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.


  1. Martial Arts, P.90, already has an option for designing techniques for more damage, and recommends -2 for +1 damage, and -4 for +1/die.

    1. And then it stops. Common knowledge for damage bonuses is that each +2 damage can turn into +1/die. :-)

  2. Something seems a bit off.
    Two broadsword users, one ST 10 and the other ST 11. The ST 10 fighter with this technique/perk can do the same damage swinging as the ST 11 warrior but his weapon has a higher chance of breaking. Even though the ST 11 warrior does the same amount of damage all the time.

    Possible change: instead of a chance of breakage, increase the lower end of the critical miss range. Effective skill of 12 after modifier and your critical miss number is a 16 instead of a 17. Perhaps two levels of the perk, taking a skill 20 to an effective skill of 12 for +2 damage, would reduce the critical miss to a 15.

    1. You're comparing apples and oranges - one is raw ST and the other is skill be substituted for ST. Someone with the better ST and the same skill is simply better off.

      Of course, you could change it if you like. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. FWIW, looking at Trained ST, DX+7 on the fast progression is +4 ST, which is +4 swing and +2 thrust relative to DX. So using trained ST you're looking at -7 for +40% to ST which is just a bit more than +1/die. If you use the more cinematic doubling for +80% there, that's nearly (but not quite) +3 per die.

    1. I didn't use that as a guide, but it's nice to know I was close. What did you propose about the SSR for this? I forgot.

  4. I like! Might make use of this sometime.

  5. GURPS Martial Arts lacks this option for a reason - we just couldn't come up with an explanation that ways "swing wildly but harder without compromising your defenses." So it's not an oversight, and it can technically be built, but it's not one I think really makes a lot of sense real-world. The issue with "ST 10 guy with this technique can break his sword but ST 11 guy just hits this hard anyway" thing points to it.* It's just weird that if you trade skill for damage, your weapon might break, but if you say, "to hell with Parry!" and AOA (Strong) you don't risk breakage.

    It's hard to reality check this, but again, is there a case where you can say "I swing hard, but more wildly, without compromising my defenses at all"? I can't think of one. So that leaves AOA (Strong) and CA (Strong), or Extra Effort.

    If you do make it, you have some issues with each option:

    Perk - you've learned how to hit wildly but harder with one skill. Just seems weird - why not all skills, and why can't I default this?

    Technique - you can buy it up. Since you can potentially make this at Skill-0, or abuse it with Technique Mastery like every munchkin-GURPS-is-broken person will and get Skill+4, this will replace attack in all cases. Unless you put in a major downside, and breakage usually won't cut it (people will just use higher-quality weapons).

    As a combat option, it's doable. I still don't see what it's modeling except the game mechanically possible trading of skill for raw damage. Again, that it can be done doesn't meant it's really modeling anything.

    Actually, you could say this models a broad class of techniques that are harder to do but hit harder, but you'd need to find ones that don't have some way of opening yourself up to attack to do it and which have no other downsides (like that of, say, Exotic Hand Strike, which realistically has the "but I broke my thumb doing that Phoenix Eye Fist" problem. For weapons, what's out there?

    * I admittedly put a flaw in Epic Smash like this, but that's a heroic larger-than-life technique designed around making "cool" sense not actual sense.

  6. Thanks for stopping in Peter! To be honest, I wasn't trying to offer anything but a cinematic option. It seemed like a decent deficit to try and fill. As my blog is often a proving ground for ideas, I think you are probably right for just about all the reasons you list. If I were to use this in my own game it'd likely be as a combat option or a technique.