Excerpts from GURPS Discworld
From The Introduction
Somewhere . . .
There is a flat, circular world which rests on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, which swims through space. Magic works here. Well, most of the time. Some of the time, anyway. There are gods and heroes.
It is a fantasy world but with some haunting similarities to this one, and hence it makes a perfect setting for fantasy stories. Some of these stories have been told over the past fifteen years or so in a series of twenty-odd novels by Terry Pratchett. (For convenience, this body of stories is hereafter referred to as the chronicles.) Now you can create Discworld stories of your own, using this book, and some players.
The Discworld is a comedy setting, but with room for occasional bits of tragic relief. Hence, this book is about running comedy games, and keeping the atmosphere right. But these stories are also about people, and games played in this setting can be as complex and character-driven as any you can set anywhere else.
So dive in. Don't eat the meat pies, don't frighten the swamp dragons, and be careful how you refer to the Librarian.
From Chapter 8: Large Questions, Small Gods
Death is not cruel. He has an appointment with everyone, and he always keeps it, no matter how inconvenient this may be for the mortal involved. He does not put the dagger, or the big rock, or the botulinus organism, or the embolism in the victim's way. He no more kills his clients than the postman writes the letters he collects.
He has no emotions in the usual sense. He can, however, disapprove of the way things are going, particularly among mortals who are trying to "cheat" him, and most of all those who use offensively crude methods, such as human sacrifice. Death's disapproval is cold enough to freeze helium. He can also become depressed when the service he tirelessly performs goes unappreciated.
He also has an intellectual fascination with Humanity, apparently because of their incessant efforts to swim against the current of Time - not just avoiding him personally, but building tombs for those who can least appreciate them, exploring distant places for no special reason other than They Are There, writing poetry, worrying about the fundamental structure of a possibly unknowable Universe, making war, and making more humans to carry on. His study of these things, has led to certain acquired preferences that might be considered human: he likes cats, and curry, though it is unnecessary for him to eat. He has created a house and garden, which contain structures that imitate human ones - a furnished bedroom and bathroom, for instance, though he has no need of either; it just seems to him that a proper house ought to have them.
Death is fundamentally uncreative; he can only imitate what he has seen. This accounts for his lack of artistic sense. He has tried to learn music (the banjo in particular), but with poor results. He can dance, rather well; the "Dance of Death" is sometimes mentioned in human myth, and he usually lives up to his image.
Still, his job is to manage life's endings, not to obliterate it, and human belief gives him a near-human aspect. That is why he finds himself in opposition to the Auditors of Reality; compared to them, he is a close ally of humanity and of life in general.
Death's powers are not finite, but they are limited; he is obliged to play by the rules, although no-one but him really knows what they are. He could be considered to have limited, almost human characteristics in his skeletal guise - say, ST 15, DX 15, and IQ 11, and 20 hit points of damage from some appropriate source could dismantle him (although he would promptly start re-assembling himself, completing the process in 2d seconds). However, when he is obliged to use some ability or aspect of his myth, he is usually infallible; if narrative logic suggests that he should have a tiny chance of error, or degrees of possible success, treat him as having skill 20. When he is playing by some rule that says he should have a meaningful chance of failure, his effective roll for any task becomes 15. In his private life, he tends to operate at the appropriate characteristic level.
He can go anywhere that something can die, which is to say, pretty well anywhere. The fact that he may choose to walk up a flight of stairs, rather than simply "teleporting" to the client, is a dramatic choice rather than a practical requirement. (The choice, however, is much more mortals' than Death's; he rather dislikes drama, but always meets reasonable expectations.)
It should be apparent, given the number of times a day he is called on to make collections, that Time operates differently for Death than for others.
There has been speculation that Death might be killed by his own weapons, or by those of another Death, but whether this is would in fact be "dying" or something wholly else is difficult to say. Trying to get hold of Death's own scythe to test the concept is the kind of thing heroes often set out to do, three or four chapters before the abrupt denouement, but it cannot be recommended. Death can be summoned and temporarily bound by the Rite of AshkEnte (see p. 150), but this is a matter of accepted myth and convention, an invitation he feels obliged to accept. Mostly, magic has no effect on him, and he slightly dislikes it, perhaps because he has seen its worst consequences.
Given that space and even Time are largely an irrelevance to Death, it would be possible to assume that some of the "side-visits" he is shown making in the chronicles actually happened at different times to the main events of the plot involved. He certainly finds human ideas of reality a little hard to grasp, which is why, for example, his house is bigger inside than out, and fixed distances seem to be strictly optional there.
From Chapter 10: Suicidally Gloomy When Sober, Homicidally Insane When Drunk
ST 9, DX 12, IQ 12, HT 10
Speed 5.5, Move 7 (running)
Dodge 7 (Enhanced and w/Combat Reflexes)
Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Danger Sense; Disease-Resistant; Fully Literate; Language Talent +5; Magery 1; Enhanced Dodge; Extraordinary Luck; Secret Patron: The Lady; Reputation: as a "Great Wizard" in the Agatean Empire, +3.
Disadvantages: Compulsive Behaviour: Insists he's a wizard, even when this is dangerous; Cowardice; Incompetence (Thaumatology); Involuntary Duty to The Lady; Laziness; Magical Incompetence; Reputation: a walking disaster area with That Luggage, among UU senior faculty, -2; Skinny; Struggling.
Quirks: Likes boredom; Never trusts strangers who are being nice to him; Non-smoker (unusual in a wizard); Sentimental about Ankh-Morpork; Sometimes tries to talk sense to people when he can see it's pointless; Occasion-ally does the Right Thing when all else fails.
Skills: Brawling-12; Carousing-9; Fast-Talk-12; Research-11; Shouting at Foreigners (Specialises in Screaming and Begging for Mercy)-11 (17 with speciality); Streetwise-11; Survival (Island)-12; Running-12.
Languages: Ankhian-17; numerous others. (If Rincewind arrives in a place, he usually knows the local language.)
Rincewind started out as a student at Unseen University, but although he possessed "Octarine Vision," supposedly implying some magical ability, he proved singularly incompetent at both the theory and practice of magic. After several years of study in which he learned virtually nothing, Rincewind opened the Octavo (see p. 115) on an unwise bet, and one of its incomparably powerful spells impressed itself upon his mind. Not, however, upon his consciousness; nobody, least of all Rincewind, knew what the spell did. For this, he was expelled from the University. He then took to exploiting his genuine talent for languages in the shadiest parts of Ankh-Morpork that weren't obviously dangerous.
Since then, he has suffered more adventures than anyone could ever expect (and certainly far more than he wanted). He became guide to the Disc's first serious tourist, fell off the edge of the Disc, discovered that the great spell was actually using his brain as a hiding-place, assisted in the defeat of a Sourcerer, travelled to the Dungeon Dimensions, through time, and to Hell, and went cheerfully insane on a desert island. Recently, he accidentally assisted a revolution in the Agatean Empire (having a ridiculously inflated reputation there as a "Great Wizzard" thanks to Twoflower's memoirs), before being magically transported to the continent of EcksEcksEcksEcks.
None of this was voluntary. Rincewind hates excitement. The closest thing he has to a truly useful supernatural ability is a sense of danger, coupled with long enough legs to try and put it behind him.(1) Unfortunately, the metaphysics of the Discworld guarantee that someone with so little interest in crisis situations will find himself endlessly at the centre of them. He is possibly the most widely travelled person on the Disc - excepting, of course, Death, whose country he has also visited. (Death knows him by sight, but the sight Death usually sees is the back of his retreating head.) He is in fact a favourite pawn of The Lady (p. 163), who never sacrifices a pawn if she can help it - but he is still a pawn.
Rincewind is tall and scrawny, with an attempt at a beard. He wears a dark red robe with imperfectly embroidered magical symbols; it is badly worn and not very clean. He also wears a pointy hat with a star on top and the word WIZZARD in crooked letters. When he can get hold of one, he bears the octagonal bronze pendant of an Unseen University graduate, though he never actually graduated. He is emotionally convinced that he is a wizard, despite being fully aware of his own incompetence. This could get him into serious trouble under university regulations, but he has now performed certain services for the University which he was promised would earn him an honorary qualification.
For some time, he owned (or at least, was accompanied by) the most lethally malicious Sapient Pearwood Luggage in the history of Agatean carpentry; it is unclear whether it is still following him, or whether it has settled down romantically since it got back to the Counterweight Continent.
Given his history, Rincewind might turn up anyplace, anytime. If encountered by PCs, he will do his level best not to share whatever trouble they are trying to get into. If there is no option, he will lend what assistance he can,(2) but use any excuse to get away, unless the situation really does seem to be Disc-threatening, in which case he may get confused and behave admirably. In a campaign, he is best used as a source of comic relief, a one-time magus ex machina, or a source of down-at-heel common sense when the PCs are making things too complicated. Although he lacks either magical skill or a proper theoretical understanding of the topic, he has spent long enough at UU to recognise some common magical phenomena and artefacts, which is sometimes useful. (Though mostly it means that he knows what to be most frightened of.)
(1) His "Combat Reflexes" are not combat-oriented at all; they simply reflect his instinctive capacity for reacting to danger fast. He fights, if he must, in a frenzy of fists and knees, with no technique whatsoever.
(2) Not usually much, although the Luggage can complicate matters.