Intermediate Character – Kerna Dallon

Happy GURPS Day!

Now that we have completed the basic posts in the “New to GURPS” series, we’re moving on to the intermediate series and leaving GURPS Lite behind. In its place, we’re cracking open the full GURPS Basic Set, “Characters” and “Campaigns.” All page references going forward will point to one of these two books.

Most things won’t change from the way they were done in the basic posts, but there will be more options to choose from. Where there are actual differences in mechanics, I’ll note them as they come up.

Character creation is discussed in Chapter One, coincidentally titled “Creating a Character,” pp. 10-31. It explains in detail the process of creating your PC, including a handy “Character Creation Checklist” on pp. 13-14, which is the process we’ll be following.

  • Character Points, Character Concept, Character Types (pp. 10-13)
  • Basic Attributes, Secondary Characteristics (pp. 14-17)
  • Build, Age and Beauty, Social Background, Wealth and Influence (pp. 18-31)
  • Advantages, Disadvantages, Quirks, Skills (pp. 32-233)
  • Magic (pp. 234-253)
  • Equipment (pp. 264-289)

Also note that the Basic Set provides its own running example of hero creation in the person of Dai Blackthorn — his entries can be found on pp. 12, 18, 22, 25, 30, 116, 162, 164, and 227. His final character sheet is on pp. 310-311.

I used the official GURPS Character Assistant program to create our new example character, which can be a great time-saver (calculating points, automatically adding necessary prerequisites, etc.). If you are not, I have a few different fillable character sheets (PDF) for download instead.

You already know the basic flow of character creation from the basic Your First Character post, so the explanations below will be brief.

Our new example character is Kerna, a skilled fantasy warrior (with some magic abilities) who protects the civilized lands from a distant outpost on her kingdom’s wilderness border.


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Character Points, Character Concept, Character Types (pp. 10-13)

Where Rex was a 75-point PC, Kerna is 250 points. Needless to say, she is a much more skilled and hardened warrior. In addition to her martial prowess, she can also cast a few spells.

Kerna is a citizen of the Kingdom of Nevliss. As a child she was apprenticed to the Mage’s Guild and showed some promise as a spellcaster, but in her late teens she discovered the thrill of combat, the joy of the battlefield, and left her more scholarly pursuits behind for learning the ways of steel and fist. She joined the Knights Defenders five years ago, and has protected the kingdom from Orc (and worse) encroachers at a distant wilderness outpost. She is a combination of the traditional Warrior and Wizard character types (p. 13).

Basic Attributes, Secondary Characteristics (pp. 14-17)

Kerna is impressively well-rounded — she is very strong (ST 13), very dextrous (DX 13), smart (IQ 12), and in great health (HT 12).

Knowing her four Basic Attribute scores provides a number of important secondary characteristics:

  • Basic Lift 34 lbs.
  • Hit Points 13, Will 12, Perception 12, Fatigue Points 12
  • Basic Speed 6.25, Dodge 10, Basic Move 6
  • Thrust 1d, and Swing 2d-1.

At this point, we have spent 150 out of 250 points (meaning Kerna’s attributes alone cost twice Rex’s character point total). Note, though, that she still only has 2 more Hit Points than Rex did. GURPS does not award more powerful characters piles and piles of Hit Points to throw around; no matter how much more skilled and competent a hero becomes, a successful spear thrust through the chest cavity is still going to ruin their whole day.

Build, Age and Beauty, Social Background, Wealth and Influence (pp. 18-31)

Kerna is on the low end of average for height and weight, and of unremarkable appearance and wealth. The only language she can read and write is Common, which is what the humans of Nevliss call their language (presumably, the non-human races call it something else?).

Regarding influence, she has the advantage of Status +1 (p. 29) as a member of the Knights Defenders, which will often give her a +1 bonus on reactions from others; and the disadvantage Overconfidence (p. 148), which may give her a +/- 2, depending on whether those she’s interacting with are inexperienced themselves or know what they are doing.

Advantages, Disadvantages, Quirks, Skills (pp. 32-233)


The first advantages I give almost any front-line fighter are Combat Reflexes and High Pain Threshold; those 25 points are just a given. Combat Reflexes (p. 43) gives a +1 to all active defenses (and a few other perks), making you harder to hit in combat — this is always good. High Pain Threshold lets you ignore the usual shock penalty for taking damage and gives a +3 bonus to HT for all rolls to avoid Knockdown and Stunning — this is even better.

Do you remember poor Rex? He had Combat Reflexes, but not High Pain Threshold. Every time he got gobsmacked in an example and took damage, he had to deal with a skill penalty on the following turn. When he took damage for more than 1/2 his Hit Points, he had to roll against his HT of 10… a 13 would be much better!

Kerna is also a bit of a spellcaster (so we can finally introduce some magic up in heeyah), so she has to have at least Magery 0 (p. 66). The additional Magery 1 gives her +1 to IQ solely for the purpose of learning skills (that is, though her IQ is 12, it is treated as a 13 when buying/learning spells).


Curious (p. 129) and Overconfidence (p. 148) fit together well — a PC who thinks, “Hey, I should wander away from the party by myself and check out that strange growling…” is likely to also be thinking, “Because I am badass enough to handle whatever it is alone.”

Being a soldier as she is, it’s easy to justify Kerna getting some bonus points for having a soldier’s Code of Honor (p. 127), so she’s not just a wandering “murder hobo,” and for being under an imposed Duty, as a member of the outpost’s defenders.


Ah, skills, the lifeblood of GURPS! Always my favorite part of character creation.

With Rex, I just bashed together a bare minimum of skills we could use to get our foot in the door. Kerna is much closer to a traditional GURPS character — her skill list specifically includes everything she has any aptitude for doing, and if she attempts to use a skill not on the list, it will be at a default (p. 173).

One of the best things you will ever read about GURPS skills and character creation is this post from Kromm, later included in “How to Be A GURPS GM.” I use it as the skeletal base for every character I make, regardless of genre or power level.

So, Kerna has 87 Character Points worth of skills, a total of 31 separate skills — she knows how to do a lot of stuff. They break down into a few broad categories:

Weaponry: Axe/Mace, Bow, Broadsword, Crossbow, Fast-Draw (Knife, Sword, Throwing Axe), Knife, Lance, Shield, Spear, Thrown Weapon (Axe/Mace).

Kerna knows a lot of different ways to put holes into people, as she should. Her primary melee weapon is a broadsword, at 15, and her primary ranged weapon is a throwing axe, at 14. But if she has to pick up something else in a pinch, there’s a decent chance she’ll know how to use it (just not as well).

Unarmed Combat: Brawling, Wrestling.

If she absolutely must fight unarmed, she can still lay some smack down as a brawler (for punching and kicking, at 14) or wrestler (for grappling, at 13).

Being a Good Soldier: Armoury (Body Armor and Melee Weapons), Heraldry, Hiking, Leadership, Navigation (Land), Public Speaking, Riding (Equines), Savoir-Faire (Military).

These skills let Kerna repair her own armor and weapons, recognize other military units, hike and march, lead others into battle, find her way on a map, speak authoritatively to others, ride a horse, and know how to be a good soldier.

Being a Good Adventurer: Area Knowledge (local), Climbing, Diplomacy, First Aid, Search, Stealth, Survival (Plains and Woodlands).

These skills let Kerna know her way around the local area of the outpost, climb things, interact well with others, perform first aid, find things, be stealthy, and take care of herself in the plains and woodlands around her outpost.

She is a well-rounded and competent character. Some of her skills may seem a little low, but note that anything over 10 is a better than 50/50 chance of succeeding under adventuring conditions (p. 171). Using skills for routine, non-stressful tasks will have a bonus of +4 or even more, or the GM might not even bother with a roll.

Magic (pp. 234-253)

I wanted to give Kerna five specific spells: Continual Light (useful for dark places without a torch), Explosive Fireball (“Big Bada-Boom”), Major Healing (being able to heal quickly is incredibly helpful), Pain (for taking out enemies without burning them alive), and Sleep (sometimes even PCs want to take someone alive).

The default GURPS magic system (pp. 234-253) uses a prerequisite system, requiring less powerful spells be learned before more powerful ones. Those “weaker” spells are often very useful themselves, though, and usually cost fewer FP to cast.

Naturally, we’ll get into magic a bit more next week with the “Your First Spells” post.

Equipment (pp. 264-289)

And then there’s my second favorite part of character creation: shopping (pp. 264-289)!

Unlike poor Rex, Kerna is packing some serious armor (paid for by the kingdom — a starting character without the Wealth advantage wouldn’t be able to afford all the gear she has).

She has (scale) armor protecting her head, torso, groin, arms, and legs with a Damage Resistance (DR) of 4, meaning 4 points is subtracted from the final injury inflicted by any successful attack (for example, a sword attack that rolls damage of 5 is reduced to 1). This alone makes her much harder to kill, but it does come with one big downside — all that armor is heavy.

Notice on Kerna’s character sheet, beneath the attributes, the small box that shows Encumbrance. If she were wearing simple clothing like Rex (anything up to 34 lbs.), her Encumbrance would be “None,” and she could move 6 hexes per turn and have a Dodge of 10. But because she’s wearing about 100 lbs. of gear and armor, her Encumbrance is “Medium,” reducing her to moving 3 hexes per turn with a Dodge of 8. That lack of mobility isn’t always worth the boost in damage reduction!

So, that’s Kerna Dallon. In the coming weeks we shall attempt to fold, spindle, and mutilate her as we look at a few more GURPS options. Welcome to being Intermediate!


  1. Expanding on your note about skill levels: a level above 10 has better than 50/50 odds of success *under normal adventuring conditions.* The odds are even better for routine, non-stressful situations.

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