Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Houserules for Apollo's Bones (GURPS)

A selection of GURPS houserules for the megadungeon campaign, with commentary following each entry. I fully expect to revisit these once the Dungeon Fantasy box set is released -- it sounds like that will include a lot of rules simplifications suitable for dungeon crawling.

All-Out Attack (ranged) - If performed at melee distance with a crossbow (quarrel pressed against the target), you may take the +4 for an All-Out Attack (Determined) instead of +1. Of course, the target can defend as against a melee attack too (but any Retreat must be a Sideslip or Slip (MA 124), or Dodge and Drop). This was originally a houserule for guns, but it's a nice option for crossbows.

Ambidexterity costs 10, not 5. I think reducing the cost of Ambidexterity in GURPS 4e to 5 pts was a mistake -- it made the Off-Hand Weapon Training technique senseless, and we ended up with single skill ambidexterity as a 1 pt perk, which doesn't fit my sensibilities at all.

Armed Interdiction - see here, basically allows a Parry-2 roll, out of turn, to perform a half-damage strike as an interrupt on someone running by. Uses up a Parry. What a great idea - this helps skilled combatants control the space around them better, which is often lost in the GURPS single second turn structure, with combatants who have a perfect tactical picture of their surroundings.

Armor uses the Edge Protection rules from Low-Tech p.102, making it more difficult for cutting damage to penetrate heavy armor. (Cutting damage must overcome 2x DR to get the cutting multiplier, otherwise damage is crushing only.) Swing damage needs to be nerfed a bit in fantasy games, or else a broadsword and ST 15 turns into a freakin' lightsaber.

Armor Layering - As per LT103, layering armor reduces DX by 1 for that location. This almost always affects combat skills. Houserule perk: Armor Layering (X & Y) allows you to pick two broad armor types (Ex: mail and plate, scale and cloth) and suffer no DX penalty for that combination. This is a Style perk (MA 49), requiring 20 pts in combat skills as a prerequisite. It's tough to get high DR values at TL3, this should help players who want to tank up while ensuring they're paying an opportunity cost for doing so.

Attacks targeting the Torso that succeed by 3 or more hit the Vitals instead. Impaling, piercing, and tight-beam burning attacks only. This has worked well in previous campaigns - it doesn't make sense that a well-aimed torso hit would never strike the vitals, and I disliked the extra roll and randomness of just making 1/6 of torso hits into vitals hits.

Characters may have a single skill at 0.5 point at any time. Skill level is -1 from the 1-pt level of the skill. I like the extra granularity of being able to give out half-points for experience, and this is a way to spend it.

Character death: New PCs' base points will be the average of 150 and the current lowest-value PC. Lower-point PCs will have faster advancement due to lower treasure thresholds for bonus XPs. We've found that brand new PCs built up to the same point level as the experienced PCs play and feel pretty different. The ability to focus those extra points on an attack technique or power set makes them a little unbalanced alongside a PC who has been putting a point here and there into utility skills.

Clerics will use the Divine Favor rules. I'll loan interested parties my hardcopy. I adore having completely different magic systems for priests versus mages, and Divine Favor really feels like it comes from an outside power source.

Combat Talents - The following combat-focused Talents are available:

  • Hitter [7/level] - all unarmed combat skills 
  • Man-At-Arms [10/level] - all armed melee combat skills 
  • Skirmisher [10/level] - all ranged combat skills (thrown, projectile, etc) 
These seem balanced between the cost of DX and the cost of skills. I think that the taboo against combat talents (already broken by Pickaxe Penchant) should mainly prevent player-designed and abusive custom Talents.

Crit results: 9-11 on the crit table treats damage just like All-Out-Attack (Strong): +1 damage per die, or a flat +2, whichever is better. It always felt disappointing to roll a crit and get nothing -- sure, your attack hits with no defense, but you knew that before you rolled the crit dice. This is just more fun.

Enchantments to be priced differently, probably no Quick & Dirty, but enchanters can invest Magery power pts per day. Enchantment is sooo slow, this is an attempt to make it more viable for talented enchanters. Even if they're NPCs.

Evaluate in addition to the standard +1 per turn to skill on your next attack, you also get +1 to defend against that opponent (max +1, not cumulative) and an Observation roll to notice something interesting about him/her/it. Spicing up Evaluate a little, to make it more attractive and encourage combat lulls, especially in duels.

Extra Attack: Multistrike not permitted - I want to encourage a more freewheeling, swashbuckly feel with secondary attacks (butt/pommel strikes, kicks, etc). This has worked well to encourage melee fighters to develop secondary attacks and not just spam the Broadsword attack.

Extra Effort: Heroic Charge still eliminates the skill cap of 9, but retains the normal skill penalty of -4. Just toning this one down a little, it's still a game changer in a fight.

Grappling will use a stripped down version of Technical Grappling, details TBD. The core idea of Technical Grappling is fantastic, but the developed version is far too complex for my tastes - needs a Lite version.

Heroic Archer, Trained By A Master, and Weapon Master provide some special benefits:

  • They open up certain esoteric skills and techniques. 
  • Only characters with at least one of these advantages may use Extra Effort in combat or Deceptive Attack with ranged weapons. 
Extra Effort is a huge advantage in combat, and I don't want any old goblin from using it - this creates a barrier for entry and makes these character builds that much more impressive.

Knockdown and Stunning: Failing this roll only stuns you. Failing by 3 or more also knocks you down. It seems like it should be possible to be stunned by an injury without falling down. It seemed odd for hand injuries in particular (my players aim for the hands a lot).

Language Talent halves the cost of languages (half-points may be spent in this case). The version in Basic always played a little funny (no languages at Broken, ever?). Also, another use for half-points!

Luck: Occasional Luck [10] usable once per session. It's OK to buy Luck several times, perhaps with different modifiers. The entry level version of Luck, still worth it.

Parrying Unarmed Attacks As (B376) but damage to the unarmed limb/extremity is just the unarmed attack's own damage, modified to imp/cut/cr as appropriate. We houseruled this as half normal weapon damage for a while, which worked well enough. This is an experiment to see how animal/monster attacks fare with the critter's ST and mass taken more into account.

Shield: Strapped and buckler shields use the same skill, there is no -2 familiarity penalty between them. This always seemed a bit nitpicky, let's just have one Shield skill please. Ditto for shotguns, rifles, and muskets, but I digress...

Shortswords: In Close Combat, shortswords are at -2 instead of -4, but only for thrusting attacks. Speaking of nitpicky, I always felt like shortswords should be handier in Close Combat - it seems like the gladius et al were designed to be useful in a clinch. This gives them a little love.

Skill Assistance: When applicable (not always), two characters may assist each other on a skill roll. The character who succeeds best has their result modified as follows:

  • Helper critically fails: Critical failure affects both characters. 
  • Helper fails: Margin reduced by 1. 
  • Helper succeeds by 0 to 4: Margin improved by 1. 
  • Helper succeeds by 5 to 9: Margin improved by 2. 
  • Helper succeeds by 10+ or critically: Margin improved by 3. 
These are rather more generous than the assistance rules in various GURPS publications. I'm of the theory that an extra roll which only grants a +1 advantage to the main roll isn't worth the table time.

Slam Momentum: When starting from a standstill, Slam velocity can be no more than 2x distance moved this turn. This is still "committed velocity" and you may be required to move the velocity amount on an opponent's Dodge, as normal. Momentum on the one second tactical scale is tricky to model.

Strength Damage will use the modified progression here, which reduces swing damage at higher ST levels for both PCs and monsters, with the intent of making mundane armor useful at high levels of human-capable strength.

Telegraphic Attack is allowed (+4 to skill in exchange for +2 for the defender to defend), but those who have made an All-Out Attack may try to defend at -4! Telegraphic Attack just seemed too automatic against the All-Out Attackers. I think I got this idea from the forums.

Weapon Defaults: Instead of defaulting a melee weapon skill from DX, you may default it from your best melee skill at the same penalty as DX. I feel like some fundamentals of footwork and body mechanics probably bleed over between melee weapon skills, in a way that isn't reflected by pure DX. In other words, I wouldn't feel comfortable handing a hatchet to a broadsword master and saying his training is totally inapplicable to wielding it effectively.

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