Thursday, April 28, 2016

Running GURPS More Narratively Part 2; Faster GURPS Combat April 2016 Update


Quick Review from Running GURPS more Narratively
  • One Roll per Player Scene
  • Non-Binary Consequences (NBC)
    • Success at a Cost
  • Task Difficulty Modifier (TDM)
    • Agent
    • Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD)
    • vs Agent
    • vs Situation
    • Superiority 
  • Specificity
  • Zones
  • Aspects 
Initiative. 
A simulation approach to initiative is not by speed, but who has the most Agency in the situation. This is measured by someone who knows more about the circumstance than anyone else in the vicinity. This is not a physical measure but a mental awareness of the situation. This also applies to any conflict situation where the PC is against another agent. This method of Initiative can be taken in combat and non-combat situations.

Initiative can be from being the best social skill in the scene, the best tactical awareness (Tactics Per), Administration (in organization), etc... the Skill used by the PC to seize the initiative allows him to make the First Move or the Last Word.

Initiative is a Player Scene Roll. So a player must choose wisely what he decides to do since it means what skill and strategy he'll lead by.

Order or Turns. Since initiative is a condition (see First Move or Last Word) we can just have the PC with the best Initiative go first

First Move, or Last Word. 
You cannot use this with Initiative in GURPS as is. This narrative mechanic requires a more pro-active player approach. If a character has initiative then he can either: make the First Move with a bonus (+2) or have the last word and allow him to alter or adapt his action.

When the PC choose to have the Last Word, instead of first move, he loses initiative. Initiative becomes something someone else can seize. Gaining the Initiative is an action that needs context how the PC decisively affects the whole scene-encounter. If the opposing party has the Initiative (like in an Ambush) and since there is no rolling for the GM, then the PC suffers a -2 to his rolls until he gets initiative back. He can try to get initiative at a Cost (a reckless action) but he must understand the risks and that the GM will need to make the cost significant to the PC.

Significant Actions

One Roll per Player Scene, so make the scene count! To do this here are some key points that can help.

  • Scale by the Least. This is like the principle of moving at the speed of the slowest element, but in this case we Frame, Dress, and Scale the events, actions, and consequences in the game by the PC who  has the least options. Its easier to scale by the least and move to scale up as we proceed to the characters who have more options.
    • Flexible Time Scale. Abstract combat is not second by second, as much as a lot of the TRPG works in a Flexible time scale. Since we are scaled to the least we need to work with a pace for both the player and the PC can be relevant.
               Players who are more empowered in the scene have more options and they happen to be choosing a character specialized in their field of expertise. So they can relate all their options or strategies more efficiently in a smaller amount of time. They are also informed by the actions of their ally. 
    • Lead by the Least. let the character with the least options set the pace by declare early in the game what he is doing. This doesnt mean he goes "first" it just means all his other more empowered allies know what he's going to do when it is his turn. 
  • Prepare Options. Significant actions don't have to be made up on the spot, in fact its based on the Players Character design what they intend to do when the field of Social, Organization or Logistics, and Combat happens.
    • Inquire and Ideate. In figuring out the character's options there is a lot of Inquiry the GM needs to ask the Player and needs to ask when he looks at the Character sheet. "what needs to happen next". The critical thinking techniques of the Ideation5Y's5Ws, and Asking what needs to happen next.
    • See Support Tactics Below. 

Faster GURPS Combat Update April 2016

As in everything, they are all works in progress and I plan to update it (or edit this) depending if I have enough new ideas worth updating or too few that an edit would suffice. 

Flow of Narrative Combat
What does this combat look like?
  1. The GM sets up the Encounter. 2-5 mins to resolve.  
  2. Determine Initiative and Position. He starts describing the "zones", NPCs/obstacles, and their relative positions to each other. 2-5 mins to resolve. Faster if the Zones were prepared ahead of time (or the GM has a flexible set of zones).  
  3. GM asks for their declarations and resolves Players by the best Initiative (See Initiative above). Each player can probably take 1-2 mins for the Player to describe and hopefully the GM can resolve it as he goes (see Scale by the Least).
             The more informed the players are about their strategies and options the less time it takes for them to decide (see Preparation and Support Tactics). 
    1. Opponents will attack when they can or move to engage if they need to. NPCs Maneuvering and Positioning is how NPCs compensate for their lower skill. 
    2. Resolve their attacks as if they rolled 10. 
      1. If its not enough to hit, they will maneuvering to hit. 
        1. Assuming they performed a Feint and rolling a 10 means their margin of success becomes a Penalty on the PC. 
        2. Evaluate (if no other option) to raise the NPC skill and increase his chances to succeed at a 10. 
        3. If they do all out Attack (Determined) to just hit the PC this means the PC can use Telegraphic attacks. 
        4. Trying to get behind the character to get the +4 telegraphing attack bonus, higher ground, or attack by numbers.  
    3. If the PC fails his Roll.
      1. If the opponent cannot make a successful attack with a roll of 10 the PC suffers no damage, just the opponent manuevering to have a better attack next turn. 
      2. If the opponent can make a successful attack with a roll of 10 at the PC, the PC will take damage. 
        1. The PC will take a dice roll of damage (exception to One roll per Player Scene and GM does not roll). 
        2. The PC can choose to Succeed at a Cost. this just means the PC compromised his defense to land a blow. 
    4. If the PC Succeeds he can deal damage (see Damage is MoS).
      1. Note that when the PC is against numerically superior foes fights at a penalty (See Superiority) reflecting his threat management. His successful attack means he managed the threat and was able to deal damage. 
  4. Summarize the Turn or Scenes before moving to the next Scene or Turn. While there is no real need this is a great opportunity for the GM to re-frame the narrative and make his adjustments. It also gives the GM the opportunity to go back and correct his mistakes or play-up what needs attention and emphasis.
           This is also a great segway for events without interrupting a Player's scene. 
Limited Modifiers
The game gets easier if we can reduce the modifiers.

  • Target Number
  • Task Difficulty Modifier. Choose the highest relevant to simplify. Avoid #deathbymodifiers. If you can juggle two or more modifiers 
    • (Number) Superiority. Superior number of foes apply a penalty to the Character's roll reflecting his threat management and the threat of attack.  
    • If the Player is the superior in number, like fighting with an entourage, and has the absolute superiority in numbers then he gains the Superiority bonus TDM. 
    • Initiative and other modifiers. 
    • Opponent Superiority. They will penalize greatly the PC like (Number) Superiority. 
  • Defense Modifier (see No defense roll below)
NPC Actions
They all assumed to have rolled a 10. The NPCs will maneuver to raise their odds of success, cut off the PCs from each other, or gain a strategic advantage. There are many options that can allow any Character to have a much better chance to hit like

  1. All-Out-Attack (Determined).  This is going to be the go-to maneuver of an NPC 80% of the time if the PC has a really high Defense score. this allows the PC to do a Telegraphic Attack (see Damage as Mos).
  2. If the NPCs have numbers these are their go to Actions:
    1. Flank. The opponent the PC is not engaged with will attack lowering the effective Defense of the PC by 3.
    2. Rear Attack. If there is enough room for the NPC to attack the rear they will make a Telegraphic Attack. 
    3. Feint.  This bonus depends if the PC succeeds or fails in the turn. Working with the Assumption the NPC rolls a 10, this can lower the Defense of the PC by the MoS of the NPC but reduced by the PC's MoS or improved by the PC's MoF.
  3. Feint. 
  4. Evaluate.
  5. Shift to a better Tactical or Strategic Objective.  

More powerful NPCs will not need to maneuver to simply start dealing damage to the PC. Very powerful NPCs that have advantages like that of Superior Numbers like some very Able NPCs (weapon masters), Giants, Dragons, Monsters, etc...  can penalize the PC like Superiority.

Action, Evasion or Position
Choose two of either Action, Evasion, or Position.
  • Action and Position
  • Action and Evasion
  • Evasion and Position
Evasion means being able to Defend, Position is Moving to a new position and being able to disengaging/engaging. This simplifies the movement, all-out-attack, and move-and-attack options into trade offs: either be able to defend or be somewhere you hope you won't need to defend.

Edit: If they choose only One, then give them +4 in what their doing but this means they've sacrificed their attention from the two others.

  • Sacrificing Evasion. Enemies can make telegraphic attacks, and the PC has no defense. +4 to hit. 
  • Sacrificing Position. The PC not just stand still, he gives ground when an opponent contests him and they can surround him gaining a position advantage over him. 
  • Sacrificing Action. no maneuver or other action can be attempted. 
  • Sacrificing Action and Position. The PC cannot coordinate with another PC, the other PC trying to coordinate with him has a -2 to -4 penalty if their action is trying to aid that PC.  Action and Position assumes a level of attention in the other actions of the Allies (preventing risks similar to friendly fire).  


No Extra Rolls. 
Skills that are needed to allow an opportunity, example Fast Draw, is now part of the Attack roll.

  • Blind Fighting B180, 12-Blind Fighting. this penalty reduces the modifier of the "No defense roll" and lowers the attack.  Only applies to Darkness or Blindness. Flanking and Rear penalties still apply. 
  • Fast Draw , 12-Fast Draw
  • Zen-Archery B228, 18-Zen-Archery for feats of zen archery. 
  • Acrobatics, Acrobatics-12 grants a bonus to dodge up to 2. 

Example, No Extra Rolls
A warrior with blind fighting-10 attacks at -2 penalty and reduces his defenses by 2.

Damage is MoS.
This means a margin of success replaces the d6s of the damage roll, but the bonus is capped by 6.

Example, No Damage Roll

  • Weapons that would deal 2d+2 damage would deal 4+4+2 on a MoS of 4. 
  • A punch with 1d6-1 with a MoS 6 only deals 5 damage. 
No Defense Roll.
Instead of a defense roll, targets of attacks apply a penalty to hit equal to Defense Score-6. Modifiers that lower defense lowers this penalty as well as modifiers that increases defense increases this penalty. This Penalty cannot be a "bonus" for an attacker.

Limits of use still applies to these defenses. While Dodge has no penalties for repeated dodges, Parry and Block suffer their usual penalties for every additional attack (reducing them to 4).

Telegraphic and Deceptive Attacks. these mods remove Deceptive attack option and Limit Telegraphic Attack to completely defenseless targets. If there is the ability to defend Telegraphic Attack Bonus is not granted.

Retreat and Drop Modifications. These temporarily increase Dodge, the option is available after the attack is declared but before the roll of the attack.

Example, No Defence Roll
Dodge-10 (from DB2), Parry-12, Block-12
translates to attacks against this characters has:

  • Dodge: -4 (DB2),  attacks from the flank Dodge -1
  • Parry: -6, but cannot be used against attacks from off facing side. 
  • Block-12, attacks from the off-facing side

Support Tactics
Most key support options is through Harrying Tactics or what I'd like to call Threat Management. These are creative and clever choices in engagement and positioning which divides the combat strength of the opposing side

  • Force a Facing. Combatants must declare their facing or who they are engaged with. To simplify, a Character cannot defend against two opponents and suffers flanking as the character gets ganged up. Also Known as to take Aggro
    • Declare Engagement. In abstract combat there must be a declaration of facing, and suffer penalties from attacks from those 
    • Ranged Harrying. This means a character not in the right facing to defend against a ranged attack suffers defense penalties. So ranged attackers who can fire in a safe angle not to hit his ally can Force a Facing.
  • Hit and Run. This is the combination of positioning tactics and tricks
    • Defense in Depth. Drawing the opponent deeper into your side's threat area. This is usually done by presenting a valuable target: the leader, wizard (artillery), etc... and either moving him deeper in to the teams threat area OR moving the threat area up. 
    • Kiting. A highly mobile attacker with reach or range attacking and moving (see Evasion or Position). Characters who move and attack or attack and move are just unable to effectively defend for simplicity.  
End of Article Review
  • Initiative
    • First Move or Last Word
  • Significant Actions
    • Scale by the Least.
      • Flexible Time Scale
      • Lead by the Least
    • Prepare Options
      • Inquire and Ideat
      • Support Tactics (see below)
  • Flow of Narrative Combat Overview. 
  • Limited Modifiers
    • Target Number
    • TDM
    • Defense 
  • Action, Evasion, Position
    • 2 of the 3. 
    • Focus on just one
    • Sacrifice of either 3 
  • NPC Actions
    • NPC's go-to strategies if they can't hit the PCs. 
  • No Extra Rolls
    • Except Damage to the PCs
    • No Fast Draw, Zen Archery, Acrobatics, etc...
    • Damage is MoS
  • No Defense Roll
    • No Deceptive Attacks, Conditional Telegraphic
    • Retreat and Drop
  • Support Tactics
See previous articles

Parting notes. 

Scale by the Least is a principle that has come about from my frustration of feeling helpless when the Player feels helpless in a scene. I hate the experience of "Passing" a turn or an unsatisfactory turn. When I compared to my experience in more narrative games and GM's like +Tobie Abad, there are techniques that make me feel like I'm doing more and contributing to the Drama and Conflict. 

So the people with more player skill (of the game system and role playing in general) can have fun with less GM oversight as compared to the Player with the most handicap per scene. So make rules and concepts that balance that. I can juggle with my GMing working memory a finite amount of techniques and concepts so I'll prioritize: Facilitation and Storytelling.
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