Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Character Build: Mariya Sokolova

Kinda an inspiration for the character.
I might be playing in a tech level 8 (modern day) campaign with magic, and so I've decided to create a shapeshifting character as the build budget is a (hefty) 250/-100. The guidance I was given for building a character was simply that magic exists, it's not especially common, but the default magic system is not being used, and mostly magic available to characters is available in the forms of Sorcery and advantages with the Magic modifier.
I had two ideas that I wanted to try for a while: magical alchemist, and magical shapeshifter, but as the GM has a few misgivings about the appropriateness of Ritual Path Magic for the campaign, for me this narrows it down to Shapeshifter. I don't know why, but I decided on the name Mariya Sokolova, for better or for worse. Today, I guide readers through my creative process and how I build a character.


So, first off I like to design a character from a bird's eye view. Mechanics wise, I already decided the big important special ability for this character to be shapeshifting. So now I am going to write a story about a girl named Mariya that can turn into animals at will.
So Mariya is a young adult around 25 who had a somewhat disrupted childhood owing to a very difficult puberty. But before that, let's go even further back, and say she has always had her abilities as far back as she can remember, and for no explainable reason, whether super-science, gene manipulation, hereditary abilities, magic, no one knew why. However, as a young child, besides a few dangerous scrapes here and there discovering the laws of nature the hard way, didn't really bother her, and she spent much leisure time speaking with animals, changing into them, and what have you.
However, when she reached the teenage years, she discovered that her wanton use of her transformation abilities have wreaked havoc on her endocrine system. Pumping hormones into her body like a spigot on tap lead to grossly overdeveloped secondary sexual characteristics of both male and female humans. An unusually deep voice, overbearing amounts of body and facial hair, acne encrusted skin, large breasts, unusual deposits of fat in some parts of her body, with others parts having well defined toned musculature.
Further, when she used her transformative abilities, on turning back, the mix of surging hormones began to cause extreme mood and behavioral whiplashes. Sometimes her emotions would run rampant, and she would manically have a wild high, indulging in food, drugs, sex, and violence with abandon, and other times, a depressive withdrawal, brimming with shame and self-hatred.
She very quickly became very unpopular in public school and her parents decided to move to the country and enroll her in home schooling. Her parents told her they did it for her, but she always had the sad pervasive suspicion that her parents were embarrassed of her. Regardless, she still has a decent relationship with them.
Though academically, she thrived, and she has somewhat come to terms with her powers, to this day she is extremely timid around people due to the harsh bullying she received in high school. She is self-conscious and always worries about saying or doing something that will embarrass her. She has friends on the internet, but not very many friends have met her in-person.
Mariya's big motivations for adventuring are as follows:
  • She wants to do something important with her life to convince herself that she deserves to be happy, and put to rest all of the nagging feelings of insufficiency
  • She wants to make friends and find people that can accept her for who she is.
[Those motivations are a bit vague, but that is as specific as I can get with what I know.]



First off, let's start with the biggest point sink on the entire character sheet because that's how I like to work in GURPS. The biggest is the Morph pool. I also really kinda wanna have the Improvised Form enhancement which takes this advantage from "very" to "incredibly" expensive. Luckily, the version of the transformation that I am thinking of has some drawbacks to temper the costs some.
First off, it is magical, which is -10%. To that, I'll add preparation required, 10 minutes, to knock off another 45 points. She can't use her powers in a hurry. The effect of transforming leaves her running a little wild right afterwards and includes the following:
  • Bad Temper (9) [-15]
  • Guttony (6) [-10]
  • Lecherousness (12) [-15]
As an aftermath limitation, this will be -20% and last at least as long as the effect was in place (or 10 minutes.)
Finally, we add on a backlash, when she first uses the ability, she has a rush of Euphoria. which penalizes all of her DX, IQ, and Self Control Rolls (making the aftermath limitation that much worse.) This is -30% as it is irresistable.
Altogether, this comes to a whopping -5% in modifiers. To make it more even, I'll throw on the No encumbrance version of absorptive change. Never have to worry about showing up somewhere naked then. Altogether then we have
Morph (Absorptive, No Encumbrance, +5%; Aftermath, Bad Temper(9), Gluttony(6), and Lecherousness(12), -20%; Backlash, Euphoria, -30%; Immediate Preparation Required, 10 minutes, -45%; Improvised Forms, +100%; Mana Sensitive, -10%)[100]
Wow, that was the worst part, but it is over now! To that, I'll add Animal Empathy (magic)[5] and Speaks with Animals(Magic, -10%; Sapience, +40%)[33]

And with that, a majority of the magic power is defined. I also want a 30 point morph pool that will help if I need to turn into an animal with IQ too low. So I got about 168/250 points tied up. That's fine. That saves me a lot for the next important bit, figuring out my skills.


It might look like a weird thing to jump from the most expensive element of a character to the least expensive element, but for me, making sure my character has all the abilities I want and all the skills I want is the first priority, and the thing I don't want to have to compromise.
One place I look for help in determining a good set of skills is the talents list in Power-Ups 3. Talents help because they already cluster closely thematically related skills. I have in mind a picture of an intelligent animal lover woman who is also a bit of a survivalist.
Looking through the list of talents, two that cover this criteria well are Beastmaster, and Outdoorsman. I think also, for just a bit of background since I mentioned she has online friends, she is going to have the Poet talent. Maybe her friends are also fans. I could ask my GM for the alternate pricing scheme on these talents, but it'd only save me a single point, so it's a wash.
The talents altogether are 10+10+5 for 25 points. I want at least one point in every skill because I'm a silly guy like that so: 12 + 6 + 7 = 25... I'm sure a few of those overlapped a bit, but for my mental math, I'll say 25 + 25 = 50, and be happy that a bit of change shakes out in the end.
To that I'll add the following for flavor and utility:

  • Brawling (4 points for that sweet sweet damage bonus)
  • Area Knowledge (You gotta come from somewhere)
  • Computer Operation (She likes browsing the internet)
  • Savoir-Faire (Online)
  • Quarterstaff (Meh, there's no good justification, but she might have it because she hikes.)
  • First-Aid (also good)
That's another 9 points.
Finally, I cap this off with a look at How to be a GURPS GM's list of recommending everyman skills to make sure I cover the fundamental bases.
  • Interrogation, Climbing, Hiking, Stealth, Driving, Gesture, Observation, Scrounging, Search, Knife, Guns (Pistol), Forced Entry, Holdout, Wrestling, and Throwing.
That's 15 more.
So on my skills I have spent 50 + 9 + 15 = 74 points. I am at 242/250. Cool. I'm not even at my disadvantages yet.


So I have a budget of -100 to play with, but I don't think (and I never recommend) that I need to take them all. Let's look for the ones that will make this character more interesting.
  • Appearance - Ugly, but tempered with the Pitiable advantage for a total of [-3].
  • Unnatural Features - She has a "manly" voice and can easily grow facial hair due to the effects of the hormones on her endocrine system. The voice isn't weird enough for Disturbing Voice though, so I'll put it here for a total of [-2].
  • Demophobia(12)[-15]
  • Low Self Image[-10]
  • Shyness (Severe, Not online though, -50%)[-5] She is very expressive in written communication, but embarrassed in face to face meetings with people.
And finally, to give some internal friction, I want her to have an Obsession (Make friends)(12)[-5]. She is also Impulsive and if she thinks she has the right idea, she will march forward in that direction without thinking the consequences through. This is Impulsiveness(12)[-10].
Altogether, we have 50 points in disadvantages which gives us 192/250 in points.

Attributes and Secondary Characteristics

Finally, we can fill up the last bit of points on her attributes. She is intelligent, but otherwise, her attributes don't stand out, nor are they lacking. She has an IQ of 13[60], a Will of 10[-15] a Per of 12[-5] an HT of 11[10] and a Basic Speed of 5[-5]. This puts us 13 points in the black. Next let's look at quirks.


She has the following quirks:
  • Bad at keeping eye contact[-1] This might be hard in real life, but since it's text based, I don't think I'll have as much of a problem.
  • Likes garish color schemes[-1] Because of the type of internet communities she hangs out in, she will often choose things with colors like neon green, pink, and black.
  • Weeaboo [-1] She likes using little bits of Japanese here and there in her speech.
  • Uses GMT time[-1] Because of her online hobbies, she has gotten into the habit of giving all times in UTC even in casual conversation.
  • Suspicious of compliments [-1] Any time someone says something nice about her, she wonders if it is coming from a kind place, or if it is a setup for a mean joke.

The Finished Product

 Well, my math was more than just a little off, but I see that I have an important DX deficiency which to me says I know what to do with a significant portion of the points. I also think I want to add a contact to the character, a cheap but helpful advantage that gives a bit more characterization and background at the same time unfortunately... I have just been informed that this character has a hard veto from the GM, so I guess it's back to the drawing board!

Other Thoughts

Even if I can't use the character, the exercise was useful, and I feel a little bit vindicated that I made a character, if not with a few deficiencies right now, that at least covers all the bases I'd want covered if I were to play, and apparently, I had almost 10% of my points left over which ain't not nothing. I feel like I maybe have a few too many skills, so that seems like a small shortage in my process, but something I could fix with a second careful once over.


  1. Why'd she get vetoed? GM didn't want 'that much' magic?

    1. Too many animal powers. Ah well, I'll save it for another campaign. Maybe join a Supers one one day and change all the "magic, -10%" to "Bio, -10%"

  2. Excuse me, but in Russian Mishka Sokolov (full name Mikhail Sokolov, English equivalent Michael) is a male name. As I understand, your character is female, so it may be batter to change her name.The nearest female name may be M_a_shka Sokolov_a_ (full name Mariya Sokolova, English equivalent Mary).

    1. Thanks! I will gladly defer to you! I read online that Mishka was a gender neutral name, but I haven't a clue.

    2. Now it is better, but the surname still is not right. In Russian, surnames have grammatical genders (male or female). So, if male person is Sokolov (male gender surname), female person will be Sokolov_a_, where the "-a" ending of surname show female gender.
      The meaning of the surname Sokolova is "the daughter of falcon", so this surname fits to an animal shapeshifter.

    3. Ah! Didn't realize that, that's neat! Thanks for your help.


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