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Old 11-27-2017, 09:56 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

Bad Temper and Berserk are both mundane Mental disadvantages. They've been part of GURPS since 1e, without fundamental changes.

Bad Temper [-10] requires you to make a self-control roll when in a stressful situation. If you fail it, you respond aggressively to the cause of the stress. Insults or attacks are the most common responses, but they should be appropriate to the circumstances. Self-control rolls (SCR) are 12 or less on 3d by default, but you can modify the cost of any disadvantage with an SCR by taking a harder (9- or 6-) or easier (15-) roll.

Berserk [-10] is more specific: you respond to injury to yourself or loved ones with deadly violence. When berserk, if you have a melee weapon, you make an All-Out attack on any foe in reach, or Move towards any foe you can see. If you can Move and Attack, or make a slam, you'll take those options. If you need to do something else that doesn't require planning or caution to attack a foe, you'll likely do that, at the GM's option. If you have a ranged weapon, you'll use that, without aiming, until it's empty. You'll only reload if you have the Fast-Draw skill(s) and/or Techniques to reload or switch to another ranged weapon in one turn or less. When you can't shoot any more, you'll charge into melee combat, unarmed if necessary.

Berserk is triggered when you take damage (not injury) of a quarter of your hit points or more in a second, or witness a loved one suffering likewise. If you want to resist, make an SCR. You can deliberately go berserk, without suffering damage, by taking a turn of concentration and succeeding in a Will roll.

You also go berserk automatically if you fail a SCR for Bad Temper, in GIURPS. In DFRPG, you get to make a Berserk SCR if you fail your Bad Temper SCR, so you can have both disadvantages without being berserk whenever you're bad-tempered. There's also a case to be made that you should always have to make and fail an SCR to go berserk when damaged, but I'll pass that issue to Bruno, here.

You can also take the "Battle Rage" modifier, which means you go berserk automatically in any combat situation, unless you succeed in a self-control. That changes the base cost to [-15], and makes keeping friends rather hard.
In any case, once you are berserk, you're immune to stunning and shock, and injuries don't reduce your Move. You make all HT rolls to stay alive and/or conscious at +4, while you're berserk. If you don't fail any such rolls, you keep fighting as you're wounded until you reach the automatic death level of injury, at -5xHP. Once you come out of berserk, all your wounds take full effect, and you roll at your normal HT for remaining alive and conscious, assuming you are wounded, which tends to be the case.

To stop being berserk, you need to succeed in an SCR. You get the chance to make one, if you want to, each time you floor an enemy, and an extra one when you run out of enemies. If you're still berserk, you'll attack friends. You'll treat friends who try to restrain you as new enemies.

Berserk is a disadvantage. It has definite uses, for a character who plans on fighting a lot and has lots of HP and armour, but it's likely to get you killed in the long run. It also makes monsters much scarier, because you have to get through 6x their hit points, unless you have a way to calm them down rapidly.

A few other disadvantages cause you to react as if you had Bad Temper if you fail their SCR. It's not explicitly the case that they trigger Berserk; check with your GM before taking them in combination with Berserk. Berserk is used as an example of a serious disadvantage in many places in Basic, which points up a few rules of interest. The penalties to DX and IQ imposed by Chronic Pain apply to SCRs in general, as does the bonus to morale rolls and Fright Checks for a successful Leadership roll.

Bad Temper is used to model after-effects of stimulant drugs, and the behaviour of aggressive animals. It's also a surprisingly common (to me, at least) option on templates for adventurers and NPCs. Berserk is much rarer, usually found on bears, minotaurs, Banestorm orcs, feral undead and people who've just got too keen on fighting. Both are symptoms of some diseases, and making Bad Temper worse can add Berserk. Bad Temper can be caused by steroid abuse, and various other procedures from Bio-Tech. On the upside, the book also has ways to remove these disadvantages. Quite a few DF7 Cleric and Holy Warrior templates have Berserk as an option, and both of these disadvantages are basic tools in DF Denizens: Barbarians. Fantasy has berserking rocs, which make the berserk man-eating shark of Horror seem easy to kill; Madness Dossier has stresses and horrors that can turn into either disadvantage. The Gotha zombie-virus of Infinite Worlds inflicts both, and Lands Out of Time reckons Bad Temper is very appropriate for Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal characters, possibly even when they don't have uppity H.Saps. bothering them.

Magic has spells that cause Berserk, and an elixir to improve the self-control roll for both of these disadvantages. There's no specific spell to snap someone out of Berserk, although several will do the job as a side-effect, and the Echoists of Dungeon Magic have a more direct way. Martial Arts has more detail on Berserk, and Yrth Fighting Styles has a style built round it, and a perk to make it a bit more controllable. There are quirks and limitations based on these disadvantages in the Power-Ups series, and Powers has irresistible disadvantages. Psionic Powers has techniques to inflict these disadvantages by interfering with dreams, and Social Engineering has insults and taunts that can set them off. Zombies has too much on these disadvantages to summarise.

My personal experience of berserking in RPGs was from OD&D in the early eighties, when my college RPG society had a nihilistic phase of playing a lot of Odin-worshiping berserkers, under a GM who had a good sense for the right style of adventure for them. I mostly played a non-berserking healer, the only one who was prepared to go anywhere with berserkers. Ranged healing magic is a necessity for this, and it really sharpens your sense of tactical positioning.

What entertaining disasters have these disadvantages created for you?
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Old 11-27-2017, 10:15 AM   #2
whswhs
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

I don't think my players have shown much tendency to take them, and I don't make much use of them for NPCs, either. Though looking at the PCs for my current GURPS Fantasy campaign, Tapestry, I see that one of them has the racial disadvantage Selfish (12), which has some kinship with Bad Temper, I think. But Bad Temper feels like kind of a blunt instrument in roleplaying terms.
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Old 11-27-2017, 10:26 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

Thankfully no disasters, although I was expecting it with the character I made for a pirate campaign: a former 18th century cavalry nobleman who charged through his own infantrymen and was disgraced and stripped of his lands. He vowed never to ride a horse again, but suffered from both bad temper and berserk. Plus... a delusion that he is riding a horse only while he is berserk, so he skips and trots around the field of battle. He almost killed himself ordering his “horse” to charge down an “embankment” (from the ship to the deck of a grapneled much smaller ship) while wearing his breastplate. The crew knew he was a tactical genius on land, but wasn’t fond of him.
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Old 11-27-2017, 10:31 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
But Bad Temper feels like kind of a blunt instrument in roleplaying terms.
It is rather. Possibly it was created for the player who wants to escape from politeness via the game? They're going to react badly to slights from NPCs anyway, so they might as well claim points for it.
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Old 11-27-2017, 10:48 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
It is rather. Possibly it was created for the player who wants to escape from politeness via the game? They're going to react badly to slights from NPCs anyway, so they might as well claim points for it.
There are certainly fictional characters for whom temper is problematic, and it is a problem for people in real life too.
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Old 11-27-2017, 11:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

I don't really understand "losing one's temper" and the whole threat-display escalation thing (well, I can see it in theory, but I don't know it from the inside), so I find it difficult to play characters who do it, but I try it occasionally. I find Bad Temper goes well with Stubborn: I'm fed up arguing about this now, so I'm going to shout at you.

In the Travelleresque free trader game I ran a few years ago (in 4e but prior to GURPS Ultra-Tech), one of the PCs had Berserk. This served him particularly well when he got himself into a judicial duel which he started to lose; the recording of his frenzied attack, on behalf of someone he didn't even know very well, got him a small fan club, which once he was out of hospital he quite appreciated.
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Old 11-27-2017, 12:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

Bad temper is something my players often pick for their characters.

A few players however tend to use it as an excuse to go off on NPC's they don't like but forget they have it in other social situations. :/


Berserk is also often popular and tends to not be forgotten. It has been very close to costing PC's their life many times. More than once only saved by crit-failing a "stay conscious roll". (So they didn't stay fighting in the middle of the fray, making bad guys focus on others who where still standing).



I have however completely stopped making monsters go Berserk. They simply die too fast when they do. I had a DF game where the group was attacked by a "SM+2 Berserker deamon with ST:30 and a decent DR." Yet it only lasted 2 rounds of combat. As soon as it made an AOA all of the PC's made Telegraphic attacks against it's skull. With no chance to defend and a x4 damage multiplier for skull hits and the +4 bonus from making Telegraphic it was no problem for the PC's to deal well over 100 injury in 1 sec.The next round they dealt even more damage as they figured "If they just made AOA as well, then they would probably take it out completly. And they were right.

Turned what should have been a deadly boss battle into an easy kill.


... so I save it for "mindless" monsters like zombies or automatons. If I want some monster to seem reckless they make Committed attacks.

Last edited by Maz; 11-27-2017 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 11-27-2017, 12:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

I think I've only taken Bad Temper for one of my characters; ironically, it forced me to keep a cool head often enough, because Bad Temper fakes being Berserk pretty easily in stereotypical gaming circumstances. I'm not sure if I ever bothered with Berserk, save the odd NPC in one of the few campaigns I ever ran.

Which reminds me: is there an official Limitation to strip away the "good" parts of Berserk? Unless that really should be represented by some other trait.
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Old 11-27-2017, 12:26 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

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I have however completely stopped making monsters go Berserk. They simply die too fast when they do. I had a DF game where the group was attacked by a "SM+2 Berserker deamon with ST:30 and a decent DR." Yet it only lasted 2 rounds of combat. As soon as it made an AOA all of the PC's made Telegraphic attacks against it's skull.
Telegraphic attack has made all-out attack even less viable than it was in previous editions, and it was never a particularly good idea. However, you can always give things No Brain.
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Old 11-27-2017, 12:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Bad Temper and Berserk

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Which reminds me: is there an official Limitation to strip away the "good" parts of Berserk? Unless that really should be represented by some other trait.
Only When Berserk is -20% (Power-Ups 8: Limitations p16), and we can reverse-engineer from that.

The positive parts of Berserk would seem to be Immune to Pain [30], which handles the shock and stun immunity, Hard to Kill +4 [8], and Hard to Subdue +4 [8]. That's [46], -20%, total [37].

If Berserk didn't give you those bonuses it would, by this reasoning, be [-45] or [-50], roughly equivalent to Terminally Ill (Two Years).
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