Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tactical Example : Out of the Inn

This scenario is similar, but more simple, than the engagement that took place in encounter 5 of the Palantir Commission Campaign. Some of the PC are omitted, and Sir Galdor doesn't have access to his bow (which he didn't use anyway). The charge was a cake-walk in large part because Finbert shot the crossbowmen in the face with a poison dart, causing searing pain to him for the whole engagement. I'm also removing the tresle table that Halin the dwarf used as an oversized large shield, or an undersize Pope-mobile. Arnadil is also removed to even out the odds in this battle.

Oh yes, the characters are stick figures. Please use your imagination: coming up with shiny, finely texture and rigged models would detract from what I want to do: learning about GURPS tactics.

Thanks goes to all commenting on this post, the comments are valuable: help me to learn the system and hopefully may help other get excited about GURPS tatical engagements.

The settings

View from the outside. The heroes are about to barge out.
The playing characters are cooped up in an Inn while the stable is burning. Any attempt to exit the building is met by the bolts of a marksman that is braced against a fence nearby. The playing characters (color) must neutralize the ruffians (gray) as quickly as possible to the horses can be saved.

The ruffians know that the heroes are dangerous, but did not expect that they would take the time to gear up in full armor. They planned to escape into the nearby forest, but were caught by surprise by the charge, and will have to duke it out. Their best hope is to gain numerical advantage by shooting down at least one hero early in the combat. A time 0, the crossbowmen is braced on the fencepost.

View from the heros' side, kind of.

The heroes

Halin, hammerdwarf (red) - ST 14; DX 9; IQ 11; HT 13; BS 5.5; Mv 3; TH-Axe-13; Brawling-11
Sir Galdor, Knight (Bronze) - ST 11; DX 12; IQ 9; HT 12; B: 5.75; Mv 3; Dodge 8; Broadsword-13; Shield-13
Kasper, Squire (blue) - ST 10; DX 11; IQ 13; HT 10; BS 5.25; Mv 4; THsword-11

The ruffians

ST:10 DX:10 IQ:10 HT:10 HP:10 FP:10; BS 5; Mv 5; Dod:8. Tom: Crossbow-10 (crossbow), Dick: Shortsword-12 (shortsword), Harry: Broadsword-12 (Light club)

And thus it begins...

The combat begins with the character with the highest basic speed (BS), Sir Galdor. Galdor is standing behind Halin and cannot move. He calls a wait action until Halin clears the way, the he will perform a move action (Note 1). The second player to act is Halin (BS 5.5). The heroes best chance is to minimize the number of shots that Tom can fire before they get to him. Halin takes a move action and clears the doorway. This triggers Galdor's move action just behind. Kasper (BS 5.25) gets to move in turn. Being more lightly encumbered, his move is 4. He passes to the right of Galdor, facing the ruffian across the front lawn.

View for the ruffians after Kasper's turn (blue character).

It is now turn for the ruffians to act for their respective first turns. The range to Halin is 9 (-3) and he moved 3 this turn (-1), for a total penalty of -4, or an adjusted crossbow of 7 (10 -4 +1 [braced]_. The odds of success are terrible (16%). The odds of hitting the slightly farther and fast Kasper are at 5 (5%). It makes no sense to shoot just now. Tom thus takes an aim action. Both Harry and Dick go next, his best action is to brace for the charge, covering Tom for a subsequent shot by blocking the way around the fence.

One second has ran its course since Halin first set foot out of the Inn. Here is an bird's eye view of the battle so far.

One second later: the heroes are charging madly and the ruffians can't get
a good shot right away.

Entering the second second...

The heroes are not in their happy place at the moment. As they close to Tom, his odds of hitting are becoming increasingly large. At some point, someone will get a pretty good shots at, and this bolt will not have to fly a long way to get there.  All three heroes are taking move actions, and because they moved in the previous turn, they can all add one to their movement if they keep on sprinting in a straight line. By the end of the heroes' movements, the battle looks like this. Galdor (bronze), has a broadsword in hand with a reach of 1. Both Halin and Kasper are holding their respective weapons two-handed, and have a reach of 2. 

Almost there. The heroes are about to clash with the ruffians. Hexes in
red show the weapon reach of at least 1 hero.
Tom, aiming for Halin, now has better odds (Crossbow-10, range -2, movement -1, braced +1, aim +4, ). His final target is a 12. He declares a ranged attack action, roll 3D6 and gets 11. Halin, can't parry and has a lousy dodge of 6 (due to his heavy Hauberk and weapon). He must do better than that! He decides to drop to the ground, which gives a +3 to doging (total dodge of 9). He first takes a step sideways and drops. He rolls a 8. Had he not dropped to the ground, he would have been impaled by a nearly point blank bolt! The new situations looks like this:

Nevermind dignity, Halin is now kissing the dirt and still unhurt.
Dick and Harry are better not be in Kasper's (blue) sprint line. They must also work together to avoid getting surrounded. They both declare an all-out defense (increased). This makes sense for them because they have no need to attack this turn, and can use the step to better use the fence as an obstacle. After taking the steps, Dick and Harry are ready for whatever comes their way. I was tempted to put them on a wait action to give them the chance to attack an additional time during Kasper's turn. But as Kasper wields a two-handed sword with a reach of 2, they won't be able to attack anyway.

Dick and Harry are somewhat mutually supporting for the moment.

The third second is the charm

Thus begins the third second since Halin began to act. People unfamiliar with GURPS should note that there is no absolute clock: each character acts every second if they choose so, in an order set by their base speed. 

Halin is now prone on the ground, a small price to pay to dodge a short range crossbow. To stand up, it will take two turns. He declares a "Change Posture" and switch from prone to kneeling. Galdor (Bronze) goes next. He plans to jump over the fence and spoil Tom's reload action. He declares a move action and makes it to the fence. Finally, Kasper (blue) in no rush to arrive before Halin into the melee, declares a evaluate action on Harry (rightmost ruffian) and takes a step forward. Here is the picture after Kasper's thrid action.

The fence is benefiting the ruffians right now. Too bad that Tom crossbow
is not ready anymore...

Tom will require 4 seconds to reload his crossbow. This is not very likely to happen if Galdor (bronze) decides to jump the fence. Let it be said that a knight with medium encumbrance and both hands full is not likely to do this with the grace of a swan, but he will manage if left unopposed. Tom calls a ready action, steps back, drop his crossbow as a free action and draws his club magically hanging at his belt (this is why you have not noticed it yet). Dick and Harry must seize the occasion to simultaneously strike at Kasper. To do this, they will need to get in reach. There are many options: a move and attack action which would leave any attack rolls with a -4 penalty, an all-out attack which would let them perform a 1/2 move, an attack action with one of the following extra efforts: extra step, great lunge or heroic charge. The cost of an extra effort is 1 Fatigue point, which frankly both ruffian can spare as Kasper will soon be supported by hammer-swinging Halin.  Dick calls an attack with the extra effort heroic charge. The penalty to his shortsword is waived and his FP are down to 9. Since a blow to Kasper's Haubert is unlikely to penetrate the armor, Dick decides to hit the exposed right arm (-2 penalty). He needs 10, rolls 12: the blow misses. Harry selects the same heroic charge, moves two hexes and swings as hard as he can. Since he is using a crushing damage weapon, the hauberk is not as difficult to "go through", so he doesn't call the shot. He needs a 12, rolls a 15: the club whoosh by and misses. The scene now looks like this!

Let's get that blue stickman while the red dwarf seems to be breakdancing
over there.

The fourth second begins

Galdor (bronze) could try to jump the fence. He is a Size 0 man, and could jump effortlessly over a Size -2 obstacle. This fence is about 1 yard, and thus S -2. However, the GM here feels that a medium encumbrance character with both hands full should check against DX to determine whether the jump is indeed effortless. Galdor declares a move and attack with an heroic charge. He steps over the fence, needs a 12, rolls a 11. He indeed jumps effortlessly over the fence. He moves by one additional hex and swing his broadsword. He needs a 13, rolls a 10: success. His best bet is to parry with a target of 9, he rolls 11. It is a torso hit, for 3 (1d+1) points of damage. Tom is now down to 7 HP. He is shocked at -3 for his coming turn.

Halin takes a change posture, and finally stands up. Kasper declares an attack and expand 1 FP to make it a mighty blow. He performs a two-handed attack on Harry, a bigger threat with his club. He needs an 11, rolls a 7! Harry's best defense is a dodge and retreat with a target of 11. He rolls a 11 and barely dodges the impaling thrust.

Harry just pulled out of the danger zone.

Work in progress, stay tuned...

Note 1: As pointed out by +Peter V. Dell'Orto, a wait must be followed by and attack, and all-out attack, a feint or a ready action. I allow the move action because it makes sense here.


  1. Nice. Technically, though, you can't Move as a Wait action. It's only Attack, All-Out Attack, Feint, or Ready. Although it's not an uncommon house rule for people to treat Wait as "hold my action" and allow anything on it, it's not actually allowed under the RAW.

    The bandits really should have aimed at the door and used Opportunity Fire when the PCs came out. Still not great odds of hitting, but they'd have been able to leverage the Acc of the crossbows better!

    1. Hey Peter, I added a note regarding your first comment. As for the Opportunity fire, you are right. In the battle in our campaign, the crossbowmen had lost it with a shot in the face by a poisonous dart. Still, I think that Tom, the crossbowman, has to make his shot count because he may not be able to shoot a second time...
      Thanks for the feedback.

    2. No problem.

      Two quick notes:

      - it seems like you are separately applying a penalty for range to the target AND speed of the target. Per B550, you add them together. So shooting a guy at range 3 who is moving at speed 5 is figured by checking the column for 5+3 = 8. 8 is -4 to hit, not -3 (-1 for range, -2 for speed). Distance and speed of movement compound each other. Size is counted separately, though (see the second example, shooting the flying dragon, for that).

      - If Tom moved 1 as part of Step and Attack, he doesn't get a penalty to hit. If he moved 1 as part of Move, he gets -2 or -Bulk, whichever is worse (p. B365 for both). He can also Step and Aim (like he ends up doing). Speed/Range is only used for the target, not the attacker.

      I'll post if I see any others on a longer read-through.

    3. I did misunderstand the range/speed penalty. I'll fix this in the text. It makes much more sense this way since small movements on long range are not that important.

  2. The ease of use of the crossbow is directly impacted by the long load times associated with it. Tom would have been lucky to get off one round if the PCs sauntered out a one to two yards per turn, honestly.

    Maybe had he had some friends who were loading backup pieces and handing them to him, he might be a bit more terrifying?

    1. Tom is pretty stuck with what he's got. I am interested in this combat because I think that I didn't played the bandits very well. They are on the wrong side of the slippery slope, and I wonder how much better they could have done.

    2. Well, your PCs and your bandits all have relatively low skill levels with their weapons. Not inept, but not cinematic by any means. It means you're not going to get much in the way of outrageous antics out of them.

      But I do suppose I would have had my two guards, instead of taking all out defense, go with a Wait, triggered on any of the PCs getting to a range of 2 yards, to follow up with an Attack maneuver with a step before the attack to close the distance. It could have at least made them pay a little for their head-long dash.

    3. I was considering a pai of wait action. What I didn't think about for some reasons is that the trigger to the wait action can be something else than "when X gets in my reach", but also anything arbitrary such as "when X gets in reach 2 of me". Think that I'll be changing the battle to do just this.