Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Looking at GURPS Streetwise

 Streetwise is one of the influence skills, meaning it can be used to replace a reaction roll in the appropriate circumstances. It is an Average skill, typical of them, though Carousing is Easy and Diplomacy is Hard, the rest are all Average skills.

What do the rules say its used for?

GURPS Basic, p. 223 says its the skill to get along in rough company and "You may substitute an Influence roll against Streetwise for any reaction roll made in an underworld or “bad neighborhood”  situation; see Influence Rolls (p. 359)."

GURPS Social Engineering, p. 30 says "Streetwise isn’t the same as Intimidation; the latter makes you seem dangerous and hostile, while the former conveys that you know your way around. "

This can be a bit risky as a failed Influence roll (p. B359) can get you a worse reaction than not using an influence skill, and the roll is resisted by Will. So if you are going to rely on it its a good idea to be very good at it.

Additionally the skill lets you ask for information among criminals and seeming like you belong there rather than are an undercover enforcement officer or perhaps a criminal rival. Specifically it helps you find the criminal element, or those catering to it (such as corrupt police), know a good bribe price, and perhaps find the local "action".

It is not used to buy things (use Merchant) but at least it can help you seem like a legitimate customer and perhaps find venders of illegal wares. Also Streetwise at 12+ cancels the normal -3 to Merchant for buying illegal goods.

Overall a decent skill, but can be risky to use and perhaps lacks flavor and oomph for that cinematic expert. So here are some additional suggestions.

1) Allow Optional Specialization (p. B169) for certain types of criminal elements. Examples Docks/Ports; Gangs; Neighborhoods; etc.

2) Add techniques such as...

Fits In (H) Streetwise-3, purchased up to Streetwise (at 4 points) to offset the penalty for obviously being a stranger in the area.

Cutting Out (H) Streetwise-4 to pick an individual out of a group to use your skill on. Social Engineering, p. 81)

Hinting (H) Streetwise+0 (up to Streetwise +6) for being subtle enough in your questions that observers might not pick up on it. (Social Engineering, p. 81).

I really like this one as its often a good idea to be discreet when asking about illegal activities!

3) Certain perks and other advantages can of course also help. "In the Know" (Social Engineering, p. 79) grants +2 to finding an illegal connection, such as a fence.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Star Heist: End of Mission 1

 After six game session the team completed their first mission. It was loosely based on an old and frankly not very good movie called "Deadlier than the Male".

After the game we did a post session summary and the two players left (one had to go to work) seemed happy. Two NPCs Dr. Kirkpatrick (Ugler healer) and Captain Slater (Human analyst) did a lot of work in the background that helped out. However, no one seemed to feel they were overwhelming or too important to the game. They contributed information that the players were able to use but it was mostly behind the scenes and they were not involved in decision making.

I think that they filled roles the players had not really focused on and did not make any big decisions for the group was a big contributor to them seeming useful and fun to interact with but not taking any of the spotlight away from the player characters.

Notable NPCs..

Dr. Kirkpatrick is the ships doctor and was useful in saving one PC's life as well as providing opinions and detail on autopsies and medical reports. Also helped the team diplomat with psych profiling.

Captain Slater is the ships captain and mission lead but his specialty is statistical analysis, this was intended to help me give the players guidance if they got stuck and to spend the required hours of research and slogging through paperwork that many cases would require but would be rather boring to the players. With him going through the paperwork and videotapes they could focus on more active tasks.

Sam and Snick are the ships engineers, mostly intended to keep the ship running and repair things. They had some interaction with the players but were very much background characters.

Bear the security specialist was intended to protect the ship so the players don't have to and to act as reinforcements if they got into a fight. Mostly background, some interaction but he stayed out of things this mission.

JJ the ships pilot (PC) did some Streetwise, that did not directly help but got them a taste of the bad guys when one of them tried to assainate him with a poisoned cigar. Other than that he mostly played chauffer. That is the job of the teams driver/pilot but I want him to be able to get more directly involved, this is the area I feel the most disappointed in so far. If the player remains only the chauffeur I feel he will get bored and so I am hoping he comes up with some directions to grow in that we can work with.

He with the long name that I cannot pronounce and hence cant remember is the groups decker and rigger. Still concerned with the robot allies and being good enough at driving to make the JJ feel redundant but so far it hasn't come up much. He was frustrated at not being able to use his computer hacking abilities but the players opted for a mostly law abiding team and role which hampers the effectiveness of one who is mostly designed to break into other peoples computers. However, the player is smart enough to know this was going to be an issue so its more of a challenge to work around than a serious obstacle, so far anyway. He did get to hack one persons computer which got them the really big clue they needed to decide the case so we both felt good about that.

Duri the diplomat (final PC) did the bulk of the front and center work as this was mostly a working the people kind of mission. I think everything went well there and he was not greedy about the center stage, just that is the way the cards fell. I suspect his character will be the most useful most of the time as talking to people is rarely illegal and tends to come up a lot.

I explained the roles of the ships crew in more detail at the end of the last game. Paying for a ship and its crew is a bit extravagant so they have other duties. Captain Slater, Dr. Kirkpatrick, and the engineers can review various cases by going through paperwork and making recommendations. So they can cover a lot of rather routine cases as background and earn their keep that way. The full team is only needed for major cases and the field team is mostly the PCs with occasional help and support from the NPCs.

General GM Thoughts

NPCs provide a lot of the flavor in a campaign, which is great but they come with a big risk. For example a spacefaring or seagoing campaign often needs NPCs to flesh out the crew. They need to be competent but not overwhelmingly so or at least not prone to taking over the campaign from the players. In this case I assigned them important roles but ones that are more backup or background. So far its working out and I think will continue to do so.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Research Skill in GURPS

 For my Star Heist campaign I expect the Research skill to see a lot of use and wanted to add some detail. Obviously you can apply task difficulty modifiers for more difficult questions, but some research should take more or less time - especially in a world with computers and a version of the internet readily available!

So here is a version I came up with, thought I would share.


see p. B217

Research is a common task in the Star Heist setting, and computers greatly speed it up. The default time for a Research roll is based on the complexity of the question.

Trivial: Summed up in a short sentence and something commonly asked. Search databases are used to these questions, making for fast and accurate answers. Time 1 turn, +4 to skill. Examples: Nearest place to eat or shop for common item.

Simple: Typically, one or two sentence questions with one or two simple qualifiers. Time, up to a minute, no task modifier. Examples: The best place in town for a good steak.

Average: A question with several parameters but not a complicated subject matter and one with plenty of data available. Time, 5 minutes, no task modifier.

Complex: Typically, on a specialized subject, often a scientific or legal question that requires precision and detail. Time 1 hour, -2 to -5 skill, complementary skill bonus.

Amazing: This is something on the level of research for an academic paper, involving multiple refinements to the search after reviewing results. Another skill is typically required to properly refine the questions. Time, 1 day, -5 to -10 skill.

Comprehensive: Sometimes more than a single answer is needed, even the top few answers might not provide enough data. For example trying to research a world to prepare for an expedition. In this case multiple people can assist. Let each researcher make a skill roll suited to their own capability and skill mix and compile everything into one neat package. Alternatively researchers may assist the overall project by taking on some of the workload, in which case each competent assistant (Skill 12+) can offer a complementary roll to the overall project. This is only applicable on large data as with small projects multiple researchers tread too much of the same ground and may even confuse things with conflicting bias.

Computer Software can be a great help here. Most computers will have search programs available; this is considered basic tools. However, a search routine and database optimized for the subject gets a quality bonus (+1 or +2) and reduces the time spent by one step.

As one might note, it is inspired by the Invention rules, with the time and penalties lowered and the addition of the Trivial category. For a cinematic campaign, or one where the person making the skill check might be an AI additional traits might apply. For example why not a variant of Gadgettering to further reduce time and penalties?

As a friend remarked, this setup can be applied to other skills, I intend to use it for science skills for example.