This article originally appeared in Pyramid #23


Q&A on GURPS Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills

By Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

Below are some clarifications and answers to questions about the way certain advantages, disadvantages and skills are bought and used. All of these questions were originally asked on the Internet, and have been edited here for clarity and brevity. Feel free to send your questions to Dr. Kromm

Basic Set

Why is No Sense of Humor a -10-point disad?

- Thomas Barnes

Because you are unforgiving and unyielding at all times. Not only do you not get jokes, but you lack the ability to deal with the concept of forgiving someone because their error was just plain silly, the ability to tell a good-natured jibe from an insult, and the ability to see the good side of a bad situation. You have emotions, but none of the nice ones that involve taking reality with a grain of salt so that you can deal with it better.

With their reduced IQ and DX, skills are necessarily lower in children than in adult characters, but it seems to me that they're unduly low, particularly in the physical skills. Things like Climbing seem horrifically expensive, and far more than a reality check would indicate. I know that as a limber 7-year-old, I could climb a tree a lot faster than I can as a creaky 29-year-old, even if I have had more time to practice and my reach is longer.

- Michael Cavanagh

Children can probably climb trees better than most adults can, but they are probably less likely to be able to use spikes and lines, rappel, free-climb rock overhangs, et cetera - all of which is included in the Climbing skill. GURPS skills are assumed to be adult, "professional" versions. One solution is to allow children to learn less-useful "hobby" versions, as per p. B54. Using the skill degradation rules on p. CI117, these will have decayed to nonexistence in no more than 6 years. E.g., a 7-year-old with DX 7 can buy Climbing-9 (DX+2) for half cost as a Hobby Skill (4 points). As per p. B89, climbing an ordinary tree is done at +5 to skill, so this child climbs it at skill 14. An average DX 10 adult, using her default skill of DX-5, does so at skill 10. By the time the child is an adult, her DX will be 10, but her skill will have degraded due to lack of use, and will eventually drop to default (DX-5, or 5).

I got into a discussion with a friend recently over what Mathematical Ability gives bonuses to. Does it give bonuses to Astrogation, Nuclear Physics, Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Genetics or Genetic Engineering? How about Gambling? Demolition or Underwater Demolition?

- Craig R.

Mathematical Ability (MA) gives +3 to any math or computer skill (except Computer Operation), including Computer Hacking, Computer Programming and Mathematics. It also gives +2 to any Engineering skill, including Electronics. Finally, it gives a +5 to Accounting and +3 to Cryptanalysis. As for other science skills, if the GM rules that the skill is being used to solve a mathematical problem, then MA would add +3 to skill for that one task, but not to the skill level in general; most rolls against science skills are to recall knowledge. As for Gambling, the character should get +3 if he is involved in odds-making, but again, not in general; Gambling skill is mainly a knowledge skill covering the rules of games of chance. Finally, for Demolition (and similar skills), MA would be of no use whatsoever; demo men use tables, because there's no way you want to be doing math under pressure when you're playing with explosives!

She seems upsetBlood Types

Why is the Bite advantage so expensive? 30 pts.!

- The Forever Man

Bite is a combination of Sharp Teeth, a 5-point advantage (see p. CI67) that allows a creature's bite to do cutting damage, and Steal HT as an Innate Spell at level 21 (where it can be used in close combat), worth 24 points. This adds up to 29 points. We rounded the cost to 30 points because we felt that the fact that the Steal HT spell works 60 times faster than normal (the vampire gains 1 HT/sec instead of 1 HT/min) and the fact that the victim has to make a Fright Check more than balance out the requirement that the vampire has to take one extra second to grapple the victim first.

There are three very similar types of Invulnerability: Vampiric from GURPS Vampire: The Masquerade, Vampiric from Blood Types, and In-Betweener from Voodoo. They all have different costs, however. Any errata lurking here?

- Hunter Johnson


Vampiric Invulnerability (150 points, Blood Types) means the vampire takes damage from all attacks, but can only be killed by damage from something he is Vulnerable to. Bullets and impaling attacks do but 1 point of damage, regardless of their actual size. The vampire may ignore all "special effects" of injury until he falls below 0 HT, after which injury affects him normally, but unconsciousness never results and crippling wounds don't matter until he is at -HT. Going to -5 x HT or even -10 x HT will not spell certain death or destruction unless he is hit with something he is Vulnerable to. E.g., a HT 12 character with this advantage is hit by a minigun that fires 66 bullets that do 5d+1 damage each. He takes only 66 damage, goes to -54 HT and is stunned (and perhaps knocked down), but can get up next turn and run away at half Move, or even shoot back.

Vampiric Invulnerability (100 points, Vampire) is identical to the above with these exceptions: at -HT, the vampire can fall unconscious; after -HT, the vampire loses Blood Points and may go into Torpor; and the vampire takes full damage from bullets and impaling weapons. This is why it is worth 50 fewer points. E.g., a HT 12 character with this advantage is hit by the same minigun as in the example above. He takes average damage (1221 points), goes to -12 HT, loses 598 (i.e., all) of his Blood Points and immediately goes into Torpor. He is now helpless, and any Aggravated Wound (even 1 hit) can kill him. Still, if left alone, he will eventually heal.

In-Betweener Invulnerability (60 points, Voodoo) means the In-Betweener has to be taken to -10 x HT to be killed. However, it is irrevocably killed at that point, regardless of how the damage was done, and will never resolidify or awaken. This ability includes immunity to pain and reduced damage from bullets (but at 1 point per die), but also includes susceptibility to crippling at all HT levels. E.g., a HT 12 being with this advantage is hit by that minigun. He takes only 330 damage. He ends up at -318 HT (which is past -10 x HT) and is instantly destroyed.

1. Under Racial Advantages, Regeneration states that a vampire may not have both Regeneration and Unhealing, but later on, Unhealing stipulates that Regeneration and Unhealing can be part of the same character. Which is it?

2. Unhealing costs -20 points, the same as in GURPS Vampire: The Masquerade. However, the V:TM version only serves as a disadvantage with respect to the inability to heal wounds conventionally, and does not cover daily HT loss. Why the discrepancy?

3. Shouldn't Blood Types include The Draining (daily HT loss) as a separate disadvantage? Would Regeneration help restore daily HT loss to The Draining?

4. I feel that Dependency: Human Blood (Daily) and daily HT loss to The Draining are redundant. Should a character be permitted to have both?

5. Pallor (under Racial Disadvantages) costs -10 points, but provides a -3 to reaction rolls. Given the trend to equate -1 reaction to -5 points (Social Stigma, Odious Personal Habit, etc.), shouldn't Pallor cost -15 points?

- Phillip Weiss

1. A vampire cannot have both Regeneration and Unhealing. If she does, then Unhealing becomes a "disadvantage" that is not really a disadvantage, and thus is worth no points.

2. The Unhealing disadvantage should read the same way in both books; daily HT loss should be a separate disadvantage (see below). Use the version of Unhealing that appears in GURPS Vampire: The Masquerade.

3. Yes, Blood Types certainly should include The Draining (see p. CI97 for this disadvantage), as distinct from Unhealing. Regeneration does not restore HT lost daily to The Draining.

4. Sure; the two are not redundant. The Draining is a specific HT loss that always occurs and which cannot be staved-off. Dependency: Human Blood is a more severe HT loss that can be staved-off. The Draining causes the damage that motivates you to feed on blood in the first place; Dependency is a consequence of failing to drink that blood. In other words, you lose HT, no matter what, if you suffer from The Draining. If you suffer from Dependency, you lose even more HT unless you drink blood to replenish this lost HT.

5. No. Unlike No Shadow, No Reflection, Lifebane, et cetera, a disadvantage as cosmetic as Pallor can be easily hidden by make-up at almost any TL - even TL1. Thus, most vampires with Pallor will suffer the -3 only if they are caught unaware.

Imperial Rome

GURPS Imperial Rome says to use Driving (Chariots) for races; the Basic Set implies that Teamster is the appropriate skill. Which would it be?

- T. Tuttle

Teamster, although chariots would be a separate familiarity (see p. B43).


1. How much would the Resurrection advantage cost if the character didn't lose 25 points each death?

2. How much would Altered Time Rate (as an advantage) cost if I had to use a fatigue point for each turn I wanted to use it?

3. A character has a special advantage where all magic, psionics, super abilities and other weird powers are used against him at a penalty equal to 25% of the attacker's base skill. How much would this advantage cost?

4. How much would it cost to have a sort of immunity to lies, where the character would never be fooled by any intentional falsehood or Fast Talk roll? How much would it cost if it applied to the written word as well?

5. How were the point values of Gifts calculated for GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse? Were they Supers abilities with odd limitations? If so, how much would the limitation "Requires 1 Gnosis" be?

- Jason Sartin

1. It would be worth at least +100% (i.e., it would make the advantage cost 300 points), since it is comparable in power to a 300-point Invulnerability.

2. Use the Costs Fatigue limitation. This gives -5% per 1 fatigue per use, times 60 (since 1 use = 1 minute for advantages), limited by the maximum value given for 10 fatigue/use, or -50%. So the limitation would be -50%, and the power would cost 50 points/level.

3. "All Weird Powers" is like "Any Kinetic Damage" - a truly general categorization. Treat this as a 300-point Invulnerability, divided by 4 because it simply reduces the skill by 25%, not 100%. So to give his foes a -25% to skill on all weird powers would be worth 75 points. Each further -25% would cost another 75 points. Four levels (-100%) would simply result in Invulnerability to those powers.

4. This is sort of like "super-Empathy." About 30 points seems right for this. If it extends to the written word, it would be worth more like 45 points.

5. These abilities are a mix of magical "knacks," super powers and advantages, with a lot of limitations and enhancements. It would be difficult to reverse-engineer most of the costs without access to the designer's notes; however, "Requires 1 Gnosis" would be a -5% limitation.

Article publication date: February 1, 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to