“If you have Brawling, it includes punching, kicking and headbutt, but as with kick, there is a minus for this last. As with grappling rules, we apply half the penalty on specific hit location, the skull, -7. So rounding down -3 and you need to be in the same hex. Both skulls get DR2 as in the rules. Headbutt damage is like Punch Thrust -2 crushing. Critical Head Blow Table applies (p 556).”This is the kind of special case rule that makes me want to rip off my clothes and run gibbering into the sea. But I’m not about to launch into another of my Gripes About GURPS TM. It’s just that it highlights the two approaches to handling combat in roleplaying games.
In highly simulationist games, you decide precisely what manoeuvre you’re trying to implement. In the case of GURPS, you then refer to the two core books (a total of 570 pages), the ridiculous Martial Arts supplement (another 250 pages), and possibly the Power-Ups books too (a mere 72 pages there). You’ll spend a few minutes adding up a stack of modifiers that you’ll find scattered in multiple different sections (be sure to get PDFs of all the books so you can search them) so that finally you can make what purports to be an accurate assessment of the chance to hit and do damage. That's for one round.
And as we know with systems like that, ten minutes after the fight somebody will say, “We forgot to allow for rough terrain modifiers,” with the result that the whole outcome of the fight should really be retconned, but as nobody wants to do that you just let it go.
The other approach, which you may very well sense I am slightly biased towards, is to abstractify the brawling rules, make the roll, and then let the player interpret the result. Something along the lines of:
Referee: “You made your Brawling skill. Roll hit location.”
Player: “The head, and I do 4 damage.”
Referee: “He fails his knockdown roll. He’s stunned.”
Player: "What happened there is I nutted him."
That’s the approach I advocate in the Tirikelu RPG. It’s also how all the best games of GURPS I’ve played in have actually run it. I’m not convinced that it’s good game design to have 900 pages of rules that you mostly disregard in play – that’s almost as arbitrary as having no rules whatsoever. But I said I wasn’t going to turn this into a GURPS gripe, and in any case I’ve lately been more interested in Powered by the Apocalypse. More on that in tomorrow’s post.