Friday, May 27, 2016

Fundamentals: What can I do during combat?

This doesn't have much to
do with my post. I looked up
"Learning Tabletop RPGS"
on Google Image Search
and saw this. Looks like
something I'd like to look at,
but for some reason, GURPS
isn't on their list of "Top 10
games for beginners."
Actually, in GURPS, you can really do anything during combat mode if you break it down into several Ready or Concentrate maneuvers, but barring "updating my location on foursquare" and "thinking up a really funny one liner for when I finally beat that guy up," what is there to do? Let's break it down.

Now, all books are pretty intercompatible with each other, and the three I'm looking at especially for the sake of this post, GURPS Lite, Basic Set - Campaigns, and Martial Arts, are pretty much all compatible, but let's start with the most basic, and build from there.
One helpful tool for new players are Combat Cards, which are free to download and print, and I think includes most, if not all important options for combat in the Basic Set, but it leaves off a few (I think the Extra Effort abilities which are among my favorite.)


GURPS Lite is the free version of the manual that lets you play with someone, probably provided someone else has prepared the adventure already, or one person in the group owns Basic Set, or you have a very competent GM. Let's dissect the maneuvers presented in this book.
Nice to have around if
you need copies of the
most fundamental rules
  • Do Nothing (p.25)- you usually don't do this on purpose, but it exists because sometimes you have absolutely nothing better to do. In that case, something like Evaluate or Feint might be better. Sometimes you are forced to take it due to an incapacitating condition.
  • Move (p.25) - This is again, pretty straightforward, in GURPS, you can't move and attack (easily) at the same time, so you need to devote a turn to moving or a turn to attacking.
  • Change Posture (p.25) - In some cases, there are defensive advantages for moving into a smaller profile, and sometimes you want to stand up because you have been knocked down.
  • Aim (p.25) - Shooting at things is really hard because the penalties for distance chew up a lot of skill. Aiming is almost required to stand a chance of hitting at nominal skill levels. It takes a pretty big investment to shoot from the hip, or advantages like Heroic Archer and Gunslinger.
  • Attack (p.26) - Vanilla option to do damage with your bare hands, or a weapon that you have ready.
  • All-Out Attack (p.26) - All-out attacks allow you special advantages to deliver a particular efficacious attack, but it comes with the penalty that you cannot defend yourself. This is a dangerous proposition, and should be considered only if you can be reasonably sure the opponent will not counter you. Another important feature is you can walk further than you normally could with a regular attack.
    • Determined - +4 to attacking skill, pretty useful when targeting a weak spot while being sneaky-beaky.
    • Double - Hit twice with no penalty to skill.
    • Strong - Increases damage.
    • Ranged - Ranged attacks can get +1 to skill, unlike melee attacks and the +4. Luckily, being ranged, you can probably shoot from a much safer place than a front-line fighter.
  • Move and Attack (p.26) - Exception #1 to the rule that you can't move and attack at the same time. This let's you do both, but neither will be done well.
  • All-Out Defense (p.26) In exchange for not being allowed to attack, you can defend yourself much better for a turn. Useful in dire straits while waiting to recover from shock penalties or for help to relieve you.
    • Increased Defense - Improve one active defense. Which one must be chosen at the time the all-out defense maneuver is taken.
    • Double Defense - Allows you two attempts to stop damage. Especially good for players with good defenses.
  • Concentrate and Ready (p.26) - These options have only a slightly nuanced difference in that concentration is usually more mental, and readying is usually more physical. These are kinda catch-alls for all the other things you might want to do during combat that can't be considered an attack, defense, or movement.

Basic Set - Campaigns

The Basic Set, of course, includes all the Lite options, but then adds more. Its description of maneuvers begins on p.363. Skipping the ones already covered we have:
Usually want to have this
book anyway.
  • Free Actions(p.363) - The short list of things that don't take up a turn.
  • Evaluate (p.364) - Like aiming for melee attacks.
  • Feint (p.365) - Give up a melee attack to lower your opponent's ability to defend himself next turn.
  • All-Out Attack (p.365)- The following options are added
    • Feint - Do a Feint and an Attack in one turn, taking advantage of the compromised defenses without a chance for the opponent to abscond.
    • Suppression Fire - Make it dangerous for anyone to cross a certain area if you have a fast enough gun.
  • Wait (p.366)- Hold your turn until a certain event occurs, if that happens, you may immediately act, otherwise lose your turn.
  • Step (p.368)- Not technically a maneuver, but a nuanced movement that is allowed with almost any maneuver even if it doesn't let you "move." Steps aren't impeded by bad terrain and can be used to change direction, or change posture as well.
  • Hit Location (p.398)- Also not a maneuver, but in exchange for a penalty, you can often hit a weakspot that will increase damage done, and some penalties aren't even that big, like the one for hitting vital organs.
  • Deceptive Attack (p.369)- A modifier one can use on a melee attack (only) that allows you to trade some attack skill to lower the enemy's defense, which often allows a small advantage to a highly skilled attacker.
  • Rapid Strike (p.370) - Another option for attacking twice that doesn't require using an All-Out Attack.
  • Grappling (p.370) - This covers taking someone down and opens up options for finishing a battle non-lethally.
  • Slam (p.371) - Run into someone really hard. One of the other options for attacking while moving.
  • Shove (p.372) - Push someone without hurting them. This can be useful in just the right situation.
  • Extra Effort in Combat (p.357) - Extra Effort can give you a lot of benefits of All-Out maneuvers without giving up your defenses.
    • Feverish Defense - Defend well
    • Flurry of Blows - Attack twice
    • Mighty Blows - Do more damage

Martial Arts

Finally, Martial Arts, the book of melee weapons, muscle powered missile weapons, and unarmed combat adds a few more options.
Nearly essential for any
game with a focus on
non-gun combat.
  • All-Out Attack options (p.97)
    • Long - Let's you hit something outside your nominal range
    • Slams - Combine the benefits of Slams and All-Out Attacks.
  • Committed Attack (p.99) - A tier below All-Out Attack, it has less negative impacts, in exchange for slightly reduced benefits.
  • Defensive Attack (p.100) - Trade attack prowess for defensive prowess.
  • Wait (p.108) - New options
    • Stop Hit - Specifically wait until the enemy is attacking and attack while she is committed.
  • Combinations (p.109) - Allows learning a technique that allows several attacks in one turn, potentially with little to no penalty.
  • Extra Effort in Combat (p.131) - The following new options exist:
    • Giant Step - Take a bigger step.
    • Great Lunge - Increase reach.
    • Heroic Charge - Another rule for being able to move and attack, my favorite.
    • Rapid Recovery - Make it so you can parry with unready unbalanced weapons.
  • Hit Locations (p.137) There are new hit locations and a few rules for existing ones. Some gruesome, some brutal, and a few actually useful. It has a few notes on some enhancements to the effects of hit locations listed in the Basic Set as well.

Some Other Notes

My new players wanted to know about abilities that could be used as a counter-attack. First, there is the obvious Counterattack technique on p.70 of Martial Arts. If fighting unarmed, Aggressive Parry (p.65) can be used to hurt someone at the same time. Jam (p.74) is like Aggressive Parry for the lower body, and Judo Throw is similar, but only for a Judo parry. Hand Catch (p.84) let's you parry and catch an opponent at the same time, and then counter them in their newly compromised position. Hand-Clap Parry (p.84) let's you counter with a disarm. The Stop Hit (p. 108) can also be like a counter or some kind of denial.
I've included a lot of options here, now that I'm looking at it. I try not to be overwhelming to new players, so for people who see this list and glaze over, I'd say start with the Extra Effort, Committed Attacks, Defensive Attacks, Deceptive Strikes, and Hit Locations for easy ways to increase efficacy that don't even require point investment.


  1. This is really helpful. I've only played GURPs in one campaign with a GM that was equally new, so we never used anything more than standard attacks due to not knowing what we were doing. Stuff like this makes things a bit clearer.

  2. This is a great article. I'd definitely recommend this to my GURPS group. Thanks, Pseudoboo!

    Can you possibly do a post for ranged combat as well? Although this article touches on ranged combat, it seems like the primary focus by and far is melee combat.


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