“Anti-talents” in GURPS

Below is a recent post to the GURPSnet mailing list, on the topic of “Anti-talents” that reverse the effects of Talents. 

I have home-brewed “group competences” that are pretty much the same as the Talents that 4e later brought. (4e picks a much better name; I’ll steal “Talent” for the rest of this discussion.)

They all have accompanying “Group Incompetences”, that reverse the bonuses into penalties. The latter make for amusing character concepts (and sometimes amusing trait names), and work as you suggest, but with one big difference: I only award -1 per Group Incompetence, far less than the advantage value of the reverse Talent!

For what it’s worth, my reasons for preferring these to 3e‘s Incompetence:

1) I think -1 per Incompetent skill is far too generous. You can easily rack up several points of disad by declaring Incompetence in trivial skills you’d never use anyway.

-1 for an entire group, however, is not a crock. The available groups are generally meaningful ones too.

2) Just as bonuses on a related group feel more sensible than do bonuses on lone individual skills (4e apparently agrees, as that’s how Talents work), penalties on related groups also feel more sensible. (Again, 4e may agree; it appears to have dropped the Incompetence idea, though without yet adding Anti-Talents.)

3) I really dislike the Incompetence disad’s “you can’t learn the skill” restriction. Real life suggests incompetences that you can struggle through; you’ll just always have a real hard time of it. Much more interesting!

A nice skill penalty makes it difficult, though not impossible, to gain competence in the skill. (I hadn’t specifically considered modifications to time required, as you suggest, but that could be done too.)

Best of all, you can still have the oddball character who can’t learn a skill. The character simply doesn’t buy the skill in question, with “can’t” as the explanation. No special rules needed.

So that’s one existing take on “Anti-Talents”. I think 4e could easily incorporate the idea, reversing the effects of all those nifty Talents that 4e and players have come up with. It may even make sense to reverse Talents at 1/5 value, so a 10-point Talent becomes a -2-point Anti-Talent. What do you think?

(Final thought on your suggestions: I see no reason to rule that the character can’t buy off an Anti-Talent. As long as there’s some good explanation, why not?)


  • Kuroshima

    Personally? I do like anti-talents, but to make them apropriate disadvantages, in my games they work as follows:

    -An anti-talent exists for each talent that is allowed in my capaign
    -An anti-talent gives as many points as the cost of the talent it mirrors.
    -An anti-talent gives a reaction penalty where the talent would give a bonus
    -An anti-talent is not a leveld trait. it gives -4 to all skills that fall under it.

    How so? I constructed the anti-talent from it’s constituent parts: a -1 point quirk level reputation, and a slew of incompetences. It sort of works.

    I hope that you don’t mind me posting in your blog

    Antoni Ten
    Spaniard GURPSoid

    • tbone

      I like “Anti-talents” too, and certainly prefer “Talents” and “Anti-talents” to the clumsier names I used in my old pre-4e GULLIVER version.

      For Anti-talents, I like my quirk-level cost – but I see that you’re including reaction penalties, not just the skill penalties that I’ve used. So, if I understand your version correctly: a -5 Anti-talent would include a -1 reaction penalty, which only applies in some cases and thus isn’t worth -5 points; but with the addition of the -4 penalty on affected skills, is worth the -5. Is that correct?

      Sounds OK to me, though I would still balk at giving out -15 points for the reverse of a 15-point Talent. In GURPS, -15 points is a huge disad, on par with very debilitating mental problems… Still, if it works in your games, good!

      I think it’s too bad that 4e itself didn’t offer some form of the Anti-talent. It’s fun to be bad at something!

      (And please, post comments any time, as much as you like!)

  • yojimbeau

    I asked about antitalents on the GURPS forum last year and got this from Sean “Kromm” Punch, GURPS’ line editor: (sorry for the poor formatting) but it’s also here:

    You are naturally inept at an important adventuring activity, which is most often defined by a set of closely related skills. “Anti-Talents” come in levels, and have the following drawbacks:

    · You have a penalty of -1 per level to success rolls associated with the activity covered by the Anti-Talent. This penalty effectively lowers your attribute scores for the purpose of the pursuit in question, and always affects any specific skills the GM lists for the Anti-Talent. The GM may apply it to other skill rolls, too, where their purpose overlaps the endeavour penalized by your Anti-Talent.

    · You cannot learn any of the skills specifically listed for your Anti-Talent, regardless of how you attempt learn them. You’re forced to function at default with these skills, and this is still subject to the penalty mentioned above. Even magical skill transference and cybernetic skill implants will somehow fail, thwarted by your brain’s wiring. (The GM may permit you to buy off Anti-Talent with earned points in a campaign where it’s actually possible to get your brain rewired!)

    · You receive a penalty of -1 per level on all reaction rolls made by anyone in a position to notice your Anti-Talent, if he would regard your ineptitude as worthy of derision, or as a sign of weakness or inferiority (GM’s judgment).

    You may never have more than four levels of a particular Anti-Talent. However, overlapping Anti-Talents can give penalties — to both success rolls and reaction rolls — in excess of -4.

    The GM sets the point value of an Anti-Talent to reflect the scope of the adventuring activities it impacts. He may opt to associate Anti-Talents with specific numbers of skills — as is done for Talent (B89) — if he feels that all of those skills are likely to be significant to the character and in the campaign. He should always forbid Anti-Talents that cover activities that would be irrelevant to a given character, or that are unlikely to play a role in the campaign.

    · Small (An occasional adventuring activity, or 6 or fewer related skills) -5 points/ level.

    · Medium (A common adventuring activity or 7 to 12 related skills) -10 points/ level.

    · Large (A very common adventuring activity, or 13 or more related skills) -15 points/ level.

    When counting skills, skills with multiple specialties are considered to be one skill for this purpose. You cannot have Anti-Talent in a single specialty of a skill; if you are inept with Guns, for instance, you are inept with all guns.

    All rolls to interact with animals, including Animal Handling, Falconry, Packing, Riding, Teamster, and Veterinary. Reaction penalty: all animals.

    All rolls for non-combat athletics, including Acrobatics, Bicycling, Climbing, Hiking, Jumping, Lifting, Running, Skating, Skiing, Sports, Swimming, and Throwing. Reaction penalty: athletes, fitness nuts, and members of highly non-sedentary societies.

    All IQ rolls the GM requires to recall trivia, as well as Area Knowledge, Connoisseur, Current Affairs, Expert Skills, Hidden Lore, and Hobby skills. Reaction penalty: anybody who values knowledge.

    All social rolls, including Acting, Administration, Carousing, Connoisseur, Detect Lies, Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, Gambling, Gesture, Intimidation, Leadership, Merchant, Politics, Propaganda, Public Speaking, Savoir-Faire, Sex Appeal, Streetwise, and Teaching. Reaction penalty: anyone you try to impress.

    All combat rolls, including all combat skills. Base your active defences on your penalized defaults – don’t penalize them directly. This doesn’t affect your Dodge score. Reaction penalty: anyone who would react poorly to Cowardice (B129).

    All rolls for stealth and concealment, including Camouflage, Disguise, Holdout, Shadowing, Smuggling, and Stealth. Reaction penalty: thieves, spies, and anyone who catches you in the act.

    • tbone

      Thanks for the info; interesting stuff that I hadn’t seen. Can you link to a specific page on your site with a formatted version? Some key info (maybe costs for the listed examples?) may have been stripped out of your comment.

      Re those Kromm anti-talents: They’re more of a penalty on a wide range of tasks, than on specific skills – or at least I think so. (The examples seem to suggest penalties on skills and any related tasks, yet the point cost descriptions say “…activity, or 6 or fewer skills…”, so I’m not sure how that works). Hmm, those Kromm ant-talents and my suggested anti-talents are different in many ways, but as far as I can tell, they could be used together in a game just fine, with a character taking whichever version fits the concept better. (Just not a similar version of each in the same character; that might get a little messy!)

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