A Path to Steam
A “disadvantage” is a problem or imperfection that renders you less capable than your attributes, advantages, and skills would indicate. In addition to the traits in this chapter, this includes anything with a negative point cost in Chapter 1: low Status, below-average Wealth, etc.
You are probably wondering, “Why would I want to give my character disadvantages?”
There are two good reasons:
1. Each disadvantage has a negative cost in character points. Thus, disadvantages give you extra character points, which let you improve your character in other ways. But note that disadvantages limit you in proportion to their cost. Be sure to read the disadvantage description in full to know what you are getting into!
2. An imperfection or two makes your character more interesting and realistic, and adds to the fun of roleplaying!
Disadvantages for Heroes
Two kinds of disadvantages are particularly suitable for heroic PCs. Roleplayed well, they might limit the character’s choices, but they should make the player’s experience more fun.
It might seem strange that virtues such as Truthfulness and Sense of Duty are listed as “disadvantages.” In the real world, we regard such traits as advantages! Their disadvantage value in GURPS comes from the fact that these virtues limit your freedom of action. For instance, someone with Truthfulness will have trouble lying, even for a good cause; therefore, within the framework of the game, he has a disadvantage. This has one
very worthwhile benefit: if you want to create a wholly heroic character, you don’t have to take any “character flaws” at all. You can get points by choosing only those disadvantages that are actually virtuous!
Many of the greatest heroes of history and literature had a “tragic flaw.” Alcoholism, great ugliness, bad temper, compulsive behavior, and even drug addiction – all are found in the heroes of fact and fiction. So don’t assume that your heroes have to be perfect . . . try giving them significant problems to overcome.
RESTRICTIONS ON DISADVANTAGES
Your GM might wish to “cap” the extra points you can gain from disadvantages; see Disadvantage Limit (p. 11). This limit applies to the total points you can get from all traits with negative point costs, from Chapter 1 (reduced attributes, low Status, etc.)
or the list below. Mandatory disadvantages assigned by the GM don’t count against this limit.
Most GMs will want to enforce two additional restrictions:
You cannot take a disadvantage that one of your advantages would mitigate or negate! For instance, if you have Acute Hearing, you cannot take Hard of Hearing. Contradictory disadvantages, such as Curious and Incurious, are also mutually exclusive. The GM has the final say as to which traits are compatible.
Some disadvantages – Sadism, for instance – are not at all suitable for a “hero,” and the GM is free to forbid them to PCs. But they are often found in the more fiendish villains of adventure fiction, so they are included in the interest of good NPC creation.
You may give your character a disadvantage unknown both to him and to you. Choose a point value and tell the GM. The GM will select a disadvantage and give you its value plus an additional -5 points (e.g., Unluckiness, normally worth -10 points, gives -15 points as a secret disadvantage) . . . but he will not give you any hints as to what it is! When your disadvantage finally becomes obvious in the course of play (GM’s decision), you must buy off the extra -5 points as soon as possible.
The GM must pick a secret disadvantage carefully. It should be something that you could believably not know about. If it is a mental disadvantage, the conditions that trigger it should never have arisen (Berserk, Bloodlust, Combat Paralysis, the less-common Phobias, and Split Personality all work well here). Most physical disadvantages are too obvious – although something like Hemophilia might go unnoticed.
You can only list one secret disadvantage on your character sheet, but this might represent more than one trait. The GM is free to select multiple, related disadvantages worth the appropriate number of points.