Looking to ply your PC with new powers but can’t pay the points? Perk up! Whether you call them perks (GURPS) or just 1-point advantages (DFRPG), single-point purchases make for interesting differentiators and even snack-sized superpowers.
Below are some perks of my own invention, for your consideration and use. Leave a comment if any seem particularly interesting!
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), introduced in GURPS Power-Ups 2: Perks, specifies some task or action that a character performs as a matter of course, even off-screen – reloading weapons (good for action heroes), sitting with your back to a wall (good for paranoid heroes), and many more. This lets the player and GM assume that the PC performed the action in question, without the player having to say that the PC did so. (While DFRPG doesn’t include this perk, it’ll work just fine in that game too.)
Unless noted otherwise, the SOPs below are from the article As Good As Done: New Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) perks for GURPS. See that article for general thoughts on the care and use of SOP perks.
The SOPs below are easy to work into play and should be broadly useful for adventurers. (Several automate actions that practically define the adventurer PC . . . )
You maintain a predetermined position within a certain group when on the move. This is useful for soldiers on the march – or dungeon raiders creeping down a corridor. (Individual PCs with this SOP will maintain a general position within an unruly group, but overall order may be a mess if all members of the party don’t buy it.)
Check the Body
Also known as No Surprises or And Stay Down. After a fight (or during, if you have the time), you check whether downed foes are truly down, or tied up, or in whatever state you want them. Given a choice, you never turn your back on a downed foe until you’re sure it’s safe! (Edit 2022-08-17: Hey, this same SOP also appears on GURPS Zombies p. 31!) (This SOP goes well with a cautious attitude . . . or Bloodlust. Hapless horror story characters, meanwhile, take the opposite action – Never, Ever Check the Body – as an inevitably fatal quirk.)
Loot the Bodies
You work over corpses for coins, gear, or whatever you can steal. Eww. (Come on, you do this anyway; you just don’t have to say it any more.) On a corpse-strewn battlefield, the GM is still free to ask you how much time you intend to spend on postmortem pat-downs.
Always at Hand
You keep a specified item close at hand, even when sleeping. A handgun under the pillow is a classic example. (The GM can rule on what “close at hand” means; a large item like a shield won’t reasonably always be on your person. If in doubt, call it 1d6 seconds away.)
You collect unbroken arrows or other reusable ammo after a fight. (How many can be found in good shape is up to the GM; if nothing seems reasonable, try rolling 1d6 to get 10-60% reclaimable.)
Up to Data
You keep your address books, journals, notebooks, databases, and other information stores up to date, in good condition, and backed up (if computerized).
You reliably maintain a diary, log, or other record of information, typically adding to it once per day. Give the GM a brief description of the sort of information you keep, and its level of detail. (This could be a copious amount, or even a running stream of note-taking – but serious demands on time and attention may apply.)
You lack a fear of paperwork and deskwork. When time presents itself, you attack that stack: mail gets answered, taxes get filed, reports get submitted. This doesn’t mean you’re necessarily better or faster at the actual tasks than others; you simply do the deskwork that others put off. (Which does make you faster at it in the end.)
SOPs with likely resource conditions
The SOPs below are largely “off-screen” actions that may require skills to perform successfully, or may require time, money, or other resources to perform at all. See notes in the linked article.
You always keeps some category of item replenished (e.g., drugs and supplies in your medical kit). (This is similar to Energizer, Full Tank, and Off-Screen Reload from Perks.)
You always keep some category of item checked, repaired, and ready (such as sharpening weapons and checking armor after every fight). (This, too, is akin to the above-mentioned perks.)
You check, feed, and otherwise care for a pet, mount, etc. at appropriate times (generally at least once per day). (Again, this is in a similar vein to the above-mentioned perks.)
You reliably run through a checklist of tasks, typically when changing locations, starting or ending a job shift, or at the end of the day. Examples include a “closing time” round of checks (doors, window, stoves, etc.) for an innkeeper, a final security sweep for a night watchman, or a daily round of trap checking and resetting for a hunter. (This is a minor variation on Last Man Out from Perks, more clearly defined as running through a formal or informal list of procedures.)
Leave No Trace
You are careful to erase traces of your presence and activities. This should generally require an SOP for each key action: hiding your tracks while walking, picking up your bullet casings, wiping fingerprints, erasing traces of computer usage, etc. (The result may be penalties on foes to find you through Tracking, Forensics, Criminology, and so on – but keep in mind that effective erasure generally entails considerable time and skill.)
This SOPs below involve focusing your attention on targets of interest. The GM may award you a special roll to notice items of interest related to those targets – threats, attempts at Stealth or Shadowing, or other points of interest – or may give you a small bonus if anyone would get such a roll. However, the GM may penalize your attempts to notice things other than that focus when the SOP is in play. See notes in the linked article.
You carefully scan any room you enter for available exits, number of people, potential threats, etc. (In general, use Observation skill to notice points of interest; roll against an appropriate skill like Tactics to put observations to good use.)
Like a Hawk
You keep a close watch on some person or item of interest: a dependent, a buddy, other members of the party, etc. This may help you quickly notice an absence, a change in behavior, etc. With the GM’s permission, the target of your attention can vary (such as “current client” if you are a bodyguard). Keep in mind that a large number of targets or a hard-to-follow target will seriously divert your attention from everything else.
Similar to Like a Hawk, but you watch strangers around you while resting or when otherwise given a chance. This may be out of some academic interest, nefarious intent (spotting “marks” to scam), or just a general love (or fear!) of people.
Similar to Like a Hawk, but you pick a certain direction or area to watch. This generally means acting as the rear guard who scans the path behind, the flank guard who watches one side, and so on – even the point-person on the alert for threats ahead, overhead, or underfoot (pick one).
You keep a constant eye out for some class of item as you travel: herbs, small game, firewood, etc. This may aid passive Scrounging attempts.
Musicians are notorious for performance- or practice-related superstitions and routines (among other oddities and peccadillos). Unless noted otherwise, the following ideas for fantasy bards or other music-makers are from the article Dungeon Fantasy: The Musical! (feat. Bards).
Also known as “Brahms and Liszt” (a real term!) or “Dungeon Dean Martin”. You actually do sing or play better when soused (+1 skill instead of a penalty). (This is the performance version of Drunken Fighting, the combat perk that lets you fight better when drunk. Leave some extra room in that lute case for one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer.)
You’ve composed a signature tune for the adventuring party. Playing it as a buff has the effect of Encouragement (Dungeon Fantasy: Dungeons p. 11). Give the bard’s Musical Instrument or Singing roll a +1 for every player (bard player included) who sings or hums it!
You always keeps your instruments in top condition (repaired, tuned, oiled, de-slimed, etc.). This is simply Equipment Check, a perk from the Standard Operating Procedures list above, renamed for musicians.
A leveled perk representing ability to hit unusually high and low notes. Buy up to 4 levels in the high direction for a piercing treble, up to 4 levels in the low direction for a rumbling bass. This has no major game effect, but would make a bard more distinctive, and perhaps let a singer mimic a famous soprano or properly sing the Frog King’s favorite basso march. It could even – GM’s call – act as an enhancement or requisite for an unusual Singing technique or Bard-Song. (If your game is hyper-focused on musical feats, try this instead: Assume a character has a vocal range of (HT or Singing)/4 octaves, centered on some arbitrary pitch. This perk effectively becomes an Average technique, adding to HT or Singing for that calculation.)
Some sort of loud anatomical scraper, chirper, etc.; perfect for Coleopteran bards, if not cricket for other races.
Whatever “wrongness” triggers the Frightens Animals disadvantage (p. B137), you sense it on a Perception roll, or a Smell roll if it’s a pheromonal thing. (The Animal Friend Talent adds its level this sense roll.) You don’t experience the fear yourself; you simply sense that the target individual instills panic or disgust in animals, which may suggest a demonic origin or the like.
In fantasy games, this perk makes sense for characters with the Outdoorsman Talent, Sense Evil, high Perception, druidic abilities, or ties to the bestial world (an animal totem, an “animal” race, etc.). The Animal Empathy advantage already includes this perk, as the Frightens Animals text reads, “Anyone… with Animal Empathy – reacts to you at -1.” Animals themselves don’t need this perk; they already sense Frightens Animals (in the form of fear).
More to come?
Surely there will be more. In the meantime, a bonus perk:
You always leave comments on online articles of interest, adding your own thoughts and contributions.
Does that describe you? If so, feel free to leave thoughts on the above, comments on any published perks of note, or an introduction to your own original perks.