Daily Houserule tweets: June 2022

From February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023, I posted an entry a day to the @gamesdiner Twitter account, using the hashtags #TRPG, #GURPS, and #DailyHouserule. The concept: Make tweets out of a bunch of minor GURPS houserule items, GM/player advice tidbits, and other tips & tricks, to have a bit of fun engaging with other gamers and get the #GURPS tag out there more. (See the initial announcement here.)

The year is up! I’m now posting those tweets to this site, a month per page. Links to all 12 months are below.

Do forgive the overly abbreviated and janky writing. These were tweets, so the text is full of shortcuts to fit the format. For better or worse, I’m leaving the content mostly untouched.


Entries by month:

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Entries No. 121 to 150

121

2022-06-01: DF and DFRPG include the Filch skill in thief templates, but it’s hard to give the skill much use.

Idea: Let Filch be the “opposite Fast-Draw”: roll vs Filch to hide a weapon or other item instantly (but use Holdout to hide it well).

No need to further finesse this, but detail lovers could let this “quick hide” place a -5 on Holdout (reduced by Filch’s MoS) should the PC be searched on the spot.

To remove that Holdout penalty, spend a proper few seconds or minutes, as needed, to properly position things.

122

2022-06-02: Don’t forget that Filch skill also lets you do secret agent-style briefcase swaps. (Edit 2023-08-12: Actually, Action 2: Exploits awards this task to Sleight of Hand, but Filch seems more sensible to me.) File cabinet hijinks. And the ol’ wine glass switch-up at the villain’s banquet table. (Villains with Paranoia expect that, so watch out…)

123

2022-06-03: Meditation gets little use in DF/DFRPG.

Idea: Use it as a complementary skill for other Chi skills, though with a caveat to prevent incessant Meditation rolls:

This use of Meditation takes “prep time” penalties like Power Blow and Breaking Blow.

In short, Meditation lets you “center yourself” before tackling other chi skills. But hurrying means big penalties on Meditation, so don’t use it as a complement unless you can take that time (ideally 32 sec) to find your inner peace or whatever.

(Really, those time penalties would apply to just about any use of Meditation. Slow down and give yourself a moment or two to become one with the universe, okay?)

124

2022-06-04: I never liked Throwing Art skill, with its odd mechanic of replacing multiple skills. (Isn’t that what Wildcard skills are for?)

Consider replacing Throwing Art with an established mechanic: just use normal throwing skills + Weapon Master (Any Thrown Item). Simple.

This WM enjoys the usual benefits on dam, Rapid Strike penalties, and skill defaults.

WM’s parrying benefit becomes irrelevant, though. To compensate, halve penalties for odd projectiles, throwing positions, etc.; also, keep Throwing Art’s +1/+2 ST for range purposes.

Of course, this change from Throwing Art to normal throwing skills means that the martial artist, if not satisfied with her lenient throwing skill defaults, will have to learn individual throwing skills like any other weapon/unarmed skill, instead of getting one special skill that also enjoys Chi Talent bonuses.

But I don’t know why mastery of throwing should get special treatment different from other areas of combat. Calling on the usual mechanic of standard skills + Weapon Master seems simpler to me.

125

2022-06-05: If you adopt yesterday’s idea of replacing the oddball Throwing Art skill with normal skills + Weapon Master (Any Thrown Item):

You can also keep Throwing Art if you like, making it the catch-all skill for pebbles, pencils, and playing cards.

Restated:

This Throwing Art on its own would simply let you try to hit with oddball objects not covered by other throwing skills.

The addition of Weapon Master would halve the inevitable TH penalties for these odd items, and grant much-needed dam and range boosts (see yesterday).

(Similarly, the ability to melee fight with ladders, chairs, bicycles, etc. is probably more realistically handled as a skill (Prop Combat?) than the crazy-cheap Improvised Weapons perk. That said, I think the perk is going for a “what the heck, just allow it” mood. I get that.)

126

2022-06-06: What? No All-Out Attack (Strong) option for throwing things?

Bah, say I! Allow AOA (Strong) for throws, with usual effects (up to half Move, extra damage, no Active Defense).

Plus this: a 30% (or one-third if easier) bonus on 1/2D and Max Range.

Why do this? Well, think what a lack of AoA (Strong) means:

A normal Attack means a thrower always transitions from the throw to immediate, fully ready defensive stance. Yet no one would hurl like that against far-off foes, or in a distance sport!

See link

127

2022-06-07: “How can I throw farther?”

Start with AOA (Strong) (yesterday’s entry).

Now put some speed into it:

Add your forward movement (Step, half Move, whatever) to 1/2D Range and add 2x that to Max Range (but no more than doubling either Range).

Ex:

  • With 1 hex of move (Step and Attack?), add 1 to 1/2D Range, 2 to Max Range.
  • With 3 hexes of move (AOA?), add 3 and 6 to Ranges, respectively.
  • With 8 hexes of move (Move and Attack?), add 8 and 16, respectively.

But cap all of these to double normal 1/2D and Max Range distances at best.

Yes, more detailed calculation of the boost to Range for movement, based on flight time, etc., is possible – but not fun. These numbers are quick’n’easy.

For simplicity, we’ll ignore extra dam for your running throw’s velocity boost (though if you want to, say, add 1 dam per full 10 move, go for it).

Remember that these Range boosts for movement aren’t free! Move and Attack, for example, can boost your throwing range by a fair amount, but it’ll also hose your accuracy.

See more at link (same as yesterday).

128

2022-06-08: “OK, that’s two days of tips to boost throwing distance, but how can I throw even farther?”

Last idea: Take GURPS’ distance bonus for the Throwing skill (+1 ST at DX+1, +2 ST at DX+2, for distance only) and apply it to ALL thrown weapon skills.

This is a game-wide change, not a player option, but it’s a dead-easy way to make technique matter in throws, with no new mechanics.

More options:

  • Apply to Bolas, Lasso, Sling, and Spear Thrower, too.
  • Instead of +1/+2 ST, use +10%/+20% ST. That’s what the cool* kids do.

*Not actually cool.

On these last 3 entries:

I know, nobody needs to care that RPGs often greatly shortchange throwing distance.

But GURPS lets ST 20(!) throw a javelin just 50 yards. In real life, Uwe Hohn threw it so far (114+ yd) the sport had to change the rules. They were running out of stadium…

See a short video on that sport-changing throw: link

Try combining ST, Extra Effort, AOA, a run-up, and skill to challenge Uwe on the GURPS battlemap: link

129

2022-06-09: DFRPG: Easy to Read suggests few examples of observers getting a bonus to read you.

My take on the disad: It means you’re a really bad actor. Observers get that bonus when you haggle prices (Merchant), try to fool inspectors (Smuggling), pretend to not be stalking (Shadowing), play dead (Acting), etc.

(A player willing to ham up the Easy to Read PC’s efforts at these tasks – so sincere, yet so painfully clumsy – deserves some applause at the table. Maybe even a “good roleplaying” experience point.)

Side thought: The rules make clear that Easy to Read is not the same as Truthfulness – though to me, they really do appear to overlap. Truthfulness almost seems a subset of Easy to Read.

130

2022-06-10: Zen Archery is a reasonable skill to bring into DFRPG for martial artists and scouts. (Prereq: Trained by a Master, Weapon Master (Bow), or Heroic Archer)

Zen Archery has longer time requirements than Telescopic Vision, but potentially greater effect.

131

2022-06-11: Mental stun from a DFRPG Fright Check is bad news!

If the frightened PC’s player chooses, cut this stun by 1 sec (down to a minimum of 1 sec) for each dramatic overreaction chosen by the PC: scream, flee, fall to ground, drop objects, etc.

Assume that the the selected dramatic reactions (cowering, fleeing, etc.) continue for the duration of the stunning. Make IQ rolls to snap out normally afterward.

Reason for this idea? I appreciate that DFRPG simplified Fright Checks from GURPS’ big table. But loss of the table means loss of some fun outcomes like panicking or fleeing. The idea here is to add these back, via player storytelling input.

132

2022-06-12: The Rule of 14 (B360) says Fright Checks fail on 14+. There’s reason behind that and it plays OK, but IMO this wee complication can be dropped. PCs who spend on Will and Fearlessness agree! (Penalties and crit fails will still shake ’em up at times.)

Sticking with RAW, note that Power-Ups: Perks’ Rule of 15 perk (called Brave in DF 11) raises the “cap” by 1. (Unfazeable eliminates Fright Checks altogether!)

Those are fine as ways to alleviate the rules’ hardwired cap of 14+. But it seems easier to me to just drop the cap and let Will and Fearlessness do the job they’re being paid to do.

See a bit more detail on the topic at link.

133

2022-06-13: If you like [unneeded?] tidiness, rework the Strongbow advantage to mirror Expert Backstabbing*:

Striking ST (For meeting bow ST only, -80%) [1] per +1 ST.

Allow 1 level for Bow at DX+1, 2 levels at DX+2 – and more, if the GM’s willing! (A good idea: Most PCs are capped at 2 levels, mimicking Strongbow, but those with Heroic Archer can purchase any number of levels. Or at least up to something reasonable like +50% ST.)

Why do this? There’s zero need. I just like streamlined reuse of existing mechanics/builds where possible, instead of one-off additions. Simpler, IMO.

I also like the ability of this revised Strongbow to go past +2 ST (GM willing), by paying the points.

*”Expert Backstabbing” is the term used in DFRPG. In DF, it goes by “Striking ST (Only on surprise attack, -60%) [2/level]”. In any case, for DFRPG or for gamers who like simple presentation, keep this entry’s “Striking ST (For meeting bow ST only, -80%)” cost calculation stuff hidden; it’s just “[1/level]”.

134

2022-06-14: DFRPG understandably ignores Law skill as unexciting. (Even DF leaves it off its list of suitable skills.) But it can be useful and fun for wiggling out of fines; knowing what magic items and captured creatures are contraband; forging a legal writ with plausible content; arguing before a magistrate; recognizing fake “taxes” claimed by a merchant or “toll collector”; conducting duels legally; impersonating a Royal Inspector to demand entry into a guild storeroom; catching townies in petty legal infractions to shake them down; triple-checking business (or demonic) contracts…

135

2022-06-15: Animals aren’t always compliant patients in medical procedures. Unless a creature is restrained, calmed, or docile, consider an Animal Handling roll to prevent a Veterinary penalty (or bites, escape attempts, etc.).

Not much of a tip here! Besides this bigger point:

When some little-used ability (like Veterinary) pops up, especially in slower, out-of-combat moments, that’s a good chance to work in related considerations and complications, test other abilities, and so on, to make things a little more interesting.

136

2022-06-16: DFRPG: Miserliness carries a reaction penalty, but only one example is noted (a bad reaction from fee/toll collectors subjected to the miser’s kvetching).

Extend that to any social situation where being open-handed with coin is expected.

The next time the PCs masquerade as nobility (as PCs are wont to do), get that miser roped in to expensive entertainments, high-stakes wagers, and invitations to become a patron of the arts. Comedy ensues.

Even back-alley tavern carousing can vex a miser when the crowd is in a spending mood.

“Buy you all a round and toss the dancing girl a coin, you say? Why should I do that? Buy yourselves a round! And that lass should get a job.”

Needless to say, the penny-pincher can relax and have unpenalized fun if the entertainment’s free, or if someone else is paying the tab…

137

2022-06-17: When a creature or object is round or blocky, I prefer to call that “+2 target size”, not “+2 SM”.

Effects on TH and map hexes are the same either way, but true +2 SM suggests longer Reach and other effects that wouldn’t stem from the shape.

“Effects” here include hit locations. A true SM +2 creature, like a giant, will have appropriately scaled-up parts by default, so an eye would be -9 + 2 = -7 TH.

But a human-sized creature deemed ersatz SM +2 for boxy shape (B19) wouldn’t necessarily have those big peepers.

Just a fiddly matter of getting precise with terminology and effects.

(With this in mind, you could decree that DF/DFRPG dwarves in your game aren’t SM 0 but rather true SM -1, like gnomes, with +1 target size for width. But that’s between you and your dwarves.)

138

2022-06-18: Attacking a hex is +4 TH (p. B414). Why is that? A 1-yard target has base SM -2; round/blocky shape adds another +2 TH (p. B550), for a simple net 0.

I don’t know an official reason for +4. I’ll take it as an implied “+4 to hit an unmoving target”.

Anything wrong with that? I don’t think so. But if it applies to hexes, make it an explicit bonus for any unmoving target, I say (something RAW doesn’t do – I think?).

I’d say that this bonus equates to a by-the-rules bonus for low Speed, maxing out at +4.

Best to stay simple: No bonus (as usual) to hit a moving foe in combat, +4 for a truly immobile one (a petrified foe?), maybe +2 for anything in between (that unaware sentry?).

(All assuming that TH vs an unmoving target even matters. Ignore TH entirely when appropriate!)

Needless to say, the big TH bonus for hitting targets at a shooting range (for perfect, out-of-combat conditions) would already include this +4.

(I think “+4 TH vs immobile target” is a common house rule. But is it also some official rule I’m missing?)

139

2022-06-19: DFRPG: The main use described for Strategy is guessing enemy plans – with any failure meaning “GM lies”.

But that means Strategy-10 or lower hurts at least as often as it helps, so should never be used!

Change that to “GM lies on a critical failure”. On a normal failure, don’t lie; just give the PC no useful info, as with most information-related skills.

Why do this? It keeps rolls against low Strategy skill risky, what with the chance of a crit fail – but with this change, rolling vs low Strategy isn’t necessarily worse than not rolling at all!

140

2022-06-20: DFRPG: A character can roll vs Strategy to analyze an enemy and deduce its plans.

All good and fun. Though you may note that the task takes just one second. Terribly unrealistic, maybe – but from a cinematic perspective, hey, what the heck.

Should that Strategy roll get a bonus for extra time? If you like, sure.

Be careful, though. The roll appears to assume analyzing foes during a fight. Spend too much time watching and thinking, and the goblins could win before you cleverly deduce their battle plans.

Hm, how about a similar Strategy roll to analyze the capabilities, plans, etc. of foes not in combat (e.g., when you spy on a camp)?

Here, I think a base 10 seconds works well, modified as usual for time – up to 300 seconds (5 minutes) for a +5 bonus, or down to 1 second for a -9 penalty.

141

2022-06-21: DFRPG: A short and obvious thing:

When a PC uses Strategy to scope out an enemy force and deduce its plans (Exploits p. 57), Observation makes for a sensible complementary roll. The more info picked up, the better the counter-strategizing.

Yesterday’s entry pondered whether such Strategy rolls should also benefit from extra time. Whether or not you think so, I’d say that a complementary Observation roll should definitely benefit from extra time.

142

2022-06-22: DF/DFRPG embrace the mini-games of mission resource management, loadout and team selection, etc. Let the little-used Strategy skill help out with logistics planning. A PC rolls before the mission; success means the GM offers tips on prep, gear and hireling selection, etc.

The goal: Give Strategy more use. A dungeon delve or other mission is a heist, and every good heist starts with planning. That’s Strategy!

(Yes, this wonky idea veers from Strategy’s military aspect. But DFRPG dips into skill consolidation here and there; I’m just following along.)

143

2022-06-23: Expanding a bit on yesterday’s entry on using Strategy for mission prep:

There perhaps should be many Strategy skills, IMO: Strategy (Military), Strategy (Mission Prep), Strategy (Business), etc., all covering “big picture” planning.

Another would be Strategy (Criminal, or similar name) for Joker-type villains, to plan out the objectives, schedules, resources, contingencies, etc. of heists, schemes, and the eventual takeover of Gotham. GURPS really lacks a proper skill for criminal masterminding. (See more on that topic here.)

Some Strategy variants already exist under other names. A hypothetical Strategy (Politics), for example, exists as Politics.

All such skills would share identical “info skill” mechanics. Main use: On a success, the GM offers useful suggestions and feedback on plans. On a failure, the GM provides no info. On a crit fail, the GM lies.

No real house rule or tip here. Just an idea to play with, for readers who want to explore variants of Strategy skill further than I have.

144

2022-06-24: Low FP cuts Move and Dodge, but not ST-based damage. That’s good for simplicity; re-figuring damage for exhaustion isn’t much fun!

But if you’d like exhaustion to have some effect on hitting power, a damage penalty of -1 per die isn’t difficult to play.

145

2022-06-25: Obvious and trivial: Allow a 5-point variant of the Voice advantage with half usual effects (i.e., just +1 bonuses).

This does require a renaming, though. Voice 1 and Voice 2? Fine Voice and Very Fine Voice? Attractive Voice and Very Attractive Voice?

146

2022-06-26: Finessing the Voice advantage: Allow Voice that aids only one skill (Singing, Public Speaking, etc.), or only one situation (soothing, rousing, intimidating, entertaining, seducing, acting harmless, etc.).

Limitation value: -60%?

147

2022-06-27: A way to boost appeal of the Feint maneuver:

A feint’s probing lets you observe and test the foe’s movements. Whether the actual Feint succeeds or fails (something that depends on both combatants’ rolls), as long as your roll succeeded, you pick up the benefits of a freebie turn of Evaluate.

Things to note:

a) This idea means that after a successful Feint, your foe suffers lower AD and your attack benefits from the Evaluate!

b) This idea doesn’t make the normal Evaluate maneuver obsolete. A turn of normal Evaluate gives you its benefits automatically, no skill roll needed.

Note that DFRPG doesn’t offer the Evaluate maneuver, so this offer is null and void in that game.

(If you do like the idea for DFRPG, introduce Evaluate, or just a simple version of the above like “Whether the actual Feint succeeded or not, as long as your skill roll succeeded, take +1 TH if you attack the foe on your next turn.”)

148

2022-06-28: Another idea to boost Feint’s appeal:

On All-Out Attack (Feint), if the feint fails or the fighter simply isn’t satisfied with it, let him replace the attack with a second feint attempt. (The actual attack will then have to come on his next turn.)

(Fair is fair: If you succeed with the 1st feint but take a 2nd in hopes of a better result, you’re stuck with the 2nd, for good or bad. Just as if you’d made two normal Feints across two turns.)

The idea is just to give the not-so-popular AOA (Feint) a little tactical flexibility.

149

2022-06-29: Anyone have ideas to boost the appeal of Evaluate? I only have sketchy ones:

1) Allow max +4, not +3?

2) Allow All-Out Evaluate: Get benefit of 2 turns of Evaluate, at cost of defenses?

3) Some other benefit, maybe tied to a Per or Tactics roll?

150

2022-06-30: Along the lines of yesterday’s “All-Out Evaluate”, there are players out there who’ve experimented with the idea of All-Out Ready: two Ready actions in 1 turn, or a single Ready+Attack (or Ready+Feint, etc.). Try it if you’re adventurous!

This can be welcome for Ready actions in combat, where players always appreciate more speed and action – i.e., quickly getting past the Ready-type stuff and on with the attacks.

(But I make the assumption that non-combat long actions are already “all-out”. No freebie halving of time! Rather, interrupting a long action to use defenses should slow the long action, and, depending on the nature of the action, maybe even require rolls to avoid “spoiling” it.)


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Header image: Posting tweets the old way.

Source: “Georg Liebe – Der Soldat” 1899
Woodcut from Prüss, Strassburg (1488) Montevilla

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