RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 120: Alternate GURPS V 24 October 2018

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's rules that amend, replace or extend what's already in the books.

Opus Longa, Pugna Brevis (Sean Punch) looks at implications of the GURPS one-second combat turn: if a PC is trying to do a long (multi-second) task, the player doesn't have as many decisions to make as the players whose characters are mixing it up in the fight. How can this be fixed? Using the Time Spent rules, and perhaps allowing it even for tasks with no rolls normally specified; using abstract "rounds" to break a task into an accumulation of success points (penalised if they have to get out of the way of bullets); or expanding tasks into a combat-like system, using skills against defences based on "intricacy" and "durability". This is described in terms of GURPS Action, but I think it has potential outside that series, and next time I have someone attempting a task while bullets and high-energy photons are flying I may well use it.

Eidetic Memory: Describing Vehicles (David L. Pulver) describes methods for converting real-world vehicles into GURPS stat blocks. Some of this is obvious, like Skill Required, and ST/HP based on weight; some is rather harder, like handling and stability ratings, and here at long last we get some descriptions of what the ratings are meant to mean. This is a missing link for me, both for its intended purpose and as a guide to assigning ratings to hypothetical vehicles.

The Fifth Attribute (Christopher R. Rice) introduces a new statistic for paranormal capacity, providing a base for supernatural ability that's distinct from intelligence, and separating magical fatigue from that caused by other exertion. There are guidelines for tying this into other magic systems. Normally I'm quite happy with the idea of the studious magician, but I have at least one character in a campaign I'm running whose character concept wouldn't fit a very high intelligence but who is learning chi-based magical powers, and her player may well be interested in this.

Conditional Injury (Douglas Cole) replaces hit points with conditions: you can have a Minor Wound, or be Reeling, or in Agony. Characters end up with a Robustness score, which an attack's Wound Potential has to overcome. Medical care and healing clearly need to work differently, and while the overall detail level drops I'm not entirely sure the overall complexity does… but it might well be worth a try.

Random Thought Table: Fluid Skills (Steven Marsh) allows for inconsistent abilities, where skills can wax or wane as the plot demands. It suffers from a statistical problem: skill increases rely on failures of a skill roll, and skills can't decrease below their starting value, but GURPS skills are usually in a range of about 12-15 or higher, so they will rarely change at all. (This can be fixed, of course.)

There's some very good stuff here, ranging from the immediately applicable (vehicle descriptions) to the intriguing (conditional injury and task point accumulation). This is definitely one of the solid issues for me. Pyramid 120 is available from Warehouse 23.


  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:50am on 24 October 2018

    'Photos' == 'Photons' ?

  2. Posted by John Dallman at 01:02pm on 24 October 2018

    I agree about the outstanding usefulness of Describing Vehicles.

    Fluid Skills seems to me to be taking a problem that RPGs don't suffer from - inconsistency in character abilities driven by externally imposed plots - and going to considerable lengths to recreate the problem, to the detriment of players' ability to run their characters.

    But then, I regard Star Trek and all its specific tropes as anti-SF, useful only as examples of how not to do it.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 05:29pm on 24 October 2018

    Michael: fixed, thanks.

    John: if one does want to model the sort of story where time in the spotlight is rationed by external narrative factors rather than diegetic considerations, I think there are systems that do it much better than GURPS – most obviously, Gumshoe. GURPS isn't designed for this, and while you can shave down the chisel and bend it into shape, it's easier to use a screwdriver to drive the screw.

  4. Posted by Dr Bob at 09:07pm on 24 October 2018

    Shame! I was hoping to witness a session of your game where high-energy photos were flying! :-)

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 09:42am on 30 October 2018

    One of the "GURPS books we'd like to publish if someone writes them" is "High-Tech: Photo Studio". Some of that would obviously be a kit list, but I think a photography-based campaign has potential – though probably for a sole player plus GM.

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