The Combat Rules: My Subset

The GURPS Basic Set invites you, the Game Master, to think of the game as an a la carte menu. While there are hundreds of books of rules, your job is not to learn them all, but rather to select a few systems of rules that match the kind of experiences you want to have in your games.

I wrote this for the Deeps of Lyrae campaign. I also use it for the Land of the True Game.

It’s great advice, but one problem with it is that it is that people new to the system don’t know what to pick. You end up thinking: OK, but if you haven’t read the hundreds of books of rules, how do you know that you should pick them?

It’s a little like going into a restaurant and staring at a menu when you’ve never even tasted the cuisine before. You don’t know what ANY of the dishes are. What if you order a meal made up of only desserts? It’s great to have a menu but what you need is an example of what would make a good meal.

The excellent book “How to be a GURPS GM” goes into this in more detail and has some suggestions. I thought one additional thing that might help is sharing my own a la carte list of combat rules that I will use in the Deeps of Lyrae campaign.

Deeps of Lyrae Starting Setting:

  • starting at TL 11^ but can vary due to the pseudo-Traveller setting
  • Key features of this campaign’s sci-fi setting
    • Yes: Spaceships, Bionics, Biotech
    • No: Magic, Psionics, Nano, Aliens
    • Rarely: Robots
  • This is a campaign for 4-6 150-point characters (beginning heroic)

Land of the True Game Starting Setting:

  • starting at TL3, a high fantasy setting but NOT like D&D or GURPS DF.
  • Key features:
    • Yes: Princesses, Magic, Monsters, Bizarre Creatures
    • No: Stereotypical Fantasy Races/Creatures
    • Rarely: Dungeons
  • This is a campaign for ~200-point characters (haven’t decided the exact point total yet).


  • Rules-light
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Cinematic (emphasizes story over rules)

Combat: (“Light and Quick” rule set)

  • All maneuvers allowed except “Feint” and “Move and Attack”
  • Injury, crippling, major wound, dropped weapon, disarm, shock, and dismemberment allowed
  • Rapid fire rules in effect
  • Ranged attack modifiers applied for distance
  • Defenses: dodge & drop, retreat allowed
  • Critical hits and misses in effect, but we won’t use the tables (see explanation below)
  • Hit locations specified (basic locations only)
  • All postures allowed, with posture modifiers
  • Improvised weapons are allowed

Combat Rules Disallowed:

  • Movement is abstract (no movement points, no hex map, no elevation, facing is ignored)
  • Unarmed combat: no grappling, no martial arts rules, no acrobatics – striking and grabbing only
  • No weapon reach rules, no close combat rules
  • Malfunctions, suppression, pop-up fire, most cover, overpenetration, visibility ignored
  • No feints, sacrificial dodges, beats, ruses, surprise, knockback, or initiative rules
  • Weapon balance and quality ignored, multiple projectile rules (with one shot) disallowed
  • Bleeding, accumulated wounds, mortal wounds, dying actions ignored
  • No combat fatigue

House Rules:

I don’t really have any house rules right now, but I suppose I could add all the things that might as well be house rules because I always forget them, no matter how hard I try. They are:

  • We’ll use the critical hits and misses rules but we won’t use the tables because I prefer to just describe what happens (something very good, something very bad) and my players like that.
  • Critical success at 5, 6 may be ignored in my games as the GM always forgets this rule
  • Critical failure at 10+ your effective skill may also be ignored as the GM always forgets this rule
  • I also always forget to apply “the rule of 14” (Oops.)
  • I always forget to apply “the rule of 16” but it is not relevant to this campaign, so whatever. (p. B349)
  • I always forget to apply “the rule of 20” but it is also not relevant.

Basically anything in the rules whose name starts with “the rule of” I can’t seem to remember.



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