Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Script: Age in GURPS

Script: Age in GURPS

Lifespan and age is not just background information in GURPS – your lifespan is something you can extend or shorten with certain traits, and your age is also something that you can alter with some advantages. So, let’s talk about the ageing mechanics in GURPS.

Age is brought up for the first time on page 20 of GURPS Basic Set. It says that cinematic children are small adults, more or less, but to build a realistic child, you will have to decide what his attributes would be in his full-grown form, reduce them, and purchase the reduced values. A human infant has 30% of his adult ST score, 40% of his adult DX, 50% of his adult IQ, and Size Modifier -3. A 5-year-old has 60% of his adult ST, 70% of his adult DX and IQ, and SM -2. A 10-year-old has 80% of his adult ST, 90% of his adult DX and IQ, and SM -1. For non-humans, increase or decrease these values proportionally to their lifespan. A child might also have social disadvantages, such as Dead Broke and Social Stigma (Minor), but usually also has parents as a Patron, which balances things out.
When you reach old age in play, you have to make HT rolls to avoid attribute loss. There are three “aging thresholds,” and the frequency of attribute loss rolls increases after you cross each one of them. For humans, these thresholds are 50, 70, and 90 years. Beginning at age 50, make ageing rolls once a year. At age 70, roll every six months. At age 90, roll every three months. Ageing rolls are a series of four HT rolls – one for each of your basic attributes – ST, DX, IQ, and HT. If you are playing with an alternate attribute set, you have to decide which ones of them are affected by age, and which ones are not. You cannot use Luck on these rolls! These rolls are modified by the setting’s medical tech level – 3, Fit, Very Fit, Unfit, and Very Unfit. A failure reduces the attribute in question by one; a critical failure or any roll of 17 or 18, reduces it by two. If any attribute reaches 0 from aging, you die a natural death. At the GM’s option, you may lose advantages or gain disadvantages, such as Hard of Hearing, decreased Appearance or Chronic Pain. This loss should be equivalent in terms of points to the lost attributes.
That’s pretty much it for the rules, but there are also some traits that affect ageing. Extended Lifespan (p. B53) doubles all ageing thresholds for each level. Longevity (p. B66) extends your lifespan in a different way – you only fail ageing rolls on a 17 or 18 – or only on an 18, if your modified HT is 17 or better. Unaging (p. B95) simply makes it so you do not grow old naturally or unnaturally – your age is fixed at any point you choose. This advantage has the Age Control enhancement that lets you age in either direction at will, at up to 10 times the normal rate. GURPS Psionic Powers introduces a new enhancement and a new limitation. The Life Extension limitation makes it so it takes conscious effort to avoid aging. Roll against IQ once per year; if you succeed, you do not age that year; critical success lets you become 1d years younger, and a critical failure makes you age twice that amount instead. The Halt Aging enhancement lets you prevent others from aging, as long as you keep in contact with them. The enhancement value depends on how often you have to stay in contact with them.
Short Lifespan (p. B154) does the opposite thing Extended Lifespan does – halves all your ageing thresholds. Self-Destruct (p. B153) makes it so when you reach your first ageing threshold, you have to make ageing rolls every day, at -3 to HT. Basically, you die in a few days. If you are going to self-destruct soon, then you have to take Terminally Ill (p. B158) instead of Self-Destruct. This disadvantage just makes you die in one month, one year, or two years.
There are also two features that are related to ageing. The first one is Not Subject to Aging (GURPS Template Toolkit 2: Races, p. 12). This feature is usually applied to machines – your body does not age, but wears out and degrades with the same effects as ageing. The second one is Early Maturation (GURPS Template Toolkit 2: Races, p. 12 or GURPS Bio-Tech, p. 212). This one reduces your maturation rate as per Short Lifespan, but does not affect any other ageing thresholds. This is useful, for example, for elves, so that they do not reach maturity only at the age of 200 years or so.
With the traits out of the way, let’s talk about ways you can age someone. There are several options, and most of them are very janky.
1. Leech.
Leech has the Steal Youth enhancement on p. 96 of GURPS Powers. But how do you make it so you do not get younger yourself? There's a very hard to notice line on p. 73 of GURPS Psionic Powers under Additional Biokinesis Abilities - "Leech (with Steal Youth). If you don’t grow younger while your subject ages, this is a -50% limitation." I noticed this one by accident when browsing the book.
2. Affliction.
GURPS Basic Set has a special enhancement for the Unaging advantage - Age Control, +20%. It allows the user to “age” in either direction at will, at up to 10 times the normal rate. It should be reasonable to allow Age Control, Only to get older, +10%. If we afflict this trait on somebody, he will begin to age ten times faster for the duration of the affliction. With many levels of Reduced Time, +20%/level applied to Unaging (not Affliction!) we can increase the rate of ageing to produce significant effects. However, this is quite expensive and janky.
3. Ageing attacks.
Salty Grognard was a very short-lived GURPS blog that, however, managed to produce a few very interesting posts. One of them is a new damage type for the Innate Attack advantage - Ageing. I really like this approach.
4. Affliction.
Again? Yes. While inspecting the Fright Check table, the following result caught my eye: "24 – Major physical effect, set by GM: hair turns white, age five years overnight, go partially deaf, etc. In game terms, acquire -15 points worth of physical disadvantages (for this purpose, each year of age counts as -3 points)." That means that we can afflict people with extra years, at +3% per year. +10% per 1d years sounds fair too. However, this would require Extended Duration, Truly Permanent, +300% and possibly Cumulative, +400%. And that alone increases the cost by 70 points, while the extra years will be only an insignificant part of the Affliction write-up. An alternative would be applying the aforementioned two enhancement to those +3 percent instead. 3*8=24%, which we can round up to 25%. So, each year of permanent ageing that stacks with itself could be represented by the Ageing, +25% enhancement. In my opinion, this seems like a fair price.
Even when such abilities exist, all the age-related traits might seem overpriced, and they probably are. Reducing their value is a very common house rule. Jason Levine lists it on his website:
The values of all age-related traits (Extended Lifespan, Longevity, Self-Destruct, Short Lifespan) are halved, except for Unaging, which costs 5 points. Terminally Ill no longer exists, except when granted via an Affliction.

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