Thursday, February 9, 2017

Disadvantages in my GURPS Games, Part III: Changing Disadvantages in Play

Third in a series of posts on disadvantages in my GURPS game.

Disadvantages are Changeable in Play

Disadvantages are not set in stone in my game. They're meant to reflect your character as it currently exists and how it is actually played.

While disadvantages are prescriptive ("Berserk says I'm like this . . . " not "I'm Berserk like this . . . "), which ones you will have are descriptive.

In other words, if you play a guy who is bad tempered, you should have Bad Temper on your sheet. Then we play with that disadvantage in effect as written. Even if you've conceived of your minotaur as a calm, unflappable gentleman, if you have Berserk (9) on your sheet . . . he really also has Delusion ("I'm a calm, unflappable gentleman") but snaps on a 10 or more.

But what if it's down on your sheet, but you know, this doesn't really feel like how my guy should be . . . or how I actually like to run this guy?

You can't change them freely . . .

As the above implies, so a degree you're stuck with your disadvantages. You can't change them during a game session. What it says on your sheet is what you need to do and the rules you need to follow.

. . . but you're free to change them.

Between sessions, though, based on actual play, I'm happy to let people change their disadvantages. Made a berserker but found it's hard for you to really let go and All-Out Attack when there is a smarter move on the table? Made a guy who has Sense of Duty (Close Friends and Companions) but it's clear he'd sooner abandon a friend than risk death? Made a guy obsessed with a specific goal but find that goal is actually kind of counter to how the game is going? Made a guy with Bloodlust but you're constantly making the Self-Control roll because you just don't enjoy running a guy who'd "security stab" a downed foe?

Change it.

Discuss it with me, first, of course, but then you can change it. Your disadvantages should feel normal and natural and free-flowing. They should come up in play because you want them to. Or at least, groan partly in enjoyment as they make you do stuff that yeah, really does fit your guy.

My preferred path is to downgrade over time. Move a disad to a quirk, a quirk to nothing. But only if the originally conceived disadvantage fits at all. If not, ditch it entirely.

Good examples I've seen in play are downgrading Berserk (Battle Fury) to Berserk, or Berserk to Bad Temper. Changing Greedy to Obsession (Accumulate power) - that on a guy who'd forsake money, we found, if an actual change at long-term power gains were there. Adding Overconfidence to a character who took silly risks just because, while removing it from a character whose player simply could not help because meticulously careful.

You can't change them willy nilly, constantly. It's really something meant for downtime when both player and GM realize what's on the sheet is pushing in a different direction than actual play. But they're not permanent.

Buying them off entirely is as simple as that - downgrade it and spend the points for the difference. In a sufficiently flexible game (my DF game is a good example), you can just plunk down the points and get rid of it.

Ultimately disadvantages are meant in my game to be points back for limitations on your play that demonstrate and shape how you play. They aren't set-in-stone decisions that can never be undone.*

* We call those, "points spent on advantages." Or, that time that you Retreated right into the worse spot possible. Oops.


  1. I'm curious, as its not specifically stated here - but how do you rule on "racial" disadvantages?

    You comment on a minotaur with berserk, and how they'd have a delusion if they thought they didn't berserk at all - but what if they player really wants rid of that disadvantage, but they obtained it simply because all minotaurs have it as part of their racial template (as it is in DF)?

    Do you allow it to be bought down to a quirk, or off entirely? Or is a delusion the most you allow?

    1. I'm very careful about letting people buy off racial disadvantages, because generally it's a min-maxing impulse to get all of the advantages of a race without suffering from problematic disadvantages ("I'm a goblin without Cowardice" or "I'm an elf with no Sense of Duty to Nature"). I do sometimes allow people to buy them down to a lower point version, but not swap in for the same reasons. Too often it's a way to get an extra disad they'd like and get a stat bonus for a net cost that makes a more effective character, and that's the whole reason. It's DF, not Munchkin.


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