Saturday, February 4, 2017

Some More Experiences With Technical Grappling

Precis: I evaluate my group's experience with Technical Grappling, and conclude that the minor permanent increase in complexity sometimes pays off but its very borderline.

Doug Cole noted that Peter Dell'Orto had been using Technical Grappling in Peter's Dungeon Fantasy game, and Peter wrote a post about his group's experience with it.

My online group has also been using Technical Grappling, for at least two years, in a variety of games: +Uhuk of the Guard's Dungeon Fantasy game, my Mecha Against the Giants, my Castle of Horrors, and now in my New Dawn game. Along the way, I've had to ask questions once or twice to get clarification on how things work in Technical Grappling. I wouldn't say I have a great grasp of Technical Grappling, but I've certainly used it.

Peter gives a great overview of the relative complexity of Technical Grappling versus the standard GURPS system, and there's nothing in there that I really disagree with. Technical Grappling is a little more book keeping, but not much more, and is sometimes a little more confusing than the standard rules, but it does let you do more.

The difficult question is whether Technical Grappling's complexity is worth it? To me, it's very much a borderline answer. In my experience, there's basically two instances when grappling occurs:

  1. A specialized grappler initiates grappling, with the intent of turning the victim into a pretzel or wearing them as a hat or whatever
  2. Someone initiates a grapple as the least bad option out of handle of bad options, like when someone is disarmed and goes for a grapple because it at least keeps them in a combat

In both cases, the target of the grapple has very little incentive to counter-grapple. In the first case, the target is almost certainly worse at grappling than the grappler is, and struggling with the grapple is probably a worse plan than counter-attacking with a melee weapon or going into an all-out defense and hoping allies can get rid of the grappler. In the second case, whatever the target had been doing was apparently working just fine, and there's little reason to switch tactics just because the guy who was getting the worse of the exchange tried to change the game.

This can work for the PCs, of course. +Kevin Smyth had a barbarian beetle man wrestler in Uhuk's Chaos Scar game, and he used his ridiculous lifting ST, multiple arms, and mastery of wrestling to turn kobolds inside out and once pinned a dragon and broke its back while said dragon flailed away uselessly. But there was very little that Technical Grappling actually enabled; just about everything that Kevin's character did could have been done in a slightly more binary fashion with just the core rules.

My conclusion would be that Technical Grappling slightly increases the complexity and book keeping of grappling in play in 100% of the time when someone grapples, and that complexity pays off with an interesting new result in maybe 10% of the time when someone grapples. The complexity and book keeping load is just low enough that its worth it for those 10% occasions, but I could see how a different group would find the permanent complexity not worth the infrequent pay-off.

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