Monday, January 11, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 5: GURPS

 New Year, New Character

Day 5


While not the first, GURPS  is probably the most famous of the classic "Universal" Systems. More recent games have stolen some of its thunder--Fate, Savage Worlds, Powered By The Apocalypse, etc.--yet it still remains a corner stone of gaming. Even if you don't want to use their system, GURPS has put out some absolutely amazing supplements that cover almost every conceivable game idea you might have. 

But I did use the system--a lot. Back in the day, GURPS was my go to game for any time I wanted a system that ran fast at the table, and would otherwise stay out of my way, and played/ran a ton of games with the 3rd Edition rules. But sometime around the release of the 4th Edition, my group and I just stopped using GURPS. There was no particular reason why, just other games took our attention and we have never found our way back. So, for this Challenge, I'll be trying to create my first character with 4th Ed. 


GURPS uses a point based system for character generation. You start with a single pool of points that you spend to purchase Attributes, Advantages, Skills, and the like.  Everything is generally on a rating of 1-20, with checks being made by rolling 3d6, with the objective to roll below the value. Much like AD&D, skills are derived from a controlling attribute. Unlike AD&D, you can purchase them at different values. So, for example, if you have an Intelligence of 12, you can buy it at "Attribute -1" for 11 or "Attribute +2" for 14. The better the skill, the more points it will cost. Obviously, this means that starting with high Attributes makes high level skills cheaper to get.

Step 0: Concept

Since GURPS is a Universal RPG, Concept is more important than others. I could allow random charts and die rolls to guide my character creation in other games, but GURPS is all about making decisions. So, before I do anything else I need to have a concept. Not only what character I want to make, but also what kind of world they live in. A "professional fighter" in the modern world might be an MMA fighter, while one from 2,000 years ago would be a Gladiator. Both could kick my ass, but both would have pretty different skills. Given that, I'm going to once again turn to the Universal NPC Emulator, with a few caveats. First, the past few characters I've made have been men, so this character will be a woman. Secondly, I've made quite a few characters based on "western European heritage," so I want her to be something different. Finally, though relatedly, I've had a run of "fantasy" style games, so I don't want to do that. I also have quite a few "contemporary" games coming up eventually, so I don't want this character to be either. Maybe she'll be a "near-future" character, or a "post-apocalypse" or 1800's or something. We'll seen. Oh, and other thing, the UNE is one of my favorite tools, but it does lean towards "fantasy"--this is unfortunately true of most "generic" tools. So, I'll need to interpret the results in light of the above. I'm pretty sure I won't pick the best interpretation, and I'm sure others will come up with more insightful and cunning ideas. But, I'll have to stick with what I have.

The UNE provides a series of charts to provide various terms to the character in question--each is based on a percentile roll.  The first two provide a "Modifier" and a "Noun" which gives me the basic concept for the character. Rolling, I get a 90 and an 8, which gives me Optimistic Occultist. The next two gives us the characters Motivation. Rolling, I get a 97 and a 60, for Rob Justice. So, the character is an Optimistic Occultist who wants to Rob Justice. "Rob Justice" gives me a bit of a "Revolutionary" vibe, but "Optimistic" keeps her solidly on the good side. I decide to set this character in Victorian England--she will be the daughter of Indian immigrants, who is fascinated by a mixture of "Indian Mysticism" and "Western Occultism." She fights for the immigrants, women, and other minorities in the England, trying to provide them some sort of justice in land with little use for them. I now turn to the Everyone, Everywhere list and roll two percentiles. I roll 22 and 19 and get the name Jayashree Ponalaga. Given her society, I decide she goes by "Jayne" when dealing with the non-immigrant community.

Step 1: Points

GURPS can support a wide range of characters, from small children exploring the "witches house" in the woods behind their home to near diving being exploring the furthest reaches of reality. To balance this, characters are assigned a starting number of points. A child might only have 25, while the divine character might have 1,000, or more. 100-200 is common for a typical adventurer. I see Jayashree as something of a "pulp" type, but still fairly grounded. I decide on a whim to start her with 125 points.

With 125 points, Jayashree could pick up to 75 points worth of Disadvantages. These would be added to her total, and she could all of them on Attributes, Advantages, Skills, etc. I doubt I'll pick that many for her, but it's good to note that particular hard limit.

Step 2: Attributes

GURPS has 4 Attributes--Strength (ST), Dexterity (DX), Intelligence (IQ), and Health (HT). Each starts at 10. It costs 10 points to increase ST and HT by one point, but 20 for DX and IQ (given the number of Skills that are tied to them). Given the pulp nature of Jayashree, I don't want her to have any negative Attributes (which would give her bonus points), so I decide to keep them all at 10. I decide to spend 80 points to increase her IQ to 14 and 40 points to increase her DX to 12. She has 5 points left. 

Might need to rethink the whole "not taking 75 points worth of flaws" thing.

Next, I need to calculate her "Secondary Characteristics."  These are various other traits that are derived from her Attributes.  These are things like a damage bonus, hit points, perception, etc.  I also need to figure out her "Build." There's a series of charts for this, and the first option for some flaws. As I only have 5 points left, I decide to take "Skinny" as a 5 point Disadvantage. It gives her a -2 to resist knockback. Despite this, her Size Modifier remains a 0. I also decide at this point to set her age at 25, keeping a running theme of most of the characters I'm creating. 

 Step 3: Other Traits

You can spend points to improve a characters Appearance, which modifies how well people react to your character. Or, alternately, gain points by making your character less attractive and have people react more harshly to the character. Jayashree is a pulpy heroic investigator, so I decide I do want her to be more attractive than average. Attractive would give her a +1 to reactions, and only cost 4 points. Beautiful would give her a +4 reaction, but cost 12 points. Given the likelihood of her bumping up against various male authority figures who don't want her messing in their business, I think Beautiful might come in handy.  Given that this cost 12 points, though, her total is now at -2. I'm going to need to pick a number of Disadvantages for her, and soon.

Her Tech Level is 6, the Mechanized Age. I randomly stuck her in "Victorian London" which sort of overlaps TL 5 & 6, but London is the cutting edge of the world at the time, so I pick 6.  This is relevant, as the next part is "Social Background." This is primarily focused on Tech Levels, however. Jayashree is a thoroughly modern woman, so I do not believe that this requires any modification. She starts with one Language at full fluency for free, which I set as English. I also want her to speak Hindi at a fluent level, but that costs me 6 points, bringing my total to -8. I need to find some more points soon!

Fortunately, next up is "Wealth and Influence." I decide to make her Struggling--she'll start with 1/2 the normal starting money, and gains 10 points.  I also give her a Status of -1. This is less to to with her heritage, than with the inherently sexist society she lives in. She has a -1 just for being a woman. This gives her 5 points.  While I'm thinking about it, I flip ahead and grab "Social Stigma," specifically a Minority Group.  This gains her 10 points, but inflects a -2 to most reaction rolls. So, -2 for being a minority and a -1 for being a woman. She gains a +4 on most men, and +2 to others based on her appearance, for a "net" of +1 to men and -1 to others. 

Step 4: Advantages and Disadvantages 

I've been picking up various Advantages and Disadvantages along the way, but this is the part where we get really into these sections. For some games, this features would be definitive. For example, if playing a Superhero game, then "Flying" would be an Advantage. If a Horror one, then "gets burned by the sun" would be a Disadvantage. Jayashree isn't quite as extreme as any of these, so I focus on her being more "grounded." I decide to focus on Disadvantages first. I currently have 30 points worth of these, but only 7 "free" points. I need to get some more soon, but can only get 45 more points.  I go ahead and pick Absent-Minded (-15 points), Charitable (-15), Curious (-5), and Motion Sickness (-10), bringing her up to the full 75 points worth of Disadvantages. 

I then turn to Advantages. There are two I really want for Jayashree. See, I want her to be able to use Magic, even if in a grounded, low-level manner. Magic is far from common in Victorian London, though, so this will cost her the Unusual Background Advantage, at a cost of 10. I also need get Magery. The first level is only 0, and costs 5 points. Each point above that costs 10. I grab it at level 1, for 15 points. I also grab Medium for 10 points, which lets Jayashree to sense and communicate with spirits. I also take a step back and want to give her a bit of Reputation as a Investigator. I decide that this givers her a +3 Reaction Modifier (15 points), but for now only affects the immigrant community (1/2) and only Sometimes (1/2) for a total cost of 4 points. I also want her to have some Contacts. No one in particular come to mind, so I make a group with a focus on Street. Their effective skill is 12 (1 point), show up Quite Often (x2), and are Fairly Reliable (x1) for a base of 2. As a group, it costs 5 times more, for 10. With that, I think she has enough Advantages. 

Step 5: Skills

I have only 13 points left, so I need to be careful. There's a few Skills she needs, and one is very expensive. Ritual Magic is the base skill for casting of magic. It is tied to Intelligence, though Jayashree's Magery Advantage gives her a +1, for a base value of 15. I spend 2 of my current points, which give's me the skill at Attribute -2, or in this case 13.  I'd like to buy a few spells to start off with, but I need to focus on some mundane skills first.  I only have 11 left.  

I grab a variety of "investigative" type skills to help her quest for justice. Criminology, Detect Lies, etc. I really wish that she had a few more points for me to grab her some spells--each is treated as a separate skill--but the points just aren't there. For now, she has great potential, but will need to further her occult training in game. 

Step 6: Equipment
For a Tech Level 6 character, the default starting wealth is $10,000. However, due to Jayashree's Struggling Disadvantage, this is cut in half, to $5,000. Fortunately, her current equipment needs are fairly minor. Giver her Status of 0, her cost of living is $600 per month. I go ahead and subtract that from her current total, bringing her reserves down to $4,400. She doesn't need to worry about clothing--she has a small wardrobe of basic clothing appropriate for her Status. I go ahead and get her a Revolver for her weapon, with a cost of $400.00. After flipping through the equipment lists, there is nothing that really stands out as appropriate for Jayashree. Though, I am quite certain that hotels, outfits for various disguises, cabs, and bribes will make short work of her meager savings. I make a note of $4,000 on her sheet. Though in game, we would probably refer to currency in Pounds or, more likely, Pennies.  With that, Jayashree is complete.

Final Thoughts
As much as I like GURPS--and I like it quite a bit--character creation for this system is easily the most time consuming and challenging I've faced yet for this project. There are a large number of decisions a player must make, and all are derived from the same pool of points. I went with an INT of 14 and a Magery of 1. Should I have got with a Magery of 2 for 10 more points? Should I have skipped Magery all together, and gone with an INT of 15? It would have cost me 5 points more, but maybe that would have paid off more with Skills and in the game. And speaking of skills, there are so many to choose from! A friend of mine who was a former RPG writer and current video game writer likes to say "the more skills a system has, the dumber any given character is." And it certainly feels that way with GURPS. There were a lot of skills I felt fitted Jayashree and would have helped her career, and so picking any of them would send me into a loop of indecision. But then, the sheer versatility of the system, and the ability to create any character you can conceive of, is a virtue all its own. 

In any case, here's Jayashree's final sheet.

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