Monday, November 3, 2014

GURPS: Macheteswords

Any modern-ish day campaign in GURPS (any setting really, but GURPS even moreso) is almost guaranteed to still have that one guy who just absolutely HAS to have a sword. Doesn't matter if it's the end of the world, or Mystery Teens Club Adventure Hour, there's going to be that one guy who just has to have a sword.

Thing is, they never want to pay for it.

Inevitably it'll come up that they want something that's close enough to a sword, and uses whatever's around, but doesn't cost hundreds of dollars. A sharpened, straightened leaf spring in the apocalypse, one of the various ~$100-150 swords that perform far beyond the "cheap" price tag they should hold to get there with high tech steels.

For example, in GURPS Metro, I want the available blades to basically be Cold Steel macheteswords. The problem is pricing. Most of them retail for around $30-50, right where a good quality machete is listed in High Tech. But, the good quality machete uses kukri stats, for a slightly larger chopping knife. A small falchion starts to get up to the right area, identical swing damage to a shortsword at the cost of slightly lower thrusting damage. But, assuming you tone it down to the same good quality at the 60% off, you still only come out to an $80 price tag. Where does the price drop come from? By all accounts, these things are pretty good, all the durability, all the edge. Only real complaint I've heard is the balance historically inaccurate balance, which combined with the tendency of Cold Steel to demonstrate their things by way of ridiculous chopping rather than actual sword things, leads me to believe they may be Cheap (Poorly Balanced); at TL7+ this gives an 80% price break, dropping what amounts to a small full on sword down to a mere $40. In the Metro, because apocalypse, it would only get the regular 60% off.

Just ponderings, because it's one of those near inevitabilities "but what about X! That only costs Y, why can't I have it?" "Because I haven't figured out the stats yet"

Pondered more on the mass produced cutlass (in GURPS stats, a shortsword with a handguard) for $300 instead of , that'd apply to any of them, since they're either stamped steel, or sharpened previously mass produced bits of very similar steel. None of them that I've seen go beyond the 24" that is the top end of a shortsword. 80% off of $300 still leaves you about double what they go for, $60, to the $50 list price (which I believe is what GURPS uses), compared to the ~$30 street price on the ones that are more capable for stabby things. List price of $30 to the $40 for a similarly priced one that'd probably use small or regular falchion stats, similarly modified.

I think that's close enough to count. Higher quality blades are probably just the same blade with actual care taken to balance them properly.


  1. I look to the weights. The Cold Steel machetes that look like swords weigh more like the sword version than the knife version.

    The Kopis shaped one I have I statted as a small falchion G$ 200 at TL2. $80 for good quality and $40 for cheap. And cheap they should be! The metal used is stamped sheet, not forgings.

    Another Cold Steel example is their Basket Hilt Claymore. $234 US. That's a thrusting broadsword in GURPS terms. $600 at TL2, or $240 at TL7+... So if they want to treat a machete as a sword, then it's cheap; because that BH Claymore isn't.

    Also remember that the GURPS $ is a purchase price parity unit and not an actual dollar. The GURPS $ might not always line up perfectly with a US dollar.

    1. Blast, too fast for my distracted edits! Pondering the power of mass production with high tech quality steel, and remembering how G$ works, I was able to work out that yeah, "close enough".

  2. Track down the Nova episode where they recreated an Ulfbrecht sword. It's very enlightening concerning weapon quality and what kind of steel goes into it.

    It's not just balance, it's cross section, composition... lots of things. The Royal Army acceptance test involves clamping the tip then flexing the blade over a set distance, I want to say 24"then it must return to true. The machete would fail this test.

    1. I've seen it, quite fascinating.

      I'm aware. I vaguely recall one of their videos on machetes including that same test, but they redid all their videos just recently it seems and I'm not finding it. Some of them, such as the cutlass, when they try to do a fancy sword flourish are very clearly horrendously balanced (along with the guy doing them being incredibly awkward about it). I don't think the machete's would break, per se, so much as just bend (and be bendable back), so I'd treat it as cheap or unwieldy on a case by case basis, depending on if it's just crappy material outright, or crappy material but enough of it to give it the mass to withstand abuse anyway.

      That said, I presently don't have one of them (yet), and will be holding off on getting one until a bit later. Only machete I have is one of the $7 ones that literally can't even take/hold an edge, and is so poor quality as to be worthless for the sake of this discussion

    2. I forgot to mention, the kopis shaped machete is balanced correctly for a bronze kopis. They're supposed to be nose heavy.

      I haven't handled the other sword looking machetes, but a real civil war cutlass is also point biased. In fact, the only two swords I've played with that have the "ideal" balance point have been a 600 year old katana and a 18th century dressing sword (small sword in GURPS).

    3. I figured they were all nose heavy, because machete/falchion. I've handled some machetes and such that were well on their way to Axe/Mace instead of Shortsword to wield. I know that cutlasses are balanced for chopping, was actually surprised to see that they used shortsword stats for the blade rather than falchion.

      My real problem with just listing them as cheap is that machetes are pretty much designed to be brutalized, and tend to bend rather than break, so the -2 for rolls to not break seems wrong (part of that's just a function of mass, big heavy blades require more weight to hit the 3x threshold). There's also the fact that a fine quality large knife and a cheap falchion/machete cost the same, do the same swing damage and a substantial difference in thrust damage (4 points), with a penalty to parry with the knife and maybe a slight penalty to fast draw the machete in close conditions depending on how big of a machete it is (grabbed by something that warrants the use of melee weapons, etc). For a mere $8 more, a good quality long knife performs the same as the fine large knife, with no penalty to parry and possibly no fast draw penalty. That's why with GOOD machete steel (tough, but still actually fairly sharpenable), I lean towards machetes being unwieldy so they don't lose damage, and to account for their sheer mass (when the shortsword skill is or balanced weapons). Well, depending on quality of said machete (some just use cheap steel and not a lot of it, and definitely should be cheap)

      I'm reminded of a GM's comments "If I ever write a book on the death of tabletop gaming, I'm naming it 'I Did Some Math'"

    4. Chatted with a friend who has several macheteswords and actual swords from CS, and has used them for a lot of cutting and things of that nature. He said, based on performance, he'd go for the unwieldy, because they don't have the fragility or loss of capacity for potentially holding a sharp edge implied by the regular Cheap quality.