Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Armed Styles: The Vibro-Blade

Back in Iteration 3, we halved the cost of of vibro-blades, but let’s go further: Let’s say that TL 11 weapons are super-fine for free, which means that a vibro-blade is “just” CF 9, rather than CF 29.

A vibro-weapon gains +1d cutting damage and applies the armor divisor of (5) to its cutting and impaling damage (this is not explicit in Ultra-Tech, but implied, and I’ll make it canon in Psi-Wars). This means that cutting damage for a vibro-weapon is superior to impaling damage, and it’s tempting to add the +1d to impaling as well, but that risks making impaling weapons, which are already generally superior to cutting weapons, even better. Vibro-Weapons require a ready maneuver to activate, or can be activated automatically with a Fast-Draw roll. I’m also going to allow characters with Lightning Fingers to turn it on or off as a free action, once per second. This is useful if you want to turn it on right before making a stealthy attack.

Touching or holding the blade interferes with the vibrations in the blade, which means maneuvers like armed grapples, arm locks and choke holds with your weapon cannot benefit from vibrating unless they cut you, thus it’s recommended that you do not use these maneuvers unless the blade has been turned off.

We can apply the vibro-mechanic to any weapon with a cutting or impaling edge, but I’m going to try to favor weapons that focus more on cutting damage over impaling damage. I've chosen the following weapons to discuss in detail:
  • The Vibro-Knife (A large knife with the vibro option)
  • The Vibro-Blade (a falchion with the vibro option)
  • The Vibro-Glaive (a dueling halberd with the vibro option)
Additional exemplars of the knife, shortsword or polearm could work for vibro-weapons. I have not touched on a vibro-sword or a vibro-axe.

A vibro-sword runs into the problem of high cost for a weapon inferior to a force-sword, the weapon that better fills it niche, and an inability to translate into another niche (eg it's not particularly stealthy). In effect, it becomes a poor-man's force-sword, which might be okay, but not worth getting into in this blog post. If you wished to create one, GURPS Martial Arts brims with sword-based styles, and I recommend converting nearly any sword (Broadsword, bastard sword, backsword, cavalry saber, greatsword, hook sword, etc), but the Katana, the Dao and the Large Falchion are especially interesting.

The vibro-axe actually makes a lot of sense, as it's primarily a cutting weapon, has a utilitarian argument, and is generally far cheaper than a sword: A default axe is nearly as cheap as a knife, and does a truly horrific amount of swing damage and is one-handed. A long axe is similarly terrifying, inflicts even more damage, and isn't much more expensive. Nearly any vibro-axe can be had for less than $1000. They're not stealthy weapons (you can't really hide a long axe on your person), and a force sword is generally a superior weapon, but a force sword also costs ten times as much, while a long axe deals (in the hands of an ST 12 character) around 2d+6(5) cutting damage, or ~65 points worth of armor penetration. Unfortunately for a martial art style, very few styles in the book focus on axe/mace as their core skill, which means you'd have to devise your own. I'd recommend feints, defensive attacks, followed up by committed swings of your unbalanced weapon (you can't parry with it anyway).

Vibro-Weapon Modifications

Pyramid #3-51 (“Tech and Toys III”) page 9 and 10 breaks down what options you can use and what you can't. Technically, all our vibro-blades have the vibro-blade composition with the super-fine weapon quality.

We can make weapons balanced (+1 to hit) or poorly balanced (-1 to hit), and we have no additional options (other than styling, of course). But we can do better.

Nanomaterials halve the weight and double the cost. This is a composition option and thus incompatible with vibro-blades, but why? This is just an extension of the “Advanced/Expensive” option from Ultra-Tech. Why not allow it? CF 1 (when compared to the full vibro-weapon)

Fine: Obviously, we can't make a super-fine weapon also fine, but since super-fine is our starting point, why not have some super-fine weapons better than others? For that matter, why not a cheap option? If we want +1 damage, TL 12 vibro-weapons deal one more point of damage, and advanced weapons tend to cost twice as much, so if we double a vibro-blade's cost, we could make a reasonable claim to improving its damage. For cheap, we could remove the super-fine option. We'll simply halve the cost to do this.

Customization: You can design highly specific weapons using the system found in LT2 starting on page 13. For example, a vibro-glaive could have a butt-spike and a hilt, or one could work out the specific designs of a vibro-scythe (for those who really want a +1 when invoking the Miracles of Death).

Armored: How much damage a weapon can take matters substantially in a setting with force swords! Most weapons have a DR of 2-6, and between 8 (vibro-knife) to 18 (vibro-glaive) HP, which means even a decent hit from a vibro-blade has an excellent chance at clipping straight through a vibro-glave (DR 4 is reduced to DR 1 by the armor divisor, and then the weapon deals ~11 damage, which is improved to around 15 by the cutting damage. If the character gets lucky with a few more damage, or spends a single point of fatigue, then the vibro-glaive will be reduced to 0 HP). If we use the “quick and dirty” damage rules, all attacks penetrate armor and thus force breakage checks!
If we want weapons to remain consistent, mulitiply all armor by 10, so metal weapons are DR 60, wood-and-metal weapons (vibro-glaives) are DR 40, and “wooden” weapons are DR 20. This is only for advanced weapons (TL 11). Lower TL weapons might have lower DRs and, of course, guys with stone spears will have their weapons demolished by vibro-weapons. Treat this as standard (no cost).

If we're going to apply these "Armored" rules to vibro weapons, they should also apply to neurolash batons and shields (double the DR of the Riot Shield).


A knife offers superior lethality when compared to a fist, and can kill an opponent quickly and doesn’t take up a lot of room, making it an excellent back-up weapon, and making it an excellent choice for stealthy kills. They’re also a cheap weapon, making them a weapon of choice for punks, thugs and other mooks who don’t have a lot of money. This remains true of knives in Psi-Wars. Any knife can be made super-fine for free, which means all knives have an armor divisor of 2, which is nice, but not enough to get through any decent armor in Psi-Wars, including battleweave. If we want to be able to punch through armor with a knife, we need a vibro-knife.

For the vibro-blade, I have chosen the large knife (from LT 67) over the long knife because it’s a third the cost and much lighter, but still has a decent cutting edge. Weapons like the Rondel Dagger, Stiletto, or really any dagger focus more on impaling damage, making them less than ideal. A vibro-knife deals sw+1d-1(5) cut, and thr(5) cut, and costs $400. For a character with ST 12, it’ll do 2d+1(5) cut or 1d+1(5) imp, which makes it superior to a holdout blaster for armor penetration and damage, though not range, and in cost. It’ll cut through some weaker armor, though just barely.

Vibro-Knife Combat

GURPS Martial Arts suggests that Dagger Fighting as a good choice for space opera featuring the sort of premises as Dune. However, Dagger Fighting features numerous armed grapples, which are less than ideal for a vibro-knife. Another style, flashy and knife-suitable, is Escrima, though it primarily focuses on the main gauche and the smallsword. A vibro-knife is rarely going to be an optimal parrying weapon in a world with force-swords, but its focus on swinging attacks, “berserker tactics,” and the beautiful butterfly knife all make it an appealing basis for a style. While we could certainly spend some time expanding on both in Psi-Wars, I’ve elected to combine them into a single style, as people are unlikely to care so much about knives that they want a mess of styles to play with.

This is probably better as a source of interesting techniques and perks than an actual style, but some variation of it, especially with several of its optional choices, might make an interesting, if specific, style.

Skills: Knife, Wrestling
Techniques: Back Strike (Knife), Feint (Knife), Retain Weapon (Knife), Reverse Grip (Knife), Spinning Strike (Knife), Targeted Attack (Knife Swing/Hand)
Cinematic Skills: Power-Blow
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Knife or Wrestling), Fighting While Seated (Knife)
Perks: Dirty Tricks, Finishing Move, Neck Control, Off-Hand Weapon Training (Knife), Lightning Fingers (Vibro), Quick-Swap (Knife), Trademark Move

Optional Advantages: Ambidexterity
Optional Skills: Brawling, Fast-Draw (Knife), Main-Gauche, Savoir-Faire (Dojo), Thrown Weapon (Knife)
Optional Techniques: Aggressive Parry (Brawl), Combat Art, Elbow Strike, Knee Strike
Optional Perks: Flourish

Signature Moves – Vibro-Knife Combat

Juggling Feint: Make a Feint with the Knife in your dominant hand, and then instantly quick-swap it to your spare hand. At the GM’s option, if your opponent is not familiar with this tactic, the quick-swap can disorient your opponent when he’s expecting an attack from one angle and it comes from another. This is worth +1 to the feint, provided you attack with your off-hand on the next turn, and counts as a Dirty Trick. You may defend normally. Setup: You have one free hand.

Sinister Slash: Make a defensive (-2 damage) swing attack at your opponent’s hand (-4). Roll Knife (-4). Your opponent defends normally. If you hit, deal sw+1d-1 (5) cutting damage. You defend at +1. Setup: None.

Bladed Dance: Reverse Grip (Knife-6). If successful, make a spinning attack(-2) and end with your back to your foe and make a reverse-grip back strike (-2) against his torso. Roll a quick contest of Spinning Attack against your opponent’s best Melee combat skill, and apply your margin of success as a penalty to his defense or his margin of success as a bonus to his defense. Roll Knife-4. Your opponent defends normally (except as noted regarding a spinning attack). Your attack deals thr+2(5) imp damage. You may not parry with the knife, and you may not retreat and your dodge or parry is at -2. Setup: None.

Blood Frenzy: Make an All-Out(Double) Attack. Substitute a Dual Weapon (Wrestling/Knife) attack by grappling your opponent by the torso (visually, around the neck). Roll Wrestling-0. If you hit, roll two attacks with the knife, both to the vitals (-3). Your opponent parries at -2 and dodges at -1, due to being grappled. You deal thr+3(5) imp damage (tripled after DR). You may not defend. Setup: None

Final Mercy: If you have your opponent pinned on the ground and you are sitting on him, you may strike with your hands. Make an All-Out (+2 damage) Telegraphic (+4 to hit) for armor chinks (-8). Roll Knife-4. Your opponent parries at -5 and dodges at -4, due to being grappled and prone. If successful, this attack deals thr+3(10) imp damage. This is a Finishing Move. Setup: You have pinned a character in armor and you have successfully shifted to sit upon your target.


A shortsword deals more damage than a knife, and has a longer reach, giving it an advantage in a fight against a knife, but it’s larger size makes it harder to hide, and thus less useful as a stealth weapon. It’s also far more expensive: a generic vibro-shortsword runs $4000, while a basic blaster pistol runs $2200. The blaster pistol has longer reach, is fairly small itself, both suffer about as much in very close combat, and the blaster pistol does more damage. The vibro-shortsword only has an advantage in that it may parry, in the hands of someone strong it may do more damage, and it is better for stealth kills (a faint hum vs loud blaster reports).

For actual stats, several weapons suggest themselves: The fencing saber might be a nice weapon, if one wants numerous parries, but it’s a very expensive weapon for what you get. The long knife has some advantages, but the ideal weapon would be one that focuses almost exclusively on cutting damage, sort of a vibromachete, and that means the falchion. A vibro-falchion is $4000, and deals sw+1d+2(5) cut, which means an ST 12 character would deal an average of 2d+4(5) cut, or enough to go through about 55 points of DR, making him a solid threat to even characters in a (light) hardsuit.

Art of the Blade

Numerous styles in Martial Arts train Shortsword. It seems among the most common weapons in the world! For this style, though, I chose to focus on two which seemed to keep the shortsword front and center: Shortsword fighting and nito-ryu. Shortsword Fighting makes use of armed grappling techniques, which we cannot use, and Nito-Ryu makes use of broadsword, but we can ignore that for our purposes. Other potentially interesting styles include Escrima (switch smallsword out for shortsword), French Smallsword fencing (as Escrima), or any number of styles which have a shortsword as a back-up weapon (for example Wing Chun), but most of which seem to focus on feint, counterattack and dual-weapon attack.

The following technique focuses on a dual-weapon approach, but does not strictly require it.

Skills: Brawling or Karate, Shortsword
Techniques: Bind Weapon, Close Combat (Shortsword), Counterattack (Shortsword), Feint (Shortsword), Hammer-Fist, Low-Fighting (Shortsword), Targeted Attack (Shortsword Swing/Arm), Targeted Attack (Shortsword Swing/Neck), Targeted Attack (Shortsword Thrust/Vitals)
Cinematic Skills: Mental-Strength, Power-Blow
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Shortsword), Dual Weapon Defense (Shortsword), Fighting while Seated (Shortsword)
Perks: Finishing Move, Lightning Fingers (Vibro), Off-Hand Weapon Training (Shortsword), Quick-Swap (Shortsword), Skill-Adaption (Bind Weapon defaults to Shortsword), Trademark Move

Optional Traits: Ambidexterity, Enhanced Parry (Shortsword)
Optional Skills: Fast-Draw (Sword), Karate, Knife, Main-Gauche, Savoir-Faire (Dojo),

Signature Moves – Art of the Blade

Test of Mettle: Make a Defensive (-2 damage) Set-up (-4) attack against your opponent's torso (-0). Your opponent defends normally. Deal sw+1d(5) cutting damage if you hit. You defend at +1, and your opponent defends at -2 against you on his next turn. Setup: You face your opponent.

Proof of Arms: Step into Close Combat (-4) and make a Bind(-3) attack against your opponent's weapon (This will work against a force sword, as it locks the crossguard to the force sword hilt). Your opponent defends normally (weapons without reach C may not parry in close combat). While bound, never weapon can attack or parry, and both characters are at -2 DX. Your opponent may attempt to free himself with a contest of ST- or DX-based weapon skill against your Bind skill. You may defend normally (though you may not parry in close-combat).

Display of Force: Having bound (-2) your opponent's weapon, make a committed (+2) Hammer-Fist(-1) attack to his face (-5). Roll Brawl-6. Your opponent defends at -1 (from being bound). If you hit, deal thr(+brawling bonuses, +1 if this is a pommel strike), and any shock damage forces a stun check. You may not parry with your attacking hand, nor may you parry with your bound weapon, and you dodge at -2 and may not retreat. Setup: You have bound your opponent's weapon while in close combat.

The Art of Defense: After making a parry with one vibro-blade, make a defensive (-2 damage) counterattack(-5) with your second vibroblade at your opponent's arm (-2). Roll shortsword-7. Your opponent defends at -2. If you hit, deal sw+1d (5) cut damage to the arm. You defend at +1. Setup: You parried your opponent's attack last turn.

The Art of Deception: Make a defensive dual-weapon attack (-4 then -8) feint (+0) with one vibro-blade, and then attack your opponent's torso with the other. Roll a quick contest of Feint (-4) vs your opponent's best melee skill. Make a Shortsword attack (-4 or -8). Apply the margin of success as a penalty to your opponent's defense. If you successfully hit, deal sw+1d(5) cut damage to your opponent's torso. You defend at +1.

Cross-blade Execution: Make an All-Out (Strong, +2 damage) Dual Weapon (-4 then -8) against your opponent's neck (-5). Roll Shortsword-9 and then either Shortsword-9 or Shortsword-13. Your opponent defends normally. If you hit, deal sw+1d+4(5) cut damage for each attack, and double all damage that gets past DR.


In Star Wars, we occassionally see ominous guards, usually Gammoreans, carrying large halberds, which makes little sense in a sci-fi setting, but is hand-waved aways as “vibro weapons.” If we wanted to create a polearm topped with a vibro-axe head, we could use the Horse Cutter, the Light Horse Cutter, the Dueling Halberd or the Halberd (all on LT 68). Of all of them, I would choose the Dueling Halberd, if I had to pick one, which would run us $1200 (cheaper than the vibroblade!), and deal sw+1d+5(5) cut, or an average of 2d+7(5) cut, or enough damage to penetrate 70 DR, which will get through a light hardsuit pretty handily!

The advantages of such a weapon are its relative low cost for penetration and damage (It’s roughly equivalent to a heavy blaster pistol, which costs $5,600), and its long reach gives it an advantage against shorter weapons, like vibroblades. However, it’s a very unwieldy weapon, unable to both attack with its vibro-head and parry; it weighs in at a staggering 10 lbs; and it’s a huge, long, unconcealable weapon. Worse, polearms are ideally deployed in formation, and a unit of riflemen will vastly outperform polearm-wielding combatants except in situations where close-combat is required, like in the corridors of a ship, but there a vibroblade would be superior, thanks to its shorter length. Finally, the melee dominance of a vibrolance is defeated by a force sword, as any force sword wielder would just cut through the haft the first chance they got.

I would recommend naginatajutsu, horse-cutter fighting, glaive dueling, or pollaxe fighting. I would relegate its role in the fighting world to more primitive/poor cultures, or as an exotic and ceremonial weapon.

Vibro-Glaive Fighting

This style is derived from a mixture of Glaive Fighting (MA 187) and Pollaxe Fighting, with a bit of naginatajutsu thrown in. This style focuses on retaining defensive capability until such time that it has the upper-hand, and then commits fully to an attack with the powerful, unbalanced side of the weapon. This makes it a rather weak style against a force-sword, but solid against all other weapons. This style might be wielded by body guards or noble savages with elegant weapons.

Skills: Polearm, Staff
Techniques: Counterattack (Polearm or Staff), Disarming (Polearm), Feint (Polearm or Staff), Hook (Polearm), Retain Weapon (Polearm), Sweep (Polearm or Staff), Targeted Attack (Polearm Swing/Leg)
Cinematic Skills: Power-Blow
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Defense (Polearm or Staff), Whirlwind Attack (Polearm)
Perks: Form Mastery (Vibro-Glaive), Grip Mastery (Vibro-Glaive),

Optional Advantages: Enhanced Parry (Polearm),
Optional Skills: Brawling, Savoir_Faire (Dojo)
Optional Techniques: Combat Art (Staff or Polearm)

Signature Moves – Glaive Combat

Watcher's Guard: While in Staff stance with a Defensive grip, make an Evaluate maneuver. This grants him a free Tactics or Expert Skill (Hoplology) roll against his opponent to discern his intent or what fighting style he's using, and grants a +1 to the next attack, and allows the character to ignore up to -1 in Deceptive Attack or Feint penalties to defense. While in Staff Stance, he may shift the reach of his weapon as a free action. Defend at +1 from forward attacks. Setup: You face a single foe.

Watcher's Deception: While in Staff Stance in defensive grip, make a defensive (-2) Feint with either end of your vibro-glaive. Roll your Feint-2 vs the best of your opponent's melee combat skills. Apply the margin of success as a penalty to your opponent's defenses next turn. You may defend at +2 against frontal attacks and +0 against side or rear attacks. Setup: You must have attacked with either end of your weapon at least once this fight. Most Glaivesmen prefer to make a set-up attack with the blunt tip of their weapon while in Staff-Stance.

Duelist's Trick: While in staff-stance and a defensive grip, after successfully parrying an attack, make a Committed(+1 ST) Counterattack(-5) Sweep(-3) against your opponent's legs, out to reach 1 or 2. Roll Staff-8 to hit. Your opponent defends at -2. If you hit, roll a quick contest of ST+1 vs your opponent's ST, DX, Acrobatics or best Grappling skill. Victory means your opponent is prone. You may not parry with your polearm, and your dodges are at -2 and you may not retreat. Setup: You're in staff-stance.

Glaiveman's Greeting: While in Staff stance and Defensive Grip stance, step into reach 1 and make a Shove with your Staff Skill. Roll at no penalty. Your opponent defends normally. Roll 1d+2 double knockback damage. You defend at +1, an additional +1 from attacks from the front, and a -1 to attacks from the sides. Setup: You are in defensive staff stance.

Glaiveman's Catch: While in polearm stance, roll Hook(-5) against the leg (-2). Your opponent may defend normally. If you succeed, your opponent is “grappled” by your weapon, and you may pull him “off balance” in later turns (see MA74). Setup: You're in polearm stance and your opponent is standing.

Duelist's Dominion: While in polearm stance, against a prone opponent, make a Committed (+1 damage) swing for the torso(-0). Your opponent defends at -3 (for being prone). Success inflicts sw+1d+6(5) cut damage. You may not parry with your polearm, you dodge at -2 and you may not retreat. Setup: Your opponent is prone and you are in polearm stance.

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