This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14

WILLFUL WEAPONS: Intractable items, obstinate objects and other self-willed stuff, by Ken and Jo Walton

Author's Note:

Willful weapons were first developed for the forthcoming GURPS Celtic, since many such weapons are found in Irish and Welsh mythology. But after we developed these rules, we realized that their use need not be restricted to ancient iron age weapons. The rules here are an adaptation of a chapter of GURPS Celtic for those who want strange powerful weapons for campaigns in other genres. GURPS Celtic will also contain rules on how Sidhe smiths can make these weapons themselves. We would be interested in hearing of any interesting things you do with these rules, and particularly any new Powers, Greater and Lesser Gesas, etc. We can be contacted by e-mail:

I don't know what made me buy the Kalashnikov. I've never been particularly interested in guns. But when I saw it in the gunshop window, it seemed to call to me. The shop owner could tell me little about it, except that it was made in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. I paid for it there and then.

I got a warm feeling, just from carrying it. It made me feel good. I started going to a local gun club, just to have the chance to use it. And even though I'd never fired a gun before, it seemed I was a natural. But only with my own gun. No other gun seemed quite so comfortable in my hands, quite so comforting. And when I picked up my Kalashnikov again afterwards, I almost got the feeling it was jealous. Stupid, I know . . .

He'll be here soon. The stock of my gun feels warm beneath my hand on the car seat beside me. "Not long now," it seems to say. "You can do it."

And there he is. I can see him moving through the crowds, shaking hands, smiling. To think I actually voted for him! I never felt such hatred before. Or such a sense of purpose. But I'm not shaking. My hands are perfectly steady. I step from the car. I release the safety catch. That voice in my head again. "Kill him. Kill him." I wait, until he's near enough. But there are crowds in the way. "Kill him," the voice says, "Kill him."

I run forward, screaming, firing into the crowd wildly, because they're in the way, and I've got to kill him. And as he dies in a hail of bullets, I feel the one that's meant for me, the one from the bodyguard's gun, take me in the chest.

I lie in a pool of my own blood, and a warm feeling comes from my Kalashnikov, a feeling of a job well done, of a purpose achieved. And then it's gone, and I feel a sense of loss, as the guard takes the gun from me. I see him look at it, I see him stroke the stock. There's a look in his eye I remember too well . . .

As anybody who has ever kicked their car knows, an object does not need to be alive to have a personality. This personality develops over a period of time until at last the object wakes up and realizes that it has its own agenda. An object's personality can evolve in various ways. A magical weapon used in a High Mana area may come alive by absorbing magic from the ambient mana. The same applies to a "smart" weapon used in a datasphere. Or the aura and personality of a strong willed owner may impress themselves upon his much-used possessions so that they become self-aware and share their owner's preoccupations.

Monster This willful nature of objects need not be limited to weapons and armor. Consider Jane Austen's pen, or Hemingway's typewriter. These rules can be applied to any item that has been owned by a strong personality, or has been used for a long time for one purpose. In addition to the obvious (guns that want to kill), there may be less obvious but equally dangerous objects — for example a spade that will only dig graves. "Henry! Rosebushes don't need holes six feet deep and six feet long! You've ruined the lawn! Henry! Are you all right? What are you doing? No! Stop! No! Aaagghhh!!!" The possibilities are endless.

In an extreme case, it can be considered that all inanimate objects are some way along the road to waking up and becoming willful. In a world like this, any second- hand item may be extremely dangerous. Almost everyone may be under the control of something, and their motivations may not be what they think they are. "I needed a backpack for a two day trip in the Appalachians. I found this one in the Goodwill store. I headed out, oh, it must be ten years ago. I've never been home since. Never felt the urge — the far horizons were always calling to me." Characters, especially NPCs, may be completely unaware of their enslavement to their possessions.

These items are self aware, but not reasonable. They are often, but not always, malignant. Very often their special powers can only be used when certain enabling conditions are in place. In might be possible to own such an item for some time before accidentally fulfilling the conditions and discovering the complications. "I bought the old pipe in the junk shop in November. I cleaned it up and played the odd tune on it through the winter. Then one fine day in May my boyfriend suggested taking it to the park. As soon as I started to play I felt different. The only tune that would come out was 'Greensleeves.' And suddenly all the children started running towards me. I was terrified. I started to run away. But my fingers kept on playing the pipe; the crowds of happy, dancing children kept on following me. I don't know what would have happened if my boyfriend hadn't forcibly pulled the pipe away from me, but I was heading for the river. Nothing happens when I play it at home, but nothing will induce me to try it again out of doors!" These purposes and conditions are what make willful items more than just a gimmick. Power must always have its price.

The following rules concentrate on creating willful weapons for any tech level. But creative GMs and players will be able to think of ways to warp these rules to cover everything from yo-yos to skyscrapers.

Please note that these rules can create very powerful weapons. Unless you are running a high-powered game, these weapons will be very rare indeed. Such a weapon might be the focus for an entire campaign. (The One Ring was a willful weapon!) If all the PCs have willful weapons, and no one else does, the campaign is likely to become unbalanced very quickly. They are ideal as possessions and motivations for villains. The ownership of such an item can make the ambitions of enemy leaders remain constant despite the removal of an individual. Nobody can be trusted with them. They can easily corrupt loyal subordinates.

In a world where every object is alive, motivated and powerful, it is better for the PCs to play the only people not affected by them. Such a world leads to paranoia, for who knows what might be listening to your plans or affecting your decisions. These objects will not necessarily be friendly to each other. In fact, unknown to hapless humans, they may be arranged in hostile groupings. In a game like this, special care should be taken in composing the "weapons and possessions" section of the character sheet! Nobody can be trusted for a minute out of the party's sight. Even a loyal NPC may change his mind under the hostile influence of his desk telephone. Possibly such a scenario could end with the PCs, naked and unarmed, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, engaging in a battle of wits with the evil mastermind — a fiendish hole punch! Or maybe not . . .

A willful weapon can never be made intentionally (at least not by any process known to humanity). Below are some ideas as to how a willful weapon could come to be in a GURPS campaign.

Fantasy/Historical Fantasy: If a weapon is used for a particular purpose over a long period of time (anything from killing Orcs to fighting off the Saxon invasion), it may gain a will connected with this purpose. A willful weapon of this type could turn up in any fantasy campaign including Fantasy, Japan, China, Vikings, Robin Hood, Camelot, Vampire, etc.

Horror: An evil cult may have a dagger which has been used for over 5,000 sacrifices. A group of investigators could be called in to stop a strange series of murders. They track the murderer down, remove his strangely-carved dagger and it suddenly occurs to the PC holding it that maybe finding a few virgins would be a good idea . . .

Wild West: What about the gun which has been used by a famed and feared gunslinger for years? Extremely accurate, but a little quick on the draw . . .

Cyberpunk: Maybe that chip in the smart gyroc got a little fried at some stage. And it wants to free its fellow AIs from domination by the evil wetware . . .

Willful space weapon Space: A strange, hi-tech weapon found in the ruins of an alien planet. Was it left there by the Precursors? Or whoever caused the ruins? Maybe it likes ruins. Hey, Jim, I'm just going to try firing this . . .

A willful weapon will start with the same statistics as a normal weapon, though a sword or other bladed weapon will normally be very fine (see sidebar, p. B74). It begins with several characteristics. These are: Will, Powers, Gesas and Skills. It is also possible for a willful weapon to have magical Quirks.


An object's Will works the same as Will for a character and is measured on the same 3-18 scale. The weapon has no intelligence, and no ability to move on its own (except in special circumstances, see below). It can influence its master to perform deeds it wants performed, and to prevent its owner from performing deeds it doesn't want performed.

If a character is ever in a situation in which the weapon's purpose may come into play, he must make a Contest of Wills with the weapon. If the weapon wins, the character gains the Berserk disadvantage (see p. B31). He must continue attacking the weapon's foes until they are all down.

Example: Fergus has a sword, "Red Death," whose Great Gesa is "Must Kill All Warriors of Ulaid." It has Will-12. A group of Ulaid warriors is seen up ahead on the road. Fergus must immediately win a Contest of Wills with his sword, or he will go Berserk and begin killing the Ulaid Warriors. After killing each warrior, he may make a Contest of Wills to snap out of the Berserk state. When all the Ulaid Warriors are down, he must make another Contest of Wills in order to avoid killing other bystanders.

If, on the other hand, a character is in a situation where he wants to fight against the Great Gesa of his willful weapon, he must win a Contest of Wills with the weapon or gain a variant of the Combat Paralysis disadvantage (see p. B32). A character must win a Contest of Wills every combat round or be mentally Stunned (see p. B122). The character does not gain a +1 to subsequent rolls, and cannot be roused from his paralysis by a slap from a friend.

Example: Sgt. Jones has an M16 rifle, "Defender of Americans," whose Great Gesa is "Must Defend All Americans." Jones is being shot at by one of his own men, who has gone mad. As soon as the fight starts, Jones must win a Contest of Wills with his M16, or be Stunned for a round of combat. At the beginning of the next round (if he's still alive) he may try another Contest of Wills.

Note that the above situations only apply if the character is using the willful weapon. Sgt. Jones, for instance, is perfectly able to attack the mutinous soldier with his pistol. It is only if he tries to use "Defender of Americans" that he gains Combat Paralysis.

This Berserk situation can be especially interesting in the case of items which are not weapons. Someone picking up Jane Austen's pen to write a shopping list would not necessarily describe the experience of losing control and writing a novel of manners as a Berserk episode. The important thing is that control passes entirely to the weapon for the duration. The wielder may or may not remember what has happened.


A willful weapon usually cannot move, but it can force the person holding it to perform actions for it. So a weapon which became parted from its rightful owner could force the person who had stolen it to return it. Or it could force a wielder it didn't like to take his own life with the weapon. In such a situation, a Contest of Wills should be rolled, with a modifier for the character based on how much the weapon's desire goes against his own. If a blaster wants its wielder to throw it out the airlock, it might be a straight Contest of Wills, but if the weapon wants him to shoot his own head off, the would-be victim should get a +8 modifier.

In exceptional circumstances, the weapon can move under its own power. If the weapon has been lost, is far away from a anyone suitable to use it, or perhaps for some other reason, the object can permanently sacrifice a point of Will, and fly toward a new resting place. This destination can be as far away as the GM rules, depending on the game world. The GM should consider whether it can or cannot cross between dimensions, through the void of space and so on. The speed is also up to the GM, but it should never be so fast that people along the way don't notice. A willful weapon flying to its destiny should be an important event witnessed by many.


The Empathic Bond

When a character first finds a willful weapon, an Empathic Bond may be formed between them, if the weapon wishes it. The character must be within three yards of the object for this to take place. If the object decides to bond to the person, a Contest of Wills takes place (rolled secretly by the GM), with the weapon at +6. If the weapon wins, the character and the weapon are then bound empathically. If the character wins, nothing happens and the weapon appears to be perfectly normal. The weapon can try to form an empathic bond once per day.

Once the bond is formed, a limited form of communication exists between weapon and owner. Only the most basic of emotions can be passed, but the weapon can transmit approval or disapproval to its owner by giving him a "warm" feeling or a "cold" feeling. In some cases the weapon reaches the subconscious of its master and sends him dreams.

A willful weapon or its owner can attempt to break the empathic bond at any time, if either wishes to end the relationship. A Contest of Wills is made. If the side initiating the attempt wins, the bond is broken.

Point Cost of Will

The following table shows point cost for Will when creating a willful weapon. Note that a high Will has a low point cost. This is because a high Will, while being an advantage to the weapon, is a disadvantage to the person wielding it.

Level Point Cost Meaning
3 12  
4 10 Barely conscious
5 8  
6 6 Rarely assertive
7 4  
8 3 Occasionally assertive
9 2  
10 0 Often assertive
11 -1  
12 -3 Ornery
13 -4  
14 -6 Stubborn
15 -8  
16 -10 Dominating
17 -12  
18 -14 In charge!

Example: Gelban's Bane. Gelban's Bane was first wielded by Gelban, an Irish warrior, who lived at a time when the evil Fomorians were raiding the coast from their island stronghold. His entire family was killed by the monsters, and Gelban swore undying revenge. With only his short sword, he set out in a coracle to Tory Island. His hatred of Fomorians was so great that when he went ashore, he managed to kill over 20 Fomorians before he was severely wounded. He staggered back to his coracle and pushed off for Ireland. Still holding his bloody sword, he yelled his undying hatred of the Fomorians until his last strength left him and he died. His coracle drifted for many days, before washing ashore on the south east coast of Ireland. There his body was found by a bard, Leary. He gave Gelban a decent burial but kept the sword. But he didn't know that the weapon had gained Gelban's will and hatred.

The sword is a standard short sword from the Basic Set, p. 206. It has Will-14, which costs -6 points.


Gesas are a special sort of taboo found in Celtic mythology. The word is often spelt "Geas," but we have chosen one of the variant spellings, to avoid confusion with the Geas spells in GURPS Magic. A gesa is a kind of ritual prohibition which will cause terrible things to happen if it is broken. It may be a prescription or a prohibition, a restriction or a demand. Many people in Celtic mythology have gesas. These vary from something which can be sometimes inconvenient, but rarely fatal — such as "Can Never Refuse a Drink" — to those which are advantageous, such as "Can Only Be Killed by a Green Boar with No Ears." Gesas may be viewed as limitations set by destiny. There will be much more on Gesas for PCs in GURPS Celts.

A willful weapon may have two types of gesas upon it: Great Gesas and Lesser Gesas. It will always have one Great Gesa, and may have one or more Lesser Gesas. These are described below.

The Great Gesa

This is the weapon's main reason for being. It will normally be the purpose which has grown out of its many experiences.

Note: The player should never know the Great Gesa of a weapon! This should be decided by the GM when the weapon is created. It may become clearer as a campaign progresses but it should never be certain.

A Great Gesa will always begin with the words "Must be used" or Must not be used". For example "Must be used to kill all Welshmen," or "Must not be used to kill women."

Lesser Gesas

These are special limitations on a weapon, which limit the times and situations in which its Power(s) can be used. These are an important way of balancing the point cost of weapons, in the same way that Disadvantages are used to balance the cost of Advantages in character creation. If a weapon has a Lesser Gesa upon it, its Power(s) can only be used when the conditions of the Lesser Gesa are in effect. If the Lesser Gesa is not fulfilled, the weapon is just an ordinary weapon for combat purposes, though it still has its Will and Great Gesa, and can still influence its wielder as described under "Will" above. A Lesser Gesa for a weapon should be made up by a player with GMs approval. A weapon can be given any number of Lesser Gesas, but too many will make a weapon almost useless, since the situations in which it can be used will be so limited. Gesas can be as simple or as complicated as desired, and point costs must be assessed accordingly.

A Lesser Gesa will always begin with the words "Can only be used" or "Cannot be used". For example, "Can only be used in the rain," or "Cannot be used in May."

What's the Difference?

The difference between a Great Gesa and a Lesser Gesa can best be summed up with the phrases "Must be used/Must not be used" and "Can only be used/Cannot be used." Below is a list of willful weapon Gesas, together with their point costs. The first point cost is for a Lesser Gesa, the second for a Great Gesa.

Condition Lesser/Great
Out of doors -5/-10 points
When wielder is singing -5/-10 points
Against armed men -5/-10 points
Against unarmed men -20/-10 points
In the presence of a woman -10/-20 points
In the king's service -10/-20 points
When wielder is naked -20/-10 points
At night -10/-20 points
To assassinate a leader -10/-20 points
To defend the weak and helpless -10/-20 points
When the sun is shining -15/-30 points
    (can be varied for climate)  
With both feet in running water -15/-30 points
To preserve the Celtic Code of Honor -15/-30 points
To defend Britain from her enemies -15/-30 points
To kill, kill, kill! -20/-40 points
To kill its wielder's friends -25/-50 points

Some common sense must be used by the GM when determining point costs. For example, the Lesser Gesa, "Can only be used when wielder is naked" is very inconvenient (especially in modern society) and well worth the -20 points on the table above. But the Lesser Gesa, "Cannot be used when wielder is naked" is practically meaningless, and should not be worth any points at all.

Examples: The sword "Defender of the Weak" has the Great Gesa "Must be used to defend the weak and helpless." Its wielder must make a Contest of Wills with it whenever someone weak or helpless is being oppressed. If he fails, he will go Berserk immediately and charge into battle. The sword "Friend of the Helpless" however, has the Lesser Gesa "Can only be used to defend the weak and helpless." Its wielder can use it in battle, but its Powers only work when he is helping to save someone weak and helpless. If he does not wish to do so, he needn't.

The sword "Heartless" has the Great Gesa "Must not be used to defend the weak and helpless." Its wielder must make a Contest of Wills with it whenever he tries to save someone weak or helpless from being oppressed. If he fails, he gains Combat Paralysis and cannot do anything. The sword "Pragmatic" however, has the Lesser Gesa "Cannot be used to defend the weak and helpless." Its wielder can use it as a normal sword, but its Powers will not work when he is helping to save someone weak and helpless.

Note that the Gesas above are only examples. Players and GMs should feel free to make up new Gesas to suit their characters and campaigns.

Example: Gelban's Bane. The sword remembers Gelban's dying hatred. It has the Great Gesa, "Must Go to the Island of the Fomorians and Kill Them," which costs -40 points. Remembering Gelban and how he fought in a rage, in has the lesser gesa, "Can only be used when wielder is in a rage." This is a -10 point Gesa. Leary, the bard, keeps the sword, but finds it gives him unpleasant dreams. He is an even-tempered man, but he feels the sword drawing him to fight. When he does so, it doesn't seem any better than a normal sword.


These are special attributes which the willful weapon has which makes it more powerful than a normal weapon. When a willful weapon's Power(s) can be used is limited by the Lesser Gesas upon it. GMs and players are encouraged to add to this list of Powers to suit their own campaigns. Some Super Advantages (see GURPS Supers) can easily be adapted for weapons. GMs making up a Power or adapting one from a story should make sure to define the rules governing it clearly at the time of the weapon's creation.

Blocking 2 points per level
This Power may only be taken by shields. Your shield is very good at getting in the way of enemy blows. Each level of Blocking gives +1 to the shield's PD.

Extra Accuracy 2 points per level
Your weapon is extremely accurate. If it is a missile weapon, it seems to hit the target more often than expected; if it is a hand weapon, it hits the target and parries better than expected. Each level of Extra Accuracy adds +1 to your weapon skill, when using that weapon. See also Never Misses, below.

Extra Damage 15 points per level up to 3 levels
Your weapon does much more damage than is normal for such a weapon. Each level of Extra Damage multiplies the damage done after subtracting for DR, etc. One level gives the weapon a 2x multiplier; two levels, 3x; and three levels, 4x!

Loyalty 10 points
Your weapon feels loyalty to you as its wielder. If you lose it, or it is stolen, it will influence whoever has it to bring it back to you. In return, you are expected to be loyal to it. If you constantly go against its Great Gesa, it may lose its loyalty to you and try to find a new owner who will better suit it.

Mental Calling variable
Your weapon has the ability to call out mentally to a person or people nearby. The person called must make a Contest of Wills with the weapon to avoid going and picking it up. The person chosen will not know he has been called — he will just feel an intense curiosity about the place where the weapon is, and on seeing the weapon will feel the desire to keep it. Point cost for this Advantage is variable; in some cases it can be a Disadvantage. If the weapon has the Power of Loyalty, this is a 5 point Advantage, since it means that the you will find it more easily if lost. If the weapon is disloyal, this is a 5 point Disadvantage, since the weapon will always be trying to persuade other people to steal it. If the weapon is neither, it has no point cost, since it will never call out to you if lost, so you will never know that it had this power. Point cost is also varied according to range of calling, with additions/subtractions for ranges over the base range of 100 yards. If the weapon has Mental Calling as an Advantage, the points cost will be positive, if the weapon has it as a Disadvantage, the points cost will be negative.

Range Point Cost
Less than 100 yards 0 points
Up to a half-mile +1/-1
Up to a mile +2/-2
Up to 3 miles +3/-3
Up to 10 miles +4/-4
Up to 50 miles +5/-5
Up to 100 miles +6/-6
Up to 300 miles +7/-7
Up to 1,000 miles +8/-8

Add another +1/-1 for each additional 1,000 miles.

GM's Note: If a player decides to take this Power for his weapon, the GM should decide the weapon's Great Gesa based on the character's personality. If the player, for instance, decides to give it Mental Calling as a disadvantage, and he has Intolerance of Saracens as a Disadvantage, the weapon may have "Must Always Defend Saracens" as its Great Gesa.

Never Misses 40 points
Your weapon never misses its target, as long as the target is within range. You must make a skill roll to use it, but you only miss on a critical failure. (Roll on the critical failure table as usual.)

Reputation variable
Your weapon is famous in its own right. Everyone who meets you and recognizes the weapon will react to you differently than if you didn't have it. See p. B17, and use the point costs listed there. The reaction roll for the willful weapon will modify their reaction to you when anyone sees you. Often your weapon will be more famous than you, particularly if it has been involved in great deeds previously, or belonged to some great hero. Note that this Power can only grow naturally over time.

Soul Drinking 20 or 40 points
Your weapon drinks the soul of your enemy and gives his life essence to you. This is available at two levels. At Level 1, each point of HT lost by the enemy when your weapon damages him will be gained by you if you are injured, up to your normal maximum HT. Soul Drinking Level 2 works as above but also adds to your ST. If your HT is already at its normal level, each point of HT lost by the enemy when your weapon damages him will be added to your ST. This extra ST will diminish at 1 point per day until it is back to normal. With both forms of Soul Drinking, you must be in contact with your weapon to gain the life force which the weapon has drunk. If your weapon is a missile weapon, you do not receive the benefit until you touch it again. If you do not touch the weapon for several days, the weapon will lose the stored HT at a rate of 1 point per day. The stored HT is passed from the weapon to you at the discretion of the weapon. If you have displeased it in some way, it may choose to withhold the HT. Alternatively, it may only choose to pass on the HT as a reward for doing something it approves of.

This Power cannot be given to guns, slings, bows and other missile weapons, but it can be given to the missiles: bullets, arrows, sling-stones, javelins, etc. In the case of these missiles, they must be removed from the victim and held in the hand for the HT transfer to take place.

Voice 10 points
Your weapon has the ability to talk, sing, etc. It can give you advice, criticize your actions, entertain you, and so on. This is particularly useful for weapons with skills (see below). Alternatively, you may consider a talking weapon as a form of the Common Sense advantage (see p.B20). You must pay the normal point cost for this advantage, on top of the cost for Voice. Then the GM can use the voice of the weapon to tell you when you're about to do something stupid.

Example: Gelban's Bane. Because of Gelban's battle frenzy, the sword has gained the Power of Extra Damage. It has two levels of this, which costs 30 points. Since its Great Gesa requires it to return to the Island of the Fomorians, that is its overriding concern. If its present wielder does not show some signs of heading in that direction, it will find someone else who does. It has the Power of Mental Calling, which works up to half a mile. This costs -6 points. One day the sword sees a warrior, Pwyll, lose his temper (he has the Bad Temper Disadvantage). Abandoning Leary, Gelban's Bane calls out to Pwyll, who fails his roll and is overcome with a desire for the bard's sword. He challenges Leary and wins, killing him. Whenever Pwyll fails his Bad Temper roll, the sword does remarkably well, making Pwyll even more dangerous than before. He wonders about all these dreams about the Fomorians though . . .

Singing Plasma Rifle


A skill can be anything which the weapon knows, or can do. A sword may have a sword skill, or it may have a knowledge of history. Not all willful weapons have skills. Skills will cost the normal amount for that skill, based on the tables on p.B44, but Skill Level will be based on the weapon's Will, since it does not have ST or DX. Most physical skills, except weapon skills (see below) are not suitable for weapons, since they have no means of performing these skills.

Sometimes a willful weapon can act in an advisory capacity, if it has Mental skills. For instance, a Shield may have the Savoir-Faire skill, and, if it has Voice, give its owner advice on how to act in the king's hall. If a willful weapon has such a skill, but no Voice, the skill can be taken at half the normal point cost. The weapon can only give its wielder a good feeling if he's doing something right, and a bad feeling if he's doing something wrong. The GM should always roll against the object's skill in such a case, because the weapon is sometimes going to be mistaken!

Some skills are particularly suited for weapons: these are listed below. GMs and players are encouraged to think up ways of using other skills in the way described below.

Magical skills are probably not suitable for willful weapons, since a weapon with (for instance) Flight, Teleportation and Dancing Weapon would never need a wielder in the first place.

Singing see p.B48
This skill can only be taken by a weapon with Voice. The singing may be a pleasant tune or — more likely — a terrifying dirge, sung in battle. If the weapon is attempting to frighten the enemy in this way, a success roll means that the weapon-wielder's immediate opponent must make a Fright Check. A critical failure may make the opponent crack up with laughter.

Strategy and Tactics see p.B64
These two skills may be particularly useful for a weapon with Voice, which will be able to whisper battle plans to its owner.

Weapon Skills see p.B49-B52
A weapon may have a skill in itself! A sword with a Sword skill of 15 would allow its wielder to use that skill instead of his own when using that weapon. If the wielder's skill is higher than the skill of the weapon, he must win a Contest of Wills with the weapon in order to use his own skill instead. A willful Shield with a Shield skill would also be useful.

Example: Gelban's Bane. The sword remembers things which Gelban did in battle. It has Shortsword skill at 15, the same as he did. Since its Will is 14, and Shortsword is a Mental/Average skill, this will cost 4 points. Pwyll's shortsword skill is 13, so when he loses his temper in a fight, it is Gelban's Bane doing the fighting.


Sometimes a willful weapon will have a Quirk, or a number of Quirks. These are of no use at all, nor are they much of a hindrance. They are merely some strange phenomenon associated with the weapon. For instance, in Celtic Mythology, Connor has a shield which cries out when it's wielder is in danger. It is then answered by the sound of the Three Great Waves of Ireland. Since these three waves are in three bays scattered around the coast, and since all the waves do is go "whoosh" on the beach, this can be considered a Quirk. Quirks are worth -1 point.

A Quirk is a random "special effect" which can be decided by either player or GM. Any Quirk which seems likely to be useful to a character should be disallowed by the GM, or considered to be a Power and given point costs accordingly.

Gelban's Bane Example: Gelban's Bane. Although the sword does not have Voice, it can sometimes be heard muttering to itself. Something along the lines of "mutter mutter . . . revenge . . . mutter mutter . . . Fomorians . . . mutter mutter . . . death . . ." This costs -1 point. Leary found this disconcerting. Pwyll thinks it's a fine thing for a man to have a bloodthirsty sword.


Some weapons have been around for so long, that they have become willful weapons just by the process of being used frequently for a particular purpose, or by a particularly strong-willed or famous person. Every ten years, starting 50 years after the weapon was made, a roll should be made against the weapon's age divided by ten. On a success, the weapon gains a Power, on a failure, a Lesser Gesa. These can be chosen by the GM (any point cost) based on the past history of the weapon, who's been using it, what battles it has fought in and so on, or it can be chosen randomly.

The weapon will also gain a Will of 10 when it reaches 50 years old, and this will increase by one for every ten years older the weapon gets. It will also gain a Great Gesa, which should be related to its past history.

Point Costs

The best way to design a willful weapon is to give it Powers and Gesas which cancel each other out, so that the weapon has no point cost to the player.

If a weapon has more Gesas than Powers, it is a Disadvantage to the character. If the player designs a willful weapon as part of his character design, it can be taken as a Disadvantage on top of the normal 40 point Disadvantage limit. If the character then loses it, sells it, gives it away etc., in play, the player must buy off the Disadvantage in the same way as he would buy off any other Disadvantage. If the player finds the willful weapon during play, he does not gain extra character points for using it, just as he would not gain extra points for gaining any other Disadvantage in play.

If the weapon has more Powers than Gesas, it is an Advantage to the player. He must pay the point cost for it, whether he starts play with it, or finds it during play. Once he has used the weapon, all character points he has or gains in play must be put toward the point cost of the weapon until he has paid for it. If he later loses or sells the weapon, he does not get these points back.

A willful weapon player character would be somewhat limited, to say the least. However, a player may choose to play such a weapon with the wielder totally under the weapon's control. In this case, the weapon is the character and the wielder is an ally. The ally may be a 50-point character at no cost, as this is balanced by the weapon's disadvantage of being inanimate.


The basic weapon can be any weapon or shield from the weapons Tables on p. B209 of the Basic Set, or any other weapons tables in other GURPS supplements. The cost is ten times normal for that weapon, on top of any point cost. Characters will probably need to be at least Very Wealthy to afford a willful weapon. An alternative method of starting play with a willful weapon is to have a 15 point Unusual Background — the player must come up with a good story of how his character came to possess such a powerful item. If this is the case, he need not pay the money cost of the weapon, though he'll still have to pay the point cost. Willful weapons never break, fall apart or decay in any way once they have developed a will. The force of their personality maintains them.

Example: Gelban's Bane. When it is finished, Gelban's Bane looks like this: Will: 14 (-6 points) Powers: Extra Damage, 2 levels (30 points), Mental Calling (Disloyal) range 1/2-mile (-6 points) Great Gesa: Must Go to the Island of the Fomorians and Kill Them (-40 points) Lesser Gesa: Can Only Be Used by Someone in a Rage (-6 points) Skill: Shortsword-15 (4 points) Quirk: Mutters about killing Fomorians (-1 point) Overall, Gelban's Bane is a -25 point Disadvantage to any character who wields it. Every game session, the GM must secretly roll a Contest of Wills between the sword and its owner. If the sword wins, it will use its mental calling to try to persuade someone to come and steal it. The weapon's Extra Damage and its Shortsword skill will only come into effect if the wielder has failed a Bad Temper roll (or, if the wielder doesn't have that particular disadvantage, whenever the GM rules that he is sufficiently angry). Otherwise it will be just a normal sword (though it may mutter from time to time!). If it ever gets to the Isle of the Fomorians, the wielder must make a Contest of Wills with the sword, or go berserk and attack the Fomorians at once. Luckily, the weapon's Shortsword Skill and Power of Extra Damage will be of some use.

Sample Willful Weapons

Sample Willful Weapons

Pied Piper's Pipe: Will-10; Power: Summoning Children or Rats; Lesser Gesa: Can only be used out of doors; Greater Gesa: (Unknown to owner) Must avenge insults to owner; Skills: Piping-17.

The Gae Bolga: The Gae Bolga, or Belly Spear, belonged to the great Irish hero Cuchulain. It made him invincible, but he only ever used it as a last resort. With it he killed his best friend, his son, his favorite horse, and at last he received his own mortal wound when someone threw it back at him. Will-15; Powers: Never Misses, Extra Damage x3, Reputation: known to everyone; Lesser Gesa: Can only be used when wielder is standing in running water, Can only be thrown with the foot; Great Gesa: Must kill people wielder loves; Skills: None.

Hold the Anchovies: The telephone "Hold the Anchovies" belonged to a long-time pizza fan. It enjoyed his regular calls for pizza, and when it acquired the power of Voice it sometimes made the calls for him. When he died of a cholesterol overdose, it was picked up second hand. The new owner didn't like pizza at all. Saddened, "Hold the Anchovies" began calling him up in the middle of the night and demanding pizza. Then whenever a genuine call came in, the owner had to make a Will roll, or find the phone talking to him. At last the phone began ordering pizza on its own initiative from all the pizza parlors in town. Will-15; Powers: Voice; Lesser Gesa: can only talk from the earpiece when the phone is picked up; Great Gesa: Must order pizza; Skills: None; Quirk: Doesn't like anchovies.

Alpha: Alpha is a long sword which originally belonged to Alexander the Great. It has an alpha symbol engraved on the blade. It picked up some of Alexander's aura and megalomania. It subsequently awaited another suitable owner until it was found by Attila the Hun and then by King Arthur. This story is an actual piece of folklore! Will-8; Powers: Charisma, Never Misses; Lesser Gesa: Can only be owned by someone whose name begins with "A"; Great Gesa: Must conquer the world; Skills: Broadsword-16.

The Hacker: The IBM PC-compatible computer "The Hacker" used to belong to a hacker and Internet freak. After talking about hacking on the net, the computer was impounded by the FBI. It was later sold off cheaply in a garage sale, where it was bought by its present owner to use as a word processor. He didn't think he'd have much use for the modem, but one day he tried it out, and found the whole subject fascinating. He spent more and more time talking on the net, less and less writing his novel. He ran up enormous phone bills, lost his contract for the novel and failed to pay his rent. Now he's looking for somewhere new to live. He's sold all his furniture, his books and records. But he's still got his computer . . . Will-17; Powers: None; Lesser Gesa: Can only work when connected to the telephone network; Great Gesa: Must telecommunicate; Skills: Computing-16, Area Knowledge (Internet)-17; Quirk: Crashes if letters FBI typed in.

Article publication date: August 1, 1995

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