GLAIVE Mini: Weapon Builder System for GURPS

Don’t settle for off-the-rack weapons from the local blacksmith. Build your own! T Bone’s Games Diner is proud to present GLAIVE Mini, your super simple, single page weapon builder system for GURPS – now updated to version 2.4! 

The old prototype

The full (non-Mini) GLAIVE (GURPS Light Arms Invention Expansion) for GURPS 3e is a complete design system for low-tech melee and ranged weapons of any shape and size, generating unique thr and sw damage, readying time, Reach, and more, based on the inputs you provide. As you’d expect, though, a universal system like that won’t fit into a short page or few. And while you can mostly use GLAIVE with GURPS 4e, it’s still awaiting complete modernization.

For the simplicity mavens, GLAIVE also offered an alternate system so simplistic as to be almost non-existent, amounting to little more than a suggestion to read weight and damage right off of GURPS‘ Size and Speed/Range Table. But with a little hammering and varnish, that turns out to be a surprisingly useful tool.

Modern steel

That simple core is what I’ve extracted from GLAIVE to create GLAIVE Mini. At its heart remains a single table tying weight to damage, but you now get weapon ST as well. From there you modify damage and ST up or down for simple considerations like unbalance, length, and two hands, and then… well, that’s actually it. A new weapon, built in mere seconds. (The latest version, 2.4, places those mods into logical groups for quicker identification.)

It’s very simple (and similar to building combat skills with COSH). Yet GLAIVE Mini will recreate most existing GURPS weapons with no change to stats (while recreating a few with changes that are arguably improvements). Best of all, like GULLIVER Mini it’s a whole system in one page, with a bonus page offering system customization notes, ideas for handling a couple of oddball weapons, and a fully-developed new goodie for GURPS that even the full GLAIVE barely touches on: semibalanced weapons, great for heavy-chopping machetes, agile polearms, and other all-new instruments of mayhem.

It’s a free PDF download (below) made for GURPS 4e (though you can hammer the rules to fit 3e where necessary). Pick up your blacksmith hammer (i.e., your pencil) and churn out some custom steel!

Is GLAIVE Mini right for you?

Now that you know what GLAIVE Mini is, let me note clearly what it isn’t:

  • GLAIVE Mini is not my proposal for an ideal weapon design system for GURPS.
  • GLAIVE Mini is designed to reverse-engineer existing GURPS weapons (primarily from the Basic Set, with a nod to Low-Tech as well), not to rethink weapon stats from the ground up.

As such, here’s why you might not get big use from it:

  • GURPS’ weapon tables are pretty darn packed as they are! Whatever sort of weapon you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find something close in Basic Set or another book.
  • While GURPS’ weapon stats were (apparently) generated by the “eyeball it” method of balancing properties, not through some consistent system, they do a pretty good job with consistency! There are some rough spots, but overall it’s hard to find a listed weapon that’s inexplicably inferior, or one so superior within its category that other offerings seem moot. New rules releases generally keep improving things, too. (An example: The Basic Set’s cutlass provides one minor peeve, in that it offers the same goods as a shortsword, plus free brass knuckles, at a lower price and with no drawbacks. Low-Tech nicely remedies this with a higher price for the cutlass.)
  • GURPS has been rolling out rules for creating tiny or huge versions of weapons, one of the original omissions GLAIVE sought to fill. GURPS’ rules are squirreled away here and there (look first at Low-Tech Companion 2: Weapons and Warriors), and we may have to wait for Basic Set 5E to get them all in one place, but official rules do exist now.
  • GLAIVE Mini doesn’t attempt to solve all the oddities and mysteries of GURPS’ weapon offerings. For example, I’m not a fan of how the move from a short unbalanced weapon to a long unbalanced weapon in GURPS generally hits the wielder with a sudden triple whammy: higher required ST, plus a requirement for two hands, plus unreadiness after a swing. GLAIVE Mini doesn’t fix this with a smoother progression for these criteria. Likewise, it doesn’t codify the seemingly-haphazard appearances of the “U” Parry on GURPS weapons, or provide a systematic way to determine a unique design’s usable skills and appropriate defaults to other skills. These, and many other properties, remain something you’ll have to eyeball.
  • Generation of weapon cost would be a fine addition to GLAIVE Mini, but that’s not part of the offering now!
  • By intentionally trying to replicate existing weapon table stats, GLAIVE Mini is decidedly human-centric. That is, unless you break out GURPS’ separate rules for tiny beings’ weapons, a 0.25-lb blade using GLAIVE Mini will – just as on GURPS’ tables – inexplicably require a very human ST 5.

All right. That said, here’s why you might find GLAIVE Mini useful after all:

  • It remains a fine way to fill in gaps on the GURPS weapon tables. If you want a Pixie’s or Giant’s sword, GURPS’ weapon scaling rules may be your best bet. But those rules exist to resize a “base” weapon published in a book, not create those “base” weapons in the first place. That’s where GLAIVE Mini steps in. If you want, say, a human-scale longsword that’s just a wee lighter or heavier than the published model, these rules let you design it with systematic consistency.
  • Likewise, where GLAIVE Mini results do veer a bit from the GURPS weapon tables, you may prefer its results! Redoing your campaign’s weapon table entirely, knowing that all of the listings (as well as any future additions) are generated via a consistent design scheme, is the sort of thing some GMs like.
  • The new Semibalanced weapon option is nifty, and is simply right for designs like hard-chopping machetes or agile polearms. Give it a try!
  • Even where GLAIVE Mini doesn’t address all the questions to be found in GURPS’ weapon table stats, it does offer a few tools for standardizing things a bit. These include suggestions for handling stat oddities in flails and 1-hnd bastard swords, and the Semibalanced option for reworking other designs that seem a bit out of place.
  • As noted earlier, while GURPS does a pretty good job of balancing its myriad weapons in terms of their merits and demerits, a few stand out as perhaps over- or under-powered. GLAIVE-based recreations of the weapons may yield improvements.
  • Even if you have no interest in GLAIVE Mini’s design system, there’s one little rules suggestion on p. 2 that you might want to steal: For two-handed weapons that become unready after use (‡ mark on ST), GURPS offers the condition (1.5 times listed ST) that allows two-handed use without unreadiness, and the condition (three times listed ST) that allows one-handed use without unreadiness. All good, but GURPS leaves out the condition that allows one-handed use with unreadiness after use. In the interest of filling in this blank, GLAIVE Mini suggests two times listed ST as the condition.
    (Example: A great axe has ST 12‡. GURPS says ST 18 can use it two-handed without unreadiness, and ST 36 can use it one-handed without unreadiness. GLAIVE Mini adds the suggestion that ST 24 can use it one-handed, but with unreadiness after use.)

So. If the above sort of stuff interests you, give GLAIVE Mini a shot!

GLAIVE Mini needs your help!

No amount of time and testing reveal every flaw. Do you spot any design mistakes in GLAIVE Mini? Are there any important considerations left out?

And here’s a good question for you. GLAIVE Mini is built on a reverse engineering of existing GURPS weapons, which is why it can recreate so many of those with no change in stats. Do you see a different set of modifiers and rules that does an even better job of recreating existing weapons?

Thank you. Now go treat your mightiest-thewed character to a real barbarian’s axe.


Downloads


Appendix

A mini armory

The PDF download contains several sample weapons. I’ll start listing a few more here.

When trying to finesse a recreation, I have some loose priorities:

  • Weapon ST that veers a bit from published stats isn’t of great concern. Hitting the published damage mark is more important. It’s the stat players care about.
  • Heavy polearms, mauls, and the like, with their big damage and ST stats, afford some leeway to stray a bit from published stats (as in, who really cares whether some giant hammer deals sw+5 or sw+6 damage?). With smaller weapons, it’s important to recreate stats right on the mark if possible.

There are a few ways to handle a design that just won’t fall in line:

  • Accept that GLAIVE Mini just doesn’t work well for that design, and stick with the published stats.
  • Go with the GLAIVE Mini redesign – and maybe even prefer it to the published design!
  • Get a bit creative with the design, such as replacing the Unbalanced mod with the (very house rules-y!) Semibalanced mod.
  • Consider some new mod that would whip the design into shape. A few such ideas are floated further below.

Axes and friends

One-handed axes and maces

These one-handed weapons use the Unbalanced mod, for +2 (sw) Dam Add rows and +1 ST row. A 4-lb axe ends up at sw+2 cut and ST 11; a 3-lb small mace, sw+2 cr, ST 10; and a 5-lb mace, sw+3 cr, ST 11.

These stats are on the money, except for the mace’s ST, which is 12 in the books. (A 6-lb mace would end up with the published stats: sw+3 cr, ST 12.)

Another departure from the books is the 3-lb small axe. It naturally mirrors the 3-lb mace’s stats, so we get sw+2 cut, ST 10. That ST 10 matches the books, but damage is a point higher than in the books.

And then there’s the 2-lb hatchet, which under GLAIVE Mini ends up at sw+1 cut and ST 9, both stats that are higher than the books’ sw cut, ST 8. The reworked stats are sensible, if the hatchet were viewed as “like a shortsword, but unbalanced for chopping power”; damage and ST should be higher than those of a shortsword. But I’d at least like the option of generating the books’ well-known hatchet stats. Let’s see…

Finding balance

Can we hack the hatchet, and maybe the small axe, to better conform to the books? Maybe, but first, here’s a quibble with a published stat: Why is the hatchet exempted from Parry 0U? In response to cries of “unfair!” from the hatchet’s less-wieldy Axe/Mace compatriots, let’s knock this weapon at least a little off balance, replacing the Unbalanced mod with Semibalanced, which calls for +1 (sw) Dam Add row, no modifier to ST. Result: The 2-lb weapon now gets the published sw cut damage (plus thr cr should you want it) and ST 8. Perfect!

How about giving the 3-lb small axe the same Semibalanced treatment? We get sw+1 cut damage and ST 10 – again, perfect.

So that sounds good – but there are effects on performance. Under these (highly optional) semibalanced weapon rules, the hatchet slows a bit from the (questionable) Parry 0 to a new Parry 0S (optionally, still Parry 0 after a thrust), while the small axe speeds up a bit from Parry 0U to a more wieldy Parry 0S. (We’ll keep both of these semibalanced weapons in the Axe/Mace skill family, with a default from Shortsword at -2.)

I like these results, especially how the reworked hatchet is no longer as nimble as a balanced weapon! So let’s try the same semibalanced approach on another flouter of Axe/Mace parrying norms, the knobbed club. It’s the same weight as the hatchet, so naturally, it ends up with the same stats: sw cr damage, ST 8, Parry 0S. That’s fine by me, but knobkerrie fans will mourn the loss of the books’ higher sw+1 cr damage. You’ll have to bring in the Stick mod to nab sw+1 cr, or go with the full Unbalanced mod (result: sw+1 cr, ST 9, Parry 0U).

Meanwhile, following the rebuild of the small axe, you could also rebuild the small mace as semibalanced, yielding damage of sw+1 cr and ST 10. The improved Parry 0S is nice, but it comes at the cost of less damage than the published sw+2 cr. Seems reasonable to me.

Pick and sickle

A pick would use the Pick and Unbalanced mods, for a net +1 (sw) and +1 ST row. With a weight of 3 lbs, that yields damage of sw+1 imp, ST 10. Perfect.

The sickle? Here we have another Axe/Mace scofflaw flaunting an unseemly Parry 0 (though only with a cutting swing), so we’ll want to impose at least the Semibalanced mod to fix that. Using the Semibalanced mod for the cutting swing, we get damage of sw cut, ST 8, Parry 0S. That’s perfect (if you like the idea of Parry 0S). For the impaling swing, if we use the Pick mod and the full Unbalanced mod, we get sw imp, ST 9, Parry 0U. That matches the books’ stats, except for the higher ST. Good enough.

All in all, I think GLAIVE Mini does a good job with the sickle – though for simplicity, I’d suggest using the Semibalanced mod or the Unbalanced mod for both the cutting and the impaling swing, instead of a different approach for each.

Two-handed axes, etc.

Stay tuned!

Polearms

Monk’s spade

This odd, double-ended Polearm weapon from Low-Tech and DFRPG shares length and heft with the naginata, dueling bill, and dueling glaive, but falls behind its fellows in the damage department. So I’m curious as to whether GLAIVE Mini would treat it more kindly.

The relevant mods start with Center Grip, Two-handed, and Long. Having weights at both ends may give the weapon a balance of sorts, but not in the same way as a sword; it’s still a polearm. Let’s try Semibalanced.

The mods net +0 (thr), +1 (sw) Dam Add rows and -4 ST rows. With a weight of 6 lbs, that yields damage of thr+2 cut, sw+3 cut, sw+3 cr and ST 9† (sw ST 9§). It’s a good match for the published stats, except for an improvement from Parry 0U to Parry 0S – and swing damage much better than the published sw+1 cut, sw+2 cr!

Staffs

Quarterstaff

A quarterstaff uses the Center Grip, Two-Handed, Long, and Stick mods. These net +2 (thr), +2 (sw) Dam Add rows and -4 ST rows. At 4 lbs, we end up with thr+2 cr, sw+2 cr dam and ST 7† – bingo, right on target.

Long quarterstaff

A long quarterstaff uses the Center Grip, Two-Handed, Very Long, and Stick mods. These net +1 (thr), +1 (sw) Dam Add rows and -4 ST rows. At 5 lbs, that yields the thr+2 cr, sw+2 cr dam of published stats – but only ST 8†, not the books’ ST 10†.

So that’s a discrepancy – yet I think I prefer it. ST 10† seems too big a jump from the quarterstaff’s ST 7† when the weight difference is just one pound. And ST 10† feels too close to the ST 11† of a glaive, a weapon that’s just as long as the long staff, weighs much more (8 lbs), and is unbalanced. I’m fine with GLAIVE Mini’s more forgiving ST 8† for the long quarterstaff.

Jo

A jo wielded with Staff skill uses the Center Grip, Two-Handed, and Stick mods. These net +3 (thr), +3 (sw) Dam Add rows and -4 ST rows. At 2 lbs, we end up with thr+1 cr, sw+1 cr dam and ST 5† – on target except for ST 5† instead of the books’ ST 6†. I’m fine with that.

Other exotica

Katar

This “push dagger” knife from Low-Tech and DFRPG would use the Stabber and Thruster mods, for a net +4 (thr), -2 (sw) Dam Add rows. With a weight of 1 lb, that yields damage of thr+1 imp, sw-2 cut and ST 6. Just a little less weight would yield the same thr+1 thr, sw-3 cut of the published stats. Pretty close!

And the large katar? This Shortsword version of the weapon uses the same mods but takes weight to 2 lbs, yielding final damage of thr+2 imp, sw-1 cut and ST 8 – just what the books’ stats ordered.

Wait, there’s one more member of the katar family (before even considering its cousin the pata, below). My page of new weapons concocts a medium katar. Like other offerings on that page, it’s merely “sandwiched” between the above two weapons, not built using GLAIVE Mini. Let’s remedy that and try a proper build here. Applying +4 (thr), -2 (sw) Dam Add rows to a weight of 1.5 lbs, we get… thr+1 thr, sw-2 sw and ST 7, a perfect match for my eyeballed stats.

Pata

For this long, Broadsword version of the katar, the 3.75-lb weight from Low-Tech yields final damage of thr+3 imp, sw cut and ST 10 – again, right on the nose.

Kukri

This hard-chopping knife from Low-Tech and DFRPG sounds like a good candidate for a semibalanced weapon. Starting with the Thruster mod prescribed for all knives and adding the Semibalanced and Poor Stabber mods nets +0 (thr), -1 (sw) Dam Add rows. With a weight of 1.5 lbs, that yields damage of thr-1 imp, sw-1 cut and ST 7 – bingo, right on the published stats. Parry suffers a bit, though, becoming Parry 0S. Keep Knife as the main skill; Axe/Mace can be used at -2.

Future hacks?

More mods?

For builds that don’t quite conform to published stats, some could be brought back into line if finessed with a new mod or two.

I’m hesitant to weigh down a simple system with too many mods, though, especially little-tested mods. I’ll merely mention a few candidate mods here as they await further review:

  • GLAIVE Mini arguably improves monk’s spade damage too much. A new mod may be in order, reducing Dam Add rows a bit for the unusual blade shapes of the monk’s spade. Ditto the combat shovel, scythe, and so on.
  • Another contender to test out later: a Flanged mod (+1 (sw) Damage Add row) for flanged, not smooth, maces.
  • Stabber and Poor Stabber could each be given variants with lesser effects, though I don’t immediately know what weapons would call for which variants.
  • Edged rapier designs may call for an Edged Rapier mod with -1 (thr), +1 (sw) Dam Add rows, serving only to rein in what are otherwise too-extreme effects of Thruster and Long Thruster on these weapons.

Modified mods?

I make zero claim that my existing mods are just as they should be! Future modifications to my mods may be in order:

  • I think there may be good argument for reducing the Stick mod from +2 (thr, sw) Damage Add rows to just +1 (thr, sw). Stay tuned.
  • Powering down the Stick mod as above will leave a lot of Stick-based designs unaffected – except the baton and short baton, which will unavoidably lose a point of damage each. If that’s to be prevented, we may need a “Super Lightweight Yet Oddly Expensive Stick” mod that brings damage back up for these particular sticks… : )

Other topics

The weight is a lie?

There are indications in GURPS books (citations to come later, unless someone can point me to page references) suggesting that weapons’ listed weights… may not indicate actual weights. Specifically, listed weights for swords may include scabbards, with the wielded weapon itself a fair bit lighter.

I’d ideally rework GLAIVE Mini to account for that monkey wrench, but I have neither time nor vodka enough at hand. Let’s just see this work as an attempt at reverse engineering weapons from published stats, including weights as listed on weapon tables, whatever those weights might actually represent.

About those unbalanced parries…

The above reworking of the hatchet asserts that as a heavy-headed Axe/Mace weapon, the hatchet should have some degree of impaired Parry, not the Parry 0 of a balanced baton or shortsword. To which one might respond, “Yeah, sure, it’s not a balanced weapon – but maybe the hatchet deserves a normal Parry 0 because it’s so light.” Well, yes, that makes sense to me as an explanation for the seemingly-odd Parry 0 – but “light” means nothing if not in comparison to something (e.g., ST).

You can see where this is going: the “U” Parry is fine as a rule, but I see zero reason why high enough ST in excess of weapon ST shouldn’t lessen or even eliminate the “U” Parry (or my semibalanced “S” Parry). A proper rant can come later. For now, note that if you give all hatchets a properly slowed Parry, but then let sufficient extra ST compensate for that, then little fighters with barely the ST to wield a hatchet will suffer those slowed parries, but combatants with more reasonable ST (i.e., most PCs who pick up a hatchet) will regain the Parry 0 that hatchets have (rather unfairly) enjoyed all along. Sensible!

The same would of course apply to the hatchet-like knobbed club and sickle, too. And then even bigger axes, and, yes, even polearms. If you’ve got big enough muscles, you’ll be able to overcome any “U” Parry. This is how things should work.

More on that another day, maybe! But for now, you’ll find some (old) forum discussion of the topic here.

More weapons!

I’ll add more GLAIVE Mini designs later – and will add your designs, if you care to submit ’em. In the meantime, if you want lots more new melee weapons, check out GURPS/DFRPG resource: New weapons. The entries there aren’t built using GLAIVE Mini; they’re just shoehorned by feel into the “gaps” in existing weapon tables (e.g., a “medium katar” shoved in between the regular katar and large katar). But you can, of course, try rebuilding those new entries using GLAIVE Mini, and the results should match up pretty well…

2 Comments

    • tbone

      Good question. The answer: The various GLAIVE Mini mods only address modifications to damage and/or ST. Fencing Parry isn’t one of those mods, as I’m not aware of any way that the fencing Parry does or should modify damage/ST. (In fact, the GLAIVE Mini mods already generate the main fencing weapons perfectly, or almost so – I believe smallsword ends up with ST 7, not GURPS’ ST 5.)

      But it would be nice, I agree, if guidelines also addressed which weapons get a fencing Parry. Perhaps something like this: Weapon must have Reach 1 or more, must have poor swing dam relative to thrust, and must have low weight.

      The second of those represents a very light blade, and would mean the Thruster mod if using GLAIVE Mini. The third could be gamed with something like “3 lbs. or less”, though I personally would prefer something comparing weight (or wpn ST) to wielder ST. Actually, Martial Arts p110 offers exactly such an option, essentially throwing out the binary fencing Parry concept, and replacing it with a modifier to multiple parries based on user ST vs wpn ST (while using overall weapon weight to adjust Parry vs flails).

      So GURPS itself does offer an optional system for “building” the fencing Parry, which sounds like what you want. (However, looking at those rules, I have to say that they’re on the harsh side, requiring lots of ST before they’ll let you recreate the basic fencing Parry. If you want to make things a little easier for the fencers there, perhaps the Thruster mod could offer -2 ST rows, for the purpose of determining multiple Parry mod per Martial Arts p110.)

      Finally, I’ll note that whatever criteria you use to to determine what weapons get the fencing Parry, GURPS offers ways to bypass those criteria. Use the Main Gauche skill, and any knife gets the fencing Parry. Use Weapon Adaptation, and a broadsword or other weapon can get the fencing Parry. Maybe there are other methods too.

      Any thoughts on the above?

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