Friday, September 23, 2016

Limitations: Gadget

Actually not especially relevant.
I was talking about gadget limitations for no particularly good reason in the GURPS IRC channel (on at #gurps) and I have players that use it, and it made me start thinking that maybe a primer on how it works might be a helpful reminder to me and my players. Let's dissect these gadget limitations then.

What is it?

It's a limitation meaning it gives a discount to an advantage in return for certain concessions inherent in the somewhat reduced functionality of an ability. It is described in more detail on p.117 of Basic Set - Characters. The three specific elements of a gadget that determine its value as a limitation are:
  • Can someone remove an advantage from you by breaking a machine?
    • Is it easy to break?
    • Is it easy to fix?
    • Is it easy to target?
  • Can someone deprive you of an advantage by stealing it from you?
    • Can it be used by a would-be thief?
  • Can you permanently lose an advantage in this way?
Those three factors have a common theme: a gadget's limitation is that you can be declawed. Compare the discounts of these limitations to power modifiers like Divine and Mana-Sensitive and this shows that the gadget limitation is meant to be a serious drawback.

Why Would I Want It?

Some characters are given special powers from cool things. This might be the invention of a mad scientist, an otherworldly sphere gifted by extraterrestrials, or some magical ring. A character that has a bunch of cool things can be understood to have awesome inventing skills, have unusual friends, or be an accomplished treasure hunter. Take for example, a character that can just turn invisible just because, or a character that can turn invisible when he puts on a magic ring. Both of these situations lead to asking questions about the character because both are unusual, but the latter situation has certain connotations: someone with an invisibility ring is someone that usually had to overcome extremely dangerous situations, and is the kind of person that treasures the abilities that an invisibility ring gives, so this individual probably takes part in clandestine activity on the regular. You can make the same assumptions about the other, but not necessarily be correct; you can even make these assumptions about the person with the invisibility ring, and be wrong, but it certainly does color a particular perception.


I prefer the way it is done in Thaumatology: Sorcery. It is basically the same idea, but the assumptions of the gadgets are all grouped together in sensible ways so you don't need to muck around with the nitty gritty particulars of finding an item's DR or wondering if something can be stolen "easily" or "pretty easily." Even if the forms on pages 28 to 29 of Sorcery don't entirely match a use case, similar items can help give inspiration for what a different item might cost, or even be similar enough.


The article on Metatronic Generators in Pyramid #3/46 is about weird science devices and calculating the dollar prices of gizmos that perform some particular function based on an advantage. The article has similar, but not totally compatible ideas to Gadget limitations, and a weird science bent (of course, being in an issue called Weird Science.) Despite those differences, Ravens N' Pennies does have some ideas for adapting to other assumptions like magic artifacts, for example.

Other Thoughts

I don't think I exploit my player's limitations enough, so I have to think about exploiting their gadget weaknesses more, but in a fair way. Maybe thieves, maybe breakages, maybe quests to repair or replace items, somehow I'll make the limitations count for something.

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