Friday, June 18, 2010

Basic GURPS Combat

Now that I explained what a character is like now combat!

GURPS 3rd Edition has a pretty good setup where they explained basic combat and then had a chapter where they added movement, the hex grid, and other advanced combat rules. This made a lot of people happy as the roleplaying folks got a solid simple system to use and the grognards could drink deeply from the realism cup.

GURPS 4th edition doesn't present it in quite the same way. But it can still be played the same way as it was in 3rd edition.

The Basic combat system is fairly simple.

Combat Round are 1 second, you can do one thing a round. If you don't do a full move you can generally take a step and do your one thing.

You roll 3d6 less than or equal to your skill.
If you hit, the defender most of the time get to make a defense roll picking either a parry, a block, or a dodge.
If the defender succeeds that it for the attack.
If the defender fails you roll damage and subtract the Damage Resistance of the armor the defender is wearing. Any damage that get through may be multiplied if you do cutting (1.5x) or impaling damage (2x)

The defender has a number of hit points based on his Strength. If he take more than 1/2 HP in one shot he could wind up stunned. If he below 1/3 HP then his dodge and movement are cut. If he below zero then he must roll his Health or below or fall unconscious. If he is below -HP then a failed Health roll could mean death.

I will get into the other options in a later post. But this is the guts of GURPS Combat.

So what is like? What pitfalls are there?

The biggest thing people have trouble with is the one second combat round. In most other combat system you can two or more things in a round. Like move and attack, quaff a potion and attack, quaff a potion and run like hell. In GURPS you do one thing and one thing only.

For example

Round 1: I move up to the orc (and dodges the Orc's blow)
Round 2: I step to the right and swing at the Orc (and fails to defend)
(Bob get knocked down by the Orc)
Round 3: I get up (Fails to defend and gets hit again)
Round 4: I pull out my potion and step away (Orc steps and attack, Bob Dodges)
Round 5: I drink my potion and step away (Orc steps and attack, Bod dodges again)
Round 5: I attack the Orc (The orc fails and falls to the ground stunned)
Round 6: I attack the Orc on the ground (Orc is stunned and utterly fails his parry)
(Orc dies before he could get up)

Unlike other systems every roll represent a single physical actions which makes visualization of combat easy. The 3d6 bell curve keeps the probabilities of defenses reasonable so that combat doesn't turn into a game of who misses their roll first. GURPS 4th edition redid the combat numbers a bit make it flow better. Too often in earlier edition characters could get super high defenses making combat bog down.

Still if you if you are facing a guy with a 15 parry he is not missing his defense often. Unsurprisingly the designer of GURPS handles this in several ways. In the next post I will explain maneuvers in more detail but there are a couple that can result in you disarming your opponent or fake him out so he has a minus on his next defense roll. Also you can apply real world tactics and take your opponent out that way. Most of the time just having multiple party members swinging at the high defense guy solves the problem as you only get so many defenses per round. Other solutions can work well with GURPS like throwing sand in your opponent's face.

I am not going to say that GURPS has the best all time RPG Combat system. As a referee and player you do have to remember more than D&D or other abstract combat systems. Not everybody likes the detail or gritty combat. But SJ Games is really good at game design and it shows in the GURPS Combat system.


Rich said...

I used GURPS to play mostly modern games (Black Op's kind of stuff). How do you handle combat between players and fantasy monsters. I lost all my GURPS books years ago... but if I remember correctly there was a pretty limited list of statted up fantasy monsters. Did you convert many DnD monsters to Gurps. What do you do with characters who want to use their parry against a dragon bite? Do you allow it or do you force them to use a dodge or block?

Robert Conley said...

Much of my campaign involves humans fighting humans/humaniods. Since it GURPS an Orc Warchief is never a pushover.

I find that players vs creature usually ends badly for the creature. If the party is prepared. I use stats cobbled together from the 3rd Edition Bestiary, Fantasy, Dungeon Fantasy I, and the excellent fan produced Natural Encyclopedia

As for the Dragon Bite (or Giant Swing) GURPS (page 376) has a rule that basically states if that if you attempt to parry a weapon that is way heavier, YOUR weapons may break. Beyond a certain point it will always break and the attack will succeed if the dragon hit.

You can however attempt to block or dodge.

If you choose to do so on page 484 there is a rule about shield damage. Basically if you made your defense only by the shield's defense bonus then the attackers hit your shield. For example if you had a shield skill of 13 and your shield DB is +2 a roll of 13,12, or 11 means that the attack hit your shield.

Lower rolls mean you use your shield to guide the attack away rather than a direct block. In the case of a dragon head likely meaning that you use the shield to push yourself away from the dragon attack then actually moving the dragon's head.

Siskoid said...

One of my favorite GURPS moments was our very first combat. The setting was Old West and one of the PCs had shotgun. He shot a baddie in the chest and off his horse. Rolled the damage (shotguns have biiiig multipliers). Looked at his Health. Looked at the damage again.

All the PCs ran for cover before a bullet could find its way to them.

(That said, we've also played more cinematic games where damage wasn't so realistic. GURPS is flexible enough for it, but tends towards real life consequences to combat.)

Superhero Necromancer said...

Just wanted to say I'm getting a lot out of this series, Rob.

I've been peering curiously at GURPS for the last few years, ever since I discovered what a fantastic gameThe Fantasy Trip is. We ran a quite successful TFT campaign, and since then I've been especially curious about the weapon damage, armor, and defense rules from GURPS. I haven't taken the plunge though because of the really-not-very-newbie-friendly 4th edition rules (no really good point of entry) and a personal bias against diddly point buy. This series is really helpful on the first bit. Nothing to be done about the point buy, but that's not a complete make or break issue. Still would be tempted to just port the weapons, armor, and defenses to TFT if I thought I understood them well enough to do so without unexpected consequences.

I like the sound of the one round, one action system in GURPS as well.

Rich said...

Rob - thanks for the tips and the links! I always appreciated the GURPS system and its designers.