Recently, Peter V. Dell’Orto made a post in his blog Dungeon Fantastic about merging GURPS weapon skills. I really, really like the idea, so I thought about writing about how I’d do it.

Mr. Dell’Orto’s post is specific to Dungeon Fantasy and to his own Felltower campaign. Mine is a bit more generic since I don’t have an active campaign going, and I tend to kind of mix up Dungeon Fantasy and default GURPS rules in my head. Consider it an addition to my House Style.

The reason for doing this is also pretty well-covered by this follow-up Dungeon Fantastic Post: having too many fine distinctions between spells and skills in a cinematic campaign can serve as a bit of a damper on the pacing and excitement of the campaign. My usual players tend to have a certain resistance to trying stuff that’s not on their character sheets, especially in a complex system like GURPS, so having broader traits would allow them to experiment a bit more.

The Skills

In campaigns where this post is in effect, I’m going to use the following list of weapon skills.

Axe/Mace (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Two-Handed Axe/Mace-3

This skill is a combination of the original Axe/Mace with Flail. When using a flail, the character suffers a -1 skill penalty.

In games that use Techniques, Flail is a new Hard technique that defaults to Skill-1 and has a maximum level equal to Skill. This means you can buy the -1 penalty off for 2 points.

Fencing (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, One-Handed Sword-4

This new skill merges Rapier, Saber and Smallsword. It allows you to use not only these three “titular” weapons, but also any other weapon that would fall under those skills, such as the jian (Rapier) or the light stick (Smallsword).

All the normal rules for fencing weapons apply.

Force Sword (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Fencing-3, One-Handed Sword-3, Two-handed Sword-3.

Should I ever play a science fiction game with force swords, this gets merged with Force Saber. Whether you get fencing parries or not depends on the stat line of the weapon you’re using. The “Fencing parries for everyone!” option is also valid in a more explicitly Star Warsy game.

Knife (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Fencing-4

This merges the original Knife skill with Jitte/Sai and Main-Gauche. Any weapon that could be used with either of these can be used with the new skill. Weapons use their Main-Gauche profiles for this, meaning there’s no penalty for using the off hand and the user gets fencing parries.

In my experience, “knife expert” PCs always went for Main-Gauche anyway. People who dropped a point in Knife as a back-up skill almost never ended up using it, so they can just drop a point in this one instead.

The Jutte and the Sai get both a +2 for disarm attempts and fencing parries without any special stance switches required. They are rare enough in my games that I don’t believe it will be a problem. And by “rare” I mean no one has taken these weapons and no one has tried a disarm yet.

One-Handed Sword (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Fencing-4, Two-Handed Sword-4

This is the skill used for all one-handed swords, merging both Broadsword and Shortsword.

Blade length is an important consideration in real life, but it’s below the level of granularity I prefer. This also broadens the range of really cool magic swords your sword-wielding players can find and immediately use.

Pole Weapons (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Two-Handed Sword-5

This merges Polearm, Spear, and Staff. The Form Mastery perk is redundant for these weapons.

What about that sweet Staff parry bonus? If it’s in your weapon’s stat line under Staff, you get it. If it’s not, you don’t. The only exception to this are balanced two-handed spears, which I feel should have the bonus.

Two-Handed Axe/Mace (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, Axe-Mace-3

Like Axe/Mace, but for two-handed weapons. The same rules apply for two-handed flails, including the existence of a Hard technique to buy the -1 penalty off.

Two-Handed Sword (DX/Average)

Defaults: DX-5, One-Handed Sword-4

This is pretty much the same skill as the original, with a suitably altered list of defaults.

What about all the other skills?

All of the more exotic weapon skills, like Whip, Kusari, and Tonfa, remain the same. I might change my mind in the future and come back to this, but I haven’t actually used any of them in my games, so it makes no difference for them to stay as-is.

Optional Rule: Weapon Familiarity

If you like how these skills are merged, but still feel a staff user shouldn’t be able to pick up a halberd and wield it just as proficiently right away, then you can use a version of the Familiarity rules from the GURPS core book.

PCs are considered familiar with any weapons they acquire during character creation. If they pick up a weapon that would be used with a different skill under the standard rules, they have a -2 penalty to use that weapon until they can spend a few hours practicing with it. This takes time but costs no money or points. In effect, it can only happen when the PCs have a significant amount of downtime (such as when returning to town from a dungeon in DF). After this, the PC is considered familiar with that weapon type.

I’m writing this up as an option, but it’s not one I’ll use myself.