I may, once again, be drowning in the details, but would like to know when GURPS 4e calls for random hit determination. Do attacks always default to torso?

I have run a combat with hit locations determined randomly except for when the shots were called and I have run one with the hit location defaulting to torso as the rules seem to indicate. I have not any strong feeling towards one technique over the other currently, but would like to know which way is "right" that I can default to "proper" methodology and tweak from there. I do imagine that years of many persons play-testing has significantly more value than my opinion stemming from two short gaming sessions.

A driving concern is that, in my mind, with attacks defaulting to the torso and characters thereby armoring/defending the torso more, I'd expect incidental injury to limbs even without specific targeting.

As always, thank you all for your time!


1 Answer 1


How hit locations are determined is covered in detail on pages 398–401, "Hit Location". To summarise:

  • Every controlled attack must be aimed at a hit location, with a default of the torso if no declaration is made. Hit locations aren't optional rules – Rule Zero notwithstanding of course. Every hit location carries a penalty to hit, although the default torso location carries a modifier of 0.

  • Random hit locations are only used for attacks that cannot be aimed (wild swings, stabs in the dark, flying shrapnel [but not explosions], and the like) or hits that are deliberately not aimed at a particular body part (e.g. if the player declares, "I'm gong to attack opportunistically where-ever they leave an opening"). Random hit locations are used when "targeting a location is unrealistic."

    • Notably, using random hit locations does not apply a per-location penalty to hit. Instead, you roll to-hit and defense unmodified, and then let the hit location tables tell you where the blow landed. Fighting opportunistically can have benefits if you're lucky, provided that you're okay with being less consistent.
  • Fatigue damage doesn't use hit locations at all.

Thus, your second arrangement is the rules-as-written "right" way.

Your concern that unarmoured limbs would sometimes take incidental damage in a fight is fair. You could model that by adding a small random chance that the hit falls elsewhere – for example, by rolling a d6 every time a strike is declared without an explicit hit location: on a 1 use the random hit location process as described on page 400, on 5–6 target the torso as usual.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I do like the d6 idea at the end of your answer. It gives a little flavor, but does not lead to chaos. \$\endgroup\$
    – EFH
    Sep 26, 2012 at 17:05

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