GURPS 101: IQ, Per, and Will

For today’s GURPS-Day and GURPS 101 segment, we continue with the basic stats, this time with IQ and its derived abilities, Perception and Willpower.

Many, if not all, of the comments made about the value of DX are true for IQ. They both have two derived abilities, and both of those are 5 points each. This leaves the skill part of the IQ at roughly 10 per level, giving a boost to 200 skills or so. It’s a ludicrously good deal, and since eleven of fourteen of +Sean Punch‘s list of basic adventuring skills in GURPS have a direct (IQ) or indirect (Per) default to IQ, you can more or less justify as much spending in IQ as you’d like from an “effectiveness” point of view.
How Brilliant Is Required? (IQ)

Since there’s no upper limit on how much IQ you want to buy from a point-effectiveness basis, how much should you buy? Well, I’d probably say that you’ll want to probably approach this from one of two perspectives.

Perspective the First: What seems like a good value? IQ 9-10 is nothing to write home about, and says you’re about average in everything. IQ 11-12 is a steep step up the bell curve, and is high enough to be a defining characteristic. Those guys that are notably brilliant and it’s their defining thing? They’re IQ 13-14 polymaths. IQ 15 and higher will be spectacularly noticeable, and it will be noticable in play. More on that later. Experts in their fields, where that field requires a lot of brain-work, are more likely to be IQ 11-12 with maximum applicable Talent (for effective IQ of 14-16 in those areas, with that added panache thrown in) than raw IQ in that level for plausible and realistic characters.

Perspective the Second: Buy as much of it as you can, from a game-mechanical standpoint, and do it in this order. First, buy as many levels of the appropriate 5- or 10-point Talent as you can. Then buy up your skills to the absolute levels you want. Then “sell back” points in skills, seeing if you can get to enough to eke out boosts to IQ instead. So if you’ve thrown down the requisite 30 points for +3 “Stuff I Want to Be Good At” Talent, and then decided that you really need to be awesome in these seven IQ-based skills (including Per and Will), look at the total points spent in those skills. Got more than 20? Start looking to see if you can have the same skill levels while raising up your base IQ. Munchkiny? Absolutely.

The only issue this raises is one that is fine on paper and annoying as hell in play (at least to me). High-IQ characters tend to be niche-stompers in games with niches. Be warned.

Hey, what’s that? (Per)

I wrote an entire post on Perception last August. I won’t repeat it here. I find Per one of the single most valuable attributes on the character sheet from a “get involved with stuff, and avoid being ganked” perspective. It allows you to hear/see the invisible adversary coming, it allows you to notice those pesky details that avoid the adventure coming to a complete halt, read lips, detect lies, and find cool stuff left over in the garbage heap.

And did I mention not getting jumped?

I have found that Per of 12 seems sufficient, but that probably means Per-14 is even better.

Determination, Grit, and Holy Awesomeness! (Will)


Cadmus has Will-14. It rocks. When dealing with possession, the undead, or if you use The Last Gasp for pushing yourself hard with physical effort, Will is great. I’ve not found a lot of cases where Will-16 through Will-20 is required, but that’s situational. Penalized Will rolls are likely to be a staple of confronting powerful undead creatures, and Contests of Will are common in fiction.

Parting Shot

This is more a matter of “yes, it’s worth the points, always” rather than “is it ever worth it?” IQ (and DX) are the best deals in the game, unless maybe it’s HT, but probably IQ and DX are the winners here. The question is really of point allocation and role. Are you the point man? You want Per, lots of it, and enough of an applicable Talent and skill to push what you want to be good at over the top.

Spellcaster or Cleric? Again, hit up the specific Talents first, then boost Will, then skills, then IQ.

Polymath, good at everything? You annoy me. 🙂 Buy up IQ until the GM and your fellow players throw up their hands in disgust.

6 thoughts on “GURPS 101: IQ, Per, and Will

  1. I must disagree with you about buying Talents. there are few Talents available that make sense pointswise. For a 5pt Talent to be a good buy you must truly need about 4 of the covered Skills and you also must need them at a equally high level. This is not common.

    Take, for example Mr Smash from DF. It looks promising because it includes weapons skills. Unfortuantley those Skuills are Polearm, Two-handed Axe/Mace, Two-handed Flail, Two-handed Sword. and a conditional bonus to Forced Entry (only when using two-handed Swung weapons). The problem is that pretty much no one ever carries all of those physical weapons much less buys all those Skills at an equally high level. Even for the forced Entry while there's some reason to buy that to DX+2 but a Talent will never do that for you.

    You'd need a Talent like Hot Pilot and even then only for a character who flew two different combat vehicles with 3 or more Gunner specialties between them.

    Then there's 10pt talents and those are even harder to get a good fit for. In multiple cases where you'd need to find 8 skills that you needed at equally high levels the 10pt Talents only cover 7 Skills

    So I just don't recommend buying Talents as a general thing..

    1. Your point about the return on investment on Talents is valid. However compared to IQ, which costs 20 points/level, Talents are cheaper on an absolute level. They boost skills more cheaply than the full stat on an absolute basis. The way to probably go if you're playing the point optimization game is likely to just get your skills where you want them with IQ 10 and flat skill points. Then look to see if you can shift points to full-on IQ by point-trading. Finally, see if you can shift points to Talents by doing the same thing. This should give you the skill levels you want at minimum cost.

      THEN, you can look and see if your IQ, Will, and Per are as high as you want them to be at an absolute level.

      This is, of course, only important for broadly competent characters. If you only want to have a few skills that are IQ-based and they don't fit neatly into (say) a 5-point or 10-point Talent (depending on how far up the skill level curve you go), then the cheapest way will always be to buy skill.

      So, in short: Talents are clearly less point efficient than full IQ, but since they cost less and provide a boost to several related skills, they are efficient enough to consider strongly in a character build.

    2. Talents are great if you overcome the need to have to use those of the books and settle on theme. In my campaign custom talents are extensively used, people having the same exact talent actually pulls my susoenders of disbelief (not very individual and unique; you may want to shake up talents to be always different pc to pc ) and they are great for those of us of the Cult stat normalization, when +14 skill is expected if +50cp.
      Fun post DC!
      I always try to avoid high IQ despite the bang for buck in characters and choose talents, giving players good faith in the custom talents has not given me problems. Talents also allow the player and character builder to focus and unclutter the concept.

  2. On the Talents, ignore Basic Set and simply let them be built as efficiently as much as possible. It's simply a narrower version of an attribute. The Power-Ups book on Talents discusses how to use Talents as career training, and even that hamstrings you a little too much. Do this only if you don't want every character having IQ11-13 just so they can be "good." The extras (Will & Per) are where I really see IQ as being something of a point crock, actually. If you separate them from IQ, you'll see Talents as a better utility buy.

  3. custom talents, here, here. My rule of thumb, give me a one or two word description of your character concept and pick 6 skills that fit it. For a martial artist, pick any 6 from your style. They're "related" in this way: studied intensively in an integrated curriculum. Play a genius only if "genius" is the concept.

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