Boilerplate preface (feel free to skip to character description!): This character is another example in the a set of completed characters I’m posting for the Deeps of Lyrae campaign. I made them for my players, or my players made them.
I’ll refer to them later on if I post recaps, and I thought that other GMs might want them–you should be able to just offer them to new players as a menu of pre-made character options that will work well together.
I didn’t do my own templates for this campaign, so these characters are worked up from templates in the list of published templates I posted a little while ago. The character designs I’ll post were also designed in response to my required character creation prompt for this campaign, and they usually take into account my campaign advice for character creation.
To refresh your memory, the prompt is: “Your character is on a boring backwater planet and has a good reason to want to become a space pirate.”
Growing up on the backwater planet Family Whee, James was adrift after high school. He liked being alone. He had an aptitude for throwing together bits of this and that in his garage but it never amounted to a recognizable career interest. He lacked ambition. The school psychologist said that he had low self-esteem. James ended up enlisting in the infantry because he just wasn’t sure what to do with himself.
They sent him to fight. It’s a cliche to say that war changes people. In his case, that didn’t happen. It didn’t change James into a person who doesn’t care about the sanctity of life. Instead, by providing the opportunity for him to kill people, it revealed that he had never cared about human life in the first place.
He’s a beast with a laser sniper, his preferred weapon (nickname: Sally). But being good at something doesn’t mean you like it. James is neutral about it. His sharp eyes, excellent reflexes, and high tolerance for pain make him a natural soldier, but he didn’t really like being a soldier. When his hitch was up he was still not sure what any of his legitimate marketable skills might be. He fell in with a shady family friend (Chuck) who knew talent when he saw it. He set James up in a life of crime as a contract killer.
Just like soldiering, James doesn’t like it. It’s not that the blood, killing, and death bother him, he thinks. He’s just indifferent to the whole thing. In a word: numb. And lately he is troubled by flashbacks of his killings. Don’t get me wrong, he thinks that he still feels indifferent to the suffering and murder, but now he also has to watch recurring mental images of them at inconvenient times.
Recently, James made the serendipitous discovery of a professional acting class and he was hooked. James decided that he needed a career change. He’s convinced he has the natural talent to be his generation’s great leading man. Yet he just can’t quite extract himself from his criminal life. He has enemies on his tail and details of his killing keep cropping up to threaten him. And taking big proactive steps to pull himself together is just a little too far beyond him.
Style-wise, James is the poster child for normcore, but he has no idea that normcore was ever trendy. He also has the affect to match his clothes: To all outward appearances, he’s a bland, emotionally deadened, unreconstructed, un-ironic aggressively normal, extremely average dude. He’ll pitch you to attend his latest play, but even if you know his secrets he never wants to talk about how he really pays the bills.
This should be painfully obvious to you already, but this character is based on the protagonist in the HBO series Barry. That was cool concept in rules terms because it allowed me to use two rules together that I’ve been wanting to try out. The character has a quirk “Wishes that he was a professional actor,” Delusional Competence (Acting), and Incompetence (Acting). That means the character is forbidden from ever improving the Acting skill until Incompetence is removed, and is at an additional -4 from their default for that skill. The character thinks that they are a good actor, and they will act as such: a minor delusion. If they fail a skill roll on Acting, the GM may require any NPCs who witness this to take a loyalty check at -1 (or -2 on a critical).
This means I’ve managed to design a GURPS character with a base skill at 3 (default Acting at IQ-5 with an additional -4 for Incompetence). This is a new personal GM milestone of dubious value. Due to the character’s motivations, this skill will indeed come up in play, I predict. They’ll succeed at less than 1% of the time. Since any roll 10+ an effective skill is a critical failure in GURPS, that means if this character rolls unmodified Acting they have an amazing 26% chance for a critical failure each time they roll. Should be fun. Luckily it is a space opera campaign, and somewhat silly.
As I discussed in this previous post, this character has BOTH incompetence AND delusional competence in the same skill. (And a third quirk providing a motivation about that skill.) I realize that these quirks forbid specialization, and I put something after the quirk in brackets. However, in my defense, I feel like the “when not playing himself” is more like a note than a specialization. That is, playing yourself is not really acting, so I feel that I am not specializing the quirk when I put that note on there. This was my attempt to make the character fit what happens in the show.
Another note: I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an aspected version of Gadgeteer but I don’t see any reason why it would not work. At first I thought the aspect would be “explosives only” but that is quite expensive for what you get (it’s much cheaper to just carry explosives with you). However the player wanted this as part of the character concept and I can see that it would be fun to roleplay. We settled on “weapons,” a broader aspect that is still expensive but provides a little more flexibility.
A note on the sniper skill. I decided not to spend a lot of points on the base skill because the technology for sniping is just so amazing. On the first shot, this character has a base skill of 16, plus +1 for a braced weapon, +1 for All Out Attack (Determined), +12 for the weapon’s accuracy bonus, +2 for aiming, and +4 for the Enhanced Targeting Scope for a total modifier of +20 on the first shot. That means effective skill would be 36 before you start applying distance penalties. This character can snipe a target 2.5 miles away with a 98% chance of success (the highest achievable in GURPS rules since rolling a 17 is always a failure and 18 is always a critical failure).
I thought this effective skill of 36 was too good to be true and it must be capped by some bonus limit but after doing some reading on the GURPS Forum it looks like the high Acc stat of the weapon allows this very high bonus to happen. I had never noticed the very high Acc stat of the laser sniper before. (See also GURPS FAQ item 3.5.7 on aiming and the Acc stat bonus cap.)
A final skill note: Quick Gadgeteering to create new inventions requires a roll on a skill related to the invention. I was really not sure how to interpret this rule for a player that wants to create many different kinds of improvised weapons. Do they have to have an Armory skill for every class of weapon they might want to improvise? This seems unworkable. After talking to the player, the aim here was to create a character that could improvise explosives. So I think that will be handled by the Chemistry skill. I still feel it is too restrictive to require an Armory roll (or the equivalent) for every possible kind of weapon of a character wants to spend 30 points to be good at improvising weapons, but that is how the rules appear to be written. Not sure. An alternative approach would be to create ONE professional skill (ala the “Bartender” example in the Basic Set — it could be called “improvising weapons” or something). That would allow a roll for improvising many kinds of weapons other than explosives, which seems more fair to the player in terms of points.