good alternate play here, too.

In any case, I like effect rolls, and I like the concept that you can start with higher defenses, but also with more opportunities to lower those defenses.

Setup Attacks are a deliberate opportunity to throw a blow that causes an opening. Treating Evaluate as an attack would allow "seeing what's open" and then throwing an immediate attack as well at -6 to each while retaining defenses (or you can just Feint and Attack, if you don't wish to retain defenses, or Feint, and then Attack, if you don't mind taking two turns).

Based on my work with On Target, I'd probably not make the default of the Evaluate Per-based anymore, or allow DX or Per, which ever is better, for Evaluates. Looking for an opening is such a basic part of fighting that I'm not sure Per would be the right call here. 

Parting Shot

More on this later, perhaps. Suffice to say:

Peter's comments about higher defenses in general are intriguing

I don't necessarily care for a reasonably skilled warrior having a 50% chance (ish) to avoid an attack. Skill-12 is Parry-10 with a retreat. AoD, however, pushes this to Parry-12, for 75% effectiveness. That suggests something to me. again more later.

Defenses are on the rapid part of the bell curve in general. They tend to range from 7 to 11 for many characters, so small swings have big results. This probably makes for good games

Evaluate and target searching, either on attack or defense, is underutilized.

I like effect rolls, and I think bringing one into the Evaluate sequence would be a good way to increase the usage of that maneuver - it works very well in play for Aim, and it should have an equal impact for melee.

So I think there's something here, but the Skill/2 type defense exists for a reason and has survived 30 years of play and playtest. I don't think that's just sacred cowishness.