Alternate GURPS III – By Default designer’s notes

I’m riffing a bit off of +Christopher R. Rice and +Antoni Ten Monrós chatting about their own article, Team Up, in this month’s issue, Pyramid #3/65: Alternate GURPS III.


I’ll be reviewing the entire thing sometime soon, after the Blog Carnival finishes up and I get all the stuff done for it (mostly two more interviews; three if I can get the Battlegrounds guy to return my notes!).

My article in this issue is short and conceptual.

A Long Time Ago, In a Faraway Game


The concept for half-stat came to me in roughly 1997 or so. I wanted to play a game that was more or less “The FBI In Space,” which had a lot of influence from Babylon 5. It was called the Earth Federation campaign, and it was set on a space station.

It ran for a bit while I was in grad school. I didn’t like how in 3rd Edition, things were so very stat dominated, and at the time, GURPS Character Builder had this nifty little “optimize” button that pushed points around to maximize the stats you had while keeping your skills at or higher than they’d be otherwise. Nifty.

But it made for very, very stat-heavy characters, and it really made it hard to make a focused character given the point level. So I thought “what if Stats were less valuable?”

I actually started a thread on this in January 2005.

Half-Stat as Freedom


I’m not saying it was a hugely breakthrough concept. I wanted there to be still room for differentiation between characters, and for even someone with (say) DX or IQ 18 (and thus average skills defaulting to 13) to be more challenged. The half-stat concept put that same guy defaulting to Skill-9, which is still a 37% chance of success in combat conditions and high stress.

In short, it made it fairly believable (to me), while not changing much else. Well, except ruining character creation software for our use.

it also allowed easy double-defaulting, so you could default from a default. Even if you started at 20, your double-default was only 5.

Help Arrives for GCA


After the article was published, I asked for some help on the GCA forums, and got it. Eric B Smith whipped up a half-stat GDF file, and it works. I’d try some templates first, and see what happens.

Parting Shot



As I noted in the article, and +Steven Marsh called out in a box on the last page (ish) of the magazine, I did use this for at least two campaigns. It provides niche protection, but buying up from the new (lower) defaults has the side-effect of pushing overall skills down by a few points. You have to spend, and spend heavily to be a jack-of-all-trades using half-stat.

So the stat-heavy special forces templates aren’t quite so easy to get with Guns (Everything) -22. Even the Black Ops templates would be more moderate.

Not moderate. More moderate.

Would I do this for a hypothetical Fifth Edition? Probably. I like the results.

Will I do this for my upcoming GURPS Alien Menace game? Maybe. I’m letting my players make that call, but I’m not averse to it.

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