Melee Academy: GURPS 301: Evaluate

This post is part of a cross-blog event called Melee Academy. Several authors have taken a look at the Evaluate maneuver and posted their own thoughts. (Others may pop up during the day, in which case I'll edit them into the list.)

Evaluate Today

The Evaluate maneuver is considered one of the weakest options in a GURPS combat. Some have even called it "utterly useless if your skill exceeds that of your opponent, and is dubious at best if your skill exceeds 10." I don't agree with this harsh assessment, but I do think it could stand some improvement.

Here's how Evaluate works now:
  1. Your target must be visible to you.
  2. They must be close enough for you to attack with a ready melee weapon or unarmed, or you must be able to reach them in a single Move and Attack maneuver.
  3. Each consecutive Evaluate maneuver you take gives you +1 to skill, up to a maximum of +3, on one of the following maneuvers against that target on your next turn.
    • Attack
    • Feint
    • All-Out Attack
    • Move and Attack
  4. You can make a step while Evaluating.
  5. You can make any Active Defense, and it doesn't spoil your Evaluate.
I have a small interest in addressing part 2, which I'll discuss later, but the big problem I have here is part 3. The bonus is simply too small to make Evaluate worth giving up a turn for. The obvious solution is to make the bonus bigger, but how?

I propose something analogous to the Acc of ranged weapons, based not on your weapon but on your Tactics skill. Having a higher Tactics means you can interpret your opponent's moves and anticipate openings more easily. The rule would be something like this:
On the first turn you take the Evaluate maneuver, you get a +1 bonus to skill. If you have the Tactics skill at IQ+1, this bonus increases to +2. If you have Tactics at IQ+2 or higher, the bonus increases to +3. You may continue to Evaluate for additional turns, increasing the bonus by +1 each turn, to a maximum of +5.
This translates into a couple of levels of Deceptive Attack after a second or two spent Evaluating, which is nothing to sneeze at.

I will point out that by the Rules as Written, the bonus for Evaluate applies to the maneuvers called out by name. That means if you get multiple attacks in the same maneuver—from All-Out Attack (Double), Rapid Strike, Dual-Weapon Attack, the Extra Attack advantage, or what have you—the bonus should apply to all of them. A Weapon Master with Tactics at IQ+2 or higher could Rapid Strike for free after a second of Evaluate, for example.

Evaluate and Move and Attack

The limitation in part 2 about how far your target can be from you might need adjusting. I'm okay with it from a fictional standpoint as well as in play, but it may give some gamers pause. Even with a +3 or more for Evaluating, you give up a lot if you have to Move and Attack to get to your target.

As with many things combat-related, GURPS Martial Arts comes to the rescue with the technique design rules. Here's a cinematic technique to alleviate some worry about the Evaluate range restriction. For 5 points, you can remove all penalties for Move and Attack with a single skill following an Evaluate.

Exploit Opening*

Hard
Default: Combat skill-4.
Prerequisite: Any combat skill. Cannot exceed prerequisite skill.

This technique allows a combatant to ignore the skill cap on a Move and Attack made on the turn following one or more Evaluate maneuvers. By improving this technique, you can also buy off the -4 penalty normally levied on Move and Attack. You are still unable to retreat after using this technique.

Conclusion

Some may think I haven't gone far enough, but I'm comfortable using Evaluate in my games with just these tweaks alone. I'm a minimalist when it comes to changing rules. I am interested to see how these changes work in play. If I get the change to do so, I'll post with the results.

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