Friday, June 30, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Seiðr Ritual Path Magic

Norse magic, or seiðr (anglicized as siedhr), is typically practiced by women (called völva or seiðkona), but male practitioners (called seiðmaðr) are possible. Seiðr magic involves the manipulation of the elements, communication with the gods and their messengers, traveling the nine-realms, fortune-telling (usually by runes), and the direct manipulation of fate. Practitioners of both sexes served their communities, though seiðmaðr were typically looked down upon as magic was considered a woman’s purview...

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GURPS101: More Telepathy Powers for Psionic Powers III

GURPS Psionic Powers offers one of the more interesting power frameworks for GURPS Fourth Edition. The following new techniques are available to any psi who has the prerequisite power...

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Designer's Notes: It's a Quest!


Hmmm. Where to start with this one? Well, like my two other installments ("It's a Threat!" and "It's a Trap!") "It's a Quest!" is designed to help make the GM's life easier by giving advice, content, and some random generation tables to help jumpstart games. I briefly talk about two important modes of gameplay: "sandbox" and "plot-driven." Both are equally valid and both can put different types of work on the GM in different ways. I talk about a few shortcuts I've used over the years and a technique I've used forever to keep track of everything when things do become complicated.

I didn't really have any outtakes from this one - I flirted with a few extra tables but stopped before actually creating them. I'm glad I did because honestly I think what I put in was plenty for a Pyramid article.

Note, a lot of this stuff did come from monstrous (about 100,000 words) life-path generation system I've created. One day I might get off my butt and finish it as it can be used for any GURPS game and has specific tables for GURPS Action, Dungeon Fantasy, and Monster Hunters. After the End wasn't out when I finished it and I haven't really touched it sense. It's really more of a GM's aid, but a player could completely generate a character using it without actually building the character (it suggests traits to take or just flat out use depending on the entry).

Anyways, this took me about 60 hours to write. A good 20 of those was just pulling from another file - I wanted to create new entries but that didn't happen (Personal note: my mother grew grievously ill and nearly died at the end of May. She's doing much better now, but between being sick at the time with food poisoning and worrying over her I had very little ink in my quill.). It took me about 2 hours to edit (I really dropped the ball here and I know it. I should have done better, but as I said. Issues), 3 (ish) hours of research, and about 17 hours of revision. I spent a further 4-6 hours look  looking over the preliminary PDF for any issues and revising.

I'll proudly note that this was the first every Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Pyramid issue and I was in it. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GURPS101: Simplified Improvement Through Study

I like to play around with the Basic Set rules - make the complicated stuff simple and the simple stuff complicated. I find you can learn a lot about a rules system by doing that and GURPS is no exception.

In my current campaign - The Chronicles of Ceteri - a lot of the external friction I'm setting up between the players and the campaign world involves a lot of split life scenarios "Yeah, you need silver bullets, but they are $50 a pop and you lost your job - how you gonna pay for them?" To do that you need rules for how to spend your time and rules for social upkeep. Add rules for maintaining skills (if you like those - and I do) and you're golden. Today I'm going to talk about the first thing: how to spend your time.

Simplified Improvement Through Study
Somewhere between the “you do whatever, fine!” approach and the “I want to know how often you poop” method are rules for a "simplified" Improvement Through Study (p. B292). First, don’t use the standard Time Use Sheets, use the rules below. Second, the GM will need to decide if the player characters have jobs outside of “adventuring” or if adventuring is their job. This also becomes complicated if the GM is using the standard rules for Status upkeep (p. B265). For games where an organization or similar group pays for such expenses simply ignore it.
  • Sleep (56 hours/week): Human beings require 56 hours of sleep per week. This increases by ±7/week per level of Extra/Less Sleep. Those with Doesn’t Sleep can ignore this completely. They get an additional 56 hours per week to do with as they like.
  • Meals, Personal Hygiene, and Miscellaneous Upkeep (20 hours/week): Human beings need around 20 hours of week for eating, proper grooming, hygiene, and other “personal maintenance” tasks. Reduce this to 14 hours for those with Reduced Consumption 1, 7 hours with Reduced Consumption 2, 2 hours with Reduced Consumption 3, and effectively eliminate it with Reduced Consumption 4. Increase this to 40 hours a week for Increased Consumption 1, 80 hours a week for Increased Consumption 2, and so on.
  • Job (40 hours/week): Assume that most jobs take around 40 hours. Those without jobs ignore this (e.g., those with Wealth (Dead Broke)). Add an extra 10 hours for “OJT” (On the Job Training) to the final amount of hours available if spending points on job-related tasks.
  • Travel Time (7 hours/week): Typical travel time for most workers to get to their job is about 30 minutes one-way, this adds up to about 7 hours a week for those with a full-time job.
  • Recreation (25 hours/week): It’s estimated that most people spend between 20 to 30 hours on various forms of entertainment. These rules assume 25 hours are spent blowing off steam, relaxing, etc. Not relaxing has an impact on your sanity! Put another way - all work and no play makes Homor something something.
Thus, that leaves about 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month to do whatever you want with. It actually works quite well if you wish to treat learning as a job and then use these free hours as an internship or a side gig too. 

Picking Over the Bones
In general, I like the idea of advancement off the screen and by studying - it's not something you find commonly in RPGs and it lets you emulate all sorts of stuff. But keeping track of the time can be a teetch annoying. This was one of the reasons why I decided to use a simplier route for Ceteri - we'll see how it plays in game.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Hurt Locker: Doodads and Gewgaws, Part I

No adventurer or hero can carry everything they need. GURPS allows you a extremely broad choice of gear thanks to its many catalogues and tech-books - but what if you really need a bunch of paperclips and you're not near an office? Or you need to make a repair to an engine and you've got no toolkit?

Well GURPS has a solution for that: Gizmo and it's less experienced and still useful, but must cheaper cousin Doodad. Today's post is going to be about generalizing these advantages to other TLs, new modifiers, and a list of useful things you can get with Doodads (all at the low low price of a perk!).

It's the Gizzle-Fo-Shizzle
Gizmos are pretty self-explanatory: You didn't have something before and now you do. Why? There is no why. Only plot. More seriously. Gizmo could represent a character's foresight to bring something useful to a situation or in preparation of an emergency that may happen. GURPs Action, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and GURPS Monster Hunters (and probably a few I have forgotten) have all gone into more detail about what Gizmos can actually do. For the sake of this post I'm going to detail them briefly:

  • Option 1: Any item the character owns but didn't say he was carrying that can "fit in a pocket." (but see Genre Relaxation below).
  • Option 2: Any item that suits the character's profession, job, class, etc. and that is consumable or one use of an item that is normally non-consumable piece of gear (e.g., a tool kit)
  • Option 3: Any minor (i.e., not costly) consumable item that anyone could have in the setting or one use of an item that is normally non-consumable piece of gear

Now, for those with gadgeteer there is a fourth option:

  • Option 4: An item that the character creates on the spot with things he has or can plausibly acquire on the scene.

Those are good descriptive guidelines, but what if the GM wants harder rules? There are a few things here and there, but here is a possible progression. Do note that at higher TLs the GM may wish to smooth the cost out since it does allow so much. Though it should be noted that all of this is consumable and one-use only so it's probably balanced.

TL:             Option 2               Option 3
TL0             $13/$63                $3/$13
TL1             $25/$125              $5/$25
TL2             $38/$188              $8/$38
TL3             $50/$250              $10/$50
TL4             $100/$500            $20/$100
TL5             $250/$1,250         $50/$250
TL6             $500/$2,500         $100/$500
TL7             $750/$3,750         $150/$750
TL8             $1,000/$5,000      $200/$1,000
TL9             $1,500/$7,500      $300/$1,500
TL10           $2,500/$12,500    $500/$2,500
TL11           $3,750/$18,750    $750/$3,750
TL12           $5,000/$25,000    $1,000/$5,000

Option 1 allows an item you own up to your Basic Lift/10 to be revealed, while Option 4 is pretty much always -1 per $250.

Genre Relaxation
Depending on the mode of the campaign (whether it's cinematic, gritty, or somewhere in between) and the genre (is it a shoot'em up? a political thriller?) the GM may wish to relax some of the rules. A few examples:

In free-wheeling dungeon-delving like Dungeon Fantasy the rule about being able to "fit in a pocket" for Option 1 may be reduced to allow larger items. In such cases, it still can't be heavier than BL/10 lbs., but can be up to Reach 1 (if a melee weapon or similiar item) or Bulk -4 (if a ranged weapon). The GM could also rule this depends on the Size Modifier of the target. If so, use the Weapon and Armor Scaling Table from GURPS Low-Tech 2: Weapons and Warriors (p. 21) to figure the max size using the Reach column. For example, a SM +2 ogre with Gizmo 1 could use Option 1 to pull a Reach 2 melee weapon or a Bulk -7 ranged weapon.

The GM may want one-use weapons (it's a kind of tool with a very specific purpose) to be available using Option 2 (use Option 3 for ammunition). If so treat them as a tool kit with shots equal to the 1/5 the weapons base number of shots with one clip or power cell. Use the guidelines listed above to determine maximum Reach or Bulk.

The GM may wish to allow a roll against an appropriate skill to have a better object or larger dollar amount. Treat the skill toolkits are for as the skill for this, otherwise use Machinist, Scrounging, or some other appropriate skill. Success gives a +1 to use the item or +20% to the maximum dollar value. Failure gives -1 or -20%, while critical failure means you got junk and wasted your Gizmo. Critical success gives +2 to rolls or +50% to the maximum dollar value.

New Modifiers for Gizmo
If the GM allows, the following modifiers to Gizmo can change its flavor and/or usefulness:

Accessibility (varies): Use the rules from GURPS Powers to find an appropriate value. Optionally, use rules for aspected High TL (Pyramid #3/8: Organizations, p. 6). Multiple other values can be found in GURPS Supers as well.
Based on IQ, Special (+20%): For Option 1, the character may substitute his IQ for his ST, if better. This allows the character to pull larger items than his ST would otherwise indicate.
Cosmic, Higher Improvisation Cap (+50%): Use the first Option 2 dollar amount (see above) per -1 penalty to cobble together an invention using Gadgeteer.
Game Time (+0%): Adding Game Time means you can use a Gizmo once a game week instead of once a session. Adding Selectivity (+10%) means you can use it once a game week or once a session - whichever is best.
Instant Improvisation (+5%/level): This allows gadgeteers to ignore -1 worth of penalties per level when using Option 4. The GM sets the max, but ignoring -10 worth of penalties is probably as high as most games should go.

Picking Over the Bones
Gizmos are one of those things that you want when you don't have and when you do have it you just never have enough. Gizmos are usually restricted to 1 in most campaigns (or 3 in cinematic ones) unless you have Gadgeteer in which case you can have as many as you want. I think that even though the higher caps get crazy at higher TLs they are probably fair, but require some playtesting. I'm also wondering if you could do a "Social Gizmo" to let you have a one-off Contact, Ally, etc. - but that's probably another post.

Stay tuned for Part II where I discuss Doodad and how it's often overlooked, what useful items you can get at what TLs, and a few other bits to wrap up this topic.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Boil and Bubble: Old Skool Delving Incantations I

It's been a while since I pumped out the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy book I cowrite with +Antoni Ten Monrós. I was looking over some of my old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books and I got to thinking - how could I do this in GURPS using my system? So here are a few old school spells translated into Incantation Magic spells. (For those curious what spell is based on what I included it in parentheticals.)

Decoy (Leomund's Trap)
Spell Effects: Create Elementalism + Create Mesmerism.
Inherent Modifiers: Bestows a Bonus, Rolls to detect the "trap."
Skill Penalty: The lower of Path of Elementalism‑1 or Path of Mesmerism‑4.
Casting Time: 30 minutes.

This spell creates an illusory decoy trap of any type the caster wishes (make an IQ roll or Traps roll at +5 to create a believable trap; success grants a +1 to your roll in the Quick Contest to see if your target resists, failure gives a -1, critical failure gives a -2, and critical success gives a +2)

Once the trap is detected (roll against the better of the subject's Perception or Per-based Traps at +5) it will be utterly believable unless the target can succeed on an opposed Perception or Per-based Traps roll vs. your effective skill. Actually setting off the trap doesn't do any damage, but it might cause a Fright Check at the GM's option.

Typical Casting: Create Elementalism (6) + Create Mesmerism (6) + Bestows a Bonus, +5 to rolls to detect the "trap" (16) + Duration, 1 day (11). Notes: Resisting with just Perception counts as an additional effect increasing the casting time by a single step. 39 SP.

Lesser Mystical Immunity (Minor Globe of Invulnerability)
Spell Effects: Transform Arcanum.
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Traits, Mana Damper.
Skill Penalty: Path of Arcanum‑9.
Casting Time: 30 minutes.

This spell treats the mana level within 1 yard of the caster (essentially, his hex on a tactical map) as no mana zone (even in high mana, but not a a very high mana zone which results in a "mere" -5 to casting rolls) for Incantation spells with a skill penalty of -5 or lower or normal magic spells with an FP cost of 11 or less (but before reducing it due to high skill). This lasts for 5d seconds after which the spell ends.

Typical Casting: Transform Arcanum (8) + Altered Traits, Mana Damper 3 (Accessibility, Not against spells with a skill penalty of -6 or higher, -20%; Area Effect, 1 yard, +50%; Improved, +150%) (84) + Duration, 30 seconds (2). 94 SP.

Reaper's Revenge (Death Spell)
Spell Effects: Control Necromancy x2.
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Traits, Fragile (Instant Death) + Area of Effect + Damage, Toxic (All or Nothing; Cosmic, Affects non-living animate beings).
Skill Penalty: Path of Necromancy‑19.
Casting Time: 10 minutes.

This spell allows the caster to instantly slay up to 1d HP 10 living and/or animate non-undead creatures withing 5 yards of the any area you designate up to 100 yards away. You may exclude up to 4 targets of your choice. You may opt to combine these HP in increments of 10 if you wish (e.g., you rolled 5 targets and want to kill a single HP 10 target and two HP 20 targets).

Typical Casting: Control Necromancy (5) + Control Necromancy (5) + Altered Traits, Fragile (Instant Death) (20) + Area of Effect, 5 yards, excludes 4 subjects (54) + Damage, 20d Direct Toxic (All or Nothing, -10%; Cosmic, Affects non-living beings, +50%) (107) + Subject Weight, 1,000 lbs. (4). Notes: Being able to spread the dice of damage out to multiple subjects is a considered a feature with an area spell whose width is equal to the max dice of damage spread out thusly. 195 SP.

Picking Over the Bones
While I may be the co-author of Incantation Magic (and basically I modified the base system from PK's notes so I know the ins and outs) it still makes me delightfully happy to just be able to pick up an old book from my halcyon days of youthful gaming and be able to make spells from there that work nearly the same in my current system of choice.

I've got a couple more installments of this type coming up (thus the "part 1" at the top) but if anyone has a cool spell from the old days they want to see converted - now is the time. I'm currently on staycacation as of this post and this has been scheduled to be posted.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Staycation and New Patreon Plan

I've had a lot of things happen in the last 4-6 weeks that have resulted in me being mentally fried. I need some time off for a while so I'm taking it. I plan on still blogging for the next two weeks, but my interaction with others is going to be low to nonexistent. I won't be on the forums or discord and I'm setting my email to autoreply. The only exception to this will be freelancing related work (which I think I've mostly taken care of) and personal emails. I still plan on running my GURPS campaign, but plan on doing little writing if I can help it. I'm contemplating doing some work on my room (a few little things to make things more comfy).

Basically, I need time to veg. My family is taking care of mom now and I'm at a point where I feel comfortable with her health that I can be more hands off. (for those of you who didn't know my mother was severely ill at the beginning of may and was hospitalized for mild sepsis, dehydration, etc. They had to remove her knee replacement hardware so she's now immobile for at least 3 months until the infection clears and she can have a fourth knee replacement on that leg.)

So I'm vegging. I also want time to think about Patreon more. I think I've come up with a way to archive past specials in a way to allow specific tier access. I also want to set up some voting mechanisms and a way to release back specials to everyone. Still thinking. I feel confidant I'll have a solution by the beginning of July or end of June. Still working out some particulars.

Anyways. That's it. I'll see y'all when I get back. Thanks again for reading.

C. R. Rice

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Worthiness or Unworthiness of Complex Mechanics

Today is a fine GURPSday and today I'm going to ramble on about a topic near and die to every gamer's heart: How can the complexity of mechanics affect the actual roleplaying of a game? First, a few things.

  • To play a roleplaying game is to have some measure of mechanical institutions within the game engine - otherwise it's just "Let's play pretend" and we all remember how that ends. "I shot me!" "Nu-uh! You missed!" "Ya-huh I hit!"
  • Most roleplaying games rely on a base mechanic left to chance to decide outcomes of actions by players. Dice, cards, whatever - this is the most primal mechanistic feature of just about any RPG. There are exceptions of course (e.g., Amber), but they are few and far between and often make use of bidding mechanisms that shift the probability to the one with the most skill or capabilities.
  • Most roleplaying games rely on a measure of cooperation between GM and player to help the suspension of disbelief. 
  • Most roleplaying games offer a way to decrease or increase the complexity or details of the experience. Do note that complexity does not equal detailed and the reverse is also true. You can have extremely detailed games with little to no game mechanical complexity or have lots of mechanical complexity with just enough detail to game. Both of these are types of complexity and need to be treated as such.

Using these four principles we can then further build on the idea of what complexity actually means for a given game. Since I'm a GURPS guy I'm going to frame this using that game system, but you can easily do this with other games.

1. Determining the GM's Desired Level of Complexity
Before you do anything you need to decide as the GM exactly how complex you want to make things. Because 70%-90% of that complexity shift is going to be on the GM. If you want to track the speed of swinging a weapon versus thrusting it or exactly how long it'll take you to reload a black powder weapon it's going to eat up valuable roleplaying time. Conversely, less complexity may result in more time to roleplay, but at the expense of more precise results through various mechanics. The GM will need to carefully weigh exactly what he wants to run and how complex and/or details he wants to have to utilize.

2. Determining the Player's Desired Level of Complexity
Next, the GM should ask his players what sort of details they want to track or how complex they want the mechanics of the game to be. You can easily scare off new players if there is too much to keep track of. GURPS is often accused of this and I learned early on to sweep as much under the rug as I could if I wanted to recruit new players.

In general, use analogic comparisons to popular culture your players are familiar with to get a general idea of their desired level of complexity: "You want more John Wick style gunplay or Shoot'em Up?"

3. Determining the Complexity Your Game Engine Can Handle
This is a big one. Some games are better than others at certain things. Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition and Pathfinder are great for quick play, but keeping a character updated can take some time. FATE eases some of the burden from the GM and assigns it to the players via Aspects, High Concept, etc., but like GURPS requires you either play in an established setting or make everything up (which is kind of the point of FATE really). GURPS of course has so many optional and "bolt on" rules sets that a GM can easily become overwhelmed. What's more, some systems (*cough* "The Last Gasp" *cough* Sorry, Doug. -CRR) are so detailed that using them can result in bogging down gameplay for the sake of complexity.

Basically, figure out what you want, what your players want, and what the game system you are using can handle without pretzelling the game engine into something it's not. This can include house rules and such, just make sure all the players know what you're doing and are still willing to play with them in effect.

4. Putting It Together
Once you've gathered all the information that you need to determine how much complexity you plan on using in your game write it all done. Notate any changes from what you are doing or how you are enacting this or that rule. Basically, spell it out in black and white so both you and players know exactly what to expect.

Descriptive Roleplaying vs. Mechanistic Roleplaying
Before I start talking about how I view these playstyles I want to say up front that both of these approaches to gaming are equally valid. Anyone that says otherwise is trying to sell you something. That said, I tend to prefer an overlay of description with details and mechanics hidden underneath. It lets you keep the things great about rules-lite engines (e.g., rapid resolutions of dice and more roleplaying), while keeping the more useful precision game mechanics to resolve everything.

Descriptive roleplaying (i.e., narrativist gaming) allows both players and GMs to bring out their inner thespian and for a while be someone else. You resolve things via simple mechanics or through roleplaying. This is a highly attractive style of gaming and has been made popular by game engines like GUMSHOE and/or FATE. This cathartic roleplaying is popular for a reason! Players get to "be" their characters and the GM gets to create a highly immersive experience.

Mechanistic Roleplaying (i.e., simulationist gaming) does the same thing, but in a different way. It relies on resolution through rules or game mechanics. With this style of play you can simulate (thus the name) various genres in a way that remains true to its style. GURPS is an example of this style of play - though you can easily turn down the complexity with  few adjustments and there is nothing simpler than 3d6 when it comes to dice resolutions.

Basically, know your complexity and what game engines support the complexity you desire.

Picking Over the Bones
I think the idea of trying to discover what your proclivities are when it comes to gaming will increase your experience overall. It not only tells you where your comfort zone is it tells you where you may wish to explore and try out games you normally don't play or prefer. This is very important for GMs (and game designers!) particularly. Being able to use this or that mechanic or finding a method of eliminating such a mechanic by reading other game systems is incredibly useful for gamers. TL;DR - don't put yourself in a box and wall yourself off from other games. They've got lessons to teach as much as your favorite system.

So what sort of GM are you? Do you like complexity and detail or more roleplaying? What sort of player are you? Are there house/optional rules you are particularly fond of for a given game system? Are there rules you really don't like? What sort of game engine do you generally like? Those with more complexity or those with less?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Hurt Locker: How Tough is Wood?

Guest Post by Euan Hastie

So how touch is wood anyways? In GURPS terms? First up a quick reference table for the GM in a hurry.

Species of Timber
DR per inch of thickness
Buloke, Quebracho, Quebracho Colorado, Lignum Vitae
Brazilian Tiger Mahogany, snakewood
Ebony, Ipê, Olivewood, Ironwood
Composite Bamboo, Bloodwood, Live Oak, Southern chestnut, Turpentine tree
Purple heart, Mesquite, Rosewood, Tigerwood, Hickory, Pecan
English Oak, Ash, Maple, Teak, Siberian Larch, American Beech
Walnut, Mahogany, Radiata Pine, Douglas Fir, Basswood, Chestnut
Balsa, Cuipo, Cottonwood, Northern White Cedar, Duru
0.5 or less

How these numbers were determined.
Basic set mentions that wood is either DR 2 (Damage to Objects, p. B483) or DR 1 per inch of thickness (Structural damage table, pg 558) Most or all of us will know that wood comes in a wide range of durabilities however. A question on the GURPS Discord server “How much protection does a luxurious table provide?” sparked my interest and I did some research. There is a commercial measure of wood hardness known as the “Janka hardness test” which records how much force is required to drive a .444 inch (11.28mm) BB .222 inches (5.64mm) into the wood. I looked up the force of a similar sized object that had a known GURPS damage, a .45 ACP, from this I was able to calculate how gurps damage related to force in this situation. Using this data the following DRs for various type of wood can be determined. This list is not definitive as there are about 60,000 species of tree in the world, It is however hopefully illustrative.

DR per inch
Australian hardwood
Tropical hardwood
Lignum Vitae
Tropical hardwood
Snakewood, Brazilian tiger mahogany
Tropical hardwood
5.6 (estimated)
Subtropical hardwood
African pearwood, Ipê
Tropical hardwood
Grey Ironbark
Austrailian hardwood
Ironwood, Ebony
Live Oak
Subtropical hardwood
Osage Orange
Purple Heart, Jarrah
Tropical hardwood
Hard maple, Sugar maple
Tropical Hardwood
English Oak
Pinus Radiata
Douglas Fir
Hardwood (Yes)

Grey Ironbark is the hardest wood mentioned as suitable for bows. Osage Orange is also suitable for bows.

Quebracho translates as “Axe breaker”.
Ebony was used in ancient Egypt.
Hard Maple is favored for pool cues.
Many species are known as Mahogany.
Some of the timbers mentioned are plantation grown others are old growth.

Fictional Timbers
In sci-fi, the Deathstalker books have “ironwood” which is too strong to be cut with steel, The Night's Dawn trilogy has Mayope another incredibly hard timber that comes from huge trees. The DR per inch for these is about 80 and 30 respectively. The tree (Bob) that grows out of Harold’s head in Fallout would have a DR of 1.8 per inch.

Compared to sci-fi fantasy has a larger range of fictional timbers, however these seem to be far outnumbered by telepathic, animated and sentient varieties. Discworld has sapient Pearwood which is completely resistant to magic and quite hard, DR 16 per inch. The Earthsea books mention Arhada a species of long lived (possibly) Oak, DR 8 per inch. Middle earth has several trees mentioned, Mallorn loved by the Elves would have a DR of 8 per inch as well as many other beneficial properties.

Other variables
  • Green wood is between 69% (softwoods) and 80% (hardwoods) as hard as seasoned (dry) wood. 
  • Wood grown in managed plantations is generally softer than wood harvested from old-growth (wild) trees. This is down to primarily growing conditions and age. Exact numbers are hard to find though, at a guess plantation grown wood will be 80%-90% as hard as old-growth timber. It is of a more consistent quality and is easier to work with however.
  • Smaller objects can be made of more specific pieces of timber, as such harder compression or reaction wood which while harder has less tensile strength. As there are many variables involved assume an improvement of hardness of no more than 10%. 
  • Variability with a species, not all trees grow the same way, this results in some trees containing harder wood than others of the same species. Going off the density range of one species of New Zealand hardwood this has the effect of changing the hardness by 10% in either direction. In general timbers have a range of up to 20% though a smaller range is more likely in harder timbers. Statistically though there is probably a very small amount of even harder wood available. It is up to the GM’s discretion as to how much harder it is. An elven master forester or the like would the person to locate wood like that. 
  • Grain, some trees have a different internal structure than others, Puriri timber for example has interlaced fibres. Supposedly buckshot can ricochet off Puriri[2], as a result it saw use as palisades during the New Zealand wars. 
  • The Janka test covers woods that are used as timber or lumber commercially, some trees that are unsuitable for milling may contain harder wood. 
  • Magic, the spell Essential Wood (GURPS Magic, p. 164) triples the DR, HP and possibly the density of wood. The standard pattern for materials with magical properties in GURPS is the triple the beneficial numbers. 
  • The type of wood selected for weapon and tool handles will be chosen based on more criteria than just how tough it is. It should be noted that Brazilian Tiger Mahogany is reputed to be good for handles. 
  • When harvesting wood it is important to remember that only a percentage of a tree is heartwood, the rest is softer sapwood. The exact ratio varies too much to be generalised. But old growth trees will likely have more. 
  • Wood can soften with age and poor care, as a GM feel free to set any wood to a lower toughness as a result. In general stories about wood hardening with age are more a case of the hardest wood lasted the best.
  • Sometimes more than one species of timber can be sold as the same wood leading to confusion. 
  • Density, compared to DR 1 woods the densest woods are up to 2.5 times as heavy by volume.

A .45 ACP pistol delivers 400 ft-lbf (542 J) of energy[1]. Using the average damage (7) of a .45 ACP pistol this results in 1 GURPS damage being equal to 57.1 ft-lbf (77.4 J) when applied through a .45 sized object.
The energy required to penetrate the wood to a depth of an inch with a .444 sized object can be calculated from the force given in the Janka Hardness test.

lbf * 0.083 equals the energy required to penetrate an inch of wood with a .444 diameter object in Foot pound-force (Ft-lbf).

N * 0.0254 is the energy required to penetrate an inch of wood in Joules (J).

By referring to the Janka hardness test we can get the relative hardness of various timbers and work out the damage required to penetrate an inch of timber. It is 0.0003281654 times the newtons on the Janka test or 0.001453590 times the lbf.

Density and Hardness

There is a correlation between the density of timber and how hard it is. It is safe to assume all woods with a DR higher than 4 will sink when placed in water. The density of seasoned timber is measured as its specific gravity at 12% moisture content (G12). To approximate how hard a timber is based on its specific gravity at 12% moisture content use the following calculations.

        Softwoods, Hardness (lbf) = 2,560(G12/(1+0.162G12)). 
        Hardwoods, Hardness (lbf) = 4,090(G12/(1+0.162G12))

The Brinell Hardness number is a similar test used for metals for those who are interested.

Pyramid #3/52 uses wood as a material to construct armor, it lists oak or teak as the species used to achieve a DR of 2.

Deadly Spring Damage Calculations
“The Deadly Spring” (Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech) has another formula for turning real world kinetic energy into damage, I’m not going to reproduce it here but I will use it to show a slightly different range of values. These calculations also move the typical hardness of wood up to DR 2 per inch but reduce the overall range compared to the earlier calculations.

Species of Timber
DR per inch of thickness
Brazilian Tiger Mahogany, snakewood, Quebracho, Quebracho Colorado, Lignum Vitae, Ebony, Ironwood, Ipê, Olivewood
Composite Bamboo, Bloodwood, Live Oak, Southern chestnut, Turpentine tree, Purple heart, Mesquite, Rosewood, Tigerwood, Hickory, Pecan
English Oak, Ash, Maple, Teak, Siberian Larch, American Beech, Walnut, Mahogany, Radiata Pine, Douglas Fir
Basswood, Chestnut, Balsa, Cuipo, Cottonwood, Northern White Cedar, Duru

[1]Douglas Cole’s spreadsheet puts the number a little higher at closer to 450 f-lbf if so the calculations are out by 12.5%. 64.3 f-lbf (87.2 J) per point of damage. DR equals 0.000291284 times the Janka rating in Joules instead.

[2]I can’t find a source for this, but I have seen it mentioned several times, from personal experience I can attest that bird shot richocetes from a 90 year old Puriri fence post at close range (<1m).


Wikipedia Janka Hardness test: Estimating Janka Hardness from specific gravity for tropical and temperate species

Michael C Wieman and David W Green, USDA Research paper FPL-RP-643.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

GURPS101: More Psychic Healing Powers for Psionic Powers II

Some more powers and variations for psychic healers using the GURPS Psionic Powers framework . . .

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Boil and Bubble: Technomagic Ritual Path Magic Spells

A couple of technologically related ritual path magic spells for all the technomancers out there . . .

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Melee Academy: A Decisive Blow

+Douglas Cole is talking about an alternate way to perform the Evaluate maneuver and I got to thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) "Why isn't their a maneuver to sacrifice skill for damage?" We have one for making it hard to avoid an attack, but not one to increase its potency? There is always All-Out Attack (Strong), but that robs you of your defenses. Committed Attack (Strong) gives you your defenses . . . but is not quite as "bang for your buck." A technique could always be created using GURPS Martial Arts (an avenue we'll explore). Let's see what ways we can trade skill for damage:

Decisive Blow as a New Melee Attack Option
Trading skill for damage as a melee attack option.

Decisive Blow
This works like a standard Attack maneuver (p. B365) except that you may trade -4 to your skill for a +1 to your basic damage. Your skill cannot go below 9. You may combine this with a Move and Attack (p. B365), but not with All-Out Attack (Strong).

Decisive Blow as a Technique
Or perhaps it may be better as a technique?

Decisive Blow
Default: prerequisite skill-4 (but see below)
Prerequisite: Any unarmed or armed combat skill.

You can trade skill for damage. For every -4 penalty you take to your roll you add a +1 to the basic damage of your attack; skill cannot go below 9. +1 to damage (every +2 damage translated to +1/die, if better) for every -4 to skill you take at the cost a worse chance of breakage when you attack (Parrying Heavy Weapons, p. B375) or injuring yourself (see Hurting Yourself, p. B00).

For the first, this adds +1 to breakage rolls per +1 to damage you take, for the second, this subtracts from the base DR (i.e., DR 3+) needed to hurt yourself. For example, if you added +2 to your basic damage then you'd need to check breakage penalties for your weapons at a +2 or if using an unarmed attack damage yourself on DR 1 or higher.

Under the Hood: Decisive Blow
Using Martial Arts technique design system, Decisive Blow begins as just a regular attack adjusted as follows:

Benefit: +1 to damage. This is just a simple bonus and forms the base. -2 to skill.
Benefit: Damage bonus can be extended higher than +1. -3 to skill (I chose a higher than average penalty here and adjusted it as if it were a "wildcard").
Drawback: Increased chance of breakage with weapon or when rolling to see if you hurt yourself. +1 to skill.

It has no other real drawbacks, so you end up with a technique that allows you to trade skill for damage.

Decisive Blow as a Perk
Or perhaps as a perk?

Decisive Blow
Prerequisites: Unarmed or Melee Attack skill 12+.

Pick a skill. For that one skill you can trade -4 to your attack roll to gain a +1 to damage. Each level of this perk allows you to trade another -4 to your attack roll for an additional +1 to damage.

This comes at a price. The chance of breakage when you attack (Parrying Heavy Weapons, p. B375) with a weapon or injuring yourself (see Hurting Yourself, p. B00) when attacking unarmed. For the first, this adds +1 to breakage rolls per +1 to damage you take, for the second, this subtracts from the base DR (i.e., DR 3+) needed to hurt yourself. For example, if you added +2 to your basic damage then you'd need to check breakage penalties for your weapons at a +2 or if using an unarmed attack damage yourself on DR 1 or higher.

Picking Over the Bones
I'm sure there are other ways to do this - as an advantage for Striking ST with a temporary penalty to skill comes to mind. Overall, GURPS probably does need something like this in its arsenal and I'm still unsure exactly what method it should have. Melee Attack option seems like the best course of action, but maybe I'm not seeing everything.