Melee Academy: Speed Kills

Like most things in life, rapidity is often advantageous. In combat, speed is almost all that matters. Put bluntly: Speed kills. In GURPS, if you are fast enough, skilled enough, or coordinated enough you can pull off some amazing things. The Basic Set combat system gives you several “standard” methods of attacking (All-Out Attack, Attack, and Move and Attack), while GURPS Martial Arts gives us a few more (Committed Attack and Defensive Attack). Of course, there are several combat options too: Dual-Weapon Attack, Rapid Strike, and Flurry of Blows. And let’s not forget the various traits you can buy to enhance the number of times you can attack: Combinations, Extra Attack, Trained by a Master, and Weapon Master. So what’s the best way to go? Well, I’ve got a few ideas.

Extra Attack, Revisited
Extra Attack costs 25 points per level and for human(oid)s you usually need the Multi-Strike enhancement to get the full use out of levels higher than the first. What’s more, it’s usually better to invest in high skill and take a penalty to your attack roll. So something like Extra Attack 1 (Multi-Strike, +20%; Single Skill, Broadsword, -20%) [25] has a high point disparity when compared against a technique for buying off the -6 penalty to Rapid Strike [7]. Now, you might consider comparing it to a +6 to skill [24], but that level of skill lets you do a lot more than just attack. Were I redesigning the Single Skill limitation I’d probably use something closer to the following than what’s listed in the Basic Set.

Single Attack


[Text is as per Single Skill from GURPS Powers (p. 49)],
At the GM’s option, if a particular form of attack is more limited than it appears, add another -10%, while if it’s broader add +10%. For example, “All Unarmed Attacks” might be worth -10% because while it does limit your options, it’s still quite useful.

Broad: Your advantage only applies to a particular skill of your choosing or related forms of attack (e.g., Karate or all sword attacks). -20%.
Moderate: Your advantage only applies to a particular type of attack or a subset of a skill (e.g., bite only or Wrestling Grab). -40%.

Narrow: Your advantage applies to one very specific form of attack or a specific use of a skill (e.g., your very fine shortsword or Wrestling Grab to Pin), -60%.

I’m Better When I Move
Speed kills, but so does tactical advantage. Being able to maneuver or outmaneuver your opponent(s) can often be as deadly as attacking faster than your target can defend against. To that end Move and Attack is highly useful and stacks with most advantages, options, or techniques. Actually being able to buy off the penalty is best represented as a technique.

Quicksilver Strike


Default: Skill-5.
Prerequisites: Any Melee Weapon or Unarmed skill and Trained by a Master, Weapon Master, or Unusual Training.

Lets you buy off the -4 penalty to hit with a melee attack when performing a Move and Attack (p.B365) and ignore the skill cap of 9. Level one removes -1 worth of penalties to hit and increases the skill cap by 1 (Skill-4 gives you a cap of 10, Skill-3 gives you a cap of 11, and so on). You still suffer a -2 on any other DX-based rolls you make. At Skill+0 you ignore the cap completely.

Ghost Step

When making a maneuver that allows you to Step (p. B368), add your level of this perk for the first such maneuver during a particular combat. You may optionally split up your level of this trait with each level adding another one-yard to your step. You may have no more levels of this trait than half your Basic Move. For example, if you had a Basic Move of 6 you could have at most three levels of this trait and take a four-yard step, three two-yard steps, or any other combination as long as your additional Step bonus didn’t exceed your level of this trait.
Picking Over the Bones
When it’s all said and done there are a ton of options players and GMs can take to get more actions for their characters or NPCs. I avoided picking at Altered Time Rate because if the GM is willing to let you have it and you have the points to buy it – you should. It’s just too good a deal to ignore otherwise. Especially if you perform a All-Out Attack followed by a All-Out Defense. Weapon Master and Trained by a Master are also worth their weight in gold if only because they make it easier to perform a Rapid Strike and opens up the possibility of multiple Rapid Strikes.
Posted in Melee Academy and tagged .


  1. Given how you suggest breaking out the Quicksilver Strike's ability to ignore the Move and Attack's cap on effective skill wouldn't it be "more correct" to describe it as a Perk (Ignore skill cap when making Move and Attack) and an Average Technique?

  2. No, because removing that skill cap is a inherently cinematic thing – it's actually given as an example of a Chambara technique in Martial Arts. That said, you could certainly allow it as a perk if you wanted to, but I wouldn't put it as a Average technique – it's too good a deal.

  3. I do see what you are saying, but this isn't so much a matter of point accounting – but prerequsities (which are funny). In order to do something like this you'd probably need some form of TbaM or WM.

  4. I don't think I'd allow anyone to put 1 point into Quicksilver Strike to get rid of the skill cap, but otherwise leave it alone. That pretty much makes "Ignore the skill cap" into a perk, and I'd bet anyone able to take it would for 1 point and then never invest in the technique again. That's a pretty dangerous precedent for:

    – making an exotic Technique that just so happens to contain a special benefit you want
    – pointing to Quicksilver Strike as justification for putting 1 point into it, to get that special benefit,
    – a finally doing so, without any intention of buying up the Technique.

    It's all upside ("This special kick doesn't cause me to roll DX or fall down, I put one point in it") and no downside. I'd argue that most of those are too good for a perk. 1 point to ignore a skill cap for Move and Attack is pricing it less than it is worth and less than people would spend to get that.

  5. My comment was also directed with Q.S. as written – right now, it lets you do the same thing I mentioned.

    For very broad, easily combined techniques, it's worrying to allow them to get rid of a broad penalty for a single point. As written, Q.S. is a great technique to dump a point into, because it gets rid of a significant limitation and doesn't come with any great cost. It's not even like the "flying" techniques from MA, because it can be used with any kind of strike at all. It might be balanced if you said you only get to ignore the 9 skill cap if you fully buy off the technique – that it represents mastery of the technique and it's not some inherent ability that comes with trying the technique by default or learning a tiny bit of it.

  6. (Try #2 – I don't see try #1, so I think it was sacrificed to power the Internet. Apologies if this is a duplicate.)

    Page 94 of Martial Arts talks about a cinematic technique for Move and Attack – under Extra Movement, it sets the base penalty at -4, and then under Special Benefits, it mentions that lifting the skill 9 cap would be an extra -1, and allowing a retreat would be another -1. That's why the Running Attack technique I gave the sword saint in my game was at -6 to skill. Shouldn't Quicksilver Attack be skill-5, at least?

  7. It should be a -5 technique for a special benefit – but I seem to have misplaced some text. Sigh. Story of my life. This is actually a older version because this same problem was pointed out before.

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