Masks, Personas, and Flesh-Shaping: Playing With Shapeshifting (And a Few Other Advantages)

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s unthinkable and shameful that we’re nearly through the entirety of October, yet I haven’t written even one post for the best month of the year. I’ve decided to rectify that by giving a generic GURPS post on a subject close to the spirit of the season: putting on a different guise. Shapeshifting, in both figurative and literal forms, features in stories, art, and cultural practices the world over. Why, exactly, are they so ubiquitous? Given that shapeshifting iconography goes back into prehistory, it seems like something that’s pretty big to the human consciousness, and the usual suggestion is that shapeshifting (or at least animal-related shapeshifting) related to crossing the perceived boundaries between humans and the rest of the natural world.

Whatever the reason for its prevalence, the theme of changing form has remained with us into the present day in both real world belief and fictional media alike. For GURPS, shapeshifting is primarily achieved through the two advantages listed under…well, Shapeshifting. In some edge cases, other advantages do come into play instead, but for the most part those two advantages are where any skin-changing spellcaster, superpowered hero, or strange esoteric being will be heading for mechanics. This isn’t nearly the end-all-be-all on shapeshifting as a concept – especially when it only covers advantages and disadvantages, not skill-based skill systems and such – nor do I expect anyone to find it on par with an officially published GURPS title, but hopefully it’s at least a somewhat useful set of gathered rambling thoughts on the subject. The post format was inspired by the one used by Christopher Rice/Ghostdancer for his GURPS 101 advantage posts, but tries to avoid adhering to it 100%, as 1. I’d prefer my words to flow in my own way, not someone else’s. 2. I’m not nearly the level of writer he is. I had originally planned to end this post with a set of premade shapeshifter goodies, but time was against me, so that will be a follow-up post at a later date. Continue reading


[HWBS] Creeping Dread of the Restless Dead: Corporeal Undead Monsters

The undead (see “Those Who Live in Shadow” for very basic information on corporeal and incorporeal undead) strike an uncomfortable cord in many minds. While the spectral figures of ghosts may be more common, it is the corporeal undead, the physical corpse-thing that drags its way back from death, that is often the more unnerving. Cultural norms that respect the burial of the dead paint them as a defilement of the final rest, some spread pestilence and discord in their wake, and many have a taste for the living. The following are a few of these restless dead that lurk in the dead of night, driven onward by magic, hunger, or unfulfilled desires, as well as two new spells related directly to them. Continue reading

Wild Hairs: A Plaything of the Mind

Elevator Pitch: Individuals gain superpowers that are based on the wellings of their subconscious.

Key Components: As superhuman abilities are at the heart of the setting concept, GURPS Powers is not just important as it usually is, but integral to its very conceptual core; GURPS Supers is also a key component as an extension.

Tech Level: TL8 (modern day setting).

Point Buy: 100 to 200 points for unpowered characters; 150 to 500 points for powered characters. Continue reading

New Post Category: Wild Hairs

Just a few months’ hiatus since my last writing? That’s pretty good by my own personal track record.

One of my greatest problems is that I’m one of the ill-thought-of “ideas people”, the ones who are way better at thinking up things than actually sitting down and putting them into mechanical practice. If the ephemeral whim of wanting to write a specific thing flies away from it, it becomes almost impossible to force myself to do so, making upward progress a slog (this is why it’s probably good I’m not a professional writer). I can often go long periods with productive bursts of thought on a specific topic only for the well to dry up overnight. Then, after the ideas on the old subject go dormant, random ideas for new things unrelated to what I’m doing float around in their stead.

Taking time to think about it, though, this need not necessarily be a bad thing. Long story short: I thought about making those random ideas into posts of their own as a way to alleviate the feeling that I am failing at being a writer. From here on, though, I’m going to make that shortened story long again. Continue reading

[HWBS] Joe and Jane Mundane: An Introduction to Everyday People

Not everyone is born into knowledge of the supernatural; quite the opposite, in fact. A vast majority of humans that now know about the esoteric world around them came into that knowledge through events in their life that forever changed their perception. This Hidden Worlds and Buried Secrets post gives a bit of attention to the people on the street, especially those who have just come into contact with the supernatural.

The Changing Nature of Mundanity and Awareness

A character whose background includes them still being in the dark about the truth of the supernatural at the start of the first session of the campaign has the disadvantage Mundane Background. While this disadvantage remains relevant as long as you’re a supernatural ‘greenhorn’ whose knowledge is so sparse that you have no access to the skills prohibited by Mundane Background, eventually you are likely to wise up and start learning how to do things. This, of course, Continue reading

Creatures of Fallen Stars: Winged Things

The age of great passenger planes and aerial militaries is over: soaring beasts rule the skies once more. While giant insects and powered-flight reptiles may still be a thing of the distant past, birds and bats never vanished, and have now begun to flourish in new (and sometimes truly strange) forms. This post covers eight members of those lineages that dwell in the world of Fallen Stars, including two that have given up the wild blue yonder for a life on the ground.


Scientific Name: Ardea robusta Continue reading

What’s in a Name?: Looking Past the Labels in GURPS Traits

In much of our culture, names and labels are important. Names are what we use to identify things, to identity others, and to identify ourselves. In certain stories and folklore, magic is heavily influenced by the power of names. And where would things like roads, instruction manuals, and maps be without labels? Of course, names can also be restrictive: a label that makes it hard to see past it and dig deeper. Names and labels were actually a problem I had myself when I first encountered GURPS in 2011 via a copy of GURPS Horror in the local brick and mortar store. Back then, I mostly had knowledge of systems that either carefully labeled and boxed everything or the polar opposite in the form of extremely freeform systems, and the idea of having a middle ground of defined traits that were also modular and not necessarily always just what their name and description entailed was novel to me. This post is sort of a combination of “don’t make that same mistakes past-me made” and “think outside the box”; nothing groundbreaking or world-shaking for most people who know the ins and outs of GURPS, but I collected from some thoughts I had while reminiscing on the subject anyway. Continue reading