Creating A Character

Disclaimer: The following material consists of rulings on GURPS originally posted to electronic discussion forums, newsgroups, and mailing lists by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch. Some of these statements have been taken out of context, or have been altered for clarity or brevity; therefore, these are not "official" rulings, and neither Sean Punch nor Steve Jackson Games is responsible for the accuracy of the modified content.

These were collected by Travis Foster c. 2004-2005.

Strength and the feats thereof

09-08-2004, 01:39 PM <> Re: Feats of Strength

Originally Posted by umbros

How would you game feats of strength like bending bars, tearing phone books, kicking open doors, etc. in 4e? Would there be a contest roll involved? I haven't been able to find anything in the book yet.

If something breaks — phone book, door, etc. — then just treat it as an attack: a punch at thrust-1 if using hands, a kick at thrust if using feet, plus any bonus for All-Out Attack (Strong), since most objects can't hit back. Forced Entry skill is useful against doors, especially.

If nothing breaks, just make a ST roll, applying a suitable task difficulty penalty.

Cultural Familiarity, numbers of

08-16-2004, 11:02 AM <> Re: Cultural familiarity

Think more along the lines of Marco Polo in the Orient, or Capt. Cook in the Pacific islands. CF is for big differences. You'd be lucky to have a dozen on a planet.

Dwarfism and Shadowing

08-26-2004, 12:04 PM <> Re: SM -1 … harder to trail someone?

If you have Dwarfism — not just a negative SM, but actual genetic dwarfism — you do have a Shadowing penalty, because you stand out in a crowd of normal-sized folks. It doesn't help you stay hidden when everyone is staring at you. Of course, it also doesn't help that you're too short to see your quarry …

Fatigue, Cost of

08-28-2004, 12:47 AM <> //Re: Are the effects of 1/3- HP and 1/3- FP cumulative?

Originally Posted by dropkicked

This reminds me, I'm puzzled that fatigue points now cost more than hit points. Not to say that fatigue is irrelevant next to injury, but it certainly seems less important for anyone except mages. What am I missing?

Mainly that FP power a lot more than magic. They power several special martial-arts skills, quite a few powerful advantages (see Warp for a good example), and in coming publications will also fuel various new special powers. On top of that, they let you use extra effort to greatly exceed your usual capabilities. It's a lot easier to abuse FP than HP. All you can do with HP is lose them and die. FP can be spent to produce powerful, useful consequences. My game-design philosophy is that things the player can control and exploit should cost more than things she can do very little with.

And note that those who don't have much use for FP simply don't have to buy them. Presumably, if you're raising FP, you have some use in mind; ergo, you must pay for that utility.

Real People in GURPS

09-29-2004, 12:41 PM <> //Re: Real world people and charactors //

I'd use these guidelines:


  • Most people have ST, DX, IQ, HT, Will, and Per at 10; a Basic Speed of 5.00; and a Basic Move of 5.
  • If an ordinary Joe is stronger, more agile, smarter, healthier, stronger-willed, or more perceptive than average, odds are good that he has an 11 instead of a 10. If his edge is so great that his friends talk about it, he might rate a 13. People in the middle are at 12.
  • If an ordinary Joe reacts more quickly than average, he probably has Basic Speed 5.25. If he runs more quickly, he might rate Basic Move 6.
  • I would seriously think about rating greater apparent competency using skills, not attributes. A really good hunter probably has all of Guns, Stealth, and Tracking at Attribute+1 or perhaps +2, and that sets him above his pals with only one or two of those skills at Attribute level. He almost certainly doesn't have DX 12 and Per 12!
  • If an ordinary Joe is weaker, clumsier, duller, less healthy, weaker-willed, or less perceptive than average, he likely has a 9 instead of a 10. If his lack is so great that his friends talk about it behind his back, he might rate a 7. People in the middle are at 8. Likewise, if he reacts less quickly than average, he might have Basic Speed 4.75. If he can't keep up on the run, he probably has Basic Move 4.
  • Don't mistake Incompetence at a skill for low attributes! Every workplace has some poor guy who — let's face it — sucks. My money is on him having Incompetence at a needed skill, not DX 7 or IQ 8.


  • Play physical and mental advantages by ear, but note that those that come in levels rarely go past one level for ordinary folks. In general, few ordinary humans have a non-social advantage worth 15 points or more, and most would be lucky to have one worth 5 points. Plenty of people have good-sized lists of 1- and 2-point advantages, though — an hour less sleep here, slightly better hearing there, etc.
  • Play mental disadvantages by ear, too. Those that come in levels rarely go past one level. Those with self-control numbers will mostly be at 15 if the flaw is a "tendency," or 12 if the flaw annoys or worries others. Save 9 for people who need help to live a productive life, and 6 for felons and committed lunatics. Mental disads rarely go past -5 points for productive folks, -10 for absolute eccentrics. Everything else is quirks.
  • Social advantages and disadvantages, and physical disadvantages, are big exceptions. They are what they are. Someone really is President, and has Administrative Rank 8. Some poor souls really are Dead Broke. And plenty of people have bad eyesight or are overweight — and unfortunately, lots of folks are deaf, have MS, etc.


  • Most people have their skills at Attribute+0 level. Their job skills, dedicated hobbies, etc. will be at Attribute+2. Few ordinary citizens will go past that level without intensive, military-style training or a lifetime dedication to study. I'd hazard to say most workers hit Attribute+2 and stop learning their job skills thanks to a lack of challenges.
  • That said, most people will have Attribute-2 to Attribute level at many odd skills, picked up over their lifespan. You'd be surprised how many people know Morse code, can ride a bike, can shoot a gun, etc. at least well enough to be better than default.
  • The "exceptions" who seem very skilled are usually operating at +4 to +5 for routine situations. If you have a good idea of someone's skill — say, you can measure it on a shooting range or through a classroom test — subtract 4 or 5 from that score to get their actual "adventure-useful" level.
  • Don't mistake "I did this once" for "I have this skill." Doing something once is only a step above seeing someone else do it on TV. At best, it justifies having a default roll. People have defaults because they grew up seeing others do something, watched mass media, and maybe had a hands-on experience once on that trip to Mexico. Less-fortunate souls just don't get a default. Take me: I've shot a couple of times, so I have a Guns default, but I didn't spend the 200 hours on the range needed to justify having Guns skill. I've taken two classical history courses, so I have a History default in that area, but I didn't spend anything like 200 hours on it to justify the skill.

09-29-2004, 12:44 PM <>

I find the tendency of gamers — myself included! — to rate their IQ at 13+ amusing. Most geeks have IQ 10, Unfit, and 5 points in five geeky Expert and Hobby Skills. A few really do have IQ 11-12. But claims of IQ 13, 14, 15 … those are just bogus. I've met two guys, ever, I'd assign IQ 13 to without knowing, in my heart, that I was being a geek and favoring less-physical, more bookish types over brawny types just because I'm in the former category.

09-29-2004, 12:49 PM <> Re: Real world people and charactors

Originally Posted by lawman

That's definitely skewed. GURPS IQ rates all kinds of things that real-world IQ doesn't: memory, sanity, basic perceptiveness and willpower, etc. At best, I'd use:

GURPS IQ = 10 + (Real-World IQ - 100)/20

So an IQ 120 type might rate an 11, a real rocket scientist with IQ 180 might rate a 14.

09-29-2004, 01:16 PM <> Re: Real world people and charactors

Originally Posted by RPavan

I've met plenty of "geeks" that are real good at everything that they study and don't involve physical ability

Sure, and they probably have IQ 11. The problem is that people think "real good" is 14, or 18, or 20 … but it isn't. In a class where most people are struggling to get from default level to 1-point level, the guy who has +1 because of high IQ is king.

09-29-2004, 01:30 PM <> //Re: Real world people and charactors //

Originally Posted by Eljay451

Then there's the fact that 3d6 produces a curve, while 1d20 is flat. People fail to see that in "Joe Average" territory (9-11), +1 corresponds to a 12.5% increase in absolute probability of success, not +5% … and that down in "Impossible Task" land (3-5), +1 can better than double your odds of success. All they see is +1 not doing much when you go from 17 to 18.

09-29-2004, 04:45 PM <> Re: Real world people and charactors

Originally Posted by CharlesGriswold

These people are always facing new challenges and different situations that require them to apply their skills in ways that they have not had to previously. IMHO, they should be able to count some of their time on the job as self-training. Older and more experienced member of such professions could conceivably have fairly high skill levels.

Some people would have high skill levels, sure. I'm not saying that having a skill at Attribute+4 — or even Attribute+14! — is unrealistic. I'm just saying that this doesn't describe most people, or even most creative people. Realistically, people who run into many challenges probably still have Attribute+2 in their primary job skill but branch out and learn plenty of subsidiary skills.

For instance, my own background is physics. Sure, there are Nobel-winning scientists out there with IQ 14 and Physics at IQ+10 (i.e., 24). The generic "experienced" physicist, though, more likely has IQ 11-12, Physics at IQ+2, and between Attribute-2 and Attribute+2 level in about 10 of Administration, Computer Operation, Computer Programming, Electronics Operation (Scientific), Electrician, Engineer (Electrical, Electronics, Materials, or Nanotechnology), Geology, History (20th-century Scientific), Machinist, Mathematics (Applied, Pure, or Statistics), Metallurgy, Meteorology, Research, Speed-Reading, Teaching, and Writing.

I wouldn't bet either way if Obsessed Genius Physicist (IQ 14 [80], Mathematics (Applied)-12 [1], and Physics-24 [48], for 129 points) were pitted against Senior Professor of Condensed-Matter Physics (IQ 12 [40], Administration-14 [8], Computer Operation-14 [4], Electronics Operation (Scientific)-14 [8], Engineer (Materials)-14 [12], Machinist-11 [1], Mathematics (Applied)-12 [4], Metallurgy-14 [12], Physics-14 [16], Research-14 [8], Teaching-14 [8], and Writing-14 [8], also 129 points). I mean, the first guy might be the innovative genius who changes the face of science, but the second guy can apply for grants, chair a department, plan and teach a course, run a lab, write a textbook, and come up with patentable applications. In my experience, the second is hundreds of times more common.

Size Modifier and Gigantism

sjgames.gurps.4e Re: Gigantism Cost

On Mon, 6 Sep 2004 22:16:02 +0000 (UTC), John wrote:

If the 0 cost is correct why is this so?

Because of +1 Move, discount ST and HP, and extra reach that balance out having to pay more for armor, being easier to shoot and spot, and having
difficulty with sneaking about.

ST and Lifting

09-03-2004, 12:28 PM <> Re: GURPS(4): STvST QC Dinosaurs

Quadratic ST — i.e., Basic Lift — only applies to slow, uncontested lifting. Active or contested uses, such as striking and wrestling, use ST. Never, ever use BL to work out contests between characters.