Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: PCs

Steampunk Jetpack

One of the player’s stated goals for Knuer, the techie, is to own a jetpack. He’s an airship pilot, and he needs options for when the time comes to bail out from a burning balloon. Since I need to get comfortable with the GURPS Monster Hunters inventing rules, let’s run through some options.

The standard MH rules have a modifier for “every decade… from general consumption”, which starts racking up quick when you’re talking about a starting year of 1851, especially when folks want to be able to create TL 5+1 WWII-era guns or TL 5+3 difference engines. Therefore, I’m going to instead be using the standard -5 per TL modifier from GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns, page 475.

Let’s see if we can sneak up on this “jetpack” idea, since there might be easier, more steampunk-y options along the way. What we’re looking for, really, is some kind of man-portable emergency flight technology.

We could start with the TL 7 hang-glider from GURPS High Tech, page 232. The modified base cost for a folding TL 5+2 hang-glider would be $8,000, for a complexity modifier of -1. Knuer could roll Scrounging -1 to come up with the parts, or just pay $80 out of pocket. Then, with no more than a couple of hours’ work, he would roll Inventor! at -11, with success meaning accepting a bug in the prototype and a critical success meaning no bug. If he could make a Weird Science roll, he would roll Inventor! at -6, but might have to accept a strange side effect. (Of course, all of these rolls could be affected by spending wildcard points and so forth.) Once built, the prototype would only work for (1d + margin of success) minutes before being at risk of failure.

For comparison, let’s run through the Quick Gadgeteering rules from the Basic Set: A TL 7 hang glider, by price, is Average complexity. First, Knuer would need to make a concept roll, using Inventor! at -2. Assembling a prototype would require 1d-2 hours. Again, he could Scrounge for the parts, but at -2. Failing that, he could pay $6,000 for a facility suitable for inventing hang gliders, and $80 for the materials to build a prototype. He would need to roll Inventor! at -12, or -7 with Weird Science, to successfully build the prototype, but success by anything less than a margin of three would introduce bugs. Barring trouble from those bugs, the prototype would be as durable as any other piece of equipment. In time, he might be able to set up a production line to build hang gliders for sale to the public.

However, Knuer wants powered flight, so let’s run through the calculations using the ram-air parachute from HT, p. 232, a TL 8 gadget with a modifier cost of $28,000. Using MH rules, that’s no more than 3 hours of work, Scrounging -2 or pay $280, roll Inventor! at -17 or -9 with Weird Science.

The Basic Set rules say the ram-air parachute is still Average complexity, meaning the concept roll would still be at -2, and the facility cost would remain the same, but the cost per prototype would jump to $280. The roll to create the prototype would be at -17, or -9 with Weird Science.

Finally, what about a TL 9 helipack (GURPS Ultra-Tech, p. 231)? With a starting price of $320K, MH rules give a base time of 1d hours and a complexity modifier of -3, plus -20 in Tech Level modifiers. If Scrounging -3 doesn’t work, it’s $3,200 in parts. Roll Inventor! at -23, or -13 with Weird Science.

By the basic rules, the helipack is a Complex invention, with a base -4 modifier. The facility cost is $22,500 and each prototype will cost $3,200. The roll to create would be at -24, or -14 with Weird Science.

So: it seems that the MH rules are for field-expedient, “MacGyver-ed” creations. If you want an invention to last, you’ll need to invest in expensive production equipment. And, even spending wildcard points, given his 18- skill roll, Knuer is likely to use Weird Science and end up with an air-ram parachute… but coal-fueled, ghost-attracting, and whistling like a tea kettle.



Steampunk Monster Hunters: Dramatis personæ

Character creation went extraordinarily well! So, who are our heroes?

Nayler H. Knuer: Philanthropist Techie

Part Richard Francis Burton, part Oscar Wilde, an inventor and airship pilot who has traveled the world seeking thrills and made a fortune along the way. He has encountered angels and demons, which he refers to indiscriminately as “jinn”. In between harrowing adventures, he amuses himself by using Medic! to self-medicate, a practice that has left him thin and jittery.

Knuer has Inventor! at 18-, giving him four wildcard points, and Medic! at 15-, giving one wildcard point. His signature invention is a steam-powered jetpack, though he also has his own airship.

In appearance, Knuer is similar to The Thin White Duke, but with more hair. He wears a monocle to make up for his nearsightedness.

The Buttersnaps, Lucretia Gasser and Octavious: Philanthropist Commando and Hired Gun Psi

A married couple who hunt monsters together, while drinking heavily. I gather that they’ve seen some stuff.

Lucretia is American, with all that implies. She’s outgoing, frequently drunk, favors dual pistols, and can shoot the wings off flies. She’s not only a Gunslinger, she also has Gun! at 19-, yielding 5 wildcard points.

She has, by a wide margin, the highest DX in the group. She also has a wide selection of gun-related Perks.

Octavious is an arrogant, alcoholic medium who is involved in a bitter feud with a clown demon. Being a psi, Octavious lacks wildcard skills, but he has much knowledge of spirits and the undead, and is a skilled hypnotist.

He has specialized in ESP and Psychokinesis. He can speak with spirits. He can also see both the past and the future. He’s able to protect himself and move small objects with his mind, but his most impressive psychokinetic power is his ability to draw the heat out of anything (or anyone) he concentrates on.

Margaret Anne Champman, Worlds Greatest Girl Detective: Accidental Hero Sleuth

A precocious 11-year-old girl, mature for her age, with startling powers of deduction. She solves mysteries, which her guardian, Uncle Byron, turns into a popular series of books. This has given her a helpful reputation.

Miss Champman is the most intelligent member of the group, by a very slim margin. She possesses an honest face, a unique steam-powered “grabbering gun”, Detective! at 18- giving three wildcard points, and Talker! at 17- for two wildcard points.

Mercy Patton: Philanthropist Sage

A proper British governess who enchants her bag to be bigger on the inside than the outside. (I suspect ties with a certain famous doctor.) She sometimes has dreams that come true.

Mercy is the group’s linguist, being versed in several ancient tongues. She has Lore! at 17-, yielding three wildcard points. Furthermore, she is well-versed in ritual magic, particularly the Paths of Crossroads, Magic, Matter, and Undead. She carries a combination rapier/umbrella.

“Unnamed Experiment”: Operative Experiment

Created by a shadowy organization, he’s a steampunk cyborg who is just starting to realize that he retains his free will, in spite of what his creators planned. He’ll be working with the heroes while simultaneously playing a dangerous game of do-they-know with his makers.

The experiment has several sensory enhancements, can hold his breath far longer than a normal human, and no longer feels fear. His chosen weapon is a cane, but he’s not above using firearms when necessary. He’s fairly rugged, having the highest ST and HT of the group.

My understanding is that he’s been set up to hunt fae. (Though the draft character sheet I’m reading claims demons – likely a misprint.)


Cast and Crew

We’re coming up on the first session of the “Pirates!” campaign, and character sheets are trickling in. First drafts, anyway.

There are relatively few solid names. Remember, any PC who cannot provide a name when asked will be given a name by the other players. Needless to say, this is a fate worse than death.

So, who are our protagonists for this go-’round? In no particular order…

“Gabby the Cabin Girl, the Prequel”

Spiritually, this character is Gabby from the Dungeon Fantasy game, but younger and in a boat and born in a world that isn’t flipped east-to-west. I’m not 100% sure what the character’s name will be in play. There was some talk of the possibility of masquerading as a young man and going by the name of “Sammy”. We’ll see how that works out in time.

She’s more-or-less the same manic, greedy fencing machine that we came to know and love in the dungeon. Despite being described as 13 years old, she doesn’t have a Social Stigma, so she’s considered an adult and a full member of the crew. This is likely because she’s the most dangerous member of the crew with a blade, being a student of the Italian School of fencing, with an effective Rapier skill level in excess of 20. She’s also highly proficient with the ship’s cannon.

Finally, she’s a full-on Trickster. Keep in mind, that Disadvantage means that she needs to play dangerous tricks on targets who could pose a real threat. Simply defeating enemies isn’t enough. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. The high-DX pirate outwitting her foes is plenty genre-appropriate, after all…

“Gabby’s Special Friend, Polynesian Boarder #1”

To be named later, from what I understand. He’s the scary brute to back up Gabby’s agility and precision. He’s big in every way, being over seven feet tall and Very Fat besides. He’s also loud, boisterous, and covered from head to toe in tattoos.

Aside from his abilities in the spheres of combat and intimidation, he’s notable for his ability as a swimmer and diver. Upon discussion, most of the players agreed with the historical pirates: learning to swim isn’t worth it, since it just means trading a quick death by drowning for a slow death by shark attack. If you fall off the boat, it’s not like the Coast Guard is going to come looking to rescue you, right? This guy goes the other way entirely, with Swimming at 18.


Another fencer. This one’s a young Frenchman, trained in the Transitional French School of fencing. He’s new to the crew. His family has run into some serious money troubles, so he has vowed to raise a fortune to ransom them. He’s sure-footed and well-educated, but has little practical knowledge of the seafaring life.

While he’s a year older than Gabby, he took Social Stigma (Minor), meaning that the crew sees him as a kid. He’ll need to work to gain their respect.

He also has quite a few unspent points. I expect that he’ll end up spending them shortly, as he learns the ropes.

Mad Maggie

Mad Maggie is a Dutch pirate who has a real problem with bullies. She has an Intolerance, an Obsession, and a Higher Purpose, all tied around thumping those who prey upon the weak.

She’s a fencer, like the two kids, but unlike them, she chose the saber over the rapier. Rather than investing points in a full-blown style, she concentrated on the core Saber skill.

When she’s not putting captives to the sword, Mad Maggie is a highly trained rope-maker.

“The gunfighter”

Born in Dahomey, he was sold into slavery at a young age, only to be rescued when French pirates took the ship he was on. He joined the crew and made a life for himself. He’s a lucky, charismatic scoundrel with a natural talent with guns. In his youth, he learned a little magic, mainly concerning the Path of Matter.

His personal life is… complicated. He aspires to being a wealthy, respected French gentleman with a beautiful, well-born wife. He is hampered in the pursuit of his goals by his birth, his occupation, his poor French, his alcoholism, and his missing teeth. His attempts at improving his station in life have a tendency to get him in hot water.

“Papa” Sean Geaux

A voodoo priest from Hispaniola — specifically the western part that’s dominated by French buccaneers and tobacco farmers, the part that will become Saint-Domingue and eventually, Haiti. He’s skilled in the Paths of Body, Mind, and Spirit.

Sean Geaux has troubles with money. He owes a debt to Captain Courvoisier. He’s also trouble by the voices of ghosts.

Another pirate, to be named later…

There’s one other PC, whose player won’t be able to make it to the first session. Last I heard, he was going to be up in the rigging. Further details remain to be seen.


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