Sunday, July 29, 2007

GURPS 3rd edition revised

Rejoice O readers, for today I am looking at a game that more than a handful of people will have heard of, GURPS from Steve Jackson Games.

The first real RPG I bought was a very second hand copy of the GURPS 3rd basic set when I was about 13 or so. I remember being amazed by the idea that I could stat out anything with it.

I’ve only played GURPS a couple of times; a doomed IOU campaign when I was at uni, and an equally doomed GURPs Cliffhanger adventure at GenCon a few years back. (Not the fault of the GM or the game, more that it was very late and the players were having a hard time concentrating.)

GURPS uses 3d6 for task resolution, and is a solid though not particularly inspiring system. If it were a car it would be some sort of little Honda rather than a Jaguar. It’s not particularly pretty, but it is reliable.

One of the strengths of the GURPS line are the high quality setting sourcebooks published for it; if you want a gaming orientated resource on a subject, there’s a good chance one has been written for GURPs.

Looking through the beginning my GURPs book, printed sometime in the early 90s – the last copyright date on its frontispiece is 1994, I notice that SJG encourages their readers to get a modem and connect to the Illuminati Online bbs via phone or to telnet in via the internet.

I can’t remember if this information was in the non-revised edition of GURPs I started with, but given that in the early 90s the Internet was still a very mysterious beast, the existence of the BBS shows a lot of tech-savvy and future-vision on the part of SJG.

GURPS, unlike the systems covered previously, uses points based character generation with no random factors.

As this is a setting-less generic game, I’m going to start with a character concept and some sort of barebones background to act as a guide for what things I should buy.

As stated at the beginning of this project, the basic concept for any sort of character where choice is allowed is a Warrior-scholar type. As for the world and setting background, let’s rip off the concept of the Library of Alexandria.

There’s a great library, and this library is trying to collect all knowledge, both by obtaining written works and getting written accounts of knowledge that doesn’t exist in written form. To this end they dispatch agents across the known world. Our character is one of these Library agents, just starting out on her career. The Library is located in a pseudo-Indian kingdom.

Now that we have some idea of who we’re playing, time for a name. Looking a list of Indian names we’ll call her Samiksha which apparently means ‘Analysis’.

There are four attributes in GURPS; Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Health. Due to concept, all four are fairly important – most of my 100 points are going to be spent here, but I’ll be able to make some back via taking disadvantages later.

ST: 10 (0 points)
DX: 14 (45 points)
IQ: 14 (45 points)
HT: 12 (20 points)
Total: 110 points

I’ll probably end up adjusting these values down, but for the time being we’ll try to make the points back via disadvantages.

Next step is to select my character’s Wealth, Reputation and Status.

I decide that agents of the great Library take a vow of poverty – all wealth is to be used to obtain knowledge for the library, however, since the Wealth attribute also controls starting cash, we won’t lower Samiksha’s wealth value here; she’s going to need decent kit to survive her travels.

For Reputation, I decide that the great library has a mixed reputation amongst other scholars and institutes of learning – their work is lauded, but their agents are also known to go to any lengths to obtain works for the library, and will readily resort to theft or other underhanded means if permission to copy a work is denied.

I decide to give Samiksha a –3 reputation (Agent of the great library) amongst scholars (small class of people) worldwide. This gives me back five points. (fifteen for the –3 reputation, modified to –5 because it only affects a small group of people.)

I leave Status as average.

At the end of this stage, I’m down to 105 points spent, however there’s an advantage that’s critical to character concept. Literacy. As this is a low-tech, poorly educated setting, Literacy costs 10 points. Back to 115 spent we go. Lowering those attribute scores is looking more and more likely.

Advantages come before Disadvantages in the book, but since I need more points, I’m turning to the Disadvantages first. There is a limit on the number of disadvantages you can take – a maximum of 40 points or one disadvantage of any value.

Social Stigma (female) could be appropriate, but I don’t find that sort of thing fun to play, so we’re leaving that as a last ditch option for five more points.
Okay, as mentioned above, I’ve decided that Library agents take a vow of poverty; this works out as a 10 point disadvantage.

The final list of disadvantages I pick are:

Bad sight (near sighted) –10 (I could pull –25 for this, but prefer to say that glasses are available in more civilised parts of the world)
Curious –5
Absent minded –15
Vow of poverty –10

That brings Samiksha to 40 points of disadvantages, for a total of 75 points spent.

I can also take up to five quirks, which are worth 1 point each. I’ll think about these rather than going for the cheap option of taking all five points now and making them up later.

Next I flip back to the Advantages section.

The Library could count as a patron, but due to the low tech nature of the world, it won’t be easily contactable once Samiksha has left the area, so we’ll leave it for now.

Eidetic memory would be nice, but at 30 points for the limited version, there’s no way I can afford it.

Language talent is going to be useful; Samiksha’s travels are going to take her all over the known world.

Literacy (10 points)
Language talent 3 (6 points)
Total: 16

We’ll leave it at that – everything else that appeals is either too expensive, contradicts a flaw or both.

The running total at the moment is:

Attributes: 110
Disadvantages (inc. reputation): -45
Advantages: 16
Total: 81

Which leaves us with 19 points to spend on skills.

Skills in GURPS are priced according to their complexity, and the score you want in them compared to their base attribute. For example, to buy a skill level in Broadsword (a physical/average skill) equal to my Dexterity would cost 2 points.

First I’m going to list the skills I want along with their type, complexity and default value.

Riding (physical/average, DX-5)
Artist (mental/hard, IQ -6)
Calligraphy (physical /average, Artist –2 or DX –5)
Writing (mental/average, Language –5 or IQ-5)
Bow (physical /hard, DX-6)
Broadsword (physical /average, Short sword –2 or DX-5)
Shield (physical /easy, Buckler –2 or DX –4)
First aid (mental/easy, IQ-5)
Navigation (mental/hard)
Literature (mental/hard, IQ –6)
Mathematics (mental/hard, IQ-6)
Research (mental/average, Writing –3 or IQ-5)
Diplomacy (mental/hard, IQ-6)

Language skills get their own section.

I decide that Samiksha’s native language is something along the lines of Hindi. This is also the common language of scholars, however it’s not the lingua franca of the known world, that being something like Arabic, and further west, German. I’m going to put them both at mental/average compared to Samiksha’s native language, however none of them are related to each other – defaulting between them isn’t going to be possible.

Having spent my remaining skill points, Samiksha has the following skill values.

Riding 12 (0.5)
Artist 14 (4)
Calligraphy 12 (0 – defaulting from Artist)
Writing 14 (2)
Bow 13 (2)
Broadsword 14 (2)
Shield 14 (1)
First aid 13 (0.5)
Navigation 13 (2)
Literature 13 (2)
Mathematics 13 (2)
Research 13 (1)
Diplomacy 12 (1)

I need to pick up a couple of quirks to pay for her language skills.

I decide that Samiksha is vegetarian when possible, and a compulsive doodler. The two points gained give me enough points to pick up the two common languages of the setting.

Hindi 17 (0 – remember that Language talent advantage I picked up? It lets Samiksha learn languages as if her IQ was 17)
Arabic 16 (1)
German 16 (1)

There are a couple of derived attributes left to calculate and then we’re done.

Basic speed: 6.5
Move: 6
Dodge: 6
Parry (sword): 7
Block: 7
Encumbrance values in stone are: none (20), light (40), medium (60), heavy (120) and x-heavy (200)

And there we are. I didn’t have to reduce any attributes, and whilst her skills aren’t great, they’re good enough for her to do reasonably well most of the time.

A brief flick through the equipment list shows that she’ll be able to buy a weapon, some armour and other supplies, but will be walking rather than riding at the start.

GURPS has produced a fairly competent though not spectacular character, and there were far fewer options in the main book than I remember from way back when, but on the whole I’m quite happy with the character that I’ve created.

Next we’re back to Obscure land with Tales of Gargentir.

1 comment:

Tiwa said...

She sounds much more interesting than anything from The Da Vinci Code. or National Treasure