Intermediate Scene

Happy post-Thanksgiving Thursday all ye GURPSers! Today, in the final intermediate post of the “New to GURPS” series, we say goodbye to everyone’s favorite wilderness guardian, Kerna Dallon, with her own send-off scene (just like our buddy Rex from the basic series… remember him?). Her final scene will, hopefully, pull together the previous posts in a tidy overview.

Since last we checked in on Kerna, the outpost at which she was stationed has been overrun by mutinous soldiers loyal only to their charismatic young leader. In the moments before the traitors find them, the legitimate commander orders Kerna to sneak away and get word to the nearest stronghold of what has happened. She manages to escape on foot (the stables are being guarded), but must travel through the thick forest instead of on the road to avoid being seen.



GM: “After walking for many, many hours, you realize the sun will be setting soon.”

Kerna (technically, Kerna’s player): “Okay. Are there any inns, farms, anything like that hereabouts?”

GM: “Try Area Knowledge, at -4.”

Kerna’s Area Knowledge is of her outpost and the immediate environs. Being roughly 10 miles from there now, the GM uses the Long-Distance Modifiers from p. 241, as recommended on p. 176 under “Area Class”. With her effective skill at 9, she rolls and fails with a 14.

GM: “You’re not entirely sure where you are. There aren’t any nearby people that you know of, and your rumbling belly reminds you that you’re hungry.”

Kerna: “Looks like I’ll be roughing it. I’ll walk a bit more, keeping an eye out for any kind of food source.”

GM: “You walk for almost another hour before finding a small clearing that looks like it would make a comfortable enough bed. Survival roll, please?”

Kerna (rolls 3d6, gets a total of 10): “Made it by 1.”

GM: “You did manage to find a few handfuls of berries over the last hour. It isn’t much, but it does calm your stomach. You can make another Survival roll if you’d like to make a fire.”

Kerna: “No, no fire, I don’t want to risk being seen. In fact, I want to backtrack a bit, maybe a couple hundred yards, and try to cover any tracks I may have left.”

GM: “Not knowing much about Tracking, you’re rolling against default… Perception-5.”

Kerna rolls 3d6 into the GM’s dice cup, so she can’t see the result. The GM looks before returning her dice, noting that she failed against her target number of 7 with a 13.

GM: “You do the best you can to hide your tracks before it is too dark to see anything. Any other actions before laying down?”

Kerna: “Nope, that’s it. I lay down on the ground, shield in one hand, throwing axe in the other.”

GM: “Are you sleeping with your scale armor on? That would mean your 8 hours of sleep only count as 4.”

This is an optional rule from “Low-Tech: Instant Armor,” p. 20. It doesn’t actually come up in a lot of games I’ve seen, but I’m trying to point out rules people might not be aware of.

GURPS assumes a day of 16 hours awake, 8 hours asleep, as normal. By effectively sleeping only 4 hours, Kerna’s awake time the following day is reduced to 8 hours instead of 16. If she wants to stay awake and active after that, she will then lose 1 FP, plus another 1 FP per 4 hours of staying awake (p. 427 of Campaigns).

Kerna: “That’s fine. Better safe than sorry, and I think the stronghold is only another day, maybe a day and a half, away.”

GM: “The night passes uneventfully, and in the morning you begin to stir. Before you even open your eyes, though, I need a Perception check.”

Kerna rolls an 8, succeeding by 4. Only one of the three NPCs she is about to encounter succeeded on their Stealth roll by more than that.

GM: “You hear two sets of footsteps slowly but steadily padding towards you through the brush, one from your left, one from your right.”

Kerna: “I Ready the axe in my hand, and open my eyes just the tiniest crack so they don’t know I’m awake yet. Can I see either of them?”

The GM motions towards the dice. Kerna makes another Perception check, succeeding right on with a 12.

GM: “You can, you see the one to your left. It is one of the traitors from your outpost, still sneaking towards you, sword in hand.”

Ranged Combat

Kerna: “I abruptly Change Posture from lying down to kneeling and scream, ‘Come, you wretched dogs! Do you think you can stop me?!” (Ah, the joys of the Overconfidence disadvantage.)

GM: “Realizing they no longer need to sneak, the three men rush towards you. The one on the left goes from 13 yards away to 7, as does the one on the right, and the one in front of you — the one you didn’t hear — goes from is 16 yards away to 10.”

Kerna: “I throw my axe at the one on the left.”

Kerna rolls against her Thrown Weapon (Axe) skill of 14, lowered to 11 due to a range penalty of -3 for being 7 yards apart, and succeeds with a 10. (Note that if this were a melee attack, she would have a -2 penalty because she is kneeling– p. 551.)

The GM rolls against the enemy on the left’s Dodge of 9 and fails with a 12. Kerna rolls 2d+1, causing a total of 8 points of damage. Subtracting the target’s mail shirt DR of 4 lowers that to 4 points of penetrating damage, then multiplying by the wounding modifier of x1.5 for a cutting attack raises it to 6 points of injury. His HP are lowered from 11 to 5.

As this is a major wound (more than 1/2 of the target’s 11 HP in a single injury), the traitor must make a HT check to avoid Knockdown and Stunning. He fails with a 12 (if he had the High Pain Threshold advantage, with its relevant +3 bonus, he would have made this roll).

GM: “Your axe slices through the air and embeds in your target’s chest. As blood seeps through his splintered armor, he drops his sword and falls to the ground with a loud groan. He is seriously wounded, but not dead. This turn he must Do Nothing, and make a HT check to recover from Stun.”

The GM rolls against the target’s HT of 11 and fails with a 13.

GM: “As the attacker to your left remains on the ground sputtering, the traitor in front of you runs from 10 yards away to 4, and the traitor on the right runs forward from 7 yards away to the hex next to yours with a Move and Attack.”

The GM rolls for the traitor on the right’s attack, but as it is capped at 9 maximum, he misses with an 11.

GM: “He swings wildly, but his blade misses you by a wide margin.”


Kerna: “I stand up fully, and cast Spasm on the hand of the bad guy to my right.”

Kerna chooses to Concentrate, and uses the Step part of that maneuver to rise from kneeling to standing (p. 364). At the end of her turn, she lowers her FP (from 12 to 10) and rolls against her Spasm skill of 11, reduced to 10 because her target is 1 yard away, and succeeds right on with a 10. The bad guy attempts to resist with a HT check, but fails with a 12.

GM: “Your spell is cast. The man winces in pain as his hand jerks and his sword falls to the ground.”

Rather than fight unarmed, the man on the right uses Change Posture to quickly kneel and reach for his sword on the ground. The man on the left must again roll against his HT of 11, this time succeeding with a 9. He is no longer stunned, and can act normally on his next turn. The man in front moves from 4 yards away to next to Kerna. He attacks, but misses with a 10 (he is capped at 9 for having to Move and Attack).

GM: “The traitor to your right kneels and reaches towards his sword, while the one to your left shakes his head and appears to regain his wits. The one in front of you rushes forward and attempts a wild swing, but it bounces harmlessly off your shield.”

Note that the “bounces harmlessly off your shield” is just flavor by the GM. The swing could have simply missed just as easily.

Melee Combat

Kerna: “I try to Fast-Draw my sword…” (rolls a 13, succeeding by 1) “… and succeed. I make a swinging attack to the neck of the traitor to my right, with a Mighty Blow.”

Kerna lowers her FP (from 10 to 9) for the Mighty Blow (p. 357), and rolls against her effective skill of 10 (the neck hit location incurs a -5 penalty), succeeding right on with a 10. The GM rolls for the traitor’s Dodge (he cannot Parry with his sword, as it is still on the ground), at -2 because he is kneeling (p. 551), and fails with a 9 (which would have been a success right on if he were standing).

Kerna rolls 2d for damage, with a +2 for Mighty Blow, and gets a grand total of 10. The neck hit location raises the wounding modifier for cutting attacks to x2, for a total of 20 points of injury!

The enemy immediately drops from 11 HP to -9. His Move and Dodge are halved. He succeeds at a HT check to stay conscious, but will need to roll against HT every turn he chooses to do anything besides Do Nothing.

GM: “Your blade finds its mark, Kerna, biting deep into your enemy’s throat. Blood sprays freely, and he lets out a most peculiar croaking sound as his hands desperately try to close the grievous wound.”

The GM thinks this is a good time for a Morale Check (p. 561), since even though the traitors technically outnumber Kerna, one already has an axe in his chest and the other now has two mouths. He assigns no modifier to the front traitor, +2 to the one on the left with the embedded axe, and +5 to the one on the right who is bleeding uncontrollably from the neck. The unharmed enemy rolls a “Neutral” reaction on the Reaction Table, and the other two get “Good” reactions.

GM: “With a ghastly look on his face, the traitor to your right clutches his throat and stumbles backward. The one to your left grabs him, and the two begin stumbling back into the forest as quickly as they can. The one before you, however, grits his teeth and slashes with his sword.”

This enemy is aiming for Kerna’s sword hand, and succeeds on his roll (even with the -4 to hit). Kerna attempts to Block, but fails with a 12. The enemy’s total damage is 4 points of injury, increased to 6 after multiplying by the wounding modifier of x1.5 for a cutting attack. This is enough to cripple the hand (p. 421). Damage above the minimum needed to cripple an extremity (5, in this case) is lost, so Kerna takes 5 points of injury and lowers her HP from 13 to 8.

GM: “The traitor lands a vicious blow to your right hand, slicing it badly and rendering it completely useless. Your sword falls to the ground at your feet, as his lips curl into a wicked smile.”

Kerna: “It’s all or nothing time! I scream in rage and pain, and make an All-Out Attack Shield Bash to the final enemy, aiming for his skull.”

Kerna rolls against her effective skill of 11 (Shield skill of 14, -7 for the skull hit location, +4 for the All-Out Attack), succeeding with a 10. The GM rolls for the traitor’s Parry of 11, but fails with a 12. Kerna rolls 1d for damage, getting a 5. Subtracting the skull’s DR of 2 leaves 3 points of penetrating damage. The skull hit location raises the wounding modifier to x4, for a total of 12 points of injury.

The enemy immediately drops from 11 HP to -1. His Move and Dodge are halved, and he fails his HT check to stay conscious, crumpling to the ground.

As a side note, an exchange like this shows why the Luck advantage can be critically important, and literally mean the difference between life and death for a character. If Kerna had Luck, she could reroll her attack to the skull if she missed. Or, she could make the traitor reroll if she hit but he succeeded on his Parry.

GM: “The gods favor you, as your last-ditch attack is successful. Your shield slams into the traitor’s skull with a crunch, leaving him unconscious on the ground at your feet. The other two continue to scramble away, although slowly due to their extensive wounds.”

Kerna: “I gather up my gear and try to put some distance between us in case they change their minds.”


The traitors continue retreating, and Kerna continues toward the stronghold. The first thing she needs to do is make a HT roll to see if her crippling injury to the hand is permanent or temporary (p. 422). Thankfully, she succeeds, so once the HP are healed she will regain use of the hand (again, Luck would be useful for a roll like this).

What happens to her next would largely depend on which rules you’re choosing to use (though, see below).

She will want to stop the bleeding, which requires a First Aid roll. I would probably impose a -4 penalty for only having one hand to use (judgement call), bringing her First Aid down to 8 — doable, but tough. However, if you are using Kromm’s suggestion here, there would be a further -6.

If she couldn’t stop the bleeding with First Aid, she would almost certainly die alone in the wilderness if you were using the optional Bleeding rules on p. 420!

Even with being a mage and knowing the Major Healing spell, she’s still in a tough spot. An attempt to cast Major Healing will cost her 3 FP to heal 6 HP (or 1 FP, in case of spell failure), and she is at -5 to the skill roll due to being at -5 HP. Even worse, if she fails the first time, each subsequent attempt is at a cumulative -3!

Still, I like to think that Kerna makes it to the stronghold, bloodied but unbroken, and those filthy traitors are ruthlessly hunted down by the king’s men.


And so, we come to the end of the intermediate series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing! Please feel free to share any thoughts or suggestions, either in the comments below or by contacting me directly.

We still have the advanced series in our future, but I may hold off on those posts for a bit. For one thing, the intermediate posts took about twice as long to write as the basic ones… so the advanced ones may take twice as long as the intermediate!

I also feel like the target readership for hyper-crunchy, super-fiddly GURPS is much, much smaller than those who are new to the game and looking for guidance. Particularly now, there seems to be a real interest in customizing GURPS to be simpler, faster, and more accessible to newcomers. That is exactly what I’ve been moving toward for the last few years, both in my home games and evangelizing at conventions, so I want to be a part of that.

I’m not saying I want to write only material in that vein… I just want to be sure to not exclude those new to the game unnecessarily.

So, moving forward, let’s all remember…

GURPS is fun, and GURPS is easy!

If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?


Corrections made, 12/5/2015:

  • All “Kendra” corrected to “Kerna.”

Under “Skills”

  • Expanded/clarified the effects of lack of sleep.
  • Noted that as Kerna is waking, she Readys the throwing axe in her hand before combat begins.

Under “Ranged Combat”

  • Noted that if Kerna made a melee attack instead of a ranged attack while kneeling, she would be at -2.

Under “Spells”

  • Noted that Kerna is using the Step part of her Concentrate manuever to go from kneeling to standing.
  • Fixed typo (missing end parentheses).

Under “Melee Combat”

  • Kerna now Fast-Draws her sword after throwing her axe.
  • Kerna now correctly attacks the enemy to her right (not the front).
  • Kerna now correctly rolls against her Shield skill to Shield Bash (not Broadsword).
  • Lowered the injury Kerna receives from the attack that cripples her hand to 5 (damage over the minimum needed to cripple is lost, p. 421).


  1. Actually, it is lost after combat and maybe more than one, but I would leave the specifics to Mook. Don’t if he’d consider that Intermediate or Advanced.

    I think something was left out of the scene though, or I missed it though reading twice…I don’t see where Kerna drew her blade after throwing the axe.

    Regardless, it’s an excellently described combat and the series is a great idea.

  2. Great ending to this part of Kerna’s saga! Just a couple of quibbles:

    1) Kerna: “I make a swinging attack to the neck of the traitor directly in front of me, with a Mighty Blow.” But you actually have her attacking the guy on her right.

    2) Kerna: “It’s all or nothing time! I scream in rage and pain, and make an All-Out Attack Shield Bash to the final enemy, aiming for his skull.” But you rolled against her Broadsword skill.

    I haven’t been reading long, but I’ve already improved my games with a few pieces of your advice, and your mini-adventure has been quite interesting. Keep up the excellent work! It is much appreciated.

  3. Thank you all for the comments! I have to apologize for the editing on this one… I didn’t get it posted until like 4 hours after my usual bedtime (showed up for work on 3 hours sleep lol), and some things clearly got sloppy.

    I will absolutely be addressing the above issues (as well as some from other notes) later today/this weekend, and appreciate you all taking the time to point out inconsistencies. I want these to be as error-free as Mookly possible.

    EDIT: Alrighty, all corrections made as of 12/05/2015!

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