Mini-Character Lenses for GURPS

by Eric B. Smith

A GURPS Character Assistant file for this article is available HERE.

A mini-character lens is a small template that cost just 10 points which can be used to help flesh out a character, giving the character knowledge in an area of expertise that he might not otherwise have. This can explain a misspent youth, cross-training on a starship crew, or just dabbling in another field. Most of these lenses are composed of skills.

These lenses work particularly well when combined with character templates from the various GURPS books, allowing characters to fill niches outside of the primary one the template is designed for. You could also create a smaller version of most of these templates for just 5 points simply by cutting the points in the listed skills in half.

Remembered Skills

"My father's plane; I trained on it!"
-- Kate Brewster (Conner), Terminator 3

Often in fiction a character suddenly remembers that he knows just the skills that are necessary to save himself or the party from certain doom -- they can fly the plane, hack into the computer system, or pick the lock to get the team on to the next phase of the adventure. These mini-lenses can be purchases as a "potential lens" in advance, paying the 10 points for a lens plus an Unusual Background of 2-5 points, but just when the need is greatest you may pick any appropriate mini-lens and add it to the character, removing the Unusual Background and reducing the point cost of the character appropriately. The GM may even allow the player to create the mini-lens himself; the key is that it must contain two or more related skills that are important at the moment and are somehow linked through the characters past.

The Lenses

Breaking & Entry Specialist

You know how to break into buildings covertly, or possibly using brute force. Perhaps you did some second story work, or you used to install security systems. Half the knack of breaking & entry is in knowing where, and when, to break and enter.

Lockpicking/TL (A) IQ [2], Observation (A) Per [2], and 6 points from among Climbing or Stealth both (A) DX [2], Electronics Operation/TL (Security) (A) IQ [2] or IQ+1 [4], or Forced Entry (E) DX+1 [2] or DX+2 [4].


The most important skill for a ships Engineer is not Engineer, but rather Mechanic. Engineer represents skill in how to designsomething; Mechanic represents skill in how to fixsomething. A good ships Engineer will likely have skill in both, particularly if he speaks with a thick Scottish accent.

The other important concern with designing an Engineer is what the specialty for Mechanic and/or Engineer will be. The most useful specialty for most adventurers will probably be based on Vehicle Type - Starship, Automobile, or Light Airplane are probably good choices.

Engineer/TL (type) (H) IQ-1 [2], Mechanic/TL (same type) (A) IQ+2 [8]


Whether a Tank Gunner, the Gunner onboard a Naval Ship or Starship, or the man who aims and fires the Howitzers used in Artillery battalions, all use the basic skills. A Gunner should not only know how to fire his weapon, but also how to maintain it and fix it, particularly in the event of misfires.

Armoury/TL (Heavy Weapons) IQ [2], and 8 points either Artillery/TL (any) (A) IQ+1 [4] or IQ+2 [8] and/or Gunner/TL (any) (E) DX+2 [4] or DX+3 [8].


Cinematic Computer Hackers are a staple of the Cyberpunk genre, and common in other genres. Many times a character in a story just happens to know a "little bit" about computers, and can hack into the computer systems in a nick of time. Being a Hacker isn't easy; not only do you have to know how to break into computer systems but you also need to keep up to date on all the latest technologies so as not to be outclassed or surprised by a new innovation.

Computer Hacking/TL (VH) IQ-1 [4], Computer Programming/TL (H) IQ-2 [1], Current Affairs/TL (Science & Technology) (E) IQ [1], and Expert Skill (Computer Security) (H) IQ [4].

For a realistic Hacker replace Computer Hacking with Computer Operation/TL (E) IQ+1 [2], Electronics Repair/TL (Computers) (A) IQ [2].


Many a person has aspired to be a journalist. With pen and paper, a video camera, or internet access just about anyone can be. Of course, the good journalists check their sources, but many people have made their living rumor mongering or ambushing their interviewies.

Research (A) IQ [2], Writing (A) IQ [2], Electronics Operation (Media) (A) IQ-1 [2], and 4 points in Public Speaking or Photography both (A) IQ [2], Fast-Talk or Interrogation (A) IQ [2], Detect Lies (H) Per-1 [2], or Current Affairs/TL (any) (E) IQ+1 [2].


A Medic has been trained in basic First Aid, perhaps as a corpsman in the Military or to work as a paramedic in an Ambulance crew. The training is more directed towards "scoop and run" than long term care.

Diagnosis/TL (H) IQ-1 [2], Electronics Operation/TL (Medical) (A) IQ [2], First Aid/TL (E) IQ+2 [4], and 2 points in a combination of Pharmacy/TL or Poisons/TL both (H) IQ-2 [1] or IQ-1 [2].

In a low tech setting replace Electronics Operation with an extra 2 points in Diagnosis (H) IQ [4].


A pickpocket has spent some time on the street thieving -- picking pockets, cutting purses, shoplifting, or scamming passers by.

Knife (E) DX+1 [2], Fast-Talk (A) IQ [2], Filch (A) DX [2], Pickpocket (H) DX-1 [2], Sleight of Hand (H) DX-2 [1], Streetwise (A) IQ-1 [1]


The chief skill of a ship's pilot is, not unsurprisingly, Pilot, though for small naval ships use Boating and for large vessels use Seamanship or Submariner. Most Pilots should also have skill in an appropriate Navigation skill, and many ships require more than one specialty to pilot properly: A space ship which can land on a planet's surface then take off and fly to the moon may require Piloting (Aerospace) and Piloting (High-Performance Spacecraft), while a sailboat which has a supplemental motor would require both Boating (Sailboat) and either Boating (Large Powerboat) or Boating (Motorboat).

2 points in Navigation/TL (any) IQ-1 [1]x2 or IQ [2], and 8 points from among Boating/TL (any) (A) DX+1 [4] or DX+2 [8], Seamanship/TL or Submariner/TL both (E) IQ+2 [4] or IQ+3 [8], Submarine (any) or Piloting/TL (any) (A) DX+1 [4] or DX+2 [8]


You get along well in social situations, and can sometimes convice others to go along with your ideas.

Charisma 1 [5], Fast-Talk (A) IQ [2], either Savior-Faire (Any) (E) IQ+1 [2] or Streetwise (A) IQ [2], and one of Carousing (E) HT [1], Diplomacy (H) IQ-2 [1], Intimidation (A) Will-1 [1], Sex Appeal (A) HT [1], Leadership or Public Speaking both (A) IQ-1 [1].


A storyteller likes to tell stories or jokes, and is quite adept at keeping his companions entertained during those long boring times that can sometimes happen between adventures.

Expert Skill (Bardic Lore) (H) IQ-1 [2], Public Speaking (Storytelling or Jokes)* (E) IQ+2 [4], and 4 points among Research (A) IQ [2], Singing (E) HT+1 [2], or Current Affairs (any) (E) IQ+1 [2] or IQ+2 [4].

*Note: These are optional specialties of the Public Speaking skill, reducing difficult from (A) to (E).


A Survivalist has spent some time in the wild hunting, fishing, and camping. If dropped into the wild with at least some tools he stands a decent chance of surviving and even thriving.

Naturalist (H) IQ-1 [2], Navigation (Land) (A) IQ-1 [1], Survival (Any) (A) Per [2], 2 points in one of Guns/TL (Musket, Rifle, or Shotgun), Beam Weapons/TL (Rifle) all (E) DX+1 [2], Bow or Spear Thrower both (A) DX [2], or Crossbow (E) DX+1 [2], and 3 points from among Climbing (A) DX-1 [1] or DX [2], Fishing (E) Per [1] or Per+1 [2], Hiking (A) HT-1 [1] or HT [2], Swimming (E) HT [1] or HT+1 [2], or Tracking (A) Per-1 [1] or Per [2].


Creating a list of spells which are always useful is almost impossible, but what isn't difficult is to give a list of spells which are easy to acquire. A typical dabbler spell caster will either have Magery 0 [5] and 5 points in spells or 10 points in spells and live or work in a high mana zone (or a high sanctity zone) where he can cast his spells.

The first list of spells consists of spells with no prerequisites. Anybody can pick them up with minimal training. This list can also be useful if trying to build a Mage with a spell that has a prerequisite of something like "1 spell from 10 different colleges." All of these spells listed here are (H) IQ-2 [1] or IQ-1 [2].

Air: Seek Air, Purify Air.
Body Control:Climbing, Debility, Itch, Touch.
Communication & Empathy: Sense Foes, Sense Life.
Earth: Seek Earth.
Enchantment: One-College Powerstone.
Fire: Ignite Fire, Seek Fire.
Food: Seek Food, Test Food.
Knowledge: Tell Time.
Light & Darkness: Light.
Making & Breaking: Inspired Creation.
Mind Control: Dull Hearing, Dull Taste and Smell, Dull Vision, Keen Hearing, Keen Taste and Smell, Keen Vision.
Movement: Haste.
Plant: Seek Plant.
Sound: Keen Hearing, Sound.
Technological: See Radiation, Seek Fuel, Seek Machine/TL, Seek Plastic, Seek Power/TL, Test Fuel/TL.
Water: Seek Water.

The second list of spells consists of spells which have just one prerequisite. The prerequisites are listed in (parenthesis) after the spell or spells they apply to.

Air: Create Air, No-Smell, Stench (Purify Air).
Body Control: Spasm, Tickle (Itch).
Communication & Empathy: Sense Emotion (Sense Foes).
Earth: Seek Pass, Shape Earth (Seek Earth).
Fire: Create Fire, Extinguish Fire, Shape Fire (Ignite Fire).
Food: Decay, Season (Test Food).
Healing: Body-Reading (Sense Life).
Light & Darkness: Colors, Continual Light, Remove Shadow, Shape Light (Light).
Movement: Glue, Grease (Haste).
Plant: Identify Plant (Seek Plant).
Protection & Warning: Sense Danger (Sense Foes).
Sound: Silence, Thunderclap, Voices (Sound), Sound Vision (Keen Hearing).
Technological: Identify Metal (Seek Earth), Identify Plastic (Seek Plastic), Magnetic Vision (Keen Vision), Preserve Fuel/TL (Test Fuel/TL), Radio Hearing (Keen Hearing), Reveal Function/TL (Seek Machine/TL).
Water: Purify Water, Seek Coastline (Seek Water).

Article publication date: April 21, 2006

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