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Some GURPS Combat Modifications

Table of Contents
  1. Opponent Evaluation in Combat
  2. Very Quick Hand-to-Hand Combat

Opponent Evaluation in Combat

I’ve always been troubled with a big flaw in GURPS combat system: based on one-second combat turns, it tries to emulate reality as close as possible, but most players -- especially those with an AD&D background -- and many GMs aren’t ready for that.

In real-life combat it will be rarely that a fighter would rush in blindly, hacking on their enemies. A wise combatant always spend as much time parrying and feinting, evaluating his opponent’s skill and strength, as he attacks. However, in roleplaying combat very few players will let their characters do the same; they will usually just attack as many times as possible in each fight, trying to hit the enemies with very few concerns about their own safety, leaving it primarily to armour and inborn dexterity.

Since this also goes for GMs, it is not such a problem; most of the time enemy NPCs will act just the same. However, those GMs who wish to simulate reality will find it a problem, so I have devised a possible solution:

At the beginning of a fight, roll for each character against the skill with the weapon he is using at the moment, or DX for an unskilled unarmed combatant. A success means that he can attack, while a failure means that he must spend as many turns evaluating his opponent for as many rounds as is the number he failed by -- his only allowed actions during that period are Change Position, Step and Ready, Step and Feint (he can’t attack in the next turn, but his opponent’s roll might give him some ideas on his skill), Step and Wait, All-Out Defence and Move. After those rounds the character rolls again, at a +1 for each previous attempt, following the same rules. Treat critical success or failure as the ordinary ones.

GM shouldn’t let the player see what he has rolled for an NPC opponent; this way he will never be certain if the opponent doesn’t attack because he isn’t skilful enough, or he is just waiting for something.

A player can chose that his character forfeits any evaluation and attacks -- it’s appropriate to use All-Out Attack for that, but not necessary. In that case he rolls nevertheless, and the amount he failed by is the penalty to his attack and defence rolls in that turn. If he continues attacking, roll each turn.

It is also possible that a character is so familiar with his opponent that he doesn’t need to evaluate him -- a good example would be the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars -- in that case no rolls are needed. A previous evaluation of the opponent -- say, watching him fight -- can also confer a bonus of +1 to +6.


Very Quick Hand-to-Hand Combat

My other main problem with GURPS combat system is the one second turn itself. Although it is realistic, most low-tech fights, especially between several well-armoured opponents, can last for quite some (real) time, obstructing good roleplaying with too many details concerning combat. Often neither Basic Combat rules solve this problem, so I have come out with a system to speed things out:
First of all, a turn lasts 30 seconds rather than one, and includes attacks and defenses as well as various feints, evaluation etc. Once each round, roll once for each combatant against his skill with the weapon he is using (or DX for unarmed untrained combatants), minus his opponent’s PD. If he has several opponents, use the average of their PDs. A shield adds its full PD value.

The amount by which the roll was successful is the number of blows delivered by the character during this turn; roll for damage as many times, or (for simplicity) roll once and multiply the result with that amount. If there is several possible targets, the player chooses how many hits each of them receives. DR and the type of attack modify the damage normally.

A critical failure means that the character has dropped the weapon or something similar: he is at -4 during the following round. Since the character’s effect to the opponent(s) is determined by the success margin, critical success is identical to a normal success.