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Old 10-23-2016, 05:13 AM   #1
OldSam
 
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Default Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

Everyone knows a lot of scenes in movies and novels where the heroes have trouble or even no chance defeating an opponent in a "normal" combat, using the typical fighting skills, weapons etc. - At that point very often they improvise somehow, using the environment or finding a creative solution...

One example - Conan in 'The Hall of the Dead':
He confronts a monster in the form of a giant slug, fifty feet long with the ability to spit a corrosive acid with deadly accuracy. The slug chases Conan throughout the city until he climbs up to the roof of a decaying temple and manages to knock over some gargoyle statuary, one after the other, crushing the monster to death...

>> Now the question: What are good ways, hints etc. to realize something like that in GURPS? How to encourage players to try these approaches and how to 'help' them succeed doing that? <<

Note: All ways of improvisations are meant here, realistic and cinematic (though plausible) alike.


The background issue:
Classical roleplaying systems - including GURPS - often lead players (and the GM) to think 'inside the system box', that is thinking about the options your character(s) normally have and which options are explicitly stated in the rules, e.g. all-out-attack, feint, target a hit location etc. - Often this can lead to a little 'blindness', so I seek ideas and maybe references to rules or house rules to encourage these more creative ways.
(And I'm not talking about 'stupid' fun improvisation for beer & bretzel games, this should be more something 'doable' ;-))

Last edited by OldSam; 10-23-2016 at 05:55 AM.
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Old 10-23-2016, 05:24 AM   #2
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

First specific question to the conan example:

As a GM - without preparation for this of course - how would you estimate how hard it is to push the stone statues and how much damage would they cause?

In case you see this as a possible solution before the players do... Any good suggestions how to give subtle hints that this might be a clever option without actually telling them? My first thought at the moment would be to emphasize the existence of the statues above and around them in my description of the environment, but I'm not sure if that would be enough for most groups to really see the option. What are your experiences with something like that?

Last edited by OldSam; 10-23-2016 at 05:30 AM.
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Old 10-23-2016, 05:55 AM   #3
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

Well, those statues are probably going to be really heavy. So I'd point out that they're currently being put in position, and the workmen and tools for moving them are around. If the players really needed a hint, the workmen's foremen and supervisors would have run off on seeing the slug, but the workmen are still there on top of the temple.

It's quite hard to make rules for this kind of improvisation. One thing that helps is a willingness to let the players define details of the environment on the fly. You can deny those details if they're utterly wrong, but you should only do it with good reason.

An example: we were escaping from the Battle of Stalingrad, across country to Moscow, but our truck's suspension had broken, and we could only go very slowly. We find an abandoned collective farm, where something weird seems to have been going on, and our man with Danger Sense is really not keen on looking into it*, but there's a truck. My character tries to start it, but the battery is flat. I respond "starting handle", unsure if Soviet trucks of the period could actually be started that way, but reckoning it was worth a try.

*With good reason: there's a line of Call of Cthulhu adventures set in Stalinist Russia, and this was one of them, dropped in as a way for us to get into trouble if we felt like it.

Last edited by johndallman; 10-23-2016 at 06:01 AM. Reason: Footnote
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Old 10-23-2016, 06:56 AM   #4
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

The differences between systems can change how a player group approaches solving a problem. The kind of improvisation in the Conan story is difficult to figure out in GURPS but there's a rule for it, trivial to set up in Fate and might already be worked out in the adventure writeup for D&D or Pathfinder.

I always keep that kind of stuff in mind when I'd doing the pre-campaign planning and choosing what system to run.
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Old 10-23-2016, 07:32 AM   #5
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

Stone tends to weight a bit less than triple what meat does. Let's stay the statue is the same size as a 200lb person with wings added, call it 600lbs of stone. Basic p. 558 leads me to believe that's about 66 hp.

The tallest cathedrals at 45m high or so at the nave (whatever that means). That's too damn high: what was the slug doing while he was climbing? 15m seems like a nice guess. Perhaps an average church is a third the size of the biggest one; perhaps people like Conan live in a place that's just on a slightly higher scale.

Using p. 431, (66x18)/100 = 11.88, so it does 12d damage. I had to google two things and pull up two charts to get there, but I'd want to resolve it correctly, so that's what I'd do. Seems like The Hall of the Dead probably got it right: one of these would certainly kill a human, but I'm guessing it takes more than one to put an end to an SM +6 monster.

I'd also add a Dropping roll to get it on target, but I'd be willing to throw in the +4 bonus for targeting a hex and double the slug's SM. Just seems to me like it'd be pretty easy to get the statue to fall practically straight down, right?

As for how strong one would have to be, the short answer is that it's completely fiat. If the statue is top-heavy or has narrow ankles, a ST 10 person might be able to do it with a good shove: if it's in a four-point stance,* it might take more strength to break the thing free than it would to lift it above one's head if it were unanchored. Basic p. 353 suggests one can shove 12xBL about, or double that with a running start; since the balance and attachment of the statue probably haven't been given much detail up until this point, the most neutral thing to do might be to use this as a guideline. So, since 12x29x2 is greater than 600, even a ST 12 person could do it, given a running start, which absolutely involves risking death by following the statue down; ST 16 could do it much more safely from a standing start.

Of course, you'd rather have guideline for how to streamline this process than a detailed workthrough of your example, wouldn't you? Sadly, I don't think I can be much help there. But, if you're willing to look up and/or guess at the physical properties of things, GURPS is generally able to help resolve the relevant physics.

*http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images...jpg?1274211573

Last edited by McAllister; 10-23-2016 at 07:35 AM. Reason: Fleshing out
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Old 10-23-2016, 07:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

This kind of scenario is exactly why I've been working on the Ballparking X posts for Just Roll 3d6. As a GM, I'd handle that scenario by rough estimates.

For shoving the stone statues, I'd start by having a Strength success roll to push the statues over. Depending on the size of the statues, I'd use a task difficulty modifier of -4 to -8, but I'd let the player use a running start and slam into the statue (taking some damage) or fatigue in order to counteract some of that penalty.

Once the statue is falling, I'd eyeball the damage. Given how hard it was to push the statue over, I'd say this is in the 3d to 4d range at a minimum. I'd go up if the victim was armored or if the statue was really large.
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Old 10-23-2016, 08:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

The most important question to ask yourself is, "what would be awesome?"

If it would be awesome for Conan to defeat the slug by pushing over the statue, than make it so that, with the dramatically appropriate risks/sacrifices*, it's achievable. If pushing over the statue on the slug short-circuits what was supposed to be a challenging and depleteing battle, setting the stage for more awesomeness later, say, "no, that statue is too sturdy, it doesn't work." If you think that it would be more awesome for the statue to bounce harmlessly off the slug, but reveal a secret passage way and means of escape into the catacombs of the restless dead--then do that instead!

This is, I think, also the best way to encourage this behavior--if creative thinking in combat has awesome results, your players will be conditioned to get creative. Just keep in mind that "most awesome" does not always mean "easy victory for the PCs".



*I'd make it so that he had to spend a fatigue on extra-effort and make an all-out attack (Strong) shove--maybe even for multiple rounds in a row. Anything to make it feel like a risk and an accomplishment.
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Old 10-23-2016, 08:41 AM   #8
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

Quote:
Originally Posted by McAllister View Post
Of course, you'd rather have guideline for how to streamline this process than a detailed workthrough of your example, wouldn't you? Sadly, I don't think I can be much help there. But, if you're willing to look up and/or guess at the physical properties of things, GURPS is generally able to help resolve the relevant physics.
Hehe, I know and I had no doubt that with looking up different things and doing some calculations it can be done in detail if you take your time... (thank you for the details of this example) That would be a suitable way if I prepare this option prior to the session or to work it out afterwards if players plan to repeat the same approach in future sessions.

But in a running game session, with regards to pacing and action etc., that would not work for most people... So, yes, we need some kind of streamlined process for that - working with rules of thumb etc.
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Old 10-23-2016, 08:42 AM   #9
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

So...how do you get the players to be creative?

One important solution has already been mentioned: describe the environment to include opportunities for improvisation.

Another solution? Tell you players what you want. Tell them you want them to be creative and improvisatory in combat. Tell them they can try anything. Tell them you will give them bonuses for creativity.
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Old 10-23-2016, 09:00 AM   #10
OldSam
 
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Default Re: Rules and hints for improvisation and creativity in combat situations

Quote:
Originally Posted by philosophyguy View Post
For shoving the stone statues, I'd start by having a Strength success roll to push the statues over. Depending on the size of the statues, I'd use a task difficulty modifier of -4 to -8, but I'd let the player use a running start and slam into the statue (taking some damage) or fatigue in order to counteract some of that penalty.
Something like that, starting with the classic p.345 task difficulty, would have been my intuitive solution, too. Personally I would be friendly regarding the modifiers to reward the idea and encourage more of that, still it seems like a 'hard' task to push and hit, so -4 would have been my estimation. Your idea to make it more easy with running/slam and fatigue is really nice, I'd allow that, too, definitely.

My feeling would be 'to hit' is a thing of dexterity or some related skill, though to move it is a question of ST.

Any good rule of thumb which ST could be said as the standard requirement for the task? To compensate one could demand a modified ST roll with extra effort maybe...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by philosophyguy View Post
Once the statue is falling, I'd eyeball the damage. Given how hard it was to push the statue over, I'd say this is in the 3d to 4d range at a minimum. I'd go up if the victim was armored or if the statue was really large.
Yes, some kind of eyeballing is required though I'd like to have a _base_ for that to roughly get the right dimension. Assuming that the above detailed calculation by McAllister (result: 12d) is much better, your estimation would be way off, so maybe we can find a way to improve our guesses...?
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