Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Disadvantages in my GURPS Games, Part II: Mitigating Disads

Continuing yesterday's post on disadvantages.

Better Big and Few than Small and Many

Just from experience, as crippling as a big disadvantage looks on paper, it's better to have a pair of -15s and a pair of -10s or a -30 and a pair of -10s than a -10 and eight -5s. They're all -50 points, but it's too much to keep up with. "I'm a seriously greedy dude with a Sense of Duty to my friends and a penchant for gambling" is way, way easier to play (and play with) than "I'm a mildly greedy dude with a bad temper, overconfidence, a Sense of Duty to my friends, who is afraid of heights, a glutton, who is hunted by his evil twin brother, is easy to read, and who is obsessed with becoming the world's best swordsman."

The "death of a thousand cuts" to avoid one bad disadvantage makes your character harder to play. It's almost certain they'll come up even more often than the big bad disadvantage. And it is certain you'll forget about some of them except when the GM reminds you or you look at your sheet. Don't try to eke out -50 or -40 or -whatever the easy way - find something that can really be a centerpiece disad or two like that and one or two complementary ones and be done with it.

Mitigating Disadvantages With Abilities

One canonical standard for disadvantages is that if something doesn't actually cause any disadvantage, it doesn't get you any points.

That standard has been extended on occasion to mean if you can fully mitigate the consequences of a disadvantage, it's not worth any points.

I agree with the first but not the second.

As long as there are still consequences to a disadvantage, it's still a valid disadvantage even if you can overcome some of them through other means. If you can utterly and fully negate it, that's a different case.

For example, if you have Bloodlust and have Legal Immunity (License to Kill) in some cinematic action game, yeah, you love to kill people. You do it a lot, even when it's a bad idea. And you've plunked down points to say it's okay. I'm okay with this. I think that's fair - there are costs for your disadvantage. There are consequences that apply even when there are no legal repercussions in the game.

Or if you've got high Status and Greedy, in a world where high status allows you access to a lot of money and few consequences for scrabbling for more (Marcus Lucinius Crassus, say), Greedy still has consequences. Annoyed people you bilked of money because you could make a deal unfair to them. Choices between "more money" and "more allies" that you go with "more money" on. Times when you value wealth more than costly decisions that'll set you up for long-term success. Still an issue, even if your Status waves away some of the consequences.

Basically those points have partly funded (or sometimes fully funded - that's rare though) the mitigation. You're still worse off than the guy with Legal Immunity or Status that isn't killing people out of compulsion or can't keep his mitts off of money.

Basically this is the old "Is Compulsive Fighting a disadvantage if you're really good at fighting?" To my mind: yes, yes it is.

So it's okay in my games if you take a disad and then work your way around it, especially ones that have constant effects. It's actually pretty interesting if that happens - something that's more fun than just "I'll make my Self-Control roll here."

Tomorrow: Changing disads in play


  1. Or positive reputation +1 and negative reputation -1.

    Totally fair to take both.

  2. Any level of Luck + Unluckiness is another great example of things that seem mutually exclusive but actually work great together.

  3. I've seen people even say things like "You shouldn't get points for being Honest and having a Code of Honor if you're a Cleric. Pacifism(Cannot Harm Innocents) isn't worth points if your character concept is someone who doesn't want to harm innocents!"


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