Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Turning up the value of relative skill level in GURPS

I have been using a few methods to make the relative level (say, DX+2) more important than the skill (say, 16 for DX 14 and DX+2) sometimes.

There isn't anything especially exciting or new here, but I think sometimes people forget you can do this.

Floating the base stat. I think my players, especially the newer ones, are still getting used to this. But I do this fairly often.

Some example:

- Beats are based on ST-based weapon skill rolls. Ruses are IQ-based.

- I've used Per-based Alchemy to smell or spot likely potions, and the normal IQ-based roll to identify them.

- DF floats Traps and Lockpicking all over the place.

- I've allowed IQ-based weapon skill to identify subtle things the NPCs are doing with their weapon skills that the players wouldn't notice but the characters might. Per-based would do for spotting, but IQ does well for understanding.

Relative Level Bonuses. Every unarmed skill has a bonus for exceeding DX. And since we use a stripped down version of Technical Grappling, those unarmed bonuses just keep on coming for grappling. Weapon skills get that for Weapon Masters. Forced Entry gets it for bashing down doors and walls.

Hybrid float-and-bonus. This is allowing a skill with a positive relative skill level to augment a stat. For example:

- In my Lost City game, many of the basic daily rolls vs. exhaustion and FP loss, jungle diseases, etc. roll against the better of HT or HT-based Survival.

(A couple truly nasty things out there roll HT-based Survival, because it's what you know and how well your body fights it off. Default is HT-5 . . . )

- I sometimes limit bonuses to your relative skill level for complex gear - you can only get a bonus equal to what you know to put in. So very fine lockpicks give +2 to rolls if you have Stat+2 or better, but only +1 for Stat+1, and no bonus for Stat+0 or less. You just don't have the skills to make the gear do its thing.

I've found that by sprinkling this stuff into a game, or by liberally using it, people value points in skills. Suddenly munchkiny "never raise more than 4 DX based or 4 IQ based skills" are actively limiting your flexibility . . . because something Stat+5 is more important and useful than a higher stat and lower relative skill.


  1. This was a thing that threw me about GURPS at first but I have come to really really love it. Very cool.

  2. One of the reasons I put the relative skill level progression the way I did in TG was to keep it such that one level of generic ST (10 points) was still more efficient and effective than +1 ST by virtue of training. With grappling, the cost of +1 ST is actually only 3 points (Lifting ST, though limited by the GM), so it's always better to generally lift weights than be better at one particular skill.

    Actually, this is worth exploring it its own post. Thinking about it, the pricing is downright *stingy* for what you get. So the extended bonuses you get for lots of skill are just icing.

    1. Skill bonuses are the double-dip bonus - you grapple better (hitting more often) and defend better, and hold on tighter (inflict more CP.)

    2. True, and it's also very much the difference between Rapid Strike and Extra Attack. "Why would I buy ST when I could increase my skill to get the same bonus?" is like "Why buy Extra Attack when I can just buy enough skill to do Rapid Strike for the same cost?"

      Because ST and Extra Attack apply to EVERYTHING, and skill has to be bought separately for each one. From that perspective, even giving a relative ST bonus equal to the floating skill level wouldn't break points balance (though it would break ST scaling, since +10 relative skill would then be +10 swing damage) from an efficiency standpoint. I like where the Training Bonus progression wound up - just talking through that it was a deliberate choice to force fighters to want to be overall strong (because they DO want that), but to also acknowledge sport-specific power via the bonus.

      If I were to do 5e, I'd strongly consider integrating all muscle powered combat (and even bow draw ST) into one ruleset. We bantered about this in an old blog post of mine: http://gamingballistic.blogspot.com/2013/09/technical-grappling-trained-st-and.html where in the comments we agreed that weapon skill at DX means "I hit with full power"

  3. Splitting IQ, Will and Per then giving extra points will help in a different way.

    Wildcard skills also provide a decent enough bonus for every 12 points.

    Also allowing techniques like say thrust vitals shortsword to default from broadsword skill versus DX will encourage maxing some skills versus another level of DX.

    1. There is just no way I'm going to split IQ, Will, and Per. Too much work, not enough reward, too many possibilities for min-maxing once you're divorcing Will and Per below IQ from the disadvantage cap.

      Floating techniques with defaults, though, I do already. It works well!


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