GURPS Autoduel Designer's Notes
Or, How I Did It
by Scott D. Haring
HTML conversion by Tim C. and Odette Morrison, June 1997
Well, first off, I didn't do it. Not alone, at any rate. Aaron Allston and I co-wrote the sucker, and we had lots of help from SJ Games staffers who edited, re-wrote, and contributed ideas: Steve Jackson, Bill Armintrout, Warren Spector, Alien Varney, Ray Greer. and Norman Banduch. Like most game projects, it was hardly a solo effort.
Aaron and I split the work up in a fairly obvious manner: I would write the rule conversions, and Aaron would work on the gameworld background and adventures. In other words, he got to write all the fun stuff, while I tried to figure our how you do a bootlegger turn in GURPS.
By the way, just how do you do a bootlegger turb in GURPS? Frankly, it's not as hard as it looks, but a few other things needed to be explained first.
The first problem to overcome was one of scale. Car Wars scale is 1 inch = 15 feet, while GURPS scale is 1 inch = 3 feet. This 5:1 ratio dominates the play of the game -- in GURPS scale, a car counter is 5 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide! Playing full arena battles in this scale would require more room than any kitchen -- much less a kitchen table -- could provide. So the solution was to use two scales -- the good old, familiar Car Wars scale when the focus of the action is on the cars, and GURPS scale when the focus of the action is on people.
In GURPS, movement is done in Move order: the fastest thing moves first, and moves its entire movement distance. Then the next-fastest thing moves, and so on. For duelling autos, this was clearly inappropriate (playtests led to some very interesting unrealities!). Complete, phased, Car Wars-type movement didn't seem to be the way to go either. A compromise, staggered-movement rule is presented as an optional rule -- It works pretty well, and I recommend it to all Car Wars players who take up GURPS Autoduel.
The next problem was with weapon damage. In Car Wars, people are unconscious after taking 2 hits, and dead after taking 3. In GURPS, the average HT of a player-character is gotng to be 11 or 12, and after taking that many hits, the character is only unconscious -- and with some lucky rolls, a person can take 40 or 50 hits and still be alive! This had some major ramifications on the weapon rules. The damage of most weapons got increased by a factor of 2.5 (approximately), and the DP of equipment had to be similarly increased to keep things balanced. The larger numbers allowed for a greater variety of weapon damages -- not all 2-dice Car Wars weapons got the same damage amounts in GURPS Autoduel. Some went to 5 dice, others to 4, others to 6, and still others to numbers in between, like 4d+1 or 5d-1. It's given an extra level of detail to the game.
But in general, the biggest problem was the necessary change in emphasis. In Car Wars, the hardware is the star, and the driver is just another vehicle component. In combat, for example, the base to hit number is determined by the weapon, and the gunner is just a modifier to that roll. To keep control, the base number comes from the vehicle -- the driver's skill is just a modifier. And so on.
In GURPS Autoduel, the emphasis is on the people. A combat "to hit" roll is based on the skill of the gunner, and the hardware provides the modifiers. Keeping control of a vehicle is based on the skill of the driver, and the hardware provides the modifiers. And that's the way it should be.
The other thing we wanted to accomplish was to get people out of their cars. We've created a living, breathing universe in which to game -- a universe full of adventure. It is true that in the world of 2036, the single most exciting thing a person can do is get behind the wheel and duel. But there are other adventures to be had, too, and GURPS provides the means to enjoy them, by including rules for lockpicking, handguns, climbing, hand-to-hand combat, stealth, disguise, negotiation, jobs, etc. -- which Car Wars never did.
We think it's a solid package. All we can ask is for you to take a look and decide for yourself.