As you begin to create your character, it is best to think of roleplaying in terms of contemporary cinema. You, the player, are the actor and your character assumes a protagonistic role in a group story. In the terms of most pencil and paper games, this story may be either a stand alone adventure or a series of connected adventures that form a campaign. When you roleplay, you assume the role of another person - a character that you create. Within the limits of the Game Master's storyline, GURPS lets you decide exactly what kind of hero you will become: Asteroid miner, Wizard, even Professional time-traveler. You can take your inspiration from a fictional hero or heroine, or create your new "self" from the ground up. Once you know what role (see: roleplay) you want to play, it's time to bring that character to life!
- Determine genre and setting you'll be playing in!
- Genre books may help
- Figure out the general power level!
- Build a character using character points!
- Occupational templates may help!
- Play the game!
- You should have at least three six-sided dice and a friend to play with.
The Game Master is the person running the game. The Basic set gives rough guidelines on what the Point Power Level the GM wants for the adventure and will tell you how many character points may be used to build your character.
In theory, the greater the number of points used the more powerful the character will be thought; during the course of the first few campaigns, the GM will learn how the players spend their points and adjust the power of the campaign accordingly.
If the adventure calls for 125-150 point characters and your character is greater than a 150-point value, the encounters in the game may not be challenging enough. Likewise, if the character is below 125 points, the challenges may be too great for the party to surpass.
There are, of course, exceptions to this. A 150 pt cinematic character can have access to abilities and skills that can allow them to hold their own in a 200 pt "realistic" campaign.
Characters in a GURPS adventure or campaign are made up of attributes (basic attributes and secondary characteristics); advantages, disadvantages, and quirks; and skills (and spells, psionics, etc.). Each of these characteristics has a numerical value that you roll against to perform an action. The higher the score, the more likely the character will accomplish the feat. Keep in mind, however, that some feats are simply impossible regardless of how high your score is. Also, the Game Master has the discretion to either adjust the roll (bonuses and penalties) or to simply declare that the feat was successful or unsuccessful due to its impact on the Seeds.
- Attributes are the four central traits , Strength [ST], Dexterity [DX], Intelligence [IQ], and Health [HT]. These four abilities are used to derive the character's hit points [HP], will power [Will], Perception [Per], and fatigue points [FP].
- Advantageous traits, called advantages, help the player move through the campaign setting or adventure. These include social traits, character wealth and special abilities (see Chapter 2) and may be purchased with character points.
- Traits that hinder the character's progress, called disadvantages, are taken to add character points to the pool. For example, a [-10] disadvantage adds 10 points to the remaining balance. Note however that the character's level remains unchanged as soon as these points are utilized elsewhere in the character creation process (such as the purchase of advantages of skill levels). In a roleplaying setting, players should only take disadvantages they intend to play during the game. Game Masters should always keep in mind any variation in a disadvantage when enforcing them. As an example, one can take Fear of the Dark (15), a phobia, and reluctantly journey into dungeons with a lantern (less likely to go out) while someone with Fear of the Dark (9) would take a lot of convincing to even go near the place. A recommended optional rule is a disadvantage limit; which you can not take more points worth of disadvantages.
- Perks are minor advantages that add a cinematic flavor to your character and help identify him or her from the other characters in the group and the others you will create.
- Quirks are minor disadvantages that add a cinematic flavor to your character and help identify him or her from the other characters in the group and the others you will create. The same restrictions apply for quirks as disadvantages. You may take up to five quirks and receive up to five additional character points. in 3rd Edition this was on top of the disadvantage limit, but in 4th Edition they are counted in the limit.
- Skills include the talents that identify a character archetype and are the attributes that allow you to test against for certain feats. Climbing, languages, gambling, haggling over prices, and socializing are all examples of skills.
If you want more abilities than you can afford on the budget given to you by your GM, you can get extra points by accepting below-average strength, appearance, wealth, social status, etc., or by taking disadvantages - specific handicaps such as bad vision or fear of heights (see Chapter 3). Advanced players can fine-tune these traits by adding enhancements and limitations; see pp. 101-117. Such modifiers will raise or lower the basic point cost of the modified trait.
Start with a character sheet (see p. 13) and fill it in as you go along, keeping track of the points you spend. As an alternative, there are numerous online resources that automate the process. We have included examples at each stage to illustrate the process.
Roleplaying and Character Generation
A brief review of your favorite movies will demonstrate a central character around whom all events related to the plot are concerned. In books, this is not always the case and stories exist that emphasize the group instead of the individual. Like most pencil and paper games, GURPs revolves around the group working together to accomplish the goals of the story and generally involves a collection of demigod-like characters, all perfectly designed and flawless. After your second character, you will soon realize that the only thing that really ever changes is your character class, or archetype. This is where roleplaying comes into play. In the following bullets are a discussion of techniques to make your character more realistic and thereby add a more fully developed dimension to your gaming experience.
- Character Concept. For a few moments, forget about the mechanics of building a character in GURPS. Decide your vision of your character. Look at what the GM has provided by way of briefing for the campaign and think about what sort of person you'd like to be in that world. Don't consider what kind of character is most likely to 'win', but which you think would be most fun to play. Sketch out your persona for the world without reference to point costs and similar distractions.
- Attributes. The attributes are the foundation of your character. Secondary traits and skills are derived from the attributes. To make the stereotypical demigod character for the cliche hack and slash campaign/adventure, simply spend most of your character points here, leaving just enough to get the required melee skills. Nothing to it. If, however, you want to add an element of realism to your character, make one attribute slightly above average, one slightly below, and keep the other two at average. (This forces you to roleplay your skills and other characteristics instead of simply relying on dice rolls.)
- Social Attributes. Often overlooked, social attributes will dictate your position in the world. Sex, race, and class have all been ways of restricting people in the past, and wealth is now and will always be a big divide. If you are poor, then you simply can't get into a lot of places because people (usually of your own social class) are paid to keep undesirables like you out. Wealth opens a lot of doors, but not all: consider the shebeen owners in apartheid South Africa. Even if they accumulated a great deal of wealth and influence in their own community, they still weren't allowed in whites-only areas. Consider which disadvantages will make for good roleplaying opportunities, and which would be major barriers. To use an apartheid campaign example, a black character can fit easily in with the servants and menial workers to gather information that they would not reveal to 'authority', but would have to work with a white partner who could access the areas the black couldn't. The same would apply to a woman in a Victorian steampunk setting, or a third-class emigrant on the Titanic.
- Advantages Advantages are special things that your character has that not many people have, if your character has Tenure or is Double-Jointed those are advantages. In an over the top or supers game you might be able or expected to buy a variety of exotic abilities such as magical shields (DR) or death-ray vision (Innate Attack). In those games advantages may take up the majority of your character points, but in most games they take only a small to medium amount.
- Disadvantages There are two methods to choosing disadvantages, one being where you look through the book and select disadvantages that sound interesting to roleplay, and the other being where you have developed your background in the overview, so you already you already know how your character acts and more-or-less know his background. Look for things that represent him or her accurately. That speaks mostly to mental disadvantages, for the physical ones, you should take only those that are intrinsic parts of your character, being quadriplegic or having a scar that won't heal will be extremely inconvenient during play at times, and it might be frustrating if you chose that characteristic on a passing whim.
- Skills. Most PCs have quite a few skills, in over the top games characters may have more advantages then skills, but normally characters spend the majority of their time using skills, so they are fairly important. You could choose your skills by perusing the GURPS Characters Skills chapter and reading the descriptions of the various skills, (that could take a considerable time), and if you aren't familiar with GURPS' skills that may be the best way to go. But you might also try using GURPS Skill Categories and looking at each category that relates to your character concept. Depending on the sort of campaign you're playing in, the ranks you might buy in your skills varies. In a 200+ point over-the-top campaign, skills of 18+ might not be too rare, but in a gritty 75-point horror campaign having a 18 skill might not be allowed (and for good reason).
- Techniques are an optional way to improve an ability with a specific application of a skill without increasing the overall skill level. Unlike a speciality, which covers a body of theory within the skill, a technique is a specific action covered by the parent skill, studied on its own.
- To flesh out your character and make it memorable, resist the urge to load up on god-like attributes, advantages, and skills. You will rarely have enough points to do everything you want to anyway. In the epic battle of Troy, even Achilles had a weakness. And that is where role-playing really comes into play. Child #1, "Let's play a game." Child #2, "Okay, let's play cowboys and Indians." Child #1, "Yeah! I'll be the cowboy. Let's pretend that I shoot you and you die." Child #2, "Uhh." I don't suppose anyone wants to be child #2. It's because it the game has become pointless, like tic-tac-toe. The fun of role-playing is not sitting around the table knowing that you have a high probability of rolling a success every single roll, nor is it knowing you have beaten the GM. That is not to say that winning should not be an objective, just not the objective. Instead, add a touch of realism -- and therefore suspense -- to the game, and put as much into developing your weaknesses as your strengths. For every choice you make in character generation, you should be thinking about the underlying story. If you choose fear of the dark, think about why your 2000-strength, mega-kill warrior is afraid to be locked in the closet? Another thing to consider is how you will portray this to the other players. Certainly, you may simply state, "I'm afraid of the dark and can't go in there." Or you may add flare and dramatization to the GM's storytelling, "Geoffrey swallows loudly, squints as though straining to see, and between gulps of air asks Archibold the Mage to amplify the cone of light because he's having a hard time seeing."