GURPS Made Easy

GURPS 4e Made Easy

Creative Commons License
“GURPS 4e Made Easy” by Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. GURPS 4e is © 2004 Steve Jackson Games.
Also available for download as a PDF.

What’s on my character sheet?

ST (Strength) – Physical power and bulk. Determines weapon damage and Hit Points (HP).
DX (Dexterity) – Agility, coordination, and fine motor control. Determines weapon accuracy.
IQ (Intelligence) – Creativity, intuition, memory. Determines Per and Will.
HT (Health) – Energy, vitality, stamina, resistance (to disease, poison, etc), and basic “grit”. Determines FP.

HP (Hit Points) – Average characters have 10 HP. At 0 you run the risk of passing out from your injuries.
Per (Perception) – Alertness as well as your five senses.
Will (Willpower) – How well you withstand psychological stress and resist supernatural attacks.
FP (Fatigue Points) – These are consumed by strenuous activity and can also be spent for Extra Effort.

BL (Basic Lift) – The maximum weight you can lift over your head with one hand in one second.
Dmg (Damage) – thr = thrust damage; sw = swing damage.
BS (Basic Speed) – Your reflexes and general quickness.
BM (Basic Move) – How many yards you can move in one second.

Dodge/Block/ParryDodge is used to sidestep, dive behind cover, or otherwise get out of the way of an attack. Block is used to forcibly put something in the way of the attack, normally a shield or cloak. Parry is used to deflect an attack with your weapon. This leaves heavier weapons unbalanced so they must be Readied before you can make another attack. You can’t parry if you moved more than a step (which is a yard or hex) this turn.

Advantages range from really good eyesight to flight to extra limbs to super-powered attacks. In short, anything about your character that is above the ordinary.

Disadvantages are flaws that can make characters more interesting and provide roleplaying opportunities. They also grant you additional Character Points to use when making the character.

Skills are the things your character can do that require some amount of training. Each lists its value, which is the number you roll against most of the time, and its Relative value, which is how much the skill varies from its related attribute. Effective skill refers to your skill level after any situational modifiers are added by the GM.

How do I do stuff?

Choose the appropriate skill or attribute and roll 3d6. A roll of no more than that number succeeds. For instance, to stop a door from slamming closed you would roll versus your Strength. To hack a computer you would roll against your Computer Hacking skill.

A roll of 3-4 is a Critical Success and always succeeds, as does any roll that is at least 10 less than your effective skill. Likewise 18 and any roll at least 10 more than your effective skill are Critical Failures.

How do I hit things?

Attack rolls are like any other skill checks: you simply roll against the appropriate skill. On a success, your target gets to make a defense roll (dodge, block, or parry); no defense for critical successes. You may only block 1 attack each turn, but can dodge or parry as many as you like. The drawback to parrying is that you suffer a cumulative -1 penalty for each parry after the first in the same turn. If the defense fails then you roll your damage, then the target subtracts any Damage Resistance (DR) from it before subtracting the rest from HP.

New D&D 5e Adventuring Gear

Despite its reputation, GURPS’ core is actually very minimalist and leaves the GM to make up a lot of stuff. One result is that after a decade of it being our go-to system, I have developed the habit of just making up any gear I or one of my players needs but the books don’t have. So it should be no surprise that in the course of making four characters for Adventurers’ League I created quite a few things for D&D 5e. After the list are specifics on how I came up with some of the items so you can see the logic behind the numbers. I’m happy to accept feedback on any of these, especially where you see question marks.

  • Backpack, wood-framed (4.8 gp, 8.75 lbs). Capacity 60 lbs or ?? cu ft.
  • Small, blank book (10 gp, 2 lbs)
  • Ball of twine (0 lbs, 1 cp). Possibly 2 cp?
  • Pocket mirror (.1 lbs, 1 gp; based on “Mirror, steel”: .5 lbs, 5 gp)
  • Camp hatchet (2 lb, 2 gp; useless as weapon due to balance)
  • Towel (1 lb, 2 sp; based on blanket: 3 lb, 5 sp)

Backpack, wood-framed: In the real world the oldest known wood-framed backpack is from more than 5 millennia ago, and are still in use today in many parts of the world, so they seem a reasonable addition to D&D. A properly trained porter can comfortably carry hundreds of pounds in one, but 60 lbs seems to be more common, so I went with that for the capacity, but I’m not sure what an appropriate volume would be.

For a starting place for cost and weight I looked at HackMaster 5e, because it already has two different backpacks: one holding 30 lbs, the other 50. Complicating things is that HM5e is intended to be as realistic as is possible in a sword and sorcery world and thus uses a silver-based economy and prices many things in copper, and its weights are drastically different from D&D’s, therefore a direct conversion isn’t possible. So it seems to us that the best idea is to simply apply the same ratios to D&D. The smaller HM5e pack weighs 2 lbs and costs 7 cp and 5 trade coins, while the larger one weighs 3.5 and costs 18 cp, so the ratios between them are 2.4 for cost, and 1.75 for weight. Thus the larger backpack ends up costing 2*2.4 gp and weighing 5*1.75 lbs.

Blank Book: Two of my AL characters are merchants by trade and need easily-portable ledgers, but the 25 gp, 5 lb book on the gear table is pre-filled (“poetry, historical accounts, information pertaining to a particular field of lore, diagrams and notes on gnomish contraptions, or just about anything else that can be represented using text or pictures”) and pretty big and heavy to be useful as a journal of any kind. This is our best guest at a smaller, lighter, blank book.

Pocket Mirror: The mirror in the book weighs half a pound so we assume it’s relatively large for traveling purposes (it weighs significantly more than my 5″x7″ glass camp mirror). In a typical D&D setting they are more likely to be thin highly-polished metal rather than the relatively thick glass we use today, so I assume they’d be even lighter than their modern counterparts. For this particular item I was thinking of something more along the lines of a makeup compact or signal mirror – something in the 2-3″ range. It’s useful to any adventurer as a signal mirror, but especially to Charisma-based characters for checking hair and such before manipulating someone. Creative players could come probably come up with any number of possible uses.

Camp axe: This one is mainly for the sake of sentimentality because I have fond memories of using my old boy scout hatchet when my family went camping every summer. The weight is a rough average of the weights of various camp axes available online, including the very one I still have in storage somewhere. I also based it on the Hammer (3 lb, 1 gp) on the adventuring gear table rather than any weapon, so I made it useless as a weapon since it costs less than half as as a throwing axe. It’s really only necessary because realistically you would quickly ruin any sort of battle axe using it to chop wood or do other routine camping tasks. Then again, this is D&D so reality can take a flying leap.

Towel: Why is a towel so important, you may ask? Simple: no adventurer should ever be without one.

GURPS Character Creator

If you have ever had trouble with the math of GURPS’ character creation process, or needed to make multiple characters in little time, or just wanted to play with a character’s numbers without erasing a hole though the page, then my GURPS character creator is for you. It does all of the math for you, including applying the final modifiers to advantages and disadvantages, and calculating the final skill level for techniques.

There are detailed instructions on the first tab and on other sheets as needed (aided by examples), but here’s a summary:

  • “Basics” is where you put in your character’s base attributes as well as how many points you have to spend.
  • On “Ads” and “Disads” list all of your advantages and disadvantages, as well as their base costs and total modifiers. The sheet will then calculate the final costs.
  • On the “Skills” sheet it is vital that you spell things carefully since it is used as a lookup table by “Techs”. For each skill you also specify what attribute it is tied to, its difficulty, and what relative skill level you want. The spreadsheet will then calculate the final cost of each skill, as well as its final value. The next version will also include space for you to specify any modifiers to a skill (such as Combat Reflexes to Quick Draw).
  • “Techs” does the same for techniques, but instead of looking up the associated attribute, it finds the associated skill on “Skills”. that’s why the spelling of skill names is so important.
  • “Gear” should be self-explanatory. Simply list any equipment your character buys, along with its cost and weight, which the spreadsheet will total for you. The character creator does not include a database of equipment because that would be a copyright infringement.

Speaking of copyrights: due to not wanting to step upon Steve Jackson’s toes, and simply because there are hundreds upon hundreds of GURPS books available, the spreadsheet contains no actual skills, advantages, or any other content other than a small subset of the freely-available GURPS Lite, so you will also need whichever books you are using for your campaign.

Like all of my trpg aids, I built this in OpenOffice (AOO 4, to be precise), so I can’t guarantee it will work in other spreadsheet programs, but it should work in StarOffice’s other descendants (I wrote previously about the pros and cons of LibreOffice vs Apache OpenOffice, but there are several other derivatives as well). Normally it wouldn’t be an issue since the very few things I don’t upload as PDFs are relatively simple, but this thing is the second most complicated spreadsheet I have ever created; the first being my still-in-progress D&D 5e version. I simply don’t have the time to thoroughly test it in all of StarOffice’s children, so if you do use one of the other OO variants, please let me how well it works – especially if part of it doesn’t.

Also in common with my other aids is the fact that I built it, with input from my wife, specifically for our use, and don’t seek input from others. But in this case, instead of simply offering it up to the world for people to use or not as they please, this time I would like your feedback. Naturally, I need to know about any bugs or formula errors immediately so I can fix them. But I’d also like to know which parts of it you do and don’t like, as well as suggestions for improvements. Bear in mind, however, that this is version 1.0, and 2.0 is about half done.

One of the major changes is cosmetic. As it stands, “Usage” and “Basics” don’t even look like they’re part of the same document as the rest, so I’m making everything easier to read while giving the whole thing a facelift. Another small yet big change is that I somehow neglected to separate out CP spent to raise BS and BM from modifiers to them, so it ends up charging you CP a second time for any modifiers you list. That has already been remedied, so all of the major mechanical issues should now be dealt with. The only other mechanical change I’m planning at this time is to repeat the character’s BL on the gear tab. I may also include there the specified TL’s starting wealth, but providing a way to modify it for Wealth will just needlessly clutter up the sheet for most characters, so I will likely instead include a box where you can specify the character’s starting wealth, and the spreadsheet will keep a running total and tell you how much you have left to spend.

Pokémon Deck List Sheet Despite OpenOffice Weirdness

Since I’ve been running Pokémon League Challenges (our next one is 20th Dec 2014), I’ve had no end of issues with deck registration sheets. For one thing, it takes ages before anyone uploads one after a new set releases. More annoying to me as TO (tournament organizer) is that all of the available sheets use American civilian–standard middle-endian dates, but the Pokémon website and tournament software both use the Internet-standard big-endian dates (fun fact: most countries in the world use little-endian dates, as I did above), so adding new players to the software is a bigger hassle than it needs to be – especially with my oft pain-fogged mind.

So it took me several months, especially since I had to track down the official abbreviation and set symbol for Phantom Forces, but I finally finished my own deck registration sheet. Further complicating things is a strange problem I was having with OpenOffice, but I’ll cover that in its own section later.

The first obvious difference you’ll see is that it has the set symbols and abbreviations for every set currently legal in both Standard and Expanded events, with a separate table for each format. That way you don’t need two different registration sheets if you run or attend events using both formats. At the WNC Pokémon League, for instance, we alternate the two formats from season to season.

As with everything I intend to be printed out by end users, I designed it to use as little as ink as possible. That’s why the table that lists all of the Standard-legal set symbols and abbreviations ends with several blank lines, intended to serve two purposes. The first is to eliminate the need to wait for me or anyone else to add new sets by giving you space to write in newly-released sets and their abbreviations as soon as you need them. Those lines also mean that copies leftover from past events will never go to waste since up to four sets released after the sheet was printed can be added to it.

It is my intention to upload a new revision every time there is a new set release or rotation, so the link above should always lead you to the newest version.


Now my weird OpenOffice issue. If you are only here for Pokémon and have no interest in the finer points of OpenOffice, you can skip the rest of this post.

If you work with complex documents a lot, you may be aware that OO Writer is terrible at formatting tables, so it’s much, much easier to make them in Calc and paste them into Writer. Fortunately, Writer is as much a low-end desktop publishing program as it is a word processor, so it handles the insertion of layered objects very well, especially if you put all of the individual components into separate Frames like I do. As an example, the deck sheet linked above has five frames in addition to the five embedded tables. My most complicated character sheet to date, for HackMaster 5e, has 16 distinct frames in addition to inserted Calc tables.

So what was weird? When I pasted the format tables into Writer the set symbols vanished. I belatedly remembered that you can’t link* in the images if you want to copy the table to another document. So I tried embedding* a single set symbol into Calc, then copied the table into Writer. As expected, it successfully copied the embedded image but not the linked ones, so I set about replacing all of the linked images in Calc. But when I pasted the final table into Writer, it still only pasted that first embedded image.

Because Writer is so bad at tables, I decided to just make the whole thing in Calc even though Writer’s Scribus-like features make some parts of the job much easier. As expected, managing some of the fiddlier bits of arranging various elements on the page in Calc proved to be a great deal more work than in Writer, but there didn’t seem to be any alternative – until, on a whim, I tried to copy Standard table into a different sheet in the same document and was pleasantly surprised when the images actually went along for the ride.

Naturally, my next move was to try to paste it into Writer, and it worked perfectly, so I went back to designing the whole thing in Writer. Even weirder is that up until then the set symbols would all move slightly every time I opened the spreadsheet. For some unknown reason, the first time the images stayed put upon loading was the same time that they also successfully traveled from Calc to Writer. They have remained in place ever since.

So my question for you OO experts out there is: do you have any idea why all of that happened? Specifically, why couldn’t I paste the embedded images? Why would they move around randomly? And why did they suddenly start behaving?

* There are two ways of adding images to an OO document: linking and embedding. A linked image is simply referenced by the document, much like Web hyperlinks, making the resulting document much smaller, but if the document is copied to another computer then the links break so the images don’t appear. Actually embedding the images makes the document more portable, but also larger.

“Pain is Temporary… Quitting Lasts Forever”

(Post title is a paraphrase of the following quote:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” –  Lance Armstrong in It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.)

Those of you who follow me on facebook or know me personally may already be aware of this, but for the past couple of months my chronic pain levels reached the point where I was almost totally incapacitated. The most I could type at one time was a paragraph about as long as this one will be when I finish.

As a result, I haven’t been blogging or working on any of my books or short stories because I haven’t been able to. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have been totally unproductive. To make my life GMing D&D Encounters easier, I copy-pasted the relevant monsters from my epub to the spreadsheet that I normally only use to calculate how much XP to give each player. In doing so I discovered that I could do work like that for much longer than serious typing, so I got some other things done instead.

Made D&D 5e Character Sheet More Multi-class Friendly

In making my first multi-classed character, I discovered that my sheet was only slightly better for that purpose than Wizard’s. I rearranged the top matter a bit to make room for listing multiple classes and their levels, leaving the original “Level” space for the character’s total level. The largest difference is that in place of the checkboxes for keeping track of spent hit dice, there are now two boxes for tracking two types of hit dice – there wasn’t room for a third one, or I would have included it.

It has replaced the old version on Scribd.

Added Features to the D&D 5e Grimoire

In putting a caster on a character sheet for the first time, I realized the grimoire could use some additions. Across the top there are now spaces for your spell attack bonus, saving throw DC, the maximum number of spells you can prepare each day (generally caster level + spellcasting ability modifier), and your spell slots.

For the sake of the mage character sheet, I also lightened the color of the headers so the bar wouldn’t bleed through the page as much.

Both have replaced their old versions, linked above.

Mostly Finished GURPS Character Creator Spreadsheets and Half Done With One for D&D 5e

In the course of creating a new GURPS character several months ago I accidentally half-built a GURPS character creator spreadsheet. Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly revising it. Now all it needs is a little spit and polish.

Inspired by that project, I decided to make one for the current editions of D&D and HackMaster as well. I haven’t yet started the HackMaster one, but the D&D one is at least half done. I have yet to start on the “Race and Class Features” tab, but the mechanics of everything else are mostly, if not completely, done.

The only major things I have left to figure out are how to handle armor and weapon proficiencies, and race-based skills (dwarves, for instance, don’t actually grant proficiency in History, but for all things stonework, they are considered proficient and double their proficiency bonuses).

The gear proficiencies are the big puzzlers. I have only been using lookup tables and other advanced spreadsheet features since a fellow D&D Encounters GM helped me start my GURPS character creator, so I’m mostly learning by doing. Because of that I have no idea how to limit the player’s equipment choices based on the proficiencies granted by the character’s race/class combination. My temporary fix is to simply list them and leave it up to the player to only choose proficient gear. Likewise with limiting the player’s choice of skill proficiencies.

Other than that, all that is need is more spit and polish, and to have local players do their best to break my code and give me their feedback on the user interface (UI). After that I’ll upload a basic version to Scribd as usual, then continue working on actually integrating proficiencies into the various places they are needed.

These are currently my top priority and should be finished fairly soon.

Worked on HackMaster 5e Campaign Manager and Started D&D Version

If you were active on the Kenzer & Company forums when HackMaster Basic first released, you may have seen my original encounter builder spreadsheet. Since then I have incorporated much of my HM4e campaign manager into it, and applied some of my new-found advanced spreadsheet coding skills, as well as the session experience tracker I originally made for D&D Encounters. It is probably only about half done, but is a lower priority than the other projects since it does everything I need it to for my current campaign (it works, but the UI is ugly and a bit clunky), and both D&D and GURPS have larger user bases.

Speaking of the experience calculator, while working on the HM campaign tracker, I slowly added new features to it, gradually turning it into a D&D campaign manager. I am also adapting it into a  generic campaign manager that should be easily user-adaptable to handle just about any level-based fantasy trpg. It will likely become my top priority after I finish the character creators.

As an indicator of how much better I’m doing now, I wrote this entire post in one sitting. I need to rest for a while now because my upper back is starting to flare up pretty intensely, but I was able to ignore it long enough to finish this, so I have high hopes for the near future (although, as always, I’ll sleep and then proofread it tomorrow before actually posting it). On the advice of a doctor, I started taking magnesium supplements a week and a half ago, and it seems like it may be doing the trick. If you suffer from chronic pain, it might be worth a try (but always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement).

So that’s my last couple of months in a nutshell. Keep watching here for updates on my character creators and campaign managers.

D&D (or Any Other Level-based game) Session Experience Calculator

Had a great family vacation, and got a 93 in my online Java class, but now I’m back to focusing on writing and game design. For example:

To compensate for my memory issues and to save a lot of work for non-mathophile GMs, I created a spreadsheet that will calculate how much experience I need to award each player at the end of each session of D&D Encounters.

Using it couldn’t be easier. Type the number of players into the appropriate box at the top of the sheet. Below that you will a list of all of the non-unique monsters that appear in the Tyranny of Dragons season of D&D Encounters. Each row below that is a separate encounter. Simply type in the number of each monster you used in the encounter, and the spreadsheet will do the rest.

It looks up the appropriate amount of experience points (XP) for that monster using the table on the “Data” tab (you can easily add your own, as long as the list doesn’t exceed 50 in all), then uses that to add up the total experience for the encounter. The XP totals for each encounter are added together, then divided by the number of players.

Since quest XP rewards are specified per player rather than as an amount to be subdivided, I have provided a space especially for those. Next to the blue box that tells you how much XP to give each player you’ll see a long red box. Put each quest reward in its own cell within that box, and the spreadsheet will add their sum to the amount in the blue box.

If you understand lookup tables, it is trivially easy to use more than 50 entries in the data table, but I was required to set a limit. I tried to allow more than 15 monsters on the table, but i kept getting an error telling me my formula was longer than OpenOffice could handle. If you know a way around the problem, I’d be happy to hear it.

Naturally, this can be used for any level-based game (as I will for for my HackMaster 5e campaign); it’s just pre-filled out with the monsters for DnD Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons.