What’s the basic “unit” of RPG play? I’d call it this little exchange or interaction:
1. Something – some event, stimulus, something – happens.
2. Players weigh the likely consequences of that something, and state how they respond.
3. Based on the that interaction, the holy trio (GM, Players, and Game Rules) determine the outcome.
And from that little procedure, you build a scene, a session, even a campaign – it just depends on how many times you rinse and repeat.
There is in GURPS one small, wacky, but mostly harmless exception to this core unit.
That’s right. Defense rolls, by curious rule fiat, twist that 1-2-3 order to 1-3-2. That is, an attack is launched (that’s the 1), the GM determines and announces its future outcome (that’s 3), and then the defending player is allowed, based on that knowledge of the future, to choose his response (step 2) and — possibly — change the future (go back to 3, get new outcome).
Odd. It makes way more sense to have the player state his response (step 2) before determining the outcome (step 3) — the same way everything else in the game is played!
I call that improved version “declaring defenses”, for lack of another name. I won’t harp on further detail; head to DECIDE for the full detailed suggestion.
- DECIDE for GURPS 3e/4e
The whole thing’s not a big deal, and I have no beef with anyone who sticks to the current rule. If you like it, great, play it! Invite me over, and I’ll happily play along too!
But what’s really odd is that some folks not only insist that the 1-3-2 order makes sense (an odd claim), but try to discredit the suggested improvement by making up silliness about it. I’ve seen posts argue that declaring defenses creates extra steps and “bookkeeping”. (It does neither!) In a recent forum thread, folks began portraying the suggestion as a “wargaming relic” involving “declaration phases”. (Huh?!)
In the interest of blog fodder, here’s the forum post I made in response to the claims of a “war-gaming step”:
I’d respond to that with a big, friendly “bah!”, as it seems to be referring to something other than the topic at hand. The term “declare” may sound wargame-y, but sticking to the original concept of “declare defenses”, all we’re talking about here is plain, normal gaming: “Something happens. Tell me what your character does”.
The very core of RPGing. This stuff:
GM: “You hear footsteps. There are guards approaching. Looks like the patrol path will bring them dangerously close to the gate you’re trying to break into. What do you do?”
Player: “Shoot, we’ll have to wait it out. You guys, duck behind the barrels, stay in the shadows. Torches out. Ready crossbows just in case. Me, I put down the tools quietly, and take out my invisibility potion. Next, I…”
GM: “With this final clue, the picture is clear: Dr Villous is planning a strike on the White House tonight! What do you do?”
Player: “We can’t allow that! Let’s make a plan. First, I…”
“Declaring” defenses is the exact same thing:
GM: “The orcs hurl their spears at you. What do you do?”
Player: “Dang, I guess I can’t just stand there prepping my spell… I raise my shield and jump aside.”
GM: Okay. Let’s see what happens…
That’s all “declaring defenses” refers to: the GM announces an attack, and the player gives his character’s response. The same way any other event in the game is played. Wargames? Declaration phases? I think folks are imagining very odd stuff in a few of the posts!
That said, there’s nothing wrong with the standard method for those who like it. Sure, it looks funny when examined:
GM: “The orcs hurl their spears at you.”
Player: “Dang, I hate to mess up my spell prep… Will the spears hit?”
GM: No, they’re going to miss. You don’t need to do anything.
Player: “Okay. I keep prepping the spell. Next, I… “
But if the players don’t mind, it’s a harmless thing. Play on!
(Well, I suppose I could point out that if you played the rest of GURPS in the same way as combat, it’d look like this:
GM: “You hear footsteps. There are guards approaching. Looks like the patrol path will bring them dangerously close to the gate you’re trying to break into.”
Player: “Will they see us?”
GM: “No, their Perception rolls will fail.”
Player: “Okay, we keep working at the gate…”
GM: “With this final clue, the picture is clear: Dr Villous is planning a strike on the White House tonight!”
Player: “Will he succeed?”
GM: “Actually, no.”
Player: “Okay. We spend the evening in the Training Room. How many hours’ study is that?”
… but that might be seen as tweaking people’s noses. : )