GURPS: Perception

When I first encountered PK's House Rules, and specifically his suggestion to decouple Perception and Will from IQ, I was immediately on board. Considering myself to be pretty intelligent but not terribly strong of will or perceptive, I understood intuitively the message he was trying to convey. But having looked a bit more closely at Perception, at least, I'm beginning to think I may have jumped to conclusions.

To begin, look at the list of skills that are based on Perception. Search, Scrounging and Observation are pretty straight-forward complements to a basic Perception roll in specific, more difficult situations. But that's where that simple one-to-one mapping ends. The rest of the skills, things like Detect Lies and Body Language and Fishing(!) rely on the fact that Perception is not just about 20/20 vision or passing a hearing test, but about how quickly your brain can process the information that comes in by way of your senses. Not how well you can see but how your brain handles what you're seeing, the difference between hearing and listening.

The advantages bundled under Acute Senses seem to reinforce this interpretation. You are specifically advised against allowing players to add these heightened senses after character creation (without specific setting-related reasons), while increasing Perception is specifically suggested. You can get better at paying attention, but upgrading your eyes, well, you'd better be playing in a cyberpunk campaign for that.

So, perhaps a variant is in order. Maybe we don't decouple Perception from IQ after all, and allow those who are truly not observant to simply buy down Perception as one of their disadvantages. Couple that with the options for specific disadvantages to indicate a physical deficiency (Bad Sight/Blindness, Hard of Hearing/Deafness, No Sense of Smell/Taste - sadly, Bad Smell is something else entirely) and you can build the character you want without too much fiddling to keep your genius from being the de-facto best fisherman in the party because of his staggering default skill.

Jury's still out in Will, though. I think it may still need to be decoupled from IQ, but I was willing to admit I was wrong about Perception, so perhaps that's a subject for another article.


  1. Just a link to a perceptive comment I made once:

  2. The reason I think Will is tied to IQ in GURPS is that, in theory, higher GURPS IQ people tend to have more excess "processing power" to analyze the long term consequences for their actions.


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