Getting the Job Done

for GURPS

The alley, down which they had chosen to make their escape, was a dead end. A 30-foot brick wall matched those to either side. They turned to see to see that the flesh-eating zombies had spotted them and were already coming down the alley. The undead didn't move fast, but they were relentless and much more durable than the movies had implied. Murdock pulled out his picks and started working on the locked door. If they could get through in time, they might make it to safety and better weapons.

"How long?" asked Johnson as he locked his last magazine.

Sadly for Murdock, the Basic Rules for GURPS is 1 minute minus 5 seconds per point by which the roll was successful. If the attempt was a failure, then after the first minute, the clock starts again, even though Murdock's player knew after 1 second that he would fail. Meanwhile Murdock's player sits there during the combat with the zombies and each round says "I'm picking the lock."

Long actions in RPGs are boring and not terribly realistic. In the Lockpicking example, the roll is made at the beginning of the action, so the player probably knows if he was successful and how long it will take or if he was unsuccessful and will just be out of play for the minute, then roll again for another long wait. If the GM rolls (to keep the mystery of the length of time) then the player has no clue that he's hopelessly botched it until the minute has elapsed. Additionally, picking a lock will never take more than a minute per attempt. This steals from the drama and excitement of the scene. If combat were handled this way, no one would play.

"Roll versus your weapon skill."
"I made it by 3."
"Good roll; you will kill him in 45 seconds. Let's see how he does. The bad guy only made it by 1, so he'll kill you in 55 seconds, if you decide to do anything besides combat."

Basic Theory

Instead of a fixed amount of time for a task, a variable amount of time determined by the luck of the player and skills of the hero could be used. Because of the nature of GURPS in keeping all skills along the same rules, tasks are easily integrated into combat. Each round there is an attack, damage, and possibly regeneration. Each task has a number of Task Points which correlate to hit points; when the points are gone, the task ends.

Attack the Task

For any given task a PC has a skill; it might be a default, but there is a number that may be rolled against. The character may also have advantages and equipment to make a job easier or some disadvantages to slow him down. Some equipment will only apply to skill, some only to progress. A power drill will make the job go faster, but a laser guide on the saw only adds to skill. Each round the player makes a roll against his skill with the appropriate modifiers. On a success, progress is made. On a critical success the progress roll is maximum. On a failure, no progress is made. On a critical failure a setback has occurred (see below). Some skills, such as digging a hole or bailing out a boat, do not require a skill roll. Use a margin of 0 for these cases.

Make Progress

Each task has an attribute associated with it. This may be the primary attribute for the skill or a different one. Lock-picking is a mental skill and IQ would be the base for the skill roll. Actually picking the lock is a DX event so DX would be the affecting attribute. Perception or other derived values may also be used. The margin of success is added to the affecting attribute and any other pertinent bonuses, and the thrust damage value from the basic damage table is determined. This is the amount of progress made. Note that a failure does not allow progress at a lesser value. If the total progress made exceeds the Task Points of the project, the long action is a success. If not, the PC continues next round.

Regeneration

Some tasks are not straightforward. Bailing water out of a leaky canoe is an example. No matter how fast the bailing is happening, water still comes in until the canoe capsizes. In this case the Task Points might recover 1 to 1d per round until the canoe capsizes or the leak is repaired, at which point the bailing would continue until everyone relaxed.

Setbacks

When a task goes horribly wrong setbacks occur. The following list is not comprehensive.

Task Points

In this system a task needs Task Points . . . but how many? Like hit points, PCs should not know how many they need for any specific task, but may know the neighborhood. The number of TP for a project can be calculated from the amount of time the GM would like the task to take or thinks is reasonable and multiplying it by the average progress for the character. For instance, a skill 12, attribute 12 PC will generate 3 points of progress each round. If the GM wants it to take about a minute, that's 180 TP. If a different PC (skill 10 attribute 10) tried the same task, it would take just over two minutes on average.

Average Progress per Round

Affecting Attribute

 

   

8

   

10

   

12

   

14

   

16

   

18

   

20

   

22

   

24

   

Skill

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

 

   

8

   

0.5

   

0.7

   

0.9

   

1.1

   

1.4

   

1.6

   

1.8

   

2.0

   

2.3

   

10

   

1.1

   

1.4

   

1.9

   

2.3

   

2.8

   

3.2

   

3.6

   

4.1

   

4.5

   

12

   

1.9

   

2.4

   

3.1

   

3.7

   

4.4

   

5.0

   

5.6

   

6.3

   

7.0

   

14

   

2.7

   

3.5

   

4.3

   

5.0

   

5.8

   

6.6

   

7.4

   

8.2

   

9.0

   

16

   

3.6

   

4.4

   

5.3

   

6.1

   

7.0

   

7.8

   

8.7

   

9.5

   

10.4

   

18

   

4.4

   

5.3

   

6.1

   

7.0

   

7.8

   

9.7

   

9.5

   

10.4

   

11.2

   

20

   

5.3

   

6.1

   

7.0

   

7.8

   

8.7

   

9.5

   

10.4

   

11.2

   

12.0

   

22

   

6.1

   

6.9

   

7.8

   

8.7

   

9.5

   

10.3

   

11.1

   

11.9

   

12.8

   

24

   

6.5

   

7.4

   

8.2

   

9.0

   

9.8

   

10.5

   

11.3

   

12.2

   

13.0

   

A Look at Longer Long Actions

Not all long actions can or will be resolved within a stretch of combat. Gathering information, designing and building a vehicle, or performing surgery are examples. These tasks might be rolled for hourly or daily with the TP adjusted accordingly. A character in a strange city might need to find a controllled or restricted item. Using Streetwise hourly, using perception at the affecting attribute might require 30 TP. A carpenter and his crew might need 300 TP to raise a house, and roll daily.

Teamwork

Some tasks can be accomplished faster by having more people working on it. Some are better with only one or two people. Lockpicking is slower with two or more. Surgery would peak at around three surgeons. Searching the countryside for a fugitive or missing person is better with many. The benefits of teamwork are that progress accrues faster and critical failures are rerolled, and counted as normal failures if the reroll is successful, somebody prevented the error.

If a task uses more than five people, one must be a leader. If the leader fails his Leadership roll, all other workers count half their normal progress (rounded up). The leader may, but does not have to, contribute to the progress. A leader may supervise up to his Leadership skill level of persons, with a -1 to his skill for each person over that. A manager with a 14 skill could supervise 18 people but would roll against 10, rather than 14. Reaction modifiers affect the roll, not the number of people supervised.

Shiftwork

Some tasks can be picked up by new workers as others tire, for instance building a wall around a town. If fewer than 1/3 of the people are replaced during any hour there is no change in the method, If more than 1/3 are replaced, then the leaders of each group must confer for 30 minutes or lose 1 hour of progress as workers try to figure out exactly where in the task they are. If there is no relieving shift, but the same workers will return after a rest (or the next day) no conference is needed.

Multi-Tasking

Some work can be done concurrently. A character could combine efforts to find restricted weapons, controlled drugs, illegal gambling, and a house of ill-repute using streetwise. If the goals and skills are appropriate a portion of points share. In the above example, the character would need 10 points for each of the 4 things, but after accruing 10 (enough for 1 goal) of those points would apply toward the second goal. When that was completed, of the points for the third goal would be applied, and towards the fouth goal after the third was accomplished. The GM, not the player, should determine which goal is found first, second, etc.

Sample Task Points

These are included as a reference and should be adjusted to the GMs wants and specific circumstances and tasks.

Task

   

Skill

   

TP

   

Affecting Attribute

   

Roll Increment

Training an Animal

   

Animal Handling

   

100/Animal's IQ

   

IQ

   

Hour

Repair Leather Armor

   

Armoury

   

50

   

IQ

   

Minute

Repair Metal Armor

   

Armoury

   

30

   

ST

   

Hour

Conceal position

   

Camouflage

   

10/hex

   

IQ

   

Minute

Gather Information

   

Carousing

   

10/clue

   

IQ

   

Hourly

 

   

Streetwise

   

10/clue

   

Per

   

Hourly

 

   

Research

   

20/find

   

IQ

   

Hourly

Disguise

   

Disguise

   

150

   

Vision

   

Minute

Escape (1st try)

   

Escape

   

200

   

DX

   

Second

Escape (later tries)

   

Escape

   

30

   

DX

   

Minute

Pick Lock

   

Lockpicking

   

180

   

DX

   

Second

Repair vehicle

   

Mechanic

   

200 (simple)

   

DX

   

Second

 

   

 

   

200 (complex)

   

DX

   

Minute

 

   

 

   

200 (body work)

   

DX

   

Hour

Evaluate weapon

   

Weapon skill

   

60

   

IQ

   

Second

Haggle

   

Merchant

   

100

   

Per

   

Second

Salvage

   

Scrounging

   

40

   

Per

   

Minute

* * *

Johnson: I club the zombie with my gun. I hit and 2 points of damage.
Murdock: Still working that lock. Success by 2 and 4 progress.
GM: Murdock, you hear a click and feel the bolt slide open.




Article publication date: December 30, 2005


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