Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-29-2020, 08:49 AM   #11
Stormcrow
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ronkonkoma, NY
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Realistically, fights result in injuries and injuries result in lots of down time. I don't think the problem is actually about single-player games, its about play style and genre.
It occurs to me that the "genre" of Conan involves lots of downtime between individual short stories. All Ezra has to do is calculate how much time it will take to heal after an adventure and start the next adventure some time after that. The next Conan story begins...
Stormcrow is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:02 AM   #12
Kromm
GURPS Line Editor
 
Kromm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Montréal, Québec
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post

Realistically, fights result in injuries and injuries result in lots of down time. I don't think the problem is actually about single-player games, its about play style and genre.
I'm not as certain.

No matter what your genre or style, the rules make it difficult for one person to defeat, say, five . . . but trivial for an adventuring party of 10 to beat the same five. In warfare, there's a very strong correspondence between odds ratios and casualties. This is why – all other things being equal (troop quality, leadership, terrain, etc.) – GURPS Mass Combat gives my 5:1 odds for the NPC enemies about 2.5× the casualties for the PCs and 0.25× the casualties for the NPCs as it gives my 2:1 for the PCs.

This is borne out in tactical combat, too. Five NPC foes, however lousy, can outflank a single PC and stab them in the back – and once a lone fighter goes down, there are no threats remaining to prevent a curb-stomping to make sure they stay down (it's difficult to explain why people who need 5:1 odds to feel sure of their attack wouldn't do that). Plus there's the effect of the weight of numbers on lucky critical successes which can render being worth lots of points with high defenses irrelevant. And then there's the fact that a PC with allies has infinitely better odds of having a pal with thick armor who can "tank," someone to watch their back, a healer, or all three.

My feeling is that unless you interpret "play style" as "never getting in fights" – which isn't likely to work in, say, a Conan game – numbers have a heavy impact on PC injury. Yes, one could run a game where there are no physical conflicts, or where enemies are always shot from ambush or poisoned, but that's not compatible with very many play styles at all. It certainly limits the player who doesn't want to play a talker or an assassin, but a straight-up warrior. As for genre, I think the number of popular gaming genres that support "no fights," "no warriors," or "everybody's an assassin" is pretty tiny.

So all told, I'm still convinced that single-player campaigns benefit from adding a team of NPCs to surround foes, protect the PC's back, tank hits, and heal the hero. If you have one of each (flanker, rearguard, tank, and healer), then in the case where an NPC foe takes a shot at the hero and their pals, you've already diluted the odds of a serious hit by a factor of five! The unlucky NPC can then rest and heal without slowing down the hero, who still has three other friends to dilute hits.
__________________
Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch <kromm@sjgames.com>
GURPS Line Editor, Steve Jackson Games
My LiveJournal [Just GURPS News][Just The Company]
Kromm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:08 AM   #13
Kromm
GURPS Line Editor
 
Kromm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Montréal, Québec
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post

It occurs to me that the "genre" of Conan involves lots of downtime between individual short stories. All Ezra has to do is calculate how much time it will take to heal after an adventure and start the next adventure some time after that. The next Conan story begins...
That's a valid take. I believe to make it work, the GM needs to have enemies always charge frontally and/or attack one at a time, so the outnumbered lone hero isn't flanked and backstabbed, which with GURPS' lethality is much worse than "you'll need to heal some." This is easier with a "theatre of the mind" approach than with a battle map, because the GM can more easily have the time it takes the next bad guy to reach the hero be magically equal to the time it takes the hero to defeat the current bad guy. In tactical combat, it's much harder to explain why an NPC is just standing around taking Do Nothing maneuvers, and not circling behind the PC.

I suppose that's "play style" in a sense, though it's a result of there being a single PC, not a choice most GMs would likely make if there were several PCs, some with abilities that require a battle map to shine. Ultimately, it's still really about numbers, not style of play.
__________________
Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch <kromm@sjgames.com>
GURPS Line Editor, Steve Jackson Games
My LiveJournal [Just GURPS News][Just The Company]
Kromm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:29 AM   #14
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
That's a valid take. I believe to make it work, the GM needs to have enemies always charge frontally and/or attack one at a time, so the outnumbered lone hero isn't flanked and backstabbed, which with GURPS' lethality is much worse than "you'll need to heal some." This is easier with a "theatre of the mind" approach than with a battle map, because the GM can more easily have the time it takes the next bad guy to reach the hero be magically equal to the time it takes the hero to defeat the current bad guy. In tactical combat, it's much harder to explain why an NPC is just standing around taking Do Nothing maneuvers, and not circling behind the PC.
Now I'm thinking of Macaulay's poem "Horatius," where the Etruscan army, nearly a hundred thousand strong, is coming to conquer Rome. They can be stopped if the bridge over the Tiber is brought down—but there isn't time before they arrive. So the captain of the gate, Horatius, volunteers to lead three men to hold the far side of the bridge. "In yon strait place a thousand/May well be stopped by three./Now who will stand to either hand/And keep the bridge with me?"

And because Macaulay is emulating heroic popular ballads, it works. At the end the wounded Horatius swims the Tiber in full armor—but none of the Etruscans swim after him.

The other two guys on Horatius's left and right could be convenient NPCs. . . .
__________________
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
whswhs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:32 AM   #15
Imbicatus
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Conan also usually has a huge discrepancy in the abilities of Conan vs his opponents. It may be 10 to one odds, but those may be 50 point soldiers vs the 500 point Conan. He’s got weapon master for multiple parries, and HT 20 to keep him up and fighting long after others would have dies from the wounds that do get through. And there’s still superior tactics so it’s rarely a situation where they are able to surround him and attack from the back.

Where there is usually trouble it’s from Magic or monsters that can’t be killed until you target their weak spot.
Imbicatus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:33 AM   #16
ericthered
Hero of Democracy
 
ericthered's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: far from the ocean
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
No matter what your genre or style, the rules make it difficult for one person to defeat, say, five . . . but trivial for an adventuring party of 10 to beat the same five. In warfare, there's a very strong correspondence between odds ratios and casualties. This is why – all other things being equal (troop quality, leadership, terrain, etc.) – GURPS Mass Combat gives my 5:1 odds for the NPC enemies about 2.5× the casualties for the PCs and 0.25× the casualties for the NPCs as it gives my 2:1 for the PCs.

Single PC's are much more difficult to balance encounters for, I agree, and fighting lots of enemies gets easier when you have a buddy or two to watch your back.



So it terms of making it so that fights are more lopsided, adding NPC support helps a lot. You can also add more points to the character, though you end up with completely over-the-top competent and lucky guys that way.



But if the GM is aiming for close fights, I don't know that PC's get injured that less often.
__________________
Be helpful, not pedantic

Worlds Beyond Earth -- my blog

Check out the PbP forum! If you don't see a game you'd like, ask me about making one!
ericthered is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:49 AM   #17
Gigermann
 
Gigermann's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Oklahoma City
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

I did a bunch of test fights in the somewhat-recent past. Even with high-point-level PCs against barely-trained mooks, you can take one enemy easily, sometimes two, but once you get to three opponents, there's guaranteed to be one at your back that can All-Out.

"real-time" example for giggles
Gigermann is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:52 AM   #18
Kromm
GURPS Line Editor
 
Kromm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Montréal, Québec
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Anecdotally, while I've mostly GM'd multi-player campaigns – where "multi" was in the 6-13 range – I've run a lot of side-quests where one PC went off and did stuff on their own. Those were usually during times when the other players were unavailable to play. To prevent social awkwardness of the "Why didn't my character know/see/follow/join in/come to the rescue?" variety, I set things up so that the active PC was someplace the other players couldn't easily argue their characters could observe or go. Thus, the active PC was essentially playing in a temporary single-player campaign.

Because these were spinoffs from multi-player campaigns, there were two elephants in the room, both related to numbers:
  1. The player of the active PC was accustomed to using tactics that assumed the existence of allies. Not just in combat, either! They were used to having or being some sort of wingman or right hand even in stealth and social situations.

  2. The active PC had skills that filled a particular niche for the party, and wasn't a generalist. Thus, there were things in and out of combat they simply couldn't do.
I quickly learned that these particular pachyderms weren't things my players found fun to experience or to work around. They wanted to be able to "do their thing" – use their favorite tactics and focus on their chosen niche – even on side-quests. I could've been unyielding and said, "Too bad! You can't!", but that's not my style. Also, it isn't a good way to retain players. So instead, I made sure the PCs quickly accumulated temporary companions.

The trick here is to suit the companions to the PC. Here are a few examples I used in actual play:
  • When the necromancer went off alone, it was relatively easy: a bunch of zombies. In combat, these were an adequate screening force, keeping enemies at a distance while the mage cast spells. Out of combat, the PC didn't really need help; a huge IQ let them default or quickly learn most necessary noncombat skills at respectable levels. The wizard sometimes needed extra hands for noncombat physical tasks, but the zombies were able to carry gear and loot, and do manual labor (e.g., cut wood).

  • When the general went off alone, it was also easy: I let him command a squad of soldiers (which I later insisted he buy as Allies . . . fair's fair). These let him fight much as he always did, and actually improved the player's fun, because he got to command, which the other PCs rarely let him do. Out of combat, these soldiers had had lives before taking up arms, and had adequate levels of skills like Carousing, First Aid, Streetwise, and Survival to be useful.

  • When another wizard went off on her own, it was harder because she wasn't a necromancer who would logically have a force of undead. However, she was good with animals. She had a familiar – a huge falcon that could scout and hunt – and a trained horse with above-average IQ. Since the adventure was largely an extended research mission in the wilderness, that was all she needed. Between always spotting ambushers (falcon) and being able to ride away at high speed (horse), she simply avoided fights.

  • And when the nobleman went off on his own, he had retainers. Some were guards, others were servants with practical skills. I let this slide without charging for Allies, as the PC had tons of points in Status and Wealth that hadn't mattered one bit up to that point. People who thought to waylay him for his wealth didn't live to regret it, because he just ordered archers to shoot them full of arrows (the irony here being that he was a master swordsman and probably could have beaten them . . .). He was a social god and thus had no difficulty at all out of combat.
In all cases, the important challenge afterward – not relevant to a true single-player campaign! – was to avoid obviating the importance of the other PCs when everyone was reunited again. This was easy: I just increased the challenge level of the adventures, so that animals, conscript soldiers, ordinary servants, or zombies wouldn't last two seconds. I justified this simply by saying that the group quests weren't narrow-focus missions undertaken by someone strong at those kinds of missions in the pursuit of their specialized interests, but broad-focus, epic adventures that demanded a crack team of diverse experts.

Take or leave those ideas as you wish!
__________________
Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch <kromm@sjgames.com>
GURPS Line Editor, Steve Jackson Games
My LiveJournal [Just GURPS News][Just The Company]
Kromm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 09:53 AM   #19
ravenfish
 
Join Date: May 2007
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigermann View Post
I did a bunch of test fights in the somewhat-recent past. Even with high-point-level PCs against barely-trained mooks, you can take one enemy easily, sometimes two, but once you get to three opponents, there's guaranteed to be one at your back that can All-Out.

Which is why Book Conan, when he is fighting large numbers of opponents, makes sure to keep his back to the wall.
__________________
I predicted GURPS:Dungeon Fantasy several hours before it came out and all I got was this lousy sig.
ravenfish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-29-2020, 10:05 AM   #20
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenfish View Post
Which is why Book Conan, when he is fighting large numbers of opponents, makes sure to keep his back to the wall.
Since Conan is a cinematic character, I would not be surprised if he had DR 10 (Semi-Ablative, -20%; Tough Skin, -40%) [20]. He survives a lot of damage, but the damage does start telling on him after a while, so the above build would let him absorb 110 damage before his DR was completely negated. If you combine it with ST 20, HT 14, and Very Fit, you have a character that could take a lot of punishment.
AlexanderHowl is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
combat, gamemastering, solo play

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:26 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.