Saturday, July 16, 2011

GURPS Centurion: Etain

GURPS Centurion: In my introduction to the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, I proclaimed that it had unrivaled versimilitude and granularity. To illustrate this, I will take some of the main characters from the Neil Marshall movie 'Centurion' and assign them stats according to GURPS. I'll also take a scene or two from the movie and use that to illustrate the deadly versimilitude of the combat system.

Keep in mind that, while this post isn't focused on the movie, the following will contain spoilers for the movie Centurion.

Centurion is a fabulous, largely unknown, chase/action movie set in ancient Scotland. It will likely be coming up in my Movie Web Mondays some time over the next year or so, but in the meantime know that it's a gory, straight-forward movie with good acting from Michael Fassbender, Imogen Poots, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, and Liam Cunningham. The purpose of this article, though is not to sing the praises of a largely unknown film. It is to show an example of how straightforward character creation is in GURPS: it's a simple-but-large set of descriptive choices that do a great job of representing the characters from this or just about any other movie.

In the movie Centurion, Etain is called a she-wolf. Silent since her youth due to the fact that Romans had cut her tongue out when they assaulted her and destroyed her family and village, Etain is a fierce woman who speaks through extreme action. She is introduced to the plot as she kills an attacking slave in just a couple of strokes of her spear, and it's only later when she leads the Ninth Legion into an ambush that her true nature as a Pict spy is revealed. A tracker and guide, she displays a predatory mastery of the hunt that one of the Romans calls witchcraft. She's clearly depicted as a broken, damaged woman that is psychologically scarred and she's effectively reduced to a beast of hatred and killing.

Notes about the character sheet, above: I always redesign my RPG's character sheets to be more aesthetically linked to the campaign at hand and to be more efficient with the expenditure of space. While the standard GURPS sheet is by far the most well-designed I have ever seen produced by a publisher, I still found ways to make things a bit neater for my own GURPS sheets. For this example, I also compressed a few of the fields to make room for a character illustration from the movie. The yellow box in the bottom left is just a small bit of play aid for some of the most necessary stats in your average GURPS combat. Filmateleven on this.

I don't use character points after character creation. So when I make my GURPS characters, I don't like to put the points costs directly on the sheet, and I encourage my players to do likewise. Instead, they make a laundry list of what they spent their points on and I go over that instead. Here's where Etain's points went, with a breakdown of each phase of character creation including point costs in brackets:

Etain [100 points total]
Attributes [69 pts sub-total]: ST +0 [0]; DX +2 [40]; IQ -1 [-20]; HT +1 [10]; HP +0 [0]; Will +2 [10]; Per +4 [20]; FP +3 [9]

GURPS attributes consider a 10 in any stat to be average. Etain doesn't really exhibit any particular strength, and she certainly looks too small to be stronger than the average man, so I left her Strength at 10, and her Hit Points, which default to the same as Strength, were kept at the standard value. She exhibits a sort of predatory dexterity--not graceful, really, but competent in her movements--so I went with a 12 there. Based on her instinctive behavior and the fact that she is probably psychologically scarred, I gave her Intelligence 9. She gets Health 11 for general fitness, and 14 Fatigue Points (which default to the same as HT) for extreme stamina throughout the movie's chase. She is strong-willed and extremely perceptive, so those stats clock in at 11 and 13, respectively, which are derived from IQ.

Influence and Wealth [-4 pts sub-total]: Attractive [4]; Languages: Latin (accented, illiterate) [2], Illiterate [-3]; Cultures: Roman [1]; Struggling Wealth ($375 starting, $338/month) [-10]; Reputation 1 (Picts: heartless Roman-killer, 10 or less to recognize) [2]

Etain gets ogled and approached by two lecherous characters, but she doesn't get much notice for her looks otherwise--that sounds like Attractive, the lowest positive appearance modifier, to me. In addition to her native language (Pict), she seems to understand the Latin-speaking Romans well enough, but since illiteracy was the norm at the time, I assumed she was as well. To pass as a servant and tracker, she must also have been generally familiar with Roman culture as well. She couldn't be making much, and so I docked her wealth level to Struggling, and Arianne recognizes her by name and reputation, so I made a low-level Reputation for her as well.

Advantages [48 pts sub-total]: Acute Smell 2 [4], Combat Reflexes [15], Fearlessness 4 [8], Fit [5], Less Sleep 2 [4], Outdoorsman 1 [10], Reduced Consumption 1 [2]

At one point in the movie, it seems as if Etain is smelling out her quarry from a distance, so I added Acute Smell 2, which will add 2 to her Perception when checking for scents. Combat Reflexes is pretty much a gimme with a combat-crazed character like hers, and she seems to have no pause when it comes to diving into mass slaughter, so I gave her Fearlessness 4. Fit seemed to fit with her character being a dogged tracker, and Quintus Dias' narration brags that she and the other Pict hunters could go without eating or sleeping much, so I included Less Sleep 2 and Reduced Consumption 1 to reflect that. She also exhibits familiarity in the wild, so I included Outdoorsman 1, which adds 1 to relevant outdoor skills.

Disadvantages[-70 pts sub-total]: Bloodlust (SC: 12 or less) [-10], Cannot Speak [-15], Intolerance (Romans) [-5], Secret (Pict spy, converted to Enemies(Romans) upon discovery) [-30], Sense of Duty (Pict nation) [-10]

Etain has no tongue, so she gets Cannot Speak for certain. She also has a violent hate for Romans--Intolerance (Romans)--and a tendency to lash out in a deadly manner when possible, which looks like Bloodlust with a self-control number of 12 or less. She is secretly a Pict spy, so if she fails to keep her secret, it converts into dedicated enemies in the form of the Romans who find her out. And she has an acute Sense of Duty to the Picts--it seems she would have killed Arianne if it weren't for the fact that it'd bring a curse on the Picts.

Skills [57 pts sub-total]: Animal Handling (Dogs) IQ+1 [4], Animal Handling (Horses) IQ [2], Area Knowledge (Caledonia) IQ+3 [8], Axe/Mace DX+1 [4], Brawling DX+1 [2], Hiking HT+1 [4], Knife DX+1 [2], Naturalist IQ-1* [1], Navigation (land) IQ+1* [2], Riding (Horses) DX+1 [4], Running HT [2], Spear DX+3 [12], Stealth DX [2], Survival (forest) Per+1* [2], Thrown Weapon DX+1 [2], Tracking Per+2* [4]

Skills in GURPS are purchased in levels relative to the controlling attribute, based on the difficulty of the skill. For instance, the first point in an easy Dexterity skill--such as the Knife skill--gets Etain that skill at a level equal to her DX, whereas she needs to spend two points in the average dexterity Spear skill to get it to equal the same level. Hard skills require four points to equal their controlling attribute, and after that the cost increments increase by four--8, 12, and so on. The skills marked with asterisks have an extra 1 added to their levels because of Etain's Outdoorsman 1 talent. For her skills I focused on the combat and tracking fields, with the spear being her weapon of choice and her tracking based on lots of area knowledge of Caledonia (the Roman name for Scotland) and her already high Perception.

At a total of 100 points, Etain is a pretty modestly priced character--GURPS 4e considers a 150 point character to be on the low end for heroic types. A lot of that, however, comes from the fact that she has some severe disadvantages. In the average GURPS game, she'd probably be over the limit for disadvantages, which is normally capped at -50% of starting points. But you can see from this write-up, she's a deadly character when in her hunting element.

1 comment:

  1. "she's effectively reduced to a beast of hatred and killing"--Love this line!