COSH is a fun, easy, GURPS-like way to build most any fighting skill, or modify existing fighting skills, in GURPS 3e. Any GM can drop COSH into a GURPS game and be designing unique new combat skills within minutes.
v1.0: Created 03/03/14
v1.1b update (03/03/15): Simplified COSH construction of missile skills, thanks to J. Schipper.
v1.2 update (03/04/23): Dropped the beta designation. Clarified use of limits on Dodge Bonus and ST Bonus enhancements. Added example of using COSH to morph a skill into a different skill during play. Added lots of COSHCOSH with maneuverless “classic” combat skills, a bunch of new skills, and new “Large/Small ST Bonus (single use)” enhancements. Thanks, D.W.! stuff contributed by D. Weber: notes under Other Stuff on using
v1.3 update (03/04/28): Added new skill from Tail Kinker. Thanks!
v2.0 update (03/07/13): COSH taken out of the GLAIVE page and given a page of its own. Previous versions of COSH did not award any limitations to wrestling-type skills for their lack of punches and kicks. This version properly awards them a No Blows limitation; to balance costs, the old Combat DX Rolls enhancement is replaced with more detailed enhancements for wrestling-type stuff. The result is little change in difficulty for wrestling-style skills, but a properly higher difficulty for skills combining wrestling and striking capabilities.Other big changes: Added new enhancements and limitations; set a new limit on the value of certain combined limitations; added notes on choosing maneuvers; added new skills (including Aikido and Sumo Wrestling!).
v2.1 update (03/07/21): Clarified that Offensive or Defensive Grappling only requires Offensive or Defensive Off-Hand Use, respectively. Added new skills: Evade, Batto Jutsu, and Tackling and Blocking. Made some changes to Shield, including addition of new variant. Cleaned up Net skill, fixed many other typos. Added note on Light Weapon under Optional Stuff.
v2.2 update (04/01/04): Added Peasant’s Pike
v2.5 (08/11/25): Moved COSH to main Games Diner site. Added PDF download for tables.
13/02/12: No new version, but minor fixes and clarification that the reader-created Evade is best built as an unarmed skill, with oddness resulting when built as armed.
13/03/26: No new version, but very silly note added to Ghidkrim skill.
New to this version: The main table of skill enhancements and limitations (two versions: by size and by category) is available as a PDF download (see link at bottom of article). Trés convenient! (Note: PDF tables are tweaked a bit from tables in article, to save space.)
So you want to make a skill that combines one-handed javelin thrusts with a Fencing-like extra Parry and a Boxing-like Dodge bonus. Is the result Easy, Average, Hard, or just plain a bad idea?
ESCARGO already looks at this, in technically-wondrous rules that could literally build any combat skill from the ground up, based on a precise accounting of all component abilities and maneuvers. Could, that is, if the idea were carried out to completion. As explained there, it’s a harder task than it appears – and on top of that, the job requires ESCARGO’s odd take on skill costs to begin with.
Below is a purely GURPS-like way to build most any fighting skill and set its difficulty. The Combat Skill Hack (COSH) is a nifty kit for designing or modifying any combat skill – sort of a mini ESCARGO. But COSH is not a theoretical set of tools or a game-wracking new way to play. Any GM can drop COSH into a GURPS game and be designing unique new combat skills within minutes.
COSH began as a simple idea for adding or “swapping” abilities inherent in a skill – say, adding an improved Parry to a skill and making it harder, or balancing that improved Parry with difficulties fighting encumbered. And so on. The core mechanic is kindergarten-level addition and subtraction.
Yes, COSH grew a little in the telling – while it’s not hard to make up a list of swappable combat skill features, it is hard to make that list churn out proper difficulty levels for existing GURPS skills. But the finished system remains simple and fun.
How COSH Works
What a skill starts with
Skills start as Average, are either armed (melee, not ranged), unarmed, or ranged, and include the following capabilities or attributes:
|Both swing and thrust attacks, made at skill level|
|A standard Parry made at skill/2 level, equally usable vs weapons and unarmed attacks alike|
|Training in one grip (either one- or two-handed, not both)|
|Training in one general length and configuration of weapon, allowing for minor variation|
|Normal penalties for off-hand use|
|Between 6 and 10 countable maneuvers|
|Both punch and kick attacks, made at skill level|
|A standard Parry made at skill/2 level, equally usable vs weapons and unarmed attacks alike|
|Normal penalties for off-hand use|
|Between 6 and 10 countable maneuvers|
|A single firing action, made at skill level|
|Training in one grip (either one- or two-handed, not both)|
|Normal penalties for off-hand use|
|Between 6 and 10 countable maneuvers|
What you can add to or subtract from a skill
COSH offers a list of additional attributes, labeled enhancements and limitations. Each has a difficulty rating attached to it, such as +1 or -2. (Most are integers for simplicity, but there are half-point exceptions to assist with the more unusual skills.)
This rating represents added or lessened difficulty. Each +/-1 equates to one additional level of skill difficulty or ease. A +1 enhancement is some factor that makes the skill one level harder: it’d turn an Easy skill into Average. A -2 limitation is a factor that makes a skill two levels easier: it’d turn a Hard skill into Easy.
Here’s what you do
1) Note the enhancements and limitations you want to add to a skill, and total up their difficulty ratings. A +2 enhancement, a +1 enhancement, and four -1 limitations would add up to -1, for example.
2) Look at your final difficulty rating. If it’s zero, your skill remains Average. If it’s -1, your skill is Easy. If it’s +1, your skill is Hard.
Example: You build a skill for a new type of weapon. You start with the above list of generic capabilities, then add a +2 enhancement and a -1 limitation. The final difficulty rating is +1. It’s a Hard skill.
Notes Before You Start
Adding things up
When designing a skill, choose enhancements and limitations that add up to -1, 0, or +1. Saying “I end up with a +6 on my Elvish Whappersmacker skill; I guess we round that off to Hard, right?” will not earn you good will from the GM.
If a skill ends up dangling a spare half level, add or subtract something to get an integer. If you insist on keeping it as is, round difficulty up: a final difficulty rating of +1/2 becomes Hard, just like a +1. That’s an ineffective way to design skills!
This system takes great pains to accommodate the existing difficulty levels of existing skills. But GURPS skills were not built according to a system, and these rules can’t match every skill perfectly. If you’re trying to fit existing skills into COSH, you’ll find a few that end up different from their GURPS difficulty level, or even have extreme difficulty ratings outside the -1 to +1 range.
When you can’t get a skill to fit between -1 and +1, you can do one of four things:
- a) Forget balance; go ahead and round an extreme difficulty level off to Easy or Hard. That’s defeating the purpose of these rules, though!
- b) Say “bad skill!” and force the skill to fit. Add and subtract enhancements and limitations until the skill falls within the range of Easy, Average, or Hard. That’s the right way to use COSH.
- c) If you’re trying to cram way too much into one skill, design two skills instead. Yes, you can mix abilities from Karate and Judo into one handy skill, but only by compromising; you’ll want two or more proper skills to build a truly versatile fighter. Don’t shortchange yourself on needed abilities just to be cheap!
- d) See Optional Stuff below for more fun things you can do with extreme difficulty levels.
Think skill, not weapon
The listed enhancements and limitations are features of the skill itself, not a special effect of the weapon. A knife’s -1 to Parry stems from its small size, not a limitation in Knife skill. But a whip crack really requires training to master; call that an effect of the wielder’s training, requiring an enhancement to the skill.
A whip’s ability to wrap, or a net’s ability to engulf, is also inherent in its construction, not a separate ability granted primarily by skill. But weapon flexibility is treated as an enhancement all the same – not because it adds the ability to wrap or entangle, but because it makes the weapon more difficult to control, and thus makes the skill more difficult.
Maneuvers and skill difficulty
COSH takes number of maneuvers into account when designing new skills, and reverse-engineering existing ones – a lot of fancy tricks means a harder skill.
Note that it’s not clear how many maneuvers belong to existing skills, even going by a simple “if it’s mentioned, count it” method. COSH attempts to count the maneuvers Martial Arts 2E gives existing skills, using two simple ground rules: a) discount cinematic maneuvers; and b) add two maneuvers the book forgot: Weapon Strike and Weapon Parry, the armed equivalents of Hand Strike and Hand Parry.
Doing that turns up roughly 28-30 maneuvers for Karate, 20 for Brawling, 15 for Fencing, 12 for Judo, 8 for Boxing, 7 for Wrestling, and 9 for the typical weapon. Your counts may vary, but those are the numbers this text will go with.
Some enhancements and limitations are hypothetical, such as Large Dodge Bonus. These fit no existing skill, but open the door for designing new ones. Disallow these as you like, or use with caution, or go wild and make up more of your own.
The Enhancements and Limitations
Here’s your catalog. Time to go shopping!
COSH Enhancements and Limitations (by size)
|name||description||A||U||R||examples and notes|
|Grappling||Use skill to make and resist grapples and related moves.||N||Y||N||Judo, Sumo Wrestling, Wrestling. Prereq: Off-Hand Use|
|Large Damage Bonus||+1/5 skill to damage.||?||Y||N||Karate|
|Large Dodge Bonus||+1/5 skill to limited Dodge rolls.||?||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Large ST Bonus||+1/5 skill to ST for limited purposes.||?||Y||?||Sumo Wrestling|
|Muscle-Powered Ranged||Firing device powered by muscle.||N||N||Y||Bow, Blowpipe|
|Tons of Maneuvers||Over 25 maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Karate|
|Defensive Grappling||Per Grappling, but only to resist/evade moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical. Prereq: Defensive Off-Hand Use|
|Difficult Weapon||Catch-all category for hard-to-use features not covered elsewhere.||Y||N||Y||Shuriken?|
|Extra Parry||Gain extra Parry.||Y||Y||N||Fencing|
|Flexible Weapon||Jointed or flexible. Generally includes ability to wrap and tangle.||Y||N||Y||Flail, Whip, Bolas, Net|
|Improved Parry||Use 2/3 skill for Parry.||Y||Y||N||Brawling, Fencing, Staff, Karate|
|Large ST Bonus (single use)||+1/5 skill to ST for one purpose.||?||Y||?||hypothetical|
|Many Maneuvers||Over 10 maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Judo, Brawling, Fencing|
|Many Types||Skill covers very different lengths or configurations of weapon.||Y||N||?||Flail|
|Multiple Grips||Skill covers one- and two-handed use.||Y||N||?||Spear|
|Off-Hand Use||No penalty for off-hand use.||Y||Y||Y||Shield, many unarmed skills. Required for skills with any form of Grappling|
|Offensive Grappling||Per Grappling, but only to perform moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical. Prereq: Offensive Off-Hand Use|
|Slamming||Use skill to make and avoid/evade slams and pushes.||?||Y||N||Judo, Sumo Wrestling, Wrestling|
|Small Damage Bonus||+1/10 skill to damage.||?||Y||N||Brawling|
|Small Dodge Bonus||+1/8 skill to limited Dodge rolls.||?||Y||N||Boxing|
|Small ST Bonus||+1/8 skill to ST for limited purposes.||?||Y||?||Wrestling|
|Special Ability: Crack||Can “crack” weapon for extra damage.||Y||N||N||Whip|
|Special Ability: Locks||Can use Arm Locks and/or Finger Locks maneuvers.||N||Y||N||Judo, Wrestling. Prereq: Grappling or Offensive Grappling|
|Special Ability: Throws||Can use Judo Throw maneuver to throw foes.||N||Y||N||Judo. Prereq: Grappling or Offensive Grappling|
|Special Ability: other||Any powerful unique ability not covered elsewhere.||Y||Y||Y||hypothetical|
|Defensive Off-Hand Use||Off-Hand Use for defense only.||Y||Y||N||Main Gauche, Short Staff|
|Defensive Slamming||Per Slamming, but only to resist moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Limited Improved Parry||Improved Parry under some conditions.||Y||Y||N||Katana|
|Offensive Off-Hand Use||Off-Hand Use for attack only.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Offensive Slamming||Per Slamming, but only to perform moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Parry Bonus||+1 bonus to Parry.||Y||Y||N||Main Gauche. Generally used to buy off a Parry penalty|
|Small ST Bonus (single use)||+1/8 skill to ST for one purpose.||?||Y||?||hypothetical|
|Special Ability: Breakfall||Can use Breakfall maneuver.||?||Y||N||Judo|
|Special Ability: other||Any minor unique ability not covered elsewhere.||Y||Y||Y||hypothetical|
|Defensive Encumbrance Penalties||Encumbrance penalties for defense only.||Y||Y||?||Katana?|
|Offensive Encumbrance Penalties||Encumbrance penalties for attack only.||Y||Y||?||Katana?|
|Parry Penalty||-1 penalty to Parry.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical; included as counterpart to Parry Bonus|
|Encumbrance Penalties||Limitations on use, or penalties, for encumbrance.||Y||Y||?||Karate, Fencing|
|Few Maneuvers||5 or fewer maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Thrown Weapon|
|Light Weapon||Close or light weapon in melee.||Y||N||N||Blackjack, Knife, Fencing|
|Limited Parry||Use 1/3 skill for Parry, or other limitations.||Y||Y||N||Brawling and Boxing vs some attacks|
|Reduced Damage||Halve damage.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical skill using soft strikes|
|Single Mode||Only thrust or swing; for unarmed, only punch or kick.||Y||Y||N||Axe/Mace, Spear, Boxing, Flail|
|Specialized||Minor variations in weapon treated as separate skill or maneuver.||Y||N||Y||Fencing under optional rules|
|No Blows||Blows use default untrained skill level.||Y||Y||N||Judo, Wrestling|
|No Parry||Parry uses default untrained skill level.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical attack-only skill|
|Unarmed||Unarmed skill.||N||Y||N||Karate, Judo, Boxing, Wrestling, Brawling|
COSH Enhancements and Limitations (by category)
The columns labeled A, U and R indicate whether an item is appropriate for armed, unarmed, and ranged skills, respectively. Y is yes, N is no, and ? indicates GM discretion.
|value||description||A||U||R||examples and notes|
|Tons of Maneuvers||+2||Over 25 maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Karate|
|Many Maneuvers||+1||Over 10 maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Judo, Brawling, Fencing|
|Few Maneuvers||-1||5 or fewer maneuvers.||Y||Y||Y||Thrown Weapon|
|Special Ability: other||+1||Any powerful unique ability not covered elsewhere.||Y||Y||Y||hypothetical|
|Special Ability: other||+1/2||Any minor unique ability not covered elsewhere.||Y||Y||Y||hypothetical|
Armed and Unarmed Skills
|Large Damage Bonus||+2||+1/5 skill to damage.||?||Y||N||Karate|
|Small Damage Bonus||+1||+1/10 skill to damage.||?||Y||N||Brawling|
|Reduced Damage||-1||Halve damage.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical skill using soft strikes|
|Single Mode||-1||Only thrust or swing; for unarmed, only punch or kick.||Y||Y||N||Axe/Mace, Spear, Boxing, Flail|
|No Blows||-2||Blows use default untrained skill level.||Y||Y||N||Judo, Wrestling|
|Extra Parry||+1||Gain extra Parry.||Y||Y||N||Fencing|
|Improved Parry||+1||Use 2/3 skill for Parry.||Y||Y||N||Brawling, Fencing, Staff, Karate|
|Limited Improved Parry||+1/2||Improved Parry under some conditions.||Y||Y||N||Katana|
|Parry Bonus||+1/2||+1 bonus to Parry.||Y||Y||N||Main Gauche. Generally used to buy off a Parry penalty|
|Limited Parry||-1||Use 1/3 skill for Parry, or other limitations.||Y||Y||N||Brawling and Boxing vs some attacks|
|Parry Penalty||-1/2||-1 penalty to Parry.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical; included as counterpart to Parry Bonus|
|No Parry||-2||Parry uses default untrained skill level.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical attack-only skill|
|Large Dodge Bonus||+2||+1/5 skill to limited Dodge rolls.||?||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Small Dodge Bonus||+1||+1/8 skill to limited Dodge rolls.||?||Y||N||Boxing|
|Off-Hand Use||+1||No penalty for off-hand use.||Y||Y||?||Shield, many unarmed skills. Required for skills with any form of Grappling|
|Offensive Off-Hand Use||+1/2||Off-Hand Use for attack only.||Y||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Defensive Off-Hand Use||+1/2||Off-Hand Use for defense only.||Y||Y||N||Main Gauche, Short Staff|
|Encumbrance Penalties||-1||Limitations on use, or penalties, for encumbrance.||Y||Y||?||Karate, Fencing|
|Offensive Encumbrance Penalties||-1/2||Encumbrance penalties for attack only.||Y||Y||?||Katana?|
|Defensive Encumbrance Penalties||-1/2||Encumbrance penalties for defense only.||Y||Y||?||Katana?|
|Large ST Bonus||+2||+1/5 skill to ST for limited purposes.||?||Y||?||Sumo Wrestling|
|Large ST Bonus (single use)||+1||+1/5 skill to ST for one purpose.||?||Y||?||hypothetical|
|Small ST Bonus||+1||+1/8 skill to ST for limited purposes.||?||Y||?||Wrestling|
|Small ST Bonus (single use)||+1/2||+1/8 skill to ST for one purpose.||?||Y||?||hypothetical|
|Difficult Weapon||+1||Catch-all category for hard-to-use features not covered elsewhere.||Y||N||Y||hypothetical|
|Flexible Weapon||+1||Jointed or flexible. Generally includes ability to wrap and tangle.||Y||N||Y||Flail, Whip, Bolas, Net|
|Light Weapon||-1||Close or light weapon in melee.||Y||N||N||Blackjack, Knife, Fencing|
|Special Ability: Crack||+1||Can “crack” weapon for extra damage.||Y||N||N||Whip|
|Many Types||+1||Skill covers very different lengths or configurations of weapon.||Y||N||?||Flail|
|Multiple Grips||+1||Skill covers one- and two-handed use.||Y||N||?||Spear|
|Specialized||-1||Minor variations in weapon treated as separate skill or maneuver.||Y||N||Y||Fencing (using optional GURPS rules)|
|Unarmed||-4||Unarmed skill.||N||Y||N||Karate, Judo, Boxing, Wrestling, Boxing|
|Grappling||+2||Use skill to make and resist grapples and related moves.||N||Y||N||Judo, Sumo Wrestling, Wrestling. Prereq: Off-Hand Use|
|Defensive Grappling||+1||Per Grappling, but only to resist/evade moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical. Prereq: Defensive Off-Hand Use|
|Offensive Grappling||+1||Per Grappling, but only to perform moves.||N||Y||N||hypothetical. Prereq: Offensive Off-Hand Use|
|Special Ability: Breakfall||+1/2||Can use Breakfall maneuver.||?||Y||N||Judo|
|Special Ability: Locks||+1||Can use Arm Locks and/or Finger Locks maneuvers.||N||Y||N||Judo, Wrestling. Prereq: Grappling or Offensive Grappling|
|Special Ability: Throws||+1||Can use Judo Throw maneuver to throw foes.||N||Y||N||Judo. Prereq: Grappling or Offensive Grappling|
|Slamming||+1||Use skill to make and avoid/evade slams and pushes.||?||Y||N||Judo, Sumo Wrestling, Wrestling|
|Offensive Slamming||+1/2||Per Slamming, but only to perform moves.||?||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Defensive Slamming||+1/2||Per Slamming, but only to resist moves.||?||Y||N||hypothetical|
|Muscle-Powered Ranged||+2||Firing device powered by muscle.||N||N||Y||Bow, Blowpipe|
|Difficult Weapon||+1||Catch-all category for hard-to-use features not covered elsewhere.||Y||N||Y||Shuriken?|
|Flexible Weapon||+1||Jointed or flexible. Generally includes ability to wrap and tangle.||Y||N||Y||Flail, Whip, Bolas, Net|
|Specialized||-1||Minor variations in weapon treated as separate skill or maneuver.||Y||N||Y||Fencing under optional rules|
Notes on Enhancements and Limitations
“Why is that on the list?”
A few of the enhancements and limitations, or their ratings, may look dubious – but they’re there because, well, GURPS suggests their existence. Why is Muscle-Powered Ranged a big enhancement? Because Bow and Blowpipe are harder than other ranged skills. Why is Light Weapon made a limitation? Because Knife is easier than Shortsword, for no reason that I can see other than the small weapon size.
Unarmed skills are given a great big blanket limitation of -4. Why? Because when you total up the abilities they confer, GURPS’ unarmed combat skills are far, far easier than an equivalent armed skill would be. Whether that makes sense or not, these skills get a huge limitation here in order to produce GURPS-like results.
In GURPS, this takes the form of a binary “must have Light encumbrance or lower”.
However, the game is unclear on what exactly happens with higher encumbrance – does the skill “disappear”, or what? Work this how you will, but COSH will suggest an alternate, more flexible rule borrowed from GULLIVER: A skill with the Encumbrance Penalties limitation may be used while encumbered, but takes encumbrance level as a penalty on skill for all purposes.
The core of wrestling-type skills. Grappling can be further broken into Offensive and Defensive Grappling. The former lets you use skill to make offensive grappling moves, and is the prerequisite for the Special Abilities for Throws and Locks, as well as maneuvers like Choke Hold. The latter lets you use skill to resist those same abilities.
Grappling requires full Off-Hand Use (+1); Offensive or Defensive Grappling can get by with Offensive or Defensive Off-Hand Use (+1/2), respectively.
Large/Small Damage Bonus
This is derived from the Brawling, Boxing, and Karate rules, and will be a common enhancement for any unarmed striking art. It could be added to armed skills as well; try it out, but keep an eye on whether the combination is unbalancing.
Unlike the Dodge Bonus and ST Bonus enhancements, Damage Bonus has no built-in limits on use (other than use of the appropriate weapon, or no weapon, as the skill dictates).
It’s tempting to further tweak the enhancement for use with only punches or kicks, or swings or thrusts, by cutting the value of the enhancement by -1/2. This could be unbalancing, though; after all, the full-fledged Single Mode limitation only nets you a -1. Use with care.
Large/Small Dodge Bonus
This is patterned after the Dodge bonus for Boxing. Following Boxing’s lead, the enhancement must have built-in limits on use. (An unlimited version could be unbalanced, and is not offered in these rules.)
Boxing’s bonus applies only to bare-handed and thrusting attacks, and not swung or ranged attacks (or kicks, presumably). When adding this enhancement to a skill, use Boxing’s limits as a guideline. A rule of thumb: Lump attacks into broad categories: punch, kick, swung weapon, thrust weapon, ranged weapon, etc. Pick two as the attacks vs which the Dodge bonus applies.
More exotic skills could use categories like near attacks (Range C or 1), far attacks (Range 2+), smaller foes, same-size foes, larger foes, and so on.
Large/Small ST Bonus
This is derived from the ST bonus GURPS gives to Wrestling. The bonus applies only to a limited range of uses, which must be defined. In the case of Wrestling, this is the range of wrestling-like moves, such as grapples, takedowns, pins, and breaking free. (Side note: find plenty of spiffed-up rules for these actions here.)
The enhancement “ST Bonus (single use)” can be applied to only one action, such as breaking free. Specify the single action to which the ST bonus applies.
Be wary of allowing the ST Bonus enhancement for strikes; these may prove unbalancing.
This applies only to armed skills, not ranged or unarmed skills.
Limited Improved Parry
Use this for a skill that offers Improved (2/3 skill) Parry under some conditions, but a normal (1/2 skill) Parry under other conditions. Use Katana as a guide.
Use this for an all-round poor Parry, or for a skill with its default Parry (whether normal or Improved) under some conditions, and a lesser Parry under other conditions. Perfect examples are Brawling and Boxing, which cannot effectively parry some weapon attacks (and kicks, in the latter case). Define the conditions of the limited Parry, using Boxing and Brawling as guides.
Note that this is not named “No Attack”. It means there’s no strike, whether swing, thrust, punch or kick – but there may be wrestling-type attacks such as Grappling, Slamming, and related maneuvers.
The ability to use the off-hand without penalty for any of the skill’s actions. Skills may choose to use the cheaper, more limited Offensive Off-Hand Use, required for any offensive grappling moves and a useful addition to punches, or Defensive Off-Hand Use, required for defensive grappling moves and a useful addition to parries.
The skill covers only punches or kicks if unarmed; swings or thrusts if armed. This applies only to skills that include offensive blows.
The ability to perform, or resist and evade, slams and pushes. It can be further broken into Offensive and Defensive Slamming. Slamming does not require Off-Hand Use.
When one character attempts to move through a foe’s hex (see Evading, BS 113), Offensive Slamming helps prevent such evasion (i.e., block the foe). Defensive Slamming helps perform the evasion (i.e., get by the foe’s block).
GURPS does not cover slamming and pushing in much detail; the low enhancement costs reflect both the simplicity of the moves and their limited utility.
Slamming is primarily used in unarmed skills, though some armed exceptions, such as Shield, seem to make sense.
Throws, Locks, and other powerful abilities are considered a Special Ability enhancement, either +1 or +1/2. The appropriate Special Ability allows the skill to include the covered maneuver(s), or otherwise adds the covered ability. However, maneuvers requiring a Special Ability still count against the total number of maneuvers the skill may have!
Notes on Skill Building
Limit on limitations
Stacked limitations on blows can only reach -1 1/2, not -2, as long as some offensive blow remains. Likewise, stacked limitations on parrying can only reach -1 1/2 as long as some parrying ability remains. That’s because No Blows or No Parry is each a -2 limitation.
Example: You add Single Mode: swing only (-1) and Reduced Damage (-1) to your skill, for weak swings. The combination only nets a -1 1/2 limitation, not -2; the full -2 is reserved for the No Blows limitation.
Building wrestling-type skills
To build a grappling skill like Wrestling or Judo that does not use strikes, start with an unarmed skill. Add No Blows (-2). Then add Grappling, Slamming, and Special Abilities like Locks and Throws, as appropriate. Don’t forget to add Off-Hand Use to Grappling (or the limited Offensive/Defensive Off-Hand Use to Offensive/Defensive Grappling).
Selecting a skill’s maneuvers
Once you’ve invented or modified a skill, you have another fun task: picking maneuvers, up to as many as the skill allows. Rules of thumb for making selections:
- a) Choose maneuvers that fit the skill. Set sensible prerequisites: kicking moves require that the skill have kicking ability, wrestling-type moves require that the skill have grappling ability, and so on.
- b) At the GM’s discretion, allow limited exceptions to the above – perhaps one exception per skill. Existing examples include Leg Grapple in Brawling and Karate (even though these do not otherwise offer grappling techniques), and Drop Kick in Wrestling (which does not otherwise allow kicking). If abuse is a worry, the GM might choose to make such an exceptional maneuver count as two maneuvers against that skill’s total number, or place limitations on the maneuver’s capabilities, or otherwise come up with restrictions (including outright veto) against maneuvers that don’t fit the skill.
- c) Allow and disallow cinematic maneuvers at your discretion. An in-between solution: make a cinematic maneuver available, but have it count as two maneuvers against the skill’s total number.
- d) For simplicity, maneuvers treated as Special Abilities in these rules still count against the skill’s total number of maneuvers. For example, a skill that offers the Arm Lock and Finger Lock maneuvers must include Special Ability: Locks and include those two maneuvers in its list of maneuvers.
See “Optional Stuff” below for more ideas on using – or ignoring – maneuvers with COSH.
Here are a number of skills worked out as examples. After the skill name is a list of included enhancements and limitations, then notes where applicable, and finally, the end difficulty level. A few of these purposely veer from GURPS writeups, as you’ll see.
A note: When reading, remember that mods in parentheses refer to enhancement and limitation value, not to in-game effects. That is, Large Damage Bonus (+2) refers to a +2 enhancement to skill cost, not +2 damage. For the actual effect on damage (or on Parry, etc. for other items), see the descriptions in the tables above.
That about covers it. Read up, then go out and invent Two-Handed Hobbit Kneecapper skill or what have you.
Some Basic Skills
Default average skills
Skills including Broadsword, Shortsword, Two-Handed Sword, and Polearm have none of the listed enhancements or limitations. These are default Average skills.
- Knife: Light Weapon (-1). Easy.
Spear covers one- or two-handed use, but presumably uses thrusts only.
- Spear: Multiple Grips (+1), Single Mode: thrust only (-1). Average.
- Staff: Improved Parry (+1). Hard.
- Brawling: Small Damage Bonus (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Limited Parry (-1), Unarmed (-4). Easy.
- Karate: Large Damage Bonus (+2), Tons of Maneuvers (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
Bolas or Lasso
- Bolas or Lasso: Flexible Weapon (+1), Few Maneuvers (-1). Average.
Bow, Blowpipe, or Sling
- Bow, Blowpipe, or Sling: Muscle-Powered Ranged (+2), Few Maneuvers (-1). Hard.
Crossbow or Guns
- Crossbow or Guns: Few Maneuvers (-1). Easy.
- Thrown Weapon: Most variations of this have Few Maneuvers (-1). Easy.
Other Interesting Skills
A ranged skill, Net covers a variety of sizes and presumably requires two hands (do not add Multiple Grips).
- Net: Flexible Weapon (+1), Many Types (+1), Few Maneuvers (-1). Hard.
This skill covers several sizes of shield, but treats a buckler as a different skill (i.e., don’t add Many Types). And don’t add No Parry; obviously, Parry in the context of shields refers to Block!
- Shield: Off-Hand Use (+1), Single Mode: thrust only (-1), Few Maneuvers (-1). Easy.
A few invented variants:
Offensive Shield: Skill may be used to make or resist slams and pushes, as well as make bashes. A good choice for Spartan soldiers, who made an art of shield walls and rushes. (Speaking of which, a Shield Wall maneuver sounds nifty; anyone have a suggestion?)
- Offensive Shield: Off-Hand Use (+1), Slamming (+1), Single Mode: thrust only (-1), Few Maneuvers (-1). Average.
Defensive Shield: Better defense, but bashes are weak:
- Defensive Shield: Off-Hand Use (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Single Mode: thrust only, and Reduced Damage (-1 1/2 for combination), Few Maneuvers (-1). Average.
Purely Defensive Shield: Per the name:
- Purely Defensive Shield: Improved Parry (+1), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Defensive Off-Hand Use (+1/2), Few Maneuvers (-1), No Blows (-2). Easy.
Buckling: Hmm, perhaps a buckler could count as a Light Weapon? Here’s a swashbuckler’s quick-footed Shield skill, not much difference in concept from either Main Gauche or Fencing. It’s only good with bucklers, not the heavy stuff, but nets a lightning-fast Block:
- Buckling: Off-Hand Use (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Extra Parry (+1), Light Weapon (-1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), Single Mode: thrust only (-1), Few Maneuvers (-1). Easy.
Skills Calling for a Few Nips and Tucks
- Fencing: Improved Parry (+1), Extra Parry (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Light Weapon (-1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1). Hard.
That leaves the skill harder than it is in GURPS, but perhaps justly so. Add Specialized (-1) for the optional GURPS rule making each type of fencing weapon a unique specialty (CI 133), and you’re back to Average.
Some Fencing variations may use Single Mode: thrust only (-1), too.
The GURPS version:
- Flail: Flexible Weapon (+1), Many Types (+1), Multiple Grips (+1), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Harder than Hard.
That too-high difficulty is deserved: while the game carefully distinguishes among skills for size and number of hands where swords are concerned, Flail covers any length of weapon and any number of hands!
Here’s a workable revision that realistically reduces training in parries. (Like a whip, a flail arguably should take an additional Parry penalty for the unsuitability of the weapon to that task.):
- Flail (reworked): Flexible Weapon (+1), Many Types (+1), Multiple Grips (+1), Limited Parry (-1, use 1/3 skill), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Hard.
Or, for a detailed sword-like approach:
- Flail (reworked): Flexible Weapon (+1), Limited Parry (-1, use 1/3 skill), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Easy.
This gives you a One-Handed Flail version for 1-hex models, and a separate Two-Handed version for 2-hex models.
Below is a version that matches the GURPS skill with one small cost-saving exception: it leaves offensive slams and pushes to the sumo wrestlers.
- Judo: Grappling (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Special Ability: Throws (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1), Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), No Blows (-2), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
Note that Judo barely qualifies for Many Maneuvers. If you pare down its maneuver list just a bit, you can remove that enhancement. However, that’s not doing this complex skill justice; as described under Wrestling, what’s really needed are more maneuvers for general takedown and mat moves.
- Katana: Multiple Grips (+1), Limited Improved Parry (+1/2, only for two hands and low encumbrance), Defensive Encumbrance Penalties (-1/2). Hard.
Limited Improved Parry is in the books, but the addition of Defensive Encumbrance Penalties is my own tweak to get an even difficulty level. You can make up your own details for the encumbrance penalty, or use this suggestion: subtract encumbrance level from skill level, for all defensive purposes only.
The result is still Hard, not GURPS’ Average – as well it should be. If you want an Average skill, remove Multiple Grips, and require separate one- and two-handed skills. It’s sensible – real-world kendo, after all, does not teach one-handed use.
- Main Gauche: Improved Parry (+1), Parry Bonus (+1/2, buys off -1 penalty for knife), Defensive Off-Hand Use (+1/2), Light Weapon (-1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1). Average.
GURPS doesn’t suggest Encumbrance Penalties, but I’ve added it. It makes sense, given the skill’s fencing roots, and keeps the skill at Average.
Coverage of both 2-hex and 3-hex (or longer) weapons arguably calls for Many Types. I’ll let it pass if you will, though.
- Short Staff: Improved Parry (+1), Defensive Off-Hand Use (+1/2), Defensive Encumbrance Penalties (-1/2). Hard.
Defensive Off-Hand Use allows off-hand defense at no penalty. Defensive Encumbrance Penalties is not from GURPS; it’s added here as a balance. Suggestion: subtract encumbrance level from skill level, for all defensive purposes only.
Sumo needs to cover ferocious slams, pushes and slaps, along with arm locks and GURPS’ big ST bonus. The slaps could be viewed as simply the pushes of Slamming, but let’s try the addition of real blows, with the special effect that punches are open-hand slaps.
- Sumo Wrestling: Grappling (+2), Large ST Bonus (+2), Slamming (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1); Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), Offensive Encumbrance Penalties (-1/2), Single Mode: punch only (-1), No Parry (-2), Unarmed (-4). Average.
Sumo uses throws as well, but these can be viewed as variations on takedowns, pushes, and even the Trip maneuver; they’re not the over-the-shoulder throws you see on a judo mat. The Special Ability is not included here.
Offensive Encumbrance Penalties may raise some eyebrows, but it’s true: the heaviest wrestlers display greatly reduced ability to use advanced techniques. If anything, this writeup is generous in not requiring the full Encumbrance Penalties limitation.
Less-skilled wrestlers will drop Locks to make an Easy skill, but arm-twisting is definitely part of the pro’s arsenal. In fact, sumo enthusiasts claim such a wide variety of techniques in the sport that an added Many Maneuvers (+1) and a Hard rating is a good choice for high-level wrestlers.
MA‘s description is short on detail, but treating Tonfa the same as Short Staff sounds good.
- Whip: Flexible Weapon (+1), Many Types (+1), Special Ability: Crack (+1), Limited Parry (-1, use 1/3 skill), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Hard.
Whip covers any length and type of whip (Many Types). The Basic Set implies that poor parrying comes from the weapon, not from skill, which is better represented as a Parry penalty (like a knife, but perhaps -2 Parry?), not by use of 1/3 skill. But here I’ll also specify Limited Parry to represent poor skill itself – a whip user is very unlikely to practice parries much!
Single Mode covers a single swinging-like motion, with lack of a meaningful “thrust”. (There is variety in whip usage, especially given moves to entangle and to crack, but these are separately covered by Flexible Weapon and Special Ability enhancements.)
If you want to reach the Basic Set’s Average difficulty, drop Many Types, and require separate skills for different lengths.
There are a few skills that resist GURPS-like final difficulty levels. Make of these what you will:
Axe/Mace or Two-Handed Axe/Mace
- Axe/Mace: Single Mode: swing only (-1). Easy.
Does Easy make sense? Maybe; a skill that knows nothing but swing, swing, swing is clearly simpler than fancy swordplay, and perhaps should be treated as such.
A strict GM would add Many Types (+1) to Axe/Mace, as it combines small hatchets and big hand axes into one skill, whereas shortswords and broadswords require separate skills. But that still leaves Two-Handed Axe/Mace an Easy skill.
Since axe users usually forego the Parry defense in GURPS, I wonder whether the skills really should assume as much parry training as Broadsword. A bold GM can try this for an all-round, one- and two-handed, multiple-model Axe/Mace skill of limited use for defense:
- Axe/Mace (reworked): Many Types (+1), Multiple Grips (+1), Limited Parry (-1, use 1/3 skill), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Average.
I like it.
- Boxing: Large Damage Bonus (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Small Dodge Bonus (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Limited Parry (-1), Single Mode: punch only (-1), Unarmed (-4). Easy.
That’s a level easier than in GURPS. Adding detail to the skill, creating Many Maneuvers (+1), is a good solution to bring it back up to Average.
This would appear to work as Bow or Sling, but is inexplicably Average in GURPS instead of Hard. Let it be a Hard skill, I say – it looks hard.
This is for some reason a Hard skill, whereas other throwing skills are Easy. Perhaps it adds Many Types (+1; a wide variety of shapes and sizes) and Difficult Weapon (+1; user must avoid cutting self). But if those don’t seem right to you, go ahead and let it be Easy.
Here’s a first attempt:
- Wrestling: Grappling (+2), Slamming (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Small ST Bonus (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1), No Blows (-2), No Parry (-2), Unarmed (-4). Easier than Easy.
No good. You’ll need to add one of two options to bring the level up to Easy, or both to raise the level to GURPS’ Average:
a) Add two abilities not technically included in the GURPS version: Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), and a very limited Parry.
The latter could replace No Parry (-2) with Limited Parry (-1, same limitations as Brawling), and Parry Penalty (-1/2). The result is some ability to parry punches and kicks, if much poorer than the ability of Judo or even Brawling.
b) Add Many Maneuvers (+1). Martial Arts is skimpy with the maneuvers for Wrestling, but a discussion with enthusiasts should provide ideas for more. Think of a takedown that targets the legs, a slip that lets you grapple a foe from behind, advanced pinning techniques… If you can create some good maneuvers for the mat, PCs with Wrestling will thank you. (Any suggestions, readers?)
To the extent that this system’s arbitrary numbers are valid (and only to that extent), the above suggests that GURPS shortchanges Boxing and Wrestling with respect to other unarmed arts. They don’t seem to contain enough goods for their given difficulty levels.
The solution is to use an improved version of Wrestling like the above, and either improve Boxing with an extra +1 enhancement somewhere (as with Wrestling, invention of more maneuvers may be good), or play Boxing as an Easy skill. You make the call.
Here are some new skills made with COSH:
A cinematic Dwarven axe/mace skill, Ghidkrim combines hard-chopping blows with defensive moves designed to thwart Ogres and other big foes. The skill is used with a 1-hex axe or hammer, built for one- or two-handed use. Ghidkrim users do not parry, but rather use the weapon’s own momentum to dodge in dizzying directions, usually toward and uncomfortably close to a tall foe. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a berzerk mountain defender let his whirling hammer pull him under the flailing grasp of an Iron Troll, between the beast’s knees – and with a mighty swing upward, “ring the bells” (as the Dwarves say). Ouch.
- Ghidkrim: Large Dodge Bonus (+2; limiting conditions: only vs larger foes, and must have unhampered use of appropriate unbalanced weapon), Multiple Grips (+1), Small Damage Bonus (+1), Single Mode: swing only (-1), No Parry (-2). Hard.
Include Slip as one of Ghidkrim’s maneuvers, subject to the same limitations as the Dodge Bonus above. Users of the skill should also concentrate on the Close Combat maneuver, to make best use of position after a Slip. Spinning Attack is also good. Make sure total maneuvers do not exceed 10.
Silly Ghidkrim: As above, but encourage whirling, ducking Dwarves to shout “Can’t touch this!” with every Dodge. Followed by – yes – “HAMMER TIME!” on the attack.
Mithril parachute pants optional.
This is a one-handed skill that should be separate from Flail.
- Nunchaku: Small Damage Bonus (+1), Flexible Weapon (+1), Limited Parry (-1, use 1/3 skill), Single Mode: swing only (-1). Average. Serious practitioners will add Off-Hand Use (+1).
Small Damage Bonus lets high-speed whirling technique contribute to damage; arguably, Flail is a candidate for this too.
Limited Parry may or may not seem right to you. If you want Nunchaku practitioners to practice and employ parries as readily as sword users do, remove Limited Parry.
Like Brawling, but sacrifices that skill’s wider range of moves for the down-and-dirty basics of both striking and grappling:
- Roughneck: Small Damage Bonus (+1), Slamming (+1), Offensive Grappling (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Limited Parry (-1, per Brawling), Unarmed (-4). Average.
Pare down the list of maneuvers to 10 or less.
Skills from Readers
Got any COSH-derived skill suggestions of your own? Send them in and I’ll list them here.
Enhancements and limitations marked with a double asterisk (**) are new inventions or major modifications by contributors, and may not appear on the “official” list above. Explanations appear in the text. Use or ignore as you like.
From Tail Kinker: Here’s an interesting one-skill version of a Martial Arts style. This is a full Aikido that does include striking techniques, if not powerful ones. More advanced practitioners, however, should consider study of a separate striking skill, as well as study of Staff skill.
- Aikido: Grappling (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Special Ability: Throws (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), Single Mode: punch only, and Reduced Damage (-1 1/2 for combination), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
From D. Weber: A specialized version of Karate which, like Boxing, is not optimized for self defense. It has the maneuvers and damage bonus of regular Karate skill, but carries penalties to defend against “real world” attacks not coming from the same style.
- Karate Sport: Large Damage Bonus (+2), Tons of Manuevers (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Limited Parry (-1, specifics below)**, Encumbrance Penalty (-1), Unarmed (-4). Average.
** Suggested mechanic for Limited Parry: Against an opponent using a skill other than the character’s style, take -1 for every two points of the attacker’s skill over 10. Thus, a character with Karate Sport, attacked by a mugger with Brawling-14, takes a -2 penalty on Parry. Alternately, just assign a -3 parry penalty against attacks that are not part of the style.
Note that the character could turn this into a more effective self defense skill by using his next skill level to buy off the Limited Parry limitation.
Karate Art (D. Weber): Per the above, but lower the Damage Bonus from Large to Small, for an Easy skill. The character doesn’t practice against body bags and such. Not very useful in a fight, but it looks really cool.
From G. Shumway: This is a rules-breaking skill that requires you to allow easier-than-Easy skills (see Extreme Skills). That’s an important part of the goal here, though: an ultra-simple skill for equipping armies of peasants, conscripts, or other green fighters with pikes. Peasant’s Pike teaches the user how to handle the weapon’s unwieldy weight and how to poke – and that’s it. This minimal training affords DX+2 skill for only 1 point.
- Peasant’s Pike: Large ST Bonus (+1, only for Min ST purposes), Few Maneuvers (-1), Single Mode: thrust only (-1), No Parry (-2). 2 levels easier than Easy.
From D. Weber: This is a real Marine Corps martial art, though reconstructed here from a half-remembered newspaper article. The system includes both striking and grappling techniques, though without fancy kicks – and unlike many unarmed arts, includes training in use while encumbered.
Striking Techniques: Start with Karate, drop the Encumbrance limitation, and reduce the number of manuevers:
- Semper Fu (striking): Large Damage Bonus (+2), Many Maneuvers (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
Grappling and Throws: Use the below Stripped-down Judo, but drop the Encumbrance limitation:
- Semper Fu (grappling): Grappling (+2), Off-Hand Use (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Special Ability: Throws (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1), Small ST Bonus (+1, same uses as Wrestling), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), No Parry (-2), No Blows (-2), Unarmed (-4). Average.
Thus, Semper Fu is represented by one Hard and one Average skill – no fancy kicks, but there’s a wide range of techniques that can be used by a soldier wearing a heavy pack.
From D. Weber: This is a version of Judo well-suited to use in styles that also contain Karate. By not duplicating abilities already offered by Karate, the skill is able to beef up other abilities while still coming in cheaper than GURPS’ Judo, which nicely simulates the cost efficiency of learning an “integrated” style.
Yet the skill can stand on its own as well, as a “realistic” version of Judo teaching holds and escapes but not weapon parries. (Such a stand-alone, Karate-less version should likely change No Parry (-2) to Limited Parry (-1, per Brawling), so it can at least parry unarmed attacks effectively.)
- Stripped-down Judo: Grappling (+2), Off-Hand Use (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Special Ability: Throws (+1), Special Ability: Locks (+1), Small ST Bonus (+1, same uses as Wrestling), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), No Parry (-2), No Blows (-2), Unarmed (-4). Easy.
Tackling and Blocking
With input by D. Weber: This skill already appears in GULLIVER (do a search in Book 5). Here’s a reworking using COSH building blocks:
- Tackling and Blocking: Grappling (+2), Large ST Bonus (+2, for Grapples, Takedowns, Slams, Pins, Breaking Free), Slamming (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Special Ability: Breakfall (+1/2), Parry Penalty (-1/2), Limited Parry (-1, per Brawling), No Blows (-2), Unarmed (-4). Easy.
The result: a very effective skill for blocking or taking down a foe, plus a very limited Parry to bring cost up. The character can Parry at skill/2, minus 1, against unarmed attacks and Close attacks, with Brawling-like penalties vs other attacks.
Amazon Unarmed Combat
From D. Weber: This is an unarmed combat skill intended for use against larger and stronger opponents; it relies on dodging rather than parrying. Skill to break free of grapples is included as well. A good skill if you have to go mano-a-mano with an Ogre!
- Amazon Unarmed Combat: Large Damage Bonus (+2), Tons of Maneuvers (+2), Large Dodge Bonus (+2, same limits as Boxing), Off-Hand Use (+1), Large ST Bonus (+1, single use: Break Free only), Encumbrance Penalty (-1), No Parry (-2), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
Note: GURPS suggests no penalties for parrying a stronger foe or heavier weapon, but here’s a rule that does. That’s why this skill prefers to dodge! But that Dodge bonus has limits vs armed foes. Make sure to include Disarming among this skill’s maneuvers, and keep a weapon (and the skill to use it) handy in case that doesn’t work…
From Tail Kinker: Cinematic or real? Whichever is the case, stories purport that some Japanese warriors took a different approach with their katana than did the samurai. Batto Jutsu is not a flexible, all-round sword-fighting style. It lets the practitioner do one thing, and do it with grim efficiency: unleash a flurry of devastating slashes and lightning parries. Little training is diverted to anything else. The warrior, unarmored and using only a two-handed stance, seeks to create a “bubble of death” around him on the battlefield. You enter the bubble, you die.
- Batto Jutsu: Large Damage Bonus (+2), Improved Parry (+1), Special Ability (+1, extra actions)**, Encumbrance Penalties (-1), Few Maneuvers (-1), Single Mode: swung (-1). Hard.
** Gain additional attack and parry at Batto Jutsu-15, and again at every 5 additional levels.
You’ve only got a handful of maneuvers – Close Combat, Disarming, and Feint are good starts – and only swings, not thrusts. Simple. Deadly. SLASH.
Light-Armor combat skills
From D. Weber: In ancient times, Celtic warriors (Gauls, etc) often fought naked or nearly so. To give them a better life expectancy, allow them to take standard combat skills with the enhancement Improved Parry (+1) and the limitation Encumbrance Penalties (-1). The latter gives the character a practical reason to avoid armor. This might also be appropriate for gladiators.
From Tail Kinker: From Tail Kinker’s Caverns & Creatures (web site) comes Engaselavia, or Elven Sabre. The weapon itself is a finely-balanced sabre wrought from light alloys, resembling the Japanese wakizashi but with a twenty-inch hilt. Engaselaviaen of Average quality cost $1000. Techniques for making the weapon at Fine or better quality are known only to Elves, who willingly pay the $4000 or higher cost for this quality.
- Engaselavia: The skill Engaselavia is also known only to Elves, and incorporates special techniques to detect, aim for, and punch through weaknesses in armor. Parry is 2/3 skill.
Improved Parry (+1), Special Ability (+1, armor piercing)**, Light Weapon (-1). Hard.
** For every eight full levels of skill, an attack may ignore one point of DR on the target’s armor.
Idea and name by KBantar: This one is going to stretch the rules, just for fun. If Dodge Bonus applies only to some limited set of attacks, per GURPS’ lead with Boxing, then let’s assume that we could remove those limitations by doubling the cost.
So, here’s a skill built for one purpose: dodging, ducking, weaving, twisting, and otherwise slipping away from any sort of attack. It offers a serious Dodge bonus versus any attack, plus other tricks for evasion and escape:
- Evade: Large Dodge Bonus (+4; cost doubled to remove limitations on Dodge; this is not an “official” COSH rule!), Large ST Bonus (+1, single use: Break Free only), Defensive Grappling (+1), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Defensive Off-Hand Use ( +1/2), Few Maneuvers (-1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), No Parry (-2), No Blows (-2). Hard.
Evade might also be known as “Dodge’em” or “DUCK!” – or, to frustrated foes, “I Can’t HIT This #@%!!”. Equally usable by armed and unarmed defenders, it’s perfect for a pacifist PC.
Focus on defense when picking maneuvers, to fit the theme. Ground Fighting is good for reducing Dodge penalties after a fall. Slip is another possibility, if the defender should for some reason want to get closer to his attacker. If cinematic maneuvers are allowed, Roll with the Blow is perfect (as is the purchase of Enhanced Dodge, of course).
To round out a character with Evade, consider Running, Jumping, Stealth, Acrobatics, and possibly a defensive shield skill or Parry-heavy combat skill. The result is a character who knows how to avoid trouble.
Unarmed Evade: The above contains an oddity: It starts with an armed skill base, meaning there should technically be some weapon use included (pick one!). But No Parry and No Blows make weapon usage moot. And barring GM fiat, the Grappling and Slamming abilities should be left to unarmed skills only.
The above shows the problems inherent in mixing armed and unarmed concepts. It’s better to build this skill as purely unarmed, which will also beef it up a lot. Here’s a take on an unarmed version, with a Judo-like Parry thrown in:
- Unarmed Evade: Large Dodge Bonus (+4; cost doubled to remove limitations; this is not an “official” rule!), Improved Parry (+1), Large ST Bonus (+1, single use: Break Free only), Defensive Grappling (+1), Defensive Slamming (+1/2), Defensive Off-Hand Use (+1/2), Few Maneuvers (-1), Encumbrance Penalties (-1), No Blows (-2), Unarmed (-4). Average.
Definitely more bang for the buck – but in true pacifist style, no attacks and no weapons allowed!
From D. Weber: A limited, low-cost version of the Orc fighting style from Martial Arts. This skill doesn’t include the Dodge bonuses, higher punch damage, and expert arm locks of the full style, but still offers a wide range of striking and some grappling capability, useful even in heavy Orc armor. When choosing maneuvers for this skill, go for the ugly, Brawling-style moves! Choke Hold and Face Attacks are good starts. Take Disarming, too; Smasha practitioners prefer their foes bare-handed.
This skill is also useful for generic street fighting.
- Smasha: Small Damage Bonus (+1), Many Maneuvers (+1), Improved Parry (+1), Off-Hand Use (+1), Offensive Grappling ( +1), Small ST Bonus (+1, same uses as Wrestling), Limited Parry (-1, same as Brawling), Unarmed (-4). Hard.
Hypothetically, you can use these enhancements and limitations in places GURPS doesn’t. How about tacking a Karate-like damage bonus on to an armed skill? This system provides a natural balance through the difficulty adjustment – but you’ll still need GM complicity. Proceed with caution.
Is this system vulnerable to min-maxers? Sure, what system isn’t? Discourage skill constructions that you don’t like, but try to do so with flexibility rather than fiat. For example, many players will be tempted to build skills with Multiple Grips, covering both one-hand and two-handed usage. Sounds fine – if Spear, Flail, and Katana can get away with it in GURPS, why not skills covering broadswords and axes?
But if a combination irks you as GM, try an approach that discourages it without banning it. For example, you might rule that Multiple Grips need be taken separately for each mode of use, so a sword skill needs to add this enhancement once for swings and once for thrusts. That makes Multiple Grips an expensive and non-abusive +2 enhancement to swordplay, while leaving the enhancement for Spear (thrust only) and Flail (swing only) untouched at +1. (Of course, it would also make for a +2 enhancement to Katana, while still allowing a combination of Axe/Mace and Two-Handed Axe/Mace for only a +1 enhancement; whether these are problems or not is up to you.)
An advanced option: If the net difficulty rating looks to make a skill easier than Easy or harder than Hard… let it! It’s a break with GURPS, but a simple one. Just as a purchase of an Easy skill gets you a skill level one level higher than an Average skill, a net -3 skill gets you three levels higher than an Average skill. For a net +2 skill, pay for an Average skill, but make it two levels lower.
You can build this like Knife, but a more satisfying treatment will combine No Parry (-2), Few Maneuvers (-1), and Single Mode (-1; there’s really only one striking action) – and nothing more. That final -4 makes the skill far easier than any other; any purchase will get you the skill at three levels higher than an Easy skill!
And that makes sense, given Blackjack’s very limited capabilities. Spend the extra points on Hit Location.
But if you dislike such rules-bending, too-easy skills, add what you have to until Blackjack gets back up to Easy. Switch from No Parry to Limited Parry. Add Many Types for the ability to use any smallish, handy item as an effective cosh. And make up some Special Ability that increases knockout potential with successful surprise attacks.
COSH and Styles
Could you even use COSH to consolidate some of the prerequisite skills in your martial arts style? Say, build one skill as the base for Jeet Kune Do, that combined the best parts of Judo, Karate, and Boxing?
It is irksome in GURPS when you have Karate, yet have to buy Boxing at full cost just to get a few extra abilities; that part of Martial Arts styles feels like an inelegant waste of points. A COSH-built all-in-one skill offers a potentially better way.
But it’s obvious that final difficulty for many single-skill styles would be off the charts; you may need to check out the Extreme skills option above to allow for such harder-than-Hard skills.
A better idea is this: use COSH to customize, not reduce, the skills needed for your style. Unique variants of Karate, Judo, and so on, each with its own set of enhancements, limitations, and maneuvers, will really make each style feel different. And as seen in earlier examples, you can build your style’s core skills to avoid duplication of abilities, getting the most bang for your buck. That optimization of abilities spread among multiple skills is where COSH really creates “integration” within a style.
New and Modified Enhancements and Limitations
Feel free to make up your own enhancements and limitations, or otherwise fine-tune things. Some thoughts:
This ability could come in handy even out of combat, and could conceivably be added to any combat skill, not just Judo or (as suggested above) Wrestling. But is it worth a +1/2 enhancement, or should it be a free choice like most maneuvers? What do you think?
Choke Hold can be a very powerful offensive move, even though the attacker becomes fairly immobile while applying it. Some readers have suggested that it be worth a +1/2 or even full +1 enhancement. What do you think?
As mentioned earlier, Light Weapon is treated as a limitation simply because GURPS’ Knife skill is easier than other skills, for no other reason that I can see.
However, you may find it more meaningful to remove this limitation from the game, and instead give Knife and Main Gauche Single Mode: thrust only (-1). These small weapons have no meaningful swing; use a single thrust damage score, whether the weapon is swung or thrust.
Of course, this change will also increase the difficulty of a Fencing skill that employs both swings and thrusts.
Is this option a worthwhile change to COSH? What do you think?
Long weapon abilities
Long weapons in GURPS include two abilities that arguably call for additional training and difficulty: the ability to change grip for length purposes (e.g., use a polearm at either 3-hex range or 2-hex range, BS 102), and the ability to attack through friendly occupied hexes at no penalty (BS 105).
If we call each of those a +1/2 enhancement, we raise difficulty for many long weapon skills by a +1. A good or bad thing? You call it.
Some have suggested that an unbalanced weapon would be harder to control than a balanced one, warranting a +1 enhancement. If you agree, go for it – but while that brings Axe/Mace skill back up to Average, it also makes skills like Polearm and Flail inordinately difficult. It’s your call.
Simpler Wrestling-type Skills
This version of COSH properly adds No Blows to pure wrestling-type skills, and turns what used to be Combat DX Rolls into a much more detailed handful of enhancements for offensive and defensive grappling, slamming, and so on.
That’s great if you want to build these skills in detail, but you also may want something simpler. If so, lump Grappling and Slamming into one +3 enhancement called Combat DX Rolls. Remove the Special Ability requirement for the Breakfall maneuver; it can be chosen freely like any maneuver. You lose some fine distinctions by lumping all these together, but gain one-shot purchasing ease of use.
No Blows still applies to unarmed skills that lack punches and kicks, while Throws and Locks remain Special Abilities.
Number of Maneuvers
If you like lots of detail, use these finer enhancements and limitations for the number of maneuvers in a skill:
|25+:||Tons of Maneuvers||+2|
|20-24:||Pile of Maneuvers||+1 1/2|
|3-4:||Not Many Maneuvers||-1/2|
Of course, doing this may change the difficulty of some skills in the examples above.
You also have flexibility in how you count maneuvers. As explained earlier, COSH above uses a simple count of non-cinematic maneuvers listed in Martial Arts 2E, with the addition of Weapon Strike and Weapon Parry. But if you prefer, try one or more of the below, and rework the whole cost-for-number-of-maneuvers thing to your liking:
a) Don’t count “do nothing” defaults. Defaults for most maneuvers, such as a Spin Kick or Lunge, represent some minimal degree of training and practice; you won’t get even a default from other skills or from DX. If your skill includes the ability, even at default, you need to include the manuever in the skill.
But a few manuever defaults represent no training at all; the defaults are nothing more than the TH penalty that applies to anyone performing a difficult generic action. These include Close Combat, Ground Fighting, and Off-Hand Weapon. I would also include Eye Gouging and Head Butt as actions whose defaults could be attempted by anyone. Add Hit Location here too; it’s the maneuver that nobody gets and nobody likes.
If you only have the above maneuvers at default, they do not count against your skill’s number of maneuvers. But if you improve them, they do count.
With this option, existing skills’ maneuvers (without any improvements) number roughly: Karate 26, Judo 11, Boxing 7, Wrestling 6, Brawling 16, Fencing 11, and other weapon skills 5.
b) Don’t count any maneuvers that had to be bought as a Special Ability. Examples are the maneuvers Arm Locks, Finger Locks, and Breakfall.
With this option, existing skills’ maneuvers number roughly: Karate 30, Judo 7, Boxing 9, Wrestling 4, Brawling 20, Fencing 15, and other weapon skills 9.
c) Combine both the above approaches.
With this option, existing skills’ maneuvers number roughly: Karate 26, Judo 6, Boxing 7, Wrestling 3, Brawling 16, Fencing 11, and other weapon skills 5.
d) I haven’t done the counting, but numbers change again when you allow cinematic maneuvers.
e) Many players have invented all-new unofficial maneuvers; you’ll find these on homemade web pages throughout the GURPS world. Toss in some of these (or make up more of your own) if you’d like to increase the number of default maneuvers for the above GURPS skills and your own new skills.
Maneuverless “Classic” Skills
Many players ignore Martial Arts and use “classic”, unadorned combat skills straight from the Basic Set, with maneuvers left out.
For this style of play, use no enhancements or limitations for number of maneuvers. Make the Unarmed limitation -3 instead of -4.
The result: Judo and Karate remain Hard skills. Brawling remains Easy. Ranged weapons remain unchanged. Boxing rises to Average and Fencing drops down to Average, their GURPS ratings.
Wrestling remains easier than Easy, though. And many skills that used Few Maneuvers become a level harder. You may want to find some way to fix that.
Modifying a Skill in Play
COSH can be used to “morph” one skill into another via training during play. The mechanism is simple: pay a skill level to gain a +1 enhancement (or drop a -1 limitation); gain a skill level by taking on a -1 limitation (or losing a +1 enhancement). For realism, let the change happen in logical steps.
Say a karate master sees potential in your street brawler, and teaches you with the goal of “upgrading” your Brawling to full Karate.
First task: training to properly parry weapons. When you next go to buy a skill level, you pay the points, but instead of gaining a new level, you drop the Limited Parry (-1) limitation instead. (Your skill – whatever you choose to call it – is now Average, not Easy.)
Next task: all those new Karate maneuvers. Increase your total number of maneuvers (perhaps keeping a few Brawling maneuvers in place of Karate maneuvers, GM willing, to reflect your roots). Pay for a level, but only to upgrade from Many Maneuvers (+1) to Tons of Maneuvers (+2). (Your hybrid skill – call it Advanced Brawling, or Street Karate? – is now a Hard skill.)
Next task: your teacher actually lets you improve a skill level, as an incentive to progress. Buy a level; no other adjustments.
Next task: Things are coming together. You’ve come to rely upon the quick-footed, lighting moves of true Karate; your training is near completion. The GM awards you a level of skill – and instead of making you pay for it, saddles you with Karate’s Encumbrance Penalties (-1) limitation. (You’re back to an Average skill now.)
Final task: Utilize your training to gain explosive power. Pay the points for another level – the cost to upgrade Small Damage Bonus (+1) to Large Damage Bonus (+2). (Your skill is now a Hard one again. It’s essentially Karate, though possibly with a GM-approved mix of Brawling and Karate maneuvers.)
You’ve done it: you’ve changed from Brawling to Karate. The order of tasks could be varied as desired, subject to GM approval; the order above is set to keep the skill from exceeding Hard at any point. Time requirements and other factors can also be set by the GM.
Another Take on Throws and Locks
You may be interested in GULLIVER’s alternate rules, which remove special skill requirements for throws or locks – anybody can attempt an arm lock through brute force, and a throw becomes a use of the generic takedown rules. The Grappling and ST Bonus enhancements will further aid these attempts. But the Special Ability for Locks and Throws will really boost your effectiveness in performing surefire locks and spectacular throws.
Another Take on Damage Bonuses
For simplicity, Large/Small Damage Bonus offers the same “add skill/X damage” bonus found in GURPS. But here are two variants you may prefer:
a) Let each +1 damage bonus from skill boost ST by 20% for damage purposes, not boost damage itself by +1. That provides properly-scaled results for any character ST level, whether Cidi or Ogre.
b) Use GULLIVER’s suggestion for handling the damage bonus: Small Damage Bonus boosts ST for damage purposes by 5% per skill level over 10; Large Damage Bonus by 10% per skill level over 10. It’s a different approach that prevents big damage increases at low skill levels, and scales properly for any character ST level.
Another Take on ST Bonus
Per the above, GULLIVER suggests ST Bonuses from Wrestling and the like gamed as percentage bonuses, not absolute bonuses. Suggestions:
a) Let each +1 ST from skill boost ST by 10%, not +1. That provides properly-scaled results for any character ST level, whether Cidi or Ogre.
b) Use GULLIVER’s suggestion for handling the ST bonus: Small ST Bonus boosts ST by 5% per skill level over 10; Large ST Bonus by 10% per skill level over 10. It’s a different approach that prevents big ST bonuses at low skill levels, and scales properly for any character ST level.