Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Role of Wizards

In the online game I play in, one of the players just introduced his new wizard character. But he hadn't been happy with the existing GURPS Magic system, and he and the GM were unsuccessfully trying to cobble together a better system (Threshold limited Realm magic influenced by Ritual Path Magic or something) more or less on the fly. It was quickly moving to end in tears, and we convinced the player to play his old ninja instead.

As part of the discussion of the magic system, we asked, "What is the role of a wizard in a delving band?" There's a lot of ways to answer that question, but I want to lay out something I think is a common view.

What Should a Wizard Do

A wizard is a master at dealing with the weird stuff: magical items, magical traps, magical foes. He has less utility against mundane foes.
  • Fighting diffuse and insubstantial foes - No matter how skilled the swashbuckler or scout is with blade or bow, they're going to have a hard time killing a living tornado or an animated cloud of fire, or even engaging a creature that lives on another plane of existence. Fighting these creatures is where the wizard should shine.
  • Fighting puzzle monsters vulnerable to certain elements - Abominable snowmen, magma monsters, water weirds, and all kinds of other weird creatures can be killed by mundane means, but can be killed more efficiently by using the appropriate elemental counter-effects. A knight might have a flaming sword or a ninja might have a Liquid Ice grenade, which can deal with some subset of these creatures, but a wizard should have a range of abilities that let him exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Crowd Control and Ability Shutdown - A wizard shouldn't necessarily be able to kill every foe, especially mundane foes like a horde of orcs. But he should be able to use magic to break up their clusters and force them to engage in smaller, more manageable groups. Creating barriers for instant choke-points or walls to prevent enemy arching from massing fire should be an essential part of the wizard's repertoire.
  • Dealing with Magic - As the magic guy, a wizard should know about magic. He should be able to analyze magical items, identify and counter magical curses, and dispose of magical hazards and threats.

What a Wizard Shouldn't Do

Part of the problem with most RPG magic systems is that magic quickly becomes a license to do everything, eventually leading to the failure of quadratic wizards, linear fighters. Magic needs limits, and there should be some things that a wizard doesn't do.
  • Devastating Direct Damage - A wizard needs to contribute to a fight against mundane foes, but his attacks shouldn't be show stoppers. When fighting something like a dragon or a giant, a wizard should be able to chip away at the monster, but not fast enough to kill it before the monster kills the wizard. 
  • Scouting - The wizard shouldn't be the primary scout. Letting him augment the primary scout through spells, or use his spells to be an assistant to the primary scout is fine, but he shouldn't be betting at sneaking and noticing stuff than the primary scout.
  • Bypassing Obstacles - The wizard also shouldn't be the first choice to go to in order to get past an obstacle, whether that obstacle is a locked door or a bottomless chasm. I'm torn as to whether it's better to forbid wizards the abilities to easily bypass obstacles, or just make the opportunity cost of doing so high enough that people prefer to ask someone else to give it a go first. If it takes 1/3rd of a wizard's daily magical ability to open a locked door, people are going to bring a thief along.

How Does the Dungeon Fantasy Wizard Stack Up?

If the role of the wizard is to deal with diffuse and other weird foes, crowd control mundane foes, and not steal niche from thieves, martial artists, and scouts, then the DF Wizard is a mixed bag.

On the plus side, spells such as Concussion, Flash, Shape Earth/Air/Fire, Stench, Grease, and Glue make the wizard good at mundane crowd control. Most wizards have access to a variety of elemental effects, and can help exploit elemental vulnerabilities. Wizards know about magic.

On the down side, the ability to build up massive 9d+ missile spells means that wizards can potentially deal devastating direct damage, though very slowly and with low hit chances. Wizards can scout by casting Invisibility and Mage-Stealth, though it's probably more useful to cast those spells on a Scout or Thief and let them sneak ahead. They can also Created Servants to find traps or danger, but those Servants aren't really good for finding some of the weird traps or noticing anything hidden.  Constantly renewable fatigue, low prerequisite chains for useful spells like Lockmaster or Walk on Air, and low energy costs for those spells means that wizards can easily bypass obstacles and invade other people's niches.

Most regrettably, wizards aren't amazingly good at dealing with diffuse foes. Explosive missile spells take a lot of time and energy to cast in order to reliably deal with a single diffuse foe. A Mystic Knight with Shockwave (Bow) can do 1d+4 im exp to diffuse foes every round or two for a single fatigue point; a wizard casting Explosive Fireball is spending 2-3 FP for the same level of damage.

My article on Rationalizing Damage Spells addresses several of these issues, and using Threshold Magic (to force wizards to ration their power on a daily basis) and/or increasing the costs of some of the more problematic spells (Lockmaster at 12 FP is only going to get cast if the thief is dead) would do a lot to address the others.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Imbuments in Play: Other People's Experiences

At the end of my post on my experiences with Imbuements in play, I asked for other people's commentary. Mystic Knight template author Antoni Ten Monrós put a huge pair of comments to the post, and GURPS forum regular Kalazz responded by email. I've decided to promote both their responses to front-page, guest post status since it seemed like a popular topic.

Antoni Ten Monrós

As the author of the Mystic Knight, I do have a lot of data points on Imbuements in play. They may be colored by my biases, by what I put in the campaign, and by what my players like. My game is now at over 600 points after years of weekly sessions, though we started at 300, so that might color my impressions too. I’ll proceed to go imbuement skill by imbuement skill, and give you some highlights:

Overall Categories

  • Fatiguing Imbuements - Fatigue damage strikes (Fatiguing, Chilling and Withering, plus Drugged Weapon) can down big monsters with loads of HP but limited Will and FP very fast. Adding more fatigue damage is hard though, so you'll be using an alternate method of downing the foe, instead of collaborating with the party. Works great though, if you can take advantage of some elemental weakness, because doubled FP damage means one hit will take almost everything. 
  • Follow-up Imbuements - They require building your character to take advantage of them, but with multishot or multistrike, they can be efficient. Stack a bunch of them with a source of making an attack do multiple hits, and enjoy the fireworks. See the individual entries to get my opinion on each of them, but unless you're using a weapon that does thrust damage (AKA bows and crossbows), it's not an efficient source of damage if you can't make attacks that do multiple hits. 

Individual Imbuments

  • Acid Weapon (Pyramid #3/60) - See Follow-up Imbuements for general comments on imbuements that add damage as a followup. See Corrosive Strike for more details on corrosion damage, but the small amount that this imbuement generates means that you won't reduce DR by a substantial amount with it. However it allows you to get Dissolving Strike and Acid Imbued Soul, for mass DR reduction. 
  • Annihilating Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) -  This one isn't used in my games because it destroys loot. 
  • Arching Shot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - The way I read it, this gets around shields, unless they are placed overhead. Given that block is the bane of archers, this is awesome. 
  • Bank Shot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - This is deceptive attack for ranged weapons that doesn't lower your attack skill. You might suffer increased range penalties, but guided weapon fixes that. 
  • Binding Shot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - It's a sure fire way to make someone waste a turn, even if they have the ST to easily escape. Getting it to last more than a single round is challenging, but one round is often all that you need. 
  • Blinding Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - On one hand, it looks good on paper. It means that after the first hit, other foes are much less likely to hit you. Couple if with the extremely cheap Blur enchantment for massive penalties to attack rolls. Mind you, in play, I'm guilty of forgetting to apply penalties for blur, and no one has ever taken this imbuement. 
  • Blunting Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - One of the best DR multiplying imbuements, and it's because cutting damage is one of the nastiest and most common sorts. If you have heavy enough armor (heavy plate, potentially dwarven heavy plate, plus giant spider silk underneath), you can often become nigh invulnerable against most foes, allowing you to AoA with abandon. 
  • Burning Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Good against creatures weak to fire. Useful (though not the best) for ranged attacks when using bodkins against unliving and homogeneous foes. 
  • Chilling Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - See Fatiguing Imbuements for my opinion on imbuements that deal FP damage. Other than that, the fact that it does FP damage with the freezing enhancement makes it brutal against fire elemental monsters, as you can easily incapacitate them in one strike. 
  • Conic blast (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Should be renamed line blast for all the use it has in DF. Still, it's another way to deal with shield using foes, that would otherwise block your attacks. As an area attack, your only allowed defense is dodge and drop, and that means that most foes will have to either take it like a man, or spend 2 turns getting back up. Also awesome against diffuse foes. 
  • Continuing Attack (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Despite being very cool sounding, using it properly requires way too heavy penalties. The main use is against regenerators, using 1 day delay, because the damage can’t be healed until the cycles end. 
  • Corrosive Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Corrosion damage is good, but it's hard to do, so you're probably the only source in the fight. One problem you might face is that you destroy valuable loot with this. Still, it might be necessary to win the fight, and if you happen to face high DR foes that do so without the benefit of equipment, such as golems, it might allow the lower damage party members to contribute to the fight. 
  • Crippling Blow (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - One of the best imbuement skills. Not only, baseline, you can use it to stun (and stun requires at least 1 turn of do nothing, so it’s possible to stun lock someone, plus for the rest of your attacks, and for any attacks by friends until the target gets a chance to recover, the foe will have crippling defense penalties, that is, -4 to defense and no retreat) but you can also use it to inflict incapacitation conditions, or to just lower HT so consciousness, death and resistance rolls will fail more often. 
  • Crushing Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - While it's not the worst transformation imbuement skill, it's not far from it. It also doesn't hurt that one of the best weapon options for mystic knights, the dwarven morning star, already does crushing damage, and the other, the dwarven axe does cutting that is 99.99% of the time better. 
  • Cutting Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - The king of the non-FP dealing damage type changing transformation imbuement skills. Don't leave home without it, specially as a ranged attacker. Your bodkins go from sucking against unliving and homogeneous foes to hurting a good deal, and your GM might let you keep the AD (2). I do. 
  • Dancing Shield (Pyramid #3/4) - Good if you carry two shields, have a backup weapon for your off hand, want to save a friend, or use a weapon that can be used in either one or two hands, and have higher or at least similar skill two handed. 
  • Dancing Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - A gem, but one that requires preparing for it. You need a second weapon, and preferably one that is heavily enchanted because you can’t imbue it while it dances. Of course, with the proper perks, you can imbue it while it dances, and you no longer need to move to where it is to pick it up. Consider that it’s an extra attack, with range equal to your move. 
  • Dazzling Display (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Unless you use it to protect yourself from ranged attacks, it's completely useless. Unless you take the -5 penalty to make it not apply to you, or have some form of perception that lets you ignore it (Bright Vision is a good option, as is Dark Vision, depending on how you flavor the obscure.)
  • Deafening Display (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Unless you're fighting the hordes of eco-locating things from beyond time and space, skip this one, unless the GM rules that spellcasters are inconvenienced by loud noises and take penalties or need to make concentration rolls to cast. Then it goes from terrible to merely extremely situational. 
  • Drugged Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - See Follow-up Imbuements for general comments on imbuements that add damage as a followup. Mind you, unlike other follow-up imbuements, this one is less amenable to combining it with others, since FP and HP damage follow different tracks. Still, it’s one of the best, because FP damage is so nasty. See Fatiguing Imbuements for more details. 
  • Electric Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - See Follow-up Imbuements for general comments on imbuements that add damage as a followup. This is a decent one, because electrical damage ensures that against metallic armor, you’ll always get some damage past DR. It does however less damage on the long run.
  • Energizing Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - Looks good on paper, doesn't work in play, and is excessively fiddly when someone tries to make it work. It's simple to house rule it into utility: Forget about using it to do anything other than recover HP, FP or ER, make the character decide what he wants to recover when using it, and let him try to convert the stored charges instantly after each attack that creates charges is resolved. 
  • Envenomed Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements)-  See Follow-up Imbuements for general comments on imbuements that add damage as a followup. Toxic damage is probably one of the weakest forms of damage, and you'll face many creatures that outright ignore it. Take it only for flavor reasons, because while it's not too bad (unless your GM loves throwing you against undead threat after undead threat - I do), there are better options. Of course, once you've already got the better options, extra damage doesn't hurt. 
  • Expand Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Too fiddly to be useful most of the time, but could come handy to avoid attacks to the chinks.
  • Far shot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Only useful for thrown weapons, yeah. Still, thrown axes dealing ranged swing damage are sick. 
  • Fatiguing Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - See Fatiguing Imbuements for my opinion on imbuements that deal FP damage. It rates slightly lower than the Chilling Strike and Withering Strike because you can never take advantage of elemental vulnerabilities. Still, the difference is marginal, and given that the cost is the same (because you should take Imbue 3 with your starting points every single time) there's no real reason to take it. 
  • Fireproof Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Not one of the best DR multiplying defensive imbuements, but fire is common enough. But when you've got a spare point and are in a fire themed dungeon, facing fire drakes, etc.
  • Forceful Blow (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Sounds cool, could be potentially awesome on paper, doesn't work in game. Most foes are either not really inconvenienced by being thrown bank one yard (because realistically, you're not going to do enough damage for more than that), are too strong for more than that, or will die anyway if you hit them hard enough for knockback to matter. That is, if you're using crushing damage, and the only weapons that does crushing damage and are worth using are flails, morning stars and kusaris, and you should be changing the damage type to cutting anyway. 
  • Fulminating Strike (Pyramid #3/60) - Despite the damage penalty, the fact that it treats metalic DR as 1, plus the fact that it comes with a stun only crippling blow for free could make it worth using. I made it because there was a spot that needed filling and because I love electrical damage, but it pales when compared to Cutting Strike. 
  • Ghostly Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) -  It might be because for semi-insubstantial foes that have Injury Tolerance (Diffuse) instead of insubstantial (see flaming skulls), I let this make the attacks do full damage, or because I love having undead in my games, but my players don't leave home without this. 
  • Guided weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Awesome, though given the absurd skill levels of the weapon master/heroic archer scout/mystic knight in my games, it's getting less use lately. Ignoring range penalties is awesome, but not that much when you're fighting at a distance where the other characters can contribute. 
  • Healthful Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Protects against horrid skulls and toxifiers, and that's really it. Situational but if your GM likes those monsters and his homebrewed versions, it might be worth using. 
  • Homing Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Guided Weapon's dumb brother. Never takes this, as not only doesn't use an attack maneuver to attack (so you don't benefit from extra attacks), but you also need to aim first, and low tech weapon accuracy is so bad it will have much worse chance to hit than Guided. Also, given how similar 1/2 D and Max ranges are for muscle powered ranged weapons, Guided has no drawback. 
  • Impaling Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - The damage penalty makes it inferior to Cutting, but if you can take the penalty to remove it, it can lead to swing impaling attacks that don't get stuck, can target vitals, eyes and chinks in armor, and just sound awesome. 
  • Impenetrable Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - An imbuement using archer will want this to win any ranged battles. Anyone else can probably skip it. 
  • Incendiary Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - See Follow-up Imbuements for general comments on imbuements that add damage as a followup. This one is quite good, but the real gem is increasing the flammability class and combining it with Burning Strike to make anything burn. Burn, baby Burn! 
  • Insulated Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Unless electrical attacks are real prevalent in your games, this is a waste of points. 
  • Lighten Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Looks cool on paper, but it's WAY too fiddly to use at the table (recalculate your encumbrance every round? Are you nuts?) Also, delvers tend to gravitate to an encumbrance level that doesn't bother them too much, so this really has limited uses. 
  • Multi-Shot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - This thing is so powerful that I even made official a Kromm forum clarification that nerfs it slightly, while adding an extra note to make swing doing ranged attacks (thrown maces, throwing axes and specially slings) even worse
  • Multistrike (Pyramid #3/60) - Mainly useful to power up follow-up imbuements in melee. The fact that the base damage is halved unless you take a hefty penalty means that you're going to need Penetrating Strike to get through armor and deliver those follow-ups. Use an enchanted weapon with Flaming Weapon/Icy Weapon/Electric Weapon for extra follow-up fun. 
  • Nullifying Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - It bears mentioning that this stacks with other DR multiplying imbuements, so when you know you're facing, let's say, magical fire, you can end up with quadruple DR with 2 unmodified rolls. Other than that, however, it's too situational. 
  • Padded Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - The weakest of the three physical damage DR multiplying imbuements, it's still leaps and bounds better than the elemental ones. Might come handy, especially given that crushing damage tends to come in bigger doses than cutting or impaling. 
  • Penetrating Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - This, and the relatively cheap armor divisor enchantments have made me include a very cheap enchantment to provide hardened, priced exactly as the Fortify enchantment.
  • Piercing Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - This is the poor Man's Impaling Strike. If you want to target vitals, eyes or chinks with swing crushing or swing cutting attacks, it's better than Impaling Strike. Otherwise, it's not worth using. 
  • Project Blow (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) -  I do not allow ranged imbuements, with the exception of Far Shot, apply to this either. This leads to people not taking it, so I might change it so that you can not use melee exclusive imbuements with it instead. 
  • Reinforce Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Given how cheap Penetrating Weapon enchantments are, this can often be necessary. Mind you, published monsters don't often have armor divisors, preferring huge damage instead, something that I find weird because armor divisors can serve to hurt the heavily armored delvers while not splattering the wizard. 
  • Reinforce Shield (Pyramid #3/13) - Not useful in DF as it doesn't use the shield damage rules, but if you use them, it's necessary, especially if you use low tech shields. Also, it greatly increases the cover DR of Widen Shield. 
  • Reinforce Weapon (Pyramid #3/13) - Mainly useful for unarmed Imbuement users, who do not want to get their hands hurt when striking DR, being parried with a weapon, or touching creatures with damaging auras, it's not that useful for armed delvers. Of course, if your GM is cruel and makes you face creatures with cosmic auras of decay, you'll love it. 
  • Resilient Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - There are, AFAIK, no ablative or semi-ablative armors worth using. That is, they aren't even worth using if they were not ablative or semi-ablative, so why are you using this? 
  • Restorative Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - Fatigue damage sucks, so why not take this? It is also a requirement for Frost Imbued Soul, and that will let you down foes with FP damage faster than your GM can scream "Nerf!" 
  • Returning Weapon (Pyramid #3/13) - Awesome to abuse thrown weapons (specially thrown axes). I nerfed Multishot with swing dealing muscle powered ranged weapons because it was too ridiculous. 
  • Rigid Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - If blunt trauma mattered with low tech armors, this might have a use. Sadly, low tech armor DR is too low for blunt trauma to be anything but risible, so this Imbuement follows suit. 
  • Shattershot (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Not too shabby by itself, but combine it with multishot, and you can turn a mob of monsters into hamburger meat in no time. That led to me nerfing the combination, not really for it being overly effective (though it probably is) but for the sheer amount of rolling needed when you've got 10 monsters and attacks with RoF 5. I make it so only the first arrow shatters. It's still a much better AOE effect against non-diffuse foes than shockwave. 
  • Shockwave (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - As with explosion damage in general, this is something that is slightly misunderstood. In melee, it's use is for dealing with swarms and other diffuse foes, and for when you're surrounded. Remember that the floor doesn't dodge, and that you can rapid strike. With ranged attacks, it serves to make use of the internal explosions rules if you aim for an open mouth. Taking penalties to upgrade this to explosion 2 or 3 is very worthwhile. 
  • Sovereign Armor (Pyramid #3/4) - If you are facing foes that deal corrosion damage, you'll want this to avoid having your gear destroyed. It is also a prerequisite for Acid Imbued Soul. Take Acid Imbued Soul, Dissolving Strike, and use both Acid Weapon and Corrosive Strike, and laugh at any foe with DR. Your party members will have you though, as you'll be destroying loot left and right. 
  • Spiritual Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - Flaming skulls and their reskins can hurt in numbers. Ghosts can really ruin your day. With this, your armor will often give you 100% protection against them. What's not to like?
  • Stabilized Shot (Pyramid #3/60) - Given that with my changes since Rcl for a composite bow is 4, and you'll want this to truly abuse Multishot. If you want to use the cheese that is multishot thrown axes or multishot slings, you'll also want it. For attacks with low Rcl, such as the coveted Three Arrow Bow (the dream weapon of every Imbuement using archer), it can also provide Very Rapid Fire, meaning that you'll most often hit with every single arrow. 
  • Stealthy Attack (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Low/No Signature is often tricky to use, because the rules are so spread out. To simplify, I say that if the target doesn't notice the attack, it works as if it came from an invisible opponent. This means that the first time per combat you use it, it allows no defense! Subsequent uses "only" impose a -4 penalty to defend. Don't leave home without it, if using these rules. 
  • Strike of Negation (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Works better on paper than in game, but it can really help when it does work. Once you get your ST damage high enough (often with the help of per dice bonuses from sources such as tempered glass weapons and weapon master), you'll negate magic items and buffing spells with some reliability. The best way to use it is to have 2+attacks per round though, and use the option that allows you to use it after one of your attacks hits. Grab the Dispelling Strike powerup if you really want to use it though. 
  • Stupefying Blow (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Crippling Blow's mental brother. Not as good, because combat reflexes means that mental stun is unlikely to stick for more than one round, but having both means that targets need both high HT and wigh Will to avoid being stun-locked. The effects you can afflict by taking penalties are nice, though. Lowered Will, Daze or Hallucinating are your best choices. 
  • Subtle Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - So your armor becomes invisible for one round? It doesn't sound great. The real gold is using it with a (large) shield, preferably one enchanted with Deflect, to gain massive DB bonuses. 
  • Sudden Death (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - I don't even allow it in my DF games, not because it's too strong (it is not) but because while it sounds good, it's a trap. Useless in actual play. 
  • Supreme Control (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Slightly better than Sudden Death, but not by much. It's only use is IMHO when trying to use Crippling Blow or Stupefying Blow to incapacitate a foe you want to capture alive. Attacking the target's legs does the same thing, and requires no special traits. If you wanted to take foes alive, you would have made a Justicar right? leave this to those weird Justicar/Mystic Knights that might have a use for it. 
  • Telescopic Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) -  Don't forget you can also use it when in close combat to cancel those crippling penalties for using too big weapons. Never leave home without it. 
  • Thunderous Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - If Deafening Display is bad, this is worse. Avoid it. 
  • Toxic Strike (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - It's only use is when facing foes with vulnerabilities. It's not good for ranged attacks because it means that you no longer get the huge bonuses from vitals or brain hits. The foes that are resistant to piercing attacks are often also immune to it (wizardly constructs, undead, etc). Don't take it unless you want to take the cheap Poison Imbued Soul. 
  • Traumatic Blow (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - This is no good. You've got Penetrating Strike and Fulminating Strike to deal with armor, why would you want this? Avoid it. 
  • Underwater Strike (Pyramid #3/36) - Necessary if your GM like underwater adventures, useless otherwise. 
  • Vampiric Weapon (Power-Ups 1: Imbuements) - Awesome in the hands of a melee fighter, almost useless otherwise. I also make it slightly worse by making non-living beings (constructs, undead, spirits, elementals, some demons) immune to it. At least in my games, no matter what, you're going to eventually get hit and take damage, and in combat healing is hard to come by in GURPS. In combat healing that doesn't cost you actions? You might not use it every attack, but when you use it, it is a life saver. 
  • Vengeful Defense (Pyramid #3/4) - Much better than Restorative Armor. The armor version is sort of Ok, but the shield version can be devastating against high damage foes. Recommended to anyone who has a shield and uses imbuements. 
  • Widen shield (Pyramid #3/4) - Awesome, and you can position yourself to protect friends behind you. I would use the shield cover DR though, even if not using the shield damage rules, because the shield explicitly provides cover. I do not require block rolls if the shield is made bigger than 1 yard.


I have seen Imbuements used a ton, as they are Godogma’s very most favorite magic system ever in the entire wide world of RPG magic systems (I think), and it would be quicker and easier to count the GURPS characters he has made that don’t use imbuements as opposed to the ones that do (I am sure Godogma will kill me now). I have also made several Imbueists myself, and Starslayer has also played them, as have some others in our merry band.

A huge thing to note about being an Imbueist though is that Imbues by themselves are well, kinda useless. They buff and tweak something that already exists. So what exists is as important as what imbues your throwing on top of it. What is good for someone wielding a BAR is different from what is good for someone wielding a bow or a broadsword.

Enhancement Skills

  • Annihilating Weapon - I have only rarely used this myself, as I seem to only rarely face enemies who rely on parry a lot. Also, it tends to be unhealthy for enemy weapons, and if the enemy is using a weapon I want to loot it! However, it has been used to good effect by PCs in my games, either to destroy weapons or to force enemies to use their lousy defenses. It is especially handy defensively used to obliterate enemies weapons/limbs on a parry!
  • Arching Shot - I haven’t seen or seen used this one much at all. But after reading about it in the blog here, it sounds awesome. This must be corrected.
  • Bank Shot - Never used it or seen it used. Sounds like it might be amusing, or might just be tedious. Lowering enemy defenses is always a nice thing. 
  • Conic Blast - It sounds cool, but have never used it. Most ranged attacks seem more prone to relying on multiple hits or well placed hits to do damage, so a cone seems questionable. I could see it being useful for a high damage, high ROF perhaps though, like the M2HB imbueist.
  • Continuing Attack - I don’t see the use of this one. I want my enemy dead now, not, days from now. If you have high enough skill could be handy I suppose. 
  • Crippling Blow - I haven’t used this much myself (I don’t want to mess around with status effects, I want to make things dead directly through HP obliteration), but, I have seen PCs use it and it can definitely make a mess of targets. When the targets survive long enough to get status effected instead of just atomized. 
  • Dancing Weapon - I haven’t used this one very much, but, it is situationally handy on occasion. It requires extra weapons and again, why fuss with launching other weapons to attack foes instead of just whacking away yourself? I can see its uses though and probably should use it more. 
  • Drugged Weapon - FP damage can be King, but, this is hardly the way to do it, since FP and HP damage stacks poorly. I’ve never seen it used. 
  • Electric Weapon - I’ve never seen it used. Might be handy vs robots or such. Followup damage is extra damage so not a bad thing. 
  • Envenomed Weapon - I’ve never seen it used. Follow up damage is nice. However, very few things are extra vulnerable to toxic, and I could see the DM ruling many things as immune to it (you envenomed the stone golem? Riiight). 
  • Far Shot - Rarely used, but very awesome when it is. Great for any ranged fighter due to potential for awesome. Combine with Guided Shot to reach out and touch someone from very very very far away! 
  • Forceful Blow - I’ve never seen this used. Knockback may be nice and all, but, I’d rather try to get at those HP directly. With the right terrain could be very amusing. 
  • Ghostly Weapon - If you think you will be fighting ghosties or such, don’t leave home without it. If you don’t think so, it isn’t worth much. 
  • Guided Weapon - I’ve seen used a ton! A bread and butter ranged skill, used for putting single shots in someone’s eye from a mile away (with Far Shot above!), since all the skill not going to get past range can go to somewhere else useful. Less useful at closer range and other times when you want to cut loose on full auto, or against homogenous etc foes where there isn’t the option to hit the eye or vitals and need lots of hits. 
  • Homing Weapon - Never seen it used. It requires Aim. Who wants to Aim? People use Guided instead (and Far Shot if there ½ D isn’t enough for Guided). 
  • Incendiary Weapon - I’ve seen this used a lot, especially with shotguns. I am dubious how effective it is, but it is definitely popular. I think because the idea is to get LOTS of followup from lots of pellets, or because shotgun fireballs look cool? A lot of things are weak to fire so that helps. 
  • Multi-Shot - The Bread and Butter, be all, end all of the Mystic Archer type to fling arrows downrange by the bushel basket and try to negate enemies defense (sure, make your block or dodge by X to get past them all), shred HP (more hits, more HP go bye), or to even hit at all (ROF can add + to hit!), this is the #1 most use archer imbuement in the book, and I’ve seen it a ton and used it a ton. Note, I have been using the ruling that Bow Rcl = 1, and I imagine it will be less useful using the ½ bulk rule I’ve seen a few times on forum. Feel free to combine with other imbues such as shattershot for extra fun if your DM doesn’t kill you for ludicrous amounts of dice rolling.
  • Penetrating Strike - Boring but super effective. Is probably overall the #1 most used imbue, since everyone uses it be they meleeist, gunslinger, archer or whatever. Getting past armor is key to slaying HP. 
  • Project Blow - I’ve used this myself but have never seen anyone’s PC use it in a game I’ve run. It seems like a good way to get a single ranged attack in in a fight, but, never seems terribly effective. I think I just like the cool anime flashiness more than any GURPS use. I often use with Shockwave so can be explosive! 
  • Shattershot - Exceptionally effective when combined with Multi-Shot, especially since close does count with shrapnel! However, it will make people want to kill you OOC when you loose a ROF 14 BAR + Multi-Shot barrage downrange and the game stops for hours as you roll out where shots landed and what the shrapnel did. I suspect if I could get Maptools to work and use a handy Maptools macro it might work better. I think I have an Excel shrapnel tool laying around if anyone is interested. People love to take Shattershot, but they are very hesitant to use it because of the agonizing time it takes to resolve shrapnel attacks. Consider, 5 arrows exploding near 10 orks, that is 50 shrapnel attacks to resolve. Each of which may have 0-3 shrapnel hits, each of which needs random hit location and damage roll. UGH! Just shoot them directly instead okay? 
  • Shockwave - This one is situationally cool and I have seen it used and used it. It is handy to try and weaken a group of foes by flinging a single shot (for full damage) at the center one and thus clipping its friends, or as a substitute for whirlwind attack if you are surrounded. It also is exceptionally useful if you are facing Diffuse enemies! For these reasons it is often taken. I like using it with Project Blow for sheer cool factor. 
  • Stealthy Attack - I haven’t used it, but I have had players use it. I don’t like stealth and like flashy flash stuff. My players love being ninjas, so they like it. 
  • Stupefying Blow - Haven’t seen it used, but could be handy maybe. I’d rather try to just blast HP myself. 
  • Sudden Death - I don’t really get the point of this one. 
  • Supreme Control - I am not really sure I see much of a use for this one either. 
  • Telescoping Weapon - I have never seen this one used, but after reading the original blog entry I feel inclined to try it. I am very sad it caps at reach 4 though, so no telescoping lances! Very sad. 
  • Traumatic Blow - I’m not sure I could see where this could be useful. I’ve never seen it. 

Transformation Skills

  • Binding Shot - Awesome skill! Very good for ranged people who want to take targets alive. High raw damage is semi necessary. Or if you don’t have the raw damage, can at least keep enemy busy breaking free while your friends pummel it. Very nice! I’ve used it a ton. 
  • Burning Strike - Vampires and many other critters do not like burning damage. This lets you do burning damage. This is very useful and everyone takes it. Also it looks very cool. It also is why I might ban imbuements if I ever run Monster Hunters, as I’ve seen what Burning Strike + BARs does to vampires and their ilk. 
  • Chilling Strike - FP damage can be King, but oddly, I’ve never seen this one used. People take Fatiguing Strike instead. Corrosive Strike Half damage and destroys the loot? PASS! 
  • Crushing Strike - Aside from a few oddball critters, few things are weak to crushing. So this is not very popular. Mystic Archer types like carrying a cornucopia of blunt arrows in case they need crushing anyway. 
  • Cutting Strike - One of the bread and butter moves of the gunslinging imbueist, as this negates the big problem of guns (lousy vs homogenous and unliving) and instead targets their weak point (cutting!). Meleeists often are wielding Sw Cutting to start, and Archers carry cutting arrow cornucopias. Almost all gunslinger imbueists have this one. 
  • Dazzling Display - Never seen it used or used it. It sounds very cool and flashy, but, I want to hurt things in their HP. Also I am very hazy as to how exactly obscure actually works. 
  • Deafening Display - I haven’t seen or used it either. Also, maybe because I’m used to comics, but this doesn’t even sound as fun as Dazzling. 
  • Fatiguing Strike - FP Damage can be King! Imagine a beefy beastie like a T-Rex with ST 34 and 14 HT (or something much beefier), that’s a lot of HP to chisel through and then its going to make its HT checks to keep in the fight a long time. Or you just buzzsaw its 14 FP down to ‘you fall, no HT check allowed range’ and its over and done with. I used this once in one of Starslayer’s games to flatten a big bad boss monster in casual fashion. It isn’t seen very often likely due to shear unsportingness of it I expect. 
  • Impaling Strike - Impaling is nice, but Mystic Archers already do Impaling, the pi of guns is the same x3 vs vitals as impaling if can called shot vitals, or the tempting cutting may well be good enough or better than impaling at -1 per die. And if you can eat the -5 for impaling at straight level, you can pull cutting at -0 FP. Meleeists do Sw Cutting usually, which competes favorably with Sw -1 per die Impaling also. So, while it seems cool, am rather dubious its worth it. Haven’t seen it used either. Piercing Strike Piercing just isn’t a fun damage type, so why bother? 
  • Strike of Negation - This one is fun! As long as you are a meleeist who can hit like a truck. I have fond memories of dispelling a boss zombie psion in a single blow! I always take it, but rarely have used it. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else use it. But it is cool! 
  • Toxic Strike - Meh. Its cool feature is it leaves no marks. But we like Mark Langsdorf so we don’t want to lose him. Also, I like flashy blindingly obvious things, not sneaky slink stuff! And Toxic just isn’t a fun damage type. Never seen it used. 
  • Vampiric Weapon - The Bread and Butter mainstay move of the Meleeist! You heal as you fight, making you a real terror to actually fell and making you low maintenance as far as healing is concerned. Also, high ST helps you hit harder so you do more damage for more healing, and high HP (if you trip the threshholds) make you heal better, win win! I haven’t seen a meleeist who didn’t take this, it is the absolute core move as far as I’ve seen. 
    • One fun fun fun build I like to call the ‘Blood Ramjet’: One Beefy Meleeist Imbueist with a good amount of HP. Take the ‘Spend HP for Imbue’ perk from Pyramid, take the ‘spend HP for Extra Effort’ perk from somewhere (its supposedly for vampires, but, I don’t see why other people can’t tear their bodies up with extra effort, and it matches nicely with ED Strain damage). Live dangerously by spending buckets of HP for Imbues and Extra Effort as you become an offensive juggernaut, using Vampiric Strike to keep healing. It is wildly risky and only dubiously effective due to its risk, but awesomely fun! 
  • Withering Strike - I’ve never seen this used, but sounds like Indiana Jones and Holy Grail styled fun! FP damage is King. 


I don't think any of the three of us had wildly different views on the value of the various skills, except perhaps I valued Annihilating Weapon a bit more (what is wrong with destroying loot? Some loot isn't worth lugging back home!) and Multi-shot a bit less, though the last one is just because my character isn't good with his bow - a primary ranged attacker gets a lot out of Multishot.

I realized after I put this post together that it might have been more interesting to intersperse Antoni's and Kalazz's comments all Point-Counterpoint style, but I'm not willing to do it now. Sorry. Maybe next time. 

Thanks to Antoni and Kalazz for contributing
this article!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quirks for Martial Arts Styles

Martial Arts Styles include Perks to represent the additional training that some stylists get: a pole-arm fighter learns how to instantly change grips to adjust the reach of his weapon, while a Roman legionnaire knows how to fight in formation and defend the next man over with his shield. It seems to me there should also be style Quirks, to represent the downsides of specialized training.

  • Basic Style Training - You're familiar with a style that was self-taught, learned through painful experience on the streets, taught to you by a fraud, or just stripped to its essentials. You may be very able at executing the attacks and defenses you know, but your repertoire relies on the simplest of moves. You can ignore -1 in Feint and Deceptive Attack penalties from co-stylists with the Basic quirk. Anyone who knows your style without the Basic Quirk, and anyone who knows a style that covers all the weapon skills in your style, can ignore -1 in Feint and Deceptive Attack penalties from you! Basically, anyone who has enough training to pick up a full Style Familiarity knows all of your limited number of moves, even if they've never fought anyone from your style before.
  • Aggressive Style - You were taught an extremely aggressive form of your style that concentrates on overwhelming attacks but neglects defending. Whenever you make an Evaluate, Wait, Defensive Attack, or Attack maneuver, you have a -1 on all defenses. The defense penalty on the Wait maneuver goes away if you convert it into a Committed Attack. If you ever learn a style without this quirk, you must buy off this quirk for all your styles.
    • This perk is especially appropriate for ABA Bando, Kachin Bando, Italian School Fencing, Hung Gar Kung Fu, Kenjutsu, Krav Maga, MCMAP, Sambo, Muay Thai, and Naginatajutsu.
  • Defensive Style - You were taught a defensive style that waits for an opening before making an attack. You have -1 on any attack roll made during a Move and Attack, All-Out Attack, Committed Attack, or Attack maneuver, unless you chose to Evaluate your target on your previous turn or you converted your maneuver from a Wait on this turn. If you ever learn a style without this quirk, you must buy off this quirk for all your styles.
    • This perk is especially appropriate for Aikijutsu, Boxing, Chin Na, Dagger Fighting, La Verdadera Destreza Fencing, Kajukenbo, Goju Ryu Karate, Isshinryu Karate, Kusarijutsu, Longsword Fighting, Pa Kua Chuan, Pankration, Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Shortsword Fighting, Sojutsu, Sword and Shield Fighting, and T'ai Chi Chuan.
Style quirks should not count against the quirk limit. A stylist can only have one quirk per Style Familiarity perk.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Imbuement Skills in Play So Far

Sometime real soon now I hope to write an article on the effectiveness of Mystic Knights in Dungeon Fantasy. I've only seen one Mystic Knight in play, so I don't feel I have as good a grasp of the template as I do with knights, swashbucklers, or other templates that I've played a couple of times and seen a couple of different people play.

I do have some experience with some Imbuement skills, based on playing Shiba, my semi-sorta Mystic Knight. Here's a preliminary evaluation, based on my experience so far.

Very Often Useful

These are Imbuments I find myself using the most, and that I'm moving toward thinking that just about every Mystic Knight should have.
  • Arching Shot - Arching shot eliminates penalties for cover that isn't overhead cover. Allies standing between the Mystic Knight and target are cover. It is amazingly worth 1FP to be able to make an attack from a bad position and not have to worry about missing the target and accidentally clobbering an ally instead. The -2 to the target's defense is just a happy bonus at that point.
  • Guided Weapon - Removing the range penalties for a ranged attack is huge. Shiba uses a bow as his primary ranged weapon, and while he's no where near as good a shot at close range as the delving band's scout, Shiba is a better shot past about 50 yards. This might be less useful for short ranged Mystic Knights (axe throwers, for instance) but 1 FP for an effective +5 to hit at 15 yards is a good deal.
  • Penetrating Strike - Armor Divisors are a good thing.
  • Telescoping Weapon - I almost didn't take this for Shiba, but I'm glad I accidentally did and didn't fix the mistake. In any game with a lot of detailed combat, the ability to extend or retract reach by 2 hexes is amazing. With this and the Sacrificial Parry perk, I can also defend for allies within 4-5 yards, which means I can defend the relative squishes without needing to be close enough to invite area effect attacks.
  • Widen Shield - Shiba doesn't use this because he has an artifact shield that blocks area attacks, but if he didn't have that shield, this would be his most commonly used defensive imbuement. Usually, the only way to defend against an area attack is a Retreat, and if the defender is deep within the area attack, there might not be a safe place to retreat. Widen Shield lets the defender block instead, without having to give up precious ground. Any Mystic Knight with a shield should take this imbument.

Sometimes Useful

These are Imbuements that I've used, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped I would.
  • Annihilating Weapon - It took literally 10 sessions before I had a chance to use this. It isn't useful if most of your foes are attacking unarmed. However, the ability to literally disarm karatekas and other "armed" unarmed attackers is just great, as well as forcing mooks to dodge instead of using their superior parry and having their weapons destroyed.
  • Bank Shot - I can see how this would be useful, but Arching Shot is more generally useful in my opinion. If I had to go for one or the other, I'd go with Arching Shot. 
  • Far Shot - Archers and crossbowmen generally have plenty of range and don't need this enhancement. Thrown weapon users often have limited weapon ranges, and multiplying a thrown axe range by 2 or 5 is pretty useful, especially when combined with Guided Shot to remove the ranged penalties.
  • Ghostly Weapon  - This is a lifesaver if there are a lot of insubstantial foes, and not useful otherwise. I still wish I had taken it.
  • Scattershot -1d of fragmentation damage is too little against anyone with armor; 2d of fragmentation damage occurs in a 10 yard radius and means that you might accidentally hit friendlies. The couple of times I've used it, the bad guys were too scattered for it to be effective. However, as a fight opener against a bunch of clustered enemies at range, fragmentation damage is amazing so this imbuement is worth the investment.
  • Multishot - Any high skill ranged attacker (like a Scout/Mystic Archer) should definitely take this imbuement and turn all their attacks into machine guns. My character only has Bow-14 so I haven't picked this up yet.
  • Shockwave and Conic Blast - Area effect damage is amazing against diffuse foes, but the melee version of Shockwave can hit allies so it's less useful. The rapid fall-off in damage makes Shockwave ineffective against foes that are more than a yard or so apart; Conic Blast is hard to make wide enough to hit more than a single line of foes. But still, area effect damage for 1FP beats anything that the wizard has to offer.

Seems Like They Should Be Useful but Aren't

These imbuments have been disappointments in my experience.
  • Blinding Defense - Blinding defense has two problems: the Obscure affects the user when used against melee attacks, and either way, it only lasts until the user's next turn. I spent 10 sessions waiting to use this against a missile weapon, and when I finally got a chance to do so, I was next in the initiative order and the blindness ended immediately.
  • Vampiric Weapon - My character has good enough defenses that he almost never gets hurt, so I haven't had a chance to use this much. If I had another +5 skill and a couple levels of Energy Reserve, recovering spent ER would be useful but I don't. I'd have done better to spend the points that I spent on this on Bank Shot or Ghostly Weapon.
  • Project Blow - With the short half-damage range, long recovery time, and a ruling from my GM that I can't use Ranged only imbuements on it, Project Blow tends to come a poor second to Telescoping Blow. There's usually a decent target within 4 yards, so Project Blow only extends my effective reach by +6 yards.

Not Useful

There's a bunch of Imbuements that I've never used or considered purchasing. Most of the Transformation Imbues, for instance, don't seem that useful. Or at least the drawbacks (reduced or halved damage) are severe enough that the minor benefits aren't worth it. Most of the various defensive imbuements also don't appeal to me; I may be missing something there but I always think, "there are better ways to spend my points."

Other Views

I'm hoping that other people have a different view of Imbuements, and can provide some insight from their perspective. So if you've played an Imbuement heavy character in a Dungeon Fantasy game, please share your thoughts in the comments.

And a Little Advertising

There's a new GURPS blog called Spiderweb in the Corner. I know that my link traffic is a lot less than Peter's or Doug's, but I think every bit helps for a new blogger hoping for some attention. So go check it out, please, all 70 of you =)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why we delve

The typical 250 point Dungeon Fantasy delver is a highly competent person: all of them are veteran armsmen, at least, and most of them have a wide variety of other employable skills. A wizard can make absurd amounts of money with just the Continual Light spell; a cleric is a trauma surgeon beyond the greatest abilities of 21st century science; a knight is very skilled soldier, warrior, and leader of men with a noticeable talent. In short, delvers are the kind of people who should be able to get hired and maintain a good standard of living without having to risk life and limb by journeying to the bottom of the Sewers of Eldritch Stank and grubbing copper coins.

Some of the templates have hints as to why a delver might not have a respectable and safe job in Town. A wizard who is obsessed with becoming a lich needs to find a presumably banned grimoire and who knows what kind of creepy magical components. It's not the kind of research that's compatible with casting illusions at the Princess Royal's 5th birthday party while working as the Court Wizard. Similarly, a thief with the Trickster disadvantage is quickly going to get bored with matching wits with the Town Guard, and go out looking for a dragon to bamboozle. Holy Warriors may have a divine mandate to go destroy demons and undead.

Every delver should have to take a -10 or -15 point disadvantage that explains why the delver can't maintain a steady job in town. Examples include:
  • Berserk [-10]. Madmen who sometimes go off and kill people are not acceptable soldiers.
  • Code of Honor (Xia) [-10]. If you're a pseudo-Chinese knight errant, you need to be out and about, righting wrongs and defending poor peasant villages.
  • Fanaticism [-15]. Clerics and Holy Warriors may be under divine compulsion, or what they think is divine compulsion, to go out and fight Evil.
  • Obsession [-5, -10]. Whether it's the need to become a lich, demonstrate mastery of unarmed combat, or kill the nine-headed cubic triger, people with obsessions can't keep jobs in Town.
  • Phobia (Crowds) [-15]. Barbarians, Druids, and Scouts can't work in Town if they panic while there.
  • Trickster [-15]. Bards and thieves who are compulsively looking to fool dangerous opponents need to go out and get challenged.
  • Vow (Ninja Secrecy) [-5] and Vow (Own no more than what can be carried) [-10]. Ninja delvers have to delve because of orders from the clan.
There are a few disadvantages that aren't by themselves sufficient motivation to become a delver, even though it seems like they would be:
  • Greedy [-15]. Obviously, greedy delvers have a sufficient need to go and earn money, but they don't have the requirement to do so. There are plenty of other ways to earn money in town.
  • Social Stigma (Criminal) [-5]. Publicly known thieves and forgers can still earn money in Town; it's not so much harder as to justify delving.
  • Social Stigma (Outsider) [-10]. A foreigner martial artist or barbarian might not be able to get a job in Town, but there needs to be some explanation of why they aren't living wherever they came from and getting a job there amongst people who don't think them strange and unlikable.
  • Sense of Duty (Coreligionists) [-10]. Absent a direct threat to Town, it's hard for a Cleric to justify looting the Lost Castle Amber instead of staying in Town, healing the sick and directly tending the needs of the flock.
  • Social Stigma (Almost Monster) [-15]. An orc, troll, or half-ogre might be prime material for the Town Guard, but if everyone in Town hates them, they still need to find some other way of earning money. Of course, they could just stay with their tribe and earn money there.
Some of these disadvantages can be combined with other disadvantages to explain why a delver has to delve. A troll with a Gentleman's Code of Honor probably isn't welcome in troll society, either, and has to find some other way of earning a living.

One other disadvantage that seems appropriate but limiting is Sense of Duty (Friends). If all of a character's friends are going delving, the character might go with them to protect them, even though
he doesn't want to go delving for himself. This is a bit tricky to me, since the delving band needs someone who needs to delve for the point of delving, and if that character dies or retires, any characters who don't have an inherent motivation don't have a good reason to continue delving.

There's one disadvantage that was introduced in Monster Hunters: Champions that is appropriate to this discussion: Compulsive Behavior (Thrill-Seeking). The need to go out and do dangerous stuff is a good catch-all disadvantage for explaining why someone is a delver and is noticeably appropriate for swashbucklers and other physical types.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grimoire costs for College Book Ritual Magic

Most spellcasters in my College Book Ritual Magic system need a grimoire in order to cast spells well. In theory, they can cast any spell from any College that they know, but the prerequisite penalties can make successful spellcasting improbable in practice. Here's the rules for those grimoires.

Grimoire Quality

Grimoires come in three qualities, which basically represents paper weight and grade. Cheap grimoires are made from thick, heavy paper. Good and fine grimoires are made from thinner and stronger paper. Grimoires can come in any size, but are bought in blanks of 100 pages.

Cost ($)/
100 pages
Weight (Lbs)/
100 pges

Grimoires can also be Dwarven, as per manuals from Sages: immune to fire and water damage, double weight, +4 CF.

Spells per Grimoire

Each spell in a grimoire has a separate bonus, a cost to purchase the spell for the grimoire, and a number of pages that the spell requires. Delvers who want to scribe their own spells can instead pay $0.5/page for the calligraphy and an additional material cost for diagrams and rare inks if they have the required minimum skills in Writing, Teaching, Thaumatology, and effectively in the college including the prerequisite penalty for the spell.

BonusCost ($)PagesMaterial ($)Min Skill

Sample Grimoires

Little Wizard's School of Evocation Apprentice Primer: This cheap, 500 page tome contains all the spells required for an Apprentice of the Little Wizard's School of Evocation to prepare for the Journeyman exam, to the limit of the apprentice's skill in the College or Thaumatology. Contains Create Fire +1, Fireball +3, Shape Fire +1, Stench +1, Air Jet +3, Cold +4, Create Air +1, Create Water +2, Deflect Energy +2, Extinguish Fire +1, Fireproof +2, Flame Jet +3, Heat +3, Purify Water +1, Shape Air +2, Shape Earth +1, Smoke +3, and Thunderclap +1. There are 110 blank pages for further expansion. A Little Wizard Stylist would get a +1 bonus on all the spells including (up to the maximum of Thaumatology) and could use the Apprentice Primer to get a +1 bonus on any Little Wizard Journeyman spells included in another Little Wizard grimoire. $415, 10 lbs. A good quality travel version of the grimoire is $765, 5 lbs.

Vance's Ultimate Terminus on the Onyx Path: This fine, dwarven, 600 page tome is worth nearly its weight in gold, especially to wizards of the Onyx Path. Contains Ancient History +6, Animate Shadow +7, Lich +9, and Golem +6. There are 80 blank pages for further work. $13000, 1.2 lbs.

Further Work

I really need to figure out how to make this work for GCA.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Better Fantasy Armor: GCA File

I worked on a GCA file for the Better Fantasy Armor rules. It's up on the Motoslave GCA Repository at this link.

I had to ditch the idea of using the Fluting and Hardened modifiers with Dragonbone, Dragonhide, and Dragonscale - GCA simply doesn't support having modifiers select modifiers in way that I liked. Instead, I created four modifiers for each type of dragon part: young dragon*, dragon*, elder dragon*, and ancient dragon*, with each increasing age category reducing the weight of the armor by another 10%.

There's probably some conflicts with Low-Tech in it and I may update the file to get rid of them. If anyone has other issues or suggestions for improvements, they can be emailed to me or added to the comments below.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Better Fantasy Armor: Armor Examples

A selection of sample armors to show how my Fantasy Armor rules would work.

I had a couple of goals for these rules:
  1. It should be easy to create a new suit of armor. Optimizing armor may take a spreadsheet, but creating armor with a clear concept in mind should take a few minutes and a calculator.
  2. There shouldn't be many trap options. It's acceptable for higher TL armor to better than lower, but the rules in Low-Tech such that reinforcing heavier leather makes it weigh more for less benefit or some cheap metal armor is heavier and most costly than cloth needs to go.
  3. Delvers should be able to afford a lot of DR, both in terms of dollars and weight. The Low-Tech system in which delvers spend $2500+ to get DR5 at 60+ lbs doesn't work that well in a game were starting wealth is $1000 and starting monster do 3d+3 or more damage.
  4. There has to be some kind of upgrade path for all armor types. The lightly armored delver in robes needs an option to stay in robes but get better DR and more cool stuff. Everyone converging on plate isn't fun.

I think I accomplished these goals, but people's attitudes may vary.

Hand and Foot Gear

Wooden Shoes: DR1 Wood Feet. Costs and weighs 10% of the base armor (DR1 Wood is $60 and 14 lbs), for $6 and 1.4 lbs.
Leather Sandals: DR1 Leather Feet. Costs and weighs 10% of the base armor (DR1 Leather is $60 and 13 lbs), for $6 and 1.3 lbs.
Knee-High Boots: DR2 Leather Feet and Shins with the Fine modifier. Costs and weighs 18% of the base
armor (DR2 Leather is $120 and 26 lbs) for $22 and 4.7 lbs, adjusted by Fine to $88 and 3.7 lbs.
Sharkskin Over-the-Knee Boots: DR2 Leather Feet, Knees, and Shins with the Quality leather modifier. Costs and weighs 22% of the base armor (DR2 Leather is $120 and 26 lbs) for $26 and 5.7 lbs, adjusted by Quality to $78 and 4 lbs.
Thigh High Boots: DR2 Leather Feet, DR1 Leather Legs; both with Fine and Quality leather modifier. Costs and weighs 10% of the base armor (DR2 Leather is $120 and 26 lbs) and 24% of the base armor (DR1 Leather is $60 and 13 lbs) for $26 and 5.7 lbs, modified by fine and quality to $156 and 2.9 lbs.
Leather gloves: DR1 Leather Hands with the Fine Modifier. Costs and weighs 6% of the base armor (DR1 Leather is $60 and 13 lbs) for $3.6 and 0.8 lbs, adjusted by Fine to $14 and 0.6 lbs.
Heavy Leather Gauntlets: DR2 Leather Hands and Forearms with the Fine modifier. Costs and weighs 12% of the base armor (DR2 Leather is $120 and 26 lbs) for $14 and 3.1 lbs, adjusted by Fine to $56 and 2.5 lbs.
Historical Plate Gloves: DR4 Plate Hands. Costs and weighs 6% of the base armor (DR4 plate is $2800 and 28 lbs) for $168 and 1.7 lbs.
Historical Plate Sollerets: DR4 Plate Feet. Costs and weighs 10% of the base armor (DR4 plate is $2800 and 28 lbs) for $280 and 3 lbs.

Head Gear

Primitive Helmet: DR4 Horn Face and Skull. Costs and weighs 6% of the base armor (DR4 Bone is $240 and 56 lbs), for $14 and 3.4 lbs, modified by Horn to $21 and 2.7 lbs.
Corinthian Helmet: DR8 Plate Head with Segmented Plate and Bronze modifiers. Costs and weighs 8% of the base armor (DR8 Plate is $5600 and 56 lbs) for $448 and 4.5 lbs. Modified by Bronze and Segmented, it goes to $1702 and 5.2 lbs.
Samurai Helmet: DR8 Scale Face and Skull. Costs and weighs 6% of the base armor (DR8 Scale is $2000 and 80 lbs), for $120 and 4.8 lbs.
Historical Plate Fullhelm: DR9 Face and Skull. Costs and weighs 6% of the base armor (DR9 plate is $6300 and 63 lbs) for $378 and 3.8 lbs.
Historical Plate Gorget: DR4 Plate Neck. Costs and weighs 2% of the base armor (DR4 plate is $2800 and 28 lbs) for $56 and 0.5 lbs.

Partial Suits

Heavy Layered Cloth Collared Jack and Leggings: DR4 Layered Cloth Arms, Legs, Torso, Neck with a Weak Back and Reinforced Vitals. Costs and weighs 76% of the base armor (DR4 cloth is $400 and 48 lbs) for $304 and 36.5 lbs.
Quality Light Robe: DR2 Cloth Arms, Thighs, Knees, Torso, Neck, and Skull with the Silk and Fine modifiers. Costs and weighs 73% of the base armor (DR2 cloth is $200 and 24 lbs) for $146 and 18.2 lbs, modified by Fine and Silk for $1168 and 12.8 lbs.
Light Mail Hooded Hauberk: DR5 Mail Arms, Thighs, Torso, Neck, and Skull with Cheap modifier. Costs and weighs 66% of base armor (DR5 mail is $2500 and 30 lbs) for $1675 and 20 lbs, adjusted by Cheap to $1005 and 25 lbs.
Heavy Lamellar Corselet, Thigh Guards, and Arm Guards: DR8 Scale Shoulders, Upper Arms, Elbows, Thighs, Knees, Torso, and Neck with Weak Back and Weak Limbs. Costs and weighs 48.5% of base armor (DR8 scale is $2000 and 80 lbs) for $970 and 38.8 lbs.
Heavy Linen Skirt: DR4 Abdomen and Thighs. Costs 24% of the base armor (DR4 cloth is $400 and 48 lbs) for $96 and 11.5 lbs.
Bronze Cuirass, Front Greaves, and Arm Guards: DR8 Plate Chest, Front Fore Arms, Front Upper Arms, Shoulders, Shins Knees with the Bronze and Segmented Plate modifiers. Costs and weighs 43% of base armor (DR8 Plate is $5600 and 56 lbs) for $2408 and 24.1 lbs. Adjusted by Segmented Plate and Bronze to $9150 and 27.7 lbs.
Historical Plate Cuirass, Vambraces, and Greaves: DR9 Plate Arms, Legs, and Torso, with Weak Back, Weak Limbs, and Front Vitals Reinforcement. Costs and weighs 60% of base armor (DR9 plate is $6300 and 63 lbs) for $3780 and 37.8 lbs.
Skimpy Dress: DR1 Giant Spider Silk Groin and front Chest. Costs and weighs 12% of base armor (DR1 cloth is $100 and 13 lbs), for $12 and 1.56 lbs, modified by Giant Spider Silk to $360 and 0.8 lbs. Can be worn under other armor at no penalty by SM0+ wearers.


Primitive Armor: Reasonable armor for TL0 primitives or poor levies. Heavy Layered Cloth Collared Jack and Leggings ($304, 36.5 lbs), Primitive Helmet ($21, 2.7 lbs), Knee High Boots ($88, 3.7 lbs), and Heavy Leather Gauntlets ($56, 2.5 lbs). Gives DR4* to the head (including neck), front torso, arms, and legs, except the shins and forearms have DR6*. The back torso, hands, and feet have DR2*. Front vitals have DR8*, and back vitals have DR6*. $469, 45.4 lbs.
Beginning Wizard/Martial Artist Armor: Affordable armor for starting delvers who value speed over DR. Quality Light Robe ($1168, 12.8 lbs), Knee High Boots ($88, 3.7 lbs), and Leather Gloves ($14, 0.6 lbs). Gives DR2* all over except for the face (no DR) and the hands (DR1*). $1270, 17.1 lbs.
Beginning Delver Medium Armor: Suitable armor for a secondary combatant such as a cleric. Light Mail Hooded Hauberk ($1005, 25 lbs), Sharkskin Over-the-Knee Boots ($78, 4 lbs), and Leather Gloves ($14, 0.6 lbs). Gives DR5* to the arms, thighs, torso, and head except the face. Gives DR2* to the feet, and DR1* to the hands. $1097, 29.6 lbs.
Beginning Delver Heavy Armor: Basic armor for a mystic knight, knight, or holy warrior. Heavy Lamellar Corselet et al ($970, 38.8 lbs), Samurai Helmet ($120, 4.8 lbs), Knee High Boots ($88, 3.7 lbs), and Heavy Leather Gauntlets ($56, 2.5 lbs). Gives DR8 to the neck, face, skull, front of the torso, front of the arms to the elbows, and front legs to the knees. Gives DR4 to the back of the torso, back of the arms to the elbows, and back of the legs to the knees. Gives DR2 (flexible) on the forearms, hands, shins, and feet. $1234, 49.8 lbs.
Historical Hoplite Armor: Greek Hoplites would have worn something approaching this in 3rd to 4th century BC, along with a large aspis shield. Bronze Cuirass et all ($9150, 27.7 lbs), Heavy Linen Skirt ($96, 11.5 lbs), Corinthian Helmet ($1702, 5.2 lbs), Leather Sandals ($6, 1.3 lbs). Gives DR8 on the head, chest, shoulders, knees, and shins, as well as the front of the forearms and upper arms. Gives DR4 on the abdomen and thighs, and DR1 on the feet. $10954, 45.7 lbs.
Historical White Plate Harness: This represents gothic or maximillan full plate armor. Historical Plate Cuirass, Vambraces, Greaves ($3780, 37.8 lbs), gorget ($56, 0.5 lbs), fullhelm ($378, 3.8 lbs), gloves ($168, 1.7 lbs), and sollerets ($280, 3 lbs). Gives DR18 to the front vitals; DR9 to the face, skull, and front of the arms, legs, and torso, face, and skull; and DR4 to the hands, feet, neck, and back of the torso and limbs. $4662, 46.2 lbs.
Pixie Ultimate Plate Harness: Starting armor for a pixie delver who is well aware of her vulnerability to explosions. DR5 Plate with Hardened, Fluted, Segmented Plate, and Oricalchum modifiers, sized for SM-6. Costs and weighs 100% of the base armor (DR5 plate is $3500 and 35 lbs), modified by a net +36.8 CF, -40% to weight, and then reduced to 1/100th of cost and weight for size modifiers. Provides DR5 all of the body and counts as thin armor so a pixie can wear it without a DX penalty. $1323, 0.2 lbs. (The same suit would cost $132,300 and weigh 21 lbs if sized for a human.)
Sorceress Outfit: The standard get-up for a female evil spellcaster, with modest protection in the face of danger but plenty of exposed skin. Skimpy Dress ($360, 0.8 lbs), Thigh High Boots ($156, 2.9 lbs), and Heavy Leather Gauntlets ($56, 2.5 lbs). Provides DR2* to the hands, forearms, and feet, and DR1* to the groin, front chest, and legs. $572, 6.2 lbs.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Better Fantasy Armor: Armor Modifiers

As I mentioned in my first article on better fantasy armor, the system I'm setting up depends on having a set of modifiers that can turn the standard armor types listed below into the wider variety described in GURPS Low-Tech. So here are most of those additional modifiers. They're available in a GCA file for people who use GCA4.

First, a quick review of the base armor types.

Armor MaterialTypeNotes$/DRLbs/DR
Layered ClothTextile-2 DR vs imp/pi;
LeatherHide-2 DR vs imp/pi;
ScaleScale-1 DR vs cr25010
-2 DR vs cr;

Armor Modifiers

Armor modifiers can define the armor's workmanship, base material, or some other characteristic of the armor. All workmanship modifiers are mutually exclusive with each other, and all base material modifiers are also mutually exclusive with each other. All other modifiers can be combined with each other except as specifically noted.


Fine: Fine armor is well-made and only fits the wearer. There is an additional -1 penalty to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. +3 CF, -20% to weight.
Very Fine: Very Fine armor is made by master smiths and only fits the wearer. There is an additional -1 penalty to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. +14 CF, -30% to weight.
Cheap: Cheap armor is either mass-produced or made by inferior craftsman or from inferior materials. There is a +2 bonus to target armor gaps. Workmanship modifier. -0.4 CF, +25% to weight.


Silk: Armor made from silk is lighter and more resistance to piercing, impaling, and cutting damage. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi). Material Modifier. +4 CF, -10% to weight.
Spider Silk: Spidersilk is stronger than normal silk, but harder to farm. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi). Material Modifier. +9 CF, -30% to weight.
Giant Spider Silk: The silk made from the webs of giant spiders is stronger than steel, though still flexible. Gives +1 DR vs cu, imp, and pi damage (though textile armor starts with -2 DR vs imp and pi) and reduce armor thickness by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -50% to weight.
Meditative: Grants the wearer +1 Chi Talent. +3 CF.


Layered Leather/Hardened Leather: Multiple thin layers of leather are heavier but stronger than a single thicker layer. Alternately, a single thick piece of layer can be hardened by boiling. Either way, these treatments remove the DR penalty against piercing and impaling attacks as well as the Flexible quality. Material Modifier. +0.1 CF, +25% to weight.
Quality Leather: The hides of certain exotic creatures (giraffes, sharks, trigers, reptile men) are stronger than the hides of creatures normally used to make leather, and makes for better armor. Material Modifier. +2 CF, -30% to weight.
Quality Layered/Hardened Leather: Quality leather can be layered or hardened, for armor that is nearly as strong as steel but still organic. Quality layered/hardened leather is not flexible and has no DR penalty. Material Modifier. +3.3 CF, -15% to weight.
Dragonhide: The skin of dragon's wings can be used to make strong and light weight leather armor without the need for hardening or layering. Dragonhide has no DR penalty, triple DR against fire and heat attacks, and reduces its thickness by one category. Exotic variants do not cost any more but give triple DR against other types of elemental damage - most commonly cold, but acid and lightning resistant versions exist. Material Modifier. +49 CF, -50% to weight.


Horn: Armor made from sculpted animal horns, tusks, or shells is reasonable strong and cheap, but bulky. Remove the semi-ablative quality of bone armor. Material Modifier. +0.5 CF, -20% to weight.
Dragonbone: The bones of a dragon are much stronger than normal animal bones and make excellent armor. Remove the semi-ablative quality of bone armor and reduce the bulk by one category. Dragonbone provides triple DR against fire and heat attacks just like dragonhide. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -50% to weight.


Straw: Straw mat armor is cheap but doesn't provide much protection. Add Flexible to the armor qualities, and increase the bulk by one category. Material Modifier. -0.4 CF.
Paper or Barkcloth: Layered paper is bulky but reasonably strong. Material Modifier. +0.5 CF, -20% to weight.
Cane: Flexible cane rods can be woven into a weak protective garment. Cane armor is heavy, bulky, and tends to come apart quickly under attacks. Add semi-ablative to its qualities. Material Modifier. -0.3 CF, -10% to weight.
Ironwood: Elves, druids, and faeries use this remarkable wood to create armor nearly as light and protective as steel plate, at nearly the same cost. Material Modifier. +9 CF, -40% to weight.


Cloth armors with some kind of metal reinforcement such as ring mail or penny-plate are examples of cheap scale armor.
Star Scale: Making the scales in scale armor out of a star shape allows them to withstand impact better. Remove the DR penalty against crushing attacks. +0.4 CF, no change to weight.
Brigandine: Advanced scale armor puts the scales inside a cloth or leather framework and tailors and overlaps them more efficiently than standard scale. Remove the DR penalty against crushing attacks. +1.25 CF, -20% to weight.
Dragonscale: The heavy body scales of a dragon are stronger and lighter than steel. Removes the DR penalty against crushing attacks, reduces the bulk of the armor by one category, and provides triple DR against heat and fire attacks just like dragonhide. Material Modifier. +19 CF, -40% to weight.


Banded: Weaving leather bands through the alternate rows of mail makes the armor less flexible and more resistant to crushing damage, in exchange for a notable increase in weight. Remove the -2 DR penalty versus cr and the flexible quality. +0.1 CF, +50% to weight.
Mail and Plates: Mail can be reinforced by small overlapping plates of metal, similar to scale. Reduce the DR penalty versus cr to -1 and remove the flexible quality. +0.2 CF, +25% to weight.
Elven: Advanced elven techniques make mail flexible but still resistant to crushing damage. Remove the DR penalty versus cr. +3 CF.
Mithril: The silver moon metal is nearly as strong as orichalcum, but cannot be forged into large plates, only wire. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -20% to weight.

Textile, Hide, or Mail

Athletic: The encumbrance of the armor doesn't penalize Acrobatics, Jumping, Running, or Swimming rolls, nor attacks with Fencing weapons. +5 CF.
Thieves: The encumbrance of the armor doesn't penalize Climbing or Stealth rolls. +3 CF.


Spiked: As per DF1 p 27. +2 CF.
Segmented Plate: Less advanced metal workers cannot forge large plates, and must carefully construct armor from smaller pieces riveted together. Unlike scale, there is no underlying textile or hide layer. -0.2 CF, +15% to weight.
Dwarven: Dwarven techniques provide articulation of even the thickest armor in exchange for increased weight. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Incompatible with the Cheap or Segmented Plate modifiers. +1 CF, +5% to weight.
Orichalcum: Essential metal makes excellent armor, but cannot normally be made in large plates and must be combined with the Segmented Plate modifier. Extremely skilled smiths can harden it, add fluting, and tailor it so well that an impenetrable harness weighs little more than heavy clothing. Reduces the armor bulk by one category. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -35% to weight.
Celestial Steel: Armor made from the metal of the gods glows with an inner light and resists the forces of corruption. The glow eliminates darkness in a 3 hex radius (as a Daylight Continual Light Spell). Reduces the armor bulk by one category, and provides its full DR (Cosmic Irresistable) against any attack made by Unholy, Demonic, or Undead powers. Material Modifier. +29 CF, -20% to weight.

Scale, Plate, or Dragonparts

Fluting: Carefully designed fluting, ribs, bosses, and vertical ribs can strengthen key components of armor, making it effectively stronger. For dragonparts, using the parts of elder dragons produces a similar effect. +4 CF, -10% weight.

Scale, Mail, or Plate

Copper: Metal armor can be made from copper, which is an inferior metal for the purpose. No one does this if they have access to iron or more exotic alternatives. Material Modifier. +3 CF, +20% weight. Low-Tech suggests +0 CF for copper, but doing so means that copper scale is 1/3rd the cost of copper by weight, which doesn't seem right.
Bronze: Metal armor can also be made from bronze, which is as good a choice as iron. Material Modifier. +3 CF. Assume in DF settings that tin is plentiful. In historical games set outside Britain, bronze should probably be +9 or +14 CF.
Hardened Metal: Any metal armor can be made from hardened metal, produced from master mages, dwarven smiths, or gnomish factories. Can also be applied to dragonhide, dragonbone, and dragonscale, to represent the use of elder dragons parts to produce a similar effect. +4 CF, -10% weight.
Meteoric Iron: Armor made from sky-metal is resistant to magic. No spell can affect it, and counts as cosmic DR against spells normally ignore armor (such as a wizard's Mystic Bolt or Deathtouch) if the spell has to pass through the armor (ie, a meteoric iron helmet won't prevent a Deathtouch to the unarmored hand, but it will act as armor against a Mystic Bolt targeted at the face). Material Modifier. +19 CF.
Soulsteel: Armors made from the tortured souls of the damned are disturbing, but are a cheap and effective armor for the champions of the unholy. Provides the wearer with Resistance to Holy Powers +8 and Frightens Animals. Material Modifier. +3 CF, -20% to weight.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dungeon Fantasy Racial Weapon Modifiers

In Dungeon Fantasy, there are two weapon modifiers based on fantasy races: Dwarven and Elven.

Elven is probably of the weaker of the two, since it's very expensive (+16 CF) and doesn't give much benefit: an elven longbow costs a lot more than a composite bow, but doesn't hit any harder. Scouts generally want more accuracy and damage a lot more than they want more range, so the usual upgrade path is Bow -> Longbow -> Balanced Longbow or Composite Bow -> Balanced Composite Bow -> Balanced Elven Composite Bow. The last step is theoretical, mind you.

Dwarven is a lot cheaper, and more desirable since it turns unbalanced weapons like axes and dueling halberds into balanced weapons that can attack and parry in the same turn. There's a semi-popular house rule that it should only apply to actual axes, maces, and picks (including two-handed versions), and shouldn't be applied to every bastard sword, whip, and dueling halberd in the world.

Still, there are more races in Dungeon Fantasy than just Dwarves and Elves, and some of them are well-known for their craftsmanship, or lack there-of. Some of those races should have their own weapon modifiers that fit into the stereotypical version of those races. So here are some suggestions for other races' signature weapons.

Orcish: Lets a weapon that normally becomes unready after an attack (‡ on ST) stay ready after being used in a Move and Attack, Committed Attack, or All-out Attack maneuver. Cannot be combined with Dwarven. +2 CF.
Optional: The wielder can also choose from the All-out Attack effects when making a Committed Attack instead of the normal effects. The wielder can also choose a Committed Attack effect when making an All-Out Attack that applies in additional to the normal effect as long as it is a different option (ie, All-Out Strong can be combined with Committed Determined, or All-Out Double with Committed Strong, but not All-Out Strong and Committed Strong). This might be too powerful. 

Dark: The weapon has hidden reservoirs that can be used to recoat it with poison during combat by taking a Ready action.  The reservoirs hold up to 3 doses of the same poison and must be filled before the combat. Any melee weapon: +9 CF.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Better Fantasy Armor: Locations, Types, and Bulks

GURPS Low-Tech introduced a new set of rules for pre-modern armor, based on much more comprehensive research than the previous rules. Metal armor became much more expensive and much lighter per point of DR; non-metal armor became somewhat cheaper and much, much heavier. At the same time, a new set of rules for buying armor by location and adding sub-locations like the elbow or shin were added.

I like the new system in concept, but the execution always bothered me. It may be realistic that even minimally protective leather armor weighs a great deal, but it isn't fun. The Low-Tech system is also a bit of a pain to work with: armor weights are given for the torso armor, and head, neck, and limb armor weighs a percentage of the total armor. But fully armoring a character gives an armor weight of 305% of the torso armor weight, which is an annoying number.

So I'm proposing a new Armor Locations Table, a new Armor Table (with the base weight being for the full suit of armor), and new rules on armor bulk to help with armor scaling.

Armor Locations Table

Armor locations in italics are sub-locations of the previous location, and do not need to be purchased separately if the main location is purchased. Sub-locations can also be purchased separately. For example, buying head protection at 10% of the total armor weight includes the skull, face, and neck protection, but a skullcap could be bought for 5% of total armor cost.

LocationCost and 
Hit LocationNotes
Head8%3-5, 17-18
Torso32%9-11Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
  Chest(20%)9-10Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
  Abdomen(12%)11Vitals are hit on a 1 on a d6
Includes groin
Arms20%8, 12
  Shoulders(6%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 1-2 this location is hit
  Upper Arms(4%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 3 this location is hit
  Elbows(4%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 4 this location is hit
  Forearms(6%)8, 12*Roll 1d; on 5-6 this location is hit
Legs24%6-7, 13-14
  Thighs(12%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 1-3 this location is hit
  Knees(4%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 4 this location is hit
  Shins(8%)6-7, 13-14*Roll 1d; on 5-6 this location is hit

This is pretty close to the Low-Tech armor table with all values divided by 3 and rounded to make nice values. Some of the values were adjusted to make them a little less painful: per the by the low-tech rules, long gauntlets that fully cover the forearm end up weighing an absurd amount.
I made a big edit to this table, after realizing I'd rather have the numbers be multiples of 4 than multiples of 5. There's a lot of halving and quartering in the math, and all those 1.25% values were getting untidy. Even so, I'm keeping the face at 3%, since it makes the math for the face sublocations tidy. There's always trade-offs.  

Simplified Face Sub-Locations

There are 6 sub-locations on the face: jaw, cheek, ears, nose, eyes, and brow. Each one can be separately protected at the cost and weight of 0.5% of the base armor. Eye protection gives No Peripheral Vision. Ear protection gives either Hard of Hearing or removes -2 in penalties to target the armor gaps in the head. If the face is targeted and the target is wearing partial face protection, roll 1d: if the roll is less than the number of protected locations, the armor protects.

Armor Table

The following table shows armor cost and weight, per point of DR, for a full suit of armor.
Armor TypeLbs/DR$/DRNotes
  (Cloth, Silk)
-2 DR vs Impaling and Piercing
  (Leather, Hardened Leather)
-2 DR vs Impaling and Piercing
  (Wood, Straw, Paper, Cane)
  (Lamellar, Brigantine)
10$250-2 DR vs Crushing
-2 DR vs Crushing
  (Segmented Plate)

Any type of armor can theoretically have any amount of DR, but see the limits on bulk below. Individual variations of an armor type (such as scale versus lamellar versus brigantine) should have modifiers to their cost and weight that I've covered in another post.

Using these two tables should be pretty simple: choose an armor type, an amount of DR, and coverage, and multiple them together. For instance, a long-sleeved mail hauberk that covers all of the arms and torso (55%) and provides DR7 costs ($400 * 7 * .55) $1540 and weighs (6 * 7 * .55) 23 lbs. A head to toe suit of iron plate that provides DR9 costs ($500 * 9) $4500 and weighs (7 * 9) 63 lbs. A horn helmet that covers the face and skull and provides DR4 costs ($150 * 4 * .08) $48 and weighs (12 * 4 * .08) ~4 lbs.

Historically, armor wearers tended to optimize their armor: putting thinner armor on the inside of the arms or neglected the back of the armor. As two quick guidelines, armor with the weak limbs modifier halves the armor DR on the back of the arms and legs, reducing the total cost and weight by 11%. Armor with the weak back modifier halves the DR on the back of the torso, reducing the cost and the weight of the armor by 8%. Another arguably real-world optimization would be reinforcement over the vitals. Doubling DR for hits to the vitals only increases armor cost and weight by 6% (3% each for the front and back).

Armor Bulk

Thicker armor is bulkier armor, and bulky enough armor imposes a DX penalty. Larger creatures can tolerate more bulk; smaller creatures can tolerate less bulk. So while a pixie is strong enough to lift enough bronze to make a suit of 2mm thick plate armor, armor that thick wouldn't give him space to bend his elbows (being roughly equivalent to armor that is 12mm thick on a human).

The maximum thickness of armor that a person can wear without a DX penalty depends on their SM, and is shown on the table below. Similarly, a larger creature can wear a thicker layer of armor beneath another piece of armor without having their DX penalized.


So an SM-6 pixie can only wear the thinnest of armors; a normal human can wear Heavy armor and layer it over Thin armor; and a SM+2 Ogre Barbarian isn't penalized by jousting armor and could wear a suit of thin mail under it.

Each armor type has its own maximum DR for each category of bulk. The DX penalty for wearing armor that is too bulky is -1 per level of bulk: an SM-4 leprechaun wearing jousting plate is at -3 DX.
The bulk penalty only applies to locations that are at least 50% covered by armor, just like the layering penalty.

ThinLightMediumHeavyJousting Massive

Again, this should be straightforward. DRs are intentionally increased from normal GURPS ranges because the armor is generally lighter per point of DR and because (in my experience) dungeon fantasy games tend to be high lethality, so increasing DR is really helpful. A knight or samurai in heavy armor (with padding beneath) has DR in the 9-13 range, and is basically immune to sword blows from attackers.

Joints and Heavy Armor

As an optional house rule, anyone who wears the thickest safe armor on their joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, abdomen, and neck) suffers a -1 penalty to DX, which can be mitigated by leaving big gaps in the armor - attacks through the armor chinks in those locations get at +2 bonus. Wearing thick armor on the hands gives the Ham-Fisted 1 and Bad Grip 1 disadvantages.

Design Notes

Cloth armor, at low DRs, is affordable for both weight and cost. It rapidly becomes too thick to wear, well before it becomes good for anything other than avoiding knives and incidentally damage.

Bone armor is always bulky. It's not desirable armor for metal-working cultures, but that models historical trends.

Mail is lighter than plate per point of DR, which makes sense, because almost all metal armor should be equivalent. Mail's flexibility and vulnerability to crushing damage mean that plate is still better armor for those who can afford the expense and weight.