February 5, 2016

Geek & Sundry on GURPS - some praise, some misconceptions

Image from Geek&Sundry Article. Pretty cool, actually.
Geek & Sundry just published a piece on RPGs that aren't D&D. The author, Jessica Fisher, paints a brief picture of four game systems that aren't the 800-lb gorilla of the RPG world: D&D in its various incarnations.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Fisher notes that she got her start playing GURPS, which probably places her in a veritable 1% class of gamers that didn't have their first RPG experience playing the market-powerhouse that is Dungeons and Dragons.
Actually, that's an interesting topic by itself - what was everyone's gateway into gaming, and what game was it? How old were you? For me, it was easy: Advanced D&D with Howard when I was maybe 10. I either bought or at least looked at Gamma World after that, but it was only when I got into high school that I really branched out. Ken and Mark and Carl were the primary GMs, and we played Twilight:2000, Champions, Robot Warriors, Bushido, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, GURPS, MERP, and Ringworld, just to name a few. 
 In any case, here's her summary from the piece itself:
Do you want to build anything? I mean anything. G.U.R.P.S. is the Generic Universal RolePlaying System created by Steve Jackson Games in 1986. It is a point based system, so instead of rolling to see what your character is like, you get an amount of points with which to buy traits. The basic rule books give you everything you need to build anything from a superhero to a space marine, or a swashbuckler to your basic every day Joe. Considering there are hundreds of supplements, reference guides, and fan created pages, you can really delve deep into creating your characters, worlds, weapons, and more. You can spend hours upon hours carefully spending points in order to create your perfect build, and that’s where the game either succeeds or fails. If you love number crunching, then G.U.R.P.S. is a great system, but if you don’t want to have a calculator on hand at all times while gaming, you might want to check out a more free-flowing system.
 So, on the one hand, it's great that GURPS is getting a shout-out, and for that, Ms. Fisher must be given some thanks. That being said, I think that the portrait she paints of GURPS reflects an impression of the system which is outdated and uncharitable, and does not reflect the current state of the game.

February 4, 2016

GURPS Day Summary Jan 28, 2016 - Feb 4, 2016

Thursday is GURPSDay, and below you can find the blog activity from the last seven days.

Improvements since last time?

MOAR PLAYERS! We've increased the number of blogs being polled by about 50%

Only a week at a time - As was originally envisioned, GURPSDay will aggregate all the GURPS-tagged posts from the prior week.

Working on summaries - We're trying to include a short summary of each post that the author provides. There are some details of the formatting we're working out, so they don't all have them.

Random order - to be fair to everyone, we're randomizing the blog-roll order each time. So scroll through the entire list and see what people are writing about!

Finally - the feed script is looking for the tag/label/category GURPS. If you occasionally blog about GURPS, send me an email at gurpsday@gmail.com and I can ensure that when you DO write, it gets picked up.

With that, here's this week's content! This post will be updated around midnight tonight, to try and catch any last-minute updates or additions!

Quick and Dirty Guns Combat

Thursday is GURPSDay, and after thinking about the concept of encouraging more Roll and Shout when doing Quick Contests last week, I ended on a cliffhanger saying that I thought there'd be a good way to adjudicate guns combat a bit faster.

Not much about GURPS task resolution at its core is hard. Roll 3d6 under the target number. For skills, margin of success mostly doesn't matter, because your choices tend to be front-loaded by design.

What does that mean? If I want to chop a leg, or do a tricky blow that speeds past defenses, I declare it as part of the maneuver, and then it's a yes/no did you do it or not, mostly.
Obviously that's not always true, and there are a lot of cool effects where Margin of Success matters - not the least of which is rapid-fire with guns, the very case we're discussing here. Still, my guidance when I was writing rules was to encourage front-loading the decisions.
In any case, the thing that takes the time in GURPS is - nearly always, in my experience - working out modifiers. That's why the Dungeon Fantasy monster writeups are so cool. They list out a monster's attack with the attack name, a flat skill to roll against. Sure, you can stack on a hit location modifier, etc. But usually you don't. If a monster typically attacks the leg, it'll be noted, and statted out for you. 

The goal here is to make firearms combat as similar to that as possible, where the goal is to get things "close enough to right" that there's a balance between differentiation on the character sheet and speed of resolution. 

With that in mind, I'm going to have "penalty classes" and "bonus classes" with fixed values that approximate things that are usually done with a resolution of +/-1 to skill. The usual considerations will apply, but we'll try and speed things up.

If this offends, just stop reading. If assessing all of this is so trivial that your whole table does it by instinct, that's awesome. But since one of the last games I played had everything from "I've never played in a RPG before" to "I've written books for GURPS" side-by-side, it might help.

February 3, 2016

Heretical DnD: More thoughts on the Stress Threshold

When last we left our heroes, they (me) had first given some stream-of-consciousness thoughts on revamping what hits and misses mean, as well as differentiating between Stress and Wounds, and slapping on Damage Resistance or an Armor Value as the typical last-ditch defense when the wounding threshold is exceeded and a weapon actually hits the target's body. Only after all of that is injury suffered.

However, looking at the armor values themselves showed that my initial musings would produce results which, on the average, wouldn't be consistent with the existing Armor Class progression. Is that a show-stopper? No, but if I can avoid it, I should.

In chatting with some friends the other day, I was forced (in order to make my own thoughts clear) to articulate some of the design goals for this project, and one of them was that when all was said and done, the mechanics needed to feel very DnD. To that end, what I want to accomplish here is to get to something that is narratively more satisfying than the existing mechanics . . . but I want to do it by adding no more than one additional die roll.

I might be able to git 'r done without another roll. But giving myself the leeway and the limit of one more means I won't wind up in crazy-town.

Note: this doesn't mean that one can't roll additional dice. I have already had one - legit - request to ensure whatever I do works with turning proficiency bonuses into dice. But there will be an attack roll, a damage roll, and a roll-to-be-named-later. Maybe. But no more than that!
So, back to mechanics.

Stress and Wounds

Just for heresy's sake, wounds count up from zero: so zero wounds is 'unwounded,' while higher numbers are worse for you. Stress counts down, just like the HP they replace. 

Wound Maximum: CON + STR Bonus. Wound levels from 1 to half the Wound Maximum (round up) threaten the fighter's capability. Wound levels higher than this, up to the maximum, threaten the warrior's consciousness and potentially his life. Exceed the wound maximum and you start the death check process as written.

If you take wounds . . . 

  • If you are at less than half your wound maximum, your rolls have Disadvantage.
  • If you are at more than half your wound maximum, make a DC 10 CON check each time you're wounded (but not every turn). Failure drops you unconscious. Each turn after, make a DC 10 CON check. Three strikes and you die . . . but any success stops the process. You're KO'd but not dead.
  • If you exceed your wound maximum, start the usual Death Check process. Three fails and you're dead.
Originally, I had penalties equal to half your wound level. But that got serious fast, and honestly, that made someone with 25 Wound Maximum liable to pass out at a lower percentage of their max than someone with 10 wounds. I could easily see alternate ways of attacking this. You fight, but at a penalty, at up to half your maximum. Or you take -1 to all rolls to a maximum of -5 as you go from 1 wound to half maximum. That sort of thing. I erred for simplicity here.
Stress Maximum: This is the fighter's normally calculated HP. Hit dice and CON bonus. The "normal rules" way to play will be that so long as your stress total isn't worn down to zero, you're at full fighting capacity. If you have a shield, it adds 10 Stress Points per point of proficiency (so if you're +4 proficiency, you get +40 Stress from the shield).

This is there to address the complaints that legitimately were asked about shields only being good for +2 to armor class.

February 2, 2016

Aeon S1E4: Breakfast at Epiphanies

October 28, 2015

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) - telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog
  • Arc Light (Christian) - battlsuited gadgeteer with electrical powers
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) - brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) - smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Zephyr (Merlin) - Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
We start by taking some downtime to eat, sleep, repair some damage to equipment, and other goodness. Mostly a bit of clean-up and housekeeping from a personal upkeep standpont.

We'd decided last game that since we were a somewhat independent team at this point, that we'd do a bit of daytime public service repairing infrastructure and damage from the big disastrous breakout. Also, some night-time work of major sites that also need repair, but are too hazardous to do with a crowd of groupies, fanboys, or admirers around us. Or drawing supervillains like magnets - whatever.

But a bit during the day we'll be doing information hunts for the escapees from Riker's, and a bit during both the day and the night we'll be actively hunting bad guys.

Apparently, someone's been going around the city destroying transformers in Brooklyn. That seems like a good thing to investigate, we decide, being civic-minded folks. We deploy the usual squad of rats for recon. 

Arc Light? He takes the transformer thing personally. 

We also get reports that people are losing time - below Central Park in the business district - and experiencing blackouts, and actual physical evidence of stopped or out-of-sync clocks, both digital and analog. It's not widespread or growing, but it's noticeable.

Finally, we also receive reports of PMCs (Private Military Contractors) flooding into the city. And a weird-looking dragon seen over Hudson bay - a Lung-style dragon, beating the snot out of one of the escapees from Riker's Island. Either that or someone was really drunk - or lots of people. 

We decide to check out the time lapse guy, because time-altering supers are rare as hell and it NEVER ends well. Most of them go mad...

February 1, 2016

Reloading Press: .40 S&W

The Reloading Press is an at-least-weekly feature here on Gaming Ballistic for 2016. Each week it looks at some interesting real-world cartridges and presents them with hopefully-useful information in GURPS Format.

.40 S&W / 10x22mm S&W

.40 Flat-nose FMJ
The .40S&W was invented after the 9mm bullets that were the standard issue for FBI agents failed to perform as desired during the infamous 1986 Miami shootout. The detals of that are interesting but not pertinent, other than it led to the trial and search for a replacement.

Initially, a 10mm Auto was selected, butt that made for a large-frame pistol and packed a pretty significant whollop. Having personally shot a 10mm, I can attest to this - it's a handful.

During ballistic tests, it was found that a 10mm 180gr projectile loaded to about 950fps met the criteria for wound channel and penetration depth. That left a lot of air in the 10x25mm (10mmAuto) case, so downsizing it to 10x22mm let the package fit into a 9mm pistol frame. The cartridge debuted in January 1990.

The basic inputs will be driven from a 180gr JHP bullet that matches the standard projectile initially developed for the FBI, selected as a higher energy load that expands well. This provides a healthy energy load . . . but not the most energetic available (which GURPS favors due to conversion factors).

Precis - The Reloading Press weekly feature writes up the .40S&W pistol cartridge.

January 30, 2016

S&W B-Team: White Star

We got together with a small sample of the B-Team for the first time in over six months. I think we decided the last time we played was June+Erik Tenkar has been on a White Star (by +James Spahn ) kick, so we left S&W behind and rolled up characters for White Star.

This is a retro-clone, using extremely terse rules. So three people rolled up three characters in probably three minutes each. There are only four character classes, plus three more races-as-classes.

Peter chose a Star Knight. +Tim Shorts played a Scoundrel. I was basically exhausted from a long week, so I was tempted to just play Chewbacca, and growl and hit things a lot (the Alien Brute). But I decided on Mercenary.

White Star is about as OSR as you can get, I think. Nonetheless, we immediately broke away from 3d6 in order, because we'd already picked classes. We rolled 3d6 seven times, dropped the lowest, and arranged to taste. Then roll for credits (3d6*10) and my equipment-dependent character rolled a sucky 80 Cr. Ouch.

I named him Payne Stalk (Jayne Cobb . . . ), picked out a bare minimum set of stuff, and we all got to it. This is the character at the end of today's game, having leved up after play.

Jayne Stalk

  • Lvl 2 Mercenary (White Star); +1 to hit
  • 2175 XP; 1250 Cr
  • 12 HP; Saving Throw 13; Max 4 assistants
  • 5% bonus to XP
  • Initiative 1d6+1
  • To-Hit Roll 1d20+2

January 29, 2016

Session Writeups and the DF Criteria

Over at Dungeon Fantastic, +Peter V. Dell'Orto lays out what he looks for in a session writeup.

Now, I enjoy writing me some Play Reports. I'd like to think my transcripts are fun, informative, and I do try and find good pictures to illustrate points.

But how do I do using Peter's Principles of a good After-Action Report?

Precis - Peter throws down some criteria for a good post-play session report, and I evaluate Gaming Ballistic's transcription-style writeups by those criteria.

Armor as DR in DnD5 - corrections must be made

In my pondering of heretical D&D concepts from the other day, one of the thoughts that I had was:
Wow, rolling vs. a "Defense Target" of 10+DEX Modifier is going to make even very experienced fighters get hit an awful lot. On the other hand, armor subtracts from damage. How does that balance out?
Guess it's time to break out Excel. First thing that leaped out at me was that the armor was wonky.

The Armor Progressions Don't Line Up

I'm not going to show my work here, but the armor progressions for DR don't work as I wrote them. The short version is that the AC progression sets the value of armor a certain way, and that means that each successive armor that gets a bonus should have some level of improved protection over the next one.

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