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Old 08-16-2013, 06:52 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

This is the first in a short series of threads discussing some rather large house rules I've been considering. As the title implies, this addresses combat skills. It modifies the way GURPS deals with what combat skills are, how the various skills are interrelated (that is, defaults), and also makes some modifications to the way defenses work. This initial posting is divided into several posts. This first is the introduction to the concepts. Next up is the list of combat skills and options to modify them. Finally is a new treatment for defenses, as well as some special situations. The third post covers some special situations. All that said, let's get into it...

We start with the introduction and justification. First off, I feel GURPS has too many combat skills, and the defaults between them are far too harsh. I don't honestly see a substantial difference between a shortsword and a broadsword - certainly no more difference than between a hatchet and a large (but still one-handed) axe. Additionally, some skills are largely redundant (looking at you, Sabre and Lance), while others are simply enhancements (Knife->Main-Gauche). There are also some strange effects, like being unable to thrust using Staff if the end of the weapon is pointy. There also exists the fact that being skilled in any form of melee combat should give an advantage over those who are less skilled, even if you aren't using the particular weapons you've trained with. Finally, I'd like to address some damage-related realism issues, namely that weapons never sustain so much as a nick unless they are a) specifically targeted or b) outright break when parrying heavy weapons. I also offer up some new options that should make hand/arm wounds closer to as common as in historical warfare.

EDIT: This system is now out-dated, please see the new version here.

Last edited by Varyon; 06-23-2014 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:52 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

To start, we'll look at the new list of base skills, with the base defaults listed:
  • Knife (DX/E): Brawling -3, or Sword -2
  • Sword (DX/A): This includes all Shortsword and Broadsword weapons. Axe/Mace -4, Knife -3, or 2H Sword -2
  • 2H Sword (DX/A): When using Defensive Grip with a Broadsword-sized weapon, use the better of Sword and 2H Sword. 2H Axe/Mace -2, Polearm -4, or Sword -2
  • Axe/Mace (DX/A): 2H Axe/Mace -2, Flail -4, or Sword -4
  • 2H Axe/Mace (DX/A): Axe/Mace -2, 2H Flail -4, Polearm -4, or 2H Sword -4
  • Flail (DX/H): Axe/Mace -3, 2H Flial -2
  • 2H Flail (DX/H): 2H Axe/Mace -4, Flail -2, Kusari -4
  • Kusari (DX/H): 2H Axe/Mace -4, Monowire -2, Whip -3
  • Whip (DX/A): Kusari -4, Monowire -3
  • Monowire (DX/H): Kusari -2, Whip -2
  • Spear (DX/A): Includes Staff weapons. With a Ready maneuver, you may opt to switch to and from a Staff Grip. A Staff Grip grants +2 to Parry, removes the need to Ready to change Reach, and gives the option to swing. However, it but reduces thrust damage by 1 and removes the option to Tip Slash. Polearm -2
  • Polearm (DX/A): As with Spears, Polearm weapons have the option to use a Staff Grip. For Polearms, however, Staff Grip only grants a +1 to Parry (and doesn't remove Parry U), and also reduces swing damage by 2. Spear -2
  • Shield (DX/E): Brawling -2
  • Brawling (DX/E): Brawling also covers the use of the cloak. Grappling -3, Knife -3, Shield-2
  • Grappling (DX/A): This functions much like Wrestling, but with a maximum +1 to ST and using 1-handed Parries. Grappling also covers the use of garrotes. Grappling is also a special case for the modifiers that come later - special rules for defaulting from a modified Grappling skill can be ignored. Brawling -3

Unstated above is that all skills default to each other at -6, with an additional penalty if defaulting from an easier skill (so defaulting off Brawling - DX/E - for Flail - DX/H - is at -8, while going the other way is at -6). Additionally, at the GM's option, weapons with multiple skills for their use (such as a Greatsword using 2H Sword normally, Sword for one-handed use, Brawling for pomelling, and 2H Axe/Mace when swinging by gripping the blade) have more generous defaults when defaulting from the weapon's primary skill (in the above example, 2H Sword should be the primary, with one-handed use defaulting at -1 and the other listed uses defaulting at -2). Also unstated above is that, for armed skills, damage values from weapon tables assume at least [4] points in the skill (or defaulting to a comparable level from another skill). If a character has invested fewer points in it, attacks suffer -1/die to damage.
Skills can be further modified, which changes their difficulty. Note this can change difficulty beyond the limits from the Basic Set - just keep in mind that every +/-1 to difficulty is -/+1 to skill for a given CP investment. Following are some modifications available:
  • Fencing: The skill relies on footwork and mobility. Using a fencing skill allows fencing parries (reduced penalty for multiple parries, +3 when retreating), but encumbrance subtracts directly from skill when attacking and Parry when defending. If the character uses any Fencing skill, all skills are considered to be Fencing unless specifically bought up differently. Going between Fencing and non-Fencing imposes a -4 penalty to skill. +1 difficulty
  • Efficient: The skill makes use of non-intuitive movements to maximize power. Practitioners often train their bodies to react much differently to stimuli than "normal" humans. With [8] or more points invested in such a skill, damage increases by +1/die. Additionally, many special techniques making use of such training may become available (such as Exotic Hand Strike and the like). Unfortunately, more "natural" striking techniques are typically unavailable, and Efficient skills are far more specialized - unarmed skills have a much-reduced set of weapons available, Familiarity penalties are (at the GM's option) doubled, and all skills suffer from harsher defaults (multiply defaulting penalties by 1.5, rounding up). Defaulting between Efficient and non-Efficient skills is impossible. +1 difficulty.
  • Special: The skill has some extra utility, and also benefits from improved technique selection. The only current example would be Judo's Parry-throw option, but gaining the advantages of a jitte/sai-type weapon without needing to use one would also be an option. Special skills do not default from other skills (at the GM's option, exceptions can be made for Special skills with the same Special characteristic), but other skills can default from Special skills normally. +1 difficulty
  • Off-hand: The character has specifically trained for using this skill exclusively with his off-hand. For purposes of this skill only, treat the off-hand as the main hand, and the main hand as the off-hand. Defaults work normally (and use the main hand). No change in difficulty
  • Focused: GURPS assumes skills that are well-suited for engaging multiple opponents in a chaotic atmosphere. Focused skills, however, are dedicated to fighting a single foe at a time. When using a Focused skill, a character needs to Engage a foe, or suffer -2 to hit or defend against said foe. Engaging is a free action that can be made at any time, but only once per second. Focused and non-Focused skills default to each other at -4. -1 difficulty
  • Weak: These rather simplistic skills do not emphasize any sort of efficiency of action. Weapon skills suffer -1/die to damage, while unarmed skills get no damage/strength bonus. At the GM's option, Weak skills are only allowed if [4] or more CP are invested in them. Defaulting between Weak and non-Weak skills is impossible. -1 difficulty.
  • Restricted: The skill has some special restriction to offense or defense, unrelated to the characteristics of the weapons used. Restricted skills also often have fewer techniques available. Possible restrictions include Punches Only (like Boxing) or requiring two-handed Parries (like Wrestling). Multiple Restricted categories may be able to stack. -1 difficulty

The above are meant to be able to recreate most of the skills from the Basic Set, although some are at a different difficulty level (notably, most of the sword fencing skills are now DX/H, although you could make a point of removing the option to swing via Restricted, and change "Reduced Techniques" to "Reduced Weapon Selection" to bring them back down to DX/A). Below are some worked examples of possible variants, including many of those missing from above:
  • Karate (DX/H): Brawling with Fencing and Efficient
  • Judo (DX/H): Grappling with Special (Judo Parry-Throw) and Weak
  • Wrestling (DX/A): Grappling with Efficient and Restricted (2H Parries)
  • Sumo Wrestling (DX/A): Grappling with Efficient, Special (Shoves and Slams), Restricted (2H Parries), and Restricted (no choking/pinning/neck snap)
  • Boxing (DX/A): Brawling with Fencing, Efficient, and Restricted (Punches only)
  • Rapier (DX/A): Broadsword with Fencing and Restricted (thrust/tip slash only; limited weapon selection instead of reduced technique availability)
  • Main-Gauche (DX/A) : Knife with Fencing and Off-hand; note this doesn't get rid of the -1 Parry of knives!
  • Savate (DX/A): Brawling with Efficient and Restricted (Kicking only)
  • Graceful Blade (DX/VH): Broadsword with Fencing and Efficient

Even with the above, a few skills are no longer represented. These are Jitte/Sai, Force Sword, Lance, and Tonfa. Jitte/Sai, Lance, and Tonfa are easy enough - Jitte is really just Prongs (LTC2 p15) applied to another weapon, Lance is at best a Spear Technique, and Tonfa can be safely split into Brawling and Sword.
Force Sword can be treated a few ways. One is to make each version (Knife, Sword, Glaive) an Exotic Weapon, imposing -2 to use until a character buys this off with a Perk. Another would be to treat the use of a Force Sword as a Technique, again at -2. Call it "Massless Weapon" or something. A final way would be to make an additional set of skills. Knife and Polearm versions would default to Knife-1 and Polearm-1, respectively (the weight of a knife isn't as important as that of a sword, and a Force Glaive is going to have comparable - albeit lighter and more balanced - weight to a physical polearm). Force Sword would default to Sword -2 or 2H Sword -2, depending on how it's being used.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:53 PM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Our final modification is dealing with how Blocks/Parries work. We'll start simple - Blocks behave just as they always have, as does the shield's DB. However, shields now do have the option to Parry, but doing so halves (round down) the DB offered to other defenses (you must decide if you will use the Shield to Block or Parry upon the first time you make an Active Defense, regardless of what it is). The benefit of Parrying with a shield (in addition to the small boost to defense when making multiple such defenses) comes later.

Getting complicated, we deal with exactly what a Parry means. A fully successful Parry (MoS 3+) results in the attacking weapon being swept out of line with minimal contact. A Parry in which the base +3 makes a difference (MoS 0-2) results in the attacking weapon glancing off the weapon. A Parry that just barely fails (MoF 1) results in the weapon being struck full-on.
For glances, typically only swung weapons have any effect - the parrying weapon takes 1/2 damage from the attack. A thrusting weapon simply doesn't have the points of contact necessary to cause any real damage. If the weapon is struck full-on, it takes damage normally, as though it were targeted. In either case, if Parrying unarmed, the character's limb is the "parrying weapon."
To further complicate things, there are some special situations to keep in mind. A character can opt for minimum contact between the attacking weapon and his own. This results in -2 to Parry, but a glance only occurs with MoF 1 and full-on contact will not occur. This can be useful when parrying bare-handed! Contrariwise, a character can opt to "shield" himself with his weapon, gaining +1 to Parry. MoS 2+ is a glance (minimum contact is not an option), while anything down to MoF 1 is full-on contact.
A final option available to characters is to Parry with no contact. This is essentially a Dodge, but it improves as the character gets better at fighting. No Contact Parry is based on the character's highest Parry (not accounting for weapon modifiers to Parry), but lacks the normal +3. Additionally, MoS 0 results in the character being struck with a glancing (1/2 damage) blow. In all other ways (penalty for multiple parries, and in terms of what can be parried) it functions as a normal Parry, with one change - any Parry results in it taking multiple Parry penalties, and it inflicts the same (so if using two swords, you could Parry normally with your right hand, then take an additional -4 with a No Contact Parry, then for your next Parry you can use your right hand or No Contact at -8 or left hand at -4). Optionally, No Contact Parry can also function (in terms of cumulative penalties) as a Dodge. Thanks to the effects of No Contact Parry, as well as the above improved defaults, Enhanced Parry is only available as affecting all Parries at [10]/level.

Coming back to shields, Blocks result in a glance with MoS of (DB+3) and higher, and are full-on contact otherwise (down to MoS 0, after which point the character is hit). If Parrying with a shield, use the above rules for Parrying to determine degree of contact, with the modification that all thresholds have DB added to them. As an example, let's look at a +2 DB shield.
Block: MoS 5+ is glance, MoS 0-4 is full-on contact, MoF 1+ means character is hit
Normal Parry: MoS 5+ is minimal contact, MoS 2-4 is glance, MoS 0-1 and MoF 1 is full-on contact, MoF 2+ is a hit
Minimal Contact Parry: -2 defense; MoS 2+ is minimal contact, MoS 0-1 and MoF 1 is glance, MoF 2+ is a hit
Shielding Parry: +1 Parry; MoS 4+ is a glance, MoS 0-3 and MoF 1 is full-on contact.

EDIT: I should note here that the bonus from using a Staff Grip functions just like a Parrying shield's DB. Fortunately, as I used a DB+2 shield in my example, you can just reuse those numbers for any Spear weapon wielded with a Staff Grip.

DB: Unless Parrying with the shield, DB has a special interaction with the above weapon rules. The simplest way to apply it is to ignore DB when determining MoS/MoF. If the attack results in a hit, then compare MoF to DB - if MoF is less than or equal to DB, the shield is struck full-on; otherwise, the character is hit. Note this effectively results in a -1 to DB (as your weapon is effectively granting a +1, and these don't overlap), at least in most cases.

Parrying Heavy Weapons: If a weapon glances, it counts as having 2/3rds its normal weight for purposes of breakage. A full-on hit uses the weapon's full weight.
However, a heavy weapon has a very good chance of simply pushing a lighter one out of its way. If the attacking weapon weighs 2x (or more) as much as the parrying weapon (after adjusting for glancing, if appropriate), a Quick Contest of ST is undertaken between the two characters. The defender gets an automatic +4 to this Quick Contest, and it is further modified as follows:
Fencing (defender): -2 to defender
Swing (attacker): +2 to attacker
Two hands on the weapon (either): +2; note this can apply to either character
Block (defender): +2; opting for a Shielding Parry also qualifies here

Ties go to the defender. If the defender wins, the Parry is successful, his weapon takes damage normally, and breakage is checked for (if appropriate). If the attacker wins, the defender's weapon takes damage normally and the attacker chooses between scoring a glance on the defender or knocking the defender's weapon out-of-line (requires a Ready to recover). If the attacker wins by 5+, his choice is between scoring a glance and knocking the defender's weapon out-of-line (optionally by driving the defender's weapon into him - treat as a glance from the attacker's weapon, but using the defender's damage type), or scoring a normal hit. If the attacker wins by 10+, he scores a normal hit and also knocks the defender's weapon out-of-line by driving it into him scoring an additional glance for free!

Finally, we come to some optional rules to increase the chances of the hands/arms being struck in a failed Parry. If a Parry only just fails to result in the weapon being struck (typically, MoF 2), roll 1d. On a 1 or 2, the defending arm is hit (if defending with both arms, roll randomly). Optionally, you may make another 1d roll to determine if the hand is hit (on a 1). That's it to this rule... well, almost. There's one more thing to look at:

Weapon Hilts: Hilts have no direct effect on a weapon's Parry score. However, on any full-contact Parry, roll 1d. On a 1 or 2, resolve the attack as a glance on both the parrying weapon and the parrying character's hand. A typical hilt grants DR 4 to the parrying character's hand (undersized or wooden hilts grant DR 2-3, basket hilts grant DR 6). Optionally, if the above roll was a 1, the damage is applied to the character's fingers!

EDIT: A Staff Grip requires freedom of hand movement for its full effect. If a spear or polearm has a hilt added, it protects the fingers as normal but reduces the bonus for using a Staff Grip by 1. Note this makes Staff Grip useless for hilted polearms!


And that's the end of it! Still here? Good! Feel free to voice comments and concerns. I'm curious what my fellow forumites think of all this (other than the likely "Wow, that was really unnecessary").

Last edited by Varyon; 08-16-2013 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 08-16-2013, 10:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

I appreciate the desire to collapse the combat skills into fewer skills with clear distinctions but adding the modifiers seems to defeat the gains, you have more skills on the list than you started with. The results are sometimes unclear and it opens you up to Munchkinism like:

Master of Defense (Spear; Fencing, Restricted (Limited Weapons), Weak) DX/E

I feel like it would be more balanced to just define things in a clearer way than Basic Set, rigorously enforce familiarity penalties, and not worry about building your own skills.
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Old 08-16-2013, 10:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Originally Posted by lexington View Post
I appreciate the desire to collapse the combat skills into fewer skills with clear distinctions but adding the modifiers seems to defeat the gains, you have more skills on the list than you started with. The results are sometimes unclear and it opens you up to Munchkinism like:

Master of Defense (Spear; Fencing, Restricted (Limited Weapons), Weak) DX/E

I feel like it would be more balanced to just define things in a clearer way than Basic Set, rigorously enforce familiarity penalties, and not worry about building your own skills.
In general, I intend for characters who pick up a modified skill to have all their skills similarly modified - it's meant to be more of a character choice than a skill choice, although the option remains to purchase unmodified or differently-modified skills. I do appreciate the feedback, however.

One bit of nitpicking - Limited Weapons isn't a legitimate option for Restricted, rather it's allowed (as per Rapier) to exchange the Limited Techniques requirement for Limited Weapons. You still need an actual restriction, although I think with what you're getting at Restricted (Staff-Grip Only, Limited Weapons instead of Limited Techniques) would work. I'll need to think on just how munchkin-like Master of Defense is. On one hand, a character with a high level of it is nearly untouchable when armed with a staff (or spear, whatever the limited weapon selection is). On the other hand, he needs to remain relatively unarmored and unencumbered, needs plenty of room to maneuver around, and has anemic damage (-1/die, in addition to -1 to thr). Take away his weapon, and any defaults he can work off of have similarly anemic damage. And taking away his weapon is fairly probable, thanks to all the glances (and head-on impacts) his weapon is going to be suffering from. Maybe if he used a metal staff...

EDIT: Your post reminded me of something I forgot to mention in the initial write-up - the bonus to Parry from using a Staff Grip functions just like a Parrying shield's DB - meaning that +2 results in an increased chance of the weapon being hit. I'll modify the original post shortly...
EDIT2: And... changed. You may notice I've also made a slight modification to this post - upon revisiting Staff Grip, I remembered that the -2 to sw only applied to polearms. Oops.

Last edited by Varyon; 08-16-2013 at 10:57 PM.
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Old 08-17-2013, 10:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

I have a different approach on parry and weapons breaking. I've thrown away weight, it doesn't matter. Why? simply because if you have a large knife and a guy with ST20 and a hatchet attack you, no chance of breaking, if an ST10 guy attacks you with a broadsword, then it has a good chance of breaking.

The rule is simple:
Every weapon has only DR, no HP. If they parry by 0-2, they get full damage, if it passed DR, roll HT, failed? the weapon breaks.
If they parry by 3+, half damage(this means almost never except for huge damage weapons, and most people won't even roll).

Shields work the same way, but if they break, they only lose 1 DB each time.

All this is on my revised muscle-based weapons system. On my signature.
PS - I Strongly suggest increasing DR if you keep using the standard damage system.
PS 2 - If you use my system, remember that pi/imp weapons only use half the actual damage for breaking purposes.
I've revised the Low Tech weapons table:
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:24 PM   #7
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Seems appealing on first glance.

I'd tweak some names to fit the generic building-block style of most of them. Brawling -> Striking; Fencing -> Footwork.

Do you really need Weak? The only example is Judo. And Judo isn't unconcerned with efficiency. The moves are designed to be efficient enough; Wikipedia cites "seiryoku zen'yō" ("maximum efficiency; minimum effort") as a founding principle. It's just not focused on striking. This might simply be dumped into "Special" to characterize Judo. Or just leave it as stylists generally not putting many points into their Striking-based skill ("atemi-waza") as they do the Grappling-based one.

I'm not expert, but I don't think Savate is pure kickboxing, and doesn't rate the Restricted designation.

I'm tempted to look at "2H" as a modifier, but it would be a notional one like "Restricted" meaning you know 1H exclusive-or 2H weapons. So it's not really different from having it in the name of the skill, other than shortening the skill list.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:40 PM   #8
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
I don't honestly see a substantial difference between a shortsword and a broadsword - certainly no more difference than between a hatchet and a large (but still one-handed) axe.
I want to say from personal experience, as soon as you put a second hand on a weapon it becomes an entirely different beast but not something I'd charge more than a perk to buy off the penalties for. In regards to spear/staff; techniques and stances used to properly stab someone with a shaft of wood are different from those used to parry and swing. This is still only worth a perk to me. Also hilts are vital to parries. Extremely vital. In the real world, options simply shut off without a hilt on your weapon, making parries vastly more difficult.

I really need that article with Set-up Attacks in it..

For weapon breakage, I do it the long way. Using the x3 weight rule only to decide when 'every' strike will damage a weapon with one added rule: An attack that is parried by 0 strikes the parrying weapon no matter the differences in weight. Treat the weapons like characters. Armoury is now First Aid for objects, and the objects actual damage isn't known until after that "First Aid" assessment, unless it broke during battle. Smart warriors' weapons break less often. Failed HT rolls on "Major Wounds" break the weapon in a way that it is still usable (perhaps with a different skill), a failed "Death Check" disables the weapon entirely.

Modify weapon HT as follows:

Wall Hanger: -2
Cheap: -1
Good: +0
Fine: +1
Very Fine: +2
Super Fine: +3
Hyper Dense: +4

We have weapon stats in Low-Tech now, there's no reason we shouldn't use them.
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Last edited by Blood Legend; 08-17-2013 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 08-17-2013, 03:07 PM   #9
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Originally Posted by Blood Legend View Post
I really need that article with Set-up Attacks in it..
I really agree.
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Old 08-17-2013, 03:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: GURPS Overhaul - Combat Skills

Originally Posted by Blood Legend View Post
I want to say from personal experience, as soon as you put a second hand on a weapon it becomes an entirely different beast but not something I'd charge more than a perk to buy off the penalties for.
I'd agree as long as the perk was specific to a particular weapon. The various weapon skills that have one- and two-handed versions cover a large cross-section of weapons. For instance, Broadsword skill covers many kinds of swords. I think it's reasonable that a perk (or maybe better, you buy it up as a technique) can take care of the two-handed variety,for a specific kind of weapon. But just a perk (or even a technique) to get Two-Handed Sword skill up just from Broadsword skill doesn't seem right. Unless what I said is what you meant.
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