Allergy: A New Disadvantage for GURPS
by Andrew J. Shelden
Tired of the same old disadvantages for your PCs? Is your world populated with Bad Tempered Paranoids with Combat Paralysis? Are you weary of playing pathetically old (or ridiculously young) "warriors" whose Stubbornness and Stuttering make them the pariah of every campaign? How about that Fat Eunuch with Gigantism you tried to pass off as a wizard?
Try these optional rules for allergies. Lots of folks have them, and you can be very creative with both the allergen and the response. You GMs could have lots of fun tormenting the PCs. Your everyday mold allergy can be a serious disadvantage . . . if you're trying to sneak out of a cave filled with sleeping Orcs and their stinky sweaty clothes, all just waiting to send your nose into sneezing fits! Or you're allergic to the fragrance they put in perfumes and hair spray. Just as you're about to kick your Sex Appeal into action with the heiress, to get her to spill the combination of the wall safe . . . you get a whiff of her perfume! Your face begins to swell, your nose starts gushing, and your eyes run like you've been slicing onions!
Sounds so much more interesting that your typical Berserker PC with Dwarfism and Megalomania, doesn't it?
You are allergic to something. Allergies come in all shapes and sizes. They are limited only by your imagination and playability in the eyes of the GM. They may include: Bee-sting/insect venom, fruit/nectar/nuts (specify fruit/nuts or family of fruits), chocolate, pollen, wool, dust, mold, dogs, cats (usually cat dander), horses, synthetic fibers, natural fibers, certain kinds of wood, mutton, alcohol, mana, metals, plastics, hair spray, fragrances (colognes, perfumes, etc.) And so on. It is an extremely rare condition but some people are actually allergic to light. Other "rare" types of allergies: strong magnetic fields, certain types of radiation or other energy waves. (GMs, handle this with care).
Effects can vary widely, so be creative. Possibilities include: sneezing, itching, swelling, hives, boils, loss of voice, stroke, blindness, deafness, loss of muscle control, loss of sphincter control, vomiting, rash, impotence, gastro-intestinal distress, cardio-pulmonary distress, anaphylactic shock and more. The more severe the reaction, the greater the point bonus.
The severity of the reaction determines the basic point bonus and the HT roll to resist. The four different levels of Allergy are Minuscule, Minor, Major, and Severe.
Minuscule: You have a minuscule but annoying reaction on contact or ingestion or inhalation with the reactant (e.g. eating chocolate makes you sneeze). You are at no HT modifier to resist. Effects last for 2d turns. -1 point.
Minor: You have a minor reaction to the allergen. Examples include mild rash, limited nerve inflammation (it hurts to touch the affected area), prolonged sneezing, headache, or minor swelling. You are at -1 HT to resist. If you miss your HT roll and a limb is affected, any use of that limb is reduced. For arms and hands, any action requiring a DX or skill roll will be at -2. If a leg is affected, Move and Dodge are reduced by 2. Facial reactions reduce vision rolls by 2, or may even hamper your ability to speak clearly. Others may be put-off by your swollen and puffy face, so expect a -1 Reaction from people meeting you for the first time. Effects last for 1d minutes. -5 points.
Major: You have a major reaction to the allergen. Examples include gastro-intestinal discomfort (bad, painful gas and bloating), minor nerve inflammation (it hurts to use the affected body part), hives, or major swelling. You are at -2 HT to resist, and are -4 on DX and skill rolls and -3 Move/Dodge while under its effects. Facial effects could include complete closure of one or both eyes (resulting in temporary blindness!). Any visible hives or swelling will induce a -2 reaction from people meeting you for the first time, and -1 from people who already know you. Bad gas will also get you a -2 reaction! Effects last for 2d minutes. -15 points.
Severe: You have a severe, life-threatening reaction, like cardio-vascular or gastro-intestinal distress, anaphylactic shock, or major nerve inflammation (it hurts to live). You are at -5 HT to resist. If you fail your roll HT roll by more than 3 you will fall unconscious. You will die in 3d minutes unless you get medical attention. If you fail by 2 or less, you will be at -6 for every action you take, and your Move will be reduced to 1 for 3d minutes! Even if you make the roll, you will be at -2 for all DX and skill rolls for 3d turns. -15 points in TL7+, -20 for TL6.
Note: in TL7 and above, medicines exist to counter the effects of even the least severe allergies (e.g. bee sting kits, antihistamines, etc.). Above TL8, it's GMs discretion whether to even allow allergies as disadvantages or not due to advances in genetics and medicine.
Rapid Healing will cut in half the duration of all allergic reactions. Immunity to Disease will not. In fact, Immunity to Disease will increase the severity of your reaction, since allergic reactions are an immune system response! Immunity to Disease bumps your reactions to the next highest level of allergy. If you take Severe Allergy and Immunity to Disease, you'll be rolling at -10 HT to resist, and if you fail at all, you're dead in 3d seconds barring immediate medical attention available only at TL7+.
A Critical Miss on your HT roll bumps up the severity of your reaction by one level for that incident only. For those with Severe Allergy, a Critical Miss means death.
If your GM will allow it, you may add further realism by the use of modifiers. Modifiers would not be available for minuscule or minor allergies, but fully applicable to major and severe ones.
- If the substance is very common, the disadvantage is worth an additional -5 points.
- If the substance is uncommon, take no additional points.
- If the substance is rare, +5 points.
- If it is possible to avoid contact (e.g. not eating the Salmon Mousse), +5 points.
- Gorgor the Terrible, human tank, is allergic to spider venom. Major Allergy (Spider Venom): -10 points. Spiders are common; you can find them anywhere, anytime, providing an additional -5 point bonus. If bitten, the venom will cause Gorgor's skin to swell and get extremely tender in the affected area. He would lose his effectiveness with his greatsword. Spiders are usually very small and hard to see. Gorgor might not even notice one is inside his plate mail until it's too late. Total value for Gorgor's Major Allergy: Spider Venom: -15 points. (This particular allergy might go well with Arachnophobia . . .)
- Karl "The Glove" San Giacomo, bag man for the Carpeccione family, is very allergic to peaches. Severe Allergy (Peaches): -15 points for TL7 (Death unless treated). Peaches are uncommon -- you can only find them in certain temperate zones at certain times of the year, subject to GMs approval -- no additional bonus, but when you see them, you don't have to eat them (unless you really really love them, like Karl, in which case make a Will roll). Ingestion causes instant constriction of Karl's air passages and blood vessels (anaphylactic shock), for which his TL7 doctor has provided an inhaler . . . if he can get to it quickly enough. Total points for Karl's Severe Allergy (Peaches) is -10 points for TL7 (Death or medication). If Karl lived in TL6 or less, it would be Death by Peaches: -15 points. In any case, Karl would be smart to just avoid the fruit. Of course, if he didn't know there was peach nectar in that fruit punch at "Boss Man" Carpeccione's daughter's wedding . . . .
It is possible to be allergic to several different substances, or to a family of substances. Each allergy must be bought separately. Allergies can only be "bought off" in TL8+, by either medicine or genetic tampering (once again, subject to GM's discretion).
So try an allergy for your next character. It'll add a further touch of realism and variety to your campaign and make role-playing a lot more fun. So, take a box of tissues with you. Happy Gaming, and Gesundheit!
Article publication date: September 7, 2001
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