It’s not that I hate stereotypical Conan rip-offs, it’s that I love sports medicine (as applied to “Flurry of Blows”)

Illustration: Studly McStereotype demonstrates how to stretch your thigh muscles before chugging protein shakes and doing some awesome squats.
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GURPS rules include the following:

 

FATIGUE COSTS …
Fighting a Battle
Any battle that lasts more than 10
seconds will cost FP – you expend
energy quickly when you fight for
your life! Those who make no attack
or defense rolls during the fight are
exempt from this fatigue, but other
actions (e.g., casting magic spells) still
have their usual FP cost. Assess the
following costs at the end of the battle:
No Encumbrance: 1 FP.
Light Encumbrance: 2 FP.
Medium Encumbrance: 3 FP.
Heavy Encumbrance: 4 FP.
Extra-Heavy Encumbrance: 5 FP.

If the day is hot, add 1 FP to the
above – or 2 FP for anyone in plate
armor, an overcoat, etc. Full-coverage
armor at TL9+ is climate-controlled.
This counts as a cooling system, and
negates the penalties for hot weather.
These costs are per battle, not per
10 seconds of battle.

Let me think about that for a moment.

Let’s say that a fighter in plate mail has 40 pounds of armor and 10 pounds of weapons/belts/scabbards.

Even with 14 Strength, he’s going to be Lightly Encumbered.

Let’s say he’s got 14 Strength and 14 Health and 14 Fatigue.

That means he’s got 7 ten-second-or-longer battles per day before he really, really has to collapse and sleep.

By contrast, a nimble rogue wearing almost nothing (e.g. loincloth, sandals, and turban) and wielding just a dagger or two could engage in 14 battles, using 1 FP per battle. Finally there’s a good reason to be lightly-armored in a fantasy game!

Even if the GM gives the fighter extra-super-duper endurance powers by allowing him to have 20 Fatigue, he only gets 10 battles per day. If he has the 15-point “Very Fit” advantage AND 20 Fatigue, he loses FP at half normal, so the plate-mail fighter can engage in 20 battles, just like a nimble 20 Fatigue rogue with nothing but loincloth, sandals, and dagger.

I can live with that. That’s kind of like saying that D&D-style wizards have a limited number of spells per day.

However, many GMs will just forget to keep track of such things because a lot of game battles are resolved in less than ten seconds. If a party of four blokes does one attack each for nine seconds, the combat goes on for hours of real time, and most games are designed to move more quickly than that. A lot of battles take less than ten seconds.

So really, in practical terms, most GURPS fighters probably do have unlimited fatigue. If the real-life gaming group only has about four hours to do some exploration and combat, most of the combat is going to be pretty short. There might be two big battles, plus a few mook fights.

Some GMs might be strict with fatigue by counting up all rounds of combat. Thus, if a sword-swinging armored broseph chops up some mook monsters in just two swings of his mighty blade, but he does it five times in a row with brief periods of exploration between, some GMs might count that as a ten-second battle and impose fatigue costs. Still, that could mean that Chad McBuffStud could chop up thirty-five pairs of patrolling monsters before he’s at his limit. That’s not much of a limit. Most gaming groups don’t want to bother with special rules like “Extra Effort in Combat” and “Flurry of Blows” versus “Mighty Blows,” etc.

GURPS can allow fighters to make more than one attack per second with special moves like “Rapid Strike,” with “Extra Effort,” allowing the fighters to burn their FP to make a dramatic battle. Note that this takes more effort for the actual players. It’s easy to say, “I swing my sword” and roll some dice. It takes mental effort and imagination to say, “I will use one Fatigue point to make an extra punch without lowering my defenses.”

Somehow it seems bizarre to me that a wild adventure or battle could be less sweaty than running windsprints, but I suppose tabletop games emulate fantasy adventures like Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, not gritty carnage like The 13th Warrior. I don’t think I ever noted Errol Flynn sweating from running fast.

Conversely, a modern “UFC” sport match goes on for five minutes at a time, and then the fighters get to rest for one minute.

Recall that the old AD&D rounds were one minute each (and were intended to reflect Errol Flynn’s screen time, rather than anything realistic), and GURPS has one-second rounds. This makes GURPS better for stuff like laser-gun-fights, but it’s not great for modeling fistfights accurately. Five minutes is 300 rounds of GURPS combat.

A GURPS swordsman with 20 Fatigue and various fatigue-related advantages would be cool, assuming that the player knew the rules well enough to burn fatigue points at least once per combat.

If I run GURPS again, I think I’ll make a houserule; fighter types MUST burn one fatigue point minimum per encounter, even if the encounter is less than ten seconds.

(In fact, one could make a horror game, mostly about running away from ghosts and monsters, and apply Extra Effort to sprinting, forcing open locked doors to escape, etc., and still require ALL player characters to burn a minimum of one fatigue point per combat encounter.)

One could make an entire GURPS campaign based on battles, in which each fighter in each battle had to expend a minimum of one fatigue point. This would probably work well with just one or two player characters in the party; more than three or four characters would need too much time to decide on combat maneuvers.

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