New Options for Berserk in GURPS
by Dmitri Scull
The standard GURPS Berserk rules assume that the Berserk character enters into a state of frothing (sometimes literally) madness; that one becomes an uncontrolled attacker who is so consumed by rage that one has no control over his or her choice of targets.
This is not always the case; some berserkers (often known as "controlled" or "cold" berserkers) enter into a different sort of frenzy, one more akin to a combat trance, although its results are no less dramatic. Rather than entering into a state of rage and madness, the cold berserker enters an almost calm state of extreme focus -- except that the focus is on bringing down the berserkers enemies, as fast as possible. Rather than a flurry of blows, the cold berserker goes for killing shots -- constantly, and even if the situation demands otherwise.
Additionally, many berserkers suffer from memory loss; they do not remember their actions while berserk (which can be additionally problematic). Such memories often become lost in a haze, where the subject's memories fade into a blur of color (often red or black, colors associated with violence) for the duration of the frenzy.
The character tends to lose control in battle; unlike a normal Berserk, this is not normally keyed to temper, and the Cold Berserk can still take the Bad Temper disadvantage (but may not take the normal Berserk disadvantage). The Bloodlust disadvantage may still be taken with Cold Berserk, but is only worth -5 points.
Any time the character takes more than three hits in one turn; any time the character is wounded in battle before being able to wound his opponent; or any time the character is either facing tremendous odds or is protecting a friend or loved one, the character must roll vs. Will; a failed roll means the character enters a cold berserk state. "Normal" forms of extreme stress are unlikely to trigger a cold berserk, however, unless they could be mistaken for a physical attack. A cold berserker may deliberately enter the berserk state by taking the "Concentrate" maneuver and making a successful Will roll.
While in the cold berserk state, the character must make either a Step and Attack or an All-Out Attack each turn a foe is in range (unless otherwise making an attack, such as with a spell), or Move towards a foe if none are in range. The character can freely attack with ranged weapons, martial arts maneuvers, and even spells or psionics if they can be used within a single turn. However, the character must use either the most convenient attack possible, or the deadliest attack possible, and if the attack can target a specific area, the character must do so -- generally aiming for the brain, eyes, or vital organs (or heart, kidneys, or similar targets, if specific rules are used for attacking them). The character may still not take time to aim (using the Aim maneuver, as opposed to targeting specific areas). A high-tech cold berserk will reload (even without Fast-Draw) unless a deadlier or more efficient weapon is available.
As in a normal berserk state, the cold berserker cannot be stunned, and injuries cause no penalty to the character's Move score or attack rolls. All rolls to remain conscious or alive are made at a +4 bonus to HT; if the character doesn't fail any rolls, he or she will remain alive (and emotionlessly attacking) until HT reaches (-5 × HT), at which point the character will die.
As long as foes remain alive, the cold berserker will not snap out of the berserk state. If faced with a friend (either attempting to restrain the character or interceding for an enemy), the character gets a Will roll to snap out early. The character will not attack friends, unless it was a friend that accidentally triggered the frenzy (in a sparring match, for example). If prevented from reaching a living enemy, the berserker will attack inanimate objects until the frenzy ends (getting a Will roll each time an inanimate object is destroyed or every third turn of attacking the same inanimate object, unless the enemy becomes available again before the berserk state is over). If a friend accidentally caused the frenzy, the berserker gains a Will roll each turn to snap out of it.
The berserker will pursue enemies, but will come out of the trance if three turns expire with no enemy in sight.
When the berserker comes out of the cold berserk, all the character's wounds immediately affect him or her; roll at normal HT to see if the character remains conscious or alive.
The character suffers from periods of memory loss, when he or she does not recall any actions taken. This is coupled with another disadvantage . . . almost always either Alcoholism, Berserk, or the Cold Berserk disadvantage above (although Kleptomania and Split Personality are also candidates). Whenever the character suffers from the disadvantage this is tied to, the character forgets his or her actions while succumbing to the character flaw. In the case of Berserk or Cold Berserk, the character forgets what happened while in a frenzied state; in the case of Alcoholism or Addiction, the character forgets what happened while "bingeing." For Kleptomania, the character immediately forgets any thefts, and if the character has a Split Personality, the personalities (even if merely differing facets of the same individual) do not share memories.
Article publication date: November 22, 2002
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