This is a walk-through of building a GURPS character using the Simplified GURPS Chargen guide.
Table of Contents
Get the starting Character Points value from your GM
The starting number of character points determines the "power level" of the campaign. You need to know this before you make up a character, so you don't bring a superhero to a semi-realistic game. Ask your GM for the starting number of Character Points, and the Disadvantage limit.
Some GMs will use this format for compactness:
(Starting CP)/(Disadvantage limit). Example:
This is a 150/-50 fantasy campaign.
You should also ask your GM for any genre-appropriate advice - don't bring a medieval archer to a cyberpunk campaign, for example.
Come up with a concept
Before you get started building a character in GURPS, try to build a character concept first. Trying to sift through every option in the GURPS Basic Set before you know what you want is a terrible idea. Even in the cut-down rules we're using, having a picture in your head first is still important.
Character #1: Bracki Dane, rambling swordsman
Assuming our GM has indicated a 150/-50 point game, set in a fantasy world, we come up with this concept:
Bracki Dane is an adventuring swordsman styled after the European Landschneckt. He's boisterous, charismatic, and generally good-humoured. As a founder of the Knights of the Helping Hand, he believes that it is his duty to help other travellers on the road who are in dire straits. He explores the world in search of strange magic and tales to share with trusted companions.
This description is brief but outlines what kind of capabilities we're interested in.
Choose your primary attributes
Your primary attributes determine your basic capabilities for a lot of skills or other actions. As you select them, remember to keep track of your available CP.
Since we've been given a 150/-50 point total, we have freedom to increase our attributes by quite a bit. Remember to leave some points for advantages and skills, though.
For brevity, attributes are listed in the below format.
Attribute Name [Point Cost]—Attribute level
Here are the attributes selected for Bracki. We want him to be strong, somewhat wise from his travels, and healthy enough to survive on the road. Rather than spending a lot of points on DX, we'll make up for his specific swordsman-related needs later when we buy combat skills.
- ST —14
- DX —10
- IQ —11
- HT —12
Looking at the [square brackets], we can easily see that we've spent 80 points so far. In other words, we're currently at 80/0 of our 150/-50 points limit. Writing the points already spent on an attribute also makes it easier for us to increase it later, if we earn CP during play.
Choose your secondary attributes
Calculating the base value
First, we need to calculate the base value of each of our secondary attributes. Most of these are equal to some primary attribute, so it's pretty straightforward. We're not doing anything that affects our available CP, we're just calculating the base value.
- HP = ST = 14
- Will = IQ = 11
- Per = IQ = 11
- FP = HT = 12
- Basic Speed = (HT + DX)/4 = 22/4 = 5.5
- Dodge = Basic Speed + 3, round down = 8
- Basic Move = Basic Speed, rounded down = 5
We're also going to calculate our damage and list it here for completeness. Use the Damage based on Strength table.
- Thrust damage (thr) = 1d
- Swing damage (sw) = 2d
Upgrading secondary attributes
With the calculations out of the way, we're going to spend CP and adjust our secondary attributes to our needs. Bracki is a warrior, so we want him to have a little extra HP and FP and be a bit quicker on his feet. We purchase some upgrades and write the final value of all our secondary attributes on our character sheet.
- HP —18
- Will —11
- Per —11
- FP —15
- Basic Speed —6
- Dodge [N/A]—9
- Basic Move —6
- Thrust damage (thr) = 1d
- Swing damage (sw) = 2d
In addition to the increased HP and FP, we made the decision to increase Bracki's Basic Speed, which means we also had to recalculate Dodge and Basic Move. I deliberately picked a higher Basic Speed so we could increase Dodge, which you can't otherwise increase directly. Increasing our Dodge from 8 to 9 makes it more likely for Bracki to keep is head on his shoulders in a fight by about 10%, so it's worth it.
We spent an additional 27 CP on secondary attributes, so we're now at a total of
107/-0 of our original 150/-50 limit.
Based on Bracki's description, we pick some advantages that make narrative sense. The advantage (and disadvantage) list given on the Simplified GURPS Chargen is very short, so if you find that there's no suitable advantage that really helps you realize your character, take a look at GURPS Lite for an expanded list.
Here's the advantages we pick. We use a format similar to Attributes for consistency, briefly noting the effect of the advantage on our character sheet.
- Charisma — +2 to reaction rolls
- Fearlessness — +2 to fright checks
- Serendipity — 1 plausible coincidence per session
We pick Charisma to represent Bracki's personable nature, Fearlessness to reflect his travelling mercenary experience, and Serendipity, perhaps to show fortune favoring him for his good karma. Advantages like Luck or Serendipity can be pretty important for hero-like characters; Luck can especially come into play in modern campaigns where lethality is higher due to firearms, etc.
We spent 29 CP on Advantages, so we're now at 136/-0 of our 150/-50 point limit. Normally, this wouldn't leave much for skills, but next we're going to get some extra CP to spend by selecting some disadvantages.
Many disadvantages are suitable for hero-type characters, not just villains. Since Bracki is a member of the Knights of the Helping Hand, we're going to take a suitable Vow disadvantage.
- Vow (Never refuse a request for aid) [-15]
This is a pretty serious commitment, so be sure to always pick advantages that you're prepared to role-play. The GM has the final say and is free to strip disadvantages from characters if they're not coming into play; they can force the player to reallocate points or spend saved-up CP appropriately.
With the -15 point refund of this disadvantage, our current point total is 121/-15. Notice that we decreased our current "spent" points based on the disadvantage we acquired.
We'd expect Bracki to have some knowledge-related skills from his travels, in addition to his combat skills. We're going to list the skills we select below, and leave out all the ones that default to
Skills are listed in the following format.
Skill Name (Specialization) Relative-level [Point Cost]—Actual level
If your HT is 14 and you know Athletics at HT-1, your relative level is HT-1, and your Actual Level is 13. Actual level is what you'd roll against when you use the skill; the relative level is only there so you can reference the Skill Cost table when increasing skills using CP earned in play.
- Animal Handling (Horses) IQ+0 —11
- Athletics(Hiking) HT-1 —13
- Expression (Storytelling) IQ+0 —11
- Investigation IQ-2 —9
- Medicine IQ-2 —9
- Mysticism (Otherworldy arcane forces) IQ-1 —10
- Survival Per-2 —9
- Tactics IQ-2 —9
Combined, we spent 14 CP on skills. We're now at 135/-15 of our 150/-50 limit. We have 15 points remaining to spend on combat skills, so we select the following.
- Bladed Weapons(Swords) DX+3 —13
- Unarmed Strikes DX+0 —10
- Wrestling DX-1 —9
With that, we've spent all of our available 150 points, and stayed under the -50 point disadvantage limit.
The simplified guide deliberately leaves out a lot of other components of a character, like equipment, reputation, status, and wealth. If these are critical to your character, you may need to reference GURPS Lite or the Basic Set to fill in the missing details. This "Simplified Chargen" is compatible with that, but it assumes that your GM will work out these details with you as needed.
If you're looking for a blank character sheet to print out and fill in, this official one from Steve Jackson Games is suitable. You can choose to ignore things like Encumbrance that we didn't cover, or if your campaign requires it, open up GURPS Lite and fill it in yourself.