House Rules: Size

Okay, part two of a two-part bit on house rules. (Here‘s the previous one, on Strength.)

First things first, Size Modifier is great, the Size/Range/Speed table is brilliant, Gurps does this right.

For the most part.

Here’s a proposed disadvantage: Suck at Fighting. It’s leveled, and each level gives you -1 to hit anyone in melee, and everyone else gets +1 to hit you with all attacks. What would be a fair price for that? Does zero points sound about right to you?

Well, zero points is the cost of Size Modifier, and that’s what it does. (Yeah, ok, Size Modifier does also give you +3 to pin somebody. That should balance it out, sure.)

What about the discount on ST and HP? Well, you can sort of make the case that the bigger your penalty on melee attacks, and the bigger the bonus others get to hit you, the less value you’re getting out of your high damage and HP. Fair enough. But isn’t it weird that nothing else in the system works like that? You don’t pay more for Insubstantiality if you’ve got low HP, or get a discount on Supernatural Durability for high HT. And if your ST is 10 or less, you’re just out of luck when it comes to that size discount: you’ll take your penalty to hit, and get nothing in return.

And just to make it abundantly clear that the -10%/level limitation on ST does not adequately balance things out, what about negative Size Modifier?

Here’s a racial template:

Troglodyte Elf: ST-2 [-20]; IQ+1 [20]; Basic Move -1 [-5]; Night Vision 5 [5]; Silence 1 [5]; Odious Racial Habit (Doesn’t respect personal space) [-5]. Cost: 0 points.

Totally fair! Oh, did I fail to mention they’re 2 feet tall, SM -3? So they get +3 to all their melee attacks, and you take -3 to hit them? Fair’s fair!

Okay, enough. Here’s my suggestion: in melee, play it by the book. You see, it doesn’t actually say in the Basic Set that you get a bonus or penalty to melee attacks for Size Modifier. Oh, that’s the way Kromm does it, but he neglected to put it in the book.

Okay, you say, but shouldn’t it be harder for a big guy to hit a little guy than the other way around? Yeah, maybe it should be. So let’s give little guys more DX and big guys less. No discounts or attribute bonuses and penalties or anything. Just when you’re statting up a small animal, or PC race, or whatever, give it higher DX than you would a big one. That way, it will have a better chance of hitting in melee, and a (slightly) higher Dodge. Problem solved! But doesn’t that mean small creatures are going to be better at all kinds of physical things besides combat? Well, yeah. So smaller creatures make better acrobats, pickpockets, and needleworkers? I’m completely fine with that.

(Well, it’s maybe not quite enough when you’re dealing with really big size differences. I’d still give a penalty if the target is, say, 5 levels or more smaller, but that’s pretty rare. I’m perfectly ok with a simple rule that requires an exception in rare cases, rather than a universal, elegant rule that requires you to always remember to apply a small bonus or penalty. Honestly, it hasn’t come up enough for me to say whether any given fix is reasonable or not.)

So, with that little change, SM is a lot less unfair: now your zero-point trait just gives others -1 or +1 per level to hit you with ranged attacks.

Also, I recommend giving bonuses and penalties to skill rolls based on SM or relative SM, and being generous. If size might reasonably help, let it! On the one hand, I always give a bonus or penalty to Perception rolls to spot a big or little target, which favors little guys. (I think this is not a house rule? Not sure.) On the other I also give relative SM bonuses/penalties favoring the big to a lot of skills like Intimidation and Leadership.

That’s it! Next time, I’ll be talking about Sleepless Nights again, as monday’s session is going to be another player character origin story. Who? Oh, just some guy called Vlad the Impaler. Be sure to tune in again!

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