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Old 12-31-2012, 03:20 PM   #1
JCurwen3's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Default Rescaling Melee Weapons (notes)

In this recent thread, the subject of muscle-powered damage being unrealistically high was raised, and I posted a link to a post by Douglas Cole from a similar much older thread, here:

Rescaling Melee Weapons

I use these rules in all of the GURPS games I GM and one in which I play (specifically, the realistic option of thr dmg as ST/20 dice and sw dmg as ST/10 dice). They work beautifully. I've shared below a sort of very informal generalized description of my playtest experiences with them, for Douglas Cole and for anyone interested in using them.

To clarify, the campaigns include very high magic DF (converted from AD&D), hard sci-fi with a smidgeon of space opera, low tech medieval low fantasy, modern horror with a bit of MH and Lovecraft, and post-modern zombie apocalypse. They all use these ST damage rules, as well as all of the harsh, gritty realism rules for armour, combat, and injury in Martial Arts and other places. There is magic and superscience in some of these, sometimes a lot, but the idea is that the laws of physics and biology are otherwise in play and work accordingly.

Treating the "adds" as the power of the lever arm being applied (as recommended in these rules) gives greater differentiation in weapon effectiveness, encourages use of larger and more powerful weapons, and also scales really nicely for very small (and weak) and very large (and strong) combatants. I highly recommend it... even if you don't take anything else from Douglas Cole's rules. In the DF campaign, where many weapons had "pluses", we counted those as the same as regular weapon "adds", making magical weapons vastly superior and a lot more threatening since this meant higher effective ST.

One thing that emerges is that well-armoured combatants (for instance, in plate mail) are generally safe from most attacks from swords and other melee weapons with the exception of critical hits and the super strong. This meshes well with historical accounts. This strongly encourages attacks to unarmoured areas, targeting chinks in armour, and taking advantage of armour damage and any armour divisors you can exploit from selected weapons (eg, picks and spears). You can't really defeat an opponent in full plate mail by just randomly swinging at them, hoping to wear them down - you need to fight smart and strategically. Committed and even All-Out Attacks (Strong) become more common and less suicidal for such combatants as well.

On the other hand, lower ST-based damage makes fist fights much less deadly. It also makes it more survivable to fight without much or any armour protection vs melee weapons, so you see less armoured "tank" characters as it becomes less dangerous to go with a less encumbered light or not armoured swashbuckler type. Grappling also becomes more important (we're all eagerly awaiting Technical Grappling!), as does any attempt to disarm or subdue an opponent rather than beat them to death.

Magical attacks, firearms, and powered ranged weapons end up favoured much more, because muscle-powered damage scales realistically with firearms, with a character even in the upper end of the human realistic ST range unable to match the damage of most firearms. Admittedly, this somewhat discourages certain character types (pure melee warriors) over others, but not enough so you don't see people choosing to play them anyway. In the campaigns where firearms exist (and are effective vs the selected targets), they'll be used realistically in preference to melee weapons, as one would do in real life if one were aiming to inflict lethal damage.

I don't charge Douglas Cole's lower value for ST - it's still the same for Striking ST, and a total [10] for ST. Buying up ST was still attractive, and in DF we still see many warriors buying it up to near their respective racial upper limits.

I might be forgetting aspects of my experience using these rules, so please ask if curious. I'm also curious to hear the experiences of anyone else using them in their games.
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