This article originally appeared in Pyramid #9

The Much-Maligned Will

Optional Will Rules for GURPSŪ
By J. Hunter Johnson

Why is it so hard to find a wizard with a tragic flaw? You know, the kind of thing that bring even the best of souls tumbling down from the heights of glory. Warriors, kings and thieves all fall prey to their hearts' desires, but the wizards (and scientists, too!) can turn a blind eye to temptation without batting a lash. While the GURPS rules for Will are playable as written, they leave out some of the classic character types. What about the world-famous scientist whose obsession with knowledge drives him, against his better judgment, to search out That-Which-Man-Was-Not-Meant-To-Know? Or the simpleton who, although he finds the trinkets pretty, cannot steal the jeweler's wares because he knows it's wrong?

The problem here lies with the official GURPS equation that Will=IQ. If a player wants a wizard character who sometimes will do the wrong thing when presented with some temptation, he can either sacrifice his spell-casting ability by taking a lower IQ, or he can take several levels of the Weak Will disadvantage. Of course, taking just five levels of Weak Will leaves no room in the standard 40-point limit for the disadvantages like Lecherousness or Greed that the Weak Will would have affected! How can we get around this problem?

The Missing Fifth Attribute

One obvious way is to change the equation so that Will does not equal IQ. By making Will a separate attribute, players can easily create characters who are very bright, but easily swayed by temptation. If he uses this method, the GM must decide how much it is going to cost in terms of character points. The player can either buy it using the same table used for Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity and Health, or buy it using the Strong and Weak Will costs (+4 and -8, respectively) counting from 10.

This system has the advantage of being extremely straightforward. You have one number to roll against, and no modifying advantages or disadvantages. However, it does have the drawback of altering one of the fundamental ideas of GURPS -- the simple four-attribute configuration. Adding a fifth attribute gives even more openings for abuse to those players who are prone to point optimization.

The Three-Pronged Approach

Another way to avoid this problem is to define different types of Will. For example, in my own campaign I experimented with three types -- Mental Will, Physical Will and Emotional Will. Figure Mental Will exactly like the official GURPS Will: IQ + Strong or Weak Will. Characters would use this to resist mind probes and similar mental attacks. Physical Will is computed by HT + Strong or Weak Will. I allow players to roll against this rather than straight HT to avoid unconsciousness or death due to injuries, and to avoid being stunned from blows to the head and the like. This keeps the spirit of many fictional characters who, even when all hope seemed lost, fought on "through sheer force of will." Finally, Emotional Will is equal to 10 + Strong or Weak Will. (Note the similarity to the separate-attribute idea above.) This is what characters would roll against to avoid succumbing to their mental disadvantages.

This system is not quite as straightforward as the previous one. There are now three numbers to keep track instead of one, and the GM will have to assign all the possible Will rolls to one or another of the three types. Are Fright Checks made against Mental Will or Emotional Will? Numerous questions like this may arise (and did during my campaign). The advantage is that it does not change anything as fundamental as the four-attribute system.

Will? What's That?

These solutions, as well as the official Will rules, suffer from one other drawback -- if a character has both Greed and Lecherousness, he is precisely as Greedy as he is Lecherous. No matter what combination of IQ and Strong or Weak Will he takes, he will be rolling against the same basic number to avoid yielding to either his Greed or Lecherousness. It seems plausible that some characters would be more likely to give in to one vice or another, but there is no way to produce this effect with the rules or the options presented above.

The final solution presented here, and the one that I am currently using in my own campaigns, involves doing away with Will altogether (or at least as far as disadvantages are concerned). Instead, when creating a character with a disadvantage that requires Will rolls in certain situations, the player chooses a Frequency of Submission. This represents how likely the character is to give in each time he faces an object of his desire, in much the same way that Frequency of Appearance represents how likely it is that your enemies will show up on a given occasion.

Frequency of Submission
Each time a character faces a situation where a disadvantage indicates one course of action and the player wants to choose a different course of action, the player rolls 3 dice.

If the character submits to the disadvantage almost all the time (roll of 15 or less): triple the listed value.

If the character submits quite often (roll of 12 or less): double the listed value.

If the character submits fairly often (roll of 9 or less): use the listed value.

If the character submits quite rarely (roll of 6 or less): halve the listed value (round up).

Using this system, characters make standard Will rolls for Fright Checks, resisting magical attacks, avoiding the effects of Fast-Talkers, Diplomats, Interrogators and the like (unless you have a relevant disadvantage). Or, the GM could use this method and one of the optional rules listed above.

A list of affected disadvantages follows. Their base costs is included if it differs from the cost given in the Basic Set.

Absent-Mindedness: Use the standard (IQ-based) Will rolls instead; unlike the rest of these disadvantages, this does not involve a choice for the character.

Addiction: Use as listed; there are no standard Will rolls involved. Exception: Alcoholism does involve a Will roll to avoid binging in the presence of alcohol. To handle Alcoholism, it is necessary to break its cost up into the normal cost for the addiction (-10, or -15 if illegal) and the cost for its insidiousness (-5). Apply the Frequency of Submission to the additional 5 points only. Thus, an alcoholic who binges almost all the time would get -25 points for his addiction (-30 if illegal), while an alcoholic who binged quite rarely would only get -13 points (or -18 if illegal).

Bad Temper: Use the optional rule.

Berserk: Use the optional rule.

Bloodlust: Use the optional rule.

Bully: Use the optional rule. Multiply the reaction penalty by the same factor.

Compulsive Behavior: Use the optional rule.

Cowardice: Use the optional rule. If there is a risk of death, increase the number to roll against to the next level (those who already submit almost all the time will submit on a roll of 16 or less). The reaction penalty is unchanged; since it applies only to those who know the character is a coward, having the disadvantage at higher levels ensures that it will affect more people.

Gluttony: Use the optional rule.

Greed: Use the optional rule. Honest characters roll against the next lower number to submit to a shady deal, or to the number two levels down to submit to outright crime (one level past Quite Rarely, the character submits on a 5 or less; two levels past Quite Rarely, the character submits on a 4 or less).

Honesty: This is an unusual case. In the official rules, honest characters who need to break the law must first make an IQ roll to see the need to commit the crime, then they must make a Will roll to avoid turning themselves in afterward. To use this with the new optional rule, some changes need to be made. First, buy Honesty with a base cost of -10 points, modified by Frequency of Submission. Then, if your character needs to commit a crime, he must avoid submitting to his honest nature. If he does manage to commit the crime (or if he commits a crime unknowingly and later learns that his actions were against the law), he must roll again. If he submits, he must turn himself in.

Impulsiveness: Use the optional rule.

Kleptomania: Use the optional rule.

Lecherousness: Use the optional rule.

Miserliness: Use the optional rule.

Phobias: Use the optional rule. The distinctions of Mild and Severe phobias are no longer necessary. If a character successfully masters his phobia, he will be at a penalty to IQ and DX while the cause of the fear persists. This penalty depends on the Frequency of Submission chosen. Quite Rarely means a -1 penalty; Fairly Often gives a -2 penalty; Quite Often gives a -3 penalty; and Almost All The Time means a -4 penalty. Merely being threatened with the feared object gives a roll at the next lower level. Use the mild cost as the base cost.

Pyromania: Use the optional rule.

Sadism: Use the optional rule.

Truthfulness: Use the optional rule. Telling an outright lie (as opposed to lying by omission) is checked against the next higher level.

Article publication date: October 1, 1994

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