Monday, April 4, 2016

Combat Maneuver: Feint

Real life example of a feint.
Feints, I feel, I do not utilize enough, maybe? They sound like something with a bit of a niche application, but they might be usable in the right circumstances. On the other hand, I really like deceptive attack. It's kinda fun (if not a little reckless) going for broke with the mindset, "eh, if I didn't miss with the deceptive attack, she probably would have dodged/blocked/parry anyway."
Today, I do little reflection on Feints and try to make them work for me.

The Basics

Fundamentals of feinting are
in the Basic Set - Campaigns
  • Feints are described on p. 365 of Basic Set - Campaigns. In a nutshell it is a maneuver that can be done to trade an attack for lowered defenses, and can be considered a pretty fundamental building block of GURPS combat strategy.
  • A technique to perform a feint at even better than weapon skill can also be found on p. 231 of Basic Set - Characters. This is specialized per weapon skill.
  • A feint takes an entire "attack" maneuver to perform, so can be done either as the sole attack of a turn, part of a Double All-Out-Attack, part of a Rapid Strike or, by extension, a Combination Attack from Martial Arts or as one attack as part of the Extra Attack advantage.
  • The benefits of a feint are non-transferrable, and expire in a single turn.

A Little Bit Less Than Basic

  • Martial Arts has some options to modify the rules for feints. See Acrobatic Feints (p.51) and Teamwork (p.52) for some perks to change some of the fundamental rules of feints.
  • Beats and Ruses are slight derivations of feints that use many of the same rules but bases skill rolls on different attributes, which can potentially make the feint maneuver useful to characters without exceptional DX. Rules for Beats and Ruses can be found on pp. 100-101.
  • The section on designing new techniques (p. 89,) has rules for creating new techniques involving feints as well.
  • Pages 100 and 101 include information for countering feints, using feints for different purposes, and good roleplaying hints for managing feints.
  • A feint cannot be used with a telegraphic attack (p. 113)
  • p.121 has rules for using feints with ranged attacks.
Useful advanced options for
making feints more useful or
nuanced in here.

Strategic Application

A feint therefore seems useful in a situation where all or a majority of the following are true:
  • Skill is not high enough to perform an effective deceptive attack
  • Evaluate is risky because the enemy is aggressive and one's own defenses are not especially high
  • Defeating the enemy quickly is not likely (Too many hit points, High DR)
  • Taking advantage of attacking a weak spot is not easy (360 degree vision, bad terrain, one-to-one fight)
  • It is necessary to hit a specific difficult hit location on an opponent with good active defenses (For example, the eye, or chinks in armor.)
  • An opponent has an especially dangerous active defense (aggressive parries, weapons against bare handed attacks)
  • A deceptive attack alone is not good enough to batter active defenses
  • During a 1 on 1 duel against a highly competent opponent where one can ignore other dangerous distractions. [Thanks, forum buddies for the last three!]
  • An opponent's active defenses are disproportionately high compared to their skill level. (Using fencing weapons and shields or magic.)
The easiest ways to overcome a feint's shortcomings
  • High attack skill to enable rapid strikes (Straightforward, and not especially expensive)
  • Trained by a Master or Weapon Master to lower rapid strike penalties (Somewhat expensive, but the advantages come with several other benefits, so a lot of characters want or have them anyways - easier rapid strikes is a perk alongside those benefits)
  • Combination Attack techniques to remove penalties (Most reliable, but probably the least flexible)
  • Teamwork enables a synergistic strategy that helps two well synchronized characters play off each other's setups.
  • Anything that enables extra attack maneuvers like Altered Time Rate or Extra Attack (Very expensive, but like Trained by a Master or Weapon Master, they both come with a variety of other benefits, and are pretty flexible.)

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

I think the reason why I don't see this maneuver come up a lot is because it has a somewhat narrow application. I haven't consciously created a good opportunity to create feints, nor have I been exposed to a situation where it seems like feints are the best option. I think the most important strategic situation where a feint is superior to a deceptive strike is when the opponent has high DR and good active defenses, so the type of enemies that could be engineered specifically to highlight the efficacy of a feint:
  • Magical enemies with a single glowing weak-spot, a la video games.
  • A very well balanced knight wearing decent armor.
I think the information on beats and ruses might make feints more useful though. I also really like the benefit of the teamwork perk. 
I still prefer deceptive strike.
If anyone knows another good application of feints, I'd be glad to be informed.


  1. I think you're setting the bar too high for Feints. Feints are useful when your DX+skill exceeds your foes DX+skill and you want to beat down his defenses. The larger your margin of skill, the better. Use it, follow up on another turn (or the same turn, depending on your options and skill level) with an attack. The following attack doesn't need to be as Deceptive, so you have more skill to spread out on other options like Hit Locations or Rapid Strike. Or just use Deceptive Attack stack the penalties to ensure you land a blow.

    My players use Feints very often to ensure a foe with solid defenses but inferior skill will fail to defend against a follow-on strike.

    1. Ah, I hope it doesn't look like I'm setting it too high! I think there is a weird paradox: characters that are good at defense are the ones that you want to feint; the ones that have good defenses, are the ones that have high skills; the ones that have high skills are the ones that are hard to feint.

      Thanks for your input though; it's something to keep in mind.

    2. I think feints start to become more important when a foe's defenses mostly come from sources other than skill.
      So a wizard with Shield cast on him, or your sword-and-board fighter.
      A flail-and-shield fighter suffers a lot from feints, since Flail is a Hard skill, and he needs training in Shield for blocking. Flail users remain a credible threat despite low skill levels because of how hard it is to parry a flail.

    3. Ah, that makes sense and is an oversight, I'll add a bullet point.

    4. It's not really a paradox. Defenses can be high enough to make it hard to hit someone without them having a high skill relative to you. For example:

      Rapier-14, Combat Reflexes, lots of room to Retreat. That's Parry 11, 14 with Retreat.
      Speed 8, Combat Reflexes, Enhanced Dodge 2, but only combat skill is Brawling-12. Dodge is 14 but Brawling-12 is easy to outclass.

      It is also useful if you can't afford to have your foe hit you before you hit him - maybe you can't defend very well (or at all - Rapier vs. Flail, say, or a non-weapon attack form such as spells and so on). Deceptive Attack is nice, but it's -2 per -1 but Feint is -1 per -1 and potentially much higher than any DA could be.

      Like I said, the bar is actually really low - Feints are useful when your DX+skill exceeds your foes DX+skill and you want to beat down his defenses. If you have a higher DX+skill than your opponent and want his defenses to be lower before you strike, Feint is for you.

      Time is also a concern - you might only have a 2-4 skill edge over someone, but can't rea

    5. That's the epiphany I just had, but thinking about it, it's a somewhat meta thing, the players need to be able to tell whether they have skill in excess of the opponent before they could proceed with confidence.

      Or maybe that is just rules lawyer me, and other people just do it because it seems fun!


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