Saturday, October 22, 2016

Character Building: Henry Poe, Stuntman, Wannabe Actor, and Healing Magic User

Incidentally, a decent article for some
background info.
Today, I'll be doing another character build, because this time I read the instructions correctly, and got the ok for the one sentence description of the character: A stuntman with body themed magic who wants to break into dramatic acting. So let's take a look at the process of building this character and my thought process of plucking idea nuggets from the aether and congealing them into character sheet plaster works.

Background Pre-Work

So the first thing I started with was a desire to do healing magic. I think body magic is really cool, so that's the hook I decide to hang my hook on. From there, I start brainstorming what would be an interesting personality to pair with body/healing magic? The obvious choice that came to me was a doctor, but it felt a little too straightforward, and I couldn't think of an interesting way to create friction with a character whose special ability is doing the thing he does well (and this isn't a slam against anyone who likes doctors with healing magic. This is my shortcoming that I feel like I can't role play without some very straightforward inner conflict.) I had to brainstorm with a few friends online in the GURPS Discord channel, and in a flash of epiphany, the idea of a stuntman came to me. A Stuntman that can do his own makeup, look exactly like any actor, and heal any of his own mishaps gets a really big boon, but his motivation doesn't run exactly parallel with his ability, so there is a bit of room for interesting inner turmoil. This head banging is probably the longest part of the process and took maybe 2 to 3 hours.


So now we have Henry Poe, adult stuntman who wishes to be a lead in a drama film, maybe based on a classic work by Alexandre Dumas or similar. But let's build around that.
Henry, today in his mid 20s, grew up in Los Angeles, California, in the United States of America. His father is a Latino immigrant who worked as a gaffer on movie sets, and his mother is a California native. His father, working in and around Hollywood often, worked long hours, but when he came home, he always had cool stories to tell about the movies for which he helped wire sets. Henry especially enjoyed stories of cool action movies, for which his father loved explaining the crazy special effects he helped set up. Cool explosions, dramatic lighting, shooting flashy blinding blanks.
In his adolescence, Henry picked up a hobby for hiking and photography. One day, while hiking with his favorite camera in tow, he saw a rare, endangered American Bald Eagle and he excitedly told himself he had to get a shot. As he approached the cliff to get a good picture, he lost his footing and fell and slid for hundreds of feet.
He landed, horrified, his neck was bent the wrong way, he couldn't feel anything, but was bleeding badly, he wanted to scream in horror, but his body didn't listen to him. He soon fainted and succumbed to shock knowing that he would never open his eyes again.
When he next opened his eyes, and picked himself up off the ground, it was early morning, but what day? Was it a dream? Why was he in the same place with his camera broken? Did he hallucinate the situation worse than it was? But his clothes were ruined with caked blood. He eventually stumbled back onto the trail, and walked back into town, no worse for wear, to find that he has been missing for 1 month. His parents tearfully reunite, Henry lies about what happened, but realizes at the age of 13, a power has awakened in him.
Five years later, Henry's power has developed significantly in secret and he can even use it at will. Walking home from the bus stop after a shift at a fast food place, Henry is struck by a driver who couldn't see the stop sign hidden by a tree. It's excruciating, but Henry focuses with all his might to close his wounds, and set his limbs, as a drunk Julia Mendez, Henry's future manager watches from behind the spidered windshield, before reality catches up with her, and she begins cussing up a storm realizing she was in deep p**p, but at the same time realizing she was witnessing a miracle. She collects herself and says, "Hey kid, if you promise to forget about this, I think I have a job for you."
For two years now, Henry has been a stuntman, being able to look like anyone makes him especially successful. One day, on set as a robber for a romantic comedy, a special effects mishap with the fake gun he points at the star drives a screw deep through the lead man, Ron Banks' eye deep enough to cause permanent blindness and mild brain damage. In mortified shock, Henry freezes up again, and crumples to the ground. He doesn't regain consciousness until he wakes up in the hospital for a minor concussion from the fainting. He finds the operating theater where the doctors are desperately trying to extract the screw from the wound, forces them all into sleep with his abilities, and works his magic, healing Ron to pristine condition. When Ron comes to and discovers what has happened, he swears a debt of gratitude to Henry for saving his life, doing whatever he can to help Henry accomplish his dream of being a lead in a dramatic film.


So demonstrated here, Henry has a few important abilities.
  • The ability to heal himself and others
  • The ability to repair serious injuries
  • The ability to look like anyone else.
He has a few important "game-able" relationships
  • His manager, Julia Mendez, probably a contact
  • His friend, world famous Oscar winning Ron Banks, probably a patron.
  • His father, Esteban Poe, who worked with a lot of big stars.

Trying to put these on the character sheet, I come up with these abilities for the first set:
  • Affliction 1 (HT; Advantage, Custom Regeneration, +300%; Contact Agent, -30%; Fixed Duration, 3 minutes, +0%; Magical, -10%; Reach, Range C, -30%)[33]
    • Custom Regeneration(-60%) Regeneration (Very Fast; Backlash, DX-2, ST-2, Nauseated, -60%; Magic, -10%)[30]
  • Affliction 1 (HT; Advantage Regrowth (Magical), +360%; Contact Agent, -30%; Magical, -10%; Fixed Duration, 3 minutes, +0%; Reach Range C, -30%)[39]
  • Morph(Cosmetic, -50%; Magic, -10%; Retains Shape, -20%)[20]
  • Hermaphromorph (Limited Use, 2 times a day, -30%; Magic, -10%)[3]
And arrived at these for the social advantages:
  • Contact (Julia Mendez, 18 skill, Appears often, Somewhat reliable, Professional Skill (Show Business)[6]
  • Patron (AR:12, Ron Banks, Powerful Individual, Special Abilities, Huge Social Network, +50%)[30]
  • Contact (Esteban Poe, 15 skill, Appears Fairly often, Completely Reliable, Professional Skill (Show Business))[6]
That's pretty good already. Also, since this guy is pretty good at taking a beating:
  • Combat Reflexes[15]
  • High Pain Threshold[10]
I'm going to set a bunch of the special magic abilities as alternate abilities, but not all, because the disguise abilities (morph and hermaphromorph) need to always be ready to work... Altogether, after fixing a small issue with my contacts (forgot appearance rate) This comes out to 136 points spent so far. A little over half the budget, but that's fine. On to skills.


First off, I think I want to give him a martial arts style. I deliberated online for a good style that is more flair than function, and ended up choosing Professional Wrestling, which takes 4 points. Add Acrobatics to that for 5 points.
After that, I meander around for advice, checking out first the Stuntman template from Martial Arts (wow, brilliant!) Especially appropriate from the template are Stage Combat, Performance, Acting, and Makeup, so that's another 4 points.
Next, I look in the talents book for advantages that match my skills or might inform good complements. I think Born Entertainer for his main profession, Natural Athlete to complement, and Trivia Sponge because he really likes movies and [I haven't actually put this down yet] travelling. He has an area knowledge of LA, Hollywood, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and Current Affairs (Pop Culture) because he cares so much about movies, and Savoir faire for the entertainment industry, and professional skill for show business. That's another 27.
Now that I have all that, I am going to make sure that I have all the everyman skills I need by looking at How to be a GURPS GM. After browsing that, I find about 18 skills I want. I am now at 60 points left on my budget. I know this isn't the right place to do it, but I just thought of the languages, he should know.


He should be fluent in English and Spanish because he came from that kind of background. He also travels a lot to Hong Kong and Japan for work, so he has Cantonese and Japanese at broken. This comes to another 10 points.

Next, let's think about disadvantages for this character.


  • Professional code of honor is appropriate because he seems really dedicated to his job.
  • Combat Paralysis but only for a real fight, I figure that is worth +5 to the disadvantage.
    • Scratch that, it doesn't allow combat reflexes.
  • Easy to Read, it explains why he isn't exactly good at acting.
  • Gullibility, he is easily tricked by his manager, Julia Mendez.
  • Low Self-Image, he is pretty talented, magic is even an unusual gift in this setting, but he doesn't think he has what it takes to be a dramatic actor.
  • Obsession, becoming a movie star of course!
  • Post-Combat Shakes, even in the backstory I wrote, he was given to blacking out whenever things went pear shape. I think I'll give it an especially low self control number.
  • Sense of Duty, to celebrities, this might be more like Delusion (Celebrities are better than other people), but I think it manifests better this way. This seems like a small group to me.
  • The small version of Shyness, another roadblock to being a good actor.
Altogether, that gives us -65 points in disadvantages, let's think about quirks now.


  • He feels performance anxiety in the presence of any big name actors.
  • He feels a little superstitious about eagles since his powers awakened first when he saw a bald eagle
  • Quirk level charity, if he sees a problem that his powers can easily fix, he might step in and help
  • Quirk level trademark, he likes taking pictures of things he worked on.
  • Quirk level obsession, he wants autographs of every headliner actor he works with.
That give us -5 back, so we have 120 points left now, let's go to the last step, attributes.


I follow the advice in the stuntman template and up all the stats to the recommendations, then I add to IQ because this guy needs it pretty badly with all his IQ skills, even though he doesn't seem particularly smart or dumb. 


When I am done, I have 10 points left over, which I could spend in a lot of interesting ways. I could try to make sure that his professional skills are at a certain minimum, or I could give him some more cool powers. I could add some skills from the talents I gave him to round him out more. I mention Photography as a personal hobby of his often, but didn't give him a single point, so I should probably do that. If you take a look at the included images, you can take a look at how far we've come. I think the skill list looks a bit long, I might be able to cut a few of those as well, but I feel like it is a really good start.


  1. Is there a contest going on somewhere (referencing directions)? I have a few WIP character articles in progress, might be interesting to see what others are doing with theirs.

    Seems like he's the kind of guy to end up doing his own stunts oneday...which may eventually lead to the FBI/CIA/NSA/Illuminati coming his way when he survives things a little TOO well...

    1. No contest. I rarely get to play and so, this is my documentation of a rare unicorn. I thought to myself if I documented the entire streaming consciousness process, it might be a good reference to my players who struggle to make characters.
      I usually tell them to write bios of their character, and regardless of how "well written" they are, often they miss the point of what I'm getting at, so I thought if I demonstrated my process of making an abstract character background and then building a character sheet from that, it might help them either write more useful abstracts for me to build the characters they want, or they can try using my process start to finish if they feel like doing their own characters entirely.

  2. I'll see about channeling the concept in my upcoming endeavors - I do try to write things with the less practiced (theoretical) reader in mind. I think it makes it easier to access, if nothing else. I kind of did something like this with the Militia template, rationalizing the components.


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