GURPS 101: Mass and Power – What ST/HP Means To My Players

High ST and HP are more or less requiredin any campaign that takes places at TL4 or less, and in some cases, arguments can be made for those that take place at TL5. I don’t often run campaigns below TL6 (or some derivation), so for the most part my players tend to “ignore” high ST (but not HP) unless it’s part of the character concept. For the sake of argument, let’s clock “high ST” at around 14. That gives you a full die of thrust damage, two die of swing damage, and a decent Basic Lift (39 lbs.). I’ve rarely seen a PC take an ST higher than 20, and most specialize in either Lifting ST (for grapplers) or Striking ST (often with some form of limitation for a specific attack). I don’t know if this is because of how my players like to play (they prefer making a team of specialists with maybe a generalist or two and then acting like a team), or if it’s a byproduct of contemporary role-playing (as stated before, they like  mostly modern games).
            The few builds I have seen with high levels of ST, typically come with Gigantism or some form of close-in martial art style (Brazilian Jui-Jutsu and Aikujutsu seem to be favorites). In those cases, ST 16 or even 17 is pretty normal, and often supplemented with Extra ST without HP, Striking ST, or Lifting ST. Almost no one seems to take high levels of ST by itself, and many players take whatever supernatural powers are common in the setting to offset the low-ST with some form of paranormal damage enhancement (Imbuements, magic, psi, etc.). Again, I have no close why this is, but looking back on nearly forty characters the trend remains pretty much consistent. What gets even weirder is when I run campaigns featuring supernatural creatures that players can play as, that this is sort of tossed out the window. Most of my players reverse the trend when playing such creatures. For example, in one campaign, I have a player who is playing a half-vampire, for her character, she nearly maxed out her ST, instead of going the more typical route of increased DX or IQ. What resulted was a character who felt very movie-like. Since the most common form of “fiction” between members of my gaming group is movies, it is almost as the playersthemselves are subconsciously following the rules of cinematic action and/or tropes. Most cinematic action heroes are strong, but not too strong. Most “monsters” in the movies are unearthly in their strength and can do amazing things. I, as the GM, find this to be a feature and not a bug.
            One oddity I do note with my players is the maximizing of HP, I don’t know if it’s a holdover from our DnD days, or if they like making “scrappy” characters, but most of my players max out there HP at the +30% end. I’ve never seen someone take negative HP unless it was part of a racial template. They also do not tend to follow the build chart at all, but usually arrive someone where they are supposed to be on that chart (which I find funny as hell). Again, this is probably a holdover from their DnD days.
            Another oddity is Arm ST, for 5 points per level for two arms you’d think this would be a better option than either Lifting or Striking ST…but I’ve only seen two players (on three separate occasions) take this trait – two characters were archers and the other had a cybernetic hand. On a side note, I blame this guy from the movie Lady in the Water.
            So for the most part my players tend to focus on a “normal” ST level (but up their Lifting or Striking ST), but take a high HP. This usually boils down to about 10 to 30 character points spent in ST or ST-related traits – most of that in increased HP.

Edit (12/16/13): One of my players and I got to talking today and we were both wondering how we could give a easy understanding of what GURPS stats did. So (of course we were in the kitchen), I picked up a apple and began to describe it in terms of GURPSian attributes. I’ll be adding this description to the rest of this GURPS101 series. Basically, ST is how many apples you could lift, while HP is how much damage you can take from having apples thrown at you.

Posted in GURPS 101.

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