GURPS Wizard 3: Versatility with Only Small Headaches

The Green Lantern pays only 20% cost for his abilities, because they are limited to a unique ring and he has to wear that stupid-ass costume.

If anyone in your group is a comic book fan, they’ll probably attempt to sway your GURPS group to some sort of superhero campaign. Let me just make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a fan of this genre. To me, the Marvel and DC universes are like some giant game of 4th edition DnD with 6,000 DM’s all fighting for control.

Humbuggery aside, GURPS is a system that can struggle with this kind of game. Supers tend to have a dizzying array of powers all based around a theme, and often come up with creative uses on the fly to cope with specific situations. GURPS, with its heavy emphasis on buying specific effects, can be frustrating. Remember when Superman flew around the Earth so fast he reversed time? Well you better have paid for “Jumper: Time” since the beginning, bucko. Green Lantern? Better sharpen a few pencils.

GURPS: Powers attempts to fix this with a few new advantages aimed at versatility, namely Create and Control. They are unusable. Let’s say I want to make a guy that can make fire. I can buy Create: Fire at 10 pts a level. Ok, how MUCH fire does that let me create? According to the rules, energy “appears in a quantity sufficient to do 1,000 x (level squared) kJ of useful work.” It also stipulates that “The GM should limit power output to 15 kW or so.”

What?

Control is just as baffling. Before the physics student can figure out how many kilojoules are necessary for  your Magneto-clone PC to throw a Buick Skylark, he chucks his purple helmet in the trash and goes home.

The solution our group came up with involved Modular Abilities, an advantage described in the basic set and expanded upon in Powers. Basically, modular abilities allow you to put points into a floating pool, allocating them as you see fit when the need arises. This, combined with some thematic limitations, creates something your PC’s can work with without the need for a graphing calculator. Now, the Fire guy can sink his modular points into various forms of Innate Attack (burning) when he needs to lay down the pain in some specific  fashion, but he can still come up with bizarre uses  at his whim.

This also helps with handling small abilities that you can’t really find a fit for. Maybe the guy who controls water wants to use a little jet to push a key out of a keyhole. He says “I have 50 points in modular abilities. Mind Control is 50 points. Surely “Push Key” is worth somewhere below that.”

The system is not perfect. It still requires the player to do a lot of paperwork, and buying modular abilities at high levels (particularly when the player abuses limitations to reduce the cost), can get downright cheesy. But at least you don’t have to look up what a kilowatt is.

-Dave (the GURPS Wizards)

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2 Responses to “GURPS Wizard 3: Versatility with Only Small Headaches”

  1. Yeah, I never have enjoyed comics and quickly get bored when playing in them. Science undermines the concept on a whole and game systems that try to be realistic create too many problems.

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