This article originally appeared in Pyramid #30

Free-For-All: Q&A on GURPS Characters, Combat and Genres by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

Below are some clarifications and answers to questions about advantages and skills from the GURPS Basic Set and Compendium I. All of these questions were originally asked on the Internet, and often arose in the context of rules discussions. They have been edited here for clarity and brevity, as well as to preserve context. Feel free to send your questions to Dr. Kromm <>.

I need some clarification about the Awareness advantage from Compendium I. What exactly does it do? As I understand it, the second level of the advantage is equivalent to Mage Sight (or is it Detect Magic?) and the Aura spell (with success equivalent to a critical success). But what does the first level give?

- Assaf Ravid

For 15 points, you can sense spirits, magic use and magic items nearby, as well as a person's general emotional state, by making an IQ roll modified by Alertness and the Long Distance Modifiers on p. B151. In a way, it's kind of like "always on" Detect Magic, Sense Emotion and Sense Spirit spells that work at longer range than usual.

For 35 points, you can do all that and you can judge someone's personality in about as much detail as you could with the Empathy advantage. As well, you can see auras (as per the Aura spell), deducing "secret magical traits" on any successful IQ roll, not just a critical success. Once more, Alertness adds to these IQ rolls.

Damage Resistance
1. Does the "Hardened DR" enhancement bought at any level really cancel out the armor-piercing effects of certain weapons? For example, if you have one level of "Hardened DR" and you are hit by a weapon which ignores all but 10% of DR (like a shaped charge or monowire blade), does your DR really experience no divisor?

2. If you are hit by a flamethrower, which goes against the worst DR of all body parts, do you get full damage, since your eyes do not have DR?

- Cristiano Rech Meneguzzi

1. That is how the rules read with respect to weapons; however - except in very cinematic Supers campaigns - it doesn't make a lot of sense that way. Instead, assume that "Hardened DR" reduces armor divisors by 1 per level. Thus, against a single level of this enhancement, a gyroc with armor divisor (2) would lose its armor divisor altogether, a sonic sword with a (5) would be reduced to a (4) and a HEAT round with a (10) would end up with a (9).

2. Normally, for DR to count against an explosion or an attack like a flamer or flamethrower, it must be sealed. Standard super DR is not sealed and does not protect the eyes, roof of the mouth, etc. For an extra +30%, the super can make his DR sealed, meaning that it protects all hit locations and counts against explosions, flame, plasma and so on. Characters with Vacuum Support are considered to have sealed DR already.

Eidetic Memory
1. Does Eidetic Memory (EM) help with the Ritual Magic skill (p. CI144)?

2. Does EM help with the individual Paths or Rituals from GURPS Voodoo?

- Bob Huss

1. No.

2. No. In general, mental skills that grant superhuman powers (psi skills, rituals, super skills, etc.) cannot benefit from EM, unless the rules specifically say so (e.g., the +1/+2 to spells granted by EM).

Regarding Invulnerability to any kinetic damage: sure, it will protect against any blow, but heat is a kinetic manipulation, too. What are the limitations?

- John C. Dye

It only applies against damage caused by macroscopic physical objects impacting with your body: collision and falling damage, blows, projectiles and so on. Although heat is "kinetic" in a physical sense, this is not how the word is being used here.

What is the difference between Immunity to Poison (15 points) and Invulnerability to Poison (75 points), other than the point cost?

- Jim Trigg

There's no practical difference. As per p. CI59, "Also note that this [Invulnerability] is an expensive advantage and that many attack forms have cheaper specific defenses (e.g., Immunity to Poison . . ." The rarities for damage types listed on p. CI49 apply to Absorption, DR and Reflection as well as Invulnerability; this is not a specific listing for Invulnerability. The note I've quoted is intended to indicate that some damage types on that list are invalid for Invulnerability, owing to the existence of things like Immunity to Poison.

Is there an official ruling on Luck? Is it used before or after a roll? It was left up in the air in the last issue of Roleplayer.

- Pan

Yes - this is unfinished business. I've personally asked the opinion of quite a few GURPS players on this, and the consensus seems to be that, for 15 points, it should be possible to use Luck after a bad die roll. Consider that to be the "official" ruling on the matter.

Security Clearance
I'd like to know how the Security Clearance advantage works. I'd like to know, for example, what kind of secrets you could learn at each level.

- Stephane Theriault

It will vary a lot from case to case, but here's the general idea:

Level 1-2, "Requires clearance." You can't have a criminal record. You'll be issued an ID card and the codes, keys or passwords to gain access to your own tools, office or computer account.

At Level 1, you'll be trusted with housekeeping tasks or issues of internal administrative importance, but not with sensitive data. Typical of janitors and receptionists at an intelligence agency HQ.

At Level 2, a comprehensive background check will be run on you as well. You will be trusted with internal security issues (which may be physical or information-related). Typical of security guards and secretaries at an intelligence agency HQ.

Level 3, "Need-to-know." As Level 2, but in addition to the background check, there will be a psychological evaluation. You will be trusted with any additional passwords, codewords or keys that you need to gain access to the specific areas or files you need for your work, but you will only be trusted with piecework on a single, sensitive issue at any one time. Typical of a junior analyst or field agent.

Level 4+, "Compartmentalized." As for Level 3 above, except you will belong to a "compartment" - a self-contained unit that works on a specific set of tasks.

At Level 4, you will work on one specific, sensitive issue, and will be party to the input of those doing piecework on that issue. You may be in charge of a number of people with Level 3 clearance. Typical of most analysts and diplomats.

At Level 5, your compartment will deal with a collection of related issues, each with its own Level 4 bureau, and you may be in charge of a number of Level 4 project heads. Typical of senior analysts and deputy directors.

At Level 6, your "compartment" is your entire organization. In theory, you are party to all Level 5 or less information within that organization. There will still be information that's outside your compartment! Typical of directors and agency chiefs.

Regarding the Sharpshooter advantage: Is the IQ bonus to Guns skill applied to your improved default rolls?

- Stephane Theriault

Yes. IQ bonus always modifies Guns skill, even for default use.

1. Do you earn the equivalent of your starting Wealth every game month?

2. The Job Table covers jobs through the Wealthy level. What about the Very Wealthy or Filthy Rich levels?

3. I am playing a character who is Filthy Rich. How much money can I expect to earn on a monthly basis?

4. Can this monthly amount be broken down into weekly allotments?

- Michael R. Stork

1. No. You earn the amount listed for your job on the appropriate Job Table for your campaign, modified using the chart on p. B192.

2. Jobs come in 5 categories: Poor, Struggling, Average, Comfortable and Wealthy. A character who is Very Wealthy or Filthy Rich should take a Comfortable or Wealthy job; he will get an income multiplier of 2, 4 or 10 to reflect his great wealth - see p. B192.

3. This will depend on your job and the setting. Pick a Comfortable or Wealthy job from the Job Table for your campaign, calculate your income from the formula given, then multiply by 10 for a Filthy Rich character.

4. This is a GM call. For instance, a modern character with Average or better wealth will usually have credit which lets him average-out his cash flow, so the answer there would be "Definitely!" On the other hand, a fantasy noble may be limited (by royal decree) to taxing his subjects only on certain days of the year, so the answer there would be "Probably not."

Weapon Master
Does the cost for Weapon Master include access to an expert for training, or would the character have to pay for Trained By a Master as well as Weapon Master?

- Stan Berry

Weapon Master (WM) means that you are a master (either trained or a "natural"), and allows you to buy cinematic skills and use the Chambara rules when properly armed. Trained by a Master (TbaM) means that you have had access to a master in the past, and allows you to buy the cinematic version of your fighting style (giving you access to cinematic skills) and use the Chambara rules. Neither advantage assumes an ongoing relationship with a master - the GM is perfectly within his rights to say that any cinematic abilities you didn't learn when you purchased the advantage cannot be learned later on. A master who continues to teach you on an ongoing basis is a Patron worth a base 20 points (extremely powerful individual with extra-special abilities). This is above and beyond the cost of WM or TbaM.

I have a question about the Weapon Master advantage. Specifically, it is about the improved defaults: Are they used only on default rolls, or are they also used when you put points in skills?

- Stephane Theriault

The improved defaults are only for default use! You have to buy the skill normally otherwise. For instance, just because Weapon Master gives you a default of DX-1 in a P/E weapon skill does not mean that you can buy the skill up to DX level from this default for only 1/2 point; it still costs 1 point.

Computer Operation and Programming
1. When using the Computer Operation and Programming skills, is it necessary to buy different skills for different systems; e.g., Computer Operation (DOS), Computer Operation (Windows), Computer Operation (Unix)? If so, would there be a default level between them?

- Runar Magnusson

1. As written, no specialization is required for these skills. If you like, Computer Operation skill can be specialized by operating system and Computer Programming by programming language. In that case, it's up to the GM to assess defaults between specialties. A flat -4 is used for most technical skills, but a brave GM could come up with a more detailed system.

Military Skills
Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Traffic Analysis and SIGINT Collection/Jamming: Why are these separate skills? Aren't they just applications of Demolition, Intelligence Analysis and Electronics Operation (Communications)?

- Bob Huss

In a word, no. Real-life demolition men learn how to set charges, not how to dispose of them, while explosive ordnance disposal training teaches you how to dispose of explosives, not how to set them. Traffic Analysis is the tactical-level technical skill of radio interception and triangulation using specialized receivers and software, while Intelligence Analysis is the strategic-level skill of taking intelligence (which may include reports from traffic analysts and other technicians), adding a healthy dose of intuition and coming up with a plausible report on the grand-scale situation. SIGINT C/J is the technical skill of operating electronic warfare apparatus - intercepting and jamming signals in general - while Electronics Operation (Communications) is the skill of operating communicators specifically for the purpose of sending and receiving mundane communications.

Navigation vs. Orienteering
What's the difference between Navigation and Orienteering?

- Michael C. McNeill

Navigation is the skill of finding out where you are without a map, using the sun, stars, radio beacons, GPS, etc. Orienteering is the skill of using a map and compass to find your way around strange territory.

Staff vs. Spear
1. What happens if, while using the Staff skill with a spear, you unfortunately happen to use the pointed end to jab someone?

2. What happens if you put a blade on each end of a staff? Which weapon does this resemble the most? Which skill is used, Staff or Spear?

- Peter Brodt

1. You inflict impaling damage. The GM is perfectly within his rights to require a skill-2 roll to recover the spear after the thrust, though, since Staff skill does not cover how to extract the point after burying it in someone. Otherwise, this is legal.

2. That's either a double-pointed spear or a staff with sharp ends; use either skill, subject to the restriction above. Realistically, the user should have an unfamiliarity penalty to deal with in the case of Staff skill, given that many standard staff moves would be really dangerous if there were blades on the ends of the staff!

The Basic Set states that Accuracy bonuses are limited to the firer's skill. Is that before or after penalties for range, recoil, etc. are assessed?

- Douglas Cole

Before. The bonus due to Accuracy cannot exceed your base skill, but it may certainly exceed your effective skill. The effects of adverse firing conditions on low skill are addressed separately in GURPS: recoil penalties are increased (p. B120), and pp. CII64-66 present a number of optional rules that apply to low-skill shooters.

The Basic Set says that to cripple a limb, you must do HT/2 damage in a single hit. In Compendium II, only the damage required is mentioned, not the fact that it must be taken in a single hit. What is the rule? If a single blow is required, why?

- Gregory Littmann

Basic Set is trying to avoid having to track hit points for every body part, but HT/2 points of damage to a limb will cripple it whether the damage is due to a single blow or lots of small wounds. A limb has HT/2 "hit points," and when they're gone, the limb is crippled.

GURPS Cyberpunk
If I am using the optional Multiple Actions for High Move rule, do bionic legs give a character extra maneuvers, or do they just allow him to move farther each turn?

- Salvatore Falco

Bionic legs grant no extra actions. As per p. CII72, "Enhanced Move, Super Running, Super Flight and Super Swimming do not count toward Move when determining this number. Only count basic Move, modified by encumbrance." Bionic legs are basically a means of using technology to gain the Enhanced Move advantage. They work just like Enhanced Move, and only affect the things that Enhanced Move would affect. This means that they do not affect the number of actions one may take.

GURPS Psionics
I'm confused about the wording in Psionics regarding enhancing a skill in a group. It says to calculate the unmodified cost of the skill first, then round up to the nearest 1/2 a point. Is this correct?

- Michael Dartmoor

Psionics omits a step. It should say "Calculate the unmodified cost of the skill first, apply the enhancement or limitation, then round the modified cost up to the nearest half a point."

From its description, it seems as though Emotion Sense can only be used if the psi interacts with her target by touch, voice, etc., and the target is within her telepathy range. Can she maintain Emotion Sense if the target is no longer in sight but still in range?

- Alan Keith Dugger

No. The target rapidly disappears into the "background noise." As written, the skill clearly requires visual contact, conversation or touch to work; basically, it's souped-up Empathy, not bargain-rate Telereceive.

Suppose a character has Telereceive and Telesend linked, so she can use them both on the same turn (instant communication), and say she uses them to contact someone. If she wants to use another psi skill, is she at a -2 for having 2 skills on, or at -1, since the two skills are linked and effectively one?

- Bob Huss

She's at -2. Just because her two skills are linked does not mean that she isn't doing two things at once!

GURPS Religion
On p. 102, GURPS Religion states that spells cast in areas of Very High Sanctity have no cost. Does that mean that you can throw Resurrection at will, or just that all your fatigue is renewed each turn?

- Peter Brodt

Treat this exactly like very high mana with respect to magic. The fatigue is spent, the spell is cast and, on the following turn, all fatigue lost to divine magic is restored.

GURPS Supers
Do the gadgeteering rules allow a gadgeteer to buy super equipment with points and not cash?

- Travis Foster

No. Gadgeteers cannot build super equipment; they simply have a knack for building normal (non-super) gadgetry quickly. If the GM requires characters with super abilities to buy an Unusual Background, then characters with super equipment must buy it as well. Gadgeteers do not have to buy it, because the Gadgeteer advantage implies no access to super abilities. If the gadgeteer wants super equipment as well as his gadgets, he has to buy this Unusual Background in addition to Gadgeteer, just like any other character.

The super-equipment rules are really just a set of special limitations on super abilities, and are not associated with the Gadgeteer advantage in any way.

In our Supers campaign, the GM is forcing my mage to purchase Gadgeteer before she can enchant any magic items, and I have to buy all my magic items as super equipment! Is this legal?

- Monica Miles

That is, of course, the GM's call, but it's not in accordance with the rules. There are two ways to get unusual equipment:

(1) If the equipment is believable (but possibly futuristic), then you purchase the Gadgeteer advantage and pay a cash cost to research and develop each item. These articles have no point cost. The only point cost is for Gadgeteer.

(2) If the equipment is completely unrealistic, and grants super abilities, then you buy it as super equipment. Each article of super equipment has a point cost only (not a cash cost). The Gadgeteer advantage is not required.

Your GM can do what he likes, but if you want to follow the rules, your mage should simply buy magic items as super equipment, using character points (see Enhanced Magic, p. SU17). She should not need Gadgeteer as well.

1. Super Running has no fatigue cost, but regular running requires a HT roll to avoid fatigue for every 100 or 200 yards covered. I propose that fatigue checks be made every 100 or 200 yards multiplied by Super Running, in the same way Move was multiplied. Do you agree?

2. Altered Time Rate does not actually affect Speed, Move or Dodge, does it?

3. If I have a Move of 10 and Altered Time Rate 3, can I actually move 40 hexes per turn?

4. If so, this doesn't exactly square with the definition of Move as "hexes per second," does it?

- Bob Portnell

1. Most super advantages have no fatigue cost, but even Super Running uses the Exhaustion from Running rules found on p. B88. It seems fair to allow supers with Super Running to last longer when running, though; therefore, I agree: Anything that depends directly on Move or distance covered should be multiplied (or divided, as the case may be) by any super movement multiples.

2. Altered Time Rate (ATR) has no effect on Speed or Dodge at all. Moving twice as fast when you do react is not the same as reacting twice as fast in the first place. ATR does indirectly affect Move, because a character with ATR can take his full Move multiple times per turn.

3. Yes. Actually, if you move in a straight line, your effective Move will be 43, because the second and successive Move maneuvers in a straight line will get the +1 sprint bonus.

4. Call that "hexes per subjective second" and it does. Your ATR 3 character sees four subjective seconds for every objective second. He perceives his own movement rate as 10; others perceive it as 40. His Move is still listed as 10.

GURPS Ultra-Tech
1. What happens if an APEX gyroc hits a person without armor?

2. Does the explosion damage other characters?

3. If it blows through, does it explode behind the character, without additional explosion damage?

4. What is the blow-through limit for the explosive damage?

- Thomas Ackermann

1. It will inflict normal bullet damage (limited by blow-through), then detonate for 1d+3 damage, x5 (!) for being in flesh.

2. No. This explosion is relatively small, and inside the victim's body, so no one else will be damaged by it.

3. No. The round is designed to detonate on penetration. By TL8, it will be using a detonator "smart" enough to activate on impact and trigger after penetration!

4. There is no blow-through limit for explosive damage to the head or torso! Limbs, however, are blown right off if they take more damage than it takes to cripple them.

Is the damage of an APEX round multiplied for caliber? Since APEX rounds get an armor divisor of (2) and AP rounds generally do 1/2 damage after DR, I figured the two modifiers basically cancelled each other out.

- Bob Huss

You are correct. According to High-Tech, a .75 round like a gyroc gets a wounding multiplier of x2 for size, but AP rounds also get x0.5 for AP. These factors conveniently cancel out, allowing you to ignore them altogether.

GURPS Werewolf: The Apocalypse
What's the point breakdown for the Delirium advantage? I'm having trouble figuring out where the high cost comes from.

- Emily Smirle

The basic ability to cause Fright Checks is priced at 30 points - equal in magnitude to the disadvantage Horrific Appearance, but opposite in sign, as it is an effective and useful offensive power. It's treated as an advantage because Garou can decide when to show others their Crinos form, and rarely have to worry about normal social interactions in this form. There is also an extra +10 points per -1 to the Fright Check, modeled on the reaction modifier costs for the Uncontrolled Change disadvantage, but again made positive. This adds 50 points for Garou, who cause Fright Checks at -5.

The fact that this "fear" has a lasting effect after the fact, including a convenient bout of forgetfulness, is a +30% enhancement akin to Extended Duration. The fact that there may be a few rare situations where scaring everyone off is disadvantageous is a nominal (-5%) limitation.

This makes the net cost (30 + 5x10) x (1 + 0.3 - 0.05)=100 points.

Article publication date: May 8, 1998

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