Friday, 20 July 2018

What I look for in my ideal player(s)

Recent posts on ideal players within the GURPS community got me thinking. What is my ideal player? As it happens, there's not much to it.

Arrives on purpose

I want my players so excited by the game that they have a hard time not turning up. While I can't say I provide this kind experience every time, I can say that players definitely won't have it if they don't turn up.

To make matters worse, frequent missing players mean frequent missing contributions. I do my best to summarise previous sessions but some details are invariably missed out, so players who miss sessions often act out of character, breaking the narrative while the group readjusts to the unexpected behaviour.

That said, absences do happen; this is my ideal player after all.

Method actor

My kind of player is the kind of player that is very interested in their character. I love GMing stories with characters that are rich, unpredictable and consistent.

'Unpredictable' and 'consistent' may sound like polar opposites. But all drama involves opposing forces. Does the hero save the girl or the children? What are the consequences if they do save the girl/children? What will others think of them for saving the girl/children? These competing ideals make the tension in my games. I really love to present situations where the players are surprised by their characters. That's the kind of investment you just can't magic up.

Meta investment or investment in the system

Players that are invested in the game system, whatever the system is, are great.

Investment is very different to mastery or knowledge. One can be invested in a system you have only heard about 5 minutes ago but mastery of a system only happens over time. Taking time to learn about how the system works to represent your ideas is essential. As GM, I have limited brain space for verbal descriptions but system mechanics are an agreed-upon standard for character data that will keep between games.


My ideal player may not exist in the wild, but I've been lucky to have players that are pretty close. Not everyone plays this way, but as the old mantra goes:

If you're having fun, you're doing it right!

Friday, 13 July 2018

NecroBurn: the necro-psi hacker

Imagine a hacker that could always get physical access to the hardware. Because they are literally the shadows. Enter Pyramid #3/99, Necro-psi.

NecroBurn plugged in.
Credit: Benedict Farley
(used by permission)

NecroBurn is a hacker with a difference; he reads the minds of the recently deceased. A garrote for hire, NecroBurn is an hacker-assassin who gains admin passwords from the sysadmin's brains. Since he needs physical contact to read the thoughts of said sysadmins, he always burns the body.

A few notes on traits:
  • Low Empathy Since a child, NecroBurn hasn't been able to understand emotions. 
  • Bloodlust This comes across most often as seeing killing people as the most 'practical' option. It's easy to persuade him not to kill someone ... as long as it's really more practical
  • Amnesia (Partial); Wild Talent 1; Unknown disadvantages Reading dead minds all the time has a cost, NecroBurn has permanent lost a part of himself which is constantly replaced by his most recent read. He will sometimes quote memories from his read as his own, or even exhibit talents he has never trained in. Occaisonally, he sometimes acquires phobias, addictions or worse!
  • Assassin! From #3/107, this covers assassiny type things like assassin's weapon;s skills and various other things. (If you don't have #3/107, replace with at least Garrotte-16 and Stealth)
  • Silhouette The ability to literally turn into a shadow. See #3/99 for more info
  • Corpse Sense; Flashes of Insight The ability to read (dead) minds. See #3/99 for more info.

NecroBurn [250]

ST 9; DX 12; IQ 13; HT 9; HP 9; FP 9; Per 13; Will 13; Basic Speed: 5.25; Basic Move: 5

Traits: Wild Talent 1 (Only from alternate identity, -40%.) [12]  Unknown disadvantages [-30]  Corpse Sense 1 [26]  Silhouette 4 [72]  Bloodlust (CR: 12 (Resist Quite Often).) [-10]  Low Empathy [-20]  Amnesia (Partial) [-10]  Always burns the body [-1]

Skills:  Assassin!  16 (DX+4) [72]  Corpse Sense  22 (Per+9) [40]  Flashes of Insight (Corpse Sense)  22 (+0) [5]  Silhouette  14 (IQ+1) [4]  Computer Hacking/TL10  13 (IQ+0) [8]  Computer Programming/TL10  12 (IQ-1) [2] 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Preparing Pyramid for DIY binding

Recently I've been wanting to read my Pyramid issues away from the computer. Attracted by various people's printing of GURPS pdfs, I thought I'd see if I could do it on the cheap. And I did! The binding/printing above cost around £7 (~$10) for ~170 pages of GURPS goodness.

In this post I cover how I prepared my pdfs and how to change the code for page sizes other than A4/A5.

Preparing pdfs

The first thing to do was to combine the pdfs for printing. For this, I used a combination of LaTeX, pdfjam and ghostscript. For a quick start, grab the code and read the README at:

The premise is quite simple: Remove bitmaps from the pdf (to save on ink), remove full page ads (to save on ink) and add little printed tabs (so it's easy to see which issue I'm currently reading). Note: this method only supports some Pyramid pdfs as removing full page ad and cover pages requires manual intervention. More info in the source code.


Once the chosen Pyramid pdfs are printed, they'll need to be arranged and folded into signatures. If you don't know what that means, I recommend a good bookbinding tutorial. Here's the method I used for mine:

I chose Coptic stitching because 1) it's easy and 2) it doesn't require glue. There are plenty of bookbinding methods out there, so really it is up to you how you want to bind. I also chose transparency sheets for the covers since they are cheap and allow me to see the first and last page of the book.

The last thing to mention is that you will need to trim the long edge to get the cool tab effect. If you don't have expensive equipment (like this vertical plough for £610 (~$800)) then you can use a sharp craft knife and a metal ruler. The result won't be perfect, but it in my experience it makes the book much easier to handle.

Last word

What do you think? How do you read your Pyramids? Was this post helpful? I'd love to see other's creations. If I ever get any spare time I'll devote it to making a prettier version. Like an epic tome of Pyramid ...

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

GURPS: Power Ups 5: Impulse Buys Review ★★★★★

As a GM, I love it when my players want something to happen. It shows engagement and drives story. When the dice disallow these actions, sometimes the disappointment makes for a worse game. If only there was a balanced way to allow the players to bend the rules just a little bit...

... Enter Impulse Buys. Essentially a budget for bending the rules, this book provides the GM (and players) with interesting ways to spend points to influence outcomes and the game world around them. On a personal note, I really enjoy the possibilities discussed in Impulse Buys, but it's not for every campaign.

The premise is simple: spend points for good stuff to happen right now. Such a simple premise doesn't need a 20 page book explaining how to do it, but the insight and ideas on how to balance it make it good value for the $5.99 it costs.

The first real chapter 'Parting You From Your Points' details individual ways players might spend points to improve (or gain points to worsen) their situation including:
  • Buying success from failure
  • Gaining short term perks
  • Bending time
  • Enhancing survival
  • Influencing GM decisions
and much more. I wouldn't call any ideas here groundbreaking, but the real value is in the explanation of the consequences of each kind of rule-bending and how to cost it for balance.

The second chapter 'Impulsive Campaigns' is about setting up impulse point buy in a campaign. It has suggestions for limiting power, making sure style of point buy fits the tone of the game and how to make spending points fun, not just as a way out of trouble. Just look at the contents for a flavour of the styles it provides.

The book ends with an excellent summary page for quick reference. I don't find myself referring to these when live GMing at the gaming table (it's easy enough to remember), but it is great for players to browse and start to imagine the possibilities.

All in all, I think Impulse Buys makes an excellent addition to a GURPS GM's toolkit. It won't be for every campaign but for those it fits, this book takes out a lot of the hard work of adding impulse buys. In essence, this book does for GMs exactly what it does for players: gives you what you need to just start playing!

Further Reading

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Aggretsuko: A GURPS Adventure v0.1

Aggretsuko (or Aggressive Retsuko) is a little anime about an ordinary Japanese accountant  who has a dark secret ... she loves singing death metal! Oh, and everyone is an animal.

This week is a little different as it describes how a game of Aggretsuko could be played. While it's not required to have watched the show, this game will probably be a lot more fun if you have (and it's only 2.5 hours long in total!)

NPC cards for Aggretsuko: The RPG

You will need:
  • 2-3 players (1-2 GMs, 1 player)
  • GURPS rules (GURPS Lite should be fine)
  • Retsuko character card (see pdf below)
  • Aggretsuko NPC cards (see pdf below)
  • 10 Tokens representing stress (a Google spreadsheet should be fine)
  • 3 Tokens representing character points (for use as GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys)

The Aim

Poor Retsuko is having a hard time of life! Every day she has two goals:
  1. NOT reveal her metal alter-ego to the world
  2. ???
Every day, her second goal changes. Does she need to 'Fall in love'? Or maybe she feels the need to 'Quash rumours of her pregnancy'? Whatever the goal, she must achieve these by the end of the day, or else!

5 story rounds

The game is played in five story rounds. At the beginning of each round, the GMs roll to see which of Retsuko's allies and enemies appear. Each NPC may take a single, quick contest, action (e.g. giving Retsuko more work, taking her to a mixer, etc.). This action may lead to more rolls on Retsuko's part, e.g. completing given work or impressing someone at the mixer.


Life is stressful! When Retsuko fails any roll or quick contest, she gains a stress token which reduces her Will by 1. If someone wins a quick contest against her, she must immediately roll Will to not burst out into death metal screaming.

If she wishes, Restuko can spend a character point to change a failure to success. In doing so, the player should narrate the way she takes it (usually heading to the bathroom and screaming to death metal). There are only 3 character points per game, so they should be used wisely!

When Retsuko's stress hits 10 (i.e. Will-10) any failure automatically triggers her death metal singing.

Example game

Alice, Bob and Charles set up a game. Alice is the ally GM, Bob is the enemy GM and Charles is playing Restuko. Together, they agree that Retsuko's second goal should be 'Finding another job without Ton, her boss, finding out.'

They roll their first round with the following results:
  • Alice rolls Fenneko
  • Bob rolls Ton and Komiya
Alice and Bob decide that Ton takes the first action. He  gives Retsuko an unreasonable stack of work! This is a quick contest between Ton's Intimidation (12) and Restuko's Will (14). Retsuko wins by 3 and politely takes the work without screaming.

Since Alice is worried about what Bob will do, she lets Bob go next with Komiya. Komiya then tries to give Retsuko even more work but Alice steps in with Fenneko uses her action to make an excuse! A quick contest of Fenneko's Fast Talk with Komiya's Will and Fenneko wins. Fenneko tells a tale of how Retusko has a serious doctor's appointment and couldn't possibly have more on her plate right now. Komiya believes her, so leaves Retsuko alone!

Charles then rolls to see if Retsuko completes the task using Finance (12), but fails! This adds a stress token and means Retsuko's next Will roll will be at 13.

A couple of rounds later, Retsuko's Will is at 10, and Kabae appears asking if it's true that Retsuko is looking for a new job. If Kabae finds out, it's only a matter of time before Ton knows. If Retsuko is going to get through today, she needs to win this. A quick contest between Kabae's Fast Talk (13) and Retsuko's Will (10), and Retsuko fails! This triggers a concentration roll not to sing ... and she fails again!

*cue music*

Retsuko reveals herself as a death metal singer and loses! Oh well, better luck next time Retsuko!


This game is not playtested yet, so if you do play it let me know how to goes in the comments!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Ash Ketchum from Pokemon: Indigo League (100 pt)

Ash Ketchum from the town of Pallet! Pokémon was a large part of my childhood so it was good fun to design him in GURPS. This is mostly based on the TV show, but it has a little bit of the game in it.

Designer’s notes

Since there is no official Pokémon adaption for GURPS, designing Ash meant defining how a Pokémon game could be played. Most interactions can be boiled down to persuasion rolls (e.g. ‘persuade’ them to get into the pokéball to capture them, etc.)

For this build, I added a couple of things. First, this wildcard skill:

Pokemon Trainer!  Use this skill in place of Animal Handling (All Pokémon), Expert Skill (Pokémon Trainer), rolls to persuade Pokémon and rolls to catch Pokémon.

Second, Reputation as badges. Pokémon seem to magically recoginise a trainer with badges (at least in the game) so if you have sufficient reputation and manage to capture a Pokémon, then they will simply obey you. (This can be ruled as +4 (Captured) to persuasion roll, but I would probably handwave it.)

Pokémon trainers in the original games had 6 Pokémon which they could carry around at a time. I’ve modelled this as Modular Abilities (Chip Slots) where each ‘slot’ is actually 8 points of Ally (at least it’s 8 points at Ash’s initial level).

What do you think of this build? How would you have done things different?

Monday, 14 May 2018

Saitama from One Punch Man (100 000+ pt)

One-Punch Man is about Saitama: a hero who kills in a single punch. Unfortunately, this has made life incredibly dull for him! The anime follows him as he struggles to find meaning in a world where he has achieved his every goal ...that is until he meets Genos, a cyborg obsessed on being his disciple whether he wants to or not!

The following is a fully playable character, or ally, or enemy (if you really hate your players).

Basic Attributes ST 9999 [99890]; DX 40 [600]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 10 [0]

Secondary Characteristics HP 9999 [0]; Per 10 [0]; Will 10 [0]; FP 450 [880];
Basic Speed 375 [7250]; Basic Move 375 [7250]

Other DR 0; Dodge 378; SM 1; sw 1003d; thr 1001d

Advantages Ally (Genos) (Appears almost all the time) [3]; Ally (Mumen Rider)
(Appears quite rarely) [1]; Enhanced Time Sense [45]; Luck, Ridiculous (Defens-
ive) [48]; Regeneration (Extreme) [150]; Reputation 2 (Recognized occasionally) [3]; Weapon Master (Unarmed) [20]

Disadvantages Dependent (Cactus on windowsill) [-3]; Enemy (Speed-o-sound Sonic) (Appears fairly often; Rival) [-2]; Reputation 3 (Class B Hero, Recognized occasionally) [-5]

Quirks Ennui about boring life [-1]; Sensitive about baldness [-1]; Trademark (kills in a single punch!) [-1]

Skills Brawling 40 [1]

Designers notes

The first challenge for designing Saitama was where to limit the power of build. GCS maxed out at ST 9,999 so this seemed a good place to stop. This left his default damage much lower than I'd like (at one point he punches an asteroid to save the city, which traditionally takes a nuclear explosion with ~ 6d x 90,000, but this build has default thr damage around 1000d)

HP was interesting. In the show, it's never clear whether Saitama is just very very strong or if he is truly invulnerable. Since he doesn't seem to slow down even when in a fight for a long time, I opted to give him Extreme Regeneration and let his HP 9,999 carry him pretty much all the way. (Side note: with such high HP, Saitama essentially never suffers shock or a major wound) 

Basic Speed is set at 375 as the speed of sound is 375.25 and Saitama doesn't cause sonic booms everwhere he goes. This also gives a dodge of 378, but effective dodge of 16 felt too low, so Saitama has Luck to compensate.

DX is set at 40 because higher seems ... futile? At this level he should be able to deal with even -20 modifiers without breaking a sweat!

HT and IQ are set to 10 because apart from super speed and super strength (and endurance, more on that later) Saitama seems like an ordinary guy. So much so, that when he and Genos had an eating contest, he couldn't finish without vomiting!

FP is tuned up to 450 because in the last two episodes, he has basically an extended fight with lots of monsters, followed by a huge fight which lasts at least 25 minutes with a single opponent basically without slowing down. If we assume he loses 1 FP every 10 seconds, he needs around 300 FP to make it to the 1/3FP cutoff for slowing down.

Allies are pretty standard, the high point build of Saitama means that basically everyone is ~ 1 pt enemy or ally.

What did you think of this build? How would you have done it differently? Let me know in the comments below!

What I look for in my ideal player(s)

Recent posts on ideal players within the GURPS community got me thinking. What is my ideal player? As it happens, there's not much to i...