Neon Nights and Metal Men
Discussions of the Gather Information skill are one of the few times you’ll see me type, “Wow, what a bad design decision!” That skill’s existence amounts to saying “Let’s associate just one ability with all the social roleplaying that’s likely ever to matter to action-oriented adventurers so that it seems like a small and unimportant postscript next to all of the other stuff, discouraging players from getting the idea in their head that there are lots of social tools available to heroes.” Sometimes it even reads like “The right way to gather information is to follow the GM’s railroad and/or cast spells, so let’s relegate every other means of information-gathering that a player could try to a single, flavorless skill so that nobody will waste time on it.” When I’m in a cynical mood, it even seems like “Waste skill points on a skill that lets the GM feed you info he was going to feed you anyway.”
In GURPS, as in real life, there are dozens of ways to get info using one’s skills. It’s up to the player to propose and the GM to dispose. A few examples:
Administration to glean info from a bureaucrat, either through discussion or by filling out the right forms to request it.
Area Knowledge to know where people with useful information hang out so that you can bribe, trick, spy on, or otherwise interact with them.
Carousing to buy a few rounds and get information at a pub or a tavern.
Current Affairs — a simple roll will often suffice once you’ve spent some time catching up on the latest news.
Fast-Talk to pry information from somebody who knows what you need to know and who shouldn’t talk . . . but who is easily bamboozled.
Intelligence Analysis to discover useful info in the reports of people who use these other skills.
Interrogation to squeeze information out of somebody you corner or capture.
Lip Reading, Observation, Shadowing, Stealth, etc., to spy out information the hard way.
Merchant to buy information legally.
Politics to glean info from a politician, perhaps by promising cash support or by convincing him that something untoward is going on under his nose and that you can help if he fills you in on a few facts.
Research to find information in records of some kind.
Savoir-Faire to glean info from somebody in the relevant social group by convincing him that you’re a peer who “needs to know.”
Sex Appeal to get information from a horndog.
Streetwise, either to find people to bribe, interrogate, and spy on, or simply to walk the streets, make contacts, and hear rumors.
“Information gatherer” is an entire PC profession — every group needs one. Somebody who’s good at that task will have most of the above skills, plus advantages that boost them and/or give reaction bonuses, and probably a decent bankroll.
Here’s the way we intended it all to work:
Status entitles you to certain basic benefits, provided you pay your cost of living. For a concrete example of these benefits, see What Cost of Living Gets You (p. B266).
In practice, to afford your cost of living — maintenance and upkeep on all of those dwellings, vehicles, and servants — your number of levels of Wealth above Average must at least equal your levels of Status above 0. The table on p. B517 is useful here.
This Wealth doesn’t in itself mean that you have vast sums of liquid cash! It just means that you enjoy a situation wherein you earn enough to live at an elevated Status level. “Earn” usually implies “job” — although many high-Wealth, high-Status “jobs” require little work compared to being a drudge. Filthy Rich and Multimillionaire “jobs” are often things like “Upper-Class Twit,” “Dilettante,” and “Rich Punter,” and require you to dedicate your days to society events, being foppish, and playing croquet.
If you like, you can dispense with even the pretense of a job and purchase Independent Income. It’s extremely cheap next to high Wealth because all it’s really doing is freeing up a few hours a week. It means that the money rolls in while you do nothing — not even go to oh-so-boring parties and flirt with rich heiresses. You can instead don an eyepatch and go off pirating, or personally invade planets, or whatever else takes your fancy.
The matter of starting money is completely aside from all of this! It just happens that the Wealth advantage also affects it. Starting money is meant to reflect what you could muster on a moment’s notice if you had to go off on an adventure. You can invest this cash and earn money without taking Independent Income. This isn’t unbalanced, and here’s why:
Even a single level of Independent Income — 1 point — gives you a 1% return per month. That’s 12% annually, without tying up any of your starting money. By comparison, if you tied up every cent of your starting money, you’d be lucky to score 5% annually, which is equivalent to Independent Income 0.4, and not even worth a full point. Furthermore, money that’s invested isn’t supplying adventure-useful things like guns, mercenary armies, and galactic space destroyers . . . all of which the gent with Independent Income can have as well as his 12%. So it’s 1 point for 12% + all your cash in equipment vs. 0 points for 5% + no equipment (or some balance, like 2.5% + 50% your cash in equipment).
The moral? If you want to play a cinematically successful investor or speculator, take Independent Income. Investing starting money just won’t have the same oomph, and leaves you less cash free for bribing SEC officials and presidents of banana republics.
Both the investor PC and the PC with Independent Income are in the same boat if they just hoard their funds: Once they have enough to qualify for the next Wealth level, they must ante up the points for that Wealth level to reflect the backroom social and business connections needed to hold onto that kind of money. Otherwise, they’ll find their upward mobility hampered by the law, the taxman, their peers, or their betters.
As for Rank, it’s really on its own axis. Those with any level of Status, Wealth, and Independent Income can have any Rank. High Rank makes high Status a bit easier to get, and might be the only path to high Status in supposedly “classless” societies (see Classless Meritocracies, p. B28). But if a society has people with mansions and yachts, it has Status. It might only be roundabout, or it might pose as Rank (in which case Rank costs 10 points/level and not 5 points/level — see the top of p. B30), but it’s still there. The only important note is that Status that comes free from Rank means that you, personally, don’t pay your full cost of living; see p. B265.
1. Perception and Will are separate from IQ.
Both Per and Will are their own attributes. They start at 10, and can be raised or lowered for 5 points/level. IQ is unchanged, at 20 points/level.
This is a big change, but an important one. As written, if you lower your character’s Per and Will, you’ll see that IQ (just IQ by itself) costs 10 points/level. Compared to the price of Talents, Magery, and even skills, that’s just too little. Now that mental skills cost more per level, it’s unbalancing to make IQ cost less.
In addition, it makes themetic sense for Will and Perception to be divorced from IQ. Intelligence certainly doesn’t affect alertness — look at any animal to see that. And your strength of will isn’t related to how smart you are, otherwise nerds would intimidate jocks, not the other way around.
This does slightly change the cost of building characters, so you’ll want to mentally add about 10-15% to the starting character points suggestions in the books.
(Note that Affliction (Attribute Penalty, IQ) no longer reduces Per and Will. Instead, the Attribute Penalty enhancement may be bought for each at +5% per level. Similarly, Steal Will and Steal Per are +100% enhancements for Leech.)
15. Cheap Firearms.
Cheap guns are -60% to Cost (-0.6 CF). They have -1 Acc, -1 HT, and -1 Malf. If you aren’t using Malfunctions (p. B407), treat this as “16 is always a failure, and 17 is always a critical failure.”
Alternatively, if you don’t mind extra detail, the firearm’s HT is unchanged. However, whenever it would normally get a bonus to a HT roll — like the HT+4 roll to resist Slime, Sand, and Equipment Failure (p. B485) — it rolls against straight HT, no bonus.
Note for My Players: I also have a minor house rule about Dependents and Enemies. They may be only taken with a Frequency of “6 or less” or “9 or less” without special GM permission.