Carpe Blogiem: Rules I Don’t Use, Replace, or Revise

GURPS 4th edition is a very well put together system and one that I deeply enjoy using and writing for… but there are things about it that I rather don’t like and have either ignored or houseruled away. Now, as any of my players can tell you I really don’t have a lot of after-character creation houserules. Most of mine govern starting gear/money, limits on traits, and so on. But there are a few in-play rules that just get stuck in my craw and I either ignore them, revise them, or replace them. Here they are.

Absorption on Damage Resistance

Issue: This is such a weird and strange modifier. I agree that it needs to exist, but I do not agree in the implementation. It’s too expensive for what it does (and for the reasons in the link below).

Fix: I use PK’s fix for this. It’s saner, leads to build diversity, and honestly he’s just right about all the reasons the cost should be repriced.


Issue: Binding is a great trait and I see it often in my games. But it has one flaw. As written ST 1,000 targets having to spend a turn destroying a Binding with a ST of 1. Then the character who used the Binding can do it again. It’s great crowd control, but it’s TOO great.

Fix: If you target’s ST is at least twice your Binding level then they can move normally (they are not rooted in place), they do still suffer the DX penalty (e.g., the -4 to DX rolls) regardless of their ST. Additionally, targets can roll their thrust damage against the Binding’s HP as a free action (once per binding). If successful, they ignore the Binding’s impediment. If not, they are affected normally and can make a standard roll to break free on their turn. (I got this one from somewhere but I don’t remember where.)

Costs Fatigue and Costs Hit Points

Issue: Costs Fatigue is an ugly can of worms and I’m not going to open it all the way. The main issue is that when you slap this limitation on a trait it goes from at all, spam away to maybe 6-10 uses in a scene because it now costs FP. It’s not in line with how Limited Use functions and it’s vastly underpriced for what it does.

Fix: Costs Fatigue is worth -10% per level, to a maximum of -40%. If you have an advantage that would normally remain on indefinitely, you can take “Costs 1 FP per 10 seconds” for -20% or “Costs 1 FP per second” for -40%. Note the -40% cap, however, to prevent this from becoming a free ride. Otherwise you find the munchkins buying their FP up and then adding “Costs 40 FP, -200%” to bring down the cost of their 500-point ability with a ton of enhancements. Also note that there is no “Costs 2 FP per 10 seconds” limitation. This rewrite gives a fair point break while preventing the worst instances of abuse. “Costs Hit Points” is worth 1.5 times as much – HP are harder to recover and more dangerous to lose. If you have any abilities that allow you to recover at least 1 FP or HP (as appropriate) per second, this limitation is worth 1/5 as much. If you can recover faster than that (e.g., Extreme Regeneration), it’s worth 1/10 as much. The fact that you have to pay the energy cost is still a minor limitation, on about the same level as a Nuisance Effect. (I got this from here.)


Issue: Well, not an issue, but stock disadvantages only cover so many flaws and problems a PC might have. You can invent new ones, but the system can be unintuitive for the uninitiated.  Quirks are fun and one of my favorite things about GURPS which is why I like the “fix” to this “problem” so much: Foibles.

Fix: Trade regular disadvantages for Heroic Flaw (see p. 7 of Pyramid #3/72: Alternate Dungeons) or Foibles (see p. 9 of Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV). The best part of foibles/heroic flaws is that they can be made custom to the characters (like quirks) and still have meaning mechanically as well as in a roleplaying sense. I highly recommend them and I use them for all games.

Meta-Game Traits

Issue: I’m talking about Luck, Serendipity, etc. I really dislike the timer where you have to track it either via session or real world. Mostly the latter. It annoys me somewhat. Now I don’t mine per session uses of powers, but here comes the second part: I dislike the inconsistency of meta-game traits. One trait does one thing, another does another. Best to have them all run on the same mechanical trait and then decide what you can do with them which leads to the fix.

Fix: Impulse Points all the way. Remove the meta-game traits from Basic Set and replace them with Impulse Points. They work better, have more uses, and present a way to reward players in addition to their uses in game. You can’t beat that. If I have to use meta-game traits I turn all such traits into uses per session using the following (round up for abilities  and assume 4 hours of time per session):

Game Time     Real Time        Uses Per Session
4 hours                10 minutes             24 uses/session
12 hours              30 minutes             8 uses/session
1 day                     1 hour                      4 uses/session
1 week                 4 hours or more     1 uses/session

For example, Ridiculous Luck can be used once per 10 real minutes. Since game sessions are approximately four hours, that means someone with it can use it up to 24 times per session!

Reaction Rules

Issue: Reaction modifiers via Influence skills is strange enough that a lot of GMs just forget to use it. It doesn’t work on PCs (which is good!) and GMs often have NPCs with ready/stated reaction toward the PCs. Also, when using an Influence skill you get a specific reaction (e.g., Sex Appeal gives Very Good if successful). This makes it so only a few non-random reactions can occur when using Influence skills. I find that odd.

Fix: Use the Expanded Influence Rolls rule from GURPS Social Engineering (p. 31). It basically solves most of my problems with how the Reaction rules function.

Slams and Falls

Issue: This one is really simple – it’s too mathy at the table. You basically have to break out a calculator to get it work and you need to open a rulebook to double check and I’m telling you it’s just a hassle you don’t need.

Fix: Use the rules from the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game. That’s it. They’re easier and produce better results. (Those can be found on p. 40 of Exploits for slams and falls on p. 67)

Weapon Parries Doing Damage

Issue: Being able to damage a foe if you are armed and they are not as a free action with no chance of defense is a huge huge huge advantage. You can almost win against most foes just by taking All-Out Defense to increase your Parry so you can do damage. This also makes it so that any serious threat from monsters requires they have Strikers to avoid this. It’s rough and leads to a meta when building monsters where some traits are just required. That is annoying.

Fix: Ignore it. Just plain don’t use it. If you want to use it limit it to those with certain traits like Weapon Master or those who take a Rules Option perk – and charge it per specific weapon (e.g., a katana or short spear), not just a generalized perk.

Picking Over the Bones

Other than how wealth works (I use PK’s rules here) with the modification that all PCs receive an additional free point per 25 points they are worth when determining starting wealth. So a 250 point PC would get 10 points that can only be used for trading points for money on that chart. This lets you have characters who have “stuff” without them having to buy a crap ton of wealth that might not make sense for them. I really don’t change the rules too often or use a lot of houserules. I like how GURPS runs for the most part and I’d rather spend my energy on new systems within the system or working on setting fluff.

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