GURPS Thursday: GURPS 301 - Evaluate Maneuver

Others have laid out how this whole kerfluffle started. I posted a bit on G+ asserting that the Evaluate maneuver, as written, was a mechanical dead-end. It garnered some great discussion there, and evolved quickly enough into a topic for the blogs to share.

I've tried to use Evaluate in the past, and had a gut feeling it wasn't really worth the effort. A +1 to your to-hit roll can't ever be more valuable than adding about 12.5% to your chance to hit, which is then whittled down by your opponent's chance to defend. In fact, it is only at the lowest end of the spectrum, the net 5- situations that Evaluate comes into its own. The reason it's not worth it bundled into the opportunity cost of missing a turn making an attack. Even if your odds are only 25% to land your blow, the odds of landing at least one blow increase pretty rapidly.

There's a rule in Martial Arts that tries to leverage Evaluate to be more useful - adding a bonus to your ability to defend against feints from the person you're evaluating. This makes sense to me, as if you're paying that close attention to your opponent, you're more likely to spot a ruse in time to avoid it. I'm not sure it goes far enough, though, and have started offering a bonus to defend against the Evaluated opponent equal to half your Evaluate bonus (round up) to reflect the same narrow focus.

Evaluate starts to become truly useful if you employ +Douglas Cole's Last Gasp rules and have an active Action Point economy going. Evaluate not only gets you the offensive and defensive bonuses it used to, but it is also an opportunity to gain back APs without investing any of your precious (and under these rules slow to return and quick to cause penalties) Fatigue Points. It may be that between the AP rules themselves and their restricting of freedom to go all-out (as opposed to All-Out) every turn, and the various bonuses that Evaluate offers, you begin to see Evaluate being used more frequently, and your fights start to look a little more like what you expect, with lulls and circling opponents waiting for openings.

Others have presented their suggestions (see the links below), but I've thought about a few myself.

I was initially pretty tired of the flat bonus to attack notion. Even if you make the first turn of Evaluate worth a +3, it quickly becomes less valuable as your skill rises - that notion of opportunity costs, you know. But if you've got a reasonable shot at someone, and they're not armored up too heavily to feel your blows, you wouldn't need to use an Evaluate at all. It's those times that you need to take a -5 to target a location, or a -8 to target chinks in armor, that you could use the benefit - times that you've opted to take your skill down into the zone where an Evaluate might just make sense. With that assumption in mind, making Evaluate into a +3/+4/+5 combination (effectively treating it like Aim and giving every melee weapon an Acc of 2) becomes valuable in situations where finesse is required.

If you're not averse to rolling some dice (and honestly, in this hobby, that seems like a foolish worry), it might make sense to overhaul Evaluate into a Feint-like maneuver (based on Perception? Maybe) that grants a bonus to hit equal to the margin of success of your quick contest. It remains distinct from Feint in that it is for those times when your skill is already low due do a targeted attack and needs to be bolstered to make the hit roll in the first place, where Feint remains your best choice against a target with high active defenses. Not sure what to do with subsequent turns of Evaluate though - start adding in static bonuses, or lose the notion entirely? Perhaps it is sufficient to allow a re-roll to get a better result.

Finally, an option that occurred to me literally while I was typing this up. Since we're looking at a maneuver that sings best when dealing with targeted attacks (chinks in armor, hit locations), why not allow a roll against weapon skill, or a quick contest, grant you the ability to halve the to-hit penalty for your targeted attack. This is akin to the Targeted Attack technique, but you don't spend points on it, you don't get it automatically (you must make your roll) and it is more flexible in which location might be targeted. To avoid double-dipping, I would not allow it to stack with TA technique.

Your mileage, may, of course, vary. I think that any one of these can be a useful fix for the situation. I need to run a few more combats using Action Points before I decide if I need to modify anything this significantly or not.

Want more?

Christian Blouin has a playtest report of his own Evaluate(Opening) rules and online tool.
Peter V. Dell'Orto has some thoughts that are similar to my own, and presents an easy way and a more detailed method.
Paul Stefko lays out his own ideas on an Acc analog for melee combat, based on skill level.
And last, but definitely not least, our ringleader Douglas Cole provides a thorough discussion, with multiple points of view, summaries of the G+ discussion that got this whole thing started, and his own ideas on how to implement a system that is both more flexible and more flavorful than simple bonuses.
Joseph Mason has joined in the discussion as well, with a more down to earth and powerful set of bonuses.

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