This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.
Social Traits
GURPS addresses social traits in its game mechanics, comprehensively, in a couple of ways: Those traits that establish existing relationships, and “Reaction Modifiers” that affect the formation of new ones. No matter how great your PC is on paper, the real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits get you.  

Part II: Relationships
Usually, a player
creates his character, and the GM creates everything else, but certain traits
on a character sheet allow a player to take a step into the GM’s domain. By
defining relationships for his character, the player requires that certain NPCs
exist in the setting. As a rule of thumb, think of three relationships for a
starting character’s backstory: Family members, old school chums, the bully who
beat you up, maybe a former mentor. Even a deceased relation can provide a plot
hook, but living relations may be may be represented as traits on your
character sheet
If you have an
existing relationship with another character, then he might be your Patron,
Ally, Dependent, Enemy, or Contact, or if he’s just an old friend, perhaps a
Claim to Hospitality. A single individual can justify more than one of these
traits. If you’re a spy, and you work with a spy for another country, he could
become your friend and yet work against you on a future mission where the
interests of your countries diverge. At least he’ll apologize before he shoots
you. All of these traits require interaction with the GM, for the player
proposes, but ultimately the GM decides, and while it is traditional to let a
player run his character’s Allies, especially in a fight, the GM is free to
co-opt control of any NPC. The decision to do so is ultimately helpful to
players, because it puts their characters in the spotlight.
A sidekick is an Ally
less powerful than you are. For 9 points, he’ll be pretty good, though (75% as
good as you), and he can hang around most of the time (95%). That’s good enough
to be an honorary party member, and he can augment your character with skills
that you can’t afford for yourself. Maybe you’re a cowboy and good with a gun,
and your ally is a half-breed Indian with good Stealth. Even if his skill-set
is similar to your own, it never hurts to have a capable pal watch your back,
and bandage you up if you live through the fight. If your Ally is a loved one,
maybe your little brother, you actually get points back for having him as a
dependent, too! Add the value of Ally and Dependent together to determine the
net cost of the relationship, and that’s what counts against your campaign
limit on disadvantages.
Allies need not be
human. That same cowboy could have a horse as an ally, and that’s the best way
to model a horse with unusual intelligence, training, and loyalty. In a fantasy
campaign, a witch’s familiar is an Ally, and it makes her eligible for a steep
discount on supernatural advantages (Granted by Familiar, 40% off).
A more powerful
character is probably a Patron instead of an Ally, though the defining
difference is the nature of the relationship, not the point cost. An Ally is
there with you in the thick of the action, whereas a Patron helps you out with a
job offer, vouchsafe, supplies, or maybe an extraction when your exfiltration
goes awry. Pay careful attention to the various modifiers that go into the cost
of the advantage: One of the best is to cover the cost (and licensing) of
special equipment. Kit for a medieval knight is expensive, and they two ways to
get it are with Wealth (or some variation, like Signature Gear) or a Patron.
The latter provides a better plot hook, though. Remember that a patron with
money, position, and supernatural powers is of no use if you can’t reach him.
The Patron advantage
is very flexible, for it can model anything from a parent who helps out with
tuition or a senior officer who shepherds your career, to a god from whom you
can call down curses upon your enemies. In the latter form, it’s the ultimate
super power, though quite expensive. Patrons typically come with a duty, though
it’s not mandatory, and you can even have a Secret Patron who helps you for
reasons unknown.
Contacts are
specifically defined as sources of information, the iconic example being a
cop’s snitch. GURPS is somewhat plastic, though, and variants that involve
specific services probably qualify, such as a black marketeer. He doesn’t give
you illegal guns – that’d take a Patron – but if you have the cash, he can set
up the buy. Contacts who capable, ready, and discrete are quite expensive, but
that’s okay, because a less-than-ideal Contact is actually a better vehicle for
driving drama in the story, and that’s the point of the game, after all. Remember
that Contacts are a mutual relationship. Usually thequid pro quo happens
off camera, but the GM is well-justified in using a Contact to start an
adventure or add a complication.
Claim to Hospitality
is the cheapest way to represent a friend, a single point, a perk. Most
realistic characters have at least one! The benefit spelled-out in the rule is
a place to crash, but don’t get wrapped up in that. With merchant house as a
specific example, it should at least extend to introductions to people known to
your host, a guide to the city, or any comparably minor favor. In modern times
it would include access to such conveniences as a phone, computer, and car (if
only when the host is not using them). Remember, you have the claim on a person,
not a rule, and he can do what a person could do, albeit not an adventurous
person (because then he’d be an Ally). Influence skills are appropriate to
determine just how much help you can get, hopefully with a bonus because this
guy’s already your friend, right? Just don’t wear out your welcome.
Dependents are Allies,
but so weak or so dear that they represent a net disadvantage in game terms
(though I would say that a loving, happy family is a net positive in real
life). The big advantage of this disadvantage is that you can get points for it
without being crazy or crippled, and simultaneously you provide the GM with a
plot hook to get you involved. He needn’t threaten Dependents directly; he may
just be able to start an adventure when your character goes to pick up the kids
from school, or leverage a husband’s desire to do well by his wife as
motivation to get involved with a high-stakes venture.
And that brings us to
Enemy, the best bargain in the game! Combat Reflexes gives you lots of benefits
for just 15 points, and attributes make you better at lots of skills, but Enemy
puts your character right in the spotlight and gives you
points back! Yes, your Enemy may hate you, but having one makes you important.
The enemies of your Enemy become your friends. The best Enemy is actually a
variant, a Rival, someone who isn’t trying to kill you, just to outshine you.
He’ll provoke the best from you in turn. If you reciprocate the animosity, that
may suggest another advantage, like Obsession. A Rival can also be an Ally, the
kind with a base cost of 5, because he’s never a mere sidekick. This is an
especially interesting relationship fraught with real role-playing opportunity,
and as with an Ally-Dependent, apply the net cost of the relationship against
the campaign limit for disadvantages. (While an Enemy need not be human, if the
whole universe is out to get you, look at Divine Curse instead.)
Scaling Up
Patron and Enemy both
can represent groups large and small, but what determines the value of these
traits is power, of which the membership roster is only one aspect. Claim to
Hospitality is built to scale into levels that don’t require specifying every friend,
so if you’re the popular kid at school, or a salesman who’s built up an
extensive base of customers who’ll take his call, just spend 5 to 10 points on
Claim to Hospitality. You can’t count more than a couple of Dependents, but
Contact and Ally scale up to groups with a caveat: To be eligible for the bulk
rate discount, they all have to be the same.

However, there’s a
trick you can play with Ally Group, if your GM permits it. Since this is a
primer, I won’t dwell on the mechanism, but in short it’s Cosmic Modular
Ability with an Accessibility limitation worth -80%: Individual Ally Can’t
Reallocate. Build your allies mostly the same, but reserve some number of
points, say 20%, for personal traits. For 50-point Allies, that’d be 10 points.
Then, divide that number by 2, and each of the mostly-similar Allies can have a
personal touch, worth 5 points in this case. One might have Absolute Direction,
and another might be emotionally Sensitive, and another might be a decent
(IQ+2) Carpenter and dabble (IQ-1) in artistic Woodworking. 

Looks like things are getting more interesting. Geoffrey Fagan made some notes on Social Traits in GURPS, with three more parts on the way (to appear weekly). Also, Roger Bell-West has started a blog of his own, and has penned an article on Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition.

Responding to both!

Social Traits Part 1 of 4


Social Traits

No matter how great your PC is on paper, the real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits get you. 

I think this is a nice point made here, in that while combat skills and other typical PC-sheet skills and abilities are an awful lot of fun, your place in society and your ability to use that (or be used by it) is dictated by these social notes.

Part I: Clout
GURPS has 3 traits that address social standing: Rank, Status, and Social Regard/Stigma. If you have any of these traits, you have a “place in society” that defines existing relationships with many other people.

Hmm. I think that there are ways to broaden this out considerably. Reputation can certainly dictate your place in society, or at least boost it (or detract from it, for that matter). Allies and Patrons can likewise count here; knowing that your foe has a Patron in the Guild of Messy Assassination might certainly give one a different appreciation of his place in society.

Furthermore, one big one missing is Wealth. +Sean Punch has elaborated at what Wealth entails thusly:

Wealth is a highly complex, abstract social advantage that encompasses about as much as IQ does, including but not limited to starting money, job qualifications, social connections, credit rating, land, and a hidden economic parallel to Status.

also

Wealth only changes if you specifically invest the required capital – taking it out of play – to buy, bribe, and insure your way to a social position where future changes in fortune won’t alter the respect and credit accorded to you. This is the big difference between somebody who keeps their winnings as liquid assets and uses them for trips, cars, and homes, and somebody who invests their winnings in nonliquid assets that will continue to make them money in the future. The former only requires cash; the latter also calls for points, which represent the work done to build networks.

As such, Wealth is an extremely Social trait and bears considering.

 If you are part of an organization, you have Rank…even if it’s just Rank 0, and even low Rank defines your character, be he a private in the army, journeyman of the Coopers’ Guild. The decision to make a character with Rank will guide your choices with respect to attributes, skills, talents, and other traits, usually including a duty. If you have any rank at all, you can request that the resources of your organization be allocated to your purposes (roll Administration), and the higher your Rank, the more of those resources fall under your direct command.

It would be a good idea to buy and read GURPS: Social Engineering to get the full take on Rank and what it can do. There are mechanics presented (the Assistance Roll) on pp. 51-52 of that book. Further, a guideline for how many people you have under your command (though I disagree in some of the particulars) is also presented on p. 14: The Arithmetic of Rank.

 In addition, Rank provides a reaction modifier within your organization, even for member outside your direct chain of command.

I had to go look this up – I’d need a better citation, but I think this isn’t true. It’s true if Rank replaces Status (the 10 points per level version of Rank), but the thing about Rank is it’s pretty absolute. Someone is either in your chain of command, in which case they obey you or suffer some degree of consequences, or they are not, in which case your Rank (but not your Status!) is mostly irrelevant.

For 5 points, a level of Rank means that up to a dozen people take orders from you; now tell me again how HT is undercosted! For 10 points, Rank 2 comes with a free level of Status. Remember that you pay for Rank you can actually use; if the sergeant really runs the platoon, then his Rank advantage equals what a lieutenant should theoretically have, while his boss only has Courtesy Rank!

The bolded bit isn’t correct, I think, by the rules in the Basic Set, nor its expansion in Social Engineering (p. 13). If you have the authority, regardless if you use it, you have honest-to-Kromm Rank. If you used to have formal authority, and now only get the trappings and courtesy of your former Rank, but cannot actually command obedience (though you may be able to get obedience thorugh successful use of influence skills), you have Courtesy Rank.

A good test: can the people you’re trying to get to do what you want be punished if they don’t obey your orders? You have higher Rank than they do. Can those people be punished for actually obeying your directions? You have Courtesy Rank!

Status attends power, which is why you get some free with Rank and Wealth, but you can be powerful in other ways, perhaps a mighty wizard. The source of power is a separate advantage, but Status represents the perks, which are setting-dependent but should include partial exemption from his society’s Control Rating

Possible, but a setting-driven switch; this may or may not be true in any given campaign.

 and always includes reduced social friction: Higher Status means your character has more time to be productive. He calls on the mayor and walks right in; other folks have to wait, even if they had an appointment. Perhaps it’s less formal, and he gets face time with the mayor on a golf course, which helps explain why Status comes encumbered with a higher Cost of Living. The cost is warranted though, because Status also counts as a Reaction Modifier.

Now, this one is definitely true, though I had to go look it up. Conveniently, it’s under Status as a Reaction Modifier, p. B29.

Exemptions
If the usual laws don’t apply to you, then you have Immunity, Legal Enforcement Power, or Security Clearance. What all of these advantages have in common is that they can be revoked by others, so the PC must exercise good judgment in their utilization, or else produce such good results that his superiors will excuse abuses.
Immunity amounts to easing of social friction (a lot), so if you already have high Status, you shouldn’t have to pay for Immunity separately.

This might or mightn’t be true – the examples listed on p. B65 charge points for Legal Immunity and give the examples of a medieval bard, abbot, or duke – but it’s not RAW. If you can break the law to any extent, you must buy this, by RAW. Status does not give you an exemption to the law (though it might allow you to influence the end game, what you’re doing is still illegal for you).

 Suppose your campaign takes place in Eastland, and your character is the ambassador from Westland. Back in Westland, he’s a high Status individual, so take that as a perk equivalent to Courtesy Rank. Here in Eastland, nobody cares about barbarian honors, but the ambassador still has diplomatic Immunity.

This is a good, but very campaign specific example, and does not define the rules, but applies them with judgement. Now, that’s exactly the GM’s job! But a French Diplomat who also happens to be a high GURPS Status Duke and is currently in England will damn well reap the benefits of both Status (at the full level that includes Rank, likely) and any immunity he gets as an ambassador, probably at the 5 to 10 point level.

Similarly, Security Clearance is one of the benefits of Rank; take the advantage only if you have no Rank, or if your clearance exceeds that nominally associated with your Rank. A good example is the civilian contractor working on a secret weapon; since he has no Military Rank, he needs Security Clearance. Having one is a good way to get in on the action, or to get more intel once the action starts.

I’d probably phrase this as “Security Clearance can be one of the benefits of Rank.” Need to Know applies to even people of high rank, so just because you’re a General doesn’t mean you have instant access to The Dark Phoenix Files or The Manhattan Project. If you want that specifically, you probably have to pay for it.
Parting Shot #1


I found this about 4/5 on the GURPS 101 scale. Most of the advice is quite solid, but there are some rules interpretations here that, while justifiable/understandable, are not strict RAW. They make great house rules, though, and in some places there’s enough leeway in the rule itself that some of these are just points of discussion. No one would blink twice if told “Yeah, you’re a Status 6 nobleman, so no one of lesser status can charge you with a crime.”

The overall point that in genres apart from DF, where “Murder Hobo” is all the Status you need, is still quite applicable: points spend in useful social advantages are points well spent.


Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition

The first GURPS 101 article for Roger Bell-West, he tackles automatic fire ably and succinctly. Not much more to add. He doesn’t touch on hit location when using automatic fire, but I don’t think the basic rules for non-spray fire are any different. If your hit roll succeeds (and your foe fails to defend) your bullets go to the location you wanted them to. All the others miss by the basic rules.

Actually, thinking about this for a moment, I just came up with a fun idea. Awesome – a new blog post with actual content!
This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.
Social Traits
GURPS addresses social
traits in its game mechanics, comprehensively, in a couple of ways: Those
traits that establish existing relationships, and “Reaction Modifiers” that
affect the formation of new ones. No matter how great your PC is on paper, the
real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do
that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits
get you.  
Part I: Clout
GURPS has 3 traits
that address social standing: Rank, Status, and Social Regard/Stigma. If you
have any of these traits, you have a “place in society” that defines existing
relationships with many other people. If you are part of an organization, you
have Rank…even if it’s just Rank 0, and even low Rank defines your character,
be he a private in the army, journeyman of the Coopers’ Guild. The decision to
make a character with Rank will guide your choices with respect to attributes,
skills, talents, and other traits, usually including a duty. If you have any
rank at all, you can request that the resources of your organization be
allocated to your purposes (roll Administration), and the higher your Rank, the
more of those resources fall under your direct command. In addition, Rank
provides a reaction modifier within your organization, even for member outside
your direct chain of command. For 5 points, a level of Rank means that up to a
dozen people take orders from you; now tell me again how HT is undercosted! For
10 points, Rank 2 comes with a free level of Status. Remember that you pay for
Rank you can actually use; if the sergeant really runs the platoon, then his
Rank advantage equals what a lieutenant should theoretically have, while his
boss only has Courtesy Rank!
Status attends power,
which is why you get some free with Rank and Wealth, but you can be powerful in
other ways, perhaps a mighty wizard. The source of power is a separate
advantage, but Status represents the perks, which are setting-dependent but
should include partial exemption from his society’s Control Rating and always
includes reduced social friction: Higher Status means your character has more
time to be productive. He calls on the mayor and walks right in; other folks
have to wait, even if they had an appointment. Perhaps it’s less formal, and he
gets face time with the mayor on a golf course, which helps explain why Status
comes encumbered with a higher Cost of Living. The cost is warranted though,
because Status also counts as a Reaction Modifier. Likewise,
negative Status increases social friction, but the benefit is a reduced Cost of
Living. [Note: It is possible to have Status derived from someone else’s power,
perhaps parents, but then you’d still have a Patron on your character sheet. In
a setting where Status is determined by birth, such as one with a caste system
or hereditary nobility, then Status effectively includes Rank and costs 10
points per level.]
Social Regard is like
a little bump in Status that doesn’t increase Cost of Living. It’s mainly a
reaction modifier, but based on group affiliation rather than personal
reputation. Doctors may be high Status individuals because of their skills, but
if they’re more respected than other professionals, then they have Social
Regard, too. They’re members of an exclusive club with small but concrete benefits,
be they formal or informal, again campaign-dependent, and an obligation to act
in a manner that won’t result in censure by their peers. Social Stigma is the
negative version of Social Regard, but it still makes you a member of a group.
There’s always demand for capable members of a stigmatized group, and there’s
always a benefit when recruiting fellow members from your group (specifically
called out for Minorities), whether you’re forming the Ladies’ Historical
Society (when ladies are Second-Class Citizens) or the 42nd Street
Gang (when the predominant ethnicity along 42nd St is a
Minority and/or Outlaws).
Remember, having low
Status or a Stigma doesn’t preclude you from wielding wealth and influence, but
it may require you to do so from the shadows.
Exemptions
If the usual laws
don’t apply to you, then you have Immunity, Legal Enforcement Power, or
Security Clearance. What all of these advantages have in common is that they
can be revoked by others, so the PC must exercise good judgment in their
utilization, or else produce such good results that his superiors will excuse
abuses.
Immunity amounts to
easing of social friction (a lot), so if you already have high Status, you
shouldn’t have to pay for Immunity separately. Suppose your campaign takes
place in Eastland, and your character is the ambassador from Westland. Back in
Westland, he’s a high Status individual, so take that as a perk equivalent to
Courtesy Rank. Here in Eastland, nobody cares about barbarian honors, but the
ambassador still has diplomatic Immunity.
Similarly, Security
Clearance is one of the benefits of Rank; take the advantage only if you have
no Rank, or if your clearance exceeds that nominally associated with your Rank.
A good example is the civilian contractor working on a secret weapon; since he
has no Military Rank, he needs Security Clearance. Having one is a good way to
get in on the action, or to get more intel once the action starts.

Legal Enforcement
Power is not normally an automatic benefit for Rank and Status. If a medieval
knight has the low justice (ability to punish criminals from the lower
classes), then he should pay for Legal Enforcement Power in addition to Rank,
Status, and Wealth. It gives adventurers a right to interrogate people and even
shoot them, things they’ll probably want to do.

Some of the regular GURPS bloggers and I have been doing more-or-less monthly features that highlight certain aspects of GURPS.

The first was called Melee Academy (click for the master link list). It was a bunch of article on fighting and fight tactics, with a focus on melee/fantasy combat.

The second feature is GURPS 101 (which had an installment yesterday). For those seeking a grounding in GURPS, this is a great place to start for some of the system’s features.

Have you checked them out lately? If so, what are we missing?

We continue the discussion of the basic stats and derived attributes in GURPS with the final pair: HT and Fatigue Points.

Honestly, I’m going to have a hard time with this one, in that I said a lot of what I would otherwise say about HT in my post The Price of Fitness. 

Go read it.

Back? Good. Now I’ll give you the rest.

HT

HT is likely deliberately undercosted. It’s priced at a relatively paltry 10 points per level, which includes 5 points of Basic Speed and 3 points for a fatigue point. All the extra goodness about Death Check, KO checks, reistant to poison, and all the HT-based skills are thrown in the balance there.

Now, I don’t believe in HT! or that all components of an attribute should sum to the attribute cost, but still, HT is a steal in many ways for several combinations of its component parts.

So, the real question then, other than “how much can you afford?” is given a certain point budget, how much should you get?

Some options:

HT 10 or less: If you’re going to be in a fight, don’t go here. It will likely be no fun.

HT 11: A measly +1 to HT is only 10 points, and at this level, I think what you’re buying is the boost from 50% to 62% success for one-time checks like Death Checks, as well as the skill boost. The extra FP is nice, but ephemeral, and the “roll every turn” stuff like Knockout rolls only buys you one extra second of action on the average.

HT 12: This to me is the basic “start here” level for warriors and anyone who wants to stay in a fight. You’ve got three chances in four of surviving a flat HT roll, and this means only one time in four will you succumb to a HT roll for physical stun, which is an often one-way ticket to being incapacitated or killed. You’ve also got a nice default start at Skill-11 for any HT/A skill out there for only one point. That’s not a great skill level, but it’s credible.

HT 13: This is now over 80% chance to resist stunning and death. Your 1-point skill level is now a pretty respectable 12, which is where a lot of my Warrior Saint’s non-combat skills sit, fairly happily. My Perception of 12 for that character is in the “not bad, not bad” category. For only 30 points, this puts you in the “high enough HT to often not worry about worrying about HT” category. You will, on the average, get about an extra four seconds of action before you drop unconscious from being at negative HP beyond the base from HT 10 (meaning about six seconds of up and at ’em). This is a great level for a highly capable, heroic fighter.

HT 14: This is the point beyond which diminishing returns really starts to set in. You have a 90% chance to make a one-time HT roll such as avoiding stunning. At this point you really have better than 50% chance to survive any death check down to your auto-death point of -5xHP. You default HT-based skills to a not-awful 9, and with a point invested are rockin’ Skill-13. Things like Running and Lifting and Swimming and Hiking . . . and Kiai! . . . are now fairly routine unless penalized. A few extra points and you’re really quite good at them. This is a signature attribute level (and 40 points is a non-trivial budget expenditure, even for Dungeon Fantasy) and will make you “the guy who always stays up.”

HT 15-16: This is the middle of diminishing returns land, but there’s a huge jump beween 14 and 15 for the average number of turns you get to stay active when rolling for unconsciousness. It jumps to something like 20, which is effectively “will never fall down.” 20 rounds of combat is longer than most will ever take.

So, if you expect to see combat, hit up at least an extra point in HT. If you’re a front-line type, 12-13 is great. I’d think hard about HT 14 before you go there, and HT 15-16 is pretty freaky. For GMs, if you push your bad guys into this range, you’re telling the PCs “I’m a giant pile of hit points and will not stop, ever, until I’m a Frederickburger.”

Fatigue Points


I wrote an 8,000-word article about a different way to use fatigue in GURPS with stronger consequences for spending FP.  Some of that is because honestly, without that, the only thing I’ve seen FP represent is the pool of which you may spend just shy of 2/3 of in order to do really cool stuff with Extra Effort.

They do make a difference for spell casters, though. And some sort of energy reserve is usually a really good thing.

They recover fast, though, unless your GM harries you with wandering monsters or reasons to sprint from one encounter to the next.

The usual allotment of extra FP is 30% over your starting level, which is 3-4 more Heroic Charges or Feverish Defenses. That can be pretty life saving, and likely worth the points.

Parting Shot


Yeah, I’d pretty much slap down 9 points for +3 FP and another 20 for +2 HT as one of the first things I’d do when I say “Warrior type who’s allowed to spend Extra Effort.” If you want to go HT 13 and no FP for more or less the same price, that’s a better call if EE isn’t encouraged.

Ultimately, though, you will not regret spending points on HT if you have a physically-dominated character type who expects to hit and get hit a lot in the HT 11 through HT 13 regime, while HT 14+ is in the “this is characteristic of the kind of awesome I am” range.

Note that a lot of grappling attacks allow rolls vs. HT, and a very high HT can render you very, very resistant (nearly immune) to anyone but the strongest and most skilled. The percentages are extreme enough to make me almost want to waive the “spending Control Points can never drop your foe’s resistance roll lower than HT” that we introduced in Technical Grappling to prevent an epidemic of crippled limbs!

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.

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.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto , +Mark Langsdorf , +Christopher R. Rice , and +Jason Packer have been dutifully adding to the tally of posts in the Melee Academy and GURPS 101 sections, which is awesome.

However, and this is key: we write this stuff because we know each other, we like the system, and whatnot.

That being said: we’re far from the only ones who play GURPS, nor are we the only ones with stuff to say on the topic.

So this is an open invitation. Have you written, or seen, a good blog post that would fit into one of these categories? Yes? Let me know! If it’s yours, just hit me up with the link and note you’d like it to be hosted on one of the two pages.

GURPS 101 is designed to be introductory notes concerning everything but fighting with muscle-powered weapons. The topics can be as basic (the articles on ST and HP and the forthcoming ones on the basic stats) or advanced (“Remedial” Ritual Path Magic) as you like.

Melee Academy is all about skills, tactics, weapons, and armor in hand fighting in GURPS. While it will tend to be, I think, focused on TL0-4, there’s no reason it needs to stay that way. One thing to not do here is stuff on guns and blasters. If we start to see another good chunk of these crop up, I’ll go ahead and create

The Firing Range: how-to and how-not-to content about firearms and ultra-tech weapons for ranged combat. Lightsabers would go in Melee Academy. But again, skills, tactics, weapons and armor, talking about firearms and their higher technology brethren.

Also, if articles overlap between Melee Academy and The Grappling Mat, that’s cool. I’ll link through twice.

So . . . any suggestions or additions? Please, do pile on!

The Fine Print: There will be a bit of a screening process, though. I will likely shy away from “GURPS is broken” posts, and I’m going to focus the content on Rules-as-Published, which means if you’ve got an awesome alternate weapon skill system with a linked damage progression, that’s great, but it’s not Melee Academy or GURPS 101 (house rules are at least GURPS 201, possibly GURPS 404, that course that you tack on the last half of your senior year). 

In the past, I’ve done posts on the meaning and value of skills, both for ranged and melee combat. When chatting with my fellow GURPS bloggers, for some reason we hit on going through the basic attributes and their derived abilities, and commenting.

This is the start of a multi-blog series on the basic and secondary attributes in GURPS. If you’re new to the system, what are some things you’ll want to think about? If you really want some good stuff, go visit +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s entry for this GURPS 101 subject – his extensive experience with DF gaming, where the templates and power-ups encourage a lot of variation in ST (and monsters! don’t forget monsters!) makes for better insights as to breakpoints and the value of HP, especially. 


Look for other GURPS 101 discussions of ST and HP at . . . 


Ravens N’ Pennies: GURPS 101: Mass and Power – What ST/HP Means To My Players
Dungeon Fantastic: Strength and Hit Points
RPG Snob: GURPS 101: An overview of Strength


Still, here were my own notes on the subject:

This week, we’re talking ST and HP.

The Value of ST


In lower tech games, ST is pretty much awesome, I think. It’s inexpensive at 10 points per level. And it gives you several things.

Damage: people love to focus on this one, and indeed, Striking ST is 5 points per level, and is basically buying extra points of damage. So that’s super-cool, right? Half the value, right there?

We’ll get back to it.

The other two things ST gets you in the usual breakdown are Lifting ST (3/level) and HP (2/level). We’ll cover HP later, so I’ll come back to that.

Lifting ST is interesting. Canonically, it buys encumbrance. If you use The Deadly Spring, it also gets you the ST used to draw bows and span crossbows, while if you also use Technical Grappling, Lifting ST is your Grappling ST, the figure used to do Trained ST. And since Trained ST/Lifting ST give control points (another variant on damage, but for restraining people), this is also good.

It’s thrust-based, though, where striking ST is often able to do swung damage, so it’s just better from that perspective.

Lifting ST, and the encumbrance it buys, is the unsung hero, I think, of lower TL games. Your Lifting ST 16 lugnut has basic lift of just over 50 lbs. That means he can stack up 50 lbs of gear and be unencumbered, at full Move and Dodge. Our ST 10, BL 20 lb. guy? That same 50-lbs of gear has him at Medium encumbrance, or -2 to Dodge and 0.6xMove.

So for 18 points worth of Basic Lift (and yes, you probably can’t just go buy that straight-up), you have just avoided something like 30 points of dodge penalty (+1 to Dodge being 15/level) and +2 to Move (worth 10 points). And since that 50 lbs (or double down, and make it 100 lbs, which would be Heavy encumbrance (3) at ST 10, but Light (1) at ST 16) is likely something like “a weapon and 45 lbs of armor and shield” the value of that ST is pretty clear.

In fact, when playing Cadmus, my Warrior Saint, I find the mobility loss especially is nice to avoid, because with the relatively frantic pace of GURPS combat, it keeps you in the fight, actually having fun, rather than plodding along hoping that by the time you get to the bad guys, it’s not all over.

So at least to me, the more ST the merrier at TL 0-4 at least, especially if you pair that with enough delving skill or Wealth to survive to afford 90 lbs of armor (Cadmus sports DR 12 on his head, neck, and torso, and DR 9 everywhere else. It weighs about 84 lbs, requiring ST 14.5 to have him at light encumbrance, and ST 20.5 to have him at No Encumbrance. He has ST 14 at the moment, so a 3-point spend on Lifting ST (or just find another +1 to ST somewhere) would be well worth it (actually, you’d want to push it up a bit so that you can carry all your fight gear).

At higher TLs, damage tends to be deprecated at melee, because, well guns. When you can toss out 5d or more a few times per second, at range, well, ST doesn’t seem to mean as much.

I’m not sure that’s right, though. If you look at The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load , the minimum weight a soldier heads to a fight with is about 60-70 lbs. You need ST 13 to hump that (and the full load is over 120 lbs) and being able to run around while being shot at (or near) is still important. And (thanks to +David Pulver ) it wasn’t any better in WW2, either.

That brings me to the other side of the ST coin, which is . . .

Hit Points


I’m of two minds about HP. I almost always just leave it where it is. I know one of +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s players has bought his HP up to 25 or so.

Thinking about it, though, someone with that many HP can take 16 HP before flirting with the HP/3 loss of secondary attributes. That’s more damage than Cadmus can take before he’s playing “try to stay standing a second at a time,” and 16 HP is an average roll on 3d+5/4d+2. That’s a lot, and against more mundane foes, that might swing for 2d+2 or so, you can take a few shots (even out of armor) before you hit death spiral territory.

The death spiral in GURPS is real, and a true “feature” of the game, so avoiding it is a good idea. I haven’t played enough high-end DF to experience HP higher than ST by more than +3/30%, though, so I’m not the best to comment.

Parting Shot


All in all, I think my call here is “ST is awesome, buy lots of it at TL0-4. At TL 6+ when you’re dealing with decent guns raher than swords and spears, buy half as much.”

For HP, I’d probably ignore them unless you can exceed the normal extra, like in a game like DF. In that case, they’re good . . . but HT is probably better.