GURPS Dungeon Fantasy - Bringing the Hack and the Slash

People who have gamed with me for any length of time know one thing for sure - I have an unreasonable and unending love for all things GURPS, and have since first edition. As such, the current Kickstarter for Dungeon Fantasy powered by GURPS has me, well, excited doesn't begin to cover it. Coming at the same time as I have begun to replace my GURPS PDFs with hardbacks, well, I'm just wallowing in point-buy, 3d6 resolution, hyper-detailed gaming.

Dungeon Fantasy is a setting that rewards being able to put big numbers on the board when it comes to damage, and provides enormously powerful (and therefore physically strong) character templates with which to do so. Normally, some of the best weapons for the job are difficult to use at best, but with the right combination of tweaks become remarkably flexible tools of wanton destruction.

The holy grail of damage dealing, when it comes to pseudo-medieval melee combat, is a weapon that combines swing damage with the impaling wound multiplier. There aren't a half dozen weapons that do it, and in a more realistic game, they come with a laundry list of drawbacks that make them - shall we say suboptimal compared to a robust sword and shield.

For maximum effect, it's hard to do better than the halberd. Look at that sexy stat-line: you can swing it blade first for sw+5; you can reverse it and hit with the nasty spike on the other side for sw+4; and in a pinch you can choke up on it and stab for th+3 if someone gets in close. It masses 12 pounds, leaving precious few one-handed weapons that can parry it without some fear of shattering under the stress. This is the sine qua non of heavy armor can openers - especially if your GM springs the Blunt Trauma and Edged Weapons optional rule on you!

It's not all wine and roses, though. Just to use the thing requires a Strength of 13 if you want to avoid skill penalties. It's a double-dagger weapon, which means you need not just that ST13, but a ST20 if you want to use be able to attack each turn instead of needing to re-ready it after every attack. And the base model halberd is a 0U parry weapon, meaning you can't parry with it on the same turn as you attack - you'd best be quick on your feet with Dodge, armored like a walking tank, or both because you won't be parrying and you won't be carrying a shield.

Dungeon Fantasy gives us some work-arounds for this, deriving the first bit of utility from specialty manufacturing rules. Picking up a halberd of Dwarven manufacture removes the U from that Parry stat, and opens up a world of defensive opportunities. Add in Fine to increase damage and Balanced to increase accuracy and it's just almost unfair. Combine this with either the Barbarian or Knight templates - both of which can reach ST 20 without going off-script from the templates as written, and you've got two different kinds of characters who can make solid use of the halberd while mitigating most of the drawbacks. You're going to want some perks to allow you to quickly change grips in case some nimble bastard gets inside your reach, and you're still out of luck when it comes to a shield, so arrows might be more of a problem than they would with a different load-out.

A ST 20 character using a stock halberd is already doing 5d (3d+7 which'll round up to 5d under most GMs) of cutting or 4d+2 (after rounding up) of impaling damage. These are truly preposterous numbers, with equal damage potential to a Sharps .50 cal buffalo hunting rifle in the one case, and a .75 caliber flintlock in the other. These are Hollywood numbers, and against an average mook with only light armor average injuries will be in the 22-24 point range, more than enough to one-shot a fellow who doesn't make a couple HT saves to stay awake and alive.

So, before you turn your nose up at a double-daggered, 0U parrying, two handed weapon, consider that in the hands of the right character, it can be just what you need when you're suddenly face to face with the proverbial dragon.


  1. One of my players is an ogre knight weapon master with a signature enchanted, silvered,fine, balanced, orichalcum, dueling halberd. It is beautiful to watch.


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