GURPS Optional Aptitudes System

     Currently GURPS has several 'aptitude' traits which give a bonus to a class of skills because of innate talent: Langauge Talent, Musical Ability, and Mathematical Ability, for example. Fantasy Folk also allowed other races to buy natural aptitude in a skill class - like Dwarves +3 to all Craft skills.

     In my opinion, there is justification for a much wider range of these skill aptitudes. For example, I think it is possible that some humans may have a natural talent for Crafts. In this view, the dwarven bonus is a matter of culture and experience rather than genetics.

     Based on this idea, I have set out to define advantages for a wide range of what I call 'Skill Aptitudes'. These may be inborn talents which a person has had all his life - or they may be acquired through experience. They may be bought after character creation without the doubled cost, but the GM must decide what level of experience is neccessary to purchase an aptitude. For example, someone who is trapped in the wilderness for two years would probably have justification to buy the 'Outdoorsman' aptitude. In general, increasing an aptitude should require full-time contact with a wide range of the skills covered.

     Each aptitude is given a descriptive name, the skill class it covers, and the cost for a +1 bonus in all skills and default rolls within that skill class. This will not give a default roll when none is listed, but will add to any default from a stat (i.e. DX-5). In addition, the aptitude may give bonuses in other rolls - i.e. Animal Empathy adds to reaction rolls from animals, as well as aiding your skill.

     The cost is based on the variation, difficulty, and to some degree usefulness of the skills it covers. Language Talent, for example, should not really be so cheap, but it is less unbalancing than some other talents.

     In addition, one may define an aptitude in a subclass of skills, as long as the skills in that subclass fit into a reasonably coherent whole. An aptitude in a sub-class must include no more than half of the total number of skills in that class, and may be bought at two-thirds (2/3) the cost of the full aptitude (round to nearest whole number).

Example: 'Musical Ability' is a sub-class of Artistic Expression. It includes less than half of those skills, and thus it costs 1pt per +1. [ (2/3) * 2pts = 1.33, which rounds to 1]

NOTE: these new advantages replace the following old GURPS advantages: Animal Empathy, Charisma, Combat Reflexes, Language Talent, Magical Aptitude, Mathematical Ability, Musical Ability.
Language Talent and Magical Aptitude are identical in this system to standard GURPS, but are listed for completeness. Combat Reflexes I thought was better represented as an affinity in combat skills - simple fast reflexes are part of a higher DX. Charisma I thought was more reasonable as a talent for social skills, rather than magically making people like you.

Aptitude Advantages

Animal Empathy (Animal Skills): 2pts per +1
This represents an intuitive understanding and attraction to animals. You may add your bonus to the reaction roll of wild animals, and add _twice_ your bonus to reactions of domesticated animals. You will react badly to abuse of animals - although killing them for food may be acceptable. This is usually inborn, but may be acquired by prolonged contact with many sorts of animals.

Athletic Ability (Athletic Skills): 4pts per +1
This is general ability at a variety of physical competitions and endeavors - involving coordination, balance, and especially single-minded concentration on your body and your performance. This drive applies specifically to athletics, and thus this aptitude is distinct from general DX. It may equally well be inborn or acquired.

Artistic Expression (Artistic Skills): 2pts per +1
This is a talent not in the basic skills of painting or sculting, but rather in opening up and expressing your impulses in any medium. This generally involves a fair amount of introspection, and may be noticable as a certain attitude. It is usually inborn.

Combat Reflexes (Combat Skills): 10pts per +1
This represents general aggression, reflexes, and battle calm. You may add twice your bonus to any Fright checks you make, and any rolls to recover from surprise. Your reactions do make you somewhat dangerous if surprised - you might lash out before you know what is going on. This is usually acquired from actual combat experience, but may be inborn.

Craftsmanship (Crafts): 3pts per +1
This is the precision, patience, and attention to detail which marks a true craftsman - usually characterized by a perfectionist attitude. You are generally motivated to do a job right or not at all.

Language Talent (Languages): 2pts per +1
This is general affinity with all languages and communication in general. You may add your bonus to general rolls to understand attempts to communicate if you do not know the language (based on phrasing, emotion, etc.). This is usually inborn, or at least acquired before maturity.

Magical Aptitude (Magical Skills): 15 for 1st, 10 per +1
As per Basic Set.

Medical Aptitude (Medical Skills): 4pts per +1
This is a talent for healing the human body and to some degree the mind. It usually means that you have a distaste for killing and other violence.

Outdoorsman (Outdoors Skills): 3pts per +1
This is a general affinity with the great outdoors. You may add your bonus to certain situations involving the wilderness environment: for example, a stealth roll to hide in an outdoors setting. This is generally acquired only by living in the wild for a very long time.

Jack-of-All-Trades (Professional Skills): 2pts per +1
This is a natural aptitude in any honest work - you easily fit into new jobs, and probably enjoy moving between them. This is generally inborn.

Scholar (Sciences): 5pts per +1
You have an affinity for studying and book- or class-learning, and are talented (or at least dedicated) at reading, listening, and other scholarly activities. This aptitude is generally acquired only by an an extensive education in a variety of fields - either in a school or on your own.

Charisma (Social Skills): 5pts per +1
This is a generally talent in all social relations - winning friends and influencing people. It is not a passive aura, but simply general skill in understanding and manipulating other people. It may add to your reaction roll under certain circumstances. This is usually inborn.

Subterfuge (Thief/Spy Skills): 8pts per +1
This aptitude is usually the result of a certain amount of secrecy and paranoia. You are motivated and talented at concealing yourself, your identity, and your possessions - as well as taking those away from others. It may be difficult to be straightforward and open.

Vehicle Ace (Vehicle Skills): 4pts per +1
This is a empathy of sorts with vehicles - you are skilled at getting a 'feel' for how a vehicle performs and functions from its controls. You are comfortable with various forms of motion, feeling them as your own movement. This is usually acquired by long experience.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Fri Nov 10 10:21:28 2000