My new group’s first session showed how rusty I am on the combat rules in GURPS. In my last post I promised to fall on my sword by admitting to all the rules mistakes I made last session. So here I go…
- To lead with the most egregious: during the first half of the first scene, I completely forgot about range penalties for regular spells! That makes a huge difference in play. Luckily, we got it more-or-less straight by the end of the scene – one of my players reminded me (to his credit, since he’s pretty new to GURPS).
- Almost as egregious: for some reason, I started the session thinking that the threshold for a Major Wound was 1/3Hp, rather than 1/2 HP. Luckily that same player corrected me pretty quickly. Again, it’s helpful to have someone in the room who is serious about rules and willing to make corrections in a friendly way.
- Effects of fatigue loss. Again, I totally misremembered this, and for some reason thought that, as you spend FP, you just proceed fine until you’re at 0FP, at which point you pass out. Not so, of course: really the effects of FP loss mirror (roughly) the effects of HP loss, so if you get down to below 1/3 FP, you’re very tired, and have to halve your Move, Dodge, and ST – and when you reach 0 FP, you don’t automatically pass out, but you have to make a Will roll every turn to do anything strenuous, and any further FP loss also costs HP. Fail that Will roll, or descend to -1xFP, and you pass out.
- Blocking spells! At the start of the session I allowed the party’s Bard to cast “Command” (a blocking spell) as if it were a regular spell. I’d simply forgotten that blocking spells can only be cast as blocking spells. Partly this was because that rule looks so odd, in the case of the Command spell – as one player quite rightly pointed out, if you have the power to command people to do things for you, why do you have to wait for people to attack you in order to use it? Why can’t you just use it when you like? You can invent all sorts of narrative justifications for this, but the real answer is that GURPS Magic is a strange beast…. But in any case, I should have remembered that rule, and I had to look it up.
- I screwed up the Move and Attack maneuver in no less than three different ways. Wow. Can you even screw up a single rule in three quite separate and distinct ways, in a the space of a single session? Evidently, the answer is yes.
– Firstly, I totally forgot that using Move and Attack limits your defense options, so after moving and attacking, I just let everyone use whatever defense options they liked. (In fact, the rule is that if you Move and Attack, you can dodge or block, but you can’t parry or retreat).
– Secondly, I flubbed the way the attack roll works during Move and Attack. For the first half of the session, I just told people to roll against skill 9 for any attack made after moving. Only half-way through the session did I remember that the rule actually says that your skill maxes out at 9, but it may well be lower, since it gives you a penalty to your skill level and then requires you to take the worse of either that new, lower level, or 9.
Now, I’m not sure this made a huge difference in practice, since these were DF characters, and most of their weapon skill levels were high enough that they would have been rolling against 9 anyway. But still, it’s important to get the rule right (particularly when you have at least one player who is very interested in learning the correct rules, as I do).
– Lastly, even when I finally remembered the way the rule works, I managed to assign the wrong penalty, because I mixed up the penalty for Move and Attack with the penalty for Wild Swings. In my defense, they’re pretty similar rules: a Move and Attack allows you to move and attack, but you suffer a -4 penalty to your skill, and your effective skill cannot exceed 9. Whereas in the totally different case of a Wild Swing, the move allows you to attack things in your side or rear hexes, but you suffer a -5 penalty to your skill, and your effective skill cannot exceed 9. Pretty similar, no? In any case, my mistake here was a bit unfortunate, since I’m playing with people mostly new to GURPS, and we spent the whole session doing Move and Attack maneuvers and calling the attack at the end of it a “Wild Swing,” which may cause confusion in future. I’ll have to clarify this for everyone next time.
Of course, I’m not sure how much all this mattered, really – we still had a fun session. But it’s obviously best to get the rules straight from day one. It seems that getting them right on day two will have to suffice this time….
(Hopefully writing them out here will help me remember them in future!)