Your First Character

In this, the first post of the “New to GURPS” series, we’re going to put together a really bare-bones character to fiddle with as we take our initial steps into the GURPS playground. He won’t be a “full” character, one you would want to use for an ongoing campaign, or even a “one-shot” character, like you might use at a convention game. But he will have all the necessary information we need to explore the basics of the game, and be 100% compliant with GURPS Lite.

Everything you need to know is there in the book, so you can follow along – I won’t rehash it here. We’re simply going to run through the character creation steps with a very broad brush:

  • Character Points, Basic Attributes, and Secondary Characteristics (pp. 4-6)
  • Image and Looks, Social Background, Wealth and Influence (pp. 6-8)
  • Advantages, Disadvantages, Quirks, Skills (pp. 8-17)
  • Equipment (pp. 18-22)

I have a few simplified character sheets I like, but let’s use the official one from Steve Jackson Games so you can get used to it (even though we won’t be filling in much of it yet – there is a fillable form PDF version available for download here.)

Character Points, Basic Attributes, and Secondary Characteristics (pp. 4-6)

Our first Player Character (PC) is a cowboy named Rex Brown. It could have been a Jedi, or an uplifted chimpanzee soldier, or a hundred other things, but we’re starting simple.

Rex is young and inexperienced, but also a decent shot, so let’s build him with 75 points (“Competent,” p. 4). He’s strong (ST 11), dextrous (DX 12), with an average mind (IQ 10) and in good health (HT 10).

Just choosing those four main attributes determines a great deal of other information (pp. 5-6): Basic Lift 24 lbs., Hit Points 11, Will 10, Perception 10, Fatigue Points 10, Basic Speed 5.5, Dodge 8, Basic Move 5, Thrust 1d-1, Swing 1d+1. Before moving on, I add in some details based on my mental image of Rex: 5’10” tall, 135 lbs., 20 years old (it’s not likely to come up in the basic posts, but Size Modifier for all “normal” humans is 0 — see p. 27, “Size of Target”).


So far, we have spent 50 of our 75 allotted points (10 for ST 11, and 40 for DX 12).

Image and Looks, Social Background, Wealth and Influence (pp. 6-8)

Rex is of average appearance, can speak and read/write his native language of English (only), and is of average wealth, reputation, and status. None of these things cost points – they are the default assumptions for any character not specifically lowering or raising them.


Advantages, Disadvantages, Quirks, Skills (pp. 8-17)

In the interest of keeping this first character streamlined, I’m going to ignore a bunch of things that will come into play later (namely, Tech Level, Cultural Familiarities, and Disadvantages/Quirks). He deserves at least one Advantage, though… spending 15 points for Combat Reflexes (p. 8) seems a good fit for an up-and-coming cowboy.

Which brings us to the heart of your PC — his skills. Skills are the primary way you, as the player, use the character to interact with the world of the game through the rules mechanics. They are also the key to the heart of GURPS, which is this:

Roll 3d6. A result lower than or equal to your modified skill level is a success; a result greater than is a failure.

That’s the cornerstone of the whole system right there; almost everything else is built on that simple foundation.

Again, Rex is just our very first “training wheels” PC, so he only needs a bare minimum of skills to get us going. Pages 12-13 explain how to spend points for skills.

I’m buying the following for Rex with the final 10 points: Animal Handling, Area Knowledge, Brawling, Climbing, Guns (Pistol), Riding (Horse), and Scrounging.


Remember, these are not the only things Rex can do, just the things he’s best at (see “Skill Defaults: Using Skills You Don’t Know”, p. 13). Also, I’ve filled in his Parry score, based off of Brawling skill (see p. 28), so that completes Rex’s active defenses (without a Shield skill, he won’t have a Block score).

Equipment (pp. 18-22)

All that’s left now is to give Rex a few items of gear, armor, and weapons befitting a neophyte cowboy. I’m not bothering with either cost or weight for our initial example, though Rex has plenty of starting wealth to afford all this gear, and is strong enough to carry it without affecting his active defenses (see “Encumbrance and Move”, p. 22, for more). Some other fields aren’t filled in because rules for them are not used in GURPS Lite (recoil, reach, etc.) Skill levels are listed in parentheses after the weapon’s name.

Rex doesn’t wear armor, exactly (though a kind GM might allow a thick leather coat or something to stand in for “Cloth Armor,” p. 18), or own a shield, but he does have the clothes on his back, a few weapons, and odds and ends for the life of a cowboy:

Normal Clothing, Large Knife, Colt Revolver w/ 30 bullets, Level-Action Carbine, Cowboy Gear, Riding Horse

Since GURPS Lite has room for only the barest of equipment lists, there is but a single pistol listed for Rex’s Tech Level (see p. 18), and it is an automatic, not a revolver. I have combined the stats of the TL 6 “Auto Pistol” and the TL 7 “Revolver” to get an approximation of a TL 6 Colt revolver.

Cowboy Gear is not in the book, but is rather a shorthand way for the GM to say, “And various other sundries a cowboy could be reasonably expected to own” (things like a meal kit, blanket, etc.) For those who don’t enjoy this level of abstraction, books like GURPS High-Tech have got you covered, big time! Riding Horse isn’t in GURPS Lite either, but a cowboy needs his horse.

Rex isn’t actually very good with either a knife or a carbine, but he can make do in a pinch (and, were he a character for an ongoing campaign, he could later improve or learn skills).


And so, we now have our first GURPS character — Rex Brown, basic cowboy!

In the next post, “Your First Skill Checks,” we’ll use good ol’ Rex to start poking around the actual GURPS rules. Until then, I hope you found the birth of Rex helpful. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below (or by whatever means you prefer).

Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi, John! Thanks — I didn’t add in the Combat Reflexes bonus to the totals because the character sheet I’m using was auto-calculating the numbers, but I agree with your point… could be unclear, or too annoying to have to remember to add it in every time. I’ll try to use a different sheet and take new screenies tonight.

    Appreciate the note!

    EDIT: Sheets have been updated to already include the Combat Reflexes bonus in the Active Defense scores.

  2. Hi Mook! I’m just starting with GURPS and RPGs in general, so pardon my ignorance: shouldn’t the Relative Level for ‘Riding (Horse)’ be DX-1? Thanks a lot, this guide of yours is making a BIG difference. I’ve just bought your book and want to read it after I finish this series of posts.

    • Indeed it should! Good catch, Nuno… should be corrected now.

      Welcome to the game. I look forward to hearing what you think about “How to Be a GURPS GM.” 🙂

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