Combat In Psi Wars

Psi-Wars uses GURPS Action 2: Exploit's rules on combat, Ultra-Violence, as the basis for its own rules, but given the presence of supernatural elements and a strong focus on hand-to-hand combat, substantial changes have been made.

Simplified Range

Range Band Starting Range Range Penalty Psychic Range ~ Notes
Close 0-5 -0 to -2 1-3 Melee Range; Apply bulk penalty to ranged attacks at this range
Short 6-20 -3 to -6 4-5 Pistol range; maximum range for electric lash and TK Grab
Medium 21-100 -7 to -10 6-7 Typically the longest range on starships or in bases
Long 101-500 -11 to -14 8-9 Rifle Range; typically maximum range in a city
Extreme 500-2000 -15 to -18 10-11 Sniper Range
Distant 2001-10,000 (5 mi) -19 to -22 12-13 Missile range; maximum planetary range

Note that Short Range is "privileged" in the sense that many powers and abilities will cap out at 20 yards. It is a common range for conflicts.

Movement and Range: Characters may move from Short to Close as a part of a Move or Move and Attack action. Characters may move from Medium to Short as part of a supernaturally fast movement (such as Flying Leap, or on a vehicle that increases speed to 20+ per second). Characters who wish to move from Medium to Short via normal movement must take 2d move actions; characters who wish to close from longer ranges should shift to the Chase rules (see Action Vehicular Combat).

Simplified Shooting

In addition to the simplified ranges above, use the Simplified Rapid Fire (note that attacking multiple targets always applies a -6!), Shooting Two Guns and Leading the Target (this only applies to Dodge, not to Parry or Block!) from GURPS Action 2, page 36.

  • Predictive Shots: Predictive Shots (GURPS Fun-Fu page 11) are allowed in Psi-Wars (these are actually already covered by the "Leading the Target" rules from GURPS Action).
  • Ranged Feints: Ranged Feints (GURPS Gun-Fu page 12) are acceptable in Psi-Wars and do impact Parry and Block as well as Dodge. However, the following house rules are in place: a ranged feint can only be used against a target that is within 20 yards of the shootist, and the only modifiers that apply to their Gun skill are a +3 if they aimed and their ROF bonus; they may make an All-Out Attack (Feint) and divide up the RoF between Feint and Attack as per "Shoot 'Em Up" (GURPS Gun-Fu Page 12).
  • Armor Breaking Pistolero: As an optional rule, characters with Gunslinger wielding pistols within 20 yards of the target may halve the penalty to attack armor chinks (-4 to hit the torso, -5 to hit the armor chinks of anywhere else, with an additional -1 if the armor is tailored). This allows a Gunslinger with a pistol to deal with heavier armors more effectively, while allowing rifles to retain their utility.

Space Kung Fu

The unarmed combat of Psi-Wars is a little more nuanced than that in GURPS Action 2, though all the rules for Cracking Skulls (Page 36), Flashy Fighting (page 37) and Sneaky Fighting (page 37) still apply. The following rules also apply.

Heroic Fisticuffs

Armor Blowthrough: Muscle-powered crushing attacks treat all armor and living targets as Flexible. Every five points of damage absorbed by the armor translated into one point of damage to the character. Furthermore, knockback applies 1 point of damage (that ignores DR) if the character is knocked into something or fails a DX roll to remain standing; Armor Blowthrough damage can never deal more than the target's HP in a single blow.

Flying Fists: Characters may always opt to half unarmed damage to instead double knockback.

Unarmed Etiquette: Unarmed attacks can only be dodged, parried with unarmed skills, or blocked. You may never parry an unarmed attack with a weapon.

Kayo: Against surprised or bound targets, the character may make a muscle-powered crushing attack; treat this as an attack against the skull (but do not apply a penalty to hit); roll damage as normal (applying skull DR, etc). The victim must roll HT at a penalty equal to the penetrating damage or be knocked out for 15 minutes. Such an attack never inflicts more than 1 point of injury. This is a slight variation of the "Kayo" rules on page 24 of GURPS Action 3: Furious Fists.

Space Chambara

Characters with Trained by a Master, Gunslinger or Weapon Master may use the Chambara Fighting rules of GURPS Martial Arts (page 128).

Chambara Movement: Chambara characters may jump as part of their movement, and do not halve their jumping distance when doing so. They halve the penalty for making acrobatic actions.

Chambara Attacks: Chambara characters may trade attacks for Steps that they can use at any point during their turn; they may make more than one additional rapid strikes at the usual (halved) penalty for rapid strikes (-3 for one extra attack, -6 for two extra attacks, -9 for three, and so on). Halve penalties to attacks made as part of an Acrobatic Attack or an Acrobatic Move and Attack (-1 rather than -2).

Chambara Defense: Chambara characters may use Acrobatics to enhance any defense, gain a +3 on a retreat to all active defenses, and may retreat more than once, at a cumulative -1 per additional retreat. All characters (Chambara or otherwise) may use the Martial Art retreat options of Slip and Side-Slip. Finally, Chambara characters treat attacks from behind as "Runaround" attacks: -2 to defense, rather than no defense possible.

Contest of Wills: Psi-Wars uses the Contest of Wills rules from GURPS MA page 130. In addition to the noted modifiers, the following psychic powers add the following bonuses:

  • +4 for the Instill Terror power (if the target fails to resist the power);
  • +2 for the Emotion Control power (if the target fails to resist the power);
  • +Aspect level (maximum +4) (if the target fails to resist the power);
  • +1 Gaze into the Abyss perk

The target who fails the contest of wills suffers the penalty for 1d+2 seconds. The maximum penalty a target can suffer is -4.

Additional Rule Options:

Beat: Beats work differently. The target of a beat must have either parried the character, or been parried by the character, and only the weapon can be targeted by the beat. A beat is always an ST-based contest (never DX-based). A successful beat applies a penalty to all attacks and defenses with that weapon equal to the margin of victory, to a maximum of -4 for the whole of the character's next turn or until the character performs a Ready maneuver on their weapon. If the target fails by 5 or more, their weapon is unreadied.

A character who has grappled the target may attempt to Beat the character's body. A success applies the penalty to all kicks and to dodge, and a margin of victory of 5 or more forces a DX roll or the target will fall down.

Evaluate: A single Evaluate maneuver immediately grants a +3 to your next attack (as though you had Evaluated for 3 turns).

Feint: The maximum benefit of a Feint is capped at -4 to the target's defense.

Recommended Optional Rules:

  • Committed Attack and Defensive Attack (page MA 99)
  • “Delayed Gratification” (Pyramid #3-52)
  • Ruses (MA 101; maximum penalty is -4)
  • Defensive and Reversed Grip (MA 109-112)
  • Acrobatic Movement, Acrobatic Attacks and Flying Attacks (MA 105-107)
  • Stop Hits (MA 108)
  • Cascading Waits (MA 108)
  • Pummeling (MA 111)
  • Telegraphic Attacks (MA 113)
  • Cross Parry (MA 121)
  • Multiple Blocks (MA 123)
  • Parrying with Two Handed Weapons (MA 123)
  • Retreat Options (MA 123)

Cinematic Combat Rules

In addition to any rules noted above, Psi-Wars recommends the following cinematic rules

Bulletproof Nudity: See B417 and Action 2 p 38. The maximum recommended bonus is +2. Slave dancer outfits or gladiatorial outfits definitely apply the full +2!

Cannon Fodder: As Action 2 p 38. "Mooks" can defend and die after taking a single point of damage; Henchmen are defeated at 0 HP or below. "Bosses" or extremely difficult opponents follow normal rules.

Cinematic Explosions: Use the "grittier action" rules from Action 2 p 38. These apply to all explosions, including those from plasma weapons, if a PC chooses to invoke the rule by making a "Dive for Cover" Dodge roll. Summarized for convenience: roll Dodge +3; Enhanced Dodge (Dive for Cover) helps.

  • Critical Success: no damage, only knock back.
  • Success: 1d damage from shrapnel and knockback damage as normal.
  • Failure: normal damage, but the character cannot be reduced below 0 HP.
  • Critical Failure: normal damage, but the character cannot be reduced below -1×HP.

Fast Reloads and Infinite Ammunition: Psi-Wars uses super-science cells which provide 5× as many shots as usual. PCs can freely ignore reloads and shot counts unless the GM specifies that they're suffering from an ammunition shortage.

Flawless Firearms: Don't worry about gun maintenance unless the adventure calls for specifically worrying about the maintenance of weapons (getting into gun fights in the midst of a swamp, etc). PCs may spend 2 impulse buy points to force a malfunction on NPCs.

Flesh Wounds: PCs may not spend an impulse buy point to purchase a success on an active defense. They may, however, spend a character point to reduce all damage taken to 1 point of damage.

Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: All mooks who open fire on the PCs will miss with their first round of shots, especially if the PCs don't know they're there.

Extra Effort Options

Extra Effort is allowed in Psi-Wars, and recommends the following options. You may use one offensive and one defensive option per turn.

Offensive Options:

  • Flurry of Blows: B 357 and MA 131.
  • Giant Step: Gain +1 Step; See MA 131.
  • Heroic Charge: MA 131.
  • Mighty Blows: B 357 and MA 131.
  • Multi-Task; Action 2 p 38; You may also use this to allow yourself to perform a free Passenger Action in Action Vehicular Combat.

Defensive Options:

  • Feverish Defense: B 357
  • Near Thing: Action 2 p 38;
  • Rapid Recovery: MA 131; Additionally, Chambara Characters may use this option to retreat after a Move and Attack or a Committed Attack.
  • Second Wind: Recover HP with FP; Action 2. 38.
  • Shake it Off: Action 2 p 38; this also applies to failed Neurolash rolls.


Use the normal rules on Action 2 p 39. Banter rolls gain a +2 from Emotion Control and a +4 from Instill Terror (provided the intent is to frighten someone); add all levels of Aspect, up to a maximum of +4, to your Banter rolls.

Distracting: Derived from After the End 2, page 44 and 48. Use one of Acting, Fast-Talk, Intimidation, Public Speaking or Sex Appeal to distract a target. This requires a Concentrate maneuver; choose a target and decide if you seek to penalize offense of defense. Roll a quick contest of your chosen skill vs your opponent's IQ or Tactics (whichever is better). He resists at +5 after the first turn. If you win, he's at -1 to attack or defense (-2 if you succeed by 5+); he's at +1 to attack or defense (+2 on a critical failure) if he succeeds.

Uttering Threats: An active force sword is worth+4. Successful use of Instill Fear adds +4, Emotion Control adds +2, and Aspect always adds half its level; these psionic bonuses stack with other bonuses (but not with each other). For example, a character who successfully uses Instill Fear on a target while wielding a force sword has a +8 to intimidate them; if he also had Aspect 6, he would still only have +8, not +11.

Using your Head

See Action 2 p 39.

Battle Plans:: Characters who have seen the battle in a Vision or via Prognostication add +4 to the Tactics roll, while characters who succeeded at an Oracular interpretation add +2.

Encouragement: This explicitly applies to penalties from the Ham Clause! Successful use of Emotion Control adds +2; Aspect adds its full value;

Spotting: This can also apply to a character's active defense ("Look out!"). Characters with Combat Sense may replace Observation with Combat Sense if better, and characters who have seen the particular battle in Visions or via Prognostication may add +4 to their Observation or Combat Sense roll, while characters who succeeded at an Oracle intrepretation roll regarding the fight may add +2 (in all cases, the Esper more easily notice moments that truly matter). Characters with Telesend may use that to immediately communicate what they see to the target, obviating the need to be heard over the clamor of combat or to get a comm signal through jamming.

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