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Old 04-28-2020, 01:07 PM   #1
Ezra
 
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Default Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Does anyone have advice for creating combat encounters for a single player?

I'm GM'ing a Conan campaign for a friend of mine, but he ends up recovering from wounds after each session. Even the weakest opponents injure him enough to require a period of bed rest.

How to Be a GURPS GM recommends making the enemies attacks roughly equal to the PCs' DR, but even a large knife exceeds the average DR of leather (+1). He has decent weapon skills (14?), but he took the Struggling disadvantage, so he doesn't have great armor--only on his torso and groin. Still, I've presented opponents with no armor, and they still hurt him.
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Old 04-28-2020, 01:47 PM   #2
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Conan has cinematic endurance. Be sure to get related traits in outrageous amounts. The various cinematic combat options are probably also suitable for this kind of game.

Although Conan famously loses his armor a lot, there's no reason he can't find or earn armor even if he's got Struggling wealth. This doesn't control how much stuff you have.
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Old 04-28-2020, 01:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

I've run a couple of mini-campaigns like this, as well as single-character adventures during downtime periods of multi-character campaigns. A few things I found useful:
  • NPC allies. This is the most obvious option! I don't mean capital-A Allies – the NPCs can be hirelings, or just untrustworthy or temperamental in a way no player would tolerate from Allies that cost points. Make sure the PC is just about always leading a force, being followed by admirers, guarding someone with powerful healing abilities but not combat abilities, etc. Even a big dog can help tank foes and soak hits. Optionally, let the player run more than one PC, if you and your player both feel up to it.

  • Permit spending character points in combat. Switch on Buying Success (p. B347), Flesh Wounds (p. B417), and the more extravagant options in GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys in combat situations. You might use regular character points, but if you have that supplement, you could introduce another kind of points. These are limited resources, so they're not the same as an "I win!" button. Once they run out . . .

  • Allow Second Winds. If you have GURPS Action 2: Exploits, this rule on p. 38 is a good way to deal with minor injuries.

  • Everybody's a ninja when they're alone (or out of points). Set up quests so that frontal combat isn't always the right approach. Have combat skills serve not only to let the hero cross swords, but also to enable them to snipe, backstab, blindside, etc. with great effectiveness. This might be the only way to complete some missions, the safer alternative for others, or a fallback tactic when out of character points and/or FP for Flesh Wounds and Second Winds.
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Old 04-28-2020, 02:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

These are good ideas.

I avoided some of the more cinematic advantages when I set up the campaign, but that might have been a mistake. I always allow my players to take a level of Luck, but often they don't avail themselves. Still, I need to start reminding him that he can buy successes.

Luckily, I have GURPS Action 2: Exploits. I just haven't explored all of it, so I will check out p. 38 for minor injuries. I don't have Power-Ups 5, but I can pick it up.

I need to re-acquaint myself with the Flesh Wounds and Second Wind mechanics.

Thanks again, Kromm and Stormcrow. This is helpful! 🙂
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Old 04-28-2020, 04:06 PM   #5
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ezra View Post

I avoided some of the more cinematic advantages when I set up the campaign, but that might have been a mistake. I always allow my players to take a level of Luck, but often they don't avail themselves. Still, I need to start reminding him that he can buy successes.
I've been known to make Luck mandatory . . . I've run more campaigns where I've done that than ones where I haven't. People who want to play the "lucky guy" just take more than the baseline Luck level.
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Old 04-28-2020, 04:24 PM   #6
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

I'd suggest more NPC allies. Ultimately no matter what you do to toughen the character he'll face things that are dangerous and will be injured. Even if they're not combatnats, just having someone who's hiding during the fight and lures the enemy off so you can be rescued after you fall is a win.

Also expect that Conan will take a sword to the chest and it will take him out of the fight. Lots of Conan books had sections where he was recovering from an injury and dealing with more subtle intrigue. Have downtime stuff ready for when he's resting up to get back into the fight.
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Old 04-28-2020, 04:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
I've been known to make Luck mandatory . . . I've run more campaigns where I've done that than ones where I haven't. People who want to play the "lucky guy" just take more than the baseline Luck level.
I need to start doing that. For some reason, my players avoid it otherwise.
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Old 04-29-2020, 06:21 AM   #8
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

It's very interesting topic. Are there any chances of any possibility of something like "How to be GURPS GM: Solo Campaigns" to be published in the future? Not only for combat encounters, but generally about playing like that. It's somewhat hard "style" of gaming, requiring more effort from both GM and Player.

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Old 04-29-2020, 08:31 AM   #9
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

Quote:
Originally Posted by GWJ View Post

It's very interesting topic. Are there any chances of any possibility of something like "How to be GURPS GM: Solo Campaigns" to be published in the future? Not only for combat encounters, but generally about playing like that. It's somewhat hard "style" of gaming, requiring more effort from both GM and Player.
This subject interests me! GURPS pours most of its energy into projects aimed at gamers who are many supplements deep and many years in – and given the extremely scarce resources GURPS has to work with, that certainly comes at the cost of support for players just starting to play the game. Expanding How to Be a GURPS GM into a series is a fascinating proposition . . . and your suggestion would make a reasonable part of such a series. Please let me think about it, and thank you for the idea!
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Old 04-29-2020, 08:31 AM   #10
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Default Re: Combat in Single-Player Campaigns

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.



Most combat heavy games either need "partial failure" conditions other than wounded, access to rapid healing tech, or to mostly be about fights you have good odds to win.



I don't think that changing the number of characters in a party actually fullfills any of those, unless the enemies aren't scaled as well. But if you have 5 close fights in a row, you'll probably come out of it all banged up.
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