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Advantages and Disadvantages

There are only a few; also check the rules for my Middle-earth campaign for more.


  1. Very Old: a new use for Racial Memory advantage by Doug Atkinson
  2. Well-Rounded by Geoffrey Brent


  1. Pregnant by Doug Atkinson
  2. Dependent: Infant Child by Incanus
  3. Late Maturation (racial) by Incanus
  4. Trouble Magnet by Thomas Barnes
  5. Asthma by Pee Kitty and Christopher M. Dicely
  6. Bad Memory by Pee Kitty
  7. Diabetes by Bryan F. Irrera, Andy J. Otto and Incanus
  8. Loyalty by Incanus
  9. Nuisance by Robert Kelk
  10. Can't Breathe by Ryan Williams


Very Old: a new use for Racial Memory

by Bryan J. Maloney (bjm10@edu.cornell)

Your character (presumably from an Unaging race) is Very Old. That means that he or she has seen and done just about everything. To simulate the incredible bank of experience built up, take the “Racial Memory” advantage (see p. CI42).

GMs may permit cheaper versions of this advantage with concomitant penalties to the IQ roll, to reflect a younger character.

Note that knowledge is not identical to skill. The character still has to have some skills that are actively maintained during the last few years. These have points devoted to the individual skill. A Very Old character may have been a great swordmaster during the Age of Brilliant Heroes, but if that was 700 years ago, and he hasn’t picked up a weapon since, he may have quite a bit of theoretical memories regarding swordsmanship, but his muscles and reflexes are likely to have forgotten everything, giving him no better than default in actually handling the darn thing.

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Well-Rounded (10 points)

By Geoffrey Brent (z2214076@student.unsw.edu.au)

A well-rounded character is one who has a lot of interests outside his "work". The advantage effectively buys five points' worth of skills, but the player does not have to specify what those skills are during character generation. When spending XP, the player may also allocate some of these points -- so, if he thinks it might be interesting, he can say "I used to practice juggling when I was at school" and spend one point on Juggling. Once the points are spent, they can't be regained.

The advantage over just keeping 10 character points spare for skills is that you don't have to study when you want to pick up a skill -- it's assumed that you already learned these skills, they just haven't been specified yet. This advantage offers one way for players to flesh out their characters as the game proceeds and they have a clearer idea of the background.


  1. You cannot use this advantage to get a skill you need right now. Someone who's stuck in a prison cell can't suddenly declare "Oh, by the way, I liked playing with locks when I was a kid" and get Lockpicking. (Though a character with Serendipity could use this as one of his lucky coincidences.)
  2. You can't spend more than 2 points on any one skill this way.
  3. You must have a plausible explanation of how you learnt this skill, and why it hasn't come up in the game yet. (In particular, if -- for instance -- you're in a firefight and use your Guns default skill because you have no points in Guns, you can't afterwards say "I was a hobby shooter" and spend 'em.)
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Pregnant (Variable)

Copyright © Doug Atkinson (douga@earlham.edu)

The character with this Disadvantage is, of course, pregnant. Unlike most Disadvantages, this one becomes more disabling (and worth more points) over time. For simplicity's sake, it has been divided into three sections. (Note that these are somewhat extreme, and represent the later portions of each trimester.)

First trimester: 0 points.
The game effects of very early pregnancy are minimal. The character may wish to change her behavior (trying to kick addictions, preparing to lead a more cautious lifestyle, getting a job, etc.), but there are no game effects.
Second trimester: -15 points
The pregnancy is beginning to affect the character's life, but she is not disabled by it. She needs to be more careful about fighting (see Miscarriage, below). Move is reduced by 1, and each point of Fatigue takes 15 minutes to recover instead of 10. The character is considered to have Light Encumbrance for carrying purposes. Skill use is not affected. Note that, depending on the character's circumstances and society, this may be an appropriate time to acquire a social stigma.
Third trimester: -45 points.
The character's lifestyle may be radically altered by her condition. Speed (but not initiative) and Move scores are halved, and the character receives a -2 penalty to any active Physical Skill. In addition, all Fatigue costs are doubled, and the character is considered to be at Medium Encumbrance for carrying purposes (although this doesn't further affect move). Any active adventurer should be taking it easy by this point; if the penalties above aren't enough to dissuade her, the increased risk of miscarriage should.
A pregnant woman is especially vulnerable in hit location 10. A crushing or impaling blow there that does (HT/2) damage (round up) in the second trimester, or (HT/3) damage in the third, runs a risk of causing a miscarriage. The GM makes a HT roll for the character. There is a penalty for how advanced the pregnancy is; -2 in the second trimester, -3 in the third. Immediate medical attention gives a +1 to the health roll. A failed roll indicates a miscarriage; a critical failure indicates a miscarriage with severe medical complications. (The exact medical effects are left for the GM to determine, as they depend greatly on medical care and TL.)
Point costs for the disadvantage:
How should the GM handle a Disadvantage that increases in value over time? One option is to rule that the Disadvantage is simply handled as an acquired Disadvantage (like a hand or eye that is lost in play). If the points can't be applied to other things, it effectively discourages the characters from intentionally getting their characters pregnant.

Another option is to rule that the points from the Disadvantage replace other, related Disadvantages. The second trimester Pregnancy points could pay off, for example, a level of Poverty (the mother got a job to pay for the child); an Addiction (kicking smoking for the child's health); or a particularly negative Mental Disadvantage (learning to control her temper to stay out of fights). The points should not be added to Abilities or Skills (with the possible exception of domestic skills, at the GM's option), and should not be used to pay for a new Advantage or inappropriate Disadvantage. The GM is the final arbiter.

After the child is born, it may be taken as a Dependent (see below). This can replace any changes made in the character using the points from this Disadvantage. If the child is not taken as a Dependent, the player should (at the GM's option) pay for anything replaced by Pregnancy.

If a character begins with a second or third trimester Pregnancy, it is handled as a normal Disadvantage. Players should be careful about taking this Disadvantage if they don't think they can pay it off!

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Dependent: Infant Child (-50 or -100 points)

By Incanus

Actually, this one is just an extreme version of the Dependent disadvantage as described on page B38: built with zero or fewer points, loved one and appears almost all the time all add up to -96, and I added a -4 both to round it up and to make it for the constant fuss you have with a baby.

Note that you don't have to take the disadvantage automatically if your character ends up with a child unexpectingly, even if she is the child's mother: there is a long history of mothers who left their kids lying around or gave them to someone to care over it. However, if you wish to raise the child yourself, you must keep it with you; otherwise it won't recognize you as its parent later.

An infant requires constant care -- including breast feeding, washing, changing nappies etc. -- until the age of three; after that the cost of the disadvantage can be recalculated if the child is given to someone to care about it, although you still have to visit it regularly if you wish to count on the child later in your life. (It's all to the GM, but it would be realistic if you couldn't get the child to be your Ally when it grows up if you didn't pay your visits when it was needed; of course your characters might not know that when it counts.)

At the age of ten you can create a child as a character (although you could do it earlier, I don't recommend it: there are still too many personality traits yet to be shaped out). I suggest to do it with (5 times the child' age) points, and then recalculate its cost as a dependent accordingly.

When you lower the point cost of the disadvantage for any reason, the difference must be either paid for, or substituted with another disadvantage. Good candidates for the replacement -- which you can combine as desired -- are the following:

The -50 version is if the child is not your “loved one”, but you have to care about it nevertheless (for instance if you kidnapped it for ransom, or it might be the only one who could save the world -- a good example for the latter is the boy Erran from David Eddings' series Belgariad).

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Racial Disadvantage: Late Maturation (5 points per level)

By Incanus

Reverse of the Early Maturation advantage (p. A12, CI53), Late Maturation doubles (more or less) the age at which a member of the race is considered an adult (age 18 for humans). That age can't be higher than the age when the aging rolls (p. B83) begin, although it can be equal.

If a character with Late Maturation takes also the Youth disadvantage (p. B29), his current age is 10% -- per level of Youth -- lower than the “maturation” age. Limit of number of levels that can be taken for Youth (three for humans) is determined by the GM, and depends on the actual age when a member of the race reaches the race's average attribute values.

The perfect example for this disadvantage are the Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, which have indeed inspired me to design it. They are considered adult at the age of 33, so they would have one level of Late Maturation. They probably reach their adult stat values at age of about twenty, so they could take up to four levels of Youth disadvantage, each worth three years.

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Trouble Magnet (-15 points)

By Thomas Barnes, who said: “One of the AD&D character books had a marvelous disadvantage that is perfect for GURPS, so I converted it.”

No matter what you do, you always seem to be in the center of controversies you know nothing about. This makes your life very interesting.

When a thief needs to stash the loot from the diamond heist he hides it in your garage. The lady you stop to ask directions from is accompanied by a jealous bodybuilder boyfriend who automatically assumes that you were trying to seduce her. The Mafioso the FBI has been tracking looks just like you. Your appartment is right next to the CIA safehouse and you accidently get all their mail. The Illuminati want to talk to you. Your phones are tapped and the guy behind you at the supermarket wears dark sunglasses and talks into his lapel pin.

Unlike the Unluckiness disadvantage, these problems are not immediately harmful and could even work out to the character's advantage, but they will always make the character's life interesting, if not dangerous.

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Asthma (-30 points)

[This was originally posted by Pee Kitty, but I've also included a suggestion from Christopher M. Dicely, who said that inhalers don't always work, so they should just give a bonus to the HT roll. -- Incanus]

You suffer from asthma attacks. Attacks can be brought on by two things: Fatigue loss and stress. Anytime you lose fatigue (even from magic or psi), you must make a HT roll or suffer an attack. Anytime you are in a stressful situation (GM's ruling), you must make a Will roll or suffer an attack.

During an attack, any fatigue loss you suffer is doubled (including the fatigue that brought on the attack, if any). You will wheeze and have a hard time speaking in complete sentences. You cannot cast spells that require verbal components, and you are at -3 to DX and IQ, as all your concentration is needed just to breathe.

Once an attack has started, roll vs. HT every minute. On a critical success, or three consecutive successes, you recover. A failure costs you one fatigue. On a critical failure you take 1d of fatigue and begin rolling every 10 seconds. If your ST reaches zero you will pass out and begin suffocating. You will die in four minutes unless you receive first aid.

You can never learn the Breath Control skill!

At TL7+, medication can prevent attacks. This reduces the point value of this disadvantage to -15 points. An inhaler (medsensor at TL9+) must be used to administer the medication as soon as the attack occurs, or up to 30 seconds in advance of an attack (e.g., if you are about to lift something heavy and know that it will fatigue you). The medication adds a bonus equal to its TL to the subsequent HT checks, but will not restore any fatigue already lost.

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Bad Memory (-10 points)

By Pee Kitty

You can't remember shit. This is not the same thing as Absent-Minded; you can concentrate on boring tasks and generally remember to do the minor day-to-day things that need doing, but you can never quite remember important facts when you have to. You can never take notes unless your character is physically taking notes in the game (in which case he should keep them on him, or he may forget where he put them). Anytime you need to remember a fact, roll versus IQ. If you learned the fact less than an hour ago, it's a straight IQ roll. Less than a day is at -2, less than three days is -4, less than a week is -6, and less than a month is -10! Anything you learned over a month ago will only be remembered on a critical success.

Remember that this is only a -10 points disadvantage; don't get too silly with it. If you get a new job, a roll will be needed to remember the address of the place (unless you have it written down), but you do not need to roll to remember than you got a job! This affects the details, not the overall stuff.

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Diabetes (variable)

By Bryan F. Irrera and Andy J. Otto; edited by Incanus

Note: This disadvantage was originally posted to alt.rec.frp.gurps; I have edited Andy's excellent reply to make it clearer and more in line with GURPS terms. -- Incanus
Bryan wrote:
We are about to start a new campaign. One of the players wanted to create a new disadvantage for Diabetes. I wanted to find out if any of the rest of you have already done so, or if there is an official rule for this?

Andy replied:
There are two types of Diabetes (actually three, but diabetes insipidus is an entirely different disease). I quote here from http://www.diabetes.org/ada/c20f.html:
  1. An autoimmune disease in which the body does not produce any insulin, most often occurring in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5-10 percent of diabetes.
  2. A metabolic disorder resulting from the body's inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. It is the most common form of the disease. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes.

In game terms:
Prior to TL5, type 1 diabetes is a death sentence, you probably never made it past childhood.
Type 2 gives you HT-1 when checking for contagion (see sidebar on page B133, as well as "Illness" sidebar on page CI167 ff.), and also one level of Short Lifespan, limited to your aging rolls (you still reach maturity normally). For a human character, that means that he starts aging at 37 (instead of 50), rolling each 9 months; at 52 your aging rolls become only 4 months apart, and at 67 start rolling each 2 months. -10 points.

At TL5 (medical) and later, type 1 diabetes becomes a disadvantage: you have a Dependency to insulin (a common drug), which you must take daily or lose 1 HT per hour after missing a daily dose. You also have HT-1 versus contagion, as described above. -20 points.

Type 2 diabetes at TL5+ becomes only a Dependency disadvantage, where you must take insulin daily. However, if you miss your dose you don't lose HT; instead, you receive a -1 penalty to HT versus contagion, as above.

By TL8 both types should be curable.

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Loyalty (-5/-10 points)

Similar to Sense of Duty -- but focusing on a single entity (person, organization, idea etc.) instead of a group -- or Fanatisicm -- only less severe -- this disadvantage shows how much a character is loyal to someone or something. It is similar to the Loyalty check for Hirelings (see sidebar p. B195), but it should be roleplayed whenever possible. However, if the player for some reason can't decide on his character's actions, he should roll vs. the appropriate Loyalty number, as if the character was a Hireling.

There are two levels of this disadvantage:

Loyalty means that the character will listen to the orders of the person or the organization he is loyal to, unless these involve dangerous and -- especially if he also has Honesty -- illegal situations. At this level, the character's Loyalty number is 10.

Strong Loyalty is somewhat more binding, forcing the character to follow his ideals or leader even in some dangerous situations, although not those which involve almost certain injuries and possible death. It can be considered a weaker version of Fanaticism, and the character rolls at 15.

Stronger loyalty is so binding that the character will refuse almost no order or course of action, even having his own initiative to promote his ideals or to serve his leader -- since this could be considered a Loyalty of 20 and more, which according to p. B195 doesn't even have to be rolled, it is covered by the Fanaticism disadvantage.

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Nuisance (Variable)

By Robert Kelk (robert.kelk@pemail.net)

A nuisance is someone who makes the character's life difficult in minor ways, but can occasionally be helpful.

This is a subclass of the "Enemy" disadvantage -- figure the cost of the Nuisance character normally (including modifiers for frequency of appearance), then halve the cost.

When the dice or the GM decide that the Nuisance appears in the adventure, (s)he shows up to cause minor problems for the PC. In a modern-day game, the Nuisance may have borrowed some equipment that the PC needs for the adventure, or visits the PC at an awkward time. A Nuisance in a Supers game may need to be rescued by the PC hero.

However, if the roll for the Nuisance character to appear is a natural 18, then the Nuisance actually provides some sort of minor benefit to the PC. In a modern-day game, the character may be able to act as a reliable Contact for one question the PC has, or can loan the PC a piece of needed equipment for the duration of the play session. In a Supers game, the character may be able to rescue the PC hero.

Fictional examples:

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Can't Breathe (-10)

By Ryan Williams (rwilli6840@aol.com)

If you have lungs, gills are a 10 point advantage; if you have gills, lungs are a 10 point advantage. Therefore this disadvantage.

You have no breathing apparatus at all. Beginning at birth you will lose 1 Fatigue per turn. When you reach ST 0 you fall unconscious and will die in four minutes. You can never learn Breath Control (or much of anything else for that matter). This is incompitable and downright ridiculous with Age or Doesn't Breathe (it's only downright ridiculous without it).

I need to cut back on Pop TartsTM.

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