Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pre-Choosing Your Improvements in GURPS

This idea comes from Rolemaster. Back in the edition I played, you did three levels worth of point spending at character generation:

Level 0
Level 1
Level 2

You only received the first two, but you had to pre-map your spending for level 2. At level 2, you'd get the level 2 improvements (and roll for stat increases) and pick those for level 3. There was even an optional rule for half-levels, so halfway between 1 and 2 you'd get part of your improvements.

Here is how you can implement this is GURPS, especially with an eye to DF.

Pre-choosing Improvements. Instead of spending earned XP, you must choose where they will go before you earn them. Each session you must designate where your next 10 points are going after they are earned. You may buy advantages, lenses, or other multi-point purchases on installment. However, once points are dedicated to those advantages, lenses, etc. they may not be retracted. As points are earned and expended, you must replace the missing points in the pool.

For example, Honus dedicates his next 10 points as follows: +1 to Flail (4 points), +1 to Survival (2 points), and 4 points towards raising ST. He earns 5 points, and puts them in Flail and 1 point towards ST. He can now choose where to dedicate 5 more points, but still has 3 points dedicated toward ST and 2 towards improving Survival. He can continue to skip them as long as he wants, but he cannot change them without explicit GM approval.

Why do this? - Basically, the idea is to force you to plan ahead, and not just react to the last session's revealed needs. You also get the "training" effect, in that you know what the PCs are working on learning. It has a nice built-in effect of wizards being in-process of learning spells, clerics praying for new spells for more than "between sessions," warriors training sword or bulking up to get more ST, etc.

Did you do this already? - Yes, sort of, with the "Slow and Steady Experience Spending" article way back in an earlier incarnation of Pyramid magazine. But it wasn't quite this implementation.

This would add some extra bookkeeping, but it also might add some verisimilitude and (like S&S Exp. Spending) encourage people to aim for, and save for, long term improvements.


  1. This might discourage bigger purchases, essentially by removing liquidity from banked CP. Might be a feature.

    If you want to encourage bigger stuff, you could allow partial benefits from partial purchases. Some advantages that are technically package deals already work this way (don't buy +1 ST, buy +1 striking, lifting, and HP in the preferred order), but you could also allow someone with 5 points frozen in combat reflexes the mental stun resistance, etc. This might be too much extra complexity though.

    Another possibility is "I get it now." For some sort of premium of you can get a benefit you are training on right now, in the heat of the moment. There is a great cinematic convention of important training "clicking" at a dramatic climax, and this would directly implement it. (Maybe the premium is "dramatically appropriate/awesome moment?)

    1. I like that. It's kind of like having A Thing and adding Limits, then slowly removing the Limits.


    2. The intermediate steps approach works if there are existing steps - I think if I allowed Combat Reflexes to be partially useful for a partial purchase, some people would just want that partial level and then stop.

      What might work, though, is Accessibility. Buy with with an activation roll, and buy that off as you go . . .

    3. " I think if I allowed Combat Reflexes to be partially useful for a partial purchase, some people would just want that partial level and then stop."

      1. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
      2. Combat reflexes probably needs a non-cinematic version without the defense buffs anyway.

    4. Is only wanting the partial steps bad, though? That said, Combat Reflexes is a -steal-, considering +1 to Dodge alone is already 15 points.


    5. It's not that there is something wrong with it, per se. But it does mean you're committing to breaking up all packages into the bits people want. Weapon Master will need to be broken down ("I want only the damage bonus, for now."), Trained By A Master ("I only want access to Power Blow and Multiple Parries, not the other stuff."), Magery (I only want to detect magic, not cast spells), Combat Reflexes (which is a heavily discounted package worth more than the cost indicates), etc. etc.

      So it's not that there is something wrong with it, only that it's a big task, and you'll need to make a lot of game-impacting cost judgments on the parts of every package. It's been tried before with lots of endlesses forum posts and hand-wringing, yet the package deals were often originally costed by eyeballing the effect vs. cost. Some were later modified for that reason - Combat Reflexes used to be 10 points, Trained By A Master used to be 40, Gunslinger got a raft of cool little perks tied to it.

      On top of that, some of them are available as parts - so if someone wants, say, just the +1 to defenses from Combat Reflexes, they need to buy Enhanced Parry (All), Enhanced Block, and Enhanced Dodge, which cost more than Combat Reflexes. So how do you fairly price just the +1? You can't, I think, so you'd have to start limited what partial buys are actually out there.

      So it's a big job, and a messy one. All because someone can't wait to buy the whole package? That goes beyond, "Here is a little bennie for having put some points towards buying something later" and into "Let's recalculate the cost of packages so you can shop for just what you want."

      At best I'd want to allow the limitation-based approach I mentioned above, or allow people to buy over-costed subdivisions unless a "component pricing" exists already (such as for ST.)

      Yes, this boils down to "It's bad because I'm lazy and that's a lot of work." But my house rules generally revolve around finding the lazy solution, not one that creates more work for me.

  2. I've done some things like this. We use the component parts of different stat increases and I did break Combat Reflexes down into three [5] point leveled advantages.
    I sometimes allow purchasing things early with at least half the points with the expectation that all future points go toward this until it is paid off.

    1. That makes a lot of sense - and yeah, if you can break down the components into discrete purchases, it would work well.

  3. I feel that the way I've broken them down, it does work pretty well. If you don't start the game with Combat Reflexes, this is how you get it. One [5] point chunk at a time. I was giving them out as bonus award "Level Ups" at certain milestones to characters that didn't have it (the other characters got something else) and it worked well. Eventually everyone that was engaging in combat got Combat Reflexes, though it took some time.

    You can check it out down in the Session Notes part of this particular session from way long ago...


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