Lest It Become a Hereditary Affliction

House rule articles contain a short intro, a rambling section on how to come up with a solution to a problem called “Cooking It up“, just the plain rules in a section called “The Finished Dish” and some musings about what else you could do with that in the final section: The Leftovers“.

One of the things most people agree on is that Affliction is overpriced in the current rules-as-written. That is, what we actually agree on is that effective Afflictions are overpriced. The first level gives a straight HT roll to resist. For that price it’s probably fair that the average Joe can shake it off with a 50/50 chance. The second level costs the same as the first… and makes that a chance of 37.5% – for the average Joe. In short, there’s a low chance to take out important adversaries or monsters with a straight-up Affliction. It’s clearly one of the half-dozen or so things that would be changed, should we ever see another edition of GURPS. There are some ways around this, though.

Cooking It up

The rules-based approach around this problem is taking Malediction 1, which turns the resistance roll into a quick contest between your WILL and the target’s HT +1 minus the level of the Affliction. Unless your Affliction is so heavily limited it costs less than 5 points there is never a reason to buy a second level of this – and even with an end cost of 3 points it would be a debatable investment.

Most official treatments of this, like Psionic Powers, have combined this with a “Skills for Everyone” approach (Powers p. 162). This is extremely advisable if the PCs are expected to have more than one Affliction and even if they don’t. Basically it replaces your WILL roll with a unique hard skill roll. You might even waive the requirement that the Affliction must be part of a power.

Sean Punch suggests two ways to change the costs here:
1) 10 points for the first level + 3 points for the following ones.
2) Give each level 1d6 virtual damage dice that need to overcome armour in the normal way and penalise resistance rolls according to how much damage gets through.

Number 1) solves most problems, but has limits where Afflictions have lots of enhancements and not enough limitations to bring the cost of the later levels down to 3 points. Also an Affliction could be a Malediction 1/2/3 for another 10/15/20 points minus limitations and therefore liable to a much greater discount in cases of high WILL or skill.

Number 2) is a good alternative for most Afflictions that should realistically interact with armour.

What other rules-compliant options are there? You could use Follow-Up for an Affliction that needs less levels to succeed because it ignores armour. You could also choose not to use an Affliction. If you don’t mind doing damage at the same time Side Effect and Symptoms do add explicit Affliction states for a reasonable cost that is not measured in actual levels of Affliction. Indeed, Side Effect is already very similar to the second of Kromm’s suggestions.

You could also rebuild Affliction as follows: It has only ever one level, but you can take a new special enhancement called Hard to Resist that is priced at +40% for each -1 it gives to the target’s resistance roll (or +1 for beneficial afflictions). This works both for normal Afflictions and for those modified by Malediction, though in the latter case it might be more cost-effective to just raise your WILL/skill. You’ll note that this is close to Kromm’s suggestion no. 1 above, but making the lowered resistance an enhancement takes away the danger of inflated costs for the more extreme Afflictions.

The Finished Dish

Rules-compliant ways to effectively use Afflictions:

  • Modify it with Malediction and use a unique skill.
  • Modify it with Malediction and use straight WILL. This is likely too powerful!
  • Modify it with Armour Divisor to get rid of part of the bonus armour provides.
  • Use a carrier attack and modify the Affliction with Follow-Up to do damage and ignore armour if the carrier attack overcomes it.
  • Modify an Innate Attack with Side Effect to afflict negative states on a target – at a penalty according to penetrating damage.
  • Modify an Innate Attack with Symptoms to automatically afflict negative states on a target once damage exceeds certain thresholds.

Variants that change the rules-as-written:

  • Kromm’s two ideas.
  • Affliction only ever has one level. A special levelled enhancement called Hard to Resist gives a -1  penalty (+1 bonus for beneficial Afflictions) per level to resist the Affliction. It costs +40% per level and works with Malediction.

The Leftovers

All the old rules-compliant ways to make your Affliction cost-effective still work with the new Affliction pricing. Kromm’s second suggestion works as an alternative. In that case Afflictions retain their old cost structure.

Now, what if you think it’s too cheap to make a heavily modified killing curse? After all,  Affliction (Heart Attack, +300%; Hard to Resist +8, +320%; Costs 8 FP, -40%;  Limited Use: 1 time / day, -40%) is only 15 points if you use multiplicative modifiers. The easy solution is to make the different effects change the base cost instead of being enhancements. So Attribute Penalty ST -2 would only cost 12 points as base, while Heart Attack would be 40 points. The aforementioned ability would then cost 26 points, which seems appropriate for its limitations.


The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy

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