House Rules: Strength

I’m back! (This is my first blog post in six months. I spent the winter stay-at-home-dadding and finishing my master’s thesis, and I just didn’t feel like writing something for fun with that big writing task always looming at the keyboard. But it’s finished now, and I’ll see if I won’t get back into the groove of posting maybe once a week or so.)

giant01
Size and Strength! How well does Gurps handle giants? (I’ve been working on getting the hang of drawing with Autodesk Sketchbook on the Surface Pro.)

So! I’m big on house rules, and I figured I’d share my recent ones on Size and Strength.

First of all, what’s the problem? Gurps has a much better handle on size and strength than most RPGs. But there are a couple of things that bother me. Let’s look at ST today; I’ll get to Size in my next post.

  • Really high ST costs too much. 10 points/level is fine for the typical PC range of 8-18 or so in a campaign where lugging stuff and hitting things count for a lot, but past that the marginal cost of each extra level seems awfully high. I ran a 2000-point Supers campaign, and Super-Effort and IT: Damage Reduction saw a lot of use. They’re cool fixes, but still pretty kludgy.
  • Contests of ST! These are a big deal in grappling, and require (at least with strong fighters) that you rescale the contestants’ ST scores. I really don’t like doing multiplication and division in the middle of play. Stuff like that should be calculated beforehand.
  • Some cool combat moves, like Wrench Limb and Snap Neck, default to ST at a penalty. How do you scale those penalties to ST?

How do I propose to handle this? I make ST semi-logarithmic. As I see it, everything works fine in the typical human PC range, and only starts falling apart gradually at superhuman STs. So, up to ST 20, everything stays exactly the same, by the book. Past that, though, you get split ST, like this:

  • 23/26
  • 38/65
  • 45/100
  • 59/280

What does that mean? The first number is your base ST. It costs 10/level like usual. You use it for contests of ST and all other ST rolls.

The second number is your effective ST. This is what you derive Thrust, Swing, Basic Lift, and HP from.

Effective ST doesn’t cost anything extra; you calculate it from your base ST, like this:

  • For base ST up to 20, effective ST = base ST. (No need to split it.)
  • For base ST 20-35, effective ST = (base ST-10) × 2. That is, every 10 points buys you +2 effective ST. For 250 points, you get ST 35/50.
  • For base ST 35-45, effective ST = (base ST-25) × 5. Every ten points buys you +5 effective ST, and for 350 points, you get ST 45/100.
  • For base ST 45-55, effective ST = (base ST-35) × 10. Every ten points buys you +10; for 450 points you get ST 55/200.
  • For base ST 55-70, effective ST = (base ST-45) × 20. Every ten points buys you +20; for 600 points you get ST 70/500.
  • For base ST 70-80, effective ST = (base ST-60) × 50. Every ten points buys you +50; for 700 points you get ST 80/1000.
  • And so on! Every 35 levels of base ST corresponds to ×10 effective ST, and every 10 points you spend on ST improves it by roughly the same amount, relative to your current level.

Does that seem complicated? It is a little, maybe, but in practice you can just buy base ST, look up your effective ST from a simple table or do that one bit of arithmetic, and you’re set; there’s no math waiting once play starts.

Okay, but what about Striking ST and Lifting ST? What about buying your HP up or down?

Well, it’s really simple: you buy Lifting and Striking ST for the usual cost, add it to your base ST, and use the effective ST that increased level gives you for Basic Lift and Thr/Sw, respectively. Hit Points work the same way: you buy your HP up or down from your base ST, and your final number is whatever effective ST that gives you.

  • Example: Your ST is 22/24 [120]. You buy Lifting ST 3 [15]. For the purposes of determining Basic Lift, your ST is 25/30, so your BL is 180 lbs.
  • Another Example: You have ST 40/75 [300]. You buy Striking ST 5 [25] and HP -5 [-10]. For damage, your ST is 45/100; look up your Thr/Sw for ST 100. For HP, your ST is 35/50; you have 50 hit points.

Okay, is it worth it? Well, I wish I had thought of this when I was running that superhero game back in the day, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But I can only really give you an answer once I’ve actually playtested this. I’m doing that with my vampire campaign, Sleepless Nights (which I’ll get to run on Easter Monday! Yay!) where everybody has ST +10 from the vampire racial template.

Okay! Next time, a look at Size Modifier: what I don’t like about it, what I plan to do about it, and the house rule that’s rules as written!

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