I'm planning a GURPS 4e game in a scenario that uses monster parts as material for weapons and armors. After searching my books, however, I couldn't find a proper way to dismantle monsters (or even animals).

Does GURPS 4e have a skill (or group of skills) suitable for dismantling? If it does, which one(s)? If not, how can it be done?


GURPS is all about modularity and customisation, so it depends on how much detail you want. Fortunately Dungeon Fantasy RPG (a standalone RPG “powered by GURPS”) puts monster-parts in the spotlight as a possible loot, so there's a set of skills already assembled for this kind of detail.

Single skill option

If you want a single-skill way to model this, the one that comes to mind is Surgery. It comes with a seal of approval from the line editor, who made it the “getting monster parts out of a monster without damaging the parts” skill in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG and the supplements that preceded it. This is what I'd go with if internal bits are valuable for “infusing” during weapon and armour crafting.

(Normally Surgery is species-specific, but if you're going for a single-skill monster parts treatment, ignore that and just let it work however. Instead now, it's the skill at cutting into things without messing up the valuable parts.)

If you're thinking less internal organs and more easily-harvestable things (skins, horns, etc.), consider instead Survival as the one-skill way to harvest monster parts, since that knowledge is naturally part of a hunting and foraging skill. This is what I'd go with if I was using monsters parts as the main materials for weapon and armour crafting.

Multiple skills option

If you want more detail, or you want to see some diversity or specialisation among your PCs, DFRPG's monster-parts rules provide some more skills for monster parts harvesting:

  • Use both Surgery and Survival, for internal and external parts, respectively.
  • Poisons for milking venomous creatures/monsters — for obvious reasons.
  • Hazardous Materials for collecting and safely containing weird non-poison substances, like flesh-eating slime or acid blood.

Knowledge skills before harvesting option

DFRPG further suggests skills for identifying valuable parts, before being able to harvest them.

Again, this is another layer of detail that you may or may not want. It can also be combined with either the single-skill option (just pick one knowledge skill), or with the multiple-skills option.

So if you want monster parts to just be obvious when seen, or be well-known already among the PC population, you probably don't want this level of detail. If you want to make monster parts harvesting its own challenge to both player skill and character skill though, you might consider these DFRPG options:

  • Naturalist to identify external parts removable with Survival, like the aforementioned skins and horns.
  • Physiology ([creature-type]) to know/identify what's inside it enough to even think of using Surgery to get internal organs.

    Notably, DFRPG uses the fact that this is specialised to a creature-type category (though still pretty broad ones, like “undead” or “demons”) as a way to gate the Surgery skill by creature type, without requiring PCs to invest in many specialisations of both skills.

  • Thaumatology to identify weird, magical monster parts (like, what parts of a lich are actually even useful?), before a Surgery roll to get it out intact.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that Surgery is assumed by default to be for the same species. In Dungeon Fantasy, does just knowing Surgery allow you to roll without a penalty? Or do the physiology modifiers on p.181 apply? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec May 20 '18 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec Ah, that's right. Yeah, DFRPG just lets it be for whatever species. I'm actually expanding this answer for a few options (because that's what GURPS is about). DFRPG gates Surgery with a Physiology skill check to identify parts, and that skill is specialised to one (broad) creature type (e.g., undead, demons, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 20 '18 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this expanded answer. BTW, the first couple hits I got Googling "DFRPG" were about Dresden Files, so I thought I'd add a link to the exact product you're talking about for clarity. As always, feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec May 21 '18 at 1:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec Good call—and after the edit I had failed to explain the acronym before using it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 21 '18 at 2:04

It all depends on how hard you want this to be. In my experience, GURPS can simulate whatever you want at whatever level of detail you want, so it comes down to how much hassle you want to be involved. By way of analogy, in some settings "crewing a spaceship" requires only the Spacer skill, and in others (like our world) it requires expertise or at least familiarity with Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Navigation (Air and Space), Computer Operation, Vacc Suit, Free Fall, Pilot (Aerospace)... you get the idea.

So, if this is a totally routine activity in your setting, it might be included as part of Naturalist (knowing which animals have useful parts and how to get them) or Survival (the general hunting-and-foraging skill.) On the other hand, if this is essentially unknown (improvised) or highly specialized knowledge, it might take a Naturalist, Biology, or Physiology roll to even know how monsters work and what organs might be helpful, a DX-based Cooking or Surgery roll to butcher them properly and extract the relevant bits, Leatherworking or equivalent to properly tan or otherwise preserve them, Engineering to know exactly how to incorporate random body parts into something useful, and some specialization of Armoury to execute (and Armoury knowledge in 4e is pretty highly specialized).

Of course, not all of these necessarily have to be done by the same individuals. In many MMO's, for example, extraction and collection are done by one party, who may collect the items (warning: TVTropes) in a stack and sell them to another, who combines them using a "formula" or "pattern" created by a third party, etc.

So, again, it really comes down to how much time, energy, and points you want your characters (and players) to invest in this. My thinking, as with other potentially "fiddly" systems like encumbrance or post-fight ammo retrieval, is that it should be either trivial or epic - if you're going to make players really stop and think about it, give them significant motivation to do so.


The Dungeon Fantasy supplement DF19 Incantation magic uses an IQ/A professional skill called Dungeon Butcher, that is specifically for extraction of magical components.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This could be improved with an example or two, but still, good find! \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil Sep 8 '19 at 20:16

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