GURPS 101: DX, Speed, and Move

Continuing the GURPS 101 series on the fundamental stats (ST, DX, IQ, HT) and the derived statistics, we turn our sights on Dexterity, as well as two of the things it influences: Basic Speed and Move.

Look for +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s contribution over at Dungeon Fantastic.
+Jason Packer knocks it out of the park, listing nearly every use of DX.
+Christopher R. Rice takes it personally, and talks about how he and his players view DX/Move/Speed.

The Joy of DX

Ah, DX. You can never have too much of it. And whatever you have, you want more. You can never really get enough DX, though some characters obviously will want more than others. Any time there’s something physical needs to be done, in the end, it’s all about getting more DX. It’s a survival trait.

OK, enough of that, but it was too easy to pass up.

And the point isn’t wrong. Dexterity drives something like half the skills in the game, and for a game with hundreds of skills, DX (and of course, IQ) are some of the most efficient uses of points out there from a generalist’s perspective. In GURPS Character Assistant for 3e, there used to even be an “optimize” feature that would search for combinations of DX that would leave your lowest DX (and IQ) based skill as-is, but increase DX until the payoff wasn’t there. And since back then, it was 8 points for each +1 for a DX-based skill, this tipping point could happen pretty darn fast.

In 4ed, skills max out at 4 points/level, and DX is 20 points. So if you have five or more skills that you have at the point where you’re spending four points per level on them (or the total cost per level of all physical skills you want to increase), you will be better off from a point budget point of view to spend your points on DX.

The exception to this is obviously when you want to be good at only one or two things. It’s the old specialist-vs.-generalist argument, and with each +1 to DX being worth +5 to skill, the disparity is large.

In many cases, DX and skill are direct substitutes for each other. In many grappling contests, for example, you’ll see “Roll a Quick Contest between the combatants’ (Trained) ST, DX, or highest grappling skill.” Well, there you go. If your ST is Lifting ST at 3 points/level, that’s the cheapest way from A to Victory. Next is skill, then ST, then DX. So from that perspective, it’s the worst way to approach “what do I want to be good at,” unless the answer is “everything.”

Still, the power of the generalist can be pretty annoying, especially when you look at the dreaded 1-pointer. You know him. The DX 16 guy with 19 1-point skills. with a minimum of Skill-13 with Very Hard skills, and Skill-16 for Easy ones. You will never outshine the guy whose only mission in life is picking locks, but the high DX types (and of course, the high-IQ) types can be niche-breakingly competent.

There aren’t many tricks here, other than “don’t let your focus on being the generalist overshadow your character concept, unless it’s ‘be good at everything physical’ “

Move and Speed

Speed drives Dodge, and Dodge is Life. It takes +4 DX to make +1 Basic Speed (80 points/level) and 20 points of Basic Speed to get +1 Dodge. Dodge alone is worth 15 points/level (p. B51). It’s the defense of last resort for everyone, and by and large the only defense you get against bullets and beams, unless you invoke house rules.

Move is not a factor in Dodge. But it tends to be a pretty strong factor in fun. If you’re sitting there chugging away in heavy armor (or light armor but you’re still low move for some other reason), given the frantic pace of GURPS combat, the fight will be over by the time you get there, unless your friends are willing to hold the line and advance with you. Good luck with that; thus far, the group I play with is not willing to hold that sort of discipline. I think +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s and +Sean Punch‘s groups are.

Other Factors

+Jason Packer has a great list in his own post of all the things other than skills, Speed, and Move (and Dodge) that DX buys you. It’s a lot. I suspect that DX would still be a good buy at 30-40 points per level, which is why it’s so compelling at the current price. The higher your Move, the faster you can get yourself in and out of trouble, and this is a big deal, in my experience. Speed? Not so much, based on actual play, even at 300-point type characters. Dodge can be a big deal, but you can get at that without speed if you want.

7 thoughts on “GURPS 101: DX, Speed, and Move

  1. From experience in the World of D'y'r't having a higher Basic Speed than your enemies can be quite important if you have the sort of offensive capability that allows you to kill them before they can even get a swing at you.

    I'd also like to point out the breakpoint at Move 11. The number of hexes you get in all your "Step and…." Maneuvers is Move10 and round _up_. This can effectively double your tactical movement in many situations particularly if combined with a weapon with Reach greater than 1.

  2. The "buy high DX, spend 1 point' guy works nicely for justifying certain types of fictional characters: the Luke Skywalkers of the world, for example, or your typical teenage anime hero.

    Do you think GURPS would ultimately work better if skills and maneuvers ran off an entirely separate pool of points than attributes, advantages, and disadvantages?

    1. No, ultimately, I think the model of DX and even IQ work well, though given the existence of Talents, I think a good case can be made for both to be priced higher. Since DX is an uber-talent, and it would be nice if (for example) one could have two related (by character design) physical talents of some degree of breadth (or two wildcard skills, which amounts to nearly the same thing), plus Speed/Move, that a price of 35-50 points per level of DX or IQ might serve better. The other thing that might work is an alternate defaulting scheme, which not uncoincidentally is sitting in Steven's slushpile should he deem it worthy.

    2. Sorry – I was imprecise. I just meant for pricing, e.g., a GM might say: "you have 200 points to spend on attributes and advantages, and 50 points to spend on skills" (or whatever) and you can't swap between them; defaults and skills would still be based on DX, etc.

  3. In my gladiator campaign, yes, the players are impatient; the fast ones have darted forward while the slow ones join the engagement a couple of turns later. The slow ones are the tough and strong ones, though, and after facing some foes who hold the line, the fast guys have been outnumbered in the initial clash, facing foes who get evaluate bonuses, and I think they've started to reconsider their tactics. We'll see in the next big fight. Right now, though, they're in an investigative mode: Who sent the zombified oliphaunt loaded down with army ants onto their sponsor's tea plantation?

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