GURPS Quick-Start Character Creation

(Note: there’s a more current version of the rules described below in this post.)

Continuing with the “making GURPS quicker and more streamlined” theme of the last couple of posts, here is a submission from last year outlining a “quick and dirty” system for whipping up GURPS characters. The latest issue of Pyramid magazine, “Alternate Dungeons,” contains a great article by Kromm with a comparable goal, but this system has some differences:

  • It isn’t written specifically for Dungeon Fantasy (though Kromm’s approach can certainly be expanded to be more universal without much work)
  • It doesn’t use pre-set “packages” so much as tries to create a PC from the conversation between GM and player
  • As such, it is even more free-form and “fuzzy”!

I believe doing character creation this way will go much more smoothly for experienced GURPS GMs (and, to a lesser extent, players), but who knows? Maybe newcomers to GURPS will find this way even easier. The first seed of this system was in this “Character Creation Questionnaire,” which you may also find useful.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

The Seven-Minute GURPS Character

by Warren “Mook” Wilson

The beauty of GURPS characters is that they can be infinitely varied, joyfully tweaked, and minutely crafted to match even the most imaginative concept. This does, though, require a bit of time. Sometimes you need to whip up a character or six now, like when a group of friends suddenly crave an impromptu adventure, or your convention game has to fit in a four-hour time slot.

This article presents a customizable system for a GM familiar with GURPS to work with a player and quickly assemble a streamlined, but playable, PC. It works best for one-shot, short duration games, but the resulting hero could easily be later expanded when time is no longer an issue. The GM can also use it for creating NPCs that require a bit more substance: major villains, patrons, allies, etc.

A one-time hero just isn’t as likely to need all of the information and detail that a hero for a long-running campaign does. The bare minimum for this system includes the eight attribute scores (ST, DX, IQ, HT, HP, Perception, Will, and FP); derived scores for Damage, Basic Speed, Basic Move, Dodge, Parry, and Block; a few skills; a few advantages, and maybe a disadvantage or two; a listing of DR; pertinent information on unarmed and armed weapons and attacks; and a list of carried gear. Other GMs may want less or more, but that’s a good start.

Things to Keep in Mind

The most radical departure this system makes from the default character creation method is, no character points are used at all! Because the focus is on speed and playability, one level of ST or HT counts as much as one level of DX or IQ, and skill levels are simply chosen, not purchased. A Very Hard skill takes up the same “one slot” as an Average skill.

This means the system is also much more subjective, and relies heavily on the GM to make consistent decisions on the fly. Try not to get bogged down in the details. Most of the benefit of tracking character points applies only when the adventurers will grow and develop as a campaign progresses. In a one-time game, it’s enough simply to have a character that is fun to play and capable of being effective.

Also, it’s less important for players to use the exact language of GURPS. Whether their sheet lists it as “Battle Hardened,” “Tough As Nails,” or “Firefight Veteran,” the Combat Reflexes advantage will give the same mechanical benefits in-game.

You may want to make yourself a “cheat sheet” to speed the process even more. Include those few things that normally need to be looked up, like damage based on ST, and common weapon and armor stats.

Asking the Questions

To arrive at the needed information, first discuss with the players the game’s genre, power level, and what kinds of characters fit well with the story, so they know the setting into which their heroes will be plunged. After that, it’s a matter of simply guiding them (either singly or as a group) through the following steps.

Concept and Attributes: PCs are assumed to have a default 10 for all attributes unless it is specifically changed. The player writes down a name, brief description, and then chooses one of the three options below to describe his character, which the GM uses to assign scores to the four basic attributes. The possible values for the blanks below are “Strong” (ST), “Dextrous” (DX), “Sharp” (IQ), and “Tough” (HT) (again, the GM should change to whatever fits better for the particular game).

“I am super ________, but otherwise average.” (One 15, three 10s)

“I am very ________ and very ________, but otherwise average.” (Two 13s, two 10s)

“I am reasonably ________ and ________, and almost as ________ and ________.” (Two 12s, two 11s).

So, “I am very Strong and very Smart, but otherwise average,” is ST 13, DX 10, IQ 13, HT 10. “I am super Dextrous, but otherwise average,” is ST 10, DX 15, IQ 10, HT 10. And so on.

Secondary characteristics like Hit Points, Perception, Will, and Fatigue Points are left equal to the attribute they normally derive from (ST for Hit Points, IQ for Perception and Will, HT for Fatigue Points, etc).

Advantages: The player next describes two things that sometimes help his character out of trouble, like “I am lucky,” “I fear no man,” “Money is no object,” etc. Some, like these, map easily to existing advantages like Luck, Fearlessness, and Wealth. Others may not be so obvious, but the GURPS advantages can cover almost anything. If nothing springs to mind, simply write down the player’s description and treat it as a new advantage. “The Dust Riders of Zargoth 7 owe me a blood debt,” could be a Contact, an Ally, or even a Patron – or it could just be written down, with the GM and player understanding that at some point during the game, the hero can call on the Dust Riders for a favor.

Optionally, the player can also describe something that sometimes makes his character’s life harder as a disadvantage, things like “I’m missing my left hand” (One Hand), or “Strangers make me uncomfortable” (Shyness). If he does this, he can also describe a third advantage.

Skills: This is the most critical step! Without an exhaustive list of skills for the character’s benefit, it becomes that much more important to choose skills that will most readily facilitate the hero’s role in the story.

The first skill the player chooses is a very broad wildcard skill (see Optional Rule: Wilcard Skills, p. B175, or GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills), something like “Soldier!” or “Wandering Monk!” This is the skill most often rolled against when none of the others apply, and it is known at either DX-1 or IQ-1 (GM’s call, based on the kinds of skills it replaces). Sometimes, as with the default system, skills might be based on other attributes like ST, HT, Will, or Per.

The player then chooses three more non-wildcard skills, one at DX+2 or IQ+2, and two at DX+1 or IQ+1. These four skills form the core of what the character can do, so choose them wisely!

Secondary Characteristics: The following are now derived as usual: Damage (p. B16), Basic Speed and Basic Move (p. B17), and Dodge, Parry, and Block (pp. B374-376). Remember to account for any modifiers already-chosen traits would logically give, things like a +2 to Parry from the Staff skill, +1 to Active Defenses from the Combat Reflexes advantage, etc.

Gear and Attacks: Finally, choose any armor, weapons, and equipment for the hero, then record the DR provided (if any) and the usual information for hand and ranged attacks (damage, range, RoF, etc.).

That’s it! The player and GM have defined just enough that this basic character can now meaningfully participate in a one-shot GURPS game. It is ready to be played.

The system itself can easily be tweaked, for example, by creating more questions to allow modification of secondary characteristics as well as the primary attributes; adjusting the number of allowed advantages, disadvantages, or skills higher or lower; allowing a disadvantage to grant two additional skills instead of an additional advantage; allowing more than one wildcard skill; etc. Just decide what you want/need the finished characters to include, then shape the steps to reach that ideal.

Creating characters this way won’t take the place of the beloved system from GURPS Basic Set. But it will give GMs who need them, and need them now, an option for quickly producing PCs or NPCs that are “good enough” to leap into action in just a few minutes.

Below is Ranger Wallace Reese, an example of a character for a cinematic space opera game, created with the system provided above and ready to blast enemy aliens.

Wallace Reese


Wallace Reese is a member of the Space Rangers, a peacekeeping force protecting Earth’s citizens across the solar system from alien attacks. He is 28 years old and ruggedly handsome. His official uniform seems to be the only clothing he owns.


ST: 13     DX: 13     IQ: 10     HT: 10
(“I am very Strong and very Dextrous, but otherwise average”).

Secondary Characteristics

HP: 13     Will: 10     Perception: 10     Fatigue Points: 10
Basic Lift: 34 lbs.     Basic Speed: 5.75     Basic Move: 5
Dodge: 9*     Parry: 11*
Thrust Damage: 1d     Swing Damage: 2d-1

* Includes +1 for Combat Reflexes


Combat Veteran (counts as Combat Reflexes)
Lucky (counts as Luck)
Power of the Badge (counts as Legal Enforcement Powers)


Overconfidence (Note: taking this optional disadvantage allows for three advantages, above, instead of two).


Space Ranger! 12 (DX-1)
Laser Pistol 15 (DX+2)
Brawling 14 (DX+1)
Fast Talk 11 (IQ+1)


Kick (Damage 1d cr, Reach C, 1, Parry No, Notes [3])
Punch (Damage 1d-1 cr, Reach C, Parry 0, Notes [3])
Laser Pistol (Damage 3d(2) burn, Acc 6, Range 250/750, Weight 3.3/0.5, RoF 10, Shots 400(3),
ST 6, Bulk -2, Rcl 1, Cost $2,800, LC 3, Notes [3]).


Laser Pistol
Ranger Communicator
Ranger Uniform (DR 6, covers torso, arms, legs)

End of original article.


And that’s all there is to it — so get out there and make some characters!


  1. Mook, I absolutely like your ideas for Gurps simplification. I play some games solo and those house rules come well. I have some questions about your quick start system:
    1) Is this possible to adapt to Horror (less power characters) and Super (super power characters) genre games?
    2) How do you implement races in the quick start system? Dwarves, Ghosts, Elves and other type of ‘template races’.

    Any ideas?

    • Hi, Michel!

      1) I addressed ways to change the starting power level of the PCs in a separate post, maybe some of that could be a guide to the power levels you’re looking for?

      2) For racial templates like that, I’d probably go with a simple +/- system, meaning I’d create the character as already described, and then apply +1 to something and a -1 to something to emulate the fantasy race. Examples like [Elf] +1 DX, -1 ST, [Dwarf] +1 HT, +1 ST, -1 DX, -1 IQ. Something super complex like [Ghost]? Maybe just a “Ghost!” advantage that includes everything a ghost can traditionally do in one super advantage: incorporeal, can fly, whatever the group decides.

      3) The original intention with this is to get a GURPS-legal character up and running in minutes to play a one-shot, so I hadn’t given much thought to progression, assuming that if the character were to then be played in an ongoing game it could be tweaked using the full GURPS rules.

      Having said all that, if you just wanted to keep with the simple nature of this process, instead of CP you could award additional attribute points, raise the attribute cap, additional skill slots/levels, etc. (see the table in above linked post).

  2. Another question: how can I implement a system of progression? What do you suggest I can use as “xp” ou “cp” to character improvement?

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