Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: Power-Ups 3 - Talents

It's ok, friend, daddy's got you.
So decided to get a few books from my "maybe" list this weekend on a splurge, and among them was Talents. Talents as I've said in a previous, recent post, are a core mechanic that help to define a character by giving a bunch of bonuses to tightly related skills. They are also, mechanically speaking, pretty easy to put together with only a paragraphish amount of text needed to adequately describe it in the basic set. That said, how could such a simple idea actually fill out a full supplement? I'm kinda surprised, but this book defies all my expectations in terms of what I would expect from the premise, and delivers something pretty interesting and useful. Let's take a deeper look then.


Table of contents.
The PDF for this book is 28 pages, the first chapter starts on page 4, and the last ends on page 26, giving us 23 pages of stuff. Chapter 1 covers the vanilla approach and the meat of talents, and includes a catalog of several talents. Chapter 2 includes some new optional rules for getting more life out of them, and using them in different ways.
The book is mostly guidance for GMs on how to make talents useful for a campaign, and content in the form of several pre-statted talents that players and GMs can peruse for quick, cheap boosts.
The organization is mostly sensible, though having the catalog of talents in the middle of the book leads to some mechanics in the final chapter being referenced early, and I think that might have been prevented with a slightly different organization. The illustration quality is fine, but a little anachronistic; this might be because the book is a bit of a "greatest hits" compilation so the art probably comes from several previous releases, though it is appropriate and doesn't feel like lazy recycling. Pull-quotes are fine, but not extraordinary.
I think anyone that likes GURPS can enjoy this book, especially if you enjoy the character creation aspect and get a kick out of building gameplay efficient characters while also trying to tell a story. This book also stands pretty well on its own without any books besides the Basic Set, so no barrier to entries there.The only reason I might not recommend this book to someone is because it might be a bit superfluous; a lot of the talents are pre-existing, though there is a bit of new content too. If you are brand new to the system, a less generic toolbox style book might be a little bit more helpful, though at the same time, it has a lot of food for thought for neophyte players as well (which I might naively boil down to: spend points on talents, they are usually a good deal.) Let's now take a deeper look at the book.


The chapter begins with a discussion of why a player might like a talent, for both objective mechanical reasons and for subjective semantic reasons, and points out some interesting edge case rulings to keep in mind if you use a lot of talents. The book then goes into a catalog of all talents that currently existed as of the time of the writing, sometime late 2011 I think. The one annoyance I have here is that the entries refer to two mechanics that aren't even introduced until the next chapter: Alternative Cost - a more granular pricing method that requires a bit more calculation, but possibly fairer prices, shifting a lot of talents up or down 1 to 3 points, and more interestingly, an alternative benefit to the typical reaction bonus that most talents give.

Optional Rules

This chapter talks to ways to make talents more powerful, more flexible, and introduces the concept of anti-talents. It starts with a talk about Alternative Benefits and gives guidelines for choosing benefits besides +1 to reaction from particularly appropriate audiences. Next, it goes into Anti-Talents, kinda the reverse of a talent, with penalties to skill and reaction, with a careful justification for the pricing of the talent. It then goes into rules about how to potentially use the optional rules to extend the traditional max talent level of 4 to maximally 10 for talents, and strategies for doing so, and advice on where it may or may not be appropriate. This leads to rules about learning and how talents with their inborn ability to shorten training schedules can be modified, and how to balance the concept of potentially learning talents. This segues to a new type of talent called job training which is cheaper, but comes with a lot of hang-ups, which to me, make them sound like a bad deal, but eh, options is options! Overall, this chapter was really fun for me because I like just chewing through mechanics and thinking about pros and cons of dialing a little to the left or a little to the right of default, and I like the idea of having high level talents because I like high powered games, and the traditional 4 levels of talent, though nice, feels a bit limited.


I bought this on a whim and I was pleasantly surprised. If you like reading about rules and options, this is a decent book, and it's not terribly expensive. If you want a catalog of a lot of talents, this is as good as it gets. If you want to make an interesting character and save a few points by keeping to a focused concept, this is a good resource.


  1. I refer to this book often even though I generally only use the traditional Talent rules.

    1. And even in the vanilla form, the talents are often a pretty good deal for character points.

  2. In all honesty I don't think I've ever had a player take a talent. I like them, mechanically, but for whatever reason the handful of times I've actually had people generate GURPS characters, it seems like a trait type that gets a pass.

    1. Similar experience, unfortunately. Maybe they are something of a not-so-secret secret for newcomers.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...