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Old 03-29-2021, 06:06 PM   #1
Sam Baughn
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: United Kingdom of Great Britain and some other bits.
Default How does blade length translate into reach?

At first glance, it seems pretty easy to convert real-world blade length of a sword into hexes of reach in GURPS. A punch is reach C, a knife is reach C, 1, therefore a normal human arm is just barely short of reach 1 and any blade longer than a couple of inches will give at least reach 1.
But what about reach 2? The tactical combat rules say that each hex is one yard, but don't specify what part of the hex is one yard. I would assume that it means the centre of each hex is one yard from the next, so reaching someone two hexes away needs a weapon with at least 36" (probably a little more) in front of the hand. That seems to work OK for bastard swords, longswords, and rapiers which seem to have generally had blades around 40" but seems a bit dubious with katanas, which even in the 13th century seem to have very rarely had blades longer than 30".
To make things more confusing, Fantasy-Tech 2 says a rapier with a 52" blade would (barely) qualify for reach 3. I can't see how that is possible, since you need to reach across two empty hexes (i.e. 72") to hit someone at reach 3.
Then we have A Matter of Inches - Weapon Length in Martial Arts. Apparently katanas, bastard swords, longswords and rapiers are all 'long' reach 2 weapons even though katanas are significantly shorter than longswords and rapiers. Cavalry sabres, backswords, and broadswords are all 'medium' reach 1 weapons, despite being almost long enough to qualify as reach 2 and in many cases having longer blades than all but the biggest katanas. There don't seem to be any 'short' or 'very short' reach 2 weapons, and only a few reach 1 weapons which are considered 'long' or 'very long', which strikes me as odd.
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Old 03-29-2021, 06:34 PM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berkeley, CA
Default Re: How does blade length translate into reach?

Well, a core problem here is that GURPS originally came up with its concept of reach based on sword and shield fighting, where your shield is in your forward hand and your sword is in your back hand; this gives most weapons unrealistically short reach in a different stance. In any case, the lower limit cutoff for reach 2 is probably in the 32" range (and the 'katana' as a weapon should be deprecated; just call it a broadsword or bastard sword as appropriate), which means you'd need more than 68" to justify reach 3. Unless they're adding 18" reach for holding the weapon in a forward grip, which isn't unreasonable except I don't think that's actually how long rapier were wielded.
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Old 03-29-2021, 09:00 PM   #3
Fred Brackin
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: How does blade length translate into reach?

Originally Posted by Sam Baughn View Post
but seems a bit dubious with katanas, which even in the 13th century seem to have very rarely had blades longer than 30".
This would be why the "Late Katana" was introduced in Martial Arts. It was intended to model pretty much anything you see labelled as a "katana" on the Internet.

The sword you see in Characters that's labeled as a "Katana" is almost certainly what would be called a "nodachi" on the 'net so as to have the right Reach and weight and the "Late Katana" entry in MA more or lese xplains this.

I'm afraid it's quite difficult to change anything that appears in Basic.
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Old 03-30-2021, 08:37 AM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: How does blade length translate into reach?

I have no idea what the internal methods are that the authors used, but to my consumer eye it looks like reach is something of a function of the weapon's length and the skill used to wield it.

For example, a punch. You can probably reach out and touch someone who's a yard away (3ish feet, 1 hex) but it's hard to ineffective to make it a harmful punch all the way out there.

Similar for weapons that are physically long enough to reach out to 2 hexes, but the way they're wielded and maybe even the shape of it means that it's not super great all the way out there. To that end, rather than fuss with that edge (hah!) case in the baseline ruleset, the simpler solution is to be approximately right, set the reach to 1, and let optional rules add detail for getting a bit more reach out of the weapon.
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