GURPS Fourth Edition Frequently Asked Questions
Note: This is an old page from the earliest days of GURPS Fourth Edition. The actual, current GURPS Fourth Edition FAQ can be found here.
Q. When will my FLGS be able to order the Basic Set, Fourth Edition?
A. Right now! The books are shipping to distributors, and your retailer should get them any day now.
Q. Will they also be available through Warehouse 23?
A. Just as with any other SJ Games release, it will be available on W23 – though we encourage you to check out your local game store first.
Q. How much will the Basic Set cost?
A. We've priced Volume 1 (336 pages) at $39.95 and Volume 2 (240 pages) at $34.95.
Q. What's included in each volume of the Basic Set?
A. Volume 1 includes all the character-related rules from Basic Set, Third Edition Revised and Compendium I. This covers the complete lists of advantages, disadvantages, and skills, basic rules for skill and template use, as well as a combat primer. Volume 2 includes all the rules for running the game and creating game worlds from Basic Set, Third Edition Revised and Compendium II. This covers expanded combat options and skill feats, as well as template creation. In both volumes, we have eliminated conflicts and redundancy, and used the space that we freed up to add new material.
Q. How tightly integrated is the core setting going to be?
A. It will be completely optional. If you choose to ignore it, all of the Basic Set remains useful except for the one chapter that presents the setting. You will not be tripping over core setting references whenever you try to use the game! GURPS remains generic. It's just that it now comes with one setting (or meta-setting, if you will) instead of zero, like it used to.
Q. Why would a new gamer buy Fourth Edition – especially if he rejected the Third Edition?
A. Mainly because the rules absolutely required to play the game are more streamlined. Extra detail is available, but it's set aside and more clearly marked "optional." This makes the game more accessible to gamers previously scared off by GURPS' level of detail. And for those who thought GURPS wasn't detailed enough, we have added more detail . . . but it's all optional, so we don't break our promise to new gamers. Finally, there is a lot more practical advice in Fourth Edition, for players and GMs alike. It isn't just rules!
Q. Will Fourth Edition be compatible with Third Edition?
A. During character creation, you will see all the usual options and abilities, but many costs have been changed – either to make the game fairer or to simplify character generation. Thus, you will be able to recreate Third Edition characters quickly, but you will sometimes end up with different point costs. In game play, success rolls, the combat model, etc. remain the same, so if you know Third Edition, you will be able to jump right in. In both cases, many mechanics have changed, but only in order to streamline things, balance the game better, or offer popularly requested options.
Q. What about my Third Edition library? Will I be able to use it mostly, some, or not at all?
A. Worldbooks and other supplements that feature settings will be fine, save for the few pages of rules that such books include. Genre books (such as Cyberpunk and Space) will be fine for the non-rules sections (which, in many cases, is 75% or more of the book!). Rulebooks (like Magic and Vehicles) will be mostly obsolete. Sorry about that, but it would not make sense to update only some of the rules if we're doing a whole new edition!
Q. Will you be releasing Fourth Edition versions of some or all of the Third Edition books?
A. We will be revising rulebooks (and some genre books) for sure, because we are making the Third Edition versions obsolete. We will not be revising worldbooks (Atlantis, Mars, Vikings, etc.) for the most part, because they do not contain enough rules to justify a new edition.
Q. Which Third Edition books are easy to use with the Fourth Edition, and still available?
A. See this ludography for a more detailed list of Third Edition books that are easy to use with GURPS Fourth Edition – and still in print.
Q. Will the various PBG games and lines – Hellboy, Transhuman Space, Traveller, WWII, etc. – get updated core books?
A. We are talking about each of them individually, and will announce the fate of each one at a later date. (The exception is Traveller; we've already announced that GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars will be a Fourth Edition release in early 2005.) The initial reception of Fourth Edition will play a large role in the final decision – and of course some of these settings are licensed, which adds its own twist.
Q. Will there be a GURPS Lite for Fourth Edition?
Q. Will there be some sort of conversion guide?
A. Absolutely. You can download the Third-to-Fourth Edition GURPS Update PDF here, but it shouldn't be confused with the book of the same title that allowed Second Edition players to "patch" their game into Third Edition. The changes required for GURPS Fourth Edition are too sweeping to allow for such a book. A copy of GURPS Update will also be included in the new Fourth Edition GURPS GM's Screen, coming in Septermber 2004.
Q. Will there be a GCB for Fourth Edition? If so, will it be a patch, a free upgrade, or an entirely new version I have to buy?
A. There will, at some point, be a GCB for Fourth Edition. We're currently talking to some programmers. It will probably be a whole new piece of software. Other than that, details are hazy just now.
Q. At what point will Third Edition articles no longer be accepted to Pyramid and JTAS?
A. We aren't planning a hard-and-fast cut-off for either zine. Most likely, we'll start tapering off Third Edition articles when the Fourth Edition debuts, but we expect to continue to see Third Edition (or cross-statted) articles well into the fall. JTAS may well support it longer, given the number of Traveller books written for Third Edition.
Q. What will Fourth Edition supplements look like?
A. Our plan is to have almost exclusively full-color hardbacks for GURPS Fourth Edition. Most will be 200 pages or more. Pricing is still up in the air a bit.
Q. What are your plans for updating [specific book]?
A. If we haven't announced specific plans, we aren't ready to discuss them in detail. We've scheduled books up through 2006, and several of them are updates of Third Edition favorites . . . but we would tempt the gods of bad karma to announce release dates more than two years ahead of schedule. Any book that we've explicitly said is outdated by Fourth Edition is on our master schedule, but we aren't ready to announce precise dates. Yet.
Q. How can I write a Fourth Edition book?
A. We've been assigning full-length Fourth Edition books to writers, rather than posting solicitations, because there are certain people we want on certain topics. We are always looking for new authors; right now, the best ways to get noticed are to write something for Pyramid or JTAS, to submit a proposal to e23, or to contribute so usefully to playtesting that the authors notice you and ask for your help on future projects. (With fewer books than before, that last route is harder . . . but it's still there. Several current Fourth Edition authors first got recognized for playtesting accomplishments.)
Q. Will there be foreign translations of Fourth Edition books?
A. Undoubtedly. It's just a matter of talking to our existing licensees, or finding new publishers, for each language. (Many fans write and ask us if they can self-produce translations for whatever language they happen to speak. Normally, we have to say no, because that can close us off of any actual publication deals that may arise later. We wish we could accommodate these requests.)
Q. What are the new technology rules in Fourth Edition?
A. Too early to go into them in detail, but we have revised the Tech Level system. We're still in TL8, but it started earlier than it did in Third Edition (and TLs are now open-ended, to allow GMs to phase out old tech at their own rates – some people in 2004 still don't have PDAs, cell phones, or even microwave ovens, after all!). Rather than define all the way up to TL16, we've stopped with TL12, since past about TL9 or 10, it's arbitrary anyway. We've also defined some technology as explicitly "superscience," and not tied it to a tech level at all – since it relies on contrafactual science, you can't realistically put it on the same axis.
Q. What about divergent TLs, such as the TL(5+1) of Steampunk?
A. They're now (an optional) part of the core rules.
Q. Does Fourth Edition have the same four attributes?
Q. Do they cost the same?
A. No. Attributes now cost the same for every step, up or down. DX and IQ cost more than ST and HT.
Q. Did you switch hit points (to ST) and fatigue (to HT)?
Q. Are there still cost breaks for certain attribute values in racial templates?
A. No. ST 14 is ST 14, no matter how you get there.
Q. Are Will and Perception still based off of IQ?
A. Yes, although now both of them are independently modifiable.
Q. Are there still mental and physical skills?
A. No. All skills use the same chart, and different difficulties are just shifts up or down on that chart. Skills are based off of specific attributes (most often DX or IQ, but some use Will, Perception, or (rarely) ST or HT). There's also support for basing skill rolls off of different attributes (for instance, an IQ-based roll on Guns (Pistol) to identify a specific make of revolver) or off no attributes at all.
Q. Do the core rules support enhancements and limitations?
A. You betcha.
Q. How have the combat and injury rules changed?
A. Significantly . . . which is all we want to say for now.
Q. How have the psionics rules changed?
A. Significantly . . . which is all we want to say for now.
Q. Did you fix the supers rules? Finally?
A. Yes. Finally. You'll see how . . . later.
Q. How have the language and literacy rules changed?
A. Languages now behave more like leveled advantages; we'll talk about the precise details later. Literacy is simply one's written fluency with a given language.
Q. Have you put maneuvers into the core rules?
A. Yes, although we're now calling them "techniques." There are both combat and non-combat techniques in the Basic Set, and we're encouraging authors to create more.
Q. Does GURPS Fourth Edition use metric?
A. Mais non.
Q. Are templates now fully supported in Fourth Edition?
A. What, they weren't in Third? Yes, they are fully supported – but still optional. Any GM or player who wants to ignore them is welcome to do so, with our blessing. In fact, it's easier to ignore them in Fourth Edition, because a character built from a template and a character built from scratch with identical stats are indistinguishable.
Q. How have Skills changed?
A. The big picture hasn't changed much. They still:
- are based on attributes.
- are purchased relative to an attribute, using points.
- come in levels.
- involve a 3d roll for success.
- take modifiers in use.
- have defaults, for those too cheap to buy skills.
But many changes exist.
- The skills costs refer to the same table, regardless of the attribute the skill is based on.
- The costs "plateau" at 4 points per level.
- Skills can "float." They're based on one attribute, but the GM can require rolls as if they were based on any attribute . . . or even a flat base, like 10.
- The modifiers for task difficulty have been formalized, and we've spelled out what "routine" and "adventuring" tasks are.
- Skills that used to provide a bonus for a fraction of the skill level don't work like that any more. You now have to buy a skill up above its controlling attribute to actually see a bonus.
- The skill list has been trimmed. We combined very similar skills, and tossed stupid ones (Uttering of Base Coin, for example). We also added a few. For instance, an Observation skill was added for spies, and a Search skill to counter Holdout.
Q. Can you tell us something about how difficulty levels and margins of success work in Fourth Edition?
A. We have greatly cleaned up the scattered modifiers for difficulty and unified them in a few lists: one for equipment quality, another for basic task difficulty, another for time taken, and so on. We've also clarified the winning/losing conditions for Contests, and several corner cases that were left undefined in Third Edition. Margin of success doesn't really have a special treatment per se, but it's clearly defined and given a name (margin of success), and how it works in Quick Contests is a little clearer.
Q. What's the practical difference between a social science (say, sociology) and an Expert skill?
A. The difference is that we've cooked social sciences in GURPS to have applications. Psychology is really about mind control, out-thinking psychos, and predicting what people will do. Sociology is about the same, but for societies. And neither is the classroom subject. This is GURPS' adventure game-nature shining through, once again. We worked hard to give skill applications on adventures in Fourth Edition. The ones that lack those things . . . they're mostly gone, or explicitly sealed off in compartments.
Q. What would the skills taught in classes be then?
A. All skills in Fourth Edition have the option of allowing a classroom-type skill for those who want it. For Psychology, this would be the difference between running rats in mazes and knowing how orcs are likely to react to you tossing a dead rat at them.
Q. Can you speak of the fate of Judo, Sumo, Wrestling, and the typical DX roll for grappling?
A. We've left those skills in for tricky breaking and throwing (Judo), brutal slamming and smashing (Sumo), and meat-and-potatoes grabbing and pinning (Wrestling). Apologies to those who'd prefer Scientific Grappling, Slamming, and Basic Grappling, but we feel the real-world names are more evocative.
Q. Would a football player buy sumo, then?
A. A football player could, certainly, but most characters will use the Sports skills to fill in for specific sports-related violence.
Q. What skill would you use for the memetics rules in Toxic Memes?
A. Any number of skills would fit, depending on what you want to accomplish, but Psychology or Propaganda will be the most common.
Q. Are the crunchy bits in Swashbucklers (fencing styles and maneuvers, cinematic combat rules, optional rules for realistic fencing) now incorporated into what is in Basic, or will they be saved for the eventual releases of Martial Arts?
A. The armed-combat styles and rules will wait for Martial Arts, which will definitely focus equally on armed and unarmed combat. However, Basic Set does include fencing skills, a few related techniques, and enough special combat rules for fencers that you can do two-rapier fighters, fancy feints, and multiple attacks/parries.
Q. How about the abstract ship combat rules?
A. Basic Set includes a chapter on artifacts – from vehicles to computers to magic swords to alien gadgets – and there is a simple combat system for vehicles there. Detailed vehicle combat will be compatible with this, but appear in Vehicles.
Q. Will all skills be learned at the same speed?
A. All skills are learned at X hours/point, but X varies depending on the way you're learning . . . X is smaller for those strapped to chairs and programmed than for those reading Nuclear Physics for Idjits. Skills still have difficulties. Swimming is Easy. Physics is Very Hard. Those first few points in Swimming sure are more useful. Still, it takes time to become Ian Thorpe, just as it takes time to become Enrico Fermi.
Q. In the Pyramid article about Bang! skills, we can see a Smallsword skill. What does it cover?
A. In keeping with the last couple of editions of Swashbucklers, we've done away with a single Fencing skill and created separate skills for each distinct "fencing" weapon. Smallsword is for short, fast-moving swords and single sticks used almost exactly the same way.
Q. Is the Katana skill gone?
A. Katana skill is gone. RIP. It now uses Broadsword or Two-Handed Sword. Oh, and all these sword skills default nicely to one another.
Q. How do skills work in the context of the new TL system?
A. Skills are available at whatever TL the GM wants them to be. We're not saying "Physics/TL1 doesn't exist" because that's setting-specific. The scientific method could appear as a philosophical movement in a TL1 society and give you Physics/TL1, although it probably won't be useful for much. Where skills have real game effects tied to TL, this is clear for all TLs. Surgery/TL1 . . . well, it's not really safe. But it exists!
Q. Will there be guidelines somewhere for Historical settings?
A. To a limited extent, yes. We've suggested TLs and alternate TL rules for specific genres and settings.
Q. Do you get any benefit from the level in a skill, or is it still just the actual score that counts? Is there any benefit to having more levels in a skill than someone else who has fewer levels but has it at the same score, due to a higher attribute?
A. It is definitely a good idea to raise a skill above your attribute now, for two reasons at least:
- All skill-related bonuses are calculated from relative skill. Karate doesn't give 1/5 skill as damage . . . it gives a bonus based on buying a specific level relative to DX.
- The GM can float skills and require rolls on other attributes. A guy with DX 15, IQ 9, and Karate-15 has DX+0 level, which is fine in a fight. But if the GM decides he needs to resist a tricky feint with IQ . . . IQ+0 = 9. There are other, specific cases where high skill relative to attribute is very useful as well.
Q. Are there any changes in how spells/ritual magic/alchemy fit into the skill system?
A. Not really. All those things are just skills. Difficulties might change some, as may some defaults, but not in any fundamental, earth-shattering way. The one change that will matter is this: "Prerequisite" now means you have 1 point in a skill, not a magic level like "12." So although wizards are paying 4 points/level for spells, they can just drop 1 point in any spell to get it as a prerequisite. This makes IQ 10 wizards plausible.
Q. The "Defaulting to Other Skills" and "Improving Skills with Defaults" rules are changed? (These two rules doesn't make harder for beginners to calculate his skill levels?)
A. Those rules are optional. They were optional in Third Edition and remain so in Fourth Edition. So they don't make anything harder for anyone who chooses to ignore them. But the rules do remain, more or less. I tried to clean up the explanations some, but those who want to do the math to save 3 points out of 60 points in skills get to keep their 3 points in return for doing the work. Those who choose to ignore it . . . well, 3 points won't kill them. And nice GMs can always just let newbies have the points, or do the math for the newbies, or . . .But lots and lots of writers and gamers really like those rules, because they're fairly realistic and let people who are really good at important key skills actually get a bit more bang for the buck.
Q. Will Fourth Edition encourage hundreds of new skills added in things like worldbooks and Pyramid articles, or will virtually all the skills be in Basic?
A. It will be hard for a writer to justify a new skill. Basic Set Fourth Edition has all the Third Edition skills from Basic Set and Compendium I, the best ones from our worldbooks, and a few missing ones. Well, not quite all of them. No Starglazing, and no Uttering of Base Coin. But you get Forced Entry skill and Counterfeiting skill, which are more generic, more useful, and not totally mysterious outside Georgian England games. Plus, we've beefed up Hobby, Professional, and Sports skills a bit to take up slack, and added Expert Skills, too – all of which are user-defined.
Q. Are the optional skill rules (firearm familiarity, skill degradation, languages) from Compendium I incorporated into Basic Set Fourth Edition?
A. Familiarity is still with us, reworded a bit for clarity, and does extend to firearms (although there are fewer specialties of Guns, now). Skill degradation is there as an optional rule. Very optional, as most people hate that level of record keeping. Languages aren't skills any more, so those rules were omitted.
Q. Is Light Automatic is now a Technique based off of Rifle?
A. Light Automatic isn't a skill at all, now. Autofire has been revised, so those who use it will mostly spray and pray unless they're really good. But on the other hand, they won't miss often if they unleash enough lead. A few weapons that only fire auto, or rarely fire otherwise, get their own specialties. I had issues with the same skill governing GPMGs and hunting rifles, so there are definitely different Rifle and MG skills.
Q. Skill bonuses depend on how many levels you have over the controlling attribute. Does it mean attributes only affect the success rolls of skills?
A. That's all attributes ever affected, really, except for the little bug about skill/5, skill/8, skill/10 giving bonuses. If you have IQ 14 and IQ+2 level in Mathematics, you'll still list Mathematics-16. But remember that it's really Mathematics IQ+2, and when the GM asks for a roll against 10 + relative skill level to see what the university dean thinks of your experience with math rather than your skill at it, you'll roll against 12.
Q. Does the guideline limiting characters to age x 2 skill points at creation remain?
A. No, that rule is gone. Mostly, people hated it. And furthermore, it totally prevented someone from spending 40 points on Mathematics and saying "I didn't study. I was a born mathematical wizard." At, say, age 10. This might or might not be realistic, but it's the kind of thing that shows up frequently in fiction.
Q. Is there enough martial arts skills and techniques in Basic Set Fourth Edition, for me to convert a martial arts character to Fourth Edition?
A. I'll be honest and say "iffy." Basic Set Fourth Edition can't give you all of what you needed Magic, Martial Arts, Psionics, Supers, and so on for in Third Edition. It's two books, not twenty. So it has to stay really basic on spells, psi powers, and secret kung fu moves. Of course, those topics deserve books of their own, and we'll announce them as soon as possible.
Q. One of the things that made combat skills a bit pricey in Third Edition was not just the 8 points/level cost, but the amount of skill you need to offset hit location penalties. Have these been altered/lowered/rationalized?
A. No. You can now get Broadsword at almost half price, so if you want to hit the neck, don't be cheap . . . spend a few points. Unskilled fighters can go All-Out for +4 if they really need to hit something painful. In reality, bad fighters getting that precise are so focused on maiming that they're wide open.
Q. Can you tell us anything about psionic skills are handled?
A. If they existed, I could. Since they don't, it'll have to wait for another chat. How's that?
Q. Are there still skills that give 1/2 or 2/3 parry, or is there a single formula?
A. The question is valid, since in glowing letters in the "Skills" chapter it says this: "Your Parry defense is (skill/2) + 3, rounded down." That goes for all combat skills. There are advantages to certain skills . . .for instance, they may give added mobility, which ties into the new rules for retreating. And some weapons are better for parrying. Those factors replace the former 2/3 rule.
Q. Which medical skills made the cut?
A. The basic suite is still there: First Aid, Diagnosis, Physician, and Surgery. We added a Pharmacy skill with traditional and synthetic specialties, and a skill for esoteric medicine. Surgery is not "advanced doctoring" now – you can learn it without Physician, but it's not as useful then. On the other hand, Surgery is actually useful. There are rules for using it to fix maimed people.
Q. What changes do you think might benefit historical games?
A. Historical games will benefit from a more rational system of TLs and the revised rules for language and culture.
Q. What changes might be bad for historicals?
A. Historical gamers might not like the overall nudge in the direction of larger-than-life fiction. Most gamers don't play games where you are a 25-point cobbler who get killed by King Louis' grenadiers in the revolution. So the emphasis is on 150-point Hollywood-actor cobblers who use secret unarmed fighting methods to beat up 20 guards.
Q. What does the Connoisseur skill do?
A. Connoisseur lets you look suave and cultured. It also lets you impress hoity-toity people and get better deals buying/selling whatever you're a connoisseur of. Think of it as Appreciate Beauty, but easier and useful.
Q. Do Third Edition characters really need to be converted?
A. Those who want to be official and have immediate, unfiltered access to new rules will want to convert. Those happy to use skill levels and attributes "as is" and ignore the point differences will be fine without converting, except for the places where Third Edition rules don't have Fourth Edition analogs.
Q. How do languages work now if they are not skills in the old sense?
A. Languages are advantages. They work by letting you speak/read/write. Usually, you don't roll for this, but if your comprehension isn't perfect, you'll have to roll vs. IQ or a skill – at a modifier – to communicate with others. Thus, having a language is largely qualitative – you do or you don't, although there are levels of this. Using a language depends on your smarts or training.
Q. How are languages priced?
A. Languages have four levels: None (0 points), Broken (2 points), Accented (4 points), and Native (6 points). Divide by two for spoken/written only.
Q. So what happens if I can't read my native language?
A. You have a disadvantage. Run those rules in reverse, basically.
Q. If I want to lift an extra large weight over my head, I strain to do it. Do I roll vs HT at a penalty to avoid getting hurt? Or something else?
A. Extra effort is Will-based. The roll to not injure yourself when you screw up is HT-based. So wimps with Will 20 and HT 8 can kill themselves exceptionally well by being too macho.
Q. What are Expert Skills?
A. In a nutshell, they're skills that give a character a smattering of many other skills without filling the character sheet up. They're for people who know specific bodies of theory that cut across other skills. They allow rolls for any of those skills when answering questions and making educated guesses, but they don't replace those skills in general. Like Talents, they let someone be good at a narrow area without spending tons of points on attributes. They're also closely associated with a niche. Together with Talents, these tools let you create heroes who have focused competency without huge attributes scores and reams of skills.
Q. Are Expert Skills good for things besides basically finding clues?
A. Actually, they're mostly not about finding clues. What they are good for is getting a roll to know vital information the GM might otherwise only allow to those with another skill . . . if the information is in your area. But of course the GM can let them do anything he likes. Truthfully, game balance is unlikely to be disrupted by high levels of Egyptology or Thanatology.
Q. If you float a skill to an experience base (that is, a base of 10), do Talents still add to the base?
A. Sure. They add to skills. It doesn't much matter what you base them on.
Q. Can you give us a practical example of how the Expert Skill of Computer Security would affect the hacking/security scenario – what rolls would be made?
A. Expert Skill (Computer Security) would – in some future cyber-stuff book with tons of hacking rules – be good for a bonus to actual hacking or counter-hacking attempts by revealing important factoids or interesting research developments, if the Expert (Computer Security) roll was successful. But it wouldn't let you do these things. It would just let you do the classic "I've heard the HAL 9000 has a particular weakness . . ." It's specific, expert knowledge of particular computer foibles in the game world. You could use the roll against the Expert Skill to identify weaknesses, thus negating (partially or in whole) situational penalties against the Computer Programming roll you're about to make. That's what Expert Skills will likely do in worldbooks: provide modest bonuses or offset penalties where knowing facts is a big modifier to another skill.
Q. What would be invalid Expert Skills?
A. Well, that'd be up to the GM. But as a rule, if it's mostly about breaking/fixing/hitting things, or running actual tests or experiments, or otherwise doing something that involves more contact with the real world than books or a net search, it's iffy.
Q. How do Expert Skills compare to Hidden Lore?
A. Hidden Lore is explicitly the skill of knowing stuff that no other skill covers. It's the skill of knowing things in the interstices between skills. Expert Skill is explicitly the skill of knowing stuff that many other skills cover . . . a little bit. It's the skill of knowing things in the intersections between skills. Expert Skills represent an alternative basis set, for the mathematically minded out there. Hidden Lore represents a totally different space . . . But lots of bearded experts will have both kinds of skills in some fantasy/horror settings.
Q. Is there any equivalent to Expert for applied skills?
A. Well, GURPS is an adventure game, and being an adventure game, its skill list is heavily, overwhelmingly, hopelessly biased toward application skills already. It's rare for a PC to need the kind of skill you're talking about, because there's usually some obscure application skill for such situations already.
Whereas GURPS has a very short list of theory skills, by comparison. Expert Skill covers a pure-theory deficit that isn't matched by a pure-application deficit on the other end of the spectrum. That said, GMs who wish to can read Professional Skills in that way (for instance, the Soldier skill in Third Edition's WWII.)
Q. Can you give an example of a skill dumped because of Expert?
A. Thanatology, Psionics, Hydrology, Xenology . . . Xenology is a good example, really. The Third Edition skill was basically "the skill to roll on when you'd normally use another skill, but aliens are involved."
Q. How, then, is an Expert Skill different from a Trivia Skill?
A. Well, for one thing, there's no such thing as a Trivia Skill in GURPS. But Expert Skill is more about useful facts than useless ones. Trivia – in common parlance, anyhow – consists of low-utility factoids. Nothing in Expert Skill claims the facts it encompasses aren't useful, or even game-changingly useful. Expert Skill just makes sure to say you can't be a book-read expert on military science and suddenly show up commanding an armored battalion.
Q. How do Hobby Skills compare to Expert Skills?
A. First, the knowledge side of Hobby Skills is mostly about trivia, as previously defined. Second, Hobby Skills have a practical side that lets you do things – keep angelfish alive, keep your stamps from drying out to dust, dress up like Spock, etc. The division is chiefly one of importance: Facts useful on adventures are Expert Skill-level facts. Factoids useful for defining your character are Hobby Skill-level factoids.
Q. So you could think of Expert, Hobby, and Professional Skills as a spectrum?
A. To be really practical and expose the guts for a minute: Hobby Skills, Professional Skills, and Expert Skills just give GMs three categories – one E, one A, and one H – into which to pitch crazy player-proposed knowledge for PCs. The difference is "it's trivia" (Easy, a Hobby Skill), "it's enough to get a job" (Average, a Professional Skill), "it's enough to make me a famous world authority" (Hard, an Expert Skill).
Q. What are Talents?
A. Talents are basically group skill bonuses, similar to those for nonhuman species in Third Edition, but for individuals. Talents add to groups of skills, regardless of what attributes the skills use, a lot like Language Talent and Musical Ability did in Third Edition. But they also do two other cool things. First, they make it easier to buy up skills through study in play. They knock 10% off the needed study time per level. So if you have +2 in some Talent, you learn the skills it affects in 80% the usual time. In a continuing campaign, this means talented types will improve their skills more quickly, which is sort of how talent works in real life. Second, they give you a reaction bonus equal to their level. This affects those who'd be impressed. The "why" of this depends on the Talent, but basically, it's about coming across as a natural . . . or inspired . . . or just trustworthy. So a Talent is good for those with tight character concepts that involve lots of related skills – skills they plan to increase regularly in play – and who want to impress the NPCs with their skills. In a way, they help with niche protection.
You can see the details (and a preview of the Fourth Edition layout) here.
Q. Will talents have any effect on defaulted skills?
A. Yes, they apply to bought or default skills equally. If you have a talent for healing, you're going to be better at both default First Aid and trained Physician.
Q. Are there any skills that Talents don't apply to?
A. The canonical Talents in Basic Set don't apply to any Expert, Professional, or Hobby skills . . . but that's mostly a fluke. It wasn't by design. The GM who wants to invent Dweeb Talent and have it apply to Expert Skill (Geeky Stuff) and Hobby (Star Trek) is certainly free to do it. Combat/Weapon skills are verboten. That's unabashedly for game-balance reasons. The worst munchkins and tweakers go after combat efficiency. After lots of careful thought, we decided we didn't need to be tossing bones to abusive players like that.
Q. What about Combat/Weapon Art skills? Are they considered Combat/Weapon skills?
A. That depends on the setting, really. I could see a GM allowing Sports Talent and tossing in Combat/Weapon Sport skills. The -3 default will largely dilute the utility of Talent in a situation like that.
Q. Is Magery now a Talent costing 15 points per level (for more than 13 skills)?
A. Magery is basically a Talent, but it's 10 points/level for historical reasons. Those who find that evil can take solace in the fact that the need for mana rather curbs the usefulness of Magery. Also, Magery doesn't have the reaction-bonus effects of other Talents.
Q. Also, will the published Talent rules for Basic include rules and/or guidelines for GM-created talents?
A. The Talents rules in Fourth Edition include a simple system for pricing any kind of Talent. Even the ones we think are a bad idea.
Q. How do you answer the argument that IQ 10; Foo-13 should be more impressive (and thus get a bigger reaction bonus) than IQ 10; Talent 2; Foo-13?
A. It's about how you do Foo. Someone who does it as second nature, or in an empathetic or inspired way, is going to inspire confidence or admiration in a way that doing it in a clinical way won't. The entire point of Talent is that those who have it are qualitatively different from those who are quantitatively the same. It isn't just 'some bundled stuff for saving points.'
Q. So the Talent skill bonus goes beyond "competence and familiarity" into "wow, they made that look easy and beautiful"?
A. Yes. Fundamentally, this is a way for GMs to reward focused PCs over Jack-of-all-trades types with no clear focus at all. Having IQ 15 and 1 point in some Hard skill for level 13 won't be as "good" as having IQ 11 and 1 point in that skill, but Talent +4.
Q. Are there circumstances where a Talent wouldn't be added to a skill roll?
A. No. I wanted Talents to be at best better than, and at worst as good as, getting a given skill level some other way. Again, it's about rewarding concept, not hosing it.
Q. Will a Talent from a lower TL apply to a skill from a higher TL?
A. TL has nothing to do with it. Talents aren't skills. They're innate predispositions toward certain endeavors. If you have a mind of craftsmanship, you have a mind for it, no matter your technology.
Q. Does Talent replace some of the meta-skills that gave bonuses to other skills or were otherwise a bit odd, like Memetics (Transhuman Space) or Memex (Weird War)?
A. No explicit thought went into that, to be honest. But we decided Memetics was fairly bogus as a skill in Fourth Edition. Even David agreed, and he invented it. So you could say we canned that on purpose, and yes, I guess a GM could reinvent it as a Talent.
Q. Certain skills, i.e. Savoir-Faire (IQ), Sex Appeal (HT) and Leadership (ST) could be considered personality-based skills if there were a charisma attribute. Is there anything in the new system that might group things like these together or would that be in the realm of house rules?
A. That's what Talent is for. A low-IQ type with the right Talent can ace all those skills and get other bonuses besides.
Q. What are techniques?
A. These are maneuvers, rebuilt. In a nutshell, they let you buy off skill penalties for specific tasks and uses. Usually, you cannot go above the skill they're based on.
Q. Do techniques sound the death knell for skill specializations?
A. No, definitely not. Specialties are areas of knowledge. Techniques are uses. The knowing and using aspects of skills are different axes. I could have Chemistry (Organic) or Chemistry (Inorganic) as specialties, but either might let me use the Analysis technique.
Q. Will there be a maximum level set for techniques or will they be as open-ended as skills?
A. Most maneuvers in Third Edition were capped, and almost all will be in Fourth Edition. Some can go to prerequisite skill, others to skill+2, others to skill+4, and so on. The decision was made empirically: Could I find a real-world example?
Q. Will it be hard for writers to justify creating new techniques?
A. On the contrary, techniques – along with new Expert Skills, new meta-traits, new enhancements/limitations to advantages, and such – are in the 'Go nuts!' category for writers. Basically, if something leverages an existing skill or advantage, writers will be encouraged to create it. Especially if the alternative is inventing a whole new trait.
Q. Can you tell us the exact cost table for techniques? Are there different levels of difficulty for techniques?
A. Average techniques cost 1 point for each +1 above the default level. Hard techniques cost an additional point. So, a Hard technique at Default+2 would cost 3 points.
Q. Will there be new editions of older licensed properties like Wild Cards, Callahan's etc?
A. Mostly not, largely because we don't have the rights to publish those books again. But if rights-holders want to talk to us about new versions, we'll certainly talk to them.
Q. Is Infinite Worlds a time travel/alternate world genre book or a setting?
A. Infinite Worlds is a setting. The book Infinite Worlds is about that setting but also covers the genres of time- and world-travel.
Q. Will there be a Fourth Edition Bio-Tech?
A. Almost certainly, but as we don't traditionally comment on unannounced books, that's as definite as we'll get at the moment.
Q. What was the reasoning on switching influence attempts from a Contest to a Quick Contest?
A. Influence attempts in Third Edition were always meant to be Quick Contests, and are treated that way in many supplements and optional rules. So all we really did was clarify something that wasn't too clear in Third Edition. We changed nothing.
Q. Why was Appearance priced differently from the other reaction modifiers (4 points per +1 instead of 5 points per +1)?
A. Because it has two implicit limitations: 1) only your species, or one a lot like it, and 2) only people who can see you. Overall, we felt that made it less useful, especially next to, say, Charisma (which is universal) or Voice (which is almost universal, and which works even if you're behind a curtain or on the phone, and which gives nice skill bonuses).
Q. Can you explain the shotgun damage? It looks like it needs autofire rules that aren't there.
A. All the guns with a RoF greater than one use special rules that aren't there. In GURPS Lite, though, you can roll an attack for each shot and pretend that's good enough. Shotguns fire 2 shots. Each means 9 hits with the listed damage. On unarmored people, that's 9 x 1d+1 x 1/2 for small piercing. Or a little deadlier than the old Third Edition shotgun: 20 vs. 14 points.
Q. Will there be rules for different shot types in regular Fourth Edition? GURPS Lite looks like it works for buckshot only.
A. HIGH-TECH will take that ball, not BASIC. But HIGH-TECH will do it. Hans-Christian Vortisch (author of GURPS Modern Firepower and GURPS Covert Ops) is involved. He knows his guns.
Q. Am I inferring correctly from GURPS Lite that Axes and other unbalanced hand weapons have been sped up? It looks as if you can attack without readying, but not attack and parry in the same turn.
Q. Will fencing weapons be given a defense bonus (like a shield) or will a technique (like improved Parry from GURPS Swashbucklers) be used to give fencing weapons a better parry?
A. First, there are now three classes of weapons in GURPS: ones that can attack and parry every turn, ones that can attack or parry every turn, and ones that can attack or parry every turn and become unready if they attack. This is after reading a lot of input on how axes are slow but not THAT slow. Swords are still better: cut and thrust both vs. just cut, and parry and attack vs. only one of the two. As for fencing weapons, they get two big bonuses. 1) You get a bigger bonus for retreat when you parry. That's cut to +1 from +3 for most weapons, but stays +3 for fencing weapons. So if you give ground, you can do that cool swashing stuff. But if you stand and pound, you cannot. 2) All weapons in Fourth Edition can parry multiple times, but this is easier for fencing weapons. But they pay for it in encumbrance penalties.
Q. What is the main purpose of GURPS Lite – running introductory games, or a quick rules reference for players?
A. It's meant as an introduction to GURPS, either for people who don't want the complexity of the full rules or for people who are new to the game. It provides a 32-page snapshot of some of the basic game concepts. The emphasis is on it being playable as it stands, not on it being a sampler for Third Edition fans trying to decide whether Fourth Edition is Evil or Good. Using GURPS Lite as a rules reference for the whole system – or taking it as the final word on what is and isn't in the Fourth Edition – would lead to problems. We simplified some rules for Lite where the full complexity wasn't appropriate, exactly as we did for the Third Edition version.
Q. Could you give a few examples of things you omitted to keep Lite simple?,br. A. Secondary attribute costs; Cultural Familiarity; skills based on other attributes; skill-to-skill defaults; rules for autofire and grappling; and most of the big lists of deadly hazards, weapons, advantages, etc.
Q. Where can I find GURPS Lite?
A. The newest version is available from our site: http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/lite/.
Q. So what's the story of GURPS Lite?
A. The short story is Scott Haring prepared it based on Sean Punch's original Third Edition version, then it was edited, then Steve and Sean read it and commented tons, and then it was edited more. So it was a collective effort. Despite a few errata, through, we're pretty proud of it. It was in demand, and we managed to beat GenCon by well over a month.
Q. Is this the same version of GURPS Lite that we will be seeing in any future versions of "Powered by GURPS" games now?
A. Answer hazy; ask again later.
Q. Can someone reasonably retrofit the new GURPS Lite onto "Powered by GURPS" games using the old GURPS Lite? Or is that a matter for the conversion guide?
A. The conversion guide is definitely needed (called Update, at the moment). Most likely, we'll do some conversions to better fit GURPS Lite onto whatever the "Powered by GURPS" in question is. We expect that most future such books will follow the Hellboy model, where the rules are largely integrated into the text.
Q. I presume GURPS Lite will be printed in monochrome, but why isn't the art presented in colour in the PDF version?
A. To keep the file size down. We're talking about increasing the size by a factor of 20.
Q. Would you consider making a GURPS Lite for the Campaigns book (current GURPS Lite would seem to be drawn from the Characters book) to assist novice GURPS GMs, maybe with a sample adventure as a worked example, showing how things interact and how rolls are adjudicated?
A. We talked about it briefly, but decided such a thing would be much harder to put together and wouldn't be as generally useful. A sample adventure isn't a bad idea, and I wouldn't be surprised to see one (or more) show up on the GURPS page in the next few months.
Q. Why was magic not included this time?
A. Because magic isn't generic. It's a lot of words to add that only pertain to a few genres.
Q. Any plans for tailored variations of GURPS Lite: Fantasy GURPS Lite, Ultra Tech GURPS Lite etc.?
A. Not in the immediate future, no. But it's an interesting idea. You won't be likely to see these until the relevant source books appear, in any case!
Q. Were interskill defaults left out of GURPS Lite because it was too complicated for such a compressed media, or left out of GURPS Lite because it got left out of Fourth Edition?
A. They were left out because GURPS Lite is meant to be stripped down. Skills will continue to default to skills in Fourth Edition. Indeed, with all the BASIC and COMPENDIUM I skills, we added more – and more logical – inter-skill defaults.
Q. The "-3" line is missing from the Speed/Range table. Is that an erratum or a secret?
A. It's a simplification. We wanted to make the table shorter. Nothing more sinister than that.
Q. It appears that Guns, Gunner, Vehicle skills, and Natural Sciences aren't /TL skills. Why drop the /TL from the others? Will this carry over to full GURPS?
A. In full GURPS, all those skills have /TL. But in GURPS Lite, the vehicle skills include Bicycling (which has no TL) and the missile skills include Bow (which has no TL). So we omitted the TL as being not entirely true. And anyhow, the TL penalties for physical skills are GREATLY relaxed in Fourth Edition, so the omission really produces only minor effects. I hasten to add that GURPS Lite for Third Edition did the same.
Q. Under Running and Swimming, Move is halved when you are at 1/3 FP or less. Under Fatigue, the effect applies when you are below 1/3 FP. Is this an errata, or am I looking at a special case? Can I assume the same for HP in such cases?
A. It's meant to apply at "Less than 1/3 your . . ." For FP or HP, it's when you fall below 1/3 your total that you hit problems. So for 12 FP, it's below 4, or 3 or less. For ordinary people with 10s, it's one and the same . . . 3.333 is 1/3, so it's 3 or less either way.
Q. Is PD/DB gone from all armor, or will there be special cases, like reflec armor for beam weapons?
A. PD is gone; the "why" will be answered in the Combat Chat.
Q. I noticed that jumping now seems to be based on Move rather than ST. Does this carry forward to the full package?
A. Yes, it does. The problem with ST-based jumping was pretty simple: small things with low ST couldn't jump to save their lives. This was because it wasn't ST:mass-based. Move-based jumping actually reality checks better without forcing us to handle ST:mass. And we don't want ST:mass in the game, because we want PCs to be able to choose weight as a 0-point feature to better aid characterization.
Q. Bonus points for unifying falling damage and collisions, but it seems a little low for Joe Gurps (a 75 yard fall averages 14 hits of damage).
A. GURPS Lite doesn't say to double damage from collisions with hard things. The sentence slipped out. Falls are twice as deadly as GURPS Lite suggests. But I'll say it here: when you collide with something immovable and hard, you double the damage. So that's 8d, and kinda bad. In the "shot by a sniper rifle" or "blown up with a grenade" sense of bad.
Q. With all skills having a cost ceiling of 4 points now, Charisma seems underpriced at 5 points per level (since it gives +1 to reaction and a host of skills) particularly when compared to the Smooth Operator talent (15 points). Is this an error?
A. Not at all, because the Talent affects more stuff. Charisma modifies 4 skills. It gives bonuses to some rolls, but not the skills. Smooth Operator modifies 14 skills, for all purposes.
Q. I anticipate lots of player confusion between Observation, Perception, Search, and sense rolls. It's clear to me, but not as obvious as it might be just from the skill names.
A. Perception rolls are Sense rolls. No worries there. Observation and Search pretty much explain what they do . . . and the Sense rolls rules in the GURPS Basic Set do mention that those skills are special cases.