Sunday, August 4, 2019

GURPS Shooting - TL8 headache: Assault Vest



You've done it now, boy. Your last message on SJGames forums has enraged not only the forum administration, but the authorities themselves. Your local SWAT team is planting their boots into your door as we speak, and they've brought along their Assault Vests.

Many GMs, Players and bystanders have noted a curious thing about TL8 - the presence of Assault Vest, Advanced Body Armor and their little brother Concealable Vest with Trauma Plates within the GURPS High Tech book (Page 67). Sporting DR values of 35/28 and 37/30 depending on the vest and user's deep pockets, one might exclaim that presence of such protection ruins this TL for gunfighting, as this armor is extremely hard to crack while being relatively cheap ($1,500 for Assault Vest with stock plates), relatively accessible (Concealable Armor and aftermarket Trauma Plates are LC 3) and in some cases even concealable (Concealable Vest and Advanced Body Armor).

Not going to lie, TL8 is my most favorite TL thanks to it's aesthethic of borderline mundane cyberpunk and general wealth of options for a realistic character to make use of, and abuse when needed.

This article will thus describe various ways that a modern TL8 gunfighter can take on some stormtroopers and come out victorious despite their advanced protection.

What is protection?

IMTV in use by US Marine Corps.

GURPS most happily tells you the armor's DR value, but does not explain what this means tactically for a gunfighter that wears such armor or somebody who tries to take it down. 

To ensure that the data is present in full, I will assume that body armor protects from the bullet's average damage, is imprevious to a bullet that cannot bypass DR and is penetrated by a round capable of at least 4 points of damage to max out the shock penalty on an average human.

As such, to defeat a DR35 ballistic vest, a firearm must deal at least 39 damage on average - 11d in damage dice. 37 DR vest requires 41 average damage weapon - 12d-1 respectively. As you can see, only Barrett M82A1(HT118) firing .50 Browning (6dx2 pi+, 7,5 average) can properly dispose of the assault vest without specialty ammo.

Breaking Through

Barrett REC7 with 16" barrel, 6.8x43mm

The way GURPS is built, there are not many options to effectively deal with such protection. The most obvious - explosives - resolves against target's torso DR (BS414), so technically only direct impact of an explosive on limb can detach it, simply tossing a grenade won't cut it. As for the rest...

3-pack of 12 Gauge 3" APDS slugs.

The Good

These options are those that I recommend, because most importantly they cost money and time, rather than character points or clout with GM.


  • Armor Piercing ammunition - The second most obvious solution. High Tech, at TL8, lists a large number of variants of AP ammo of varying accessibility and quality, but for most practical applications in small arms, only three are of interest. APHC(HT167), APDU(HT169) and APDS(HT167). All 3 provide (2) armor divisor and reduction in wounding modifier under certain calibers. End result is that the vests in question effectively have 18.5 and 17.5 DR against such attacks.
    • APHC - Universally available tech, LC2, (2) Armor Divisor, calibers under 20mm experience reduction in wounding modifier, x2 the cost. Nothing special. The minimum effective damage dice is 6d (2) pi or 7d+1 (2) pi-.
      • 12 Gauge Shotgun firing 3" P+ slug at 6d+2 (2) pi+ is the most readily available option. At only $2.1 per shot, any tactical, home defense or hunting gun becomes SWAT officer's nightmare. Averaging 23 damage and 6.75 damage post-DR, it's a major wound and maxed out shock penalty on a normal human thanks to it's pi+ wounding modifier. The main benefit of this round is that it can be made at home, and some jurisdictions (like federal US law) do not forbid ownership of such ammunition in shotguns.
      • 7.62x54mmR Surplus APHC-I firing out of SVD (HT116), Tigr (Civilian SVD variant), PKM(HT135) or some such produces reliable 7d+1 (2) pi- inc, averaging at 4.5 damage (3,5+1 incendiary attack(BS433)). The benefit of this option is that, despite it being banned in US, it is the most common APHC round in the world - happily produced by Chinese and Russians and found all across the globe, if illegally. At $2.4 per bullet, it's a good option for a sniper targetting vitals. Feel free to bargain with your GM a bit about getting it cheaper if the adventure puts you in middle east, Africa or a Balkan country torn by civil war. 
      • 7.62x54mmR and 7.62x51mm APHC-P+ - is an upgraded previous option, slightly more effective (7.62x51mm will do 8d-1 (2) pi- and 7.62x54mmR will do 8d (2) pi-), but costlier and rare, most likely encountered only by government order or handloaded. Handloading in US adds additional trouble of it being illegal. For all your trouble, there's a miniscule bump in reliability, making x54mmR do average 4.75 damage and x51 4.25. $2.4 for either.
      • Dedicated Sniper Platforms - Remington Model 700 in .300 Ultra Magnum, CheyTac M200 Intervention in .408 and Barrett M82A1 in .50 BMG - This is something a SWAT sniper would be shooting YOU with, if you dare to confront them with an Assault Vest. All three options are relatively expensive, with Model 700(HT116) being budget choice, with it's APHC bullet costing $4 and dealing 9d+1 (2) pi- (7 damage average). CheyTac M200(TS63) APHC Match does 5dx2 (2) pi and averages at a very neat 16,5 damage for mere $14 per bullet. Without factory-made Match quality, it's down to $7. The rifle itself will set you back $11,500. Barrett M82A1(HT118) seems like a smarter choice. At $7,775 and $8 per APHC shot, it delivers 6dx2 (2) pi into the target, average of 23,5.
    • APDU - A somewhat rare beast, small arms development is rather scarce by 2018. Functions exactly the same as APHC, EXCEPT it multiplies firearm's damage by 1.2 and becomes incendiary if it penetrates at least 10 DR of solid armor. x3 the cost. Cannot be made at home.
      • Any APDU chambering - Generally, you wont find them in small arms in realistic campaigns, and you cant handload them yourself, but if for any reason the GM allows you to - minimum damage dice it's useful with is 6d. Such damage dice is found in 7.62x39mm RPK(HT114), and 16" Barret REC7(TS64) in 6.8x43mm, both costing $1.8 per shot and averaging 4.25. REC7 is recommended for style points, as visually it is indistinguishable from a modern AR-15. Sets you back a meager $2,500. Otherwise, it is a direct upgrade of APHC P+, keeping the same price, being less available, but adding 1 point of burning damage and a generous x1.2 damage modifier, while discarding P+ downsides.
    • APDS - A suprisingly serious bullet variant, it combines some rather peculiar tidbits. Minimum available calibers are 7.62x51 and 7.62x54mmR, but GURPS High Tech insists that experiments with 5.56 did happen. Invariably LC1, there's one exception. United States Federal Law does not forbid the sale of APDS Shotgun Slugs to civilians, effectively making it LC3. Sadly, can't make at home. Grants (2) armor divisor, multiplies damage by x1.3, multiplies range by x1.5, reduces wounding modifier if caliber is under 30mm, x3 price, LC1.
      • 12 Gauge Shotgun firing 3" APDS Slug at 8d-1 (2) pi+ - Measily $2.1 per shot outputs 12.75 average damage. And they say shotguns have no use on modern battlefield.
      • Any other APDS chamberings - Highly illegal, most likely hard to get, extremely useful. Minimum required damage die is 6d (4,4), but even full-length 5.56 like out of M16(HT117) will do 2.25 on average, allowing you to utilize automatic fire with it's reasonable rcl 2.  For the brave ones, Ruger Super Redhawk, .454 Casull(HT97) is a pocket variant at 6d (2) pi, averages at 2,5 damage and works much better as a sidearm than a 12G sawn off. Interestingly, US uses 7.62x51mm M948 as their 7.62 SLAP round, so US government forces shouldnt have an issue acquiring it.
      • 7.62x51mm D.U.D.S. by Pacific Technica - Seemingly the only commercially available APDSDU(HT169) option at LC1, it really boosts performance of all x51 guns against body armor. A battle rifle or a sniper rifle will deal 10d+2 (2) pi- when chambered for such, costing $3.2 per shot. Combined with incendiary damage, it averages at 9,25.
  • Ordnance - If you find yourself in a combat theater near a modern military force, 
    • 40mm grenade launcher firing 40mm HEDP shots can make short work of this armor thanks to it's 7d(10) cr ex with 6d [2d] cr ex linked. Needless to say, the impact must be direct, at which point the armor will equal a measly 3.5-3.7DR, so the enemy will receive 20-21 explosive damage, and then it will receive 21 average from linked effect. M203, M320 and GP25 mount under your favorite assault rifle, cost $20 per shot and destroy vehicles, bunkers and people.
    • Grenades can also work to indirectly harm the gunman, shrapnel striking unprotected areas, but usually the damage dice is low enough for it to be stopped by modern protection other than assault vest.
    • Molotov Cocktails - With human body being somewhat solid, and tactical armor usually being solid due to presence of plates, shattering a Molotov cocktail produces unreliable 3d (5) burn attack (BS411) and 1d (5) burn follow up every second. One may argue that it burns the vest as much as the person, thus destroying the armor.
Seemingly technical specifications and package information of 7.62mm D.U.D.S. by Pacific Technica

The Bad
This is where good times end, and tactics, strategy and point-spending begins.
  • Targetting unprotected bodyparts - Armed with god knows what, preferably a shotgun with buckshot or an assault rifle, you can try to engage the less protected areas. At TL8, modern limb armor rarely goes above 12, sitting comfortably at 8-12. Firing into the arms and legs is relatively easy (-2) and targetted attack to buy it off down to -1 is one of the cheapest. Lethality of such attack is sadly lacking, but the added benefit of disarming or demobilizing is a plus. A shot into the face from the front (-5) or skull from the back (-5) is a good way to deal with the enemy, but if you're shooting the skull from the front, or face from the back, you're at (-7) instead. Buys down to -2/-3 respectively, but at a great cost.
  • Targetting vitals - At this point, you're still putting rounds into assault vest at -3 to hit. You can expend some points to buy it down to -1, but you will still require a solid rifle with armor piercing bullets to deal damage. The benefit of this, though, is that original wounding modifier is replaced by vitals modifier, which is x3. That makes pi- weapons six times more effective, pi weapons 3 times more effective and pi+ weapons 2 times more effective. Minimum caliber of use is still 7.62x39mm out of RPK or 6.8mm out of REC7 Civilian Rifle, but at that point even standard APHC bullet will deal 7,5 damage on average.
  • Targetting chinks in armor - At extreme penalty of -8, bought down to -4, you gain (2) Armor Divisor. This is hard to pull off, but useful if you dont have access to APHC ammo. On the bright side, this does not negate weapon's wounding modifier, so the damage is twice as good past DR. Even better, this armor divisor stacks with any other, thus APHC bullet fired at chinks in armor would divide the DR by 4, meaning you only have to contend with 9 DR. Virtually all rifles and some handguns can defeat that, given that they have APHC ammo or better. Box on TS12 instead permits to attack around the plate, meeting vest's 12/5 instead at the -6 penalty, bought down to -3.
The Ugly
This is where things stop relying on your character's skillset/riches or your game knowledge, and rely on your personal charisma, or dumb luck.
  • Persuade your GM to make trauma plates semi-abalative. Box on HT67. 10 point of damage stopped, 1 less DR, thus emptying a few magazines into somebody oughta burry him no matter what. Requires bookkeeping of everyone's DR as dynamic number.
  • Persuade your GM to purchase anything you want as long as you meet LC and cash requirements. This opens up the entire HT ammo library and the lettersalad ammo like APFSDSDU(HT169).
  • Use martial arts - suicidal, but generally what takes down a Knight might take down the SWAT officer. Don't let him shoot you, don't let his friends shoot you. Grapple, Arm Lock, Throw from Lock, Damaging Judo Throw, etc. Disarm him then do him in.
  • Crash a car into them, shoot them with an APC, blow them up with a bomb. Long setup that just might not trigger.
  • Buy your GM Pyramid #3/57 - Gunplay. It includes an article for both stronger AND weaker TL8 ballistic vests, bridging the gap between the kevlar 12/5 and plate 35/28, as well as taking a peek into Late-TL8 world that looks more and more like TL9. Hopefully, they'll be able to it use to create a more organically challenging scenarios, while you yourself can shed some weight and wear something lighter, or turn yourself into the juggernaut you always wanted to be.

Brass Check

To finalize, it is quite clear that the government has the easiest time dealing with these threats, so Police SWAT units, military commando squads and such will be able to easily acquire top of the line protection AND AP ammo. They can also justify having extensive training at shooting around plates.

Terrorists and criminals have slightly worse time, but given ties to black market can purchase themselves a few cans of 7.62 APHC. The less civilized the corner of the earth is, the higher the chance of that happening.

Civilians in US have a few law tidbits that permit them to acquire solid rounds for shotguns, and even SWAT teams should consider loading their breacher up with such.

Civilians in more restrictive countries are forced to rely on skill, or scavenge Police or Military surplus.

As such, Assault Vest and the like are great tools to keep your PCs alive throughout the adventure, but adversaries wearing such gear are best used as "bosses", since the fight against them without preparation becomes a puzzle of suppression, lining up tough shots and getting creative. If you, as GM, would like to not have such gear appear in play, invoke local laws, tone of the game or simply talk to the players. I am sure they'll understand.

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