Monday, April 22, 2019

GURPS Supers, the Brick

Foundations: The Brick

The Boulder pulled off a chunk of his skin, which instantly regenerated, and hurled it at the firey figure hovering above, shouting "Get down here, ya two-bit punk!" His target, Inferno, dodged the stony missile and responded with a mocking laugh and a wave of flame. When the smoke cleared, though, Boulder was unmarked besides some superficial soot.
Someone who can withstand massive attacks is a staple of many genres. Whether it is a member of the party or a dangerous foe, someone who can lift impressive weights and wade through heavy weapons fire adds dramatic flair to the campaign. Looking at comics, movies, and television we can see that supers range from puny to able to juggle planets! Monsters include those who toss people like rag dolls to toppling skyscrapers and ocean liners. Building characters at this power level, and not having them all look identical, can be daunting to even experienced players. GURPS Supers offered example templates to help and expanded Super Effort on strength, yet the possible templates are endless and some still consider strength and DR too expensive.
This post will review the issues and discuss powers and tactics for playing this style of character. Finally, it offers a simple design system so players and GMs can quickly build bricks. It requires Pyramid #3/83 Alternate GURPS IV for the “Knowing Your Own Strength” article to fully use.

The High Cost of ST

A common objection to these types of characters is that strength costs too much for what it does once you get above human-centric levels. “Knowing Your Own Strength” and Super Effort Lifting ST (GURPS Powers, p. 58), hereafter called Log ST and Super ST respectively, address this. The price difference gets more extreme at the higher levels so using a powerful super for a benchmark best illustrates this. To lift 80 tons, you need ST 360 [3500], Super ST 33/320 [1020], or Log ST 41 [310]. We see that Log ST is the cheapest for lifting heavy weights. However it does lower damage for high levels of strength, which can be addressed by adding Striking ST.
GURPS ST is linear so it takes massive levels to reach the superheroic levels of some comics characters. KYOS changes the lifting portion to logarithmic while keeping damage linear. This lets impressive lifting be possible without splattering foes, matching the comics. Also linear damage is better balanced against other attacks and DR.

Dishing It Out and Taking It

Dealing Damage

Comparing the cost of Log ST to Innate Attack we find strength is not an efficient way to do massive damage. This makes sense since strength is good for a variety of tasks. “Knowing Your Own Strength” suggests Log ST is composed of Striking ST [1/level], Lifting ST [7/level], and HP [2/level]. How does that compare to Basic ST? For thrust damage, Log ST 41 combined with Striking ST 156 costs a total of 425 points. This gives us the same damage and far more lifting ability than the same points would using the other methods.

Withstanding Damage

The other part of being a brick is the ability to shrug off massive attacks. This can be achieved using a combination of HP, DR, and Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction.
• HP derive from mass but can also represent extra toughness or even redundant organs.
• DR represents armor, tough skin or even force fields and is great at ignoring attacks. However, it can get prohibitively expensive to ignore very powerful attacks.
• Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction (GURPS Powers p.53 and p.118 – 119) effectively multiples your HP and can represent toughness, energy absorbing or deflecting powers, or even incredibly fast healing.
The combination of HP and DR works well at the low end, and Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction is very effective at the higher end. It also has the dramatic benefit of allowing the brick to be hurt by even weaker attacks where DR is more of an all or nothing effect. Adding Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50% on some or all of Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction can reduce weaker attacks to nothing. If some but not all levels of Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction have No Minimum Damage, use the part with the enhancement first. If that is not enough to result in no injury, use all the levels to determine HP lost.

Example: A brick hit with two levels of Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction with the No Minimum Damage enhancement and another two levels without it takes 40 damage. Two levels of Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction divides damage by three which is more than 0 so use 40 divided by 5 (the value from four levels) instead. If this had been 2 damage it would have been rounded down to 0.

Supers with Size and Density Powers
Some supers can change their size, density, or both. Smaller, lighter supers are more mobile, but not as tough as giants or large hunks of rock or metal who may have problems getting into vehicles or buildings. Over 2,000 lbs. and they can’t use many elevators! For bricks who can alter their size and density figure out the changes for each stage. For Growth or Shrinking every two levels changes weight by a factor of 10 with odd levels adjusting the prior step by * 3. A more exact formula is old weight *[(new height / old height) cubed] = new weight. Increased HP from Growth should be purchased normally, though the GM may allow free HP when using Extra Effort. GURPS Powers: The Weird (p. 28) offers Denser Molecular Structure as an example of the effects and values of different mass.

Brick Tactics

The brick is a combatant able to both take and dish out damage. He encourages foes to attack him rather than his more fragile teammates while giving his side a chance to flank the enemy. He has several ways to accomplish this.
Punching: When punching not only does a brick hit hard, his foes may have a hard time defending. Foes cannot parry anything heavier than their BL (2*BL with a two-handed weapon). Under Log ST treat an unarmed attackers blows as (HP/10) pounds for this purpose. Blocking may result in damage to their shield (p. B484) or Overpenetration (p. B408) and even if that stops the blow it may still cause knockback.
Grappling: Can’t (or won’t) punch through the target? Then grab him! Grappling can immobilize a foe without hurting them, keep them from using most attacks, hold them in place for target practice, and move them around (Grab and Smash and Shoving People Around, GURPS Martial Arts, p. 118). GURPS Technical Grappling can add even more drama and nuance to the standard grappling rules (Trained Strength uses the Log based bonus instead of the existing ones (p. 00).


Converting Between Normal Strength and Log ST

Sometimes you will need to know what the equivalent value would be if using normal strength, this would be ST = Log ST10 ¥ 10 to the Power of (Log ST/10). Existing bonuses for ST from various sources need to be changed to the new scale, use 20 ¥ Log [+1 (old modifier/10)] instead.
Examples of Converting a ST Bonus to a Log ST Bonus
     Normal ST Mod   Log ST mod          Action
     +1     +0     Sumo Wrestling or Wrestling DX +1 bonus..
     +2     +1     Sumo Wrestling or Wrestling DX +2 bonus.
     +3 or +4      +2     Maintain Arm Lock or Leg Grapple vs. Break Free.
     +5     +3     Maintain a Choke Hold.

Vehicles are even more vulnerable to grappling. That car can’t get away if the tires are held off the ground, and that tank is pretty helpless lying on its side or back. For double the pleasure a foe can also be thrown at another foe. Heavily armored vehicles may stop bullets or rockets but they are not designed against someone pulling off things (tires, tracks, axles, gun barrels, turrets, etc.). Allowing Wrench Limb to target wheels and axles can bypass parts of the targets armor. Another tactic is Targeting Chinks in Armor (p. B400).
Grappling attacks can sometimes bypass or reduce the effect of armor. Covering someone’s nose and mouth can suffocate him (p. B436). Choke Holds (p. B404), especially blood chokes that inflict fatigue can also be very effective, though you must be able to overcome the target’s neck DR.
Throwing: A strongman can throw anything he can lift, which is up to 8 * BL. The optimum object for throwing weighs between BL/2 to BL for thrust, +1 per die damage (see Throwing, p. B355). For very heavy objects, consider the Collision And Falls rules instead (pp. B430-432). Note that with Log ST knockback is changed to a contest of damage vs. ST-2, with the victim being knocked back margin of failure in yards. Bricks can throw some pretty heavy stuff, including things too heavy for opponents to parry or block. If an object is large enough (generally SM +1 or more above the target), the attacker may use the rules for Attacking an Area (p. B414), gaining a +4 bonus to hit and preventing their opponent from using any defense except Diving for Cover (p. B377) and denying them Defense Bonuses from shields, cloaks, etc.
Bulky objects can also pin (or bury!) someone who is smaller than they are. Someone under an object can use an Attack maneuver to shove up to BL * 12 aside, with heavier objects possibly taking several maneuvers. Anything over BL * 50 is effectively immobilizing.
Jumping: Impressive leaping is a staple in comics, and as it can leverage strength is a perfect fit for bricks. When jumping with traditional strength the Optional Jumping Rules (p. B352) work well. However with Log ST we need to change the formula, so use Move = (BL / Body Weight) * 3 instead of ST / 4. For a more exact result convert Log ST to normal strength (see p. 00) and use the original jumping formula.
Exotic Abilities: Stunts and exceptional feats seen in fiction can be replicated with advantages or skills. For example, enhancements such as Destructive Parry or Double Knockback can be added to your ST based damage, see Modifying Existing Damage (GURPS Power Ups: 4 Enhancements, pp. 9-11). Strikers (possibly with the Limb limitation, GURPS Martial Arts, p. 47) or Natural Weapons (Pyramid #3/65 Alternate GURPS III, Natural Weapons, pp. 24-26) can make your body into a weapon.
Some Cinematic skills are especially useful for a break. Breaking Blow is handy for getting past armor and Immovable Stance for resisting knockback. Some skills need to be adjusted for Log ST. Power Blow’s boost changes to +4 Log ST, or +8 with -10 to skill. Flying Leap just adds +2d damage to slams instead of tripling ST. Push skill adds +2d swing damage when calculating knockback.

Foundations vs. Templates

Exotic beings come in a staggering variety, and being unique is part of the fun in playing one. However all those options and lack of good reference points can be intimidating, especially to the novice. A true plug-and-play or template system can be limiting, but prepackaged abilities can save a lot of time. The Foundation system below provides example powers that are centered on a point range. These are not lenses so costs are not all equal and adjustments, such as adding power modifiers may be made. The intent of the system is to provide to the player a simple menu of choices. Customization is encouraged for experienced players but this system allows quick and easy character design. This can be combined with base templates such as those from GURPS Action or GURPS Monster Hunters or with the normal character building process. A different foundation can be created for different archetypes or monster types. Demons, lycanthropes, or vampires could have their own lists and even sub-lists for specific types or clans.
The GM declares the foundation, any caps (levels that are not allowed to be exceeded), and the point budget, and everyone picks abilities up to those limits. Unusual Background costs are not included here, except as noted since that is a setting decision. GURPS Supers (p. 19 and p. 124) provides some benchmarks. For example, a GM setting up a street-level supers campaign could allow players to spend up to 500 points on any ability of C List or lower.

E List (Everyone, not just Bricks)

20 points
Common cinematic options for Experiments, monsters, supers or even Action Heroes.
Enduring: Fit [5], Extra FP 3 [9], 1 point in Breath Control skill • Grit: High Pain Threshold [10], Hard to Kill 1 [2], Hard to Subdue 2 [4], Fearlessness 2 [4], 20 pointsPuncher: ST +1 [10], Special Exercises (Striking ST) 2 [2], Striking ST 2 [2], Special Exercises (Striker Limb) [1], Striker (Fist; Limb, -20%) [4], 1 point in Boxing, Brawling or Karate skill, 20 points Pure Muscle: ST +2 [20] • Quick Recovery: Recovery [10], Regeneration (Slow) [10], 20 pointsTough: Special Exercises (DR 1, Tough Skin) [1], DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3], Extra HP 3 [6], ST +1 [10], 20 points.

D List (Brick) Street Strongman

50 points
The basis for street level supers and over the top action types.
Defiant: Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /2 [50] • Iron Body Training: DR 16 (Tough Skin, -40%) [48] • Leaper: Acrobatics skill [2], Jumping skill [2], Running skill [1], Catfall [10], Perfect Balance [15], Super Jump 2 [20], 50 pointsLizard: Regrowth [40], Regeneration (Slow) [10], 50 pointsResilient: DR 30 (Ablative, -80%) [30], HP + 10 [20], 50 pointsQuick Healer: HP +10 (Only to increase healing threshold, -75%) [5], Regeneration (Regular) [25] or Regeneration (Fast) (Bane, Acid and Fire, -50%) [25], Regrowth (Minor, -50%) [20], 50 pointsRocky Hide: DR 10 [50] • Strength of 3 Men: Log ST +5 [50] • Tough Noggin: Hard to Subdue 5 [10], High Pain Threshold [10], Protected Sense (Hearing, Smell, Vision) [15], Recovery [10], 45 pointsUnliving: Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30] • Unstoppable: Unkillable 1 [50].

C List (Brick) Tough Guy

100 points
These fill out the city level supers or monsters who can handle small arms fire.
Dragon Hide: DR20 [100] • Giant: Growth 3 (Requires Log ST 21; 21’ tall, 6,430 lbs) [30], HP + 27 [54], 84 pointsInstant Healer: HP +20 (Only to increase healing threshold, -75%) [10], Regeneration (Very Fast) (Bane, Acid and Fire, -50%) [50], Regrowth [40] [100] • Steel Hide: DR 16 (Hardened 1, +20%) [96] • Strength of 10 Men: Log ST +10 [100] • Wall of Flesh: HP + 12 [24], Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /3 [75], 99 points.

B List (Brick) Bouncing Bullets

250 points
These guys can go toe to toe with infantry and SWAT teams. Attacks are in the 18d damage range, putting them solidly in the infantry power level.
Colossus: Growth 6 (Requires Log ST 34; 60’ tall, 75 tons) [60], HP + 96 [192], 252 pointsDiamond Skin: DR 50 [250] • Immortal: HP +7 [14], Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30], Regeneration (Extreme) [150], Regrowth [40], Unaging [15], 249 pointsStrength of 100 Men: Log ST +20 [200], Striking ST 50 [50], 250 pointsWalking Fort: Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /10 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [225].

A List (Brick) Bouncing Rockets

500 points
Typical starting point for nationally renowned (or feared) supers and monsters. Attacks are in the 60d range which puts them as high powered infantry or low end combat vehicles.
Impenetrable Hide: DR 100 [500] • Strength of Legion: Log ST +30 [300], Striking ST 200 [200] [500] • Tank: Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /150 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [488].

A+ List (Brick) World Renowned

1,000 points
World famous supers and monsters that can take on armies or destroy cities. Attacks are in the 125d range or D-Scale and making them comparable to tanks.
Invulnerablity: Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /10,000 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [900] • Mountain Cracker: DR 2 (Hardened 1, +20%) [12], Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /150 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [488], Striking ST + 500 [500] • Strength of Atlas: Log ST +40 [400], Striking ST 600 [600] [1,000].


20 points
As explained earlier a foundation list can be built for any archetype. This is a short example of a list designed for creatures like golems and creatures of mad science.
Doesn’t Breathe [20] • Doesn’t Eat or Drink [10] • Doesn’t Sleep [20] • Injury Tolerance (No Blood, No Eyes) [10].

Example: Bruiser

This is a street level hero built on 500 points with a cap of A list abilities. We choose two picks from the B list for a balanced offense and defense costing 475 points and add Grit from the E list leaving us 5 points plus what we get from disadvantages.
Advantages: Fearlessness +2 [4], Hard to Kill +2 [4], Hard to Subdue +2 [4], Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /10 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [225], Log ST +20 [200] + Striking ST 50 [50]

Example: Tanker

A world famous veteran built on 5,000 points with a cap of A+ abilities. The player starts with Wheelman from Action 1 [250] giving him a quick solid mix of skills and abilities that let him drive the groups super car. Next he adds three picks from the A+ list to round out his powers.
Advantages: DR 100 [500], Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction /10,000 (Cosmic, No Minimum Damage, +50%) [900], Log ST +40 [400], Striking ST 600 [600] costing 2,650 and leaving 2,350 points left over the bulk of which he uses for the groups fleet of vehicles, Wealth and assorted abilities. He could opt to make his powers armor-based using either gadget limitations or a power modifier of Powered Armor for -10%, but elects to keep them as a special effect.
Inhuman Template: Creature of Science
Built in a lab using weird science this creature has abilities from Creations and the Brick. The creature is not truly alive, however it is not technically undead either and has no special magical or religious vulnerabilities. To the casual observer it may appear as a well maintained zombie, though it is more of a biological robot.

Creature of Science

Attributes: Log ST +5 [50]
Advantages: Doesn’t Breathe [20]; Doesn’t Eat or Drink [10]; Doesn’t Sleep [20]; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30]; Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction /2, No Blood) [55]; Lifting ST +5 (Trigger, Only when hit by lightning or powerful electric charge, -30%) [25]; Striking ST + 7 (Trigger, Only when hit by lightning or powerful electric charge, -30%) [5]; Unkillable 1[50].
Disadvantages: Frightens Animals [-10]; Overconfidence (12) -5; Phobia (Fires) (12) [-5]; Social Stigma (Monster) [-15], Vulnerability (Fire ¥ 2) [-30].

This was originally an article for Pyramid.
I want to give special thanks to Kelly Pedersen for editing help (too bad this never made the cut) and Sean Punch for the Knowing Your Own Strength article that was the last piece of this puzzle and his suggestions (and math!) for this article. 

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