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GULLIVER v5.3 (2004.04.12) | Copyright 2004 T.Bone | T.Bone's GURPS Diner

Book 5: Combat

Combat for Creatures of All Shapes and Sizes in GURPS


Below is a mess of rules to "generify" combat for any creature type, starting with a proper treatment of size and weight in battle. Some of the suggested changes remain as simple as existing GURPS rules, and some don't, but there are quick'n'dirty equivalents for most major items.

Details, Details, Details

Important Rule for GMs #1

In most cases, wing the rules and keep the game flowing. Picture things in your head, call out a quick "Make a Dodge roll at -4! Fast!", and look like you know what you're doing.

The players will probably be happy to have fast-playing action now – even if the ruling is harsh on them – and let the GM look up the technical stuff after the game for use next time. (And a rule of thumb for GMs: when in doubt about a ruling, it's good policy to tip the scales in the little guy's favor.)

Important Rule for GMs #2

Adjust the amount of detail to the fight at hand. In a duel or very small battle, each move is crucial to the outcome and can be fun, especially to draw out a big climax in real time.

With more than a few combatants, start dropping detailed rules like bad mangos. And with a dozen or more in the fray, you'll likely want to chuck maps and Advanced Combat altogether in favor of quick Basic Combat.

That said:

Below is all the combat rule geekery you could ever want. Why?

One, for those gaming groups that enjoy detailed simulation. Memorize in advance, or haul out the rules during play.

Two, for those GMs that like to wing a quick answer during play, and look up a solution later to play the situation "properly" the next time.

And three, just for the beauty of über rules. It's fun to see a demonstration of how most any situation can be simulated – and simulated well – in GURPS.

But combat among every creature possible involves far too many considerations to exhaust here. Man-vs-roach "tactical combat" may look ridiculous to you; use and expand upon the rules only if players are interested.

Size and Combat: Attacking

Below are rules that cover the effects of target and attacker size on both melee and ranged combat – centered around the idea that both combat types should use the same basic rules.

Target Size and Melee Combat

What do you roll to whack a tiny foe? Use a pistol, and GURPS gives you a precise TH modifier based on the size, speed, and range of the target. Use a sword, and the rules offer not a hint.

The solution: apply the same rules to both ranged and melee combat, with the same considerations for size, speed, and range.

Yet throwing an axe and swinging one aren't the same thing. Under the rules below, size/speed/range considerations disappear when the battle's a "normal" one between two humans or other similar foes. The result is no extra complications at all for most melee battles.

Target size and TH

Small targets: GURPS already applies TH modifiers for size to melee attacks as well as ranged attacks. There are TH penalties for hitting small body targets, and TH penalties for striking at weapons. And CII p. 54 notes that Size modifies TH rolls against any body part in animals.

TH modifiers for size are just as important in melee combat as they are in ranged combat:

Apply size modifiers to any melee attack.

That holds true whether the target is a whole creature or a specific body part. A human striking at Seamus the Leprechaun (Size -5) suffers a -5 penalty, with an extra -3 if he aimed for the vitals, and so on.

Use relative modifiers. Little Seamus should have no penalty to punch another Leprechaun. Think of them as taking a -5 to hit each other for size, but a +5 for punching from short Leprechaun distances. Again, this is how ranged weapon combat already works in GURPS.

Big targets: A 20-yard barn affords ranged weapons a +6 TH bonus. A bonus should apply in melee too – up to a point. Most of a target this big is utterly out of reach in melee, making that extra size irrelevant.

Take a maximum +2 to hit large objects with a melee attack, or +3 if your weapon is your length or longer (putting more of the big target within your reach).

Again, this is relative size. Seamus swinging his wee shillelagh at a human's leg would get the max +2 TH (+5 for relative Size, -2 for leg = +3, but reduced to the max +2). To him, the leg's as large as a tree trunk!

And if a huge creature's vitals alone are big enough to get you that maximum +2 bonus, you may as well make the vital region your target – if it happens to be in front of you. More often, the desired target will be out of attack range as the creature moves about. The GM can rule that a specific location is hard or is impossible to hit, despite its huge size. Use common sense.

Rules for target size and melee attacks:

Apply the difference between attacker and target Size as a TH modifier with melee attacks.

The max bonus for a target larger than yourself is +2 TH (or +3 with a weapon your length or longer).

Big Weapons in Melee Combat

With relative Size as a TH modifier in melee combat, don't tiny targets become impossible to hit? A cockroach is Size -11 or so, but a DX 10 homeowner in Florida ("It's not a roach, it's a palmetto bug") can swat it with a newspaper. Are the rules missing something?

Yes. For starters, the weapon is so much bigger than the target, allowing plenty of room for error:

Simple rules

Treat a target's minimum size as the larger of the size of the target or the size of the weapon (generally width, not length).

Detailed rules

Treat a target's minimum size as the size of the target plus the size of the weapon. Weapon width is usually negligible compared to target size, so the rule means nothing when fighters go at each other with swords and staves.

But with a foot-wide butterfly net, even the tiniest target is treated as over 12" in size. A 1" butterfly is an effective 13" target (-5 TH), and a 6" rat is an 18" target (-4 TH). If your chosen weapon is a swung bus, you'll hit just about everything in your path (well, assuming you can swing a bus with skill, and can see what you're swinging at, and compressed air doesn't blow that butterfly out of the vehicle's path).

The Table below puts the results of this rule into other terms, directly comparing weapon Size and target Size (instead of adding linear dimensions). Do the addition or use the Table, whichever is easier. (Ignore the part about Dodge for now.)

Huge Weapons Table

wpn Size minus target Size

effective Size for TH

Dodge penalty

notes on size (width) of weapon

-3 or smaller

use target Size


one-third or less target size (most weapons)


use target Size plus 1


one-half target size


use target Size plus 1


two-thirds target size


use target Size plus 2


target size


use weapon Size plus 1


one-and-a-half times target size


use weapon Size plus 1


twice target size


use weapon Size


three times target size

each add. +1

use weapon Size

add. -2

see Scale Table


Example: Using your hand as a weapon, is it hard to swat a 2" roach? The hand is roughly 4" wide in the "slapping area", so the combined target is 6", or -7 TH.

How about a fly? The size of the fly doesn't add much to the hand's size, so you're left with a hand-sized (4") target. That's closer to a -8 to hit. Take +4 for a still target (he's resting on your arm) and +4 for an All-Out Attack (you don't adopt a defensive pose when slapping a fly!), and you've got a net +0. With DX 10 you'll hit half the time, if the fly doesn't roll a defense and zip away.

Detailed rules for weapon size and melee attacks:

If your weapon is particularly wide compared to the target's size, add its width to the target's size; use the TH modifier for this combined size.

Speed, Range, and Aim in Melee: Simple Rules

If it seems that hitting small targets with melee attacks should be easier than Size modifiers suggest, use this fudge: halve the Size penalty to hit small targets with melee attacks, and say that this automatically accounts for closer attack ranges, careful aiming, whatever. So that Size -6 foe is -3 to hit with a sword or hand, as you get up close to offset the size problem. Don't ask questions, just swing!

And don't forget All-Out Attacks when trying to nab those pesky little targets! You're not actually going to bother defending yourself against an Ellyl, are you? People are watching...

Speed, Range, and Aim in Melee: Detailed Rules

The rules below finish merging melee and ranged combat into one system. Fortunately, it's "special case" stuff in melee, where range and speed considerations will normally drop out completely.

Aiming with melee weapons

Allow aiming of melee weapons, using the same rules for ranged weapons. You gain +1 TH per second of aiming, up to +3.

You must have been able to make an attack against the target in order to spend the turn aiming. Aim is lost after making the attack. Making an Active Defense also disrupts accumulated aim.

This rule contributes to more realistic combat pacing in GURPS.

Speed and TH

As with any GURPS ranged or melee combat, the Move of a creature that's standing to fight you is of no importance. Ignore it.

But if a target is taking Move maneuvers to run by you or away from you, take its speed into account for purposes of TH, just as with ranged weapons.

Of course, GURPS adds speed to range to get a TH modifier. So what's the "range" of a melee attack?

Range and TH

In a previous example, you had a fifty-fifty chance to slap a fly resting on your arm. But if it fails a defense, shouldn't the slap be almost automatically successful? How could you miss?

Distance is the problem here. The generic TH roll assumes that you're making a standard GURPS combat roll from a hex or two away. That's not how you'd slap a bug; you'd get your hand up as close as possible, for the same distance bonus that you'd get if you were firing a ranged weapon from inches away.

Melee attacks should gain TH bonuses for exceptionally close range, just like ranged weapons. However, limitations will keep this rule from being abusive, or even coming into play very often:

Default range: Range for melee attacks is fuzzy. Fighters need elbow room to move. Blows are coming from a hex or two away, but at the same time, contact range is actual touch!

Let an attacker's size be "default" range. Human melee attacks are at an effective range of two yards (even if they're actually one yard apart or in close combat).

Against an opponent of the same size, range and size TH modifiers will balance out perfectly – hence relative Size as a TH modifier. Two-yard range for humans means no modifier, as does human size. Two foot-high Leprechauns fight at an effective range of a foot for +5 TH, but with -5 TH for size. Twelve-foot Giants battle at -2 TH for Giant-like range, +2 TH for Giant-sized targets.

So far, you're getting no bonus from range; it's standard GURPS melee. But you can now try to reduce your default range to get a TH bonus:

First range limitation: target size. You can lean in close to smack a pest smaller than yourself – but the best range you can achieve is the size of your foe.

Example: A Size +2 Giant attacks a human-sized target (+0 TH) at Giant-like range (-2 TH), for a net -2 TH. But he can get up closer to strike at a range of the target's size, or two yards (net +0 TH). And no closer.

Second range limitation: weapon length. You can get your weapon up no closer than the length of your swung weapon, i.e., as close as six inches to slap a mosquito (that's the length of your hand), or a foot away to smack a cockroach with a rolled-up newspaper. You need some distance to make the swing.

Ignore length as minimum effective distance for a thrust; you can thrust a weapon even if it's actually touching your foe.

Third range limitation: target speed. You'll have to hold a weapon farther back in order to "chase" a fleeing or running target. For a thrust attack, a close range melee attack will be thrown from a distance of no closer than your target's Move (which also makes sense as a minimum range for ranged weapons). Be sure to use the same units.

For swung weapons, use the target's Move plus your weapon length, as above. This final range will hopefully be less than your default range; if it isn't, you'll have to forget any "close range" bonuses and just throw a normal combat blow at default range.

This is all to determine the range from which you'll attack; the target's speed may come into play yet again when figuring the total Speed/Range TH penalty!

Close-range attacks and power

Getting a weapon "up close" to a target won't let you use anywhere near your full strength. Reduce your damage with swung attacks by the same percentage you reduced your effective range. If you get a range bonus for swatting a cockroach from two feet away (one third your default range), multiply damage by x1/3. If you slap a mosquito from an effective six inch distance, or one-twelfth default range, you'll do about x1/12 the damage of a full-blown, roaring punch.

For thrust attacks, reduce damage by only one-third as much: from an effective six inches away, you can still thrust for x1/4 the damage of your default two yard distance.

Positioning yourself

Moving into a range closer than your default requires one Ready action, which can be performed simutaneously with any necessary position changes. You don't need to move into close position again for every attack – but if the distance between you and the target increases to your default range or more, you lose close-range positioning and will need to take a Ready action to regain it.

If getting up close would require a clumsy position, apply appropriate penalties. Slapping a fly on your arm is easy enough, but humanoids may have to crouch or kneel (see BS p. 203) to punch or grab a nearby foe two Size levels smaller.

Example: That Size +2 Giant goes to slap you. Although he can move in close to negate the range penalty (+0 TH), the GM may rule that he needs to crouch, which means -2 TH again.

Ignore when appropriate. Getting down on knees and one hand is a stable and easy pose for smacking roaches, considering the weakness of the blow and no need at all for defense.


"Close range" melee attacks nicely fill a rules gap for special situations, but only work for shortish weapons against small, relatively slow opponents. If the target is fast and/or your weapon is long, the speed and weapon size will add up to default range or more, for no bonus.

Detailed rules for range and speed in melee attacks:
Your default range with a melee attack is your own size (length/height).
Range closer than default is possible, but may not be closer than:
If range is more than default range, use default range (i.e., no bonus for close range possible).
Spend an action to move into range closer than default, simultaneously making any position changes necessary. Apply TH penalties if close range requires odd positions (such as crouching).
As with ranged weapons, target speed only matters for non-combat (fleeing, etc.) targets, not targets in combat. Combine target speed and range to find a net TH modifier from the Size and Speed/Range Table (or the Scale Table).

Example: Here's the mega-example combining size, range, and speed to hit a small target, a vicious Size -11 roach.

The roach is 1" long. Your rolled up Newsweek is about 4" wide at "da business end". That makes the roach a 5" target (1" + 4"), or -7 TH on the Scale Table.

That's too tough a target to be whacking at from afar, so you forego one attack to move in close.

The best range you can achieve with the weapon is the larger of the target's size (1"), or its speed plus the length of your rolled-up paper (12" per second + 12"). The closest you can get is 24".

Add that range to the target speed of 12" per second to get a net 3 feet for Speed/Range – a +2 TH. Together with the -7 TH for size, you've got a net -5 TH. With +4 TH for an All-Out Attack, that roach is challenging but hittable. You can aim, too, though that'll reduce the number of attempts you'll have time to make before the beast scuttles beneath the oven.

Example: You're trying to hit a flying bee with a sword. That's a pretty hard target, so can you get closer than your default range? Your weapon length (3 feet) plus the bee's speed (well over 10 feet/sec) come out to more than your default two-yard range; sorry, no close range bonus. You simply can't get your weapon "up close" before striking, as you could to slap a bee strolling on your arm. You're stuck throwing normal sword blows.

Unfortunately, standard speed and size TH modifiers still apply, and your roll against a 1/4" moving target, even using the wider flat of the sword and taking All-Out Attacks, is pretty hopeless.

Size and Ranged Combat

Size, speed, and range are already built into GURPS' ranged combat rules. A Leprechaun shooting another at one-foot range would roll at no modifier (+5 for range, -5 for Size); at two-yards range, it'd be -5 TH. A human shooting at a Leprechaun from a foot away or from two yards away ends up with those same modifiers.

Projectile size

The width of a bullet or arrow won't usually mean anything in ranged combat, but a "frog-crotch" arrow is designed to take advantage of the "big weapon" rules. A sonic beam or flamethrower will also have large width. Add this width to target size, just as described for melee weapons. A flamethrower jet might add two feet to the size of all targets – very useful for toasting butterflies or mini people.

Melee vs ranged combat

The melee rules above detail other similarities between melee and ranged combat factors. For review, here are the differences that remain between ranged and melee attacks:

  1. Melee attacks can gain the +4 TH from All-Out-Attacks (the attack can be "guided in").
  2. Melee attacks have a "default" minimum range; getting any closer is subject to many limitations.
  3. Large targets give melee attacks a bonus TH, but within limits – unlike ranged attacks, melee attacks have a limited Reach.

Size and Jet Attacks

A wide "jet" or "cone" attack can easily strike small targets, using the TH rules for large weapons. It has another unique property, though. Unlike "solid" attacks, a jet can partly hit and partly miss, especially when aimed at a small target – much of the attack will whoosh right by the target.

A jet attack has a listed damage like any weapon, but assume that to get full damage dice, all of a jet must hit. So if the width of the jet is the same as or less than the size of the target, it can hit for full damage dice.

If the jet is wider than the target is big, some will hit and some will "wash over". The percentage of damage dice affecting the target is the proportion of the target's size to the jet's width, using simple linear dimension.

(Yes, the area of the jet and the exposed area of the target are what's important – but it's an acceptable simplification. Linear dimension equates to the square root of area, which meshes with the way HP are scaled.)

Take any damage dice that "wash over" and throw them away. That part of the jet and its damage dice are out of the picture. The remaining jet's width is equal to your size, and has reduced damage dice.

Note that a target's effective exposed size can vary. Crouching reduces Size by 1, letting more of a huge jet "wash over" you. Shields are also a great way to reduce your exposure to jets.

Example: A yard-wide gout of flame comes at you for 2d damage. If you're that size or larger, you can be hit for full damage. If you're only Size -3 (two feet tall), one-third of that flame will wash over you; you take two-thirds damage. If you crouch too, you're now half the size of that gout, and take only half (or 1d) damage.

How wide is a jet?

A wizard's flame jet might be a foot wide; a flamethrower's jet, two or three feet wide. Either of those is smaller than a human, so it's a standard "hit or miss" attack doing full damage to a human target. (Then again, a wizard's jet might be eight feet wide; you're the GM.)

How about dragon breath? A suggestion: a flame cone has a width of 2 feet times the dragon's Linear Scale. That's 10 feet for a Size +4 dragon, 1 foot for a Size -2 hatchling.

Doesn't a jet "spread out" with distance? Ignore this for simplicity. Especially in the case of magic: a mage's flame jet might magically travel in a straight line from fingertip to its full range, without "spreading" at all.

For true cones, though, assume that the basic width of the attack applies between one-quarter and half its maximum range. Closer than one-quarter maximum range, the attack's width is halved. Farther than one-half maximum range, the attack's width is doubled.

Example: Say an Old Adult dragon's jet has a width of 3 yards and a range of 12 yards. It's 3 yards wide between a range of 3 and 6 yards. Closer than 3 yards, it's a yard and a half wide; between 6 and 12 yards' range, it's 6 yards wide (and so less deadly to a human target, as much of the jet will wash over).

You're welcome to compute jet widths in greater detail, but the above should be enough.

Mass and damage

These rules properly adjust damage for the size of a target, but ignore another issue: target size greatly influences the ratio of surface area to mass, which affects resistance to cooking or freezing. See Book 6 if you want to consider this complication.

Notes on Target Sizes

Miscellaneous notes on target size and shape:

Torso size

Simple rule: What's the Size of a torso? GURPS uses no TH modifier, meaning there's no benefit in aiming specifically for the torso when a non-aimed blow hits it by default. It's a nice simplification.

Detailed rule: If you want to consider size, a whole person carries no TH modifier, and the torso alone is -1 TH. Take a -1 to target the torso, and no penalty to hit "the whole person" – but a hit on the latter should check for location randomly.

You can assume that the vitals as a target are only two Size levels smaller than the torso. That leaves the standard -3 TH for vitals.

Advanced rule: As above, but blows targeting the torso at -1 should stand a 3 in 6 chance of hitting vitals even if these weren't specifically the target.

Crouching and size

What's the Size of a crouching person? GURPS says he's -2 TH, but a crouching man doesn't really seem half-sized, let alone as small as his own arm! Reducing Size by one level is more realistic, versus both ranged and melee attacks. Crouching probably should make only the torso and maybe the arms and legs harder to hit, and not the head, hands or feet, but apply the -1 TH to any body target if you want to keep things simple.

Vital target sizes

The size of kidneys and the heart are given on CI p. 53. A TH modifier of -4 is too big; even including surrounding area, -6 sounds more likely. But see notes on hitting such small targets with a fist or foot: the size of such weapons makes it easier.

Cutting damage against any vital organ should have a multiplier of x1.5, not x1.

Let the heart stand out from "generic" vitals by applying a x4 damage modifier from bullets and impaling attacks instead of x3. Damage also creates risk of heart attack; see details in Book 6.

Head target sizes

GULLIVER's Scale Table modifies the GURPS Size and Speed/Range Table, so here are suggested Size values for some head targets, generally rounding up (as a hit near a vital target is good enough):

Mouths: Size -8 is more appropriate for nose or mouth size than GURPS' -6; the latter is barely smaller than the whole head! Size -8 may sound too hard to hit with a punch, but see the notes on fists below.

Treat a blow to the mouth as a blow to the jaw. If you want to actually toss an object down a gullet in mid-yawn, that's even harder – most humans' mouths aren't likely to open wider than a bit over two inches. Call it an additional -1 TH.

The inside of the mouth might have only half overall DR. It should allow Brain shots that bypass skull DR, or Throat shots (treat as Neck), and is a great place to deposit grenades. A shot "into" a closed mouth is at -2 over mouth Size (a miss by 2 or less hits the head or jaw) and will have to get by any teeth. Assume a standard set of herbivore or carnivore teeth has DR 2 and HP 1, scaled for size.

Limb size

GURPS' TH penalties for arms and legs seem okay. How about hands and feet? Even including some amount of wrist and ankle into the target areas, Size -6 for a hand, and the same or Size -5 for a foot, seem closer to real target sizes than GURPS' Size -4. Use whichever you prefer.

As a weapon, a fist is about Size -7, rounding up. That's not big enough to mean anything special when you're punching someone in the gut, but if you use the large weapons rules, it does make a difference against those little head targets. Human vs human, an eye would be punched at only -7, and even the entire head at only -4. Hitting a Size -8 nose becomes only a -6 TH task – the same as in GURPS.

Advanced rules: object shape

In general, shape doesn't affect TH. Although this is by far the simplest way to handle things, here are some thoughts for detail lovers:

Long, thin targets: GURPS doesn't address this, but players are quick to complain when the GM calls a taut rope a small target. "Whaddya mean, 'small'? How can I miss it with a sword?"

Good question. Below is a technical answer to these odd cases. Here length is the longer dimension and width the shorter, regardless of vertical orientation:

If an object is no more than three times as long as it is wide, don't worry about its shape – it has a single TH modifier for any attack, based on length. In other words, three levels of reduced Size in the width direction have no effect on TH. (This is a fudge – a 6'x2' target is a harder one than a 6'x4' one – but it lets you get by without having to change the rules for a generic human target!)

For longer, thinner objects – those with length of over three times width – effective Size depends on which dimension is targeted. An attack swung perpendicular to the long dimension – a sword swing – strikes at a target one Size level smaller than actual length (the narrowness does have some negative effect). Thrust and missile attacks hit a target two Size levels larger than actual width (the target's narrow, but that length does help).

Example: You go to swack a canister 3 feet long and 1 foot wide. That's not such an odd shape; call it a three-foot (Size -2) target and that's that.

How about 3 feet by 8 inches? That's getting tougher. With a swung sword, it's now a Size -3 target; with a thrust or arrow, it's also -3. Further reductions in width will decrease Size for thrust and arrow purposes, but have no more effect on a sword swung perpendicular to the long dimension.

Now, how about the 1"-thick magic rope the evil swami is climbing? Make a quick slash with your sword; he's about to reach his parked flying carpet. The rope's fifty feet long, but remember your max +2 to hit a large target with a melee attack. Reduce Size once more for a thin target, and you have a nice +1 TH – not as easy to hit as a fifty-foot tree trunk, but almost so. Take a +4 for AOA, and rest assured that the rope's not going to Dodge or strike back.

If you have to shoot that rope with a bullet, though, you're stuck with a target two Size levels larger than 1", or Size -9. Pretty harsh. A better choice would be a "frog-crotch" arrow, made just for this purpose. If the arrow tip were 2" wide, add that to the 1" width of the rope for a 3" (Size -8) target. Two Size levels larger than width leaves you with a Size -6 target. A bit better.

Getting picky with these rules, human arms and legs appear to be Size -3 for swung attack purposes (Size -2 in length, minus 1 level for narrowness) and Size -4 or so for thrust purposes (Size -6 or so in width, plus 2 levels for length), though width would vary a lot by individual. Forget it; call the limbs Size -2 or even Size -3 overall, and save the fancy 'length x width' rules for PCs that want to pull a Robin Hood and send an arrow slicing through a hangman's rope from a hundred paces.

You can put these rules to use when battling monster snakes too, though any bunched-up object, whether snake or rope or whatever, is going to be back to a single TH modifier, for both swings and thrusts. (Set the TH modifier to length-based Size, minus one level, much like a crouching human.)

Blocky objects: For simplicity, a humanlike form, narrower in one dimension than the other but not excessively so, takes no TH modifier for shape. But getting technical from there, it's probably fair to give wider objects – squares and circles – +1 to be hit. Think of a Hulk-like human of normal height but double normal breadth, presenting twice as much area to attacks. His Size isn't two levels larger; that'd make him twice as wide and twice as tall, with four times the area allowing +2 on attackers' TH. With only twice the width instead, +1 TH sounds just right – he's a bizarrely wide, Size 0 humanoid who's as easy to hit in combat as a taller but normally proportioned Size +1 humanoid.

This option won't come into play much for humanoids (Hulks excepted), but will whenever the target is a wheel, box, bulky turret, or other object as wide as it is tall.

Size and Combat: Defending

Dodging is made difficult by attacks of huge size; Parries and Blocks are made difficult by attacks of huge force. Notes on both are below, along with rules for dragon flame and shields, and the effects of massive blows on PD.

Dodging Huge Weapons

Can a 2" microhuman dodge a human hand, a weapon huge enough to engulf him completely? The bigger the weapon the tougher the defense, as you run out of safe spots to jump to with a dodge.

Simple rules

You can always wing situations: "Make a Dodge at -4 to keep from being stepped on. Good luck." But if you want more, here it is.

Once the weapon's size gets bigger than your Size minus 3, subtract 2 from Dodge for each additional level of weapon Size. Just as with TH bonuses for using a large weapon against a small foe, the smaller dimension of the weapon, generally width, is what matters here. That'll usually be negligible for swords and staves.

Rewording the above: There's no Dodge penalty if the weapon's width is one-third your size or smaller. There's a -2 Dodge penalty if the weapon is half your size (your Size minus 2), a -4 penalty if it's two-thirds your size (your Size minus 1), a -6 penalty if it's your size, a -8 penalty if it's one-and-a-half times your size (your Size plus 1), a -10 penalty if it's twice your size (your Size plus 2), and so on.

The Huge Weapons Table earlier summarizes the Dodge penalty for the use of big weapons against small targets, as well as the TH modifiers for large weapon size.  

Example: You'd take no penalty to Dodge a swung cello (about two feet wide, or three Size levels smaller than yourself), but would take a -2 penalty to Dodge a large swung chair (a yard wide, or two Size levels smaller than yourself).

Meanwhile, a six-foot sword carries no Dodge penalty; it's long, but narrow. When an enraged Ogre is smashing a six-foot-wide crate down on your head, that's another story: a -6 penalty for trying to Dodge something as large as you are!

Retreats: Huge weapons are hard to Dodge because they fill most or all of your hex. The trick is to go somewhere: retreat! A Retreat helps you escape overwhelming size. It removes 2 from any Dodge penalty for large weapons, as well as adding its usual +3 to Dodge. You'll still get creamed by the really big attacks, though.

Close calls: Rule that an attack which just makes its TH (i.e., succeeds by 0) is partially off-target. Treat it as effectively half size for Dodge purposes, making it easier to avoid. Any other success is an on-target attack.

Detailed rules

Detailed rules are as above, with a couple of replacements:

Retreats: The Retreat bonus lets you subtract the Retreat distance from the weapon's effective size for Dodge purposes, as well as adding its usual +3 to Dodge.

Example: If you can Retreat, dodging a chair is no harder than dodging a sword. The three-foot Retreat distance nullifies the chair's dangerous width, so you get the +3 Retreat bonus and no penalty for weapon size.

At a weapon size of six feet (a swung truck's width?), however, dodging starts to become difficult even with a one-yard Retreat. The effective weapon size after retreating is still three feet, or two Size levels less than a human's Size.

Now look at your Size -9 (2") microhuman trying to Dodge the swat of a Size -8 (3" wide) board. The attacker takes a -7 TH modifier for an effective 5" (3" + 2") target. (Or using the above Table instead, that's a Size difference in the weapon's favor of +1, so use the weapon's Size plus 1 – again, Size -7.)

All-Out-Attacks, and possibly aiming and close range, might further help the attacker. (As with any GURPS combat, Dodges and Retreats don't affect the TH roll.) If the big bully rolls successfully, you must Dodge a 3"-wide weapon, something much bigger than you are! A Size difference of +1 in the weapon's favor gives a -8 to Dodge. It's nearly impossible; there's nowhere to go.

If you Retreat one inch, though, the board becomes effectively a 2" weapon, for a Size difference of +0. That's still a -6 to Dodge. Even with the +3 Retreat bonus, it's difficult – but picture the situation. You jump an inch to the side, yet that board still covers you! Huge weapons are deadly against small targets: they not only hit more easily, but provide no room to Dodge.

Close calls: One problem with the above scenario: it assumes that the board is landing smack dead-center on you. But would it? For more detail, a blow is dead-center when it would have hit without any aid from the weapon's large size. But if the TH roll isn't quite as stellar, the weapon is a bit off-center and easier to Dodge. For each point by which the TH roll missed dead-center success, treat the weapon's width as one Size smaller for Dodge purposes.

Example: In the above case, the 3"-wide weapon left the attacker at only -7 TH, instead of -9. So he rolls at only -7 TH, but success by 2 or more would have hit even without the large weapon – it's a dead-center hit, and you must try to Dodge a 3" weapon.

Success by only 1 means the board is a bit off-center, and you must try to Dodge an effectively 2" weapon. Success by 0 lets you try to Dodge an effectively 1.5" weapon. "Success" by less than 0, of course, is not a success at all but a miss.

Things become much better for you when you're only facing 1.5" of poorly aimed lumber. You're at -4 (ouch!) to Dodge if you stay in your hex, as the weapon is your Size minus 1; adding the +3 Retreat bonus leaves you at a net -1. But with a one-inch Retreat, another 1" drops from the weapon's size, making it effectively 1/2", or one-fourth your size. That leaves no Dodge penalty, and after adding the +3 Retreat bonus, survival for another second looks pretty likely. (This all assumes that you're able to see these attacks coming from above!)

With this option, a small creature's speed and size subtract from a huge attacker's TH and make it less likely that an attack will be right on target. Speed and mobility are the only hope you have of dodging weapons that would otherwise engulf you! If you're small, don't stand still.

Retreat distance: You can rule that a character's normal Retreat distance is his Step distance, not just a single hex. This wouldn't add to the +3 Retreat bonus; a big Step gets the combatant away from the attack further, not faster. But it can help a lot when Retreating out from under dinosaur stomps. If you can make a 2-yard Retreat, dodging a 6 foot-wide weapon is no harder than dodging any other attack, and the +3 Retreat bonus counts too. Your roll: full Dodge, +3.

Dive for cover: One final topic: couldn't a character use a broad jump or a dive to get out of an attack's way? As above, this "Diving Retreat" would give no more bonus than the regular +3 AD Retreat bonus. But it might surprise an enemy, take you behind cover, or take you out of range of another attack. Most importantly, it could move you farther out from under danger than your regular Retreat does.

The character should be ready for it (Wait maneuver, or All-Out-Defense). Make a balance or Acrobatics roll at -4 to land on your feet.

A creature with the Jumper advantage can use broad jump distance as Retreat distance without falling down. Tiny jumping spiders – whose one-hex Retreat distance would be a useless half-centimeter or so – can successfully avoid a stomp attack by leaping six inches to the side. The weapon's size is nullified by the spider's super jump, meaning the little bug-sucker rolls his Dodge with a +3 for Retreat, and no penalty for weapon size.

Parrying and Blocking Huge Attacks

With Parries and Blocks, it's not the size of a weapon that makes defense difficult, but the force behind it. One way you could game this is to look at the maximum amount of damage a fighter can stop. This would likely be some multiple of his ST, plus another percentage of his ST for every point by which the Parry or Block was made (representing ability to skillfully deflect, not catch, the blow).

But that requires rolling or estimating damage even when defense rolls succeed, which isn't too fun. A better method might be to apply a penalty to the defense beforehand, based on the power of a huge attack. This is similar to the Dodge penalty for an attack of huge physical dimension.

Parry/Block penalty

Compare the "oomph" of the attacking blow and the defending parry or block. "Oomph" here is a very scientific term for force, and is equal to Load ST + weapon or shield mass.

Add 50% to Load ST for these purposes for either fighter if using two hands on a legitimate two-handed weapon. Make that a 100% bonus for a defender using two hands with a wide grip (polearm, staff, etc.). In either situation, add another 10% Load ST for any hands over two on a weapon.

If you defend against a relatively high oomph you'll get a Parry/Block penalty. If that penalty causes your defense to fail, your weapon or shield is overwhelmed by the powerful attack.

Parry/Block Penalty Table

Ratio of Attack "Oomph" to Defense "Oomph"

Parry/Block Penalty

less than x1.5


x1.5 or more


x2 or more


x3 or more


x5 or more


x7 or more


x10 or more


x15 or more


x20 or more


x30 or more


x50 or more


continue progression

add -1 per level


Example: A Load ST 25 Ogre swings a human's 7-lb. two-handed sword with one mighty mitt. A Load ST 14 knight, using two hands on a similar sword, is on the receiving end.

The Ogre's oomph is 25 + 7 = 32; the human's is 14 x 1.5 for two-handed use + 7 = 28. The Ogre's advantage is less than x1.5, so there is no Parry penalty.

A ST 9 guard with a 3-lb. broadsword in one hand would have oomph of 9 + 3 = 12. The Ogre's advantage would be greater than x2, for a -2 Parry penalty. If that penalty causes the guard's Parry to fail, then the Ogre's blow smashes his sword aside and scores a hit. (Lesson: dodge, don't parry, Ogre blows.)

A quarterstaff would be a better defensive choice for this small man: with oomph of 9 x 2 for grip + 4 for weapon weight = 22, he just stops the Ogre from gaining an advantage of x1.5. There's no penalty for the guard to catch and turn the blows on the quarterstaff. (Whether the staff can absorb those blows without breaking is another matter.)

Losing your grip

If your small weapon is hit by a big one (whether your Parry was successful or was "overwhelmed"), be sure to check whether the standard GURPS breakage rule applies (BS p. 111).

If your defending weapon is "overwhelmed" by an attack, roll vs weapon skill (or Retain Weapon), minus the Parry penalty, to avoid dropping the weapon. This roll is at +4 if your weapon broke (you're more likely to maintain a grip on the remaining stump). Success means you hang on; failure means you drop it. Success by 0 means that your weapon is not dropped but is "turned" and will require an extra second to ready.

Note that this is a roll vs skill, not ST! Relative ST is what matters, and that's already factored into the equation: relative ST determined the Parry penalty, and insufficient relative ST on the defender's part is what forced the dropped-weapon check in the first place.

Blocking notes

Roll vs Shield skill (or a hypothetical Retain Shield maneuver), as above, to avoid dropping an "overwhelmed" shield or having it "turned". A shield that's strapped on may only be "turned", and not dropped.

Note that shields have a high weight and good oomph. It takes a lot of power to smash a shield so hard that a skillful block is overwhelmed by the force – but in GURPS, anything can and does happen!

A shield's high weight also gives it great oomph when used to attack. A shield bash vs a light parrying weapon will have a good chance of plowing on through. Block offensively!

Size and Shields

Shield PD

A big man's medium shield is a small man's large shield. For game purposes, let a large shield be one Size level smaller than the user, a medium shield two Size levels smaller, a small shield three Size levels smaller, and a buckler four Size levels smaller. For a human, that's about 4 feet, 3 feet, 2 feet, and a little over 1 foot, respectively.

Treat the wielder as one Size level smaller if he crouches, kneels or sits. For a crouching man, a small shield becomes medium, a medium shield large, and so on.

PD and other effects should be based on the shield's effective size: if you crouch behind a medium shield, you gain the PD 4 of a large shield but suffer the -2 attack penalty for using a large shield, in addition to the -2 attack penalty for crouching.

A large shield presents a special case: a fighter can hide almost completely behind a large shield by crouching, but would neither be able to make attacks nor even see attacks coming from the front (no Active Defenses). His shield is effectively a "full-cover" shield (below).

Using two shields

Treat two shields of the same size as one shield one size larger, for PD purposes, if you wield two (not a bad tactic for the multi-armed crowd).

Shields as cover

CII p. 70 offers an option for treating shields as cover, not as PD, which helps reduce the slowdowns that can happen when defenses get too high in GURPS. With this rule, a shield adds no PD; its PD score subtracts from a foe's TH. Adding in the notes on shields above, a Halfling (Size -1) holding a human's small shield is a net -3 to be hit (as the shield is a medium shield to him), or -4 if he also crouches (the shield becomes a large shield to him).

But there's no reason why the "shields as cover" rule can't exist alongside the regular shield rules. Go ahead and treat shields as GURPS does, providing PD but no cover. However, you can choose at any time to treat a target's shield as cover instead, by taking the PD bonus as a penalty on TH. Instead of just throwing a generic blow towards your foe, here you're specifically trying to maneuver your attack to bypass his shield. If your attack succeeds despite the TH penalty, then your foe defends normally – he can even Block – but his shield's PD doesn't add to any defense, even a Block. You've already bypassed the shield's default protection!

Optionally, the defender can also decide whether the shield counts as cover or PD vs any given attack. In case attacker and defender disagree, let the defender prevail if he commits to a Block defense before the attack is rolled, and let the attacker decide if the defender doesn't commit to blocking beforehand. Then go ahead and roll the attack and defense, treating the shield as the prevailing side wants.

Full-cover shields: A shield of your Size provides nearly complete cover. This would be a human crouching behind a large shield, or a Halfling standing behind a human's large shield, or a human standing behind an Ogre's large shield.

Such a "full-cover" shield presents nothing for a foe to hit! The GM can rule that you can't be hit from the front – although you can't move, attack, make an Active Defense, or even see beyond the shield! Any attacks from the shield's front automatically hit it, not you. But from a bit of an angle, ranged weapons could attack at a -7 or better, and lobbed weapons could make such a hit even from the front. Melee fighters can easily step around or reach over your shield. So stopping to plant and crouch behind a large shield is a great way to protect against a flurry of arrows – but don't stay hunkered behind there too long.

Jet Attacks and Defenses

The below adds to the earlier notes on jet weapons.


Parrying a jet is usually impossible, unless it's as narrow as the parrying weapon (and in which case it's just a regular ranged attack, not really a jet).


Dodges can be effective, but use the rules for dodging huge weapons if the jet is very wide. It would be very hard to dodge a dragon flame several yards wide. A Retreat will subtract its distance from the jet's width, though, if the defender can move to the side.

If you like complexity, you can even use the "off-center" rules with jet weapons. A dragon's multi-yard gout of flame will be easier to Dodge if the hit is a little off dead-center. It'll even do less damage, if the gout is so poorly aimed that only half of the target, not all of it, is engulfed.


When a knight goes dragon-slaying, it's a sword and shiny shield he reaches for. A shield can turn that flame like nothing else – if it's big enough:

Simple rules: Rule that a shield either stops a jet or doesn't, as with any other attack. Or wing special effects as you like. End of story.

Detailed rules: Assume that jets come in three sizes: small, medium and large.

Those are all for successful Blocks; failed Blocks do nothing.

Advanced rules: Here's the technical stuff – but as always, technical can make you sorry you asked:

Shields are a good defense against jets, assuming the material can absorb the damage. They work normally, with no penalties – but can only deflect some of a wide jet.

On a successful Block, the jet hits your shield. Subtract the shield's size directly from the jet's width. If the shield's larger than the jet, you're unhurt. But if the shield's smaller than the jet, it'll block appropriate damage dice, and the rest will "spill over" onto you.

On a failed Block (or no Block attempt), you "missed" the jet, and it strikes you. It hits whatever portion of you isn't covered by shield. If the jet's wider than your exposed size, some spills onto the shield, and you take only the appropriate damage dice – but you also take one-third of the dice that did spill onto the shield, as it was a bad block and you weren't holding it squarely.

Huge Attacks and PD

For non-exotic armors, being saved by PD still means that you were hit. And PD 4 or not, plate mail won't deflect a hurled Steinway grand. There are a number of ways you could handle this. GURPS has its own optional rule: for every 3d of basic damage in an attack, PD is reduced by one. That keeps pianos from bouncing off of scale mail.

But what about a shortsword, doing far less than 3d damage, against a tiny PC's tin-can armor? Is it really going to bounce off something that has only a fraction of a point of DR? No, it should punch right through thin material. A suggested change to the GURPS rule for PD and high-damage attacks:

Effective PD against high-damage attacks requires effective DR.

Instead of reducing PD by 1 for every 3d damage, reduce PD by 1 for every (DR) dice of damage.

Example: Your teeny PC has armor that's like really thick plate to him, but it's more like a flimsy aluminum can to a normal-sized human. Call it PD 4 and about a third of a point of DR. One-third of a die of damage will reduce PD by 1, so a 1d blow reduces PD by 3. A 2d blow ignores all PD.

Example: A giant Mecha with DR 100, PD 4 is hit by a TL 6 88mm tank gun. The shell does 6dx11 damage (66 dice), with an armor divisor of 2. With its armor effectively reduced to DR 50, the Mecha loses 1 point of PD for every full 50 dice of damage. Here it loses 1 PD.

Cloth and leather

One thing about this rule GMs might not like: with only DR 1 and DR 2, respectively, cloth and leather armor quickly lose their PD to attacks of even moderate strength. If you don't like that effect, go ahead and rule that any properly constructed body armor has a "virtual" minimum of DR 3 for purposes of maintaining PD in the face of powerful blows. Cloth and leather armor then require 3d damage per point of PD reduction.

Another method

And finally, a totally different way to game PD and massive damage. Don't reduce PD for high damage dice. Instead, any time an attack is "deflected" by PD (as determined by the defense roll), multiply DR by some amount (say, x3), as the attack was a glancing blow. From there, apply damage normally vs the boosted DR.

PD will save you from a lot of attacks that would have otherwise caused injury – a glancing sword blow will likely bounce off your leather armor, not punch through it. But in the case of the teeny PC and his tin-can armor, a solid mace blow will Ragu him, PD notwithstanding.

This method is extremely simple to play; give it a try.


Knockback is just velocity change from any collision, push, or slam; these are covered in detail below and in Book 6.

Knockback from a weapon also comes from a collision, and that's what's handled here. You could head for the Book 6 collision rules and tweak those to handle knockback from weapons – it may even be possible to generate GURPS-like damage figures from weapons with those rules (though it's not guaranteed). But it's not fun, and the game doesn't deal in weapon velocities anyway.

It's easier to figure knockback from damage as GURPS does. Use basic hits for knockback purposes, without extra damage from edges, target location, etc. Armor reduces damage taken, but usually not basic hits for knockback purposes; armor might stop a mighty sword blow from halving you, but wouldn't stop the force from knocking you over. The basic hits of damage from a blast of flame, on the other hand, don't represent bruising force, and wouldn't cause knockback.

Computing Knockback

Speed of knockback

Start with the GURPS rule – 1 yard per 8 basic hits – and make these changes:

Divide knockback by the square root of (mass/150). (This is the same as multiplying damage needed to cause knockback, by that same amount.)

The result is the speed of knockback, or Ks, in yards/second.

Ks is 0 for impaling attacks, or halved for cutting attacks, if blow penetrates armor. Bullets realistically cause no knockback, but do full or double knockback in cinematic settings.

Knockback distance

In knockback situations you'll be tripping or rolling along the ground right away. For simplicity, assume one second of travel before you come to a stop. That means Ks also equals your knockback distance.

Special cases may differ: A target may fly back at a Move of Ks for several turns if on ice, forever if in space!

If precise "pop fly" distances matter with tiny targets, knockback distance, Kd, is (Ks squared)/10. Guess at angle, and use Kd in place of Td in Book 4's throwing rules.

Maximum knockback

Knockback speed has a limit: the speed of the colliding object, or in this case, the weapon – say, 30 yards/sec or so for a thrust attack, 60 yards/sec for a swung weapon's tip.

Yes, lots of factors are involved in that speed. For example, speed will be reduced a bit with heavy weapons, or a lot if you don't meet minimum ST. Fudge as you like, or just don't worry about it.

That's your maximum knockback speed; distance comes from that. As above, game simplicity says distance in typical knockback situations is the same as speed, assuming rolling and bouncing along the ground. Pop fly distances can be calculated more precisely if you like, as mentioned above. (Hard-core data crunchers will add air drag effects to tiny targets' knockback speeds; see Book 4.)

Advanced Rules

All as above, but with one extra. There's a limit on damage you can take from any change in speed – which means from any combat blow! This damage comes straight from the Book 6 falling and collision rules.

Example: Your Ellyl is swatted by a mace at 100 mph. No matter how high the mace's weight and the user's ST, and thus the damage rolled, maximum knockback speed is 100 mph, or 50 yards/second. The Ellyl bounces and rolls 50 yards or so before coming to a stop. (Grounder!)

Maximum damage is that of a 100 mph fall/collision. (Drag may subsequently reduce speed in flight and distance traveled, but damage is based on impact speed.) If damage for an Ellyl colliding with a hard surface at 100 mph, computed from Book 6 rules, is less than the mace's rolled damage, the Ellyl takes the lesser damage.

Double this maximum damage for cutting attacks. There's no maximum for impaling or bullet attacks (other than blowthrough).

Damage reduction

There's one other thing that may reduce damage from a combat blow. As described in Book 6's collision rules, a collision – including a combat blow – that is received over a large portion of the target's body should allow a reduction in damage equal to one-fourth the target's HP. A collision that strikes the whole body (as in a fall onto flat ground) allows subtraction of half HP from damage,as impact is spread over a large area.

Either of these may apply when a very large combat weapon strikes a small target – say, a big mace against an Ellyl. Not that the reduction would probably save the Ellyl in this case, but there it is anyway. (Note that the reduction doesn't reduce knockback; it only decreases damage!)


What if the Ellyl were against a stone wall? There's no knockback, and so no damage cap. Whatever the damage rolled, he takes it all.

What's the point?

No matter how minuscule your HP, a tiny weight can save your hide in certain situations. Consider these paradoxes:

You can easily splat a tabletop insect with your hand – but a thrown punch that decks a human only knocks a flying insect aside, without harm.

Or as Professor Vogel notes: "Kicking your cat is nasty. Kicking a mouse is ineffectual." Try it – it works. (Try it with the rules!)

One more: What's a better weapon, a Louisville Slugger or a plastic wiffle bat? The wood bat's your weapon of choice against burglars, but the wiffle bat's much deadlier against a flying bug. The weight-based damage of either bat is enough to overwhelm the insect's puny HP, but the heavy wood bat is swung more slowly. Thanks to maximum speed change and maximum damage from that, the faster bat hurts the bug more; the heavier bat might fail to kill it. (Yes, this has been extensively reality-checked – but that was a couple dozen years ago. Honest!)

No other RPG combat system has built-in handling of situations like the above. That's likely because almost no one will ever need or want to mess with that level of reality simulation! But it is nifty that GURPS and these advanced rules can properly simulate even the most unusual and counter-intuitive (from a human perspective!) combat situations.

Falling Down

Whether it's from a push, slam, collision or weapon knockback, being knocked about can make you fall. For purposes of this rule, it's all knockback.

Balance roll and modifiers

Basic roll: Make a balance roll to stay standing anytime after significant knockback – say, twice your Step distance or more (two yards or more for humans). Halve that distance if the knockback moves you backward, which is the usual situation!

Lesser knockback can still make you fall, but your roll to stay standing is at +4. The GM can decide when one side was so overwhelming in a slam that it doesn't even need to check for falling down.

If you're using the Contest of ST rules for slams (below), the Contest's loser takes a -4 on the balance roll.

Low blows: Take a balance penalty of -2 if the collision was centered well below your "center", -4 if way down below your knees. Also apply shock penalties if you took damage from the collision!

Speed change: Success on the balance roll requires that you "move with" the knockback. Take a penalty on the balance roll for the amount of speed change: -2 per full multiple of your Move.

Also take a penalty for your new Move: -2 per multiple of Move. Remember that backward Move for a human is halved. Your foe is very likely to fall if you send him backpedaling faster than his legs can keep up!

Example: Running at full Move of 6 yards/sec, you're stopped dead trying to slam a bigger foe. Final Move is zero, so no penalty for new Move, but there was a change in speed equal to your Move: take a -2 on the balance roll to keep standing.

That foe now hands you a wallop that sends you flying backward 6 yards. Your backward Move is only 3 yards/sec, so that's twice your Move! Take a -4 penalty for speed change of twice your Move, and another -4 for a new Move of twice your Move. Chances are you're going down.

Fliers and swimmers: Fliers and swimmers usually can't move backward, so significant knockback in that direction becomes automatic loss of control. Fliers use Flight instead of balance; swimmers use Swimming. Failure for either is an ungainly tumble. Make a roll every turn to regain control (though drag should stop aquatic somersaults in a turn or so).

Contests of ST

Contests of ST have many uses in GURPS, especially to resolve wrestling actions, pushes, and so on.

Which ST?

GULLIVER brings a new complication to Contests of ST: two ST stats to choose from. Which to use?

Contests of Combat ST leave smaller opponents a better (if still tiny) chance of success, which is good for play. But those old rules ran into a thorny problem: working combatants' weight into Contests requires measuring weight against Load ST. Contests required you to fiddle with both Combat ST and Load ST.

Use Load ST only. This simplifies things to one stat, yet lets you account for weight properly.

All Contests of ST in GULLIVER are Contests of Load ST!

Preparation and Contests

In all Contests of ST, a surprised, stunned, or otherwise unprepared foe gets only half ST. (For Contests of Skill or DX, reduce stats by 4.)

The same might apply to a combatant who's appropriately terrified, cowed, or just not motivated to fight back. Try some pre-fight Intimidation to weaken your foe's resolve!

Size Differences

Picking on someone small

Sure, it's fun. But can you really "wrestle" a foe that's only knee high? Against a fellow human, your legs, back, arms, everything gets into the act – but while your hands "wrestled" a foot-high Leprechaun, how could your back and legs possibly help? You're welcome to ponder special cases, but here's a suggestion:

Against smaller sizes, there's less for your whole body to do, and you can use only a fraction of your strength in making takedowns, pins, etc. The rule:

For considerable Size differences, reduce the a larger foe's Load ST (including bonuses from weight) in proportion to the Size difference.

Against a foe one-half your size, you'd be able to deploy only half your Load ST, and so on. Use this rule in Contests of ST when the larger attacker initiates takedowns, pins, and throws, or resists the small foe's attempts to break free.

Example: A Size -1 Halfling goes to pin a hapless Size -5 Leprechaun. Say the Contest will be between Load ST 5 and 0.5.

But the Halfling finds a foe one-fifth his own size to be vexingly slipperly. Reduce his effective Load ST to 5 x 1/5 = 1 – still overwhelming, but allowing a small chance for the little guy to slip free.

Load ST bonuses from weight get reduced too, unless you're actually getting down and sitting atop that Cidi or microhuman, as in maintaining a pin you've already placed. In that case, apply weight bonuses without reduction – but do please wipe up the mess afterward.

Yes, this all means that if you're wrestling a tiny-but-strong mini superhero, you might have much more trouble dealing with him than you would with a normal-sized foe of the same strength! In normal wrestling you can wrap with your legs and pull with your arms and heave with your back – but against a thumb-sized opponent, what can you use besides your fingers?

Wrestling larger foes

Against foes bigger than yourself, of course, you're free to use all the ST you've got before you're snapped like a twig.

But there are a few situations in which small size is a real hindrance to using your power effectively. It'd be hard to choke a very large foe, for example, if your hands don't wrap around his neck. Use ST reductions as above, but affecting the small attacker.

Limbs and Wrestling


Where indicated, adjust ST in wrestling-related Contests for number of arms used. One hand reduces ST to x2/3. Two hands use full ST. Add 10% to ST for each hand over two (hey, where'd those come from?!).

Animals often take down prey with a bite; treat as an All-Out Attack combining a bite attack with a one-handed takedown.

If you have no gripping hands, sharp claws, constricting coils, biting jaws, or other "grabby" stuff, you make takedowns with your blunt paws/stumps/body/whatever. Halve ST in appropriate Contests.


For detail, let legs affect ST in appropriate actions. Take Book 4's control roll bonuses for number of legs (+2 for four, etc.), multiply by 5%, and add to Load ST to make or resist takedowns, pins, or breaking free. For example, four legs add +2 x 5% = +10% Load ST. That goes for extra swimmers in water or wings in air, too!

One change: use -10% for One Leg, -33% for Lame (No Legs).

Double the modifier when making or resisting pushes and slams: four legs would be good for +20% Load ST.

Problems with Contests of ST

Before jumping into notes on wrestling, consider Contests of ST in GURPS. The game's Contest rules are great, but have had problems all along with ST.

Contests measure the absolute difference between two scores. This isn't a problem with Contests of Skill, IQ, or DX, as the actual numbers have abstract meanings. There is no basis for saying that Skill 10 is "twice as high" as Skill 5; a Contest between any two Skill scores is workable.

But with ST, a score of 10 is twice as high as 5, just as ST 2 is twice as high as ST 1. Contests of ST need to measure the relative difference among these scores, but don't.

To illustrate, a Contest between ST 1 and ST 2 Pixies will be a very closely fought battle in GURPS, although one wrestler is twice as strong as the other. A Contest between a ST 10 human and a ST 20 Ogre is a proportionately identical struggle, yet there's little chance for the human to win. And if ST 30 and ST 60 giants clash, a GURPS Contest will automatically hand victory to the larger; no dice needed. (The problem is less extreme but still exists even within human ST ranges.)

Running Contests of ST: Simple Rules

Perhaps the best way to run Contests of ST is to accept that the standard Contest mechanism doesn't work well with ST, and devise a new roll. Here's one that works:

Each participant in a Contest of ST rolls 3d, and multiplies the roll by Load ST. The higher number wins.

That's it. This method works equally well whether the battle is ant vs termite or Godzilla vs Rhodan.

Degree of success is easy to game too, by comparing the relative sizes of the results. Let each point of success under normal rules equate to a 10% higher result under these rules. When a rule calls for "winning by 5", game that as "result is 50% higher than opponent's result". Change "win by 10" to "result is twice as high as opponent's". And so on.

Example: Under standard rules, winning a Contest of ST lets a character Break Free from a pin – and do it without spending an action if he wins by 10 or more.

Using the above new mechanic, each side rolls 3d and multiplies that by Load ST. The pinned character breaks free if his result is higher, and does so without spending an action if his result is at least twice as high as the pinner's.

It's a great rule, whose only flaw is its departure of standard GURPS mechanics. The rest of GULLIVER uses the following detailed rule instead, but methods and examples should be easy to convert to this simple rule.

Running Contests of ST: Detailed Rules

Below are rules to let ST work with the standard Contest mechanism. The troubles involved at times are a reminder that GURPS' ST score just doesn't work like other stats.

"Fix" Contests

Bestiary p. 55 recognizes the problem of broken mechanics, but the fix is unpleasant. CI p. 13 offers a better rule: set the lower ST to 10, and multiply the larger ST by (10/lower ST). In other words, multiply the lower score by some X to bring it to 10, and multiply the larger ST by that same X.

This works fine, though GULLIVER will add:

  1. Use the rule any time ST scores are fairly disparate, not just when both scores are below 6 or above 20, as CI suggests; and
  2. Don't worry about getting that lower ST exactly to 10; to save time, multiply it by whatever X quickly brings it close enough to 10 (to 9, 11, whatever), multiply the larger ST by that same X, and roll the Contest.

Let's call this process "fixing" a Contest of ST – not as in predetermining the result, but as in making the mechanics work!

To recap:

"Fix" all Contests of ST: Multiply the lower score by some X to bring it to (or close to) 10, and multiply the larger ST by that same X. Then roll.

Example: A ST 3 Halfling grapples with a ST 4 dog. To "fix" the Contest, multiply the halfling's ST by 3 to bring it to 9 (that's close enough to 10), and multiply the dog's ST by 3 to get 12. Roll 9 vs 12.


Below are rules for wrestling and other close combat actions. Currently in GURPS, grapples (including grabbing weapons and grabbing weapon arms) are gamed as Contests of DX or skill. Other actions, such as takedowns, pins, breaking free, and choking are Contests of ST. And still others, such as slams, require a Contest of DX or skill followed by a Contest of ST.

Gamed properly, takedowns, pins, and breaking free should all require a Contest of DX or skill to account for quickness and technique, followed by a Contest of ST to cover the brawn factor. Weight too should usually be a factor in the latter.

For simplicity, the rules below reduce most actions to easy Contests of ST, with a DX- or skill-based roll first to grapple if necessary. But with judo throws and arm locks, the technique part is vital. These more complex actions are simulated below with two Contests.


Grapple rules can ignore weight and strength; DX and skill are what matter. Treat this as a Contest of DX, or as TH followed by Active Defense. Most melee combat TH modifiers should apply, including those for size.

Judo, Wrestling, or Sumo Wrestling can replace DX for a grapple.

Take a +3 for two arms, +5 for three arms, and +7 for four; additional arms add +1 each only if also matched by a level of Full Coordination each. Extra arms need to have gripping ability and reasonable strength to confer these bonuses, as the GM rules.


OK, you've got the bad guy in hand, and you go for the takedown. Strength does matter here – time for a Contest! Make that a straight Contest of ST, not a Contest of DX or of Skill vs ST.

Simple rules

Roll a Contest of ST, adjusting for limbs used.

Example: Faced with a foe not worthy of death by your sword, you grab him with your free hand and go to toss him down into the mud. Your ST is 12 and his 10; reduce yours to only 8 for one-hand use. A Contest of 8 vs 10 is good enough to roll, though "fixing" the Contest would technically make it one of 10 vs 12 (or 10 vs 13 if you round up). Either way, you'll need some luck here to look cool.

On a tie, your target remains standing, but is off-balance.

Falling: The attacker can commit to dropping and falling during the takedown. Game as an AOA, with an extra (full weight /50) bonus to ST before "fixing".

Option: The attacker also makes a balance check after any takedown attempt, unless he won the Contest of ST by 5 or more; it's possible for the attacker to unintentionally fall along with the target (or fall while the target stays standing!).

Detailed rule

Let weight come into play in making a takedown. Use the rule for pinning below, which is the same procedure with an added modifier for weight: the heavier foe gets a (weight difference in lbs. / 10) bonus to Load ST.


Bam, your foe's on the ground. Now you go to pin him. That's another Contest of ST, adjusting for limbs used.

Weight will also help you pin a foe. GURPS suggests a +1 bonus to the heavier opponent for every 10 lbs. of extra weight. Although 10 lbs. of opponent bulk has vastly different meanings for Cidi and Giants, the rule still works if you apply the bonus before "fixing" the Contest.

Here's GULLIVER's pinning rule:

Give the heavier foe a (weight difference in lbs. / 10) bonus to Load ST. Then "fix" the Contest and roll.

That's the same as first "fixing" the Contest of ST, then giving the heavier foe a bonus of (weight difference / lighter fighter's Load ST), should you prefer to rework the equation.

Example: A Giant (Load ST 50, 1200 lbs.) goes to pin an Ogre (Load ST 30, 500 lbs.) using two hands. Give the giant a Load ST bonus of 700 lbs. / 10 = 70 for weight difference. That makes ST 120 vs 30.

However, the Ogre is a Size level smaller; cut the Giant's ST to x2/3. The Contest is 80 vs 30. "Fix" the Contest to ST 27 vs 10. Not much need to roll!

Example: A Size -9 microhuman with Load ST 0.012 and weight 0.005 lbs. is set upon by a small, Size -8 rat with Load ST 0.025 and weight 0.05 lbs. The rat knocks over its prey and tries to pin him before setting those incisors to work. Adjust ST for number of hands: assuming the rat's paws can't grip, halve its ST in the pin to 0.0125.

Give the rat a Load ST bonus of 0.045lbs. / 10 = 0.0045 for weight difference, for ST 0.017. But the beast's foe is a Size level smaller, so now cut its ST to x2/3, or about 0.011.

This Contest turns out to be 11 vs 12, in the microhuman's favor. There's a good chance that the smaller human will slip out and avoid the attempt at pinning.

See Book 8 for easier ways to play with stats in a microhuman-vs-rat-sized games; the point of the second example is to show that the rule works at any size.

Breaking Free

How easy will it be for the bad guy to break away from your grip? BS p. 112 suggests a Contest of ST if you've got him by one hand but not pinned, +5 for using two hands, and +5 for a pin. That's fine, but here are some revisions:

From grapple

An attempt to Break Free from a grapple is a Contest of ST, the same as a takedown or pin, but it's easy for the grappler to keep hold:

Give a grappler a 50% bonus to Load ST to resist an attempt to Break Free.

This mirrors the GURPS rule, but replaces the flat +5 bonus with a +50%.

Also adjust ST for for limbs used: two hands let you keep that bonus, while one hand boils down to a straight Contest of ST. (ST + 50% for grappling, x2/3 for one hand, = ST.)

From pin

You get an additional bonus if you're not just holding the guy but actually have him pinned. The bonus really shouldn't be a straight "pin bonus" or even a percentile ST bonus, but rather something based on how much weight you've got on the victim.

Use a weight-based ST bonus similar to that described for making the pin above, but base it on your full weight, not the difference in weights.

Give a grappler a (full weight in lbs. / 30) bonus to Load ST to resist an attempt to Break Free, if the foe is pinned. Then "fix" the Contest and roll.

That's the same as first "fixing" the Contest of ST, then giving the pinner a bonus of (weight / (lighter fighter's Load ST x 3)), should you prefer to rework the equation.

In general, this bonus would not be reduced when wrestling a smaller foe; it represents your full weight already on top of the victim.


"Fix" the Contest of ST and roll. If the foe wins the Contest of ST, he Breaks Free; otherwise, you maintain your hold or pin. If he succeeds by 10 or more, he shrugs you off and his attempt takes no time.

Example: Go back to the above Giant and Ogre. After the Giant succeeds in his all-too-easy pin, the poor Ogre tries to Break Free. The Contest ends up as the Ogre's Load ST 30 vs the Giant's Load ST 50 + 50% to prevent Break Free = 75. However, against a foe one Size level smaller, reduce the Giant's modified ST to x2/3, leaving 30 vs 50.

But the Giant gets a bonus for having pinned the schmuck: 1200 lbs. / 30, or +40, for a Contest of 30 vs 90. This isn't reduced for the Size difference.

"Fix" this to 10 vs 30. No hope for the Ogre.

Example: Say that the tables are turned, and Ogre pins the Giant. The Giant goes to Break Free. The Contest is the Giant's Load ST 50 vs the Ogre's Load ST 30 + 50% to prevent Break Free = 45. Differences in Size don't hamper the Giant here; it's hard to keep a smaller foe from breaking free, but not particularly hard to break free from a smaller foe.

The Ogre's weight gives him a ST bonus of 500 lbs. / 30 = 17 to maintain his pin, creating a Contest of 50 vs 62.

"Fix" the Contest to 10 vs 13. The Ogre has a fair chance of keeping the big guy down.

Example: The above small, Load ST 0.025 rat pins the Load ST 0.012 microhuman, who then tries to Break Free. Halve the rat's adjusted ST for no gripping hands: ST 0.0125.

Now give the rat the grappler's +50% bonus to prevent Break Free, but also multiply the beast's modified ST by x2/3 for a foe one Size level smaller. The rat stays at ST 0.0125.

The rat's pin affords him rat a puny ST bonus of 0.05 lbs. / 30 = 0.00166 from weight. This isn't reduced for the Size difference.

The Contest becomes microhuman Load ST 0.012 vs rat Load ST 0.014. That's good enough to roll as 12 vs 14.


For ST 10, 150 lb. humans, all these wrestling rules lead to the same numbers found in GURPS' rules.

But implications differ for Giants and microhumans. A Giant pinned by a bigger Giant might as well give up; even a "little" Ogre's weight is a burden for a bigger Giant. Big creatures are just plain heavy, even to each other.

On the other hand, little creatures are relatively strong for their weight, and the added body weight of another microhuman – or even a much bigger rat – doesn't hinder a pinned microhuman much at all. Strength and skill are what you need to pin a foe in the tiny world; you can't just go for "the sit".

Judo Throws

Martial arts myths aside, taking down an opponent with judo is a mundane matter of applying sufficient force against a resisting mass. "Using your foe's strength against him" is a nifty-sounding phrase that perpetuates an image of big size as a hindrance in the martial arts, but the truth is that strength and size are benefits in judo, just as in any other wrestling. Competitive judoka tend to be big, strong people. Judo competitions have to resort to weight classes, as in most other contact sports, to give smaller grapplers a chance.

Of course, a skilled judoka is an athlete who controls his power and inertia, as prestigious as they may already be. Overgrown street brawlers don't necessarily have that finesse, and that's where the myths find some root in reality.

Below are rules for a non-cinematic treatment of judo throws, where power does matter. Treat a judo throw as any other takedown, based on a Contest of ST. However, the judoka has some tricks up his gi sleeve. Before the Contest of ST comes the judo throw roll from BS p. 51:

Contest of Skill

Roll a Contest of Skill: the thrower's Judo vs the defender's balance, Judo, Wrestling, or Sumo Wrestling. The judoka takes penalties for positive encumbrance, and -1 per level of Size difference, whether larger or smaller. Also adjust for number of arms as per grapples, but at -3 (i.e., -3 for one, +0 for two, etc.).

The defender takes all penalties for balance, including encumbrance.

The judoka gains a +4 on skill at this point with an All-Out Attack. The defender should be allowed +4 to resist with an All-Out Defense (as his only defense that turn); see All-Out Defense in Close Combat.

Sutemi waza: The judoka drops to the ground, along with (he hopes) the target. Game as an AOA, with an additional +2 skill for the sacrifice technique. The judoka also receives a bonus on the takedown Contest of ST, as mentioned in those rules, of (full weight)/50, before "fixing".


Okay, you went for the throw. Make note of whether you won the Contest or not, and whether you made your skill roll or not.

Did you both fail the Judo roll and lose the Contest of Skill? Sorry, you tried to do something fancy, and did nothing instead. Turn's over.

Did you fail the Judo roll but still win the Contest of Skill? Poor technique, but you didn't freeze up. Proceed to the Contest of ST for a normal takedown; you get no special bonus for your Judo skill.

Did you make the Judo roll but still lose the Contest of Skill? Nice technique, but the foe was quicker. Proceed to the Contest of ST for a normal takedown; you get no special bonus for your Judo skill.

Did you both make the Judo roll and win the Contest of Skill? Good move! You can try for an actual throw, not just a takedown. By how many points did you succeed on the smaller of those successes? Your bonus on the takedown Contest of ST will be twice that level of success.

Takedown Contest of ST

Use the detailed rule for a takedown, which brings weight into play: the heavier foe gets a (weight difference in lbs. / 10) bonus to Load ST.

Adjust your ST for number of hands. Next, "fix" the Contest.

If you earlier succeeded on both the Judo roll and the Contest of Skill, now add its takedown bonus to your ST.

Roll the Contest of ST. If you lose it, your foe's still standing. If you win, you take down or throw him. On a tie, the foe is standing but is off-balance – that'll make your next throw attempt much easier if he doesn't recover!

Example: You have ST 14 and Judo 12. You parry a smaller, ST 10 foe and go to throw him.

First roll your Judo vs his balance or appropriate skill. Say you make your roll by 2 and win the Contest by 3; the smaller success, 2, is what matters. Your takedown bonus is twice that success, or +4. Throw!

The throw itself is a takedown Contest of ST, 14 vs 10. Say you have a 20-lb. weight advantage; that's another +2, for 16 vs 10.

The Contest is already "fixed", with the smaller foe at 10. All that's left to do is add your +4 takedown bonus, for 20 vs 10. Roll it and throw him hard.

Example: This time you're up against a much stronger, bigger foe. Without detailing stats here, the Contest of ST, after "fixing", looks like 10 (you) vs 16 (him)!

You launch a judo throw. You roll a Contest of your Judo vs the foe's skill – but blow the Judo roll and lose the Contest. Nothing happens; turn's up.

On your next turn, you make the Judo roll but lose the Contest of Skill. You can continue with a regular Contest of ST to make the takedown, but the foe wins as expected and remains standing.

On your next turn, you fail the Judo roll but win the Contest of Skill. Results are the same as above: you can continue with a regular Contest of ST to make the takedown, which you'll likely lose.

Time to get smart. You wait for the foe to throw a clumsy punch, helping you in the Contest of Skill, and launch an All-Out Attack with your throw. This time you make your Judo roll by 7, and win the Contest of Skill by 8. The smaller number, 7, is your degree of success. Your takedown bonus is twice that, or +14.

The Contest of ST was already been "fixed" to get 10 vs 16; with the bonus, it's 24 (you) vs 16 (him). Roll that Contest!

The example shows that you can take down a big foe with judo, but it's no longer the "make the roll and take down anything" ability from BS. Throws become more difficult: instead of just a Contest of Skill (or a skill roll and defense in BS), you need to also succeed on a Contest of ST. Judo can help a lot, but power does matter.

Judo pin

Once the foe is down, you can make a "judo pin" using these same rules: use your Judo skill to improve your odds in a Contest of ST to make a pin.

Advanced rules

Add more detail as you like. Martial Arts added an ability to injure the foe with the throw. A suggested revision: you can add base punching damage (without bonuses from Karate, etc.) to the throw only if your degree of success in both the Contest of Skill and Contest of ST is 5 or more.

Arm Locks

These rules make one substantial change from GURPS: anyone can make a lock even without Arm Lock skill, using brute force in a Contest of ST. Overcoming the foe requires you to overpower him; skill just makes it much easier.

Mirroring the above judo rules, this non-cinematic treatment of arm locks lets skilled wrestlers first initiate a Contest of Skill, which may give the attacker more leverage in the following Contest of ST.

Contest of Skill

If you don't have Arm Lock skill, grapple a limb and then skip to the Contest of ST below to start twisting.

Otherwise, first parry or grapple the foe's arm, and roll a Contest of Skill: your Arm Lock vs the better of the target's DX, Judo, or Wrestling. Take a +4 on skill at this point with an All-Out Attack. The defender should be allowed +4 to resist with an All-Out Defense (as his only defense that turn); see All-Out Defense in Close Combat.

Also give the locker -1 per level of Size difference, whether larger or smaller. And unlike takedowns, the target takes only half balance penalties on his roll.


Make note of whether you won the Contest or not, and whether you made your skill roll or not.

Did you both fail the Arm Lock roll and lose the Contest of Skill? You did nothing. Turn's over.

Did you fail the Arm Lock roll but still win the Contest of Skill? Poor technique, but at least you tried. Proceed to the Contest of ST below; you get no special bonus.

Did you make the Arm Lock roll but still lose the Contest of Skill? Nice try, but the foe was slippery. Proceed to the Contest of ST below; you get no special bonus.

Did you both make the Arm Lock roll and win the Contest of Skill? Wrench! By how many points did you succeed on the smaller of those successes? Your bonus on the lock Contest of ST will be twice that level of success.

Lock Contest of ST

Adjust your ST for number of hands, per takedowns. The defender uses full ST. Weight doesn't matter in Arm Locks; no bonus there. "Fix" the Contest.

If you earlier made your Arm Lock roll and won the Contest of Skill, add twice the above degree of success to your ST in the Contest.

Roll the Contest of ST; if you win, your foe's in the lock.

Breaking free: An attempt to Break Free is also a Contest of ST, preceded by the Contest of Skill as above. With the lock in place, though, the locker's Arm Lock roll is at +4 in the Contest of Skill, and the victim is at x2/3 ST in the Contest of ST.

Example: You grab Big Louie's arm and twist. You have ST 10 with a 20% ST bonus from Wrestling skill, or ST 12, but you're using only one hand, so that's ST 8. Louie has ST 12. The "fixed" Contest is 10 (you) vs 15 (Louie).

But before that, you can initiate a Contest of Skill. Roll your Arm Lock vs Louie's DX or appropriate skill. If you miss the roll or lose the Contest (but not both), you can still struggle for the lock. But at 10 vs 15, your chances in the Contest of ST are poor.

Say you did well in the Contest of Skill, making the Arm Lock roll by 3 and winning the Contest by 5. The smaller number, 3, is your degree of success. Your bonus in the lock Contest of ST is 6. Roll 16 vs 15 – you've got a fair chance of locking him.

Finger locks

Finger locks use the same rules as arm locks, using the Finger Lock maneuver. Reduce the target's ST by 20% in the Contest of ST, as you're manhandling fingers and not a whole strong arm.

Slams and Pushes

A slam is running into a foe, with the intent of knocking him down. GURPS has simple rules on BS p. 112.

The detailed rules below are Book 6's collision rules applied to bodies. Slams will usually be "powered" collisions, so participants will hit with a combination of weight and ST. Take note of the option that turns the mechanical collision rules into a Contest; it's the same collision system with a more fun, roll-based outcome.


First make that DX roll to hit, as BS suggests. General TH modifiers should apply. Certain skills may be used in place of DX, as outlined below. Be creative with critical misses; cracking skulls is a dangerous possibility.


Each side has a mass that adds to slamming power. ST helps too; a charging linebacker differs from a crusing billiard ball in that he keeps pushing forward throughout the collision.

Let ST add to a character's effective mass for collision purposes – i.e., a powered object slams with the equivalent force of a heavier, unpowered object. Load ST x 10 lbs. works well.

Effective mass for slam purposes = mass + (Load ST x 10 lbs.)

In aerial or aquatic slams, use flight/swimming thrust instead of Load ST. (These are Load ST by default, but can differ.)

Defender ST: A defender can also add Load ST x 10 to effective mass, just like the slammer – but only half Load ST if stunned or off-guard, and none if unable to resist at all (completely surprised, paralyzed, etc.).

Example: In a slam, Marcus "Steamroller" O'Hare's pumping, treelike legs let his Load ST 15 act like another 150 lbs. on top of his body's 230 lbs. His target, though, not only weighs 98 lbs., but is stunned from fear, halving his Load ST 8 to Load ST 4. Treat as a collision between 230 + 150 = 380 lbs. vs 98 + 40 = 138 lbs.


Each target will have a speed, including a stationary target (Move 0). You can slam at any time, even without a full run – against a face-to-face opponent, just Step and Attack. Your Step distance is your speed.

A target can move toward the attacker to resist the slam. If there isn't time to meet the slammer at a full-fledged run, any defender with a moment to react (i.e., normal ability to defend) and unused Move should be able to take a Step toward the attacker.

Add the two speeds to get net speed. If your Move is 8 and your target's is 0, net speed is 8. If the target runs toward you at Move 5, net speed is 13. If he's running away at Move 5, net speed is Move 3.

Speed change

On a hit, turn to the collision rules in Book 6. The system splits net speed based on each side's effective mass, determining the speed change of each side, and the new speed they both share. Get familiar enough with the rules so you can wing quick results in the heat of combat. Eyeball it; exactness doesn't count.

Example: You slam into an unmoving foe, twice as massive as you, at 15 yards per second. Expected speed changes are 10 yards per second for you, 5 for him; you now both share a speed of 5 yards per second, you in your original direction, your foe in his rear direction.

Example: Look at the above example with "Steamroller". You can break out the calculator, but quick eyeballing shows Marcus has almost three times the target's effective mass (i.e., three-fourths of their combined mass). Marcus carries on at three-fourths his impact speed, and his hapless target flies backward at the same speed.

Example: If the above defender kept his wits about himself, he could use full effective mass of 98 + 80 = 178, and take a Step (let's say Move 2; he's fast!) toward Marcus. Marcus would have twice the effective mass of the target, for a x1/3 and x2/3 split in speed change.

Say Marcus' Move is 4; combined speed becomes 6. Marcus' speed changes by 2, slowing him to Move 2. The little guy's speed changes by 4, sending him from Move 2 forward to Move 2 backward.

Use common sense with relative sizes and the point of impact in a slam: a triceratops with its head low can easily slam a human, but a human can't slam a Leprechaun. (It'd be more of a punt, actually...)

Don't use any special adjustments for Skinny or Fat characters. Mass is already an integral part of these rules.

Option for speed change: Contests of ST

It's more fun to roll dice to account for ST, instead of using effective mass to mechanistically determine results. You can easily rework the whole procedure above into a Contest of ST.

Run slams as a Contest of effective mass – which is the same as a Contest of Load ST + (mass / 10).

"Fix" the Contest and roll.

The above reworks "effective mass", dividing by 10 to get something that looks more like what gamers expect (ST plus some bonus).

After "fixing", adjust the Contest of ST for shields, as GURPS suggests, but not for movement (already an integral part of the collision rules) or for rear slams (just use half or no Load ST for an unaware target).

Split speed change as below, based on degree of success:

Slam Contest Table

degree of success

loser's speed change

winner's speed change

less than 10



10 - 19



20 - 29



30 - 49



50 - 99






Note that combined speed is split unequally only if one side wins by a considerable amount – but that'll be common, given varied Load ST stats and masses, and the added randomness of the dice.

Example: From the earlier example, "Steamroller" O'Hare's Contest value is Load ST 15 + (230 lbs. / 10) = 38. The stunned target's Contest value is Load ST 4 + (98 lbs. / 10) = 14. "Fixing" the Contest yields 10 vs 27 in Steamroller's favor.

Say Steamroller wins by 20, and hits the stationary target at Move 4. The little guy takes on x3/4 of that speed, flying back at Move 3; Steamroller loses x1/4, continuing ahead at Move 3.

A win by less than 10 would mean neither side had an overwhelming advantage in force. Say Steamroller rams a much larger (and braver) target, "Bulldozer" Jackson, at Move 4; the charging 'Dozer is in turn slamming Steamroller at Move 6. If neither side wins the Contest by 10 or better, the combined speed of 10 is split evenly, for a change of Move 5 to each slammer. O'Hare will roll backward at Move 1; the faster Jackson dozes ahead at Move 1.

Advanced note: For the numbers geek, here's how the system works: For any degree of success, X, let Y = (X/10) + 1. The loser's speed change = (Y/(Y+1)), and the winner's = (1 - loser's speed change). If both sides roll exactly 10, this yields the same results as mechanistic calculation of collision results.

The Table simplifies the system, grouping results into a handful of easy-to-use ranges and rounding any degree of success over 99 to no speed change for the winner.

Falling and trampling

So far, neither of you is knocked down. See Knockback above to fix that. The sudden speed change of a slam can cause you to fall down. The greater the change, the harder it will be for you to stay on your feet.

If you're using the Contest of ST rules, significant speed change can cause either side to fall, regardless of who won the Contest. But apply an automatic -4 to the loser's balance roll.

If your target's knocked down and you're not, and you're at least as large as him, you run right over him. Trample! See the notes below under Weight and Damage.

Slam damage

If you want to consider damage from a slam, the collision rules do the job again. Damage will be reduced for yielding surfaces, if the combatants are made of normal flesh. And a slam involving targets of similar size will be blunt and spread over a fairly wide area, for a further HP/4 damage subtraction.

Still, high-speed slams can be dangerous! And with ST involved, be sure you use the higher effective masses from the rules above when calculating damage from the collision rules – i.e., treat the mass of each participant as mass + (Load ST x 10 lbs.). Putting muscle into the slam means both sides are more likely to end up hurt.

Example: In the above, Steamroller's effective mass, with bonus from ST, is 380 lbs. Say Bulldozer's is about the same.

Each suffered speed change of Move 5, or 10 mph; turning to Book 6, that's a base 1d damage each. Multiply that by the square root of (380/150), or about 1.6, and multiply by 1 for surface hardness (i.e., flesh). The result: each side takes about 1d+2 damage, but also absorbs HP/4 points (probably 3 points). Injury is possible, though not certain.

Flying tackles

A flying tackle may give you extra distance with an attack, as per BS p. 113 – say, half your height, or a yard for a human. The tackler automatically falls down.

The attacker needs to roll TH to slam; success by 4 or more should result in both a slam and a successful grapple. The defender may try to Dodge, though the attacker's outspread arms should count as a large weapon, making the Dodge difficult.

From there, instead of the BS notes, use the slam rules above. The goal of the tackler will be to make the target fall down; see Falling Down.

If the tackle is centered on the target's legs, halve the target's mass and ST to determine the results of the slam (this greatly benefits the tackler). But then halve any speed change of the target's – he's likely to keep moving forward and over the tackler, rather than flying backward! The attack on the legs will also give the target a -2 or worse on balance rolls.

Defensive tackle: You may be able to use this same maneuver to trip up a charging attacker. Use a Wait maneuver or an Active Defense (GM willing) to Step, kneel, and tackle the slammer as he runs into you. With any luck, he'll fly over you and onto his face. The GM can rule that you don't automatically fall in this tackle; you remain kneeling, unless the collision results indicate that you fall.

Pushing and shoving

A push here is a thrust outward with your arms, or it could be a shoulder against the target, pushing hard with legs. Start with a grapple, DX, or unarmed combat skill roll to set yourself against a target. Now push.

Use the slam rules to determine results; the Contest of ST option works well. Adjust ST for limbs used. The difference from a slam is that you start a push in contact with the target, and then accelerate it.

Speed: For simplicity, set the speed of a push, Ps, at Move 2. The attacker will likely add to that with his Step; chances are an aware target will also resist with a Step! All these added together make net speed.

Results: With Ps in hand, determine results as for a slam. Unless you've got an overwhelming advantage, you may push yourself backward! (Don't forget a Step to help out here.)

Distance traveled and falling down are covered under Knockback.

Damage: As a push involves accelerating a target to Ps, rather than abrupt impact, damage is normally not an issue.

Advanced rules: Detailed rules would take into account that you have to accelerate the target, much like throwing, over a given distance (limited by your size). The lighter of the two masses is the target mass; a push acts against the pusher as well as the target.

Borrowing from rules for the speed of a jump (Js) or throw (Ts) to arrive at Ps is realistic, though likely too involved for quick play. For the interested, here's an attempt:

The speed of a push, Ps, is the lower of

square root of (pusher's Load ST x Linear Scale x 100 / the lighter of the two effective masses)
square root of (pusher's Speed x Linear Scale x 10)

where Ps is in yards per second. Adjust for limbs used. However, Load ST here should not receive a bonus for weight. Mass, on the other hand, should receive a bonus for ST (i.e., add Load ST x 10 lbs.).

As above, each combatant might also add a Step to Ps if able, increasing combined speed.

Note that Ps is slow – it's pushing, not throwing. Complications like arm mass are ignored for simplicity. But unlike throwing, you get to ignore arm lift limitations – you can only only throw as much as you can lift (if that), but you can try to push any mass.

Pushing "enhancements", like the equivalents for jumping and throwing, are possible, though difficult to imagine.

For a couple of average humans, Ps will be about 2, before Steps. With equal effective masses, that Ps gets split evenly; each will move away from the other at about Move 1.

Example: "Steamroller" takes a Step and shoves "Mountain" Myers (who used a Step on his last action; the GM rules that Myers can't Step forward now). Steamroller's stats are Load ST 15, mass 230 lbs., and Move 4; Mountain is Load ST 16 and mass 310 lbs. If both gentlemen use full ST, effective masses are 380 lbs. and 470, respectively.

Ps is the square root of (Load ST 15 x 1 x 100 / 380 (the lighter effective mass) = about 2. Adding Steamroller's Step of Move 4 x 1/5 = 0.8, there's a Ps of 2.8 to be divided between the two.

With the speed of "collision" determined, apply slam rules from there. Using mechanistic collision rules, the effective masses are close enough that Mountain takes only a little less speed change; it'd be easy to rule off-the-cuff that Mountain's speed change is 1.3 and Steamroller's is 1.5. Mountain goes from Move 0 to a little over Move 1 backward; Steamroller goes from Move 0.8 forward (his Step) to under Move 1 backward. Both risk falling.

Using the Contest of ST rules, Contest values are Load ST 15 + (230/10) = 38, vs Load ST 16 + (310/10) = 47. That "fixes" to roughly 10 vs 12. Neither side is likely to win decisively; again, Ps will be split fairly equally.

Skills for slamming and pushing

Skills can aid slams and pushes, effectively increasing ST, aiding in grapples, etc. See Notes on Unarmed Combat Skills below.

Inanimate targets

All of the rules above work when you try to move an inanimate object with a push or slam. The target doesn't actively resist, so gets no Load ST bonus to its mass in the collision.

You can even use the Contest of ST rules: you'll get to use Load ST + (mass in lbs. / 10); the target will get to use (mass in lbs. / 10) only, as it has no Load ST. "Fix" and roll.

For targets with big, hard-to-move bases, friction will make any movement very difficult. Details are beyond the scope of these rules, but you can rule that a certain effective mass is needed to budge the target at all; use only remaining effective mass beyond that amount to determine how much the target moves.

Tall objects, though, can sometimes be tipped over with relatively little force. BS p. 89 suggests you can knock over an object of up to Load ST x25 lbs. with a push, twice that with a slam, though shape will greatly affect the results. Again, details are up to you.

Advanced rule: traction

Book 6's collision rules have an option for traction, which limits the bonus from ST in a powered collision. There's only so much extra oomph your feet can provide in a slam or push; beyond that, they simply slip.

If you have perfect (magical?) traction, you don't need to worry about the limit. With excellent traction (cleats on turf), your (Load ST x 10) bonus to mass is limited to your weight; with standard traction (shoes on pavement), to your weight x1/2; with almost no traction (street shoes on ice), your weight x1/10.

Example: On pavement, Steamroller's effective mass in a slam or push is 230 lbs. plus a bonus of the lower of (Load ST x 10) and (weight x1/2). The latter is lower; effective mass is 230 lbs. + 115 lbs. = 345 lbs.

Using the Contest of ST rules, your Load ST is limited to weight x1/10 for excellent traction, weight x1/20 for standard traction, weight x1/100 for almost no traction, etc.

Example: Using the Contest of ST rules, Steamroller gets his full Load ST 15 + (230 lbs. / 10) = 38, as a Contest value with excellent traction. With only standard traction, the Load ST he can put into a slam or push is limited to mass / 20 = 11.5; rounding that up, his Contest value is Load ST 12 + (230 lbs. / 10) = 35.

Choking and Crushing

GURPS' rules for choking compare ST to HT, and so don't work outside the human ST range. They guarantee that two Giants will strangle each other in an instant while two Pixies throttle each other all day without effect.

The Contest

It's better to roll ST vs HP, since they'll often be roughly equal. Better yet, roll ST vs ST – it's the victim's neck muscles that keep his larynx from being crushed. HP still comes into play as the damage the victim can endure, and HT affects both HP and how quickly a character suffocates. A Contest of ST lets all these relevant factors determine the outcome of the attack.

Adjust your ST for number of hands, using x2/3 ST for only one hand and full ST for two. For multi-armed stranglers, many hands make light work, adding +10% ST per additional hand. (Be reasonable with how many hands can fit on a neck.)

If the choker is small, his hands won't "fit" the neck well; reduce Load ST as described earlier.

If the choker is bigger, his hands will really wrap around the victim's neck. Reduce the victim's neck ST by 20% for resistance purposes if the choker is one Size level or more larger, or by 10% if the size difference is less but still noticeable: a strangler with Gigantism throttling a normal man, a normal man choking a smallish or skinny fellow, etc.

Reduce the victim's ST to x2/3 if unconscious.


BS p. 122 says choking can cause a victim to pass out from suffocation, before a crushed windpipe causes serious or fatal injury. But this will never happen under GURPS' rules, as damage always accrues as fast as or faster than suffocation. With improved rules, it should be possible to squeeze just hard enough to cut off air and blood flow, without fatally crushing the throat. In other words, the following results should be possible on the dice: 1) no effect; 2) suffocation without damage; and 3) suffocation with damage:

Roll a Contest of ST each turn until the victim Breaks Free. The results:

Those are modest damage amounts, but remember that crushing damage to the throat is multiplied by x1.5!


You can use the same rules for garrotes, replacing the GURPS rules. Give the victim an automatic 20% reduction in neck ST (the garrote acts like giant hands), and the attacker an extra (skill x 2%) ST for the leverage offered by the tool. Now roll the attack, using the rules above.

Bear hugs

If you can choke with your arms instead of just hands, add 50% to your effective ST. That lets you use your whole ST with one arm, or ST +50% with two arms.

Normally, a foe's neck is too small to make this possible. But an arm or two arms fit fine around the torso of a foe your size. Take the above ST bonus, but also give the squeezed party +50% ST to resist – a torso is much stouter than a neck. Also adjust for relative size as above.

Given the throat's vulnerability to crushing, normal choking – two hands on the neck – remains the preferred method for most stranglers. But big types still enjoy the bear hug, as it can keep the foe's arms held tight (and is just plain fun).

To add an advantage to bear hugs, let your victim take an extra second's worth of suffocation for every full three points by which you win the choking Contest. Choking the throat only keeps air from coming in, while constricting the torso actually forces air out! (This may or may not be realistic, but it's fun.)

You can't effectively bear hug a foe who's much bigger than you – but if he's three 3 Size levels or so larger, you may be able to bear hug his neck just fine!

Choke holds

A Choke Hold (MA p. 45) lets you use arms to choke and hold a foe. Roll against that skill to set the hold, and follow up with the choking rules above. One arm lets you use your whole ST, like a bear hug. You can use two arms, though the neck is too small a target for you to get the full benefit of the second arm: use ST +30% (derived from the +3 ST bonus in the MA description).

The Choke Hold is both powerful and very hard to break out of. You already have a +50% ST bonus (as the grappler) in your foe's Contest to Break Free. Tweaking the MA rules, you can now add another +50% ST for the Choke Hold to prevent escape!


GURPS allows a constriction attack that costs a lot of points but doesn't confer any particular advantage over plain choking. To fix this, use the same choking rules but double the constrictor's ST in Contests to choke a target or prevent it from Breaking Free. That makes constriction attacks more powerful than bear hugs and choke holds.

Adjust your ST for limbs used. Treat a constricting body as the equal of two arms. With two arms or a whole snaky body, you have double ST in Contests; with one arm, reduce that to x2/3 (i.e., net ST +33%).

See bear hugs above for extra suffocation when squeezing a torso. Unlike bear hugs, constriction could also be used against the neck of a foe your size.


To crush a hand or beer can, use the choking rules. Remember that you use only ST x2/3 when you crush with one hand.

Choking is just crushing. A hand resists with full ST. So does a neck, though damage is multiplied by x1.5. A torso resists with +50% ST. Solid stuff – like a leg or arm – resists with double ST. There are no snapping ribs, collapsing larynx, or delicate hand bones in there, just solid meat and bone which resist compression very well. Obviously, squeezing a hand or arm won't suffocate anyone either.

An aluminum beer can resists crushing with ST 4; a steel can, ST 10. Good luck pulverizing rocks in your bare hands!

Gator wrestling

If you're tired of annoying dragon breath, clamp those jaws shut. The beast might be able to pull free or shake you off, but until then, can he open his mouth? Roll a Contest of ST: your ST using the choking rules above, versus his jaw ST (by default the same as his normal ST, but may differ).

However, as every alligator wrestler knows, the muscles that open jaws are weak, and a long snout gives a grappler excellent leverage. For 1 to 5 levels of the dragon's Large Mouth (probably 4 or 5 levels; see Book 3), multiply his jaw ST by x2/3, x1/2, x1/3, x1/5, or x1/7, respectively. Whether he explodes from backfire is up to the GM's kindness . . .


Who else but gamers... First, have your strongman PC grapple the appropriate parts to be "worked on". Roll a Contest of ST. Adjust your ST for limbs used, but note that you need to be able to pull in at least two directions.

Use the choking rules to determine damage to the limb, based on the results of the Contest: the attacker inflicts half thust damage to the limb if he wins by 3 or 4, and thrust damage if he wins by 5 or more.

Toughness protects fully; DR protects with half its value. More importantly, subtract the limb's HP from damage rolled. In other words, you'll need to inflict a lot of damage to hurt a limb by pulling, and even more damage to tear it off.

Accumulated damage can cripple. Damage in one turn of twice crippling damage will remove the limb on a failed HT roll; damage in one turn of four times crippling damage will remove the limb automatically.

Don't let Mom catch you reading this stuff.

All-Out Attacks in Close Combat

GURPS denies humans (but not animals) the All-Out Attack maneuver in close combat, noting that close combat is "almost 'all-out' anyway". Yet a person in "all-out" close combat can dodge and parry just as nimbly as combatants at arm's length, which suggests otherwise.

BS p. 113 says All-Out Attack requires "a degree of planning and coordination that is almost impossible when you are nose-to-nose with your opponent." However, All-Out Attack is usually used to represent just the opposite of planning and coordination. Says p. 105: "This is the berserker's maneuver – the complete attack, with no thought to defense."

Those are contradictory stances on what AOA is. Further, allowing the maneuver based on "animal" as opposed to "human" status is tricky in a game in which one can be a werewolf, a mouselike Cidi, or even an actual intelligent "animal". Which of these can make All-Out Attacks, if any?

GULLIVER's suggestion: GMs should not only allow All-Out Attacks in close combat, they should encourage PCs to use them! Close combat should be what BS (on one hand) says it is: flurries of blows and rib-cracking poundings, not the cautious parry-and-dodge of normal combat. Close combat cries for an AOA free-for-all!

AOA in unarmed combat

In addition to the usual application of AOA, you could allow an unarmed combatant to receive a +4 on DX-based Contests to make grapples, pushes, pins, slams, etc., or add +33% to Load ST for such purposes.

However, just as any use of AOA removes Active Defenses for the turn, it should reduce ability to resist unarmed combat attacks. Take a -4 on any defensive DX-based Contests (such as that to avoid a grapple or resist a judo throw) for the rest of the turn, and halve Load ST to resist any takedown, push, pin, slam, etc. initiated by the foe.

All-Out Defenses in Close Combat

There's no reason why All-Out Defense with Parries, Blocks, and Dodges shouldn't work normally in close combat. GULLIVER says allow 'em.

AOD in unarmed combat

For wrestling actions, let a fighter who concentrates only on resisting takedowns, pushes, pins, slams, etc. use All-Out Defense to gain a +4 on DX-based Contests (such as that to avoid a grapple or resist a judo throw), or +33% Load ST. He may not perform any offensive attacks or wrestling moves that turn, including Breaking Free.

Other Actions in Close Combat

In general, any foe in your hex, tiny or huge, is in close combat with you for purposes of weapon use. You'll suffer the standard TH penalties for using weapons in close combat; it's just not easy to use a sword at very close range.

But does the foe in your hex "hamper" you, making actions like Feint, Aim, Concentrate and Wait impossible? Here size, not proximity alone, is key. If the foe's much weaker than you – say, one-fifth your Load ST or less – and isn't chewing your kidneys, shooting sonic blasts, or otherwise making your day miserable, then you aren't hampered and can freely use those maneuvers. It's a GM call.

Unarmed Combat Skills

Skills and Encumbrance

MA p. 129 goes into detail on how the stances and quick movements of martial arts make encumbrance a major hindrance, but fails to suggest game effects.

GULLIVER suggests:

Apply the Half modifier for positive encumbrance to specialized martial arts skills.

The include the skills Fencing, Karate, Judo, Main Gauche, Katana, all combat art or sport skills, dynamic combat skills like Flying Leap, possibly Short Staff and Tonfa, and any others you like. All of these can be used with any level of encumbrance, but will take a penalty.

This gives PC martial artists a real incentive to avoid heavy armor. It's more flexible than ruling that Judo, Fencing etc. work fine with up to Light encumbrance but don't work at all thereafter. And it balances these powerful skills against their simpler hack'n'slash cousins (Brawling, Knife, Broadsword, etc.), which invariably have inferior damage and defensive capabilities.

So feel free to toss Karate kicks while loaded with treasure and bodies – just don't expect to hit often, or keep your balance when you miss. (Strict GMs will have the skill penalty affect martial artists' damage bonuses, defenses, etc. as well!)

Realistically, the penalties would apply to Boxing, Wrestling, and even Sumo Wrestling, as anyone knows who has watched 600-lb. Konishiki in the sumo ring. The same weight also adds big advantages under close combat rules, so it's a double-edged sword: the weight increases your raw power, but decreases your ability to utilize speed, balance and technique.

In any case, low weight should not make you a more skilled martial artist – no bonuses to any of the above skills for negative encumbrance!

Skill, ST, and Damage

How should Karate and other skill-based damage bonuses scale with size? That is, should a HP 3 Cidi really gain +3 damage on punches for his Boxing-15 (sort of the equivalent of a human adding 10 points of damage to a punch!), and should the 12d punch of a Super brick also gain only +3?

Turn damage modifiers into percentage bonuses, not absolute ones. The correct percentage depends on the effect you want – or the effects you don't want. In GURPS, the bonus from a little Karate skill multiplies damage tremendously in low-power punches. Karate-10 more than triples average punch damage at ST 10, and even a laughable Karate-5 roughly doubles average damage. You may like that effect, or you may want a more mild one.

But whatever the choice, it's not easy to roll your basic damage and add 40% or whatever, every time. For that reason, it's better to let skill add some percentage to effective Combat ST, not to damage, and compute your damage score from that. You only need to figure the bonus once, not with every punch.

The suggestion:

Let Karate and Boxing add 10% to Combat ST per skill level above 10, to determine unarmed striking damage.

Let Brawling add 5% to Combat ST per skill level above 10.

Figure thrust damage from this effective Combat ST (and remember that a punch does thrust -2 damage).

Example: You have ST 10 and Karate-15. Figure punching damage as if you had ST 15: thrust damage is 1d+1, so a punch does 1d-1.

That happens to be the same damage the GURPS rules hand out for this combination of ST and skill, but note a big difference overall: your punches don't become deadly until you gain considerable experience. No more doubling your damage for Karate-5!

You can tweak the above percentage values to your liking, but they seem to work pretty well as is.

Giant brawlers

Yes, the above allows Giant kareteka to double their already-impressive damage, by throwing Karate-20 punches – and who's to say that it's not possible? But at the same time, penalties to Karate and similar "finesse" skills for encumbrance will limit the benefit that ponderous Giants gain from Tae Kwon Do training.

Maneuver damage bonuses

What about damage bonuses for specific attacks – the +2 damage of a Shin Kick or Springing Attack over ordinary attacks, the -1 damage of a Knee Strike compared to a normal kick, etc.? You can leave these as are, though of course that won't scale neatly over the range of Cidi to Giants.

Otherwise, turn them into percentage modifiers as well: let each +/-1 add +/-20% to effective ST. That lets a Shin Kick do normal kicking damage, but computed from your Combat ST plus an additional 40%. A Knee Strike also does normal kicking damage, based on 80% of your Combat ST. And so on.

Skill and DX

The rule that lets Wrestling, Sumo Wrestling, and Judo replace DX in close combat is fine, and works at any size. But letting these skills replace ST doesn't work, for reasons GULLIVER's harped on enough already. The same with DX-based maneuvers like Retain Weapon – it's appropriate to let the ability increase ST by some percentage, but not replace ST.

Judo skill can replace DX in rolls involving grapples, takedowns, pins, breaking free, evasion, and throws. Karate and Boxing generally won't replace DX for such wrestling-related moves, except where indicated by specific maneuvers. Notes on other skills are compiled below.

Notes on Unarmed Combat Skills

Below are some comments on GURPS skills, including reworkings. Many skills provide an automatic Load ST bonus for certain combat actions. Replace this with a skill roll if you prefer: each point of success adds the appropriate amount to Load ST.


A revised damage bonus from Brawling is suggested above: add 5% to Combat ST per skill level above 10, for striking purposes.

Brawling with panache: Although Brawling is the red-haired cousin of flashier skills like Karate, the difference in skill difficulty saves a character as many as 16 points at a given high level.

Brawling is eligible for a lot of maneuvers: Agressive Parrying Kick, Axe Kick, Ear Clap, Eye-Gouging, Face Attacks, Feint, Ground Fighting, Head Butt, Hit Location, Kicking, Knee Strike, Rabbit Punch, Roundhouse Punch, Stamp Kick, Yawara, Acrobatic Kick, Fighting While Seated, and Flying Jump Kick. Spending 16 points on a choice selection of those will provide a nasty surprise for smug karateka.


Wrestling adds a skill bonus to effective ST in some Contests. As with skill and damage bonuses earlier, it makes more sense to use percentage rather than absolute bonuses, such as a +10% bonus wherever the GURPS rules would allow a +1 bonus.

But GULLIVER will recommend a variant of the earlier suggestion for damage bonuses from skill:

Let each skill level of Wrestling over 10 add 5% to Load ST to perform or resist takedowns, pins, arm locks, and breaking free.

Also let the skill replace DX in any rolls related to performing or resisting those actions.

Why doesn't Judo gain the same effective ST bonuses? Probably because the skill covers so many other things: throws, parries, and tons of new maneuvers in Martial Arts that make the skill arguably too powerful as it is. Lowlier wrestlers deserve some bonus for the time they don't divert to those side pursuits! Judoka still get their fare share in these rules.

Sumo Wrestling

Allow Sumo Wrestling to confer ST bonuses similar to Wrestling, but on a different set of abilities. Sumo wrestling doesn't make use of pins, for example, as a match ends as soon as one wrestler goes down.

Let each skill level of Sumo Wrestling over 10 add 5% to Load ST to perform or resist takedowns, breaking free (except from pins), slams, and pushes.

Also let the skill replace DX in any rolls related to performing or resisting those actions, or evading a slam. (Too much evasion is frowned upon in the dohyo, but it is a valid technique.)

Sumo actually incorporates a wide variety of techniques; good wrestlers should add Wrestling or Judo to their repertoire. These will enable the evasive moves, arm locks, trips, and occasional throws used in Sumo.

Drop CII's rule regarding 25-lb. increments of weight; the importance of weight in takedowns and pushes is already part of GULLIVER rules.

The traditions of sumo, unlike many other contact sports, call for no weight classes in competition – if you're half the weight of your opponent, you'll just have to fight that much better than he!


This is an esoteric martial skill (MA p. 40).

Let each skill level of Push over 10 add 10% to Load ST to perform pushes, slams, takedowns, pins, and throws.

Also let the skill replace DX in any rolls related to performing these actions.

At the GM's discretion, let an additional roll against Push double the knockback from the artist's pushes or slams!

Immovable Stance

The mysterious opposite of the above (MA p. 38).

Let each skill level of Immovable Stance over 10 add 10% to Load ST to resist pushes, slams, takedowns, pins, and throws.

Also let the skill replace DX in any rolls – including balance – related to resisting these actions.

At the GM's discretion, let an additional roll against Immovable Stance halve the knockback from any impact, including weapons!

Tackling and Blocking (new skill)

This is a hypothetical P/E skill used by players of rugby, American football, and other rough sports.

Let each skill level of Tackling and Blocking over 10 add 5% to Load ST to perform or resist takedowns, slams, evasion, and pushes.

Also let the skill replace DX in any rolls related to performing or resisting these actions.

Hand of Death, Kiai

See Book 8 notes on size and super abilities.


Most of the new skills and maneuvers from Martial Arts work fine regardless of the size of characters and adventures. The notes below cover a few special considerations:

Blinding Touch: Rule that the blow must be capable of doing damage of at least 10% HP to the target, even though it does no damage, to have its special effects. That prevents Cidi from blinding bears with a touch.

Pressure Points: Crippling a huge target should be difficult: use either the notes from Blinding Touch, or the shock rules from Book 6. With the latter, let a successful Contest between Pressure Points skill and target HT double the shock value of the damage. That makes the skill powerful, if not the right tool for crippling brontosauri.

If both skill roll and Contest succeed by 5 or more, you can treat a pulled punch as a non-pulled one for shock purposes.

Drop Kick: You might let this do regular kick damage, with additional damage coming from a weight bonus, as described below. Use (square root of weight) /5, rounded down, as the bonus. Also, the target can parry if you're small: just use the rules for parrying huge weapons, comparing weapon weight to the kicker's body weight, to determine whether a parry is possible.

You need to be able to high jump at least as high as the target area to make this kick!

Neck Snap: Base technique on DX (defaults to DX-4), not ST. Other effects are handled by ST.

Run the attack as per MA p. 53, with the following changes. Roll a Contest of Load ST; skill helps by adding 5% to Load ST per level of skill over 10. Base damage on the Choking rules, but using swing damage: attacker success in the Contest of ST by 3 or 4 inflicts half swing damage, success by 5 or more inflicts swing damage. Don't forget to multiply damage by x1.5 for the neck. Toughness subtracts from damage.

Retain Weapon: Skill replaces weapon skill or DX for any purpose related to holding on to weapon, but does not replace ST. Rather, let each skill level of Retain Weapon over 10 add 5% to Load ST in appropriate Contests.

Roundhouse Punch: As with Drop Kick, you could let this punch do standard punch damage with a bonus for body weight.

Eye-Gouging, Face Attacks: Book 6 attempts to bring various pain-related rules under one roof. With those rules, let eye gouges use a shock multiplier of x3, and face attacks a x2.

Stamp Kick: See notes below on weight and damage.

Flying Jump Kick: You can treat this as the Drop Kick above, except for the extra distance allowed.

Piledriver: Replace the given damage with regular punch damage. Add a Combat ST bonus from Wrestling skill, equivalent to that from Brawling, plus a damage bonus for body weight equal to that from Drop Kick above. Ouch!

Weight and Damage

GURPS generally ignores the effect of an attacker's weight on combat damage. That's fine with most players, so the below only considers a few special cases:

Scaling weight and damage

In situations where weight would affect damage, the trick is to match up the units of the two: pounds and damage points. Scaling damage modifications directly with weight works well when ST and HP scale with a creature's area. Unfortunately, it's overkill when ST and HP are scaled with linear dimension.

Since GULLIVER rules stick to the latter case, we'll use the square root of weight to dish out extra damage. Yes, that's ugly. But it won't come up often – and as always, you should wing it during play and reach for the calculator afterward, to prepare for the next game.


GURPS has rules on BS p.142. For a more generic rule, try this:

Trampling damage dice = (square root of trampler's weight) / 20.

Multiply damage for hardness of ground, per collisions. Damage is for a full turn of intentional trampling; halve damage when a trampler overruns a target and moves through.

Halve damage for feet softer than hooves (like most shoes), quarter it for soft, bare feet. Also halve damage if the trampling beast is merely annoyed ("I said no milking with cold hands!") and not actually angry, panicked, or charging.

The results are similar to the GURPS trampling table, but allow for damage at very low and high weights. A Giant can trample a fallen foe to good effect; a 2" microhuman jumping wildly atop another just might manage to tickle him.

Many animals will first slam for damage, then trample for more. Stay away from these.

Size differences: In general, a creature of any size can trample another. However, a small creature would have to climb up on top of a large one to "trample", and of course isn't likely to do any damage anyway.

You do need to be your foe's size or larger to overrun him – slamming, knocking down, and trampling him, all on the same turn. If you're 3 Size levels or more larger, the GM can remove the knockdown check and rule that you automatically overrun your foe on a successful slam.

Putting weight into attacks

Good fighters learn to put their weight behind blows. Karate, Boxing and Brawling skills gain damage bonuses from this – though those bonuses also reflect blow placement, speed, and possibly tricks like "twisting" the fist.

Because of this complexity, forget about isolating and recalculating the weight-based damage from these skill bonuses; let the bonuses stand as is. But you could allow attempts to further throw weight into any blow. Anybody could try this, skilled or not, barehanded or with hand weapons.

Call it an attack at -4. Your balance is reduced by 4 for the rest of the turn, and Active Defenses by 1. Make that -8 balance, -2 Active Defenses if you miss! Be careful – judo types love it when a foe hurls his all into a poorly aimed punch!.

A hit lets you add (square root of mass) /10 points of damage; round as appropriate.

A miss means trouble! Make a balance roll at +2; failure means you're off balance, or fall down if you miss by 3 or more.

Fighters using real combat skills (as opposed to DX-based default punches) can learn the above "Weighted Blows" as a separate Easy maneuver for each type of attack, buying off the attack and balance penalties. Just as with kicks, though, a miss can still make you fall.

Attacking downward

You can really put your weight into an attack when it's directed toward the ground. Think of jumping atop a dragon, sword pointed downward, and bearing down. Use the same rule but with only half the TH, balance, and defense penalties, and a damage bonus of (square root of weight) /7 points.

Depending on the attack, falling down might not be a problem (though you might sink your sword hilt-deep into the dirt if you miss). If it's a subdued foe and you don't need to worry about TH, put that sword in place, take an AOA for extra damage, and then add in the weight bonus. Ouch.


Martial Arts p. 56 has rules for stomps: a Stamp Kick usable against feet or fallen foes, and doing more damage than a regular kick. It's not quite the same as a trample, which gets all its damage from weight; it's a kick that combines damage from strength, skill, and weight.

Instead of the MA damage, you can game Stamp Kick with normal kick damage plus plus a weight bonus. Use the above rule for downward-directed attacks – but a stomp is a very natural action, so the only penalty is -1 TH (as MA suggests). Falling down probably isn't a problem either, though slamming your foot painfully into the ground is.

While anybody should be allowed to try this maneuver, only Karate and Brawling practitioners can buy off the maneuver penalty and gain additional damage from skill.

Note on damage levels

The extra damage from weighted blows isn't much, even for pretty heavy characters. That's because the bonus should be less than the damage from actual tramples, which GURPS sets pretty low.

If it all seems too low for you, go ahead and double weight-based damage, in all of the above instances. That makes weighted blows a bit more fun and likely gives more realistic damage for vehicle overruns.

Advanced rule: mass and maximum damage

Here's an interesting question: Can Negligible Man, with his near-zero mass, throw a decent jab? Can Howitzer Lass retain her svelte 120-lb. figure, yet toss off 30d punches? Not outside the comics! Powerful momentum requires mass, and your rocket punch is no good if it just sends you flying backward.

Without introducing mass into all damage calculations, we can at least set a limit on damage. Take the square root of your mass in pounds. Divide the result by two. That's your maximum thrust or swing damage dice, before any extra weapon damage.

The result comes out to a generous 6d for the average human, but really cramps the brawling style of 2" microhumans. And that's exactly why tiny creatures rely on bites, poison, or stings: punches just don't work down there!

Needless to say, this rule is to be chained up and never even acknowledged in a cinematic game, whether set in the tiny world or in Metropolis.


1. More on Close-Range Attacks: Sword at the Throat

The rule for aiming a melee weapon to get a "close-range" TH bonus is useful not only for hitting small critters, but can also be used to game those special cases where a fighter places a point to a foe's throat or otherwise gets a weapon "up close" to a foe for an "I can't miss" advantage. Against a surprised or otherwise immobile opponent, a second of "aiming" might be required to put the weapon in place. The attacker then takes the Wait maneuver while demanding surrender – and if the target resists, the subsequent attack takes place from an effective few inches away, for a hefty TH bonus.

If the weapon's touching the foe, that hit's going to be automatic – only a defense roll to Dodge or knock the weapon away will help. (Actually, to your target's benefit, a small Active Defense bonus might be warranted – he knows exactly where your attack is pointed! The Concentrated Defense rules from CII would simulate this well.)

Against an active opponent, it would take a TH roll to "place" a weapon. A successful TH against the throat, for example, followed by an unsuccessful defense roll, would let your swashbuckler place his rapier tip to the foe's neck. (Don't forget TH penalties for target location.) The immediate benefit is that your swashbuckler can make a "stop thrust", with a close range TH bonus, if the guardsman should be foolish enough to attack into the threat on his turn.

Of course, the guard can remove the "close range" danger by simply Retreating during your turn, or with a Step backward on his own turn. However, your weapon still points at the guard, its threat unremoved. If you then turn that threat into an actual attack on your next turn, a +1 TH for having "aimed" for a turn sounds reasonable!

The cornered guard's other obvious option is to try to knock your sword away on his turn; even if he doesn't hit it clean out of your hand, any good strike should knock the sword point off target momentarily. This brings you back to square one: no close range, no aiming bonuses.

It's clear that the guard has lots of options, so "placing" weapons up close to active opponents won't be a common situation in combats. Of course, if you combine your placing move with a loud cry of "Fnord thee!", you just may surprise the guard into missing his turn – after which you're back to your turn, taking the Wait maneuver with your sword tip in place for that close range TH bonus should the guard move. And this time, any attempt by the guard to step back or knock the sword away will be met first by your Wait.

Don't forget that close-range attacks do less damage, even thrusting ones; while more powerful than a swing made from six inches away, a thrust from the same distance is much weaker than a fully accelerated, fully extended normal combat thrust. But if you like, set a minimum damage for these attacks, even as high as x1/2 damage for thrusts and x1/4 for bladed swung weapons. A dagger can pierce a heart even if held close, and a blade held against flesh can "slice" painfully even without hauling off to swing.

2. Dealing With High AD

Using Book 2 rules, light, strong creatures can gain some powerful defense bonuses. That's fine and good, but PCs with Dodge scores of 9 or more are easy to build, which comes out to 12 with a Retreat. Now add PD from armor and shield... You may have already experienced GURPS ' infamous "unbeatable defenses" problem with such armor, or fighters using martial arts like Karate or Quarterstaff.

An amazing defense score is a good thing in a cinematic hero or a realistic highly-trained fighter. Fights between skilled foes should last long in game time; what's too bad is how much of the players' evening disappears. Take any measure you want to speed up combats; there is no shortage of suggestions in GURPS books and gamers' house rules. Here are more ideas:

Use smart tactics!

Encourage more feinting and close combat attacks to overcome super-defenses. Area attacks, rear attacks, and ranged weapons will get by a high Parry. Use the same tactics that'd work in real life – this is what GURPS handles so well.

"Unbeatable defenses" in GURPS rules largely stem from a certain lack of intelligent tactics behind a skilled fighter's blows. Note that with your Parry-12, you defend with that same 12 whether you face a novice swordsman or the legend Musashi himself. In other words, GURPS assumes that a master warrior's blows are no harder to defend against than a novice's.

This is not a ridiculous assumption. The unchanging defense value must represent your chance to stop an attack of a "generic" speed, and your novice and master foes could both throw blows at that speed. That's fine. But what's missing is a way to let a master also throw faster attacks.

Feinting is one great way to game the skilled fighter's hard-to-block blows, but the Feint maneuver is a certain deceptive move requiring extra time. The punches of a master should be faster and harder to block than those of a newbie – especially if he's throwing Feints, yes, but even if he's only making standard, straightforward attacks. How to fix this odd hole in GURPS ?

CII suggests the "Only the Best Shall Win" rule, which reduces a target's defenses by 1 for every 2 points by which the attacker makes his TH roll. This rule allows skilled fighters to throw blows more appropriate to their ability, and is popular with many players.

A downside to the rule: it changes the way all combat rolls are made in every battle. For any hit made by any combatant, you need to note the amount the roll was made by and adjust defenses accordingly. Also, the rule changes play balance by considerably boosting skilled fighters' deadliness. (Whether that's good or bad is up to you.)

The Fast Blows rule

GULLIVER's suggested replacement for "Only the Best Shall Win": Instead of automatically adjusting defenses for the degree of TH success, a fighter decides how "fast" and hard-to-block his blows will be by taking a -2 TH beforehand for each -1 penalty on the foe's defenses.

Example: With Quarterstaff-19, you can throw a blow with no TH penalty, but your foe will suffer no defense penalty when trying to avoid it. Or you can crank up your speed and take a -4 TH to your blow; if you hit, your foe will take a -2 to his defense roll.

This lets a master adopt a variety of tactics. He can throw blows that are not appreciably faster than a lesser fighter's, but are deadly accurate (no TH penalty, no defense penalty, the GURPS default). Or he can throw blows that test the limit of his speed but lose pinpoint accuracy (say, -8 TH, -4 to foes' defenses). Or any combination in between. This adds less power to high-skill fighters than "Only the Best Shall Win" does, as the latter awards automatic maximum accuracy along with high speed.

Best of all, the "fast blows" method is a tactical option – it never comes into play until a skilled fighter chooses to apply it. Combat procedures for lesser warriors don't change at all.

One caution: let a fighter lower his TH to no less than 12 or so by this rule, before other combat modifiers. This limits the maneuver to skilled fighters only, and prevents the silly sight of "masters" flailing about, throwing blows so fast they're uncontrollable. A master swordsman (Fencing-20) who reduces opponent's defenses by 4, and his own TH down to 12 in the process, is operating at the limit of his speed: explosive blows that are hard to stop, and still plenty accurate enough to hit a man, but difficult to aim at a small target like a throat.

Fast blows do not replace the usefulness of a Feint, which is a different tactic altogether. A Feint will take longer and sometimes fails, but can help a slow-but-accurate attack slip by defenses and strike a vital target. Or if followed by a fast-blow attack, a Feint can really wipe out a foe's defenses.

Limit Dodges and the Retreat bonus

If high Dodge scores keep fights too slow, apply a -1 or even -2 penalty to each Dodge after the first in a turn. That limits how many attacks per second a character can Dodge.

You can limit the effectiveness of Retreats too. A Retreat for the full +3 AD bonus requires that the defender have full Move remaining (though any backward movement prior to the Retreat need not count against this). With between half and full Move remaining, the bonus is only +2. With less than half Move remaining, the character can Retreat for only a +1 bonus. A character who has used all his Move can not Retreat at all. The idea is that characters moving forward should not be able to retreat effectively.

Fix critical hit problems

Many complaints over high defenses in the game go like this: "These Skill-25 fighters can't get through each other's defenses, so all they do is aim at each other's eyes and hope to roll a critical hit. High skill levels must be broken in GURPS."

Whoa, it ain't so. There's nothing wrong with high skill levels themselves in GURPS, as long as you're clear on what they represent. Is there a realistically attainable level of combat skill that allows consistent, pinpoint strikes on tiny targets? If so, then skill 25+ simulates it; good for GURPS. Or is such combat skill unrealistic to you? If that's the case, skill 25+ is a cinematic skill level; allow or disallow it as the game calls for.

Continued over-reliance on criticals doesn't mean high skill levels are broken; it means the critical hit rules are likely broken! TH and critical hits are both determined by the same skill roll in GURPS, but they're really separate systems – you could choose to check for a critical hit on a separate 3d roll. Or check by flipping several coins to get all heads, by asking a Magic 8 Ball, by listening for the hoot of an owl as TH is rolled, whatever. You can change the probability of critical hits as much as you want without messing up what's a perfectly fine TH system. Do so, and you've solved the problem.

Even if you do want to keep determination of criticals tied to that one TH roll for simplicity's sake, consider this. Higher skill allows a greater chance at a critical hit in GURPS, and some GMs have expanded the idea to make a critical very likely nearly every time a super-fighter takes a swing. But is that really the effect you want? A critical is meant to represent luck – and it's easy to argue that the more skilled the fighter, the less likely he is to score hits through blind chance!

GULLIVER suggests keeping the chance of a critical hit at a 3 or 4 on 3d for all fighters regardless of skill – after all, luck is luck. Let the combat masters consistently score devastating blows by putting skill to work, as described under smart tactics above. This strict approach to criticals, combined with tactics (including Feints and the Fast Blows rule) solves the Skill-25 fighter problem realistically and elegantly. Try it and see!

Separate AD and PD

Here's a method that does change the way defense is computed, but with good results. Instead of adding Passive Defense (PD) to Active Defense (AD) to compute the total defense roll, keep the two separate.

Compute AD roll as 2 + the chosen Active Defense score, and PD roll as 2 + the total of all passive defenses. A character with PD 4 from armor and magical protection, and Parry 6 from Broadsword-12, has a PD roll of 6 and an AD roll of 8. When a combatant actively defends against an attack, roll against AD first; only if that roll fails do you roll against PD.

So two rolls can be necessary, but GMs know instantly how a blow was avoided – whether it bounced off armor or was parried, for example. The minimum defense roll possible becomes 3 if the character has any defenses at all, which is more meaningful against 3d than currently possible defenses of 1 or 2.

Non-warriors get a boost to their hopelessly low Active Defense rolls, while Active Defense rolls for the plate-mail-and-shield crowd are kept down to manageable levels. The Dodge roll of a DX 10 "normal" person becomes 7 under this rule, not 5, and the Parry roll of a Broadsword-14 fighter with plate mail and large shield remains a manageable 9, not an unwieldy 15. (Meanwhile, his separate PD roll becomes 10.)

A shield's PD score would add either to the AD roll or the PD roll, depending on how it is used. On a Block, it adds to AD – but if the Block fails, the blow has by definition gotten past the shield, and its PD won't add to the PD roll. If the fighter doesn't Block, the shield's PD adds to the PD roll only, coming into play if the Dodge or Parry fails.

Example: A DX 12, HT 12 fighter with plate mail and a large shield has Shield-14 and goes to Block. His roll would be 13 (2 + half of Shield skill + 4 for Shield PD). If that failed, his PD roll would succeed on a 6 or less (2 + plate mail PD).

If he instead chose to Dodge, he'd get his Dodge roll of 8 (2 + his figured Dodge stat, no PD added), and if that failed, he'd hope to succeed on a PD roll of 10 (2 + plate mail PD + shield PD).

(Another way to treat shields is to let them subtract from an opponent's to-hit roll, instead of adding to defenses; this can speed things up too.)

For characters with "layered" armor, use the outer layer's PD for PD roll; if that fails to protect, make a PD roll again using the inner layer's PD.

The result of the separate AD and PD rule is that while armor and shields will always help you avoid blows, those alone won't make your defenses surefire. The only "un-hittable" characters will be those with extremely high combat skills or Dodge scores – i.e., those who deserve to be "un-hittable".

Final note: as the rule reduces PD's usefulness in combat a bit, you can worry less about PCs building up too much PD from armor, magic, and what not. Reduce the racial cost of PD to 15 or 20 points.

Advanced rules: An AD roll that fails by only one almost avoided the blow: add 2 to the following PD roll and halve damage if the defender is still hit. A PD roll that fails by only one almost deflected the blow: halve damage. Quickness helps you avoid the worst of a blow, even if you do get hit: "It's only a cut – but if I had ducked any slower, I'd be a goner".

On the attacker's side, an attack just making its TH roll isn't a very good one: the defender gets +2 to his AD roll (or PD roll if he doesn't defend). These options help lower damage even if the character doesn't fully avoid a blow.

Use "long turns"

What if, after all of the above, skilled defenders still keep avoiding the worst of everything? Let them! Legends are full of hours-long battles between combatants so stalwart they simply couldn't hurt each other. "Verily I say to thee, Plaid Knight (clang), I shall cleave thy skull afore the sun sets (clash)."

To settle drawn-out fights between combatants with high defense scores, without hours of dice-rolling, use a longer "virtual" play turn. (This works well in a duel.) With a two-second turn, subtract one from defenses. With a four-second turn, subtract two from defenses. Subtract three for an eight-second turn, four for a sixteen-second turn, and so on; choose the turn length so that defenses are brought down to the point where someone might get hurt (AD of 12, say).

Of course, the combatants are striking and defending every second of the abstract longer turn; the reduced defenses represent the greater chance that one of the many blows will have hit somewhere during that time. Roll to-hit normally, though, once per long turn. (Fighters with unready weapons will make a to-hit roll once every second or third long turn, representing their weapons' lower speeds.) Roll against the lowered defenses, if hits are scored. If the combatants continue fighting, keep running "long turns" until the battle ends.

Example: The night's big battle between a PC kung fu disciple and the NPC fellow-student-turned-evil is going nowhere thanks to Parry scores of 16 and higher, and the remaining players are starting to discuss Star Trek. The GM opts for 16-second-long abstract turns to speed things up (while maintaining epic battle length in the game world). The characters are actually slapping and kicking every second of those long turns, but mostly block each other without effect. Each player has one chance per long turn to make a real difference!

They choose actions and play them out as if they were normal combat turns – but any time a defense roll is called for, it's at -4. Blows start to land, and the PC shames his rival in only 10 long turns, which equals nearly three full minutes in game time. The game goes on.

If anything happens during one of the above long turns, such as another fighter stepping into the fray, and you want to go back to one-second turns, there's no problem. Say you're using eight-second-long turns to bring two battling fencers' Parry scores down from 15 to 12. Another musketeer jumps in part way through (on the 6th second) to help one of the original combatants. Cut the long turn short on the 4th second, dropping the fencers' Parry scores only two, to 13. Roll the to-hits and parries, and go to normal one-second turns on the 5th second. The new fighter joins in on the 6th. After that, assuming no combatant is stunned, dying, or doing anything else requiring some roll every turn, the fight can go back to long turns if everyone wants.

3. Final Options for Defenses

What is a Dodge?

Players often ask why characters get a Dodge roll against gunfire. While the answer's not in the rulebook, one suggested response is that Dodge represents the general difficulty of hitting an unpredictably-moving target, and not an actual dodging of individual bullets.

That raises as many questions as it answers. If that's what a Dodge represents, then shouldn't a character in combat get a Dodge roll even against attacks from the rear? Shouldn't she get a Dodge even when making an All-Out Attack? After all, she's a bobbing, unpredictable target in either situation.

Forget that interpretation. It recasts Dodge in the role of a passive defense, but the rest of GURPS treats it as active. Not even gunfire shoots down the active definition, if you consider a Dodge as an active attempt to jump out of the perceived path of the gunfire. Slow bullets, hypervelocity needles, even laser beams, it doesn't matter; you Dodge the aim of the muzzle, not the actual projectiles, so go ahead and roll that Dodge. (Regular Dodge restrictions apply: no roll if you're not aware of the shot, if you took All-Out Attack, etc.)

You even retain a "passive" defensive ability from your motion, in that your opponent isn't getting a bonus to hit a still target. That takes care of the "unpredictable target" factor.

"Passive" Dodges

If you really like the "passive" Dodge idea, go for it. It should be inferior to your regular Dodge (which is an active attempt to jump away from the direction of a gun's muzzle): say, -4 for a "passive" Dodge against a gunshot from the rear, or any time you have no active Dodge defense.

Modifiers for Combat Reflexes and the like wouldn't count, as this Dodge represents random movement. Encumbrance modifiers should count normally – a light creature can move more unpredictably than a burdened one.

However, there's no reason why such a "passive" Dodge shouldn't apply to ranged, melee, or any attacks. It'd make sense to roll it any time the defender is actively moving, whether a regular defense succeeded or was even attempted.

Sounds good – except that it's another roll in every already-busy combat exchange. You'll tire of it quickly.

Improved defense rules: declaring defenses

Go back to the beginning. Perhaps the biggest problem with gunfire and Dodge is the way GURPS has you declare a defense only after you know an attack's going to hit. You wouldn't do that in real life, especially against guns or arrows! You'd toss up a shield, or jump to the side, immediately. What warrior has the luxury of knowing beforehand whether an arrow will hit squarely or miss by an inch? How could you possibly judge whether an incoming bullet is on-target or not?

The fix is easy to game. Have fighters declare a defense after an attack is announced but before it's rolled. The character then performs the defense, whether the attack turns out to be a hit or a miss!

The effects are interesting: do you "spend" your single Block on the first Orc sword that comes at you, when you know the clumsy oaf has a good chance of missing anyway? Do you Parry your attacker and send your axe off-balance, or keep the axe ready and bet that his blow will miss? Do you Dodge and blow your spell preparation, or hold fast and hope those arrows fall short?

Gaming it: Here's how your choice makes or breaks your hide:

If you declare the defense and the blow strikes true, roll the defense normally.

If you declare the defense and the blow misses, then you're okay. You dodged or threw up a block against a blow that would have missed anyway, but hey, that's normal in combat. Your head's in one piece; quit griping.

If you declare the defense and the blow was a feint, you were faked out; you reacted defensively to a blow that never came. (This is a very likely situation in combat, but it'll only happen in GURPS if you're using this rule! You can further tinker with the system as you like; if you win the feint Contest, the GM can rule that you saw the ruse and didn't waste the defense.)

If you don't declare the defense and the blow misses, you lucked out – and probably looked pretty impressive (or nuts), standing pat as bullets chew up the wall around you.

If you didn't declare the defense and the blow hits – wait, it's not all over yet. You played wait-and-see – and are now thinking "oh, @#%!!" as that mace screams toward your head after all. Time for a panic defense!

Last second: You can throw up a last-second defense at a penalty. Call it -1 for a melee attack, -2 for a thrown weapon, -4 for a missile like an arrow, -8 for a bullet, or -16 for a hypervelocity round. That's pretty well impossible for bullets and faster – because it represents actually dodging or blocking the bullet itself, not jumping out of the muzzle's path. (Some cinematic heroes still manage; all you need is an obscenely high defense score.)

The penalty to Dodge a laser beam would be infinite. If you didn't Dodge the perceived path of fire before the trigger is pulled, there's no way you can even see, let alone Dodge, the beam after it leaves the gun. (It's not a problem in a cinematic game, where "blaster" beams travel at a speed that makes arrows look fast.)

Try out the above system, and see if it doesn't make fights feel a lot more "real".

Precognition: Precognitive abilities in GURPS can let you defend against an attack from the rear, parry a blaster beam, and so on. But the power should do one more interesting thing under the above rules: tell you for certain whether or not an attack will "hit", letting you know whether you need to defend or whether you can just stand stock-still with a smile.

In mechanical terms, the proper foretelling ability will let you declare a defense after TH is rolled; if it's a hit, you start defending before that bullet or arrow takes flight, and suffer no "last second" penalties. (In other words, you use normal GURPS defense rules – which currently allow everyone the amazing power to foretell hits and misses!)

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GULLIVER v5.3 (2004.04.12) | Copyright 2004 T.Bone | T.Bone's GURPS Diner