Designer's Notes: Special Ops, Third Edition

"The Man in the Arena"

by William Toporek

"It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with the sweat and dust and blood; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows that great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he falls, at least falls while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
--Theodore Roosevelt

When Steve and Phil came to me and asked if I could "take a look" at the Special Ops book for some slight changes before we reprint it, I jumped at the chance to "put things right" for my brothers in the Special Operations Community. After taking a long hard look at the book I realized that so much has changed since the 2nd Edition which was printed back in 1999. Back then, the author/revisor, John Goff, went in and spent most of his time changing the template system and upgrading a few areas here and there to reflect our new format style. Unfortunately, he kept most of the information text that dated back to 1990. I felt that only a complete revision would bring this book up to date and reflect the "Quiet Professionals" of this new century.

I began my revision work and was soon informed that we would bring in Hans-Christian Vortisch as a technical expert in the areas of equipment, weapons, and vehicles. I jumped at the chance to work with him. Since Hans is from Germany, this would give the book the international feel that we were searching for. He would be a great insight into the foreign Special Operations Community as well as provide up-to-date technical information on his areas of expertise. It would be a good match. I would provide the information on the U.S. and he would handle the foreign sections and augment my knowledge and experience of Special Operations.

We began the work in November 2001. As we attempted to sort out the chapters it became evident that each of us wanted to change different things as well as much of the same. It was determined that we work in tandem and that each of us make our changes to existing materials and that I would "pre-edit" the final copy. So much had been overlooked or had changed since 1990 that we felt that a standard 128-page book was not enough to accurately cover the material. After much begging were granted an additional 16 pages.

Our first big hurdle was in the area of skills. We were going to add a few new templates and keep the rest basically the same, taking out some skills and adding others to reflect the up to date information. Then came GURPS WW2. This book threw our template system for a loop and put Sean Punch, Hans, Gene Seabolt, and myself in a big discussion of what changes we had to include. Lots of back-and-forth discussion on the Tactics skill and the subsequent required specializations. End result: GURPS WW2-style took over. Hence the increased cost of all the templates due to these individual skills. This also prompted the addition of Soldier, Sailor, and Aviation skills to the appropriate templates and the crossovers for these skills (as most Special Operators who are on the ground have to have Soldier). We revamped all the templates, adding in the current Special Warfare Schools of all countries. We integrated Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) school to those "high risk for capture" templates and made sure that almost everyone could survive in the woods. Ironically, the 2nd edition omitted the Survival[Woodlands] skill from all the templates.

Many, many other changes followed, mostly in the areas of equipment, vehicles, and overall "World" changes. Some organizations changed their names, some disappeared, a few became integrated with other forces, and many military schools changed. New terrorist organizations have popped up. An extensive coverage of Osama bin Laden's Al Quaida was added and an updated world terrorist listing was added as well. The U.S. Military Pay Table was omitted because we felt that this information was much too date-specific and complicated for the casual user to read (the U.S. Military Pay is increased every few years, providing congress approves the usual 5% increase). A consolidated weapons table was added to include not only Special Operations-specific weapons but the favorites of many militarys all over the world, so that the reader does not have to go through two or three more GURPS books to build bad guys.

The biggest change is in the artwork. Phil Reed was a big help here starting it all off with that fantastic cover. We really needed to get rid of the "John Eric Hexum" bad gas-mask-wearing, teeth-clinching, hip-firing yo-yos that were good back in the late 80s. The new "Silent Option" HALO jumper cover gives the reader the feel that we are looking for: silent, professional, risk-taking, skilled. The rest of the artwork is done in the GURPS Cops and GURPS WW2 style with real pictures "stylized" through a filter. The work done by Heather Oliver and Gene Seabolt is just outstanding. All of the photos are from the U.S. Military/Special Operations/DOD as well as several foriegn countries. The majority of the photos were gathered by myself with the aid of Carol Darby over at U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office. For these accurate "real" photos we are thankful to the Armed Forces Public Affairs Offices all over the globe that helped.

Unfortunately, even with the additional pages we had to omit some interesting text. The CIA Special Activities Division (SAD) template was removed because we felt that one template was not accurate to the wide scope that those operatives filled. It was replaced with a generic filler pointing to GURPS Espionage to fill the hole. Here is the CIA (SAD) Prototype Template:


146 points

The Basic Skills for an operative of the CIA's Special Activities Division.

Attributes: ST 11 [10], DX 13 [30], IQ 14 [45], HT 11 [10].
Advantages: Fit [5], Administrative Rank 1 [5], and 25 points in Desirable Advantages (p. 51), Decorations (p. 51), Administrative Rank (p. 52) or Patrons (p. 54).
Disadvantages: Extremely Hazardous Duty [-20], and -25 points selected from the Desirable Disadvantages list (p. 56).
Basic Skills: Acting (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Administration (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Armory (Small Arms) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Brawling (P/E) DX [1]-13, Camouflage (M/E) IQ+1 [1]-14, Climbing (P/A) DX-1 [1]-12, Computer Operation (M/E) IQ-1 [1]-13, Criminology (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Cryptanalysis (M/H) IQ [4]-14,Cryptography (M/H) IQ-1 [2]-13,Cryptology (M/H) IQ-2 [1]-12, Demolition (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Detect Lies(M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-11, Diplomacy (M/H) IQ-1 [2]-13, Disguise (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Driving (Automobile) (P/A) DX-1 [1]-12, Electronics (Comm)(M/H) IQ-2 [1]-12, Electronics (Security Systems) (M/H) IQ-1 [2]-13, Electronics Operation (Comm) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Electronics Operation (Security Systems) (M/A) IQ [2]-14 Electronics Operation (Sensors) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Escape (P/H) DX-1 [2]-12, Fast-Talk (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, First Aid (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-13, Forgery (M/H) IQ [4]-14, Forward Observer (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Garrote (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Gunner (Machine Gun) (P/A) DX-2 [1/2]-13*, Gunner (SAM) (P/A) DX-2 [1/2]-13*, Guns (Grenade Launcher) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-14*, Guns (LAW) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-14*, Guns (Light Auto) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-14*, Guns (Pistol) (P/E) DX [1]-15*, Guns (Rifle) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-14*, Guns (Shotgun) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-14*, Hiking (P/A) HT [2]-11, Holdout (M/A) IQ[2]-14, Intelligence Analysis (M/H) IQ+1 [6]-15, Interrogation (M/A) IQ [2]-14, Intimidation (M/A) IQ [2]-14, Jumping (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Knife (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Knife Throwing (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Language (any) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Leadership (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Lockpicking (M/A) IQ [2]-14, NBC Warfare (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, No-Landing Extraction (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Orienteering (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Parachuting (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Photography (M/A) IQ [2]-14,Politics (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Psychology (M/H) IQ-2 [1]-12, Savoir-Faire (Other Culture) (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-13, Scrounging (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-13, Shadowing (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Stealth (P/A) DX [2]-13, Streetwise (M/A) IQ [2]-14, Survival (Urban) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-13, Survival (Woodlands) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12, Swimming (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-12, Tactics (Air to Ground) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-11, Tactics (Counterterrorist) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-11, Tactics (Guerrilla) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-11, Tactics (Infantry) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-11, Teaching (M/A) IQ [2]-14, Throwing (P/H) DX-2 [1]-11, Traffic Analysis (M/H) IQ-2 [1]-12, Traps (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-12.
* Includes +2 for IQ.
Customization Notes: This template is intended for use in a 200-point campaign; spend the remaining 35 points to customize your character. Another -15 points in Acceptable Disadvantages (p. 56) and five quirks can be taken to get a further 20 points.

"For the Operators, whom a wise commander uses with great skill and forethought, and whom the fool throws away in ignorance and contempt."
--Greg Walker

The Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJOC) template was omitted for both space and because it was not really in the realm of Special Operations. I know that this is a very touchy spot, but they are not commandos, force multipliers, or counter-terrorist team members. They go in when everything goes wrong. While having a bunch of players be a PJOC team would be fun and enjoyable experience, except they usually operate in teams of two, rescuing downed pilots and aircrews and that's about it . . . not really good for a group of four to seven players. Their missions are, more often than not, quick and have little combat. They go in, find the downed aircraft/helicopter, land, get out (or parachute, rope down, get out of the helicopter/airplane somehow), secure the area, find the survivors, medically stabilize them, then await extraction. Missions last less then a few hours, most only a few minutes, which isn't terribly suited for campaigns. Here is the prototype PJOC Template:


126 points

The Basic Skills for U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper appear below. NCOs, warrant officers or commissioned officers, and characters who have foreign language or advanced training, will have the appropriate Special Skills package(s) as well, which will increase template cost.

Attributes: ST 11 [10], DX 12 [20], IQ 13 [30], HT 12 [20].
Advantages: Fit [5], and 20 points in Desirable Advantages (p. 51), Decorations (p. 51), Military Rank (p. 52) or Patrons (p. 54).
Disadvantages: Extremely Hazardous Duty [-20], and -20 points selected from the Desirable Disadvantages list (p. 56).
Basic Skills: Airman (M/A) IQ+1 [4]-14, Armoury (Small Arms) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Brawling (P/E) DX [1]-12, Camouflage (M/E) IQ [1]-13, Climbing (P/A) DX [2]-12, Diagnosis (M/H) IQ+2 [8]-15, Electronics Operation (Comm) (M/A) IQ [2]-13, Escape (P/H) DX-1 [2]-11, First Aid (M/E) IQ+1 [4]-15, Gunner (Machine Gun) (P/A) DX-1 [1]-13*, Guns (Grenade Launcher) (P/E) DX [1]-14*, Guns (LAW) (P/E) DX [1]-14*, Guns (Light Automatic) (P/E) DX [1]-14*, Guns (Pistol) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-13*, Guns (Rifle) (P/E) DX [1]-14*, Hiking (P/A) HT-1 [1]-11, Jumping (P/E) DX [1]-12, Knife (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-11, Leadership (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Lifting (P/H ST) ST-1 [2]-10 Mechanic(Aircraft) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, No-Landing Extraction (M/A) IQ+1 [4]-14, NBC Warfare (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Orienteering (M/A) IQ [2]-13, Parachuting (P/E) DX+1 [2]-13, Savoir-Faire (Military) (M/E) IQ [1]-13, Scrounging (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-12, Scuba (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11, Soldier (M/A) IQ [2]-13, Spear (P/A) DX-1[1]-11, Stealth (PA) DX [2]-12, Survival (Desert) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11, Survival (Jungle) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11, Survival (Mountains) (M/A) IQ-2[1/2]-11, Survival (Woodlands) (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Swimming (P/E) DX [1]-12, Tactics (Infantry) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-10, Throwing (P/H) DX [4]-12.
*Includes +2 for IQ.

Special Skills:
Commissioned Officer or Warrant Officer** (+5 points): Increase Leadership to 14 [3]; add Administration (M/A) IQ [2]-13.
Foreign Language (+2, 4 or 6 points): Add Language (any) (M/A) IQ [2]-13 (Basic), IQ+1 [4]-14 (Intermediate) or IQ+2 [6]-15 (Advanced).
NCO** (+1 1/2 points): Increase Leadership to 13 [1]; add Administration (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11. Customization Notes: Spend your remaining points (15 points, in a 150-point campaign) to customize your character. Another -10 points in Acceptable Disadvantages (p. 56) and five quirks can be taken to get a further 25 points.

The last template type omitted was the Aviation template. Hans suggested that we have an Army/Air Force mixed template to reflect the 160th SOAR and the Air Force's Special Operations Command. Again this template would be extremely varied and the skills so different between the two that it would be nearly impossible to accurately depict this soldier/airman. Another problem faced with this template would be the basic skills compared to other templates. They would not meet the requirements set out by our text for Special Operators. These men are not "Operators"; they are highly skilled in their jobs. The are the best helicopter pilots and fixed wing pilots that the U.S. Military has, but they are not Special Operations Forces. Here is the prototype Special Operations Aviator Template:

U.S. Special Operations Aviator

82 points

All Aviators are either Officers or Warrant Officers and start out with Military Rank 3. They do not require the Fit Advantage.

Attributes: ST 10 [0], DX 12 [20], IQ 13 [30], HT 10 [0].
Advantages: Acceleration Tolerance [10], Military Rank 3 [15]. Additional points, depending on campaign, may be taken in Desirable Advantages (p. 51), Decorations (p. 51), Military Rank (p. 52) or Patrons (p. 54).
Disadvantages: Extremely Hazardous Duty [-20], and -20 points selected from the Desirable Disadvantages list (p. 56).
Basic Skills: Administration (M/A) IQ-2 [1]-12, Armoury (Small Arms) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11,Brawling (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-11, Camouflage (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-12, Climbing (P/A) DX-2 [1/2]-10, Computer Operation (M/E) IQ [1]-13, Electronics Operation (Comm) (M/A) IQ [2]-13, Electronics Operation (Sensors) (M/A) IQ+1 [4]-14, First Aid (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-12, Gunner (Cannon) (P/A) DX [2]-14*, Gunner (Missile) (P/A) DX-2 [2]-14*, Guns (LAW) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-13*, Guns (Light Auto) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-13*, Guns (Pistol) (P/E) DX+1 [1/2]-13*, Guns (Rifle) (P/E) DX-1 [1/2]-13*, Leadership (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Navigation (M/H) IQ [4]-13, NBC Warfare (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11, Orienteering (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Savoir-Faire (Military) (M/E) IQ-1 [1/2]-12, Soldier (M/A) IQ-1 [1]-12, Spear (P/A) DX-2 [1/2]-10, Survival (Woodlands) (M/A) IQ-2 [1/2]-11, Tactics (Air to Air) (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-10, Tactics (Air to Ground) (M/H) IQ [4]-13 Throwing (P/H) DX-3 [1/2]-9, Traffic Analysis (M/H) IQ-3 [1/2]-10
* Includes +2 for IQ.

Must choose a type of piloting specialization that the aviator is skilled in:
Fixed Wing (Turbo Prop) (+16 Points): Add Piloting (Multi-Engine Prop) (P/A) DX+2 [16]-15. Remove Soldier and Replace with Aviation at same level.
Fixed Wing (Jet)(+16 Points): Add Piloting (Multi-Engine Jet) (P/A) DX+2 [16]-15. Remove Soldier and replace with Aviation at same level.
Rotery Wing(+16 Points): Add Piloting (Rotary Wing) (P/A) DX+2 [16]-15
Foreign Language (+2, 4 or 6 points): Add Language (any) (M/A) IQ [2]-13 (Basic), IQ+1 [4]-14 (Intermediate) or IQ+2 [6]-15 (Advanced).
Customization Notes: Spend your remaining points (48 points, in a 150-point campaign) to customize your character. Another -20 points in Acceptable Disadvantages (p. 56) and five quirks can be taken to get a further 25 points.

It takes so much time and research to create a book but I think the effort that all of us: our friends (Military and Civilian), family, and coworkers have put into this book has made it something great. I believe that this is the best reference book for gaming Special Operations Forces that is on the market. For all of us it was a labor of love.

"You sleep well in your bed at night only because a few rough men are willing to do violent things on your behalf."
--G. Orwell

Article publication date: October 4, 2002

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