Ibram Garro - My new GURPS character

By The Literate Programmer, Mon 19 September 2016, in category Gurps

Dust, Fun, Gaming, GURPS


I've mentioned before that I like to play Pen and Paper RPGs, with my favourite being GURPS, the Generic Universal Roleplaying System from Steve Jackson Games. There's even a permanent link in my blog's footer to the GURPS homepage.

For most of the time, this means that I act as GM for GURPS games, as it is hard to find any RPG groups where I live, and the easiest way to get to play at all is to lead the group yourself. I'm lucky, because I also get to play in a D&D group and extremely lucky to get to play Call of Cthulhu1.

A few months ago, the GURPS campaign I GM'd ended2 and instead of just diving into the next one or building new characters in the same campaign, we decided to try out some other stuff. For one thing, there are many other RPGs I'd wanted to try out and this would be a great opportunity to do so. For another, one of my players has turned GM himself, and had previously led a session to great success and we wanted to delve into that world some more.

So, after a one-shot of Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition, which went very well, and is a cool system, we are now going to play a short campaign using GURPS.

Game Background

It won't use GURPS: After The End, but it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, with only a few small villages protected by magical stones projecting an anti-radiation shield. Tech Level is 3, and there is no gunpowder yet.

Since in the old campaign there hadn't been any really competent fighters and I'd read so much about all the cool things that are possible in GURPS' combat system, I decided quickly that I wanted to play a competent fighter. That constrained the possible backgrounds for my character already. I then decided that him being a hunter would be the most straightforward explanation for his skills. He can drop a target at a distance, using his trusty and over-powered crossbow and defend himself and keep nasty critters at bay using a simple spear.

I admit to min-maxing him a bit, since I wanted him to be both a competent fighter as well as a competent hunter and a generally well-rounded character. At a point budget of 100 points, that's a bit of a challenge. Personally, I've come to learn that the proposal in the core rules of using 125 points with limited disadvantages is probably better. I think that somewhere around 150 - 175 points is where I'd start campaigns from now on, unless the genre dictates otherwise. At those budget levels, it is much easier for the players to come up with competent, yet well-rounded characters. I suspect that even going up to 200 points, with limited disadvantages4 will not lead to boringly flawless or "overpowered" characters but to interestingly heroic ones.

Of course, I'd also like to try out building characters to a concept, with only a rough point guideline. After all, point value doesn't tell you anything about balance in the first place, so it might be sensible to allow people different amounts of points for different concepts. Some just require more points than others, even if they aren't substantially more capable in their niche.

I guess that'll be something to playtest in another one-shot before moving on to the next big campaign.

Building Ibram

So I had a goal5 and a concept6 and could move on to building that character in detail.

The first thing I did was select the weapons he'd be using, so I could take those skills and figure out what supplemental skills and stats he'd need. Using a very helpful set of blog posts7 i quickly figured out that I wanted him to be a spear-wielder in melee, as it is a very versatile weapon. On top of that, it is a realistic weapon for a hunter who needs to be able to keep aggressive beasts at bay and one that still does quite a bit of damage.

For the ranged weapon, I knew that I'd need to deal high damage because I'd typically only get one shot and that would need to have a chance at overwhelming the target. At first, I thought I'd use the sling for that, since it uses swing damage as a base. On top of that, it's easy to replace a broken or lost sling and ammo is plentiful and free or cheap but with better damage. I realized that the sling is not really good for my hunter, as it has 0 Acc8, which would either mean very short range, or really high skill. Being not exactly rich in the points department, I decided I had to swap it out for something else.

I went with the crossbow, because of its relatively high Acc and high damage. A bow might be more traditional, and it certainly would be faster firing but that is not too important. In many cases, I'd only get off one shot anyway, particularly when hunting, and one point more accurate is very useful. Plus, with a crossbow, it's possible to get one for an ST rating that is higher than your ST9, allowing more damage at the cost of reloading speed. I decided against one that Ibram would only be able to reload with a Goat's Foot or similar implement but with one that still takes longer to reload.

So, Spear and Crossbow as the main fighting skills. I decided against any sort of Fast-Draw, since that didn't fit the concept, unless it would have been to reload his crossbow faster and that wasn't gonna matter. Knife as a back-up weapon since he'd have a skinning knife anyway and Brawling because knowing how to fight unarmed is always a good idea.

For being a hunter, he'd need Tracking, Stealth and Survival. Based on what I knew of the setting I picked Survival (Woodlands) and Survival (Wastelands). On top of that, I picked Traps, even though it wouldn't be his main mode of hunting, and rounded the survivalism skill set out with Scrounging, First Aid, Cooking, Climbing and Hiking.

A secondary function of his would be to act as a scout for his village, so I gave him Cartography skill as well.

Then I rounded out the skill list with Naturalist as a secondary skill to various other skills he has, Camouflage and Gesture to support his stealth and Knot-Tying, Leatherworking and Armoury(Melee Weapons and Missile Weapons) so he can maintain all his possessions. Finally he likes to play some Games(Dice) and has Area Knowledge(Narah environs10).

For most of these skills, I already knew what level I wanted them on, too. The core combat skills at 16 and 14, so he could use them reliably and perhaps even perform some maneuvers with them, the core hunting skills at 12, and everything else at around 10, though if I got it higher I wouldn't say no.

With that in mind, his stats developed. He'd need DX 12 and Per 12, so as to get his main skills at reasonable prices. ST should be high, ideally high enough for his Thrust damage to reach 1d11, so Striking ST 13. That would end up as ST 11 plus Striking ST 2. IQ would remain at 10, since he isn't overly smart and the same goes for his health at HT 10.

That's risky and would rely heavily on his defense working out, so he is also going to need Combat Reflexes to boost his defenses. Using his spear with a Defensive Grip would also be helpful, so he'll train to get the Grip Mastery perk.

Lastly, he is a diligent scout, and always makes a map of his surroundings, so that he can later turn it into a proper map, so he gets an appropriate SOP12 perk.

140 points. Well, crap. I knew that I was gonna be over budget after the wishlist, but even with trimming down, this would require quite a few disadvantages.

Fortunately, I knew some that would fit the concept quite well: Sense of Duty and Xenophilia both make a lot of sense for Ibram. He would simultaneously want to leave his village and go see the world and never be willing to actually leave, out of his Sense of Duty towards the people of Narah. Easy to Read just helps to reinforce this image of an honest and earnest young man, so that was another easy pick.

Looking for the last ten points was a longer struggle, where I tried if perhaps I couldn't shave off some more skills somewhere? In the end, I found a disadvantage which I think will make this character a lot of fun: Stuttering.

He's a competent hunter, highly skilled in a fight and generally good to have around but he can hardly get out two sentences in a row. He's not the silent brooding type by nature at all but speaking out is just hard for him.

Final Stats


ST 11 + Striking ST 2, HP 11
DX 12
IQ 10, Will 10, Per 12
HT 10, FP 10

Advantages and Perks

Combat Reflexes, Grip Mastery (Spear), SOP: Always makes a map


Xenophilia, Sense of Duty (his village), Easy to Read, Stuttering


Spear 16 - DX +4 -> Parry 1213 Crossbow 14 - DX +2
Knife 12 - DX
Brawling 12 - DX

Scrounging 12 - Per
Survival (Woodlands & Wastelands) 12 - Per
Tracking 12 - Per
Stealth 12 - DX
First Aid 12 - IQ +2

Gesture 10 - IQ
Hiking 10 - HT
Naturalist 10 - IQ
Area Knowledge (Narah environs) 11 - IQ +1
Camouflage 11 - Survival -1
Cartography 10 - IQ

Armoury (Melee & Missile Weapons) 9 - IQ -1
Climbing 11 - DX -1
Cooking 9 - IQ -1
Games(Dice)14 10 - IQ
Knot-tying 12 - DX
Leatherworking 12 - DX
Traps 10 - IQ

Further thoughts

I've taken more disadvantages than I wanted to, but that's because I wanted to reach certain skill breakpoints. 16 for the main melee skill lets Ibram use some maneuvers and accept the penalties while still being able to hit. 14 for the crossbow, because that allows for a 50% hit chance out to 15m without aiming, which is still decent. With aiming, that same 50% chance is now at 150m, and there's a ~75% chance to hit at 70m and a great ~90% chance to hit at 30m! That's good enough, and the crossbow is rated for ST 15, dealing a whole lot of damage, so hitting the vitals or similar is not as important.

Skill level 12 was the goal for all the secondary skills, because that's reliable enough to be good at it, but not masterful. Ibram is still young, and has focused on his fighting skills because that is the most directly risky part of what he does, all his other skills can play together to help each other succeed and because I wanted to try out combat at his skill level.

At the end of the character creation session, we actually got to try out some arena combat15. It was fun16, and I learned about about how combat would work with Ibram. The crossbow proved nicely devastating, dropping one of my enemies in a single shot.

All in all, I really look forward to playing Ibram and will post about his exploits after the session.

  1. Albeit both rather infrequently. 

  2. And how! Perhaps that will be fodder for another post, eventually. 3 

  3. Titled "Player Stupidity" if I'm feeling cranky, something like "Thoughts on communication between GM and Players" if not. ;) 

  4. Perhaps as little as -30 for 200 point characters. 

  5. Making a competent fighter, to use fun combat options. 

  6. A hunter and warrior, able to track his targets and map out the surroundings of his village. 

  7. To be found here and here 

  8. Accuracy, determines the bonus one gets for aiming and plays an important role in determining effective range for a weapon. 

  9. Bows and Crossbows are muscle-powered and base their damage off of strength, just not the character's ST. They are rated for a certain ST and if you're stronger than that you gain no benefit. If you're too weak, you can't really use them. 

  10. The village that he's from. 

  11. Or higher, of course, but 1d base damage for his main weapon seems a good target to go for. 

  12. Standard Operating Procedure. Instead of me having to mention at every stop that I map the area roughly, it's now assumed that Ibram does this. 

  13. And that's without wielding the spear in a Defensive Grip or as a Quarterstaff. 

  14. Yeah, I need to narrow that down a bit. 

  15. With one of the others correctly pointing out: "Why would I even try to fight him? I'm not nearly as good at fighting!" 

  16. For me, anyway.