Roleplayer Questions and Answers

[This was all scanned in with OCR software, and while it did a surprisingly good job overall, it may have mangled some names here and there; if you find errata of any kind for these Roleplayer Q&A columns, I'm sure that somebody would fix 'em . . . –]

Here's the list of Roleplayers that had Q&A columns in them.

1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Roleplayer #1, February 1986

Everything You Wanted to Know About MTM

(But Weren't Afraid to Ask)

All questions this issue were answered by SJ. First, a few questions that were asked repeatedly:

When you get up to high skill levels, extra points don't seem to help much. An "expert" swordsman (skill 18) and a "master" (skill 25) seem to have the same chance to hit each other. Why?

Well, increased training is supposed to reach a point of diminishing returns. But this is accounted for by the increased training time. A master really is better in a fight, if played properly. In the first place, if the battle is in the dark or other adverse conditions, the master's skill will tell. And even under good conditions, a battle between really good swordsmen involves a lot of feinting – and a skill 25 can feint a skill 18 a lot better than the other way around!

Why didn't you use the metric system?

Personal preference. I think in feet and yards, not meters.

When (for instance) you check HT/2 to see if a leg is crippled, or roll against HT to avoid the worst effects of poison, is this current HT or starting HT?

Unless a rule specifically says to roll against current HT, roll against your basic, or starting, HT In both the cases mentioned above, and 95% of other cases, HT rolls are mode against basic HT.

How come MTM was 3-hole-punched and Orcslayer isn't?

We punched MTM because feedback showed the majority would prefer it. But (a) it cost a lot, and (b) some people really objected to the holes in the cover. Can't please everybody. So on Orcslayer, and (we think) further separate releases, we will mark the back for 3-hole punch, and lay out the interiors to allow safe punching, but not punch it ourselves. Is everybody happy now? Oh, well . . .

It's too easy to get a critical hit if your skill is high. If your skill is 20, you get a critical on 10 or less, right?

Wrong. We actually playtested it that way for a while, but that's not the way the final rules read. You get a critical hit on 3 or 4 always, on 5 if your skill is 15, on 6 if your skill is 16 No matter how high your skill is, a 7 or more is not a critical.

Is it too much to ask for ink that doesn't rub off on your hands?

No, it's not. Orcslayer was better. We need to use a web press to keep costs down, and, unfortunately, the print quality was not of the highest on MTM . . .

What's the definition of a "beginning" character in point value? 50, 100, or what?

It depends on your campaign. In Orcslayer, beginning characters were 80 points. For a full-scale roleplaying adventure, we will probably suggest 100. But some specific adventures could work very well with low-level (40 to 50-point) characters. It all depends.

Why isn't there a separate critical miss table for ranged weapons? I shouldn't drop my bow because my arrow went wild.

A missile weapon will not fly from your hand – it just drops. But a clumsy archer can drop a bow, especially if the string hits his wrist. I've seen it happen.

Now, some questions from individual readers:

Why can't Brawling be used by default?

– Christopher Merk

Your basic punching ability is, in effect the default Brawling skill. If everyone had a default Brawling skill, everyone would get a small bonus, and it would become meaningless.

What use is a shield? If your Block score is lower than your Parry, it becomes an ornament hung on one's arm to provide passive defense only, and is used only in emergencies. Why not make your Block score equal to Shield/2?

– Erol K. Bayburt

Well, it's a lot more useful if you have an axe or club, and/or if you face more than one opponent. And one of the first things you learn in the SCA (one of the few groups that still plays with shields) is that a properly-held shield will stop a lot of blows with no further effort on the user's part – i.e., passive defense. In playtest, we tried Shield/2 as a Block score, and it seemed to make shields much too good.

More questions and answers next issue . . .

(Back to Roleplayer #1 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #3, November 1986


All questions this issue were answered by SJ.

(1) What if your ST is below the minimum required for a weapon?
(2) Under All-Out Attack, couldn't this include a knife-thrower throwing one knife from each hand? How about someone with two handguns?
(3) When ST is used with the Crossbow skill on the Ranged Weapon Table, is this ST of the crossbow?
(4) Surely the number of cutting/crushing hits needed to knock someone down should be proportional to the target's ST, instead of a flat 8 for everyone.

– John E. Meyer

(1) -1 DX for every point by which your ST is too low. +1 fatigue for the whole fight.
(2) Yes. Good point. That's just exactly how it would work.
(3) Yes.
(4) Realistically, it should be in proportion to weight (not ST) – but this seemed like a good place NOT to have a formula. A good GM could assume that 8 hits knocks down a 150-lb. man, and then vary it. But I wouldn't vary it for a 120-lb. man . . . maybe for a young goblin, or a huge ogre. That's the GM's job: when the rules are dumb (and ALL rules tend to get dumb when stretched to fit a new situation) change them to suit.

If a character with Judo is attacked by a 2-- or 3-hex weapon, can he throw his attacker from a distance? I ruled that he had to move adjacent to the attacker.

– Michael Moe

Right. A judoka grips his foe by a limb or grabs clothing. You must be able to reach your foe – i.e., adjacent – to attempt a throw.

What are the hit points and DR of a sword at which you strike? This is omitted from the Breaking a Sword section.

– Karl Mueller

When you try to break a sword or other metal weapon, it's an all-or-nothing attack – you do not keep track of hit points or worry about DR. If you do not do the amount of damage listed under Breaking a Sword (p. 36, paragraph 3) your attack has no effect – except possibly to knock the weapon away – see the next section.

(1) Does a bastard sword need to be readied after each swing, even if used two-handed?
(2) Why are the weight entries for Fiendish Friedrick and Rogan the Reaver listed for full suits when they are only wearing torso armor?
(3) If you use Fast-Draw, how long does it take to ready two swords – one in each hand?

– Anthony J. Affrunti

(1) No. A two-handed sword, or bastard used 2-handed, does not require readying.
(2) The examples are made up using the easy "generic" armor system, which gives the entire character the DR and PD of the torso armor. So we counted the weight of a full suit of armor against them, too.
(3) If you make both your rolls, it takes no time to do this.

When you Escape in Close Combat, what else can you do that turn, and what facings are possible?

– Randal J. Divinski

Any facing is possible, but you can do nothing else that turn.

(1) I know you did a World Generation Supplement for DragonQuest, but it was never published. Is there any way you can use those ideas without treading on copyrights?
(2) One second seems to be a very short period of time in which to both attack and parry. How did you determine this was possible?
(3) If your basic damage (from ST) is 1 + 1, and your weapon adds +4, do you do 1+5 damage, or round off to 2+2 or 2+3?

– Kent Reuber

(1) TSR very courteously returned all rights in the unpublished material. Some of it went into the GURPS Basic Set; other parts may be used later. Of course, all specific Dragonquest game material has been removed.
(2) I've done it. It's really easy to parry and strike in one second. Few people keep it up for very long – they drop back and wait for an opening. The game does not simulate this, because waiting (without a game reason) is boring. But a sword, in the hands of someone with even a little training, is very fast.
(3) One die of damage is equal, on the average, to 3.5 hits. Therefore, it would be reasonable to turn any +7 into 2 dice, or any + 4 into 1 die. As I write this, I don't remember whether I suggested that in the Basic Set or not. But for those who can stand a little math, it's an improvement.

(excerpted from a long proposal) . . . Wouldn't the game go faster if turns were two seconds? Double all movements; allow each turn to include two actions. A sword can both attack and parry in a single turn; an axe can do one or the other but not both. A polearm still takes a turn to ready. This speeds up game flow a lot.

– David Dyche

It would make game time go faster, and it's no less realistic – but to me, when an unarmored human can move 10 or 12 hexes in one turn, that's too far; it messes up the tactical feel of the game. I didn't like that in TFT. So far I find that once people know the game, it's very fast. But I agree that it plods when you have 6 or 8 players who don't know the system – which is why I advocate teaching it in small groups.

However, there would be no reason not to play your way if you were using the Basic Combat System, without maps or detailed movement rules!

Can you stop thrust someone outside your hex with a ready weapon?

– Randy Harrington

Yes. The distance you can stop-thrust is equal to the reach of your weapon – a dagger can stop-thrust only in your own hex, while a halberd can reach 3 hexes away. This is covered in more detail on p. 101 of the Basic Set.

If a character is created with Toughness, how much does it cost to buy additional Toughness later?

– William F. Adams

You can't do it. Whatever Toughness you have must be inborn – that is, bought when the character is created. Realistically, you don't get that much tougher just by working out. GMs who wish to ignore this ruling should invent "radiation accidents" or use magic, and charge whatever points they want to.

Why are the game maps in 50mm scale? If I change to "proper" 25mm scale, will it have any effect except in close combat?

– William Herz

Not really. We used 50mm scale for convenience, attractiveness, and compatibility with lots of existing maps. If you prefer 25mm, go right ahead.

In advanced combat, does the damage-maximizing rule (p. 23) still apply?

– Stefan Jones

No. The damage-maximizing rule is a way to get a critical hit effect without using a table. It is intended only for the basic rules.

Can a fighter with a dagger or shortsword use the pommel to strike a foe in close combat?

– Tony Adams

Yes. Treat it just like a rock in the fist – roll vs. basic DX to hit, and do thrust+1 crushing damage. Weapons longer than a shortsword are too clumsy to strike with at all in close combat.

When a character increases DX through experience, do his skills also increase?

– Roland C. Smith

Yes, they do. Sorry – I should have made this explicit!

(1) Do you have to be grappling to attempt a pin?
(2) Does a fist really do more damage than a dagger?
(3) If you've already used your turn, can you stop thrust?

– Jamie Fristrom

(1) Yes.
(2) Yes and no. You roll more dice, but a fist is crushing damage (the weakest kind) and can do 0 hits, while a dagger does impaling damage (the best kind) and always scores at least I hit.
(3) You can stop thrust any time if you have a ready impaling weapon; it can't possibly be your turn, because a stop thrust is something you do when the foe moves in on you.

Today in a game, one character did an all-out attack in which he stabbed another character twice and targeted vital organs both times. When you use this "berserker's move," can you really do all that tricky thrusting in just one second and also have moved 6 feet?

Also, if your turn is a second, how long do you have to wait till your next turn?

– Morgan Waters

Well, realistically, most people don't move that fast most of the time. But almost any of us CAN. If you have ever been in a serious fight, you were probably amazed, when it was over, to see how little time had passed.

Still, you are right to feel this is a bit strange. We have the same problem in Car Wars, and we have the same solution. In Car Wars, you can do an awful lot in ten seconds of time. But to cut this down would mean that, in one second, you could not do the emergency maneuvers that you can in real life!

The problem is not that you CAN'T do all those things. You can, but you DON'T. Most people, even in a fight, will alternate flurries of action with long pauses in which they stop and think. This slows the average pace, but isn't much fun to game.

GDW's Twilight: 2000 addresses this problem by making some characters "freeze up" in battle. This is realistic, but (in my opinion) less fun. I would rather make the assumption that all of our characters are heroic enough to see a battle through, swinging the sword till the last drop of blood.

As for turn length; there's no "wait." Your turn is one second's worth of action. Then everyone else gets a turn. Then you get your next second's worth of action, and so on.

How is wealth ($$) transferred, say, from a medieval period, through a convenient time portal, to a modern period? Treasure could increase or decrease greatly in value. This looks like a potential source of game imbalance . . .

– Ed Hunt

No kidding! Wealth, technology, and even (or especially) knowledge could all change greatly in value when you travel between game-worlds. Any time we publish a scenario involving interworld travel, we will take that into account. A GM who allows interworld travel will just have to solve it for himself. Suggestions: limit the time a portal is open; require great secrecy (you can't just run a truck through); local suspicion of obviously otherworld artifacts, etc.

(1) Why are there two sets of crushing damage for the quarterstaff and baton?
(2) Will you be adding any new attributes, such as luck, perception and willpower, for the full roleplaying system?

– John Wu

(1) For the quarterstaff, one type of damage if used "properly" as a staff, and the other if used as a two-handed sword (the swordsman has no blade, so he cuts himself a big stick). For the baton, one type of damage if you swing with it, and one if you poke with it.
(2) No. I think four attributes is enough. Luck will be an advantage (and bad luck a disadvantage). Things that some games handle with a separate "willpower" stat can be adequately covered by IQ or ST, depending on the situation. Perception is a straight IQ roll – of course, if you have a disadvantage like Bad Sight, that's a minus to the roll if you're using your eyes.

(1) Re effects of injury, p. 25: If on turn 4 of a combat I strike a slower opponent for 3 hits damage, is he at -3 to hit on his next attack in turn 4, or on his attack next turn in turn 5?
(2) Can a ST 16 character attack every turn with a pick and parry with it? If the answer is yes, when would he make his ST roll to see if the pick sticks?

– Richard Kabakjian

(1) The explanation in paragraph 2 would be more clear if it said "your attack roll will be reduced (on your next turn only) by the number of hits you took." However, note that the concept of "next turn" doesn't apply to the whole game in GURPS – just to one person's actions. "My third turn" means something in game turns. "Turn 3 of the combat" doesn't mean anything. So whenever "next turn" is mentioned, it's a character's next turn. The time that goes into your turn overlaps the time that goes into everyone else's turns.
(2) Yes. A weapon requires readying after a parry only if it requires readying after a swing. As for the pick-sticking question, see the article in the last issue.

(1) How long does it take to change grips on a bastard sword? What skill do you use to Fast-Draw it?
(2) Why does it take more ST to swing an axe than to throw it? Seems backwards.

– Kurt Hockenbury

(1) It takes no time to change from one-- to two-handed or vice versa. Use either Fast-Draw Sword or Fast-Draw 2-Handed Sword, depending on whether your scabbard is at your side or on your back.
(2) when you throw an axe, you throw it once. When you swing it, you swing it over and over, get tired, and need more ST.

(Back to Roleplayer #3 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #4, February 1987


All answers this issue are from SJ. First some common questions:

Why do bullets do crushing damage instead of impaling?

Because, to realistically represent bullets, they need to be able to punch through light armor and still wound or kill the wearer. But if they did impaling damage, they would blow an unarmored person to jelly! By making them crushing damage, we get the result that wearing light armor is almost the same as no protection when you are hit by gunfire – which is right.

Furthermore, look at a bullet. It's not sharp, and it gets even less sharp when it hits a target and mushrooms. Truly sharp projectiles, like needle-gun needles, really do impaling damage.

How much protection does armor give against laser and beam fire? This isn't specified in the rules.

With a couple of exceptions that are specified in the rules, armor has the same PD and DR against beams that it does against other attacks. This is due to the convenient fact that armor's PD against beams is governed largely by reflectivity – and the toughest armor (e.g., steel, modern plastic) also tends to be the most highly reflective.

The sample character in Fantasy, Raphael Holyoak, has 50 points of disadvantages! Is that a mistake, or did you change your mind about the 40-point-maximum guideline?

Neither. It's a guideline, not a rule. That means you can ignore it if the GM feels the result is all right for your campaign. And if you can ignore it once in a while, we can. We just liked Raphael the way he came out.

Can missile spells be cast more quickly at high skill levels?

No. This is an omission in the rules and will be corrected in the second edition.

Is the fatigue cost of a spell determined by the skill level, or by the effective skill level (minus penalties for range, spells being maintained, etc.)?

By the effective skill level.
[Handwritten errata: "By the BASIC skill level ADJUSTED FOR MANA LEVEL." –]

How far is "far off," when you use the random table to see where a missile shot hit?

Deliberately imprecise, so the GM can use the table on any NPC attacks he wants to. If you have to have a number use 10 x increment for the attacking weapon.

(1) Can weres change at will, only at night, or what?
(2) Can weres learn to do increased damage with their claws, etc., in a manner similar to human use of Karate skill?
(3) Can weres talk while in beast form?
(4) Can weres use magic while in beast form?

– Karl Wu

(1) They can change at will, the same as for the magic spell.
(2) No.
(3) No. They can whine, grunt, etc., but that's all.
(4) Yes – but if you are using the optional rules far Magic Rituals (p. F4), the were will be limited by his inability to speak or gesture properly! Note also that Fatigue spent in were form will carry over to normal farm, so a weretiger who spends his full ST on spells in tiger-form will fall unconscious when he returns to human shape.
[Errata: the use of animal ST to power spells died quickly when a single 100 point tiger-shaped mage with base spell-skill of 20 proved the flaws in this ruling . . . –]

(1) Does ambidexterity let you ready a weapon in one hand while you strike with the other?
(2) On p. 19, it says that an attribute under 7 counts as a disadvantage. Shouldn't this be "under 10"?

– David Burkhart

(1) No. Try it sometime . . . you'll go off balance.
(2). No, but it IS wrong – it should have said "7 or less.", An attribute of 9 or 8 is not remarkably bad so it would not count as one of your three disadvantages even though you do get points for it.

(1) Can a Judoka throw someone who has not attacked him? I ruled that you have to step into close combat and grapple first. And can a thrown Judoka attempt a skill roll to regain his feet quickly?
(2) What happens if a missile spell is sent from an area of regular mana into an area of low mana?
(3) If a fighter is stunned while holding a ready, unbalanced weapon, is it still ready when he recovers?

– Steffan O'Sullivan

(1) Your ruling is right. Use the Takedown rule (p. 99) with Judo skill instead of ST or DX. Rolling to your feet: Not with present rules, but that would be a good addition to expanded martial art rules.
(2) Interesting question – may or may not be worth mentioning in the revised Fantasy Book. I rule that a missile spell cannot enter a NO MANA area, but is otherwise unaffected by crossing mana boundaries.
(3) No. See sidebar, p. B90.

(1) Why does IQ affect accuracy with black powder and high-tech weapons?
(2) How do hit location rules apply to animals and other humanoids? Can you hit a reptile man's tail?
(3) When creating an individual of a species described in PC terms (for use as an NPC) would the Beginning Point Level guidelines be followed? For example, would an "Average" Minotaur spend 25 points over and above the 75 points a PC requires to be a minotaur? If so, PC Minotaurs, Reptile Men, and Dragons would be comparatively weak representatives of their races; on the other hand, a PC Hobgoblin would he a veritable demigod to other members of his race.

– David Gross

(1) My consultant (an experienced military man) tells me that smart troops learn much faster, with all kinds of guns, than dumb ones.
(2) I'm not crazy enough (this year) to publish a hit table for every possible creature. But yes, you can strike at a reptile man's tail I'd say it's about as big as a leg, so treat it like a leg.
(3) Yes, use those guidelines. It is more important for the PC nonhuman to be balanced with respect to other PCs than it is to be balanced with respect to the rest of his race. Your point, though, is well taken, and should lead to roleplaying. (The Minotaur hangs around with humans because there he is strong, not wimpy like he was at home; the Hobgoblin looks down on others of his kind . . .)

(1) What is a 7-hex circle (Pastille effects, p. F48)? 7 radius, diameter, or what?
(2) Can you use a Powerstone to cast spells in a no-mana area?

– Ron Hauser

(1) A 7-hex circle is a circle containing a total of 7 hexes – a central hex and the 6 that touch it.
(2) No. Magic won't work at all in a no-mana area. If you tried, you might drain the Powerstone, but to no avail.

If a pistol is fired only once per turn, does the firer still have the -4 from recoil?

– Jacob Hosler

Yes, on every turn after the first, until he takes a turn to aim.

(1) One-second spells at level 21 + may not be interrupted, right?
(2) May a mage throwing a missile spell have one or both hands full?
(3) Can a critical success on a missile attack penetrate Missile Shield? How about Reverse Missiles?
(4) Does the Spasm spell have to be targeted like an aimed shot -e.g., -2 for leg, etc.?

– Mark Evans

(1) Right.
(2) Yes, if his skill is high enough.
(3) Not at present, but it's a good idea. If I get a lot of positive mail about this change, I'll make it official. Note that then, to be consistent, a critical success with a spell would get it through Spell Shield, and so on!
(4) No. You can put it where you want it.

(Back to Roleplayer #4 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #5, April 1987


All answers this issue are from SJ and DL.

(1) The Necromantic Animation spell specifies that the subject "must be human-- or animal-shaped." How close does the shape have to be? For example, I can animate a lifesize, lifelike statue of a tiger, but what about a crudely made 3" long jade carving? What about an oblong, four-legged table with the same general proportions as a tiger? Would it make any difference if the table was claw-footed? What about statues of fantastic beasties?
(2) In a modern fantasy world, could wands be made out of plastic (since plastic comes from petroleum, which comes from very much decayed plants and animals)?
(3) The description of the Staff spell says that wizards' staves "may be decorated with other materials, like gems and precious metals." Does this make it possible to stick a silver spike on one end and use it as a spear? What about an axe, mace or polearm head?
(4) Is it possible to make a magical staff out of the wooden haft of a weapon?
(5) If the GM rules that the priests of some god receive bonuses to cast certain spells, should it be considered an Advantage to be such a priest? If so, at what cost?

– Al Duncan

(1) How about a general guideline: if your first thought in looking at it recalls a specific animal, it works. Probably not a table, even a claw-footed one. (If you think you should be able to animate a table, it probably can't bite or talk, anyway) You can animate a fantastic beastie if it ever existed in your world, but if none currently exist, you should use modifiers relating to when the last one died, similar to those in Summon Spirit.
(2) Why not?
(3) & (4) Yes.
(5) Yes, at a cost of +5 to + 15, depending on the value of the bonus. The GM might give a balancing Disad, like an hereditary enemy of the priesthood.

When using Exchange Bodies, which Advantages, if any, are transferred with the exchange?

– Nick Christenson

Body-related Ads and Disads stay with the body Mind-related Ads and Disads transfer with the mind. Ambidexterity and Voice stay. Common Sense transfers. Your GM has to make the close calls on things like Luck and Danger Sense for his own world.

(1) Can a successful Feint bonus be applied to a Feint roll in the next turn?
(2) If you are all-out-defending against a Feint do you get to roll twice in the contest of skills?

– Randy Harrington

(1) No – it can only be applied to an immediately successive attack.
(2) No.

(1) Can you wear a chain coif underneath another helmet? If so, what would be your head stats?
(2) How much of your body does the passive defense of your shield actually cover? It seems to cover the entire body, but few shields are that big.

– Justin Talbot-Jones

(1) Yes, the PD is that of the outer helmet, while the DR is that of the combined helmet and coif.
(2) A shield has a chance to protect all parts of your body from attacks which the shield is facing. PD measures the chance of a blow deflecting rather than hitting you. Since a shield increases that chance, it adds to PD. The larger the shield, the more likely it is to help deflect a blow, and so the higher its PD.

(1) Can you wear plate-mail gauntlets and still use Karate?
(2) Can you do an all-out attack in response to a successful feint?

– Thomas P. Uizkery

(1) For now, no. I've never seen it done, so I am assuming it is impossible. But a friend of mine studies karate and has a pair of plate-mail gauntlets, and he's giving it a reality check. If he finds that it works, I'll report later.
(2) Better believe it. You're faked out of your socks, so you throw caution to the winds and attack!

(1) Will a Flame Jet continue past a target it has missed if the target is closer than the Jet's maximum range?
(2) How high must Intelligence be for Charisma and Voice to affect reaction rolls?
(3) Please clarify rituals. For example, with Flame Jet or Stone Missile, must the caster have a hand free to direct the spell if his skill is 21 or higher?
(4) Define "cross swords" for magicians, in particular with respect to figuring fatigue expenditure (p. B117).

– Lee Nichols and friends

(1) Yes.
(2) At least 7.
(3) Spell skill use of 21+ doesn't require a ritual, in general. However, spells which specify a particular ritual (like the pointed finger in Flame Jet) will always require that ritual.
(4) "Crossing swords" includes any melee action, including sprinting out of harm's way.

(1) Does the inborn level of magical aptitude in an elf or half-elf count against the limit of three levels?
(2) Can beings be Charmed or Geased to willingly fail resistance rolls to other spells?
(3) If you teleport while in motion, do you retain that motion?
(4) If you Soul Jar yourself, can you cancel the spell (like Possession)?
(5) If you are Soul Jarred, can you move the jar yourself by using Teleport, Apportation, Levitation, or Flight (assuming a skill level of 21+)?
(6) If your companion is Charmed, can you cast a Charm on him to return him to your side? Would this require a contest of skills?
(7) What things can be created with Earth to Stone?

– Ronald Hew

(1) & (2) Yes.
(3) Yes, if the GM wants it so. The GM might allow the caster to choose which he prefers, motion or no motion. (Beware carrying this to its logical conclusion – conservation of energy will kill you quickly and messily!)
(4) & (5) Yes, if the jar is in your possession. (Note that your consciousness doesn't shift to the jar unless your body dies.)
(6) Two Charms aren't inherently conflicting or canceling, unless contradictory orders are issued. If so, use skill vs. skill.
(7) Nothing more valuable than stone. Earth to Stone doesn't produce wealth.

(1) In a low mana area, does a caster need a skill of 21 instead of 15 to get a one-point reduction in cost? (I know the rules say before any modifiers, but this question makes sense, since there is less mana in the area to use.)
(2) If a caster using Apportation can see the object, do normal distance penalties apply?

– Kurt Hockenbury

(1) You're right, it does make sense. Use basic skill modified only by mana level.
(2) No.

May fine or very fine weapons exceed the listed maximum damage by the +1 or +2 bonus they give?

– Tim Warren

Good question. No, they can't. Maximum damage essentially has to do with the biggest hole a small weapon can make. The quality of the weapon means you can do maximum damage with a weaker thrust, but that's all.

(Back to Roleplayer #5 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #6, August 1987


All answers this issue are from DL.

(1) Using Teleport Other, can a mage teleport an item from a person or a person from his possessions? Does it matter whether the item is magical or not?
(2) When a psi uses extra ef-fort for more than a minute, is the additional Fatigue cost 3 per minute or 3 per +1 to Power per minute?

– Neal Feldman

(1) Yes to both halves of the question. However, if trying to teleport an inanimate magical item (separate from its wearer, if any), that item gets a resis-tance roll against its Power, and if this roll is made by more than the mage made his Teleport Other roll, the attempt is successfully resisted.
(2) The additional Fatigue cost is 3 per +1 to Power per minute.

(1) According to the Basic Set, when someone lobs an object and fails his attack roll, the object misses its target by a number of yards equal to the amount by which the roll was missed (p. B106). According to GURPS Autoduel, however, a lobbed grenade misses by a number of yards equal to the amount the roll was missed, plus two dice. Which is correct, or why is there a difference?
(2) Can Kevlar be worn under other armor, or is it too bulky? If so, what is its effect on DR?
(3) What effect do hand-to-hand weapons (axes, sticks, feet) have against vehicular armor?
(4) Does a spellcaster have to be conscious to maintain a spell, even one which he knows so well that there is no cost to maintain it?
(5) What Active Defenses are allowed against biting and clawing attacks?

– Wayne Lee, Halifax, Nova Scotia

(1) Both are right. In most cases, use the Basic Set rule. However, figure that round, sturdy objects (like grenades) bounce for the additional distance.
(2) Kevlar can be worn under other armor anytime cloth armor or a leather jacket can (see p. B57). In such cases, it adds directly to DR, but doesn't affect PD. Kevlar is identical in appearance to a bulky vest, and is often not apparent to a casual glance when worn under normal clothes.
(3) None.
(4) Yes.
(5) All three.

Do High Pain Threshold or the Resist Pain spell affect the die rolls required for injury?

– (no name)

Yes – both negate the concentration roll which would otherwise be required.

Can Haste or Great Haste be cast on top of itself or each other? (i.e., are they stackable, either with respect to duration or cumulative effect?)

– Craig Russell, Virden, Manitoba

No, not in any way.

(1) Can brass knuckles add to karate damage?
(2) Why do characters have to make a DX roll in close combat to ready a weapon?

– David Bickel, Plano, TX

(1) No – a karate artist sometimes strikes with the knuckles, but that is not his most common attack.
(2) In close combat, your opponent is close enough to interfere with your attempt to ready a weapon.

(1) If a Dwarf buys 4 points (+2) of Acute Vision, does this cancel his nearsighted minuses?
(2) Will any critical success on a Danger Sense roll give "a little detail as to the nature of the danger"? If a character has IQ 15, will a 5 give some detail?
(3) Do helms restrict Peripheral Vision?
(4) Does a critical hit that bypasses armor also bypass Toughness?
(5) If a spell is resisted by a roll of 3 or 4 (a critical success) does this cause a magical fumble for the caster?
(6) When cost to maintain a spell is in a fraction (as in "1 to cast; half that to maintain"), is the cost rounded up, expended every other maintenance turn, or what?
(7) Is Flame Jet cost equal to 1 to 4 points or 1 to 4 dice?

– Alex Koponen, Fairbanks, Alaska

(1, 2, and 3) Yes.
(4, 5) No.
(6) Round up.
(7) Flame Jet cost and range are both 1 to 4, not 1 to 4 dice. By the way, you may maintain a maximum of two Flame Jets (one per hand) at a time.

Are minuses for shock and stunning cumulative? For example, if Charlie, HT 11, takes 6 points of damage in a turn, is he at both -6 (for the damage) and -4 (for taking over half his HT) for a total -10 on his active defenses?

– David Gillespie, Norman, OK

No – active defenses are affected only by stunning, while DX-based skills are affected only by shock.

What is the difference between Electronic Engineering and Electronics (from Autoduel)?

– Dean Rildebrandt, Sinisbury, CT

Electronics Engineering is the Mental/Hard ability to design and build complex electronic equipment. Electronics is the Mental/Average ability to use and repair similar equipment. An electronics engineer can do everything a person with Electronics skill can do, and more, within his specialty.

How can a faster character defer movement in the same turn until after a slower character? This seems appropriate for a soldier following his commander or a bodyguard following her employer.

– Grant Shampel, St. Paul, MN

GURPS is not designed to allow the type of maneuver you're suggesting here; it's not necessary (or all that realistic). Routine following-down-the-street is not done in combat phases, anyway. You're asking that a follower be able to instantaneously respond to a superior's actions, before anyone else can. If you simply wait until the faster subordinate's turn in the next cycle, less than a second will have elapsed and the subordinate will still be respond-ing in a timely fashion.

But if it's really important to you, change the subordinate's Move to right after the leader's, for the whole combat, and be done with it. But don't allow restructuring of the move sequence for a single turn within a combat.

(Back to Roleplayer #6 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #7, November 1987


by David Ladyman

GURPS Autoduel lists sleeper cabover and sleeper longnose tractors. How much space does a sleeper compartment take?

– Jim Kennedy

Figure 15 cu. ft. per compartment.

(1) Does a spell cast on an object dissipate if the object breaks? (E.g., Continual Light cast on a saber; not a true magic item.)
(2) If waiting, can you choose All-Out Defense?
(3) Is knockback cumulative? (E.g., a character all-out attacks and gets two hits for 8 points total.)
(4) What happens to an illusion if the controlling mage is knocked unconscious?
(5) Can an attacker continue his move after unsuccessfully shield-rushing a foe?
(6) Are the modifiers used in the Slam Attack Contest of ST used again in the knockback from Slam Contest of ST?
(7) Does invisibility's +7 PD affect spells that hit automatically, like Flame Jet?

– Lee Nichols and friends

(1) The spell continues on the largest piece remaining.
(2) No, Wait and All-Out Defense are two separate maneuvers.
(3) No, you must get 8 points of damage in one attack.
(4) It remains until the spell is no longer maintained, but it does not move. In general, spells will perpetuate until no longer maintained, even if the spellcaster is unconscious.
(5) No – the only time a character can continue his move after a shield rush is when he succeeds in the initial Contest of ST by 6 or more points.
(6) No – the knockback from Slam Contest of ST is a straight ST roll.
(7) Yes. The target's defense roll (in this case a Dodge or Block) is increased appropriately.

(1) In the Fantasy sidebar on p. 4, wizards at skill levels 21-24 have casting times halved (rounded up), but spells that would normally take one second can now be cast without a turn of concentration. If decreased times are always rounded up, how can one-second spells be rounded down to zero seconds?
(2) What's a "peacebond" mentioned for the Quick-Draw spell, p. F45?

– Grant Schempel

(1) In general, round up. However, if casting time has already been reduced to one second (or starts at one second), wizards at this skill level and higher can cast such spells in no time.
(2) A peacebond is a length of twine, ribbon or wire which ties a weapon into its scabbard so that it can not be quickly drawn. It is the medieval compromise between disarming guests (who are nominally trusted) and letting them keep their weapons.

(1) Under the Lockmaster spell description, it says that the Magelock resists it, but under Magelock it says that Lockmaster will counter Magelock. Which is correct?
(2) If a character has Ambidexterity and two weapons that are un-balanced, one in each hand, can he attack with one of them while readying the other in one action, getting an action every turn despite the un-balanced weapons?
(3) Can the advantage for Bless override the critical failure rule? (Since it can modify each roll by 2 or 3' you could never fail when your effective skill is 16+.)
(4) Can more than one spell be maintained at the same time by the same mage?
(5) Do injuries taken and fatigue lost in one of a shapeshifter's forms carry over to the other? (This could kill someone coming from a larger animal state.)
(6) Can a shapeshifter cast a spell while in animal form if he has that spell skill at 21 or higher? (It sounds logical, but it gives shapeshifters as much as 20 extra strength points to use.)
(7) Is the subject of a Soul Rider spell aware of his rider?

– David Engberg

(1) Lockmaster works against Magelock if it succeeds in a skill vs. skill roll.
(2) No.
(3) Yes, it can override a critical failure, but the GM will probably end it at that point.
(4) Yes.
(5) Yes, it carries over, and yes, it could kill.
(6) Under current rules, yes. This wasn't an intended result, and it does seem unbalancing. But remember that a shapeshifting mage who casts spells in an animal form carries the fatigue loss with him when he changes back to human shape. If he's used 30 fatigue while in animal form but only has 10 in his human form, he'll fall unconscious when he changes back, and won't wake up for over three hours! (See p. B117.)
(7) Only on a critical failure, as with Mind-Reading.

(Back to Roleplayer #7 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #8, January 1988


by J. David George
sitting in for David Ladyman

(1) Should the Clumsiness spell be resisted by IQ, like Itch, Spasm, and Drunkenness?
(2) The rules for Allies, as printed in Roleplayer 7, state that an ally built on 51 to 75 points costs you 0 points. What's to stop a player from taking thousands of allies, since it wouldn't cost him anything?
(3) How many points does a character with Eidetic Memory need to put into a Mental/Hard skill in order to bring it above his default?

– Neal Feldman, Salem, OR

(1) Yes.
(2) Nothing in the rules, but one strong pragmatic reason. Remember that an Ally is really an NPC "best friend." The strong bond between allies requires that each helps the other in his hour of need. imagine being morally obligated to go to the rescue of any of a thousand or more individuals! A good GM won't allow a PC to have dozens of allies, or will make the life of such a PC a never-ending series of rescues, barroom brawls and bail arrangements.
(3) The minimum amount anyone can put into any skill is 1/2 point, which represents minimal familiarity with the skill. This half point simply buys more for characters with Eidetic Memory.

Do Karate and Judo affect creatures only affected by silver or magic, such as werewolves or vampires?

– Jonathan LoCicero, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada

This has to be answered on a case-by-case basis, because the rules for the various creatures are different. In most wolfman legends, the beast can only be harmed by silver weapons. Thus, hitting him with your fists or feet – whether you have martial arts training or not – will not do HT damage to him. You can, however, use Judo or other hand-to-hand combat techniques to grapple a werewolf or throw him to the ground; you just can't hurt him this way.

Vampires, on the other hand, are subject to almost every sort of attack except metal weapons (see p. H43 for a complete discussion). Body-weapon attacks – including Judo, Karate, Brawling, and non-trained punches or kicks – have full affect on a vampire. Even so, vampires are awfully tough to punch out . . .

When a PC baby dragon turns 20 years old, must it pay the 100-point cost to become a young dragon?

– Brian T. Wrynn, Deer Park, New York

No. Dragons grow at varying rates, and the age listed for each size of dragon is approximate. A dragon does not instantly become twice as large simply because it passes its 20th birthday. Instead, a baby dragon should work to buy up its ST, DX, HT and IQ at least to the levels described for a young dragon on p. F83. Once it has done so, it pays 10 more points for the "advantage" of the young age classification, and gains the other increased abilities of a young dragon – including improved DR, Speed, and Bite, claw and breath damage. A baby dragon becomes a three-hex creature when it reaches ST 12 and HT 12, and a four-hex creature when it reaches ST 13, HT 14.

Since "the maximum number of character points you can use for skills is equal to twice your age," does a character who has spent this many points have to wait until his next birthday to increase any skill points?

– C. Mara Lee, Austin, TX

No. This rule appears under the heading, "Choosing Your Beginning Skills," and applies only to beginning player characters. Once a PC begins play, he will begin to gain points much faster than he did in his previous, relatively sedate life.

(1) Is combat treated like a Contest of Skills? For example, if both fighters make their roll, is the winner determined by who made it by the most?
(2) A werebeast doesn't have to remove armor and clothing. Does this mean the were gets the PD or DR from armor while in beast form?

– Tom Vallejos, San Leandro, CA

(1) No. First the attacker rolls against his weapon skill to hit his opponent. If he succeeds, the defender makes his defense roll – total PD plus an active defense. If the defender makes his defense roll, he has avoided the blow, either by dodging, parrying or blocking it; if he fails, the blow hits him.
(2) No. Any clothing or armor disappears into an alternate dimension, ceasing to exist in this world until the were returns to human form.

Regarding "Quick Readying with High ST": If your ST is 22 (10 over minimum), can you attack and parry with a mace in the same turn?

– Garrison Tong, Los Angeles, CA

Yes. In fact, for a mace or any other weapon requiring only a single turn to re-ready, you can do this at only 5 over minimum ST!

(Back to Roleplayer #8 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #10, May 1988


answered by David Ladyman

(1) Is it possible to learn Fast-Draw for a Blackjack?
(2) Does the shield penalty in close combat apply on shield bashes?

– Sam Jones

(1) Yes.
(2) No.

What are the pay and job roll modifiers for Alchemists?

– Rick Gordon

Figure it's a comfortable job, requiring Alchemy 12+, earning $[skill x 70] per month (often freelance). The Success role is PR-2 (i.e., your Alchemy skill -2); Critical failure is 2d, -2i / 4d, -4i.

(1) Vampires can't be hurt by metal. What about Teflon-coated bullets? Plastic bullets?
(2) On page 53 of GURPS Horror, the Psycho Killer is conscious again alter 38 seconds. What is his current HT? What happens if he takes more damage?
(3) How much does a bayonet for an M-16 cost?
(4) If you start with Danger Sense, can you later increase ESP Power and learn ESP skills?

– Roger Range

(1) Plastic is "organic", and if your GM decides that plastic hurts vampires, it does.
(2) Okay, follow me closely, boys and girls. His current HT, even after recovering consciousness, is still -38. He's that damaged – he just doesn't act like it. The next second, he has a "consciousness HT'" 1, then 2, etc., until it has been as many seconds as he had HT originally. If he takes damage that sends his "consciousness HT" below 0, he's unconscious again. (He probably also has to make another check to avoid death, since his actual HT is now in the -40 to -50 range.) (If it helps, figure his "consciousness HT" as though he were a Walking Dead (p. H45), but figure his actual HT as though he were a normal person.)
(3) This one's easier. $50.
(4) Yes, if your GM allows psionics in his world at all.

(Back to Roleplayer #10 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #11, August 1988


(1) Though it's a common feature of most roleplaying systems, why the high cost of the higher levels of ST, DX, IQ, and HT, as well as skills in GURPS? I understand how this approximates the "leveling-out" of most characters as they become more experienced; after all, the better you are at a given skill or ability, the harder it is to improve on that ability.

The problem, for beginning characters, is that this tends to encourage a degree of sameness between different characters. After all, no one's going to be able to afford a truly exceptional characteristic at these point costs; most skills and especially attributes are going to fall in the 11-14 range.

(2) Why the high point allocation system with all the attendant record-keeping and balance complications, as compared to the 30-50 point range of TFT? Couldn't skills-buying be a bit simplified, and then other costs such as advantages, disadvantages, and stats be converted to a more manageable 1-5 point range instead of the somewhat unwieldy 10, 15, 20, even 40 point totals of some attributes?

This is largely a question of style, of the aesthetics of the game system. One of the biggest annoyances I felt over the Champions system was that they seemed to be needlessly multiplying their point systems. (Why not 20 instead of 200?)

(3) Why is combat so fast? One second may be completely appropriate for Autoduel and even plain-old snap shot gun combat, but it seems like a small space of time to squeeze an attack (at least somewhat aimed or at least considered, remember) plus at least one active defense – and fencers are even faster!

Most fights are over before they've started . . . (This is of course the petard on which I'll be hoist; it's probably only a steady diet of Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and Conan movies that have convinced me combats are epic, prolonged affairs. But a 4-second climax to a night's adventuring just feels wrong.)

– Benjamin Barnett

Good questions. I like to deal with people who think on this level . . .

(1) I set up the increasing point costs for attributes partly as a reaction to the ease of gaining very high ST, etc., in TFT, and partly to mirror the actual statistical bell curve of distribution of human abilities. I think the gain in realism offsets the (possible) loss in playability – especially since characters with 18 ST tend to mess up playability as well . . .

(2) Point cost: Basically, I agree with you. I originally set things up so that the unit cost for a small amount of skill was I point, and built on that. Later I halved everything, so that you can spend 1/2 point; this is playable because so few really do spend only a half-point, and cuts other costs down to what I consider manageable levels. I'm comfortable with the current levels.

(3) Speed of combat is based on SCA experience, interviews with friends who have been under fire, and informal reality checks. It really can be that fast. When it isn't, it's due to people freezing up (gameable but boring) or extraneous factors. Or very good defense, which is where Errol Flynn comes in. (Conan flicks are just indefensible.)

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #11 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #12, December 1988


What form of active defense can be used against the disarming ability for the Fencing skill?

– Steven C. Sick

You may Dodge or Parry vs. your opponent's attempt to disarm you; you may not Block.

Are there any combat bonuses for 4 men against a single fighter?

– Michael Juned

The odds seem a bit unfair to me . . . There is no direct bonus, but your victim will be at a disadvantage if attacked from behind. He will have to Dodge a lot, and, unless he has a fencing weapon, may only Parry and Block once per turn. In other words, he'll be swiss cheese.

(1) You have Sumo Wresting (in GURPS Japan) as a skill, but no real function for it. Sumo matches being 1) a Contest of DX and 2) a Contest of ST. The skill does not seem to play a part.
(2) How do you use the Name Generator in GURPS Japan?

– Paul Weilner

(1) Caught again. You may substitute your Sumo skill for DX, if you wish. Sorry about that.
(2) Pick the syllables you want and you have a name. Generally, you pick a syllable from a left-hand column and add it to one from a right-hand column.

What and where are the vital organs?

– Heman Ruiz Camauer

Vitals consists of an area approximately 4 to 6 inches wide running from the base of the brain down the center of the torso to the groin. Include major internal organs to the side of the path (e.g., kidneys and liver). A blow to the groin is also considered a "vitals" attack.

Neither ronin nor samurai can buy the two swords they both should own. Does this mean that they automatically get them free?

– Brian Monks

It is assumed that they are given to the samurai and ronin by their lords. Samurai in financial trouble could (and often did) sell their swords and buy cheaper ones – they would then live off what was left, if there was any.

If using the advanced combat system and hit location, and firing at a target in partial cover with "only head and shoulders exposed, -5 to hit" what hit locations can be hit?

– David L. Pulver

The -5 penalty assumes that you are firing at the head and shoulders only.

Concerning the Military Rank advantage, would Reserve members pay only a third of the cost?

– John P.

You receive no points for Reserve; it is not an advantage or disadvantage. (Unless you are in a world where there is some specific advantage or disadvantage to being a Reserve member.) However, you must pay points equivalent to your rank if you are called to active duty. It might make a great quirk . . .

(Back to Roleplayer #12 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #13, February 1989


What happens to the Enemies disadvantage if you should go somewhere where your enemy couldn't possibly get to you? (A character hunted by the Mafia steals the only working model of a time machine and flees to the 15th century.)

– Michael Hoperoft

Unless the player elects to pay the points to buy off the Enemies disadvantage after his escape, the GM should give the player an equivalent Enemy in his new setting. (e.g., The time machine destroyed the local baron's castle when it appeared in the 15th century . . .)

My character has a Basic Speed of 5.5 and a Running skill of 9, resulting in a move of 6.625. My GM claims that the Running skill does not apply to combat, giving me a Dodge of 5. Is this true?

– Ken Lin

The Running skill does apply to combat, but only as a series of Move maneuvers. Therefore, the bonuses apply only to movement in a straight line, not for a Dodge. Your GM is correct.

(Back to Roleplayer #13 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #14, June 1989


If you are being grappled with one hand, is there a penalty for dodging? For two hands? It seems that if you are being held, you shouldn't be able to dodge very well, especially if someone is holding you with one hand and stabbing you with the other.

– Kenneth Lin

The rules as written do not include any penalty to Dodge while being grappled. However, your point is well taken! GMs who like added detail and realism could add a -2 penalty to all active defenses for each hand, tentacle or other member that is grappling the defender. If it plays well, it could become official.

– SJ

Regarding the Running skill. When using the "Realistic Way" of determining turn sequence (sidebar p. B95) does the increased move score "speed up the character" or does running only increase the distance which can be covered by the character? What about Dodge?

– Rob Schultz

Running only increases the distance that the character moves; it does not affect Dodge and it does not affect who goes first.

– SJ

(Back to Roleplayer #14 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #15, August 1989


In High-Tech (and other places, too), why is it that some weapons have a Recoil (Rcl) number listed, even though their rate of fire is incredibly low? How can a musket-user's second shot be affected by recoil when he has to reload after every shot?

Several correspondents

Simple: Most single-shot weapons could also be built as multi-barrel ones; there are rules for this in High-Tech. The Rcl number would apply to immediate shots from the second and subsequent barrels. The reason for listing Rcl numbers for bolt-and-lever actions and the like is that they are gun/cartridge combinations. The Rcl number provides a guideline for dealing with similar combinations that might have a higher rate of fire.

Also, the recoil number gives the GM a guide for dealing with situations (e.g., critical failures) where the force of the recoil is itself of importance. For instance, if a gun must be fired by someone with an injured shoulder, or by an alien with a fragile bone structure, a high Rcl number gives the GM a hint as to what kind of penalty he should exact, if he is inclined to deal with the question at all.

– Mike Hurst

If a mage uses a familiar to Lend him ST in a Q&D enchantment, does it count as an "assistant" for a -1 penalty?

– Brett Slocum

Yes, it does. The familiar is no less distracting than a friend or helper might be.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #15 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #16, October 1989


Does an ambidextrous fencer with two fencing weapons get four parries per turn on a normal defense?

– James Bjork

Why not? We don't have any ambidextrous fencers around here to reality-check it, but that follows logically from the existing rules, and our (non-ambidextrous) two-handed fencers feel it's possible . . .

– Steve Jackson

Why does the Sterilize spell cause 3d damage when used to kill germs within a person, and not leave the subject unharmed/kill him instantly/doom him to death within a few weeks due to loss of intestinal flora? Also, how do those low-tech people know about germs?

– Various reality-checkers with medical background

I like the game effect of the spell, and I am not inclined to change it. That leaves me with the burden of explaining that effect in reasonable terms.

First, as to germs: In many backgrounds, the users of this spell feel that they are "casting out demons of disease." For those gaming in Yrth, we may assume that the germ theory has crossed over from Earth.

As to effect: A spell which killed all microorganisms instantly would obviously slaughter the subject; red blood cells may be considered independent microorganisms, even though they cannot reproduce. Even if blood cells are ignored, the effect of losing all one's "benign" microorganisms might well be fatal within weeks. Therefore, to justify the existing effect, we make the reasonable assumption that the spell does not affect those microorganisms which it identifies as "proper" to the body . . . but it does not make this distinction perfectly! Thus, a critical failure might well kill the subject, and research to improve the spell (especially if the researcher understands the germ theory) might be possible.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #16 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #17, November 1989


Does recoil from a gun cancel a firer's Aim bonus? Or does the recoil number simply reduce any aim bonuses that a firer may have built up?

For example, an M-1 semi-automatic is firing twice per turn. The firer's skill is 12; he has aimed for three turns, giving him a bonus of +2. The Acc bonus of the rifle is 11. The human-sized target is 70 yards away for -9. 12 + 2 + 11 - 9 = 16. The first aimed shot needs a 16 to hit. The second shot, with the recoil of -1, needs a 15 to hit. However, if recoil cancels a firer's Aim bonus, the needed to hit roll is -2 (or a natural 3 or 4): Skill of 12 minus 9 for range, minus 1 for recoil minus another 4 for not meeting the weapon's SS. Which method is correct?

– Barry Link

No, recoil does not cancel the aim bonus, it simply reduces any built-up aim bonus. In the example, the second shot needs a 15 to hit.

– Mike Hurst

Why couldn't a figure with a spear and greater skill in quarterstaff than in spear attack with the point using Spear skill but parry using quarterstaff skill x 2/3? Furthermore, couldn't a quarterstaff be used as the "blunt end" of a one-handed spear, to allow a fighter with a shield or a crippled arm to use the quarterstaff one-handed, at one hex range, with quarterstaff skill-2, for crushing thrust damage +2?

– Peter von Kleinsmid

A spear and a quarterstaff use different hand and foot positions; changing from the grip for one to the grip for the other takes one turn. A spear could be used for staff parrying, but not in the same turn it is used as a spear. A staff can be used one-handed if the other hand is crippled or occupied. Skill and damage are both -2.

– Mike Hurst

(Back to Roleplayer #17 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #18, February 1990


In GURPS Swashbucklers, the Chain Shot Damage table assigns penalties to shiphandling. Two questions: Is the penalty cumulative? Does it affect the next round of combat?

– David Pulver

On p. 87, add the following sentences to the end of the paragraph, Starting a New Round: "However, a shiphandling roll is required before each new round of combat, mode at any penalty determined by the damage tables. A failed roll means a -1 to Tactics skill for that round. Penalties for damaged components are cumulative for different parts – that is, a -1 for a damaged rudder and -4 for damaged spars totals a -5. Further damage to the rudder would replace the -1, however, not add to it."

– Steve Jackson, with thanks to Steffan O'Sullivan

(Back to Roleplayer #18 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #19, April 1990


Can you dodge bursts of automatic-weapon fire? How?

– At least a dozen people

One Dodge is allowed against each four-shot group. If bursts are figured in 20-shot groups (which is only allowed if RoF is 20 or more), it takes five successful Dodge rolls to Dodge one group.

– Steve Jackson

If someone is attacked in the middle of a Move maneuver (by someone else using a Wait), and he uses a retreat to aid in his defense, does the retreat count against his allowable movement?

– Peter Erwin

Yes, it does.

– Steve Jackson

When learning a language in a foreign country, does "automatic training" (p. B54) cease when the language is learned at a level equal to (a) IQ, (b) IQ + Language Talent, or (c) IQ + Language Talent + Linguistics/10?

– Brett Slocum

The right answer would be (c); they all help you learn.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #19 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #20, June 1990


What happens to spells that cross the boundaries of mana areas? For instance, what happens to an Explosive Fireball entering a no-mana area? Can a person using the Great Voice spell be heard 200 yards away by a person in a no-mana zone? What is the effective skill of a mage in a normal-mana zone casting a Lend Language spell on someone in a no-mana zone?

– Rick Malavasic

A missile spell would continue across the boundary into a no-mana zone. No other spell or spell effect would cross into a no-mana zone.

When a spell is cast between different zones, both of which contain mana, calculate penalties as for the lower of the two zones. Thus, if either the caster or the subject is in a low-mana zone, the roll will be at -5. In the case of a spell like Great Voice, in which the "target" of the spell is the speaker, the location of the listener(s) doesn't affect the spell, as long as they are not in a no-mana zone.

A caster in a zone of very high mana has the benefit of fatigue-free casting (if he's a mage) and the problem that any failure will be very dangerous, regardless of where his subject is standing.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #20 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #21, August 1990


What happens when a Chambara Fighter (GURPS Supers, sidebar, p. 84) does an All-Out Attack? How does each of the four All-Out options apply? What if the dodge-by-jumping defense was used on the previous turn?

– Keith Svingruber

Good question. The cinematic Chambara rules permit multiple attacks, and need rulings for All-Out attacks.

If the fighter chooses extra attacks, the number of extra attacks is equal to half his regular attacks, rounded down. A fighter who normally makes two or three attacks per turn gets one extra. A fighter who makes four or five gets two extra, and so on. If the fighter dodged by jumping on the previous turn, calculate the extra attacks normally and then subtract one.

If a fighter chooses the feint-and-attack option, he adds one feint to the attacks he would otherwise get for the turn.

If the fighter chooses extra skill or extra damage, the bonus applies to only one of his attacks during the turn; he chooses which one.

– Steve Jackson

There's a contradiction between the GURPS Basic Set and GURPS Magic. The Basic Set, in the discussion of free actions, says that an attempt to disbelieve an illusion is a free action, taking no time. GURPS Magic says that it takes a second. Which is right?

– (From a discussion on the Illuminati BBS)

GURPS Magic is right. Disbelief is not a free action.

– Steve Jackson

In an ultra-tech campaign, can an Al use braintape and ghostcomp technology to activate itself inside a living clone, becoming human?

– Chris Strube

Yes, it would be possible. As a GM, you can give this capability to NPC artificial intelligences if you think it's appropriate. If a PC wants to do it, your response should depend on the tech level. At TL13 and above, there would be no difficulty. At TL12, it would require of Genetics and Computer Engineering skills, but could be done; just make them spend lots of time and money. At TL11, it would be a miraculous technical feat – learning how to do it and arranging the details would make a good "quest" or campaign object, and should require cleverness on the part of the player.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #21 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #22, November 1990


Can an area spell be attached to a moving object so that the area of effect moves as well?

– Various people

An area spell can be cast on a "moving area" only if that area is fixed with respect to the caster. For instance, a mage on board a ship could cast a Wall of Silence on one particular cabin. When the ship moves, that Wall of Silence will not be left hanging in midair above the ocean – it will remain in the cabin. The mage must be aboard the ship (or spaceship, or car, or wagon) in order to do this.

The "moving area" must be a relatively stable platform. Normally, it cannot be a living being. GMs may allow an exception for a huge living being (a passenger on whaleback might as well be on a boat). But, for instance, a mage picked up by a giant could not immediately start casting area spells on the giant!

Note that the intent of this ruling is simply to let mages use area spells "normally" while they are aboard a conveyance. Players who invent clever ways to abuse this intent should be turned into frogs.

– Steve Jackson

Why didn't you include a cyberpsychosis rule in GURPS Cyberpunk?

– Lisa Padol (and others)

"Cyberpsychosis" is a rule from the R. Talsorian Cyberpunk game. Traditional cyberpunk literature, for the most part, does not assume that heavily cyborged people turn into berserk killing machines. Most bionic psychos in cyberpunk literature were predisposed toward that frame of mind from the beginning.

If the GM wishes to introduce cyberpsychosis, it can be simulated with the mental disadvantages Berserk, Bloodlust and Paranoia. I suggest that the GM require a Will roll at a -1 cumulative modifier for each major piece of cyberwear (a hand, arm, leg, etc.) a character has installed (roll immediately following surgery). Each failed roll means that the PC will acquire one of the above disadvantages over the next 2d days, gradually blooming from a Quirk into the full-fledged disadvantage.

– Loyd Blankenship

1) Can a cyberdeck have its Phase Length decreased by 25% if the base cost for the deck is doubled (like computers?).
2) Does increasing the processing power of a deck or computer affect the Phase Length?
3) Can a cyberdeck jack function as a normal interface jack?

– Kimball Rudeen

1) Yes, doubling base cost will decrease Phase Length by 25%.
2) No, increases in processing power do not affect Phase Length.
3) Yes, a cyberjack can be used for normal interfacing.

– Loyd Blankenship

How many character points does a normal bionic ear or eye cost?

– Lisa T. Osborne

It costs no points, as it is functionally not an advantage. It's just an organ that happens to be mechanical rather than meat. It is only when special abilities such as Acute Vision or Acute Hearing are added that the bionic part becomes a significant advantage over the flesh versions, and has an extra point value.

Remember that a character with a bionic eye cannot take the Blindness disadvantage (likewise for Deaf and a bionic ear).

– Loyd Blankenship

(1) Assume Character A wishes to feint against Character B. The rules state that B would roll (in the Contest of Skills) against weapon skill or shield shill. What if B has both weapon and shield skill and could thus either parry or block the upcoming attack – which skill does B roll against?
(2) Again, regarding the Feint maneuver, suppose B chooses All-Out Defense after having been successfully feinted by A. Does the penalty for B's active defense apply to both active defenses against A's next attack, or only one of them? If only one, which one, and who decides?
(3) Does the +1 limit to Aim bonuses while walking apply only to the normal Aim bonuses (+1, +2, +3), or does it apply to all bonuses, including the weapon's Acc bonus?
(4) If a person is attacked during his maneuver by someone using the Wait option, how much freedom does he have to change his actions after the attack is resolved? For instance, could he change his choice of target if he had been taking Step and Attack or All-Out Attack?

– Peter Erwin

(1) The defending player chooses which skill to roll against. Usually, he'll choose the higher of the two.
(2) The penalty applies to both active defenses.
(3) The +1 limit on Aim applies only to normal aiming (+1, +2 or +3), not the Accuracy bonus.
(4) If you are interrupted during your attack by someone using the Wait option, you can change the target of your attack – even if it was an All-Out Attack. Of course, if you are using a missile weapon, you lose all aiming bonuses.

– Loyd Blankenship

(Back to Roleplayer #22 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #23, May 1991


(1) In the GURPS Basic Set, p. 20, High Pain Threshold states that "you are not stunned . . ." On p. 126, the section titled Shock discusses the effects of injuries, including penalties to IQ and DX. My GM says that High Pain Threshold does not counter the effects listed under this heading because the term "shock" is used, not "stunned," as it appears in the description of the advantage on p. 20. What effects of injury does the High Pain Threshold advantage allow a character to ignore?
(2) For a creature with split HT, is the damage required to cripple a limb figured from basic HT, or from hit points?
(3) The GURPS Basic Set, p. 147, says that very high mana allows a mage to cast a spell at no energy cost. GURPS Magic says that in such an area, the energy spent is renewed every turn. Which is correct?

– Steve Riensche

(1) The intent of the rule was to allow the advantage to let the character ignore those penalties listed under "Shock" as resulting from the pain of an injury.
(2) Crippling damage should be figured from hit points.
(3) Use the rule in GURPS Magic. A very-high-mana zone is entirely too potent otherwise!

– Steve Jackson

GURPS Horror states that vampires are not affected by metal weapons. How about explosives? Would they be affected by artillery or mortars? Napalm? What about other types of undead?

– Bruce Morton

A vampire would be thrown about by an explosion, but not injured – unless the explosion slammed him into something made of wood. Metal shrapnel would not injure him; wood shrapnel could kill him.

As for fire: Good question. In most of its forms, a vampire takes ordinary damage from fire. In its mist form, though, it is immune to fire. Thus, a vampire hit with napalm would probably turn to mist, seemingly burning to an ash instantly . . . but actually, it would escape on the breeze. A vampire close to ground-zero of an atomic blast would probably be annihilated – but who can be sure?

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #23 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #24, June 1991


(1) In the Space Bestiary, p. 38, the Trundler is listed with a PD of 8. I thought the maximum possible PD was 6. What is correct?
(2) In some of the animal descriptions in the Space Bestiary, no damage type is listed. Should I assume crushing damage unless specified otherwise?

– Brendan Woodward

(1) Yes, it should be 6. The maximum PD should be 6 for any "natural" creature or armor, and for almost everything else.
(2) Yes, treat all damage as crushing unless specifically stated otherwise.

– Steve Jackson

(1) In Supers, what duration should be used for telepathic effects like Suggest, especially if used with the No Concentration enhancement?
(2) "Mana magic" and psionics do not influence one another. Which category should the GM use for the GURPS Supers Magic Power?

– Martin Heidemann

(1) Suggest was not meant to be a continuing event at all. A successful Suggest roll will "send a message." The length of time that the subject spends acting on it will depend on the message and the subject's reaction. "Close your eyes!" can be acted on quickly. "Flee the city!" can take hours to complete.
(2) It's really a GM call, depending entirely on the source the GM assigns to the super-powers available in his campaign. In Wild Cards, for instance, everything is psionic. However, as a general rule, I would let super-magic interact with real magic in any campaign that had real magic. (If regular Magic Resistance works against super-power magic, this should count as a minimum -10% limitation on that power, depending on how common magic and Magic Resistance are in the world.) Note also that magic is handled differently in the second edition of Supers.

– Steve Jackson

The "Temporary Wealth" advantage from Roleplayer 18 has been thrown out. What about the "Temporary Poverty" disadvantage?

– David Gross

That doesn't seem to be abusive, and it's interesting. It's still official.

– Steve Jackson

For crossbows, the rules on p. B114 on loading crossbows are different from those on p. B207. Please explain.

– Wulf Corbett

Actually, they're the same. P. B114 is specifically discussing the time required to cock crossbows of different STs. Add two seconds to those times – one to place the bolt in the groove, and one to bring the bow to the shoulder and point it in the general direction of the target – and you have the times given on p. B207.

– Steve Jackson

In 2nd ed. Supers I have only one complaint . . . on the Ricochet Enhancement (p. SU51), [it says] the chance to his is reduced by -10% per bounce! But GURPS doesn't use percentages.

– Wulf Corbett

No, we haven't suddenly altered the combat system to d100s! This is a typo – it should read "-1 per bounce."

– Loyd Blankenship

Can Powers (or Advantages) with modifiers reducing their cost be put into a gadget which will further reduce their cost, or is there a bottom limit on cost reduction?

– Scott Corum

When creating a gadget, the 25% rule still applies, based on the unmodified super power. No matter where the modifiers come from (either applied to the power or applied to the gadget itself), the cost can never be less than 25% of the unmodified cost.

– Loyd Blankenship

(Back to Roleplayer #24 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #25, August 1991


In GURPS Cyberpunk, I have a couple of questions about skill chips (skips) and Eidetic Memory.
1. Does the Eidetic Memory bonus count with points from skips? That is, does a 4-point skip in Metallurgy become worth 16 points to someone with 60-point Eidetic Memory?
2. Can someone with 60-point Eidetic Memory memorize the binary code for a program and "dump" it into the net?

– Bob Schroeck

1. No. A skip doesn't require any kind of memorization – it's just there.
2. No. You'd just be sending a string of zeros and ones.

– Loyd Blankenship

1. Re: Aging. Normally, a roll of 17 or 18 results in the loss of two attribute points. Does this hold true even for Longevity, or is only 1 point lost with this advantage?
2. Re: Cyberpsi (Psionics p. 11). What happens to you if the system crashes while you're in it?

– Stanley Kong

1. Yes, two points are lost, even with Longevity. Longevity just delays the inevitable . . .
2. I'd say it depends on the "crash." If the power simply went out, you might be mentally stunned until you made an IQ roll. If the system was destroyed it might require a Fright Check, and penalties to recover from the mental stun.

– Loyd Blankenship

1. Can you Lend ST to a Powerstone?
2. When combining magic and technology, does Missile Shield work against lasers?
3. Does a Vampire's Toughness protect it from damage by sunlight?

– Stuart Laird

1. No!
2. No. Projectiles, yes. Lasers, no. Magical darkness would work as a defense, though.
3. No.

– Loyd Blankenship

What happened to Ice Vision and Ice Clinging in Supers, Second Edition?

– B. Thibou

It was pointed out that they were merely regularly Penetrating Vision and Clinging with the modifiers "Only Works Through/On Ice," so they were not included as separate super-abilities.

– Loyd Blankenship

I have recently tried to connect to your BBS, and it is always busy! What gives?

– Many writers and callers

At the moment one of our modems is down . . . again . . . so we're back to a one-line system. This means that the board is busy nearly 24 hours a day. We're looking at several possibilities, including upgrading to a 4-line system with modems up to 19,200 baud, USENET links, and several other special features. Software is being tested right now – we aren't going to make the switch until we're sure we've got everything debugged.

– Fearless Leader, the Illuminated Sjsop

In the above question, why did Fearless spell his title with a J? I thought it was "Sysop," short for "system operator."

– You, reading this right now

You're not cleared for that. Fnord.

– Fearless

1. Assume character A wishes to Feint against character B. The rules state that B would roll (in the Contest of Skills) against weapon skill or shield skill. What if B has both weapon and shield (and could thus parry or block vs. A's upcoming attack) – which skill does B roll against? If there is a choice, who decides?
2. Again, regarding the Feint maneuver – assuming B can choose All-Out Defense after being successfully feinted by A, does the penalty to B's active defense apply to both active defenses against A's next attack, or just one of them? And if only one of them, which one, and who decides?
3. Concerning the spell Copy – how perfect a copy does this produce? Assuming you could get the proper blank paper, could you, for instance, produce an indistinguishable duplicate of a Michelangelo drawing? Can you Copy onto a piece of paper that already has writing? Can you Copy only a part of the original? (Clever applications of these possibilities could result in imprinting a signature onto false documents, for instance.)

1. The defending player chooses which skill to roll against (usually he'll choose the higher of the two).
2. The penalty applies to both active defenses.
3. Good question. This spell is intended to be the magical equivalent of a photocopier, not an "enchanted duplicator" – though that would be a good high-powered spell to add. Anything can be copied, in part or whole, onto any piece of paper, parchment or canvas. However, the copy would be only as good as the mage could do himself – if he has Artist skill at 15+, his Copy of a painting might fool most people. An expert might detect it; roll a Quick Contest of Skill between the Expert's Artist skill and the mage's Copy or Artist skill, whichever is lower. To fake a signature the mage would need Forgery skill instead of Artist; in this case there would be little point in using the spell instead of just forging a signature in the normal way.

– Loyd Blankenship and Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #25 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #26, October 1991


GURPS Martial Arts has a bad habit of interchanging the words "Cinematic" and "Chambara" . . . What if Joe Karate has the Cinematic Karate style but not the Trained by a Master advantage? As I read the rules, Joe has to spend points on what the author calls Cinematic skills . . . even though he could not possibly have learned them without training from a master. The problem is that these are not Cinematic skills, but Chambara skills.

– S.D. Anderson

Per p. 25 of Martial Arts, Trained by a Master is a prerequisite for all cinematic skills. There's no point in creating a character with the Cinematic Karate style if he doesn't have the advantage which is a prerequisite for learning the cinematic skills – and yes, these are cinematic skills, by definition. If Joe Karate is as you describe, he has only the basic Karate style, and probably doesn't even believe in the cinematic abilities.

– Steve Jackson

GURPS Time Travel mentions worlds with alternate pasts or presents – but what about futures? Could we travel between such worldbooks as GURPS Horseclans, Humanx, Autoduel, Uplift . . . or how about a Nubian empire that grew to reach the stars? Communist control of the solar system? Rampant post-holocaust mutations, which may or may not produce awesome psionic powers? How about all kinds of variation on GURPS Terradyne? Why couldn't these also be reached on some of the outer quanta?

– Bruce Morton

Why not, indeed? The background states that our Earth and Centrum are the farthest advanced in absolute time, but that doesn't keep some parallels from being technologically or socially more advanced in some ways, or from being equivalent to an Earth might-have-been "alternate future." Go for it! (Someday we'd like to publish a book of alternate worlds, and a writeup of an interesting parallel would make a good Roleplayer article. Any takers?)

– Steve Jackson

Can a non-mage use magic items that require the caster to move energy around? Obviously anyone can use self-powered items, but what about items where energy must come from a non-dedicated Powerstone, or from the caster's Fatigue? Based on the paragraph at the top of p. M16 that "Most enchanted items can be used by anyone," it seems they can. But Magic Items seems to assume they cannot (p. 59, and the table on pp. 118-125), as does Fantasy Adventures (the table on p. 6). Also, Magic says that "Most items let the user cast that spell" on p. 18, and "Normal Mana: Only Mages can cast spells" on p. 6. So which is it?

– F. Ehrless

Non-mages can use magic items regardless of the mana level, unless the items are of a type specified as "mage only." The item's power requirements have nothing to do with it. But a reduced magic level does reduce the effective Power of an item, so items with Power of less than 20 won't work in a low-mana area, as described on p. 16 of GURPS Magic.

The tables you cite in Magic Items and Fantasy Adventures have footnotes saying that some items can be used only by mages except in high-mana areas. This is simply wrong, and will be corrected in errata. Thanks for pointing it out.

– Steve Jackson

Does Claustrophobia affect a character who is in a spacesuit or battlesuit?

– from Usenet

It depends on the circumstance. If the faceplate is constructed so that the wearer can see out unobstructed, it probably doesn't cause him to feel restricted. If there is only a small panel of plastic, it will likely trigger the phobia.

Of course, if something goes wrong with the suit, it is likely to cause a serious reaction. For instance, if the claustrophobe is trapped in a small airlock (or other enclosed space) while still in the suit, subtract 2 from his Will roll to control the phobia. If the oxygen supply begins running low (within 10% of empty), he must immediately make a phobia check, this one at -4! (This is cumulative with the -2 modifier for enclosed space – someone trapped in a small rescue pod with his air running out would roll at -6!)

The -2 modifier for a phobia check should apply to any phobia the suited character has. While a claustrophobic pyrophobe might not normally feel constricted in his suit, if he is dropped in the middle of a fire, it will immediately seem confining! This means that claustrophobia won't keep you from being a spacefarer, but it might disqualify you as a battlesuit trooper.

(Back to Roleplayer #26 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #27, February 1992


For the Pyrokinesis and Cryokinesis powers, why is one pound of living flesh set at 20 cubic inches? Realistically, flesh burns more readily than a similarly dense hunk of equal size of almost anything else except paper.

– G.J. Hosmer

We found in playtest that "firestarter" characters were deadly. There were few foes they couldn't roast with a glance. But when their powers were made expensive, to prevent this, the pyrokinetic ability became essentially useless. We finally decided that living matter has an innate psionic resistance to being cooked or frozen. So, for game purposes, one pound of living matter is as hard to affect with PK or CK as 20 cubic inches of normal matter: This makes pyrokinetics able to melt inanimate objects with a power level that merely raises a sweat on a human target. It was done entirely to preserve game balance while keeping the power interesting.

Rereading the section, I can see that I should have made it more clear that "1 pound living flesh = 20 cu. in." was not intended as a real-world equivalency, but was a game effect for these two psi abilities only!!

– Steve Jackson

(1) In GURPS Cyberpunk and Ultra-Tech, it says under Full Cyborg Body that a full cyborg has 15 hit points instead of the character's normal HT. Now, does this mean that the cyborg has a "split HT," or does it mean that the character has no HT, only hit points?
(2) Since cybernetics are artificial, how are they affected by spells (especially body control spells)? What about clones?
(3) Can full cyborgs cast spells? I always figured that the body stores mana, and if the body isn't real, then there's nothing to store mana in.
(4) If sawing off a shotgun's stock and leaving only a pistol grip increases recoil by -1, what happens when you saw off the barrels?

– Armine McCormick

(1) The cyborg is treated as if it had a HT of 15.
(2) The Body Control spells are affecting the area of the victim's mind that controls that body part. Therefore the spells would work on artificial limbs normally, as long as they are controlled by a living mind. And a clone is a perfectly normal human being who was born in an unusual way, so he'd be affected normally by magic.
(3) We have tried to explain as much as possible about the workings of magic without limiting the GM's ability to decide what is behind it. If in your game, magic is mathematical in nature (X+Y=Fireball) then even an AI could use magic if it had Magical Aptitude. If on the other hand, magic is the channeling of energy through your physical body and soul, then the Cyborg could arguably cast spells, but the AI could not. Certainly, in our own campaigns, a full cyborg can be a wizard.
(4) There is no noticeable difference in performance between a normal length barrel and a sawed-off one in GURPS – or in the real world. A sawed-off shotgun is easier to conceal (less of a penalty to Holdout skill) and a bit louder than a normal shotgun, and it is often considerably less legal.

– Dave Searle and Steve Jackson

(1) GURPS Aliens says that the Kronin have the racially learned skill of Force Shield. This is a TL11 device and the book says it is a TL10 society. What gives?
(2) The Pachekki have the advantage of Limited Regeneration. Where is this described?

– Lyle Armstrong

(1) In a TL10 campaign, the Kronin would not have Force Shield skill; our writer got a bit carried away with his excellent conception of the high-tech warrior race, and didn't check the device's TL. But as soon as the force shield is invented, the Kronin will be lined up to buy it – and in any campaign of TL11 or better, assume they have the skill.
(2) The advantage should have been listed as Limited Regrowth.

– Dave Searle and Steve Jackson

The nature of the interaction between the Recon and Bluff programs from GURPS Cyberpunk is not clear. Does the phrase "Recon also rolls versus Bluff programs" indicate a Quick Contest of Skills?

– Scott D. Orr

Yes, it is a Quick Contest of Skills.

– Dave Searle

To you Fahrenheit, Ounces, Pounds, Inches etc. might be good enough, but to the ordinary laymen the metric system is preferred! You could at least include both your system and metric . . .

– Brian Rasmussen and Bjarne Sinkjaer (Denmark)
(Similarly from Robert Gulley, in Australia, and others.)

Here's one of the pitfalls of international publishing. The USA has officially been metric for years, but the citizenry is resisting bravely. To the American layman, the metric system is a "second language "at best. Most consider it a nuisance. Granted, it's a better system, but not many people outside Washington think it's worth the trouble of conversion. Few Americans think in metric, or want to. Of course, editions in other languages will have to include the appropriate measures for their readership.

In the meantime, metric conversion tables are very widely available. Anybody can copy one from a dictionary or almanac. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I'd rather ask a few people to make copies than make the great majority buy a page they'll never use.

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #27 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #28, April 1992


(1) I don't understand the M11 sidebar on Limits on Protection. Does it mean a maximum "protective bonus" of +5 from any single spell, or a maximum of +5 from any combination of spells?
(2) Clarification on the M 14 sidebar on wands and staves. Jets can be fired through a Wand or Staff – fair enough. The prohibition on Missiles, though, has some people confused. I think it is a simple mechanical one: since Missiles must be thrown by hand, you cannot use a staff – putting the Missile at the tip of the staff would mean letting go of the Missile . . . Have I got it right?

– Daniel W. Thibault

(1) I agree that the Limits of Protection sidebar is ambiguous. My intent was "no more than 5 points of protection, total, from magical sources added to any one roll." But you could get 5 points of "hard to see," 5 points of passive defense, and 5 points of DR, all without interfering with each other.
(2) The only thing the M14 sidebar says is that you can't use the staff to claim an extra hex of range on a missile spell unless the staff actually contains the missile spell. Nowhere does it say "you can't put a missile spell in a staff."

– Steve Jackson

The Independence spell (GURPS Magic, p. 47) works for "any creation or illusion." Does this include spells like Create Fire?

– Norman Banduch

No, because Create Fire simply creates a real fire; it doesn't make the fire "do" anything except burn. It might be possible to create a new spell, which would have elements of both Shape Fire and Independence, to let the caster "program" a flame to react in predetermined ways. One application would be to create an imitation, but still dangerous, Fire Elemental!

– Steve Jackson

There is an inconsistency in GURPS Martial Arts. On p. 25, it says "Trained by a Master is a prerequisite to learn all cinematic skills and maneuvers." However, on p. 42 it is stated "These maneuvers (cinematic) do not require the Trained by a Master advantage as a prerequisite." So which is it?

– David J. Snyder

The entry on p. 42 should read "In a highly cinematic campaign, these maneuvers should not require the Trained by a Master advantage. In other campaigns, that special advantage is required (see p. 25)."

– Loyd Blankenship

Is Ectoplasmic Projection (Aces Abroad) a Supers skill or a Psionics skill?

– Trey Palmer

It is intended as a Supers skill. However as you point out later in your letter it makes a perfect addition to the Astral Projection Power in Psionics.

– Loyd Blankenship

Under "Retreating" on p. 109 of the GURPS Basic Set it states that if your foe was making an all-out attack, retreating does not put you beyond the reach of his second attack. Does the retreating character get to add 3 to his active defense against the second attack?

– Mark Mohrfield


– Loyd Blankenship and Steve Jackson

On p. 82 of GURPS Magic, the sidebar gives an example of a sword with Puissance +2 and Accuracy +2 enchanted into it which requires the Activate Runes spell to use. Puissance and Accuracy are normally permanent effects. Do they have a duration if Activate Runes is required to active them?

– Mark Mohrfield

They last until the combat is over or until the activator is killed, whichever comes first. If the activator is merely knocked unconscious or removed from the battle, the sword will work for whoever picks it up as long as the battle continues.

– Loyd Blankenship and Steve Jackson

The Hide Thoughts spell Resists any sort of mind-reading or thought-control spell used on the subject. Does this include spells such as Daze, Sleep and Sickness?

– Alex Mezny

Yes on Daze, no on Sleep and Sickness. It is a GM call on whether other similar spells strictly affect the mind (as does Daze) or if they affect both mind and body (as do Sleep and Sickness). There's room for disagreement even on Sleep, but we see it as something involving both mind and body.

– Loyd Blankenship

(Back to Roleplayer #28 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #29, November 1992


I just bought the GURPS Supers Mixed Doubles, and I have a few comments regarding it. The Squall and Lightning Bug (pp. 60-64) characters are wrong. In Squall's story, you give the impression that it was her Jinx [disadvantage] that allowed the Firefly to kill the rest of the Weathermen. Also, in Lightning Bug's story, it was because of his surprising luck (mostly as a result of Squall's jinx) that he was able to kill the Weathermen. Well, this is simply not true; if you read the description of Jinxed in the GURPS Supers, Second Edition, (p. 19), you will note some difference.

It says, and I quote: "If you are Jinxed, anyone in your immediate vicinity suffers a -1 through -3 penalty on any roll the GM makes for them. They have no penalties on rolls they make themselves." Obviously, only the characters that the GM is running as NPCs will he be making any rolls for.

– Jeff Brumfield

You're forgetting that the GM makes rolls for player-characters as well as NPCs – certain perception rolls to notice things, Stealth rolls, etc. The GM usually rolls for a player when he feels that the character wouldn't know if his attempt were successful or not.

Whether the Weathermen were PCs or NPCs, the GM would be making some rolls for them, and Squall's jinx would affect them.

– Jeff Koke

1) Could you please list the abbreviations for all the current (and maybe near-future) worldbooks?
2) Can a person do a "controlled fall" (say, off of a roof) and reduce the damage they might take by rolling when they hit the ground?
3) If your HT is 0 or negative, what can you do without needing to make a HT roll every second to stay conscious? Can you talk? Walk or crawl to shelter? Perform first aid on yourself? Cast spells?
4) What happens if more than one person in the party has a Survival skill for that area? Does only the highest-skilled person roll? Or are the skill rolls maybe modified because they are "pooling" their knowledge of the area?
5) Since a very fine weapon will not break on a parry, does this really mean that a very fine rapier (1.5 lbs.) can actually parry a maul (12 lbs.) all it wants without penalty?

– Rick Malavasic

1) Well, that would take up quite a bit of space; there are over 50 worldbooks and sourcebooks currently in print. However any book that uses abbreviations will have those abbreviations listed under the About GURPS sidebar at the beginning of the book.
2) Yes, but it requires a successful Acrobatics roll (defaults to DX-6). This takes 5 yards off the effective distance of the fall for computing damage.
3) If your HT is 0 or negative, you are unconscious unless you make a HT roll. You can't do anything but lie there and sleep.
4) One person can provide for up to ten others with a successful Survival roll. Everyone in the party can attempt the roll.
5) Yes, that's what it really means. That rapier would cost $10,000 and be very hard to acquire.

– Jeff Koke

For 60 points you can buy Eidetic Memory that allows you to count all points you put into "regular" mental skills as quadruple. What are "regular" mental skills?

– Sonja Holmes

Regular skills include all those on the skill table. This phrasing is intended to exclude such mental skills as magic spells and psionics.

– Loyd Blankenship

Do you get a higher starting wealth if you have higher status? In GURPS Space, it implies that is so.

– Tony Archer

Actually, it's the other way around. High levels of Wealth allow a character to purchase Status at a discount (-5 points for a Wealth level of Wealthy or better). What this amounts to is one level of Status free for Wealthy individuals.

– Jeff Koke

How does armor take damage?

– Kevin Robbins, Jr.

Unfortunately, the bookkeeping involved in tracking the damage to armor makes any realistic rules system for it complex and unwieldy. (It would make a great Roleplayer article, though.) In general, it is up to the GM to decide how much damage armor takes and whether and when it needs repairing or replacing.

– Jeff Koke

Can you use the Test Food spell to check food for other organisms? For instance, a buzzard would really love some four-day-old carrion. Would the spell, if cast with buzzards in mind, approve it?

– Nathan Helftnstine

Nathan, you're not a well person. I'd say a provisional yes, provided the mage was familiar with the creature's habits and had an actual creature, or at least a piece of fur, feather etc., to help him focus his concentration away from his own dietary preferences. This will only test for organic suitability – it can't be used as a Detect Virgin spell with Dragons in mind, for instance! Likewise, it couldn't be used to tell rubies from glass fakes by visualizing some imaginary Ruby-Eater.

– Loyd Blankenship

Why is Passive Defense so expensive in Fantasy Folk?

– Steve Zullo

Because PD adds into all defenses – active and passive! With a high enough PD, DR becomes almost unnecessary!

– Loyd Blankenship

How would knack-type magic, as described in GURPS Magic, work in a no-mana area? In general, how would mana levels affect knacks? What about racial knacks, as suggested in Fantasy Folk?

– Hannes van der Koln

Knacks do not function in no-mana areas. Other levels of mana have no effect on knacks – no bonus for high mana and no penalty for low mana. The same is true for racial knacks.

– Jeff Koke

GURPS Uplift gives several devices which have psionic powers or which give psionic powers to their wearers. Power levels are given, but what skill do they confer?

– Mark Mohrfield

For the Psi Detectors, the skill roll is made by the operator of the device vs. his Electronic Operations (Psi Devices) skill, except for the Biomonitor, which requires no skill roll.

The Psionic Amplifiers only boost the wearer's psionic power. The user rolls vs. his normal skill level in the boosted Psionic skill.

– Jeff Koke

(Back to Roleplayer #29 Table of Contents)

Roleplayer #30, January 1993


An interesting situation came up in play today. The party acquired the Powerstone of a wizard enemy who no longer needed it. A 9-carat gem with 5 points of power, it has a quirk that chased it away from both mages in the party (attractive females) and into the possession of a warrior with a magic item who doesn't mind an eighth of an inch of facial hair growing each time the stone is used.

Right now, no problem. However, the player wants the stone up to full potential [9 points of power], and prefers that it be dedicated to his item. When this happens, does the stone operate on split stats, or does dedicating the stone cause the double-power effect on all previous castings?

In a nutshell, will the final version of the stone look like: "ST 5 any magic, ST 8 dedicated (total available 13)," or be a "straight 18-ST dedicated Powerstone?"

– S.D. Anderson

This is an interesting question. Unfortunately, your warrior cannot dedicate that Powerstone to power his magic item. The rules for dedicated Powerstones on p. M42 clearly state that the stone must be dedicated to the item before it is enchanted. Since your warrior's item is already enchanted, he cannot dedicate this or any other Powerstone to it.

However he could have it dedicated to a future magic item, yet to be enchanted. Provided it was brought up to its full potential, the 9-carat Powerstone would function as a 18-ST stone for that magic item.

– Jeff Koke

1) With the Packing skill, can one attempt the IQ-6 default without having the Animal Handling prerequisite for the skill? This question applies in the general sense to such skills as Teamster, Lance, Surgery, Underwater Demolition and Vacc Suit.
2) Is Literacy required for the Research skill?

– Jeff Gaines

1) If a default is listed for a skill, anyone with the requirements for the default can use it. The prerequisites for the skill don't apply to the default.
2) Usually, but not necessarily. In an ultra-tech situation, a computer user doesn't need literacy for Computer Operation, but could and would research via computer. There might be other interesting exceptions; it's up to the GM.

– Steve Jackson

How is the Luck advantage supposed to work? Do you pick an attempt and say you're going to make three rolls, or do you get to say "I'm using Luck" after you fail a roll, and take two more tries at it? Also, are you limited to using Luck once in every hour on the clock, or must you just wait an hour after each use (assuming the basic level of the advantage) before you are eligible to get lucky again?

– (Condensed from an ongoing discussion on Usenet)

Good question! Beyond a doubt, when I wrote it, the intent was to announce that you were using Luck and make three rolls. But from the Usenet discussion, and from talking to other GMs, it's clear that lots of people do it the other way. And the ability to take back a bad roll "feels" more like luck than the ability to try three times. When you take back a bad roll, you can feel the wings of Fate brushing you . . .

So the jury is still out on that. For now, as far as I'm concerned, the GM is the last word. I know I have to come up with a ruling and clarification, but first I'll listen to argument.

As to timing: The intent when I wrote it was that, once Luck was used, it could not be used again for at least an hour. I'll go with that; the alternative seems too mechanically "use it or lose it."

– Steve Jackson

(Back to Roleplayer #30 Table of Contents)

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