Building Character

Y’all, after the marathon review-fest before Halloween, I’m almost entirely out of stuff to review, so I’m going to start posting a bit more lightly for a while. November and December are some of the busiest months for me anyway, so I’d benefit personally from a bit less time blogging.

But I don’t want to go radio silent either, so here’s a bit of frivolity I ended up cooking up last week on Election Day.

Let’s go through some huge amount of backstory first. Back in the Ancient Days, right after I got out of college, I had a job in Levelland, Texas. It wasn’t a great job, I didn’t know anyone in town, I didn’t have cable TV, and personal computers weren’t a Thing yet. So to fill time after work, I’d sit down with a legal pad and make superhero and supervillain characters using the GURPS RPG system for as long as I could. I knew they weren’t going to get played, ’cause I didn’t know anyone who played GURPS, but I loved their character design system, and I liked getting to make up new characters.

Now flash-forward to Election Day. I didn’t want to pay attention to election news on TV or online — I already knew how badly the stress wrecked me in 2016. So I decided I’d see if I could still fill some legal pads up with GURPS characters. I figured the process of making characters in the early ’90s was more than absorbing enough to keep me entertained and distracted.

Well, I wasn’t entirely right. Part of my problem was that I hadn’t made any GURPS characters in about 15-20 years, and I was really out of practice. Plus I had trouble with the math. And really, when you get down to it, I wanted to go get online and see how things were going. So I only made one full character, plus a partial second one before my inspiration ran out.

Before we get to this guy’s stats, let’s do a quick summary of GURPS for those of you unfamiliar with the system. It’s a point-based character system — stats over 10, advantages, and skills cost you points; stats under 10 and disadvantages get you some points back. Quirks are worth a negative point each (and limited to five) and must be roleplayed. Numbers in the square brackets are how many character points were allocated to each item. This is all done in GURPS 3rd Edition, ’cause 4th Edition was garbage.

In GURPS, 100 points is considered a good starting point for beginner-level, unpowered characters, being significantly above the average person, but not strong enough to power through every obstacle. Some campaigns, particularly those dealing with high-level fantasy or superhero games, can be much stronger, up to 500 points, 1,000 points, or even more.

This is Jimmy Watchill, an aspiring gunfighter in the Wild West.

Name: James “Jimmy” Watchill
Total Points: 100
Appearance: White male, 20 years old, 5’7″, 140 pounds. Sandy brown hair, brown eyes. Wears old, dusty, but generally well-kept clothing, including a battered hat.

ST: 9 [-10]
DX: 14 [45]
IQ: 10 [0]
HT: 12 [20]
Speed: 6.5
Move: 6
Dodge: 6

Alertness +2 [10]
Charisma +1 [5]
Danger Sense [15]

Lecherousness [-15]
Overconfidence [-10]
Poverty: Struggling [-10]

Quirks: Hates cold weather; Wishes he were a superstar gambler; Early riser; Brags about his cooking; Enjoys singing with others. [-5]

Skills: Animal Handling – 9 [2], Bard – 10 [2], Brawling – 16 [4], Cooking – 12 [4], Detect Lies – 9 [2], Fast-Draw – 16 [4], Fast-Talk – 10 [2], First Aid – 11 [2], Fishing – 11 [2], Gambling – 10 [2], Guns – 16 [4], Jumping – 15 [2], Lasso – 14 [2], Pickpocket – 14 [4], Riding (Horse) – 15 [4], Singing – 12 [2], Stealth – 14 [2], Streetwise – 10 [2], Swimming – 15 [2], Tracking – 11 [4]

Languages: English (Native) – 10 [0], Spanish – 9 [1].

Biography: Jimmy grew up a Kansas farm kid with fast fingers, a lot of skill with guns, and not a lot of patience with farming. The family hit a rough patch when his mother died of fever and his father was killed by bandits — bandits who Jimmy managed to kill just a few minutes too late. His older brother inherited the family farm, and Jimmy realized he didn’t want to grow old in his brother’s shadow — and he wanted to escape his feelings of guilt over failing his father. He hit the road, hoping to turn his skills with a gun into enough money to let him buy his own property in the distant Northwest.

Design Notes: Jimmy probably has more points in Skills than he ought to, considering his young age. But I kept screwing up my math while I was building him, and the easiest way to fix him was always to add another couple points into Skills.

Also, for the record, I’m kinda proud of giving him the Overconfidence disadvantage. It means he’ll rarely hesitate before stepping up to any challenge. That’ll probably turn out well for him when he’s shooting down a bad guy, picking a pocket, or twirling a lasso. But it’s gonna get him in a lot of trouble — fun, adventure-filled trouble — when it comes to his low-ranked skills in Detect Lies, Gambling, Streetwise, and Animal Handling.

Why a Wild West character instead of a superhero? Partly because I didn’t want to dig out the GURPS Supers book, partly because Western characters are nicely archetypal, so it’s fun and easy, and partly because the gunslinger was what popped into my head when I sat down with the legal pad.

So there’s my boy Jimmy. I’ve got a few more in reserve from back in the days when I had a personal webpage, and I’d really kinda like to make a few more new characters, too, though I feel like I need a nice long weekend to work on ’em. Eventually, I may post more of ’em, if I feel like it.

I’ll try to be back with some more posts soon-ish, so y’all stay safe and sane ’til then.

Comments are closed.