Quick quibbles with SM in GURPS 4e

I’m glad that 4e now incorporates something as simple and basic as a size for characters! SM, what took you so long?

My friendly little quibbles with SM as s/he stands (Basic Set p 19) are as follows:

1) The official rule is to round a creature’s SM up – unless it’s a humanoid over 2 yards tall, in which case leave it at SM 0. I’d change that to “round to the nearest SM”. That neatly keeps humanoids, especially the countless hero PCs that top 6 feet, at SM 0 without special exceptions. (However, it does place 5’2″-or-shorter people at SM -1, for better or worse.)

By that same guideline, I would keep people with Gigantism at SM 0, not SM +1, unless they were really tall. To me, SM +1 says Ogre, not Richard Keil.

2) I’ve used “boost target size for blocky or circular shape” for many years, and it’s good to see 4e adopt it as well. But I’d add a technical note that shape boosts SM for target size purpose only. It shouldn’t boost SM for other purposes, such as Reach (p 402).

(And I won’t add a related quibble yet, as I’m not sure of the answer, but: Is there still no official link between SM and map hexes (p 392)?)

3) To heck with p 459; I say horses are SM +2, even if a smallish SM +2 for some. Horses are big, big animals. Scary, even. Let donkeys, ponies, and other 2-hex mounts be SM +1, and let 3-hex horses be SM +2. The creatures’ weights are very much in line with those SM designations.

That all suggests some simple guideines for how many SM X humanoids can ride a SM Y mount. Will ponder.

(In any case, I don’t know what Richard Keil weighs, but let’s not saddle him and a 2000-lb draft horse with the same SM, okay?)


  • Esteemed Visitor

    I think that the source of one’s size should be irrelevant. All that matters is the actual size. If you had an NPC race of half-giants who averaged 7’2″ wouldn’t you give them SM+1? Yet, just because Kiel’s size comes from acromegaly (aka Gigantism), you’d leave him at SM0?

    • 117

      I don’t think that’s his point at all. I think his implication was that an Ogre is going to be, say, 10-14 feet tall, not a “mere” seven. Maybe I misread, but, well, one of us did, at any rate.

    • tbone

      117 is correct: I’m only suggesting that humans with Gigantism aren’t quite big enough to justify SM +1, under my personal preferences. Rounding to the nearest SM mark (not rounding up), most “giant” people would stay SM 0.

      But however you slice it, there’ll come some magic point at which an extra fraction of an inch has the person make a huge jump up to SM +1. That’s unavoidable. What to do with a 7’6″ “giant”? Hand him SM +1? Or hold him down to SM 0, based on the idea that the person’s width, depth, and overall power don’t quite keep up with his admittedly SM +1 height?

      There’s no right answer. Maybe 4e would argue that it generously treats all cases of Gigantism as SM +1 just in the name of fun, drama, and simplicity. If so, I wouldn’t have a problem with that!

      • mcv

        There is indeed an arbitrary point when a human is not SM 0 anymore, but SM+1 (or SM-1 for really small people). I don’t see why that’s a problem. It’s not really any different from the difference between ST 10 and ST 11. Both SM and ST are abstractions related to size/height/bulk and ability to perform strength-based feats (lifting, punching damage, etc) respectively.

        If you put a big, strong, 2 meter tall (6’7″?) guy next to a tiny 1.60 meter (5’4″?) tall girl, it’s easy to recognise their difference in size. Is the guy easier to hit from a distance? I’d guess so. The difference in bulk is obvious.

        I really see no problem granting 7’6″ (almost 2.30m?) tall humans SM+1.

        • tbone

          I’m not seeing any problem; sorry to be unclear. To clarify: I like my rule of “round to the nearest SM”, but I’ll admit that there’s a neatness to the RAW “all Gigantism is SM +1”, should anyone value that neatness.

          So should I say all Gigantism is SM +1, for neatness and the dramatic effect of “make the trait mean something”? Or stick with my technical rule, rounding to the nearest SM and making some giants SM 0, some SM +1? Or, a third route, keep all human giants at SM 0, noting that even if height alone is technically SM +1, the rest of the person (width, depth, power, weight) doesn’t quite match that Ogre-like size?

          I tend to favor the latter. But any of those will work; whichever a GM chooses, it is – just as you say – not a problem!

          • mcv

            I’m not sure what Gigantism really means. Does it just mean you’re very tall? If so, how tall? IMO being one SM bigger than the average member of the population sounds like the only kind of meaning that Gigantism as a disadvantage can have. I don’t really like a disadvantage that says: “You’re a bit bigger than others, but it has no meaningful effect. Still, you get 5 extra points.” (Gigantism is -5 points, right?) Something like that is a quirk.

            But even then, whether being really big is actually a disadvantage depends a lot on the setting. In a fantasy setting with plenty of odd-sized races and a respect for physical strength, it can easily be an advantage. So I don’t really like Gigantism, but if you use it at all, at the very least make it mean SM+1.

            Alternatively, you could replace it with a generic Inconvenient Size. You’re so big or small that it’s impossible to find clothes that fit, fit in a car/economy class seat/space ship, can’t reach the gas pedal and steering wheel at the same time, etc. And what size is inconvenient enough to warrant as Inconvenient may vary greatly per setting. In some, the disadvantage may not become meaningful until you’re at SM+2.

            • tbone

              Gigantism is 0 points in 4e; it’s a mixture of minor helpful and harmful effects.

              SM is also a mixture of helpful and harmful effects, and is also 0 points. So whether a giant is SM 0 or SM +1 wouldn’t change the value of Gigantism.

              I can understand automatically lumping all giants into SM +1, from a dramatic point of view: if you’re going to have such a character at all in the game, make him a big giant, with big – even exaggerated – differences! From a more technical point of view, though, I could see leaving human giants at SM 0. Again, it’s not a big deal.

              I kind of miss the old Inconvenient Size disad, for the very reasons you mention: the disad value of size is very dependent upon setting. There’s a big difference between SM +2 in a setting where nothing at all fits you, and SM +2 in a setting where the inns all have high doorways for Giant guests and the convenient Ogres Plus armor shop is just an extra block down the street. An adjustable Inconvenient Size handles that well.

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