Monday, September 5, 2016

Rewriting Combat: The Intent

GURPS is a toolbox.  It brims with alternate rules that could work, depending on what you want out of your game.  Some games need to be ruthlessly realistic, or depressingly gory, or heroically cinematic.  The point of the research over the past 3 weeks has been in service of understanding what we want out of Psi-Wars combat.

Now that we have that, it's time to look through my favorite chapter of Martial Arts, Combat, and pick out what rules we want, and what rules we don't.  We know how combat should look (the first week), how GURPS tends to work by default (the second week), and how Psi-Wars works (the third week), so we should now be able to adjust everything to create a decent framework for Psi-Wars.

When we're finished, we should have a very specific and unique version of the combat rules, which I'll unveil on Thursday.

I should note that I won't be looking through Gun-Fu because most of its rules have already been folded into GURPS Action, which we'll be taking with us more-or-less as is.  In fact, before we begin, let's take a look at the legacy Action 2 and 3 leaves us with before we move on to actually making changes.


Before we begin to customize our combat experience, we need to note what our goals actually are. These are:
  • To emulate the feel of the Star Wars movies, and the various works similarly inspired by them
  • To emphasize martial art variety and versatility
  • To make melee combat competitive with ranged combat
  • To facilitate faster combat (Martial Arts page 126), which means we need to:
    • Limit Options
    • Encourage options that lead to reduced defenses
    • Build a cheat sheet
    • “Work out everything in advance” and “encourage trademark moves”
    • Require Speedy Decisions and hold players responsible for remembering options (which requires clearly explaining/teaching those options)
    • Have major wounds end fights
In short, we need to make sure we level the playing field a bit between excellent blasters and sub-par melee options, we need to have sufficient options for kewl martial artz, and we need to note that our cinematic characters will have high defenses, so we’ll need to make sure they have plenty of options to reduce said defenses.

Rules Already In Place

GURPS Action 2 and 3 already have several cinematic rules built in. Let’s clarify these before moving on.

Extra Effort:
  • Feverish Defense
  • Flurry of Blows
  • Heroic Charge
  • Mighty Blows
  • Multi-Task
  • Near Thing
  • Second Wind
  • Shake It Off: only applies to rolls that would make you fall unconscious or suffer minutes-long incapacitation (such as agony). Knockback, knockdown and stunning all apply as normal.

Additional Cinematic Rules

Acrobatic Stand: Definitely include the +4 if you forgo your defenses.

Acrobatics Galore: The Space Opera genre advice recommends chambara rules, and those incude Acrobatics Galore, and we’ve definitely seen some Acrobatic Parries in Star Wars.

Bulletproof Nudity: Works as normal. Turns out slaves and gladiators are making perfectly reasonable combat decisions with their bare chests and skimpy outfits.

Cannon Fodder: Definitely applies! I’ve already discussed Mooks, Henchment and Bosses, though I’ll make sure I unify the terminology from here on out.

Cinematic Explosions: Use the “grittier” rules. Everyone always gets a Dodge roll at +3 (except for characters who have no ability to dodge or defend, who count as a failure, or a critical failure if in contact with the explosive).

Cinematic Knockback: don’t apply, but characters can take a perk, or certain weapons might have them at the GM’s option (typically a “cult of the gun” sort of rule).

Extra Steps: I’ve never actually seen this one come up, but I see no harm in allowing it.

Flesh Wounds: Definitely apply! Force swords will cut a trooper in half, but won’t give a space knight more than a scar.

Kayo: Definitely.

Infinite Ammunition: Uses the Beans, Bullets and Batteries rules, but given that a psi-wars power-cell is worth 5x shots that a normal power cell, characters should never need to reload in a fight, unless the weapon is particularly hungry for shots, or the GM wishes to emphasize a lack of ammunition (such as soldiers who have been fighting for days). For this reason, I have removed the Rapid Reload extra-effort option.

Unarmed and Melee Etiquette: Melee Etiquette isn't important, as sufficiently skilled force sword wielders will mow through 5 melee combatants as well as 1, but it's something to keep in mind as a way of running a game if we want really cool duel scenes. Unarmed attacks must be either dodged or parried with unarmed skills. Weapons cannot parry unarmed attacks (including force swords!).

TV Action Violence: Applies to spaceships or vehicles in chase scenes, but not to characters. That would make fights take far too long. Use Flesh Wounds instead.

Dumb Mooks: Fits with the rule of “Have everything worked out in advance.” Mooks should have one or two defined moves that they use all the time. It might be alright for an occasional elite mook to make a clever move like a deceptive attack, but it should be predefined. Don’t work it out in the midst of a fight!

Flawless Firearms: Does not apply to scavenged gear which explicitly have a lowered malf, but applies to everything else! Include the 2 CP to inflict a jam on an opponent’s blaster (not a force sword or melee weapon!).

Gun Etiquette and Mook Marksmanship: Both definitely need to apply, though treat a character with a force sword or buckler with precognitive defenses as “armed with a firearm” for these purposes. This isn’t strictly necessary with things like Henchmen snipers, but focus such attacks on characters with Danger Sense or on expendable NPCs (or just wound non-expendable NPCs dramatically). Allow Flesh Wounds if you must snipe an unaware PC.

Very Rapid Strikes: Lightsaber fights are fast, so we’d expect the same to be true of force sword fights.
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