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Old 03-15-2018, 11:39 PM   #1
lordabdul
 
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Default Increasing lethality

Hey everyone,

I find that the lethality in GURPS is, by default, quite low (assuming a non-magic/non-sci-fi setting). It's easy to put a character out of play by having them so injured that they have to spend weeks in the hospital, but it's harder to actually kill them in my experience.

By default, it seems getting shot will rarely kill a character unless they get shot a lot. Assuming ST 10 and HT 12 (a common combination for a Call-Of-Cthulhu-type character in GURPS), cumulative HT rolls to avoid death will drop below 50% if you have to roll 3 times or more... which means dropping to -30HP or below, which means getting shot at least 5 times with a 9mm. So if you get shot 4 times with a 9mm, you have more chances of making it than not! (and yes you have higher-than-average HT, but still...) After the fight, you just need to get some rest for a while.

I know, I know, people generally die of internal bleeding minutes or hours later -- they don't die of the shot itself. But the bleeding rules are optional. What does that mean for people who don't use them, then?

Bleeding rules are not really useful in my experience anyway: after the fight (assuming the PCs won, or managed to get the wounded character out), the First Aid roll is a sure bet, since it's common to have a character or two with 14 in it (90% success). Again, the character is fine and will recover. There's no medic with their hands all bloody, red compresses littering the floor around them, turning to the other characters to say "sorry, he didn't make it". Bleeding doesn't really come up much itself before the end of the combat scene, since it's only one roll per minute. If, however, the wounded character is left behind and it's unsure if he's going to still be alive by the time the party can get back to him, then the bleeding rules are even actively annoying -- who wants to roll HT 40 times in a row and then die...

Is this a problem for anybody else? Am I missing something? How can I fix it?

I can think of a solution that involves a mix of optional rules and combat scene design changes:

1. Apply the optional rule from Martial Arts that gives penalties to First Aid rolls at -1 per 5HP of injury. It feels like this rule should actually have been the default rule in the Basic Set... it's weird to me that it's the same thing to bandage someone who took -5HP vs. someone who took a staggering -40HP. Question: are there other optional rules available in other supplements that are in the same vein? (pun intended) Bonus question: what's the point of the "Bandaging" part of First Aid if you don't use the bleeding rules?

2. Change the bleeding rules so that the time scale is different. Maybe a roll every 5 minutes for -5HP lost? (-15HP on a critical failure)

3. Get better with designing combat locales, and with the NPCs' tactical moves, so that they are in a better position to finish wounded PCs off with a bullet to the head, so that they deal more effective damage (better use of aiming at specific locations, etc.), and so that generally speaking the assumptions I mentioned above ("the PCs won the fight, or somehow got the wounded out") happen less often.

Any other ideas or comments?

Last edited by lordabdul; 03-15-2018 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Using martial arts rules, you need surgery roll to stop most internal bleedings , so first aid won't save you.

Otherwise, I agree, assuming no high modifier wounds location, small arms, decent HT, available help and a safe place to evacuate/recover, mortality will be low. Honestly, that's never been a problem in my games, but I can see how it may be. Using mook rules ( automatic death at 0 or -HT) is a solution

Last edited by Celjabba; 03-16-2018 at 12:27 AM.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:04 AM   #3
RyanW
 
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Generally speaking, if you get immediate attention, pistol shots to anywhere other than a vital organ, a major blood vessel, or the central nervous system are very survivable. Using the injury rules in Martial Arts (severe bleeding, chance of hitting vitals on a torso hit and blood vessels in the limbs, etc.) duplicate those sorts of injuries reasonably well.

A quick search of statistics show something like a 90% survival rate of emergency room gunshot cases. If you don't die at the scene, you probably don't die. Though that does include a lot of people who shot themselves in the foot with an "unloaded" gun.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:16 AM   #4
Tom H.
 
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

I think you make some good points.

Would it be too arbitrary to reign in the negative HP and say have:
unconditional death at -1 x HP
and maybe unrecoverable body at -2 x HP or -3 x HP?

It has struck me as strange in GURPS that you can burn up much more negative HP than positive HP.

I love having RPG's modeled on reality, but the age old problem is how to keep an individual hero from becoming another statistic.

I think using some form of luck mechanic is the most satisfying way to preserve heroes.

After all, real life war heroes could just be the few that had to be left after statistics went through the hordes.

In RPG's, you don't want to play 100 characters to see who's left, so you pretend you are the winner by stacking the deck with a luck mechanic.

I guess you could keep the standard GURPS injury levels for PC's only and pretend that's the luck mechanic.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:37 AM   #5
lordabdul
 
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
Using martial arts rules, you need surgery roll to stop most internal bleedings , so first aid won't save you.
From what I read, Surgery is only for vitals, eyes, skull, etc. Everything else is still First Aid for bandaging.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanW View Post
A quick search of statistics show something like a 90% survival rate of emergency room gunshot cases. If you don't die at the scene, you probably don't die. Though that does include a lot of people who shot themselves in the foot with an "unloaded" gun.
Yeah, I imagine that 90% of that 90% are injuries to a limb, and only involve one or two bullets... but after a quick search, it does seem indeed that the survival rate of gunshot wounds is extremely high, much more than I thought! Even head shots are near 50% survival rates apparently.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
Yeah, I imagine that 90% of that 90% are injuries to a limb, and only involve one or two bullets... but after a quick search, it does seem indeed that the survival rate of gunshot wounds is extremely high, much more than I thought! Even head shots are near 50% survival rates apparently.
In real life, short of destroying the heart, stopping it (chest concussion, electricity or medulla oblongata hit, or possibly fright) or cutting wide open a major artery, 'small' wounds are not immediately lethal. ( by small wound I mean not involving body parts destruction). If you get competent help before the blood pressure drop too low and avoid infection, survival is likely.

Last edited by Celjabba; 03-16-2018 at 01:18 AM.
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Old 03-16-2018, 01:36 AM   #7
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
From what I read, Surgery is only for vitals, eyes, skull, etc. Everything else is still First Aid for bandaging.
If a wound is not to some vital area or artery, why would bandaging be dramatically difficult for an expert (skill 14+) field medic? I'd expect that it's mostly less trained civilians, who may have had a first aid course or two (skill 8-10), who find any injury at all stressful and challenging to treat. Once you get the injured character under the care of an expert professional, his chances of survival ought to improve significantly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
Yeah, I imagine that 90% of that 90% are injuries to a limb, and only involve one or two bullets... but after a quick search, it does seem indeed that the survival rate of gunshot wounds is extremely high, much more than I thought! Even head shots are near 50% survival rates apparently.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Celjabba View Post
In real life, short of destroying the heart, stopping it (chest concussion, electricity or medulla oblongata hit, or possibly fright) or cutting wide open a major artery, 'small' wounds are not immediately lethal. ( by small wound I mean not involving body parts destruction). If you get competent help before the blood pressure drop too low and avoid infection, survival is likely.
This is why you absolutely do not wish to adopt house rules that make dying more likely, at least not if the goal is to emulate reality. Harsh optional rules for Bleeding are fine and house rules that make Lasting and Permanent injury more likely after particularly severe trauma would probably be realistic, but expert medical professionals at TL7-8 need to have a very good chance of saving the vast majority of trauma victims brought to them still alive if you are going to emulate reality.
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Old 03-16-2018, 02:00 AM   #8
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
From what I read, Surgery is only for vitals, eyes, skull, etc. Everything else is still First Aid for bandaging.


Yeah, I imagine that 90% of that 90% are injuries to a limb, and only involve one or two bullets... but after a quick search, it does seem indeed that the survival rate of gunshot wounds is extremely high, much more than I thought! Even head shots are near 50% survival rates apparently.
basically yep gun shot wounds are not instant death. Now obviously this depends on several things so a few suggestions within the system.

Ultimately I think the first aid rules in Basic are designed to keep PC's on their feet and able to continue having won a fight but got hit doing so. You do need the optional rules in MA if you want more risk.

"A minute’s work with bandages won’t stop really severe
bleeding."
MApg138

What are you shooting at your PC's? If it's 9mm pistols your average torso (default) injury going to be what 9 so as you say with bleeding rules that first aid roll at -2 even using the MA rules you can probably make that without too much difficulty. But if your firing 5d or 6d at them even if you use the over penetration rules the bleeding pens will be worse which not only make's bleeding worse but first aid harder.


Where are you shooting them? Vitals is a -3 location, not easy but a long way from impossible. A vital injury is bad news for all the reasons given.



But my one key recommendation if you having your PCs survive lots of torso hits, is use the 1 in 6 chance of a torso hit being a vital hit.

The problem with a HP system* is everyone can do the maths, and are capable of planning a fight along the lines of "OK that's a 9mm pistol so on average I'll take 9hp per hit, so I can be OK on one, and likely be OK for long enough on 2 to win the fight"

Basically the bad thing's require multiple hits to happen in order to come into play quickly and if your shooting back the chances of multiple hits are mitigated. i.e it's a race to win by shooting enough bullets into your opponent, and a win means first aid.

But make every hit 9mm 2d+2 pi a 1 in 6 chance of being s 27pt vital injury with needing surgery to stop a -9 bleed every 30 secs, and well your taking a bigger risk! But importantly for that "how I win this fight" mental calculation a nasty HT-5 knock down test as an immediate fight ender.

Now 1 in 6 is still just a possibility, but IME when the possible bad outcome is so severe, the PCs really start paying attention to it! (and go with torso armour)



One thing I'd add here is even a small increase in HT makes a big difference, 12 isn't really a high stat in GURPS terms but it has a big effect in several places here due to the way HT works in the injury system!



*GURPS is technically a HP system, but with enough rules on top to have negative effects kick in outside of just HP loss to mitigate it.

Last edited by Tomsdad; 03-16-2018 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 03-16-2018, 03:10 AM   #9
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

Not only do gunshot wounds have a survival rate of around 50%, but the people who die from them mostly bleed out. If they had immediate treatment many people would survive those wounds, too, so it's not too unrealistic to have characters survive quite a lot. Of course permanent crippling, disease and loss of functionality is also likely in many of those cases. I believe Bio-Tech has some rules in that direction.

Combat in real life is not actually super-lethal. Most people in hand-to-hand melee and gunfights survive - even the ones who lose due to injury. Most of the deaths in WW2 were civilians who were never in combat. People are surprisingly tough. More than one person has survived multiple gunshot wounds at close range, including multiple shots to the torso and head. The rapper 50 Cent was shot nine times at point blank range - including in the face. He seems fine. They can also die from a random minor wound, which is perhaps underrepresented in GURPS. As with almost anything, real life is much more complicated and unpredictable than games.

What's most 'unrealistic' about GURPS PCs isn't that they survive combats but that they're demographically ridiculous: 15 HP, 13 HT, high-pain-threshold, etc. Very few real people, even severe badasses, have this many stacked advantages.

Simply limiting the CP and attribute maximums will make combat a lot more lethal. Characters with 150 CP, a max 15 in all attributes, no cinematic or exotic traits and a limit of ~20 in any skill are going to be much more likely to get their butts kicked and end up with a permanent impairment than your typical RPG adventurer who's often tougher and more skilled (At least in their narrow, min-maxed fields) than any real human who ever existed.
Also, if you impose these limits that puts the NPCs on a more even footing. If most of the PCs are beat up or in severe danger because they're not ninja commandos then the enemy characters can walk up and plug injured characters with twelve more rounds as his allies cower behind crates, which WILL kill him. This is also true in real life - one reason many shootings don't kill is because the person receives medical treatment and his assailant is hiding or runs away. If more gangsters approached and unloaded on their victims there would be fewer survivors.

I actually believe that both melee and small firearms do too much damage in GURPS - melee because ST damage is too high and ST caps are too high, small firearms because small firearms just suck. They poke tiny holes. Your body has a lot of places it can have holes poked in it that won't be fatal, and may not even seriously impair you if your pain threshold/shock can withstand it. This is why no one who has the option typically chooses a handgun if they have any other option. A shotgun or rifle are far more effective (though, even then, not the death-machines they're portrayed as in movies). If someone is expecting to be in a gunfight and has access to it they ought to choose a rifle or shotgun, and you could probably make combat more lethal if the character's opponents do this. Random thugs or civilians may have a pistol, but someone with the access and legal ability (or legal disregard) to carry a long gun into a firefight almost always will. A submachine gun, shotgun or Kalashnikov is spectacularly more dangerous than a pistol, and has better accuracy and range if used in semi-automatic or burst fire. If your PCs are too bold in gun fights confront them with a sniper half a mile away with a .338 Lapua. That'll change their tune.

Last edited by VonKatzen; 03-16-2018 at 03:24 AM.
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Old 03-16-2018, 05:33 AM   #10
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Default Re: Increasing lethality

I think you have to be careful when citing anecdotes of people surviving multiple gun shots in chest and head, yes it can happen but they tend to be well known and noteworthy anecdotes for a reason!

In reality most people who get shot and arrive at hospital and survive don't arrive with that many GSW's. IIRC the average is 1.5 (possibly side effect of the fact that in RL people aren't as accurate in combat situations as hollywood portrays).

However such anecdotes do demonstrate that such things can happen. But to me so long as the system allows for it to happen that's good enough, I don't think we need to adjust the system so that it can reliably happen.

Ultimately I think using random hit locations*, the occasional low damage rolls and "last wounds" the system does allow for such results as is.



I would say that guns often automatically cripple limbs too much, so I'd apply a house rule there (e.g double the cripple threshold for Pi-, Pi & Pi+).

Also I think a graze rule could be useful. A lot of gun damage rating in GURPS is designed around penetrative power and a pronounced bell curve distribution is reasonable as such penetration does tend around a median line. But rating penetrative power against various default homogenous materials is not very much like the incredibly wide range of bullet wounds in a living target. On top of this the way the rating is converted into dice and pluses can significantly effects minimum damage.

What interesting here is with the overpenetration rule the system recognises this at the upper end immediately inflicted injury. but it doesn't for the lower end.

For instance most 7.62x51mm out of a full length barrel end up at 7d for an avg 24.5, min 7 & max 42.

Fire that at a ST10 torso and apply the over penetration rules and the immediate damage is capped at 10. But the minimum damage of 7 is only 3 point less than that, and given the distribution of 7d6 you are exceptionally unlikely to roll 7-9.

And yet people can get hit by such bullets and only be lightly wounded (even if you wouldn't rely on it happening)! But of course all else being equal more energetic rounds leave worse wounds than less energetic rounds, and that's before we get into bullet shape, tumble, wound tracks etc, etc


anyway a couple of related links:

An interesting one that includes details of the locations of GSW that come into hospitals, an how important wound location is for survival rates

This is a nice one the epidemiology of gunshot wounds in the thorax and abdomen (including some data on the effects of multiple shots) but is only talking about wounds in those areas




*for instance with 50 cent shooting he did indeed receive GSWs in the chest and face, but a lot of the shots hit limbs. FWIW my take is that he was was lucky that despite being shot so many times none of the shots proved fatal. For example the face shot was a shot that entered through his left cheek and on into his tongue and teeth (not front to back into more sensitive tissues), as the shooter pulled up to him and shot him side on while he was in his car.

This actually not wound that works with the GURPS face location (other than getting a very low roll from a hand gun)!

Last edited by Tomsdad; 03-16-2018 at 07:12 AM.
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