My GURPS GM complains that the PCs put a point or two in most skills, except for combat skills which get 10-20% of our character points. Aside from the fact that he asks us to make more combat checks than all the other skill checks combined, I'm convinced that part of why we do this is because there are more things to do with high combat scores. I like rolling against a 13 or 14. That's where most of my skills end up. My weapons skills are usually around 20, so I'll make a deceptive attack or a head shot or something, bringing the target down to a 13 or 14. There are enough combat maneuvers that apply a penalty that it's fun and interesting to have a high stat, which enables us to use those maneuvers.

Do non-combat maneuvers exist in GURPS? If so, where can I find them? Will they let me take a -4 to my Carousing skill in order to gain some benefit if successful? And, just for speculation's sake, might they help my group find reasons to justify putting more points in non-combat skills?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Which edition are you playing / asking about? \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Apr 11 '11 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't noticed any significant difference between 3rd and 4th edition beyond point costs, so I don't think it matters. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 11 '11 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gomad 4th, I think. I'm not too involved in GURPS, which is why I need help finding rules I suspect exist. \$\endgroup\$ – valadil Apr 11 '11 at 23:08

Actually, there are non-combat techniques, and in GURPS 4th edition they are covered together with combat ones (starting on page 229 of "Characters" volume). In the basic set there are just some examples, such as Lifesaving (a Swimming technique), which has a starting score of Swimming-5, and a few more. These techniques have a default value given by a standard skill minus something, and can be improved independently of the main skill.

However, high levels in non-combat skills are very useful for other reasons too. For instance, often you have to specialise to a particular way of using the skill, and other ways default to the main skill level, minus something. For instance, if you have Piloting, you must specialise, say in Light Airplanes. Most other specialisations (such as Heavy Airplane or Glider) are at Piloting-4, or -5 for such things as Helicopters. Add to this the standard negative modifiers (in this example, difficult flying conditions, hard maneuvres etc.), and a high skill is well justified. Ditto for other large areas, such as Engineer, Driving, etc.

Finally, the default system could also encourage one to spend some points in skills that give interesting defaults. For instance, a high Physician skill give some level in such skills as Diagnosis, First Aid, Pharmacy, Physiology, Surgery etc. (and, in some cases, vice versa).

  • \$\begingroup\$ That looks exactly like what I was looking for. Do any of the other GURPS books enumerate more such skill techniques? Well, yes of course they do, it's GURPS. Where can I find more such skill techniques? Also are there any generic techniques? I like to use something that reduces time spent on a skill like First Aid that takes 30 minutes to apply. \$\endgroup\$ – valadil Apr 11 '11 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Time Spent rules on p346 of the 4e Basic Set give you a generic rule for time-saving, -1 per 10% less time. The Efficient perk from GURPS Power-Ups 2: Perks lets you buy off -2 of that penalty, for one point, for one skill. There are lots more combat techniques in GURPS Martial Arts, but there isn't a Big Book of Non-Combat Techniques. \$\endgroup\$ – John Dallman Jul 23 '16 at 18:29

GURPS Martial Arts (for GURPS 3R) introduced maneuvers to me; it only exemplified them for combat, but noted they could be used for any skills at the GM's option. IIRC, Compedium or Compendium 2 included several non-combat maneuvers, as well, but I don't have them to hand to check.


This is a great question, and seems to me that many non-combat activities could be more fleshed out into more detailed game-able events. Usually things are left up to the GM, who sometimes might not be up to the task and think of everything as a flat skill roll. However there are some rules for various activities, or at least some guideline difficulty modifiers, spread around the books. GURPS Autoduel and Vehicles have rules for various maneuvers, for example. Also the optional rules on injury which track individual wounds and time spent stopping blood loss while people bleed, can make life-saving triage after violence into something quite significant, if you can get into that.

The best place to look for a framework and some details and ideas may be in the GURPS Basic Set 4e, pages 343-361 is a nice set of guidelines and some decent rules and modifiers for various types of non-combat activities.


I know that with a GM like this it would be difficult, but assessing penalties in difficult situation is no problem for most GMs. I remember my brother's character, a spaceship racer with piloting about 23. There were several car chases, bike races and other opportunities where he took risks worth even -10 (once he has intimidated platoon of enemy soldiers by flying less than a meter above their heads, in a fighter he piloted for a first time) and he regularly won contests of skills with rival racers/chasers even with extreme negative modifications for skill defaults, bad/damaged vehicles, unnecessary risk etc.

Contest of skills is another reason for high skills, especially social ones. Having several NPCs with Will 15+ (but few with Unfazeable/Indomitable) makes skills such as Fast Talk, Diplomacy, Intimidation or Detect Lies useful on high levels.


Yes, to an Extent

Yes, there are non-combat manoeuvre options and techniques, though they're spread thinner than combat ones. The line between the two can be blurrier than usual, as GURPS deliberately rejects application of combat-like structure to many other areas (most notably social interactions). In practice, there's usually just the situation in which additional details and a skill modifier apply, and if it's a penalty, it can also be bought off as a Technique (or, in other cases, negated or reduced by a Perk); there's no formal tagging as a 'noncombat option' or 'manoeuvre option'.

Social Techniques are probably the most numerous of the noncombat ones, though even they aren't as numerous as combat ones.

Example of a Social Techniques

A favourite example of a social technique is Elicitation. Normally, one can either just use Carousing at +0 in a request for information, trying to use the atmosphere of an enjoyable courtly ball or punky rave (whichever is appropriate for the setting, situation, and the character's Familiarities) to ask people to share rumours about the local leader.

But that has the downside of people realising what kind of data one is trying to dig up. If you want to avoid that, you can try a harder, subtler approach, known as Elicitation:

In fact, ideally, the subject doesn’t realize he was being questioned, or doesn’t know what the topic was! [ . . . ] The questioner approaches the topic indirectly, while overtly seeming to converse about something else; apply a penalty of the questioner’s choice to the Influence skill, and the same penalty to the subject’s Will.

The above is a partial excerpt from Social Engineering, just to demonstrate what such Techniques tend to be like.

Where to Find Them

GURPS Social Engineering is a major source of extra detail on game-mechanical handling of all sorts of social stuff - persuading people, cultivating a media persona, manoeuvring through bureaucratic and/or political landscapes etc. The accompanying release of Pyramid (54) expands on it, lists more Techniques, and adds social Styles.

GURPS Low-Tech Contains a handful of Techniques related to medicine and riding.

GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers and GURPS Psionic Powers have rules that employ Techniques and modifiers applied to supernatural abilities, though those are a mix of combat and noncombat ones.

The rest are rather few and far between, but hopefully the existing examples can serve as a basis on which you and the GM can build your own, once you're acquainted with the principles.


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