GURPS Supers Character: Jade Rocket
That one guy has been pondering on a 600 point supers game. The idea, as I understand it, is that the PCs are the first generation of supers… so, of course, I had to make a legacy character.
After several revisions, here’s my proposed PC, assuming the game happens and scheduling works out and no zombie apocalypse and the creek don’t rise…
ST 12 ; DX 14 ; IQ 12 ; HT 12 .
Damage 1d-1/1d+2; BL 29 lb; HP 12 ; Will 15 ; Per 12 ; FP 12 .
Basic Speed 6.50 ; Basic Move 6 ; Dodge 9.
TL: 8 .
CF: Asian ; Western (Native) .
Languages: Chinese (Native) ; English (Native) .
Templates and Meta-Traits
Chin Na (Martial Arts; p. MA154) .
Appearance (Attractive) ; Damage Resistance 1 (Tough Skin) ; High Pain Threshold ; Luck (Defensive) ; Modular Abilities (Cosmic Power; Focus Limited: Highly versatile focus (Superscience Gadgets); Gadget/Breakable: DR 5; Gadget/Breakable: Object is complex machine; Gadget/Breakable: Size -7; Gadget/Unique; Per point of abilities (+2); Physical and Mental; Required Disadvantage (Maintenance, 1 Person, Weekly); Superscience; Trait Limited: One specific trait (Accessory Perks)) ; Modular Abilities (External Reconfigurable Mechanisms; Focus Limited: Highly versatile focus (Superscience Gadgets); Gadget/Breakable: Object is complex machine; Gadget/Unique; Physical and Mental; Required Disadvantage (Maintenance, 1 Person, Weekly); Slot 1 (+75); Slot 2 (+25); Superscience; Advantages Only; Variable Gadget (Combination of durability and size modifiers that varies from one device to the next; see SU46)) ; Signature Gear 1 (Uniform) .
Perks: Style Familiarity (Chin Na); Unusual Training (Pressure Points). 
Charitable (12 or less) [-15]; Code of Honor (Xia) [-10]; Curious (15 or less) [-2]; Discipline of Faith (Ritualism) [-5]; Duty (Ancient Order Of Masters; 9 or less (fairly often); Extremely Hazardous) [-10]; Enemy (Failed former student; Less powerful than the PC; 9 or less) [-5]; Pacifism (Cannot Kill) [-15]; Selfless (9 or less) [-7]; Sense of Duty (Innocents; Entire Race) [-15]; Susceptible to Ingested Poison -1 [-1]; Wealth (Struggling) [-10]; Workaholic [-5].
Bulky Frame; Disciplined; Methodical; Responsible; Serious.
Administration (A) IQ -12; Current Affairs/TL8 (Headline News) (E) IQ -12; Detect Lies (H) Per-1 -11; Diplomacy (H) IQ-1 -11; Driving/TL8 (Automobile) (A) DX-1 -13; Driving/TL8 (Motorcycle) (A) DX-1 -13; Esoteric Medicine (H) Per -12; First Aid/TL8 (Human) (E) IQ -12; Gesture (E) IQ -12; Innate Attack (Beam) (E) DX -14; Interrogation (A) IQ-1 -11; Intimidation (A) Will-1 -14; Judo (H) DX+4 -18; Mechanic/TL12 (Nanomachines) (A) IQ+6 -18; Move! (WC) DX -14; Philosophy (Taoism) (H) IQ-1 -11; Physiology/TL8 (Human) (H) IQ-2 -10; Pressure Points (Human) (H) IQ+2 -14; Savoir-Faire (Dojo) (E) IQ -12.
Techniques: Arm Lock (Judo) (A) -18; Choke Hold (Judo) (H) -16; Finger Lock (Judo) (H) -15; Head Lock (Judo) (H) -15; Leg Grapple (Judo) (H) -18; Pressure-Point Strike (Judo) (H) -16; Trip (Judo) (H) -11.
Advanced Body Armor (17 lb); Boots, Steel-Toed (4 lb); Cloth Cap (Styling, +2); Face Mask (Hardened Steel; Styling (+2); 2 lb); Heavy Leather Sleeves (Leather of Quality; 2 lb); Leather Gloves (Leather of Quality); Leather Pants (3 lb); Pouch.
Cell Phone ($250; 4 oz).
My, that’s quite the wall of text, isn’t it? Let’s see if we can shine some light into the dark corners. First…
Background and Origin Story
Tom Tan grew up listening to his great-grandmother’s fantastic stories about the old days in China. So, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he had no options, he left behind his mundane life as an office manager, sold all his worldly goods, and set out for Asia.
There, he followed rumors of miracle cures until he found a certain unnamed group of Taoist priests. They practiced their own version of Chin Na with special emphasis on the use of pressure points, both to heal and to harm. The rumor was that these folks knew how to correct otherwise-incurable diseases. Over the course of a long training montage, Tom was accepted into their ranks and learned some of their lore.
In time, Tom was told the priests’ most guarded secret and the reason for the group’s existence. Hundreds of years ago, a being from far away had sought shelter with the people are the area, grew sick, and died while in their care. People at the time said that the being was a xian, a celestial being, but in modern times, some of the priests had speculated that the being was some kind of advanced extraterrestrial. What wasn’t debatable was that the being had left behind an artifact.
The artifact was the celestial being’s sole tool. It seemed to be all the tool a person would ever need. Over the years, cautious experimentation led to the formulation of a series of rituals that would allow a person to use the device, and a partial understanding of the rules of its operation. It would only abide a single user at a time, bonding to that person until death, appearing as a skin-tight, usually-featureless metal bracelet without apparent hinge or seam. It would follow the commands of the user, if they were given correctly. It could act as any tool and create any machine or device, limited only by the user’s knowledge and skill.
Eventually, a tradition grew up. The current user of the device would act as a sort of wandering hero, a youxia, and uphold the common good. As the users grew too old to wander, they would retire to train their replacements. Candidates for the position would be chosen from the monks, who would have learned the basics of operating the device in their training, disguised as esoteric ritual. The elder user would provide advanced training to a small group of candidates, sometimes for years, before naming a successor. Upon the user’s death, the device would unlock, and be handed over to the named successor, who would take up a life of adventure. The other candidates would live more sedentary lives, studying and becoming wise, to act as a council of elders to guide and direct the user’s activities.
That had been the way of things, up until 1920, when the user of that time was unexpectedly killed, after a time in which many of the order had coincidentally also died. This cost the order much of their gathered knowledge of the practical use of the device. The group went into a rebuilding phase, during which the users devoted themselves to re-learning how the device works.
As it turned out, at the time that Tom joined the order, the device’s user was getting on in years. Another long training montage, this time with more weird technology, and Tom ends up being (ahem) the chosen one. Along the way, the previous user applied one part Esoteric Medicine plus two parts alien medical technology, and pretty much cured Tom’s cancer. (He’s troubled by a sensitive digestion, a small price to pay.)
In light of the sudden appearance of supers (or if that doesn’t work in-story, then just because they’re feeling froggy with their young, naive new minion), the elders decided that they’ve kept a low profile long enough. They ordered Tom to go out and do heroic stuff in the wider world.
And so, the Jade Rocket was born.
What’s really going on
That background is how Tom knows it. This next part is what I’ve been imagining, behind the scenes – the real story behind the partial story that Tom was told. Changing this stuff wouldn’t require Tom to get points for Amnesia.
The theory on which I’ve hung all that is that the “being” was actually an alien, probably extradimensional, definitely TL12^ or more. It was doing the extradimensional TL12^ alien version of camping, hoping from world to world, maybe universe to universe, when it ran into trouble. Extradimensional alien flu or the like. The weird local creatures – humans – took it in when it was in trouble. Sadly, it died anyway.
The device is actually a “sufficiently advanced” multitool. The bracelet part is the control unit for a cloud of nanomachines. They swarm around the control unit at all times. When activated, they can put themselves together to make just about any gadget. When not activated, they scavenge for whatever spare matter and energy they can find, replenishing their numbers and their strength for the next activation. The rituals for activation are hit-or-miss “voodoo programming” – kinda like using a voice recognition system that had spent a century adapting to a parrot who learned the commands in French from a native Japanese speaker working from a phrase book.
As far as learning how to make the thing work: Writing down instructions isn’t all that helpful, since the TL12^ interface is more-or-less telepathic, so there’s a strong “hands on” element to using the device. Furthermore, every user has to perform maintenance on the system. Some of that “maintenance” is actually tinkering with the configuration, sometimes to the point of “editing the registry”… so, if a user from a hundred years ago were to be handed the present-day device, it’s not certain that the old rituals would still work like they used to.
To sum up: it’s a super-hero origin, only works once.
Explanation and highlights
As I was saying at the game t’other day, if I’m going to give a GM ulcers with a character, I’m going to first give a guided tour and point out all the way it could give ulcers, first. That way they’ve got no one to blame but themselves.
Why “Jade Rocket”? Because I’m ripping off Green Lantern, of course. I set out aiming for Hal Jordan, but along the way, I got interested in the idea of a “chosen one” character where there’s no supernatural choice-maker and no mystical criteria. Tom didn’t get the super-powers because he’s fearless, or because he’s strong-willed, or because he’s especially good at the martial arts, or because he follows the code. He got the job because he was at hand and mostly competent to do what needed to be done. The device doesn’t care who uses it.
A solid base of 12, with a standout DX 14. I kinda see straight 12’s as the baseline for a comic book superhero.
Tom’s Will is actually higher than his DX. It is my firm belief that, to put on the tights in the first place, a super hero has to be strong-willed. Stubborn. Obsessive. Possibly deranged…
I’m trying to steer a course between GURPS-like detail and comic book hand-wave. On the one hand, Tom’s paying points for a Cultural Familiarity, something our local games haven’t really emphasized; on the other hand, that CF is for all of Asia. He’s got a second language, and it’s listed as “Chinese”, which I understand is a gross oversimplification. I reckon I’ll tighten up both, if necessary.
Do I expect either one to show up in-game? No, not really, they’re mostly just background color. If they do, though, I want to be covered.
Tom is Attractive because he’s in a comic book. He’s got tough skin and a high pain threshold from being roughed up in training.
The real centerpiece of Tom’s Advantages are his two Modular Abilities. They’re based on the Nanoswarm power from the Improviser template on page 46 of GURPS Supers, plus some bits from the Reverend Pee Kitty’s “Cosmic Power for ‘Super-Gadgeteers’“. One is a 2-point Cosmic Power Modular Ability that can become any two Accessory Perks, while the other is an Externally Reconfigurable Mechanisms Modular Ability with a 75-point slot and a 25-point slot that can both become just about any super-gadget.
Why is one Cosmic and the other Externally Reconfigurable? Because the Externally Reconfigurable Mechanisms requires working from a list of known designs, and rolling to add new designs to that list. I wanted to be able to pull out any Accessory Perk, on the spur of the moment.
Aside from generally heroic stuff… The Discipline of Faith is the set of rituals that he’s been taught, half alien nanotech guesswork and half idiosyncratic Taoism. He’s got a Duty to the masters, who aren’t generally useful enough to be worth a Patron.
One of Tom’s fellow students didn’t appreciate the idea of a life of wisdom, rather than a life of action, and turned against the order in general and Tom specifically. He knows something of Mechanic (Nanomachines) TL12^, so if he could arrange for Tom to die while he’s nearby, he could hijack the nanoswarm.
Tom has Struggling Wealth. He didn’t go back to his office job. Instead, he drifts from place to place, doing odd jobs and the like, as he can pick them up, so as to keep himself free for super-heroics.
He’s big-boned. He won’t start a fight. He works slowly and carefully. He takes responsibility for his actions. He’s a bit of a stiff.
Tom’s primary skill from his old life is Administration. His Esoteric Medicine comes from his knowledge of pressure points, so it’s cinematic acupressure.
Tom doesn’t have any points in any particular Chin Na technique. I lean towards Arm Lock, of course, but we’ll see how things develop.
The stand-out skill on Tom’s list is Move! It fills in for all the fancy footwork that martial artists are known for. It’ll also work for anything acrobatic that he has to do once he starts pulling out jet packs, swim fins, and boots with giants springs. If need be, it’ll allow him to kick someone in the head. I’m expecting Tom’s role on the team to be more support/movement specialist, not so much as a heavy hitter.
The Jade Rocket costume is made up of several pieces of armor that are bought as Signature Gear. His hood and face mask are distinctively styled; they’re not just armor, they’re his mask. It’s Signature Gear, not because it’s special and unique, but because the order has a bunch of appropriate stuff, gathered over the years. Some of it’s ancient, some of it’s exceptional from a historical perspective… but in game terms, it just means he can always get a new pair of boots to wear while adventuring even though he can’t afford bus fare.