Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GURPS Fail: Garrotes and Targeted Attack

Disclaimer: I'm aware that Targeted Attack is intended for ranged weapons- specifically firearms- by RAW.

I've been elbows deep in a character concept that might actually see the light of day, but in doing so I started looking at using a Garrote.

Garrotes are awesome because if you can eat the -5 penalty to hit the neck (and they are quite kind to suggest using an all-out attack for +4, meaning an overall -1 skill penalty), you have the enemy trying to escape at ST-5, or Judo/Wrestling at -3. Contests to strangle give you a +3 bonus to ST.

The ST bonus for you and the penalty for the enemy are fairly significant, especially since you contest with Garrote against the attempt to escape. It allows a low strength individual a fairly nice way of taking out higher strength enemies.

Now, weirdness ensues when you use Targeted Attack Neck (Garrote) to reduce the hit penalty to -2 (from -5).

Without Targeted Attack, assuming Garrote Skill 12:
12 (skill) +4 (all-out attack) -5 (neck) = 11 modified skill

With 4 points in Targeted Attack, assuming Garrote Skill 12:
12 (skill) + 4 (all-out attack) -2 (neck) = 14 modified skill.

With 4 points in the Targeted Attack Technique, the skill level of Garrote effectively increases by 3.

I think my big issue here is that Garrote is not a skill that works without targeting the neck. You don't attempt to Garrote limbs, you don't wrap rope around someone's torso, a Garrote goes around the enemy's neck, period. There seems to be little point enforcing a location penalty when you have no option but to target that particular location.

My Fix:
Garrote is now a DX/Average skill. Attacker rolls vs Garrote to get it around the victim's neck. No attack modifiers (All-out, Telegraphic, etc) are valid.

Benefits: Fewer modifiers to deal with, overall same skill levels, no possibility of improving it with a technique.


  1. I'm not trying to be a rules lawyer or critic, but Targeted Attacks (Martial Arts, p.68) are for melee and unarmed combat skills, rather than ranged.

    Also, if you have total surprise on someone, you can combine an All-Out Attack (Determined) with a Telegraphic Attack to get a total +8 to offset the -5 for targeting the neck. Also good for maximizing your crit chances to prevent an active defense from your target as well.

    I have been enjoying your blog!

    1. Since I've been running but TL6-8 campaigns for the last five or so years (and the 1640s diversion didn't involve much in the way of martial arts), I was pulling Targeted Attack from Tactical Shooting, unaware that it was in Martial Arts at all.

      I'm not sure I like being able to stack the attack options for an overall +3 either. It certainly rewards stealth, but it might underplay the actual difficulty of getting the garrote over someone's head and around their neck.

  2. You know, the simple solution is to say you can't buy Targeted Attack for a combat skill that has only one effective target, such as Garrote. You can also say that Garrote is effectively like the techniques in the box "Go for the eyes!" (Martial Arts, p. 72) and is already a targeted attack and thus can't benefit from combining them. Same goes for things like Finger Lock, Ear Clap, etc. which come with implied targets.

    Or you can just say, sure, you can spend 4 points and get an effective 3-point jump in Garrote skill only for the purpose of offsetting half of the penalty for hitting the throat. Targeted Attack wouldn't apply in any subsequent contests of skill, because it doesn't actually improve Garrote.

    That a tool exists and technically can be applied to a situation doesn't mean it's a good idea to do it or to allow it. Like any other GM-adjudicated tool, Targeted Attack is there so you can apply it where you think it fits, not to any and all places where it possibly could be and assume that's a balanced result for all campaigns.