Steve Jackson Games GURPS – Generic Universal RolePlaying System

The Unified Friend Theory

by Depraved Elf
updated 2-23-90

Some of you may have noticed . . . or maybe not, who knows, really . . . that Dependents, Allies, and Patrons all imply roughly the same relationship with different degrees of competence on the part of the PC and NPC. Others may, like me, have found that the costs given for dependents and allies of relatively advanced PCs/NPCs does not fit all that well with character conceptions. The solution, he said, chortling with glee as the kettle came to a boil, is obvious.

Put 'em all on the same scale. When your son grows up, he's your ally, not your dependent. See, for example, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Therefore, for your delight and delectation, the following table is offered:

FRIEND              range          cost
Dependent:     -100% +        : -16 pts.
Dependent:      -75% –  -99%  : -12 pts.
Dependent:      -51% –  -74%  :  -6 pts.
Dependent/Ally: -26% –  -50%  :+/-1 pt.
Ally:            -0% –  +25%  :  +5 pts.
Ally/patron:    +26% –  +50%  : +10 pts.
Ally/patron:    +51% – +100%  : +15 pts.
Patron:        +101% – +200%  : +20 pts.
Patron:        +200% – +500%  : +25 pts.
Patron:        +501% +        : +30 pts.

Reading the table:

The general class of friendly person is listed down the left side. Cost, down the right side, is the basic cost before frequency modifiers (also before the Dependent importance modifiers). The range given is the major difference in this system and that given in Basic; it assumes that not all characters are 100 pts., and evaluates the friendly individual based on *relative* competence. The values remain the same for a 100 point character, but for characters built on 75 or 150 points, the values of dependents and allies are modified to 75% and 150% respectively of those in Basic. This means that less-experienced characters must have much less competent people as dependents, while more experienced characters consider their relatively more competent friends "dependents."

Three notes on the table:

  1. The cost of a 'competent dependent' or barely competent (the old range of 51-75 pts., which of course now varies slightly depending on the character value) has been changed from zero to plus or minus one point--plus one point for allies, minus one point for dependents. The GM can, of course, vary this, but it lets the other mathematical adjustments to the friend's value work as it ought, rather than multiplying by zero. This brings up digression #1, which is at the end of this already rambling explanation.
  2. The table adds a twenty-point patron value, with an appropriate range, because Depraved Elves are compulsive.
  3. Dependent and ally overlap, and so do patron and ally. The difference between a dependent and an ally has to do with the emotional investment in the friend's welfare (thus the importance modifiers) and also to do with the friend's competence. It is conceivable for a character to have a sidekick so incompetent that he qualifies as a dependent. The difference between patron and ally is more complex, but I would like to argue that it lies mainly in the realm of economics. An ally provides his body; a patron provides his wallet. But the equation is less true for persons. The above table is intended as a guide to the experience of individuals, to character values. But it is hard to imagine someone two or more times as experienced as the PCs involved in a campaign, without producing anomalies. Therefore, the most common values of patron individuals are the values marked "Ally/patron." The problem of patron groups is more of a problem of group assets than of experience.
Dependent's importance                  Appearance Frequency
Acquaintance:  times 1/2                15-  : times 3
Friend:        times 1                  12-  : times 2
Beloved:       times 2                   9-  : times 1
                                         6-  : times 1/2


Friendly groups should be calculated roughly from the above, if you examine the assumptions of the various tables in Conan and Basic carefully.

The above table works best for individuals. It is not wise to add together the values of a group of characters: two 50-point characters are not the same as one 100-point. The value placed on groups should be a function of attachment to the group, not to attachment to individuals. The ally groups introduced by Conan are an example.

In the mass, in game terms, groups have three major characteristics. 1) Average experience of members (character value). 2) Size of the group. 3) Group assets. Each of these characteristics needs to be considered in isolation, before considering problems of frequency.

The basic characteristic should probably remain the average experience. The table provided above provides the basic values. As a rule, any ally or patron group should have an average value of less than 5. 1 is probably ideal.

Size of the group, however, should be a step-wise function, as should assets.

SIZE                     ASSETS
    1:    *  1                    1:    *1/4
    2:    *  2                   10:    *1/3
    4:    *  3                  100:    *1/2
    8:    *  4                1,000:    *1
   15:    *  5               10,000:    *2
   31:    *  6              100,000:    *3
   62:    *  7            1,000,000:    *4
  125:    *  8           10,000,000:    *5
  250:    *  9             500:    * 10           multiple of
 1000:    * 11           starting wealth
 2000:    * 12           (use inverse for dependent)
 5000:    * 13
10000:    * 14
25000:    * 15

For example, a group of ten bruisers, average character value fifty percent of character's, have basic value +1, *5 because there are ten, and total assets equal to ten times starting wealth, *1/3, gives a total point value of 2. If they show up all the time (which is likely), they cost the PC 6 points.

Second example. A police force of two hundred, average CV 50% of character's, so +1*8, assets in this case 1,000 times starting wealth, and showing up fairly often, 8 points. In a police campaign, they always show up, and are worth 24 points.

Another example. A school full of children, average point value approaching zero. 50 children. -12*6. Ten times starting wealth, importance as acquaintance, and showing up rarely. 72*3*1/2*1/2. 54 points. If they were the more likely important as friends, 108 points.

Final example. Major governmental organization, average value 50% of character, but GM decides they are worth basic 2 because they relate strongly to what he does. 500 operatives, *10. Assets, 10,000 times starting wealth, *2. Frequency fairly often, *1. Total 40 points. This brings up the question of what happens if this group gets on your ass. See digression #2.

It should be obvious that although the number game gives bigger increments, the variation in resources is probably controlling. Not that many organizations have over one thousand active members; the table is not intended to include bureaucratic paper-pushers. But a major patron-style organization will be quite well-funded, and is rarely less than one hundred active members, so the multipliers work in a fashion that can make a useful patron extremely expensive.

Digression #1:

The importance of a person to whether they are considered a dependent or not brings up the whole issue of the 'highly competent dependent.' This is, in GURPS terms, a contradiction; if a friendly-type person is dependent, they have to be weak and need protection. But if Conan is in love, it doesn't really matter that Belit is wonderfully able to take care of herself, man-like, he still wants to protect her. This is most obvious in the case of the beloved, but still has an effect, in game terms, for friends and acquaintances. Consider this a special case of impulsive behavior, or perhaps the minor delusion (that the object of affection is not competent). Give it a basic cost of -5, and require that the PC act as he's told in Basic--defend with your life (for the beloved), even though this person may actually be more competent than you. Which may mean that you jump into a fight that you can't handle, though your beloved can, because you have to protect the beloved.

Digression #2

Enemies can be calculated in much the same way that friends can. The difference is that an incompetent enemy does not cost character points, and should be produced only with the GM's permission as an act of comic relief. Think of Wile E. Coyote. To calculate an enemy's value, calculate as for friend, and reverse the sign (from plus to minus or from minus to plus).

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