GURPS, but that's only one half of the picture. My relationship with GURPS is as much love as hate. At the core of it, 4th edition is a very elegant edifice. The trouble is that the edifice in question is overgrown with a riotous ivy of special cases and the rules are scattered all over the place like so many broken vases.
But I’m not going to gripe about GURPS today. Coming up on Friday we have the Christmas special scenario. That’s actually system-agnostic but when my group ran it we used GURPS 4e, which gives me an excuse to redress the balance a little by defending a much-maligned GURPS rule, namely the ability to use Dodge against missile weapons.
First off, this isn’t Matrix-style stuff. You aren’t leaning aside to let that bullet go whistling past. There’s a temptation to think that one dice roll means one specific action, but that’s not it. When somebody’s shooting at you and you make a Dodge roll, that roll represents all the ducking and weaving you’ve been doing to make yourself a harder target.
Recently in our Wild West game we had a situation where we were shooting at some fellows on horseback. How do you make a Dodge when you’re planted in the saddle?
You could say that it’s impossible to Dodge while on horseback, but the logical outcome then would be for everybody to dismount at the start of every battle. Not much in keeping with the spirit of a Wild West game, that. Which is why GURPS 4e does allow Dodging while riding.
The rule is on page 398 (you really have to go digging around for these rules) and it states that you can Dodge normally in the saddle if you have Riding skill of 12+, but you lose -1 from Dodge for each point of Riding skill below 12.
How is it possible? Remember what I said. Dodge isn't one single action, like darting out of the way before a bullet hits. It's more of a way of representing dodging and weaving about during the fight that makes you less likely to get hit. So when you're firing from horseback, the horses aren't stationary firing platforms like the turret of a tank. Horses don't stay stock-still like that. They would be constantly wheeling and milling about. And if you can ride well, you can combine that with crouching in the saddle and so on to make yourself a trickier target to get a bead on. You see exactly that technique in a movie like The Outlaw Josey Wales. That’s what the rule on page 398 is modelling.
Love-hate, remember, so I still can’t resist a little gripe. That “full Dodge if you have Riding 12, but…” is a typical off-the-cuff GURPS rule. These special cases are strewn throughout the books. They’re obviously just made up out of desperation as the designer was having to colour in these corners of the game, and because the number is arbitrary it’s hard to remember. It’s not a rule that’s repeated throughout – “you can do First Aid on jet-skis if you have Skiing 12”, etc.
Control of the horse isn’t automatic at Riding skill 12, so why create a special case? Just use the rules that are already written, for Pete’s sake. That’s what infuriates me about GURPS. It’s like going round the Ashmolean Museum to find it’s been redecorated by a Vegas hotelier. The GURPS books list a few dozen people responsible for “rules refinement”, so that’d be why. Too many cooks, guys.
A better rule would be this: "in order to qualify to make a Dodge roll when mounted, you must first succeed in a Riding roll". So that way you can attempt to dodge if you can control the horse. Easier to remember, and more logical.
One day (I mean, one month) I’m going to rewrite GURPS 4e to streamline and rationalize the whole thing. In the meantime, here are some GURPS Legend character generation rules to be going on with. And whatever system you favour, be sure to come back on Friday for the Yuletide adventure.