GURPS Space Rangers:Building Characters

Advantages and Disadvantages

Creating Rangers

In this campaign, all characters will be members of the Commonwealth’s oldest and least conventional law enforcement agency, the Space Rangers. The only requirements are that Rangers must take the “Ranger Package” described below and be mentally and physically able to perform their duties. It is thus recommended that the character have no mental or physical disadvantages that might either interfere with their duty or cause them to be of a character unfit for law enforcement. Examples of appropriate and inappropriate disadvantages are given below. Where page references are given, plain numbers refer to this booklet. Page numbers preceded by a “B” (e.g. “see p. B245”) refer to pages in the GURPS Basic Set, Third Edition. Page references preceded by “CI” and “CII” refer to pages in the GURPS Compendium I and GURPS Compendium II respectively.

For best results, create most Space Ranger player characters using 100 points. this will result in a superior individual, but by no means a superman. It would pretty realistically represent the type of individual that would succeed as a Space Ranger. To be a Space Ranger also means taking the 0-point Space Ranger package (see below).

The Ranger Package      0 points

To play a Ranger character, it is necessary to take the Ranger package, which consists of the Legal Enforcement Powers advantage (10 points) and the Duty to the Rangers disadvantage (-10 points). There may be other advantages and disadvantages appropriate to a Ranger character; see Ranger’s Code of Honor and Sense of Duty: Rangers for two very good examples.

Legal Enforcement Powers      10 points

Ten points of the Legal Enforcement Powers means that the character has jurisdiction throughout the Commonwealth, including any Commonwealth planet anywhere in Commonwealth space. Within this jurisdiction the Ranger has the power to arrest suspects for any crime (which right even the Patrol does not have), to carry out covert investigations, and to carry a concealed weapon.

The police powers of the Rangers are limited by the Commonwealth Constitution, which is very similar to the US. Constitution of the late twentieth century. The major difference in civil rights is that suspects can be held for up to ten standard Terran days (or 240 hours) without charges. The increased holding time allows the authorities enough time to travel between star systems to produce witnesses, evidence, or information. Even this increased holding period has a limitation; if it is abused, the suspect can file charges against the arresting officers. The Rangers in particular are allowed to play a little fast and loose, even though they are no longer considered the front-line law-enforcement agency in the Commonwealth. This does stop short of violating people’s Constitutional rights, and had better be backed up with results.

Duty to Rangers   -10 points

This disadvantage means that a Ranger character has a responsibility to do his duty to the Commonwealth Space Rangers organization. The GM will roll to see whether the Ranger will be required to be called to a particular duty. This is not the same as simply having to show up at work. Rangers patrol, and stand watches, and are sent out on calls, but or the most part they are able to decide their own projects at least part of the time. However, on a roll of 12 or less, there is some task, mission, or other duty that must be done regardless of the Ranger’s wishes. When this is not the case, it is assumed that the Ranger is still doing his or her job; it’s just that he or she can do it his or her own way. This Duty is externally imposed and should not be confused with the Sense of Duty disadvantage, which is a strong sense of having to do one’s duty properly, and perhaps beyond the call. This Sense of Duty is self-imposed.


There are many advantages that might be appropriate for characters in a Space Rangers campaign. Some are clearly inappropriate or might not fit the style of this campaign.

Acceleration Tolerance  10 points

A character with the Acceleration Tolerance advantage can better withstand the sudden heavy g-forces experienced during extreme acceleration or maneuvering. It allows +5 on the HT rolls required to avoid the effects of acceleration. It is not to be confused with Improved G-Tolerance, which is listed below.

Bionics     Variable—consult the GM

Bionic technology exists, and people use it. However, this campaign is not about bionics, so a starting character with bionics would not be in keeping with the spirit and style of the Space Rangers concept. It will be possible to get Bionics later, though, when and if one has one’s leg shot off.

Contacts    Variable—consult the GM

Rangers, like most law enforcement agents, use contacts to get information. Contacts can be in business, in police or military organizations, or on the street. They can also be of any level. Thus, you can have a low-level member of the local Mob or his chief, a secretary or a CEO, the planetary militia commander or the guy who guards the gate. Point costs vary; choose carefully.

G-Experience      10 points

This advantage assumes that the character has enough experience in different gravity fields to have learned to adapt to them. A character with the G-experience advantage only suffers half the DX penalty in an unfamiliar gravitational field.

In situations where the unfamiliar gravity would help, G-experience allows the character to roll at his or her normal DX, plus whatever modifier the gravity lends, plus an additional +1 for the G-experience. Example: if a character on a low-gravity planet gets a +1 or his fencing roll, a character with G-experience would have a total +2.

This is treated as an advantage rather than a skill because some people, no matter how many times they change gravity fields, are not able to adjust easily, while others can. This makes G-experience more like an advantage than a skill.

Improved G-Tolerance    5/10/15/20/25 points

The character with Improved G-Tolerance can operate within a wider spectrum of gravity than the average human. Average human G-tolerance is measured in .2 G increments. That means, for instance that the average earth inhabitant can operate fairly normally in gravity from .8 to 1.2 times Earth normal gravity. Anything higher or lower and penalties (or sometimes bonuses) come into play. Those adjustments increase with each additional .2 G that the gravity differs from what the character considers “normal.”

For 5 points this differential can be changed to .3 G. An increment of .5 G costs 10 points. 1 g costs 15 points, 5 G costs 20 points, and 10 G costs 25 points

Example: Helga Highwater has 10 points of Improved G-Tolerance. This means she can operate normally in any gravity between on half Earth’s gravity (.5 G) and one and a half times earth normal (1.5 G). She suffers a penalty with each additional .5 G she encounters.

Legal Enforcement Powers      10 points

See “The Ranger Package.”

Military Rank     5 points/level of rank

The Rangers have fewer ranks than other services like the Patrol. This reflects their rather nonmilitary history and tradition. The Military Rank advantage, therefore, does not mean much for a Ranger. Ranger ranks reflect one’s seniority and responsibility in a given jurisdiction, not necessarily a military chain of command. The Rangers have only five rank levels:

Rank 4: Chief Ranger

Rank 3: Ranger Captain

Rank 2: Ranger Lieutenant

Rank 1: Ranger Sergeant

Rank 0: Ranger

Most Rangers spend their careers at Rank 0. They often work independently, for example staffing the Ranger office in a small colony, sometimes as the only Ranger on a space station or even an entire planet. In most cases, though, a given world, province, or installation will have a group of Rangers working out of the local Ranger station. Rangers will work in pairs most of the time. (The tradition of sticking by one’s partner is as old as organized law enforcement.) Each pair of partners will belong to a larger administrative unit known as a squad, though in most cases what squad one belongs to makes little difference. Squads as a whole will be assigned to big cases or work as a larger team in emergencies. Squads can be made up of as few as four Rangers and as many as ten or even twelve, though many Ranger stations will have fewer than twelve Rangers. Sergeants lead squads. Sometimes an entire planet will have no more than four or five Rangers on it, led by a Ranger Sergeant.

The basic division of Rangers is known as a “Section.” This is loosely defined as all the Rangers within a given jurisdiction. The leader of a Section is always referred to as “the Chief Ranger” even though he or she is just as likely to be of lower rank. Some “sections” are only the size of squads, while others may consist of several squads. This sometimes leaves bureaucrats scratching their heads. For example, in one jurisdiction, a mining colony, there was a “section” of only four Rangers, led by a “Chief Ranger” who was in fact only a Sergeant. In the adjoining jurisdiction, a busy planet with much interstellar trade and busy starports, The Section had four squads, all of them counting about eight Rangers. The “squads” in the latter were bigger than the “section” in the former.

After Rank 4, Chief Ranger, there are no higher ranks, just more responsibilities. Chief Rangers are appointed to head sections by the local Commonwealth Attorney’s office. The Commonwealth Attorney’s office also has Rangers attached to it. They are responsible for inspecting and overseeing the operations of all Ranger Sections in the Sector. Commonly called “Inspectors,” they are nevertheless only of Chief Ranger rank even though they have considerably more clout than the Chief Ranger of even the biggest Section. Promotion is possible beyond even that level, but it usually involves transferring to a civilian administrative position in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for that sector or some other post in the Commonwealth’s Justice Ministry.

Patrons     Variable

A Patron is a powerful person with a special personal interest in helping the character out. While some patrons are organizations, simply being a member of the Space Rangers does not make them your patron. While the Rangers do take care of their own, a patron will go to greater lengths. It might be that a high-ranking Ranger has taken a personal interest in you, enough to go to bat for you when you are in trouble or to give you extra help in an investigation. Perhaps a Patrol admiral whose son you rescued might give you more than the usual amount of support. In any case a Patron, whether an individual or a group, will give you more than the ordinary amount of help.

Reputation  5 points per +1

The reputation advantage is completely open to Ranger characters. Remember that the reputation will be an individual one, not one that comes automatically simply from being a Ranger. Cost varies based on how good the reputation is, and by how many people it affects. Reputation can also be a disadvantage; if your reputation is a bad one, it can prove to make working with people or getting their cooperation much more difficult.

Status      5 points per level

While the Commonwealth is mostly democratic, it would be a lie to say that it is not very status-conscious. Most ordinary people have Status 0. Starport bums might have Status -1. Status is based on one’s position in society, much of which comes from one’s income. While it is possible to have a millionaire playboy join the Rangers, it is most unlikely. Most Rangers will probably Have status 0.

3D Spatial Sense  10 points

An enhanced form of Absolute Direction, 3D Spatial Sense allows the character possessing it to know which way the ship is pointed, how one’s orientation relates to the galactic disk, and so on. It isn’t much help during a jump, but the rest of the time it lets the character intuitively know which way is up. It adds +2 to Astrogation skill and +1 to spaceship or starship Piloting.

Inappropriate Advantages

Since this is a space opera campaign, any advantage appropriate to the genre can be selected, though the GM has the right to put the kibosh on anything that might make the character unwieldy, excessively powerful, or interesting enough but not appropriate for the story I am telling. Besides, I believe there is more challenge in making a hard-working Ranger with an ex-wife and kids come to life than there is in playing a seven-foot, fire-breathing vampire ninja. Which one needs more courage to go down a dark alley after an armed drug dealer?


Some of the GURPS disadvantages might fit in a Space Rangers campaign. Some will be inappropriate for PCs in a campaign of this style.

Acceleration Weakness   -5 points

This is the opposite of the Acceleration Tolerance advantage. Characters with this disadvantage get a -3 adjustment to HT on any roll to avoid the effects of acceleration.

Duty to Rangers   -10 points

See “The Ranger Package.”

G-Intolerance     -10/-20 points

This disadvantage means that the character can function under a narrower range of gravity than the average human. Normal human G-tolerance is measured in increments of 0.2 G. Increments of 0.1 G are worth -10 points. Increments of 0.05 G are worth -20 points. See the “Improved G-Tolerance” advantage for an explanation.

Jump Transition Disorientation      Variable

A certain amount of disorientation during an interstellar jump is normal. The Jump Transition Disorientation disadvantage means that the character suffers from a more serious form of it.

Such disorientation occurs any time that a sentient being makes the transition from normal spaceflight into jump drive or from jump drive into normal space. A roll vs. HT must be made to avoid the effects. Here are the effects and their respective costs.

Nuisance: the character is mentally stunned and must roll against HT – 5 to recover. Only one attempt is allowed per ten seconds. This is only dangerous when emerging into hostile situations. Everybody suffers from at least this. 0 points.

Mild: The character is mentally stunned and takes 2 dice of Fatigue. -5 points.

Severe: The victim must make a HT roll. On a success, he is mentally stunned for 1dx10 minutes. On a failure, he is stunned for 1d hours. A critical failure doubles this time. – 10 points.

Very Severe: As above, but the victim also takes damage: 1 HT if the duration is less than an hour, 2 HT if the duration is an hour or more. -15 points.

Nightmare: this is a mental effect that a few people get. In addition to the whatever physical effect the character suffers (at least Nuisance), the character also must make a Will roll. On a failure, he or she has intensely disturbing visions. Go to the Fright Table and roll as though he or she had failed a fright check by twice the amount the Will roll was missed by. -15 points.

Critical: The sufferer takes 1 die of damage, and then makes a HT roll. If it is a failure, he or she takes another die of damage. Shock and knockdown effects are as for normal injury. This can kill you. -20 points.

Intolerance -5/-10 points

In a universe filled with a myriad of species, it is quite possible that a character may turn out to be intolerant of others unlike himself. This is probably not the best thing for a law officer to be, even more so a Ranger, because of the nature of the Ranger’s duties and contacts. Nevertheless, it is a possible disadvantage for a Ranger character—but it will cause problems!

If the intolerant character is intolerant of just one race, culture, or faith (whatever is appropriate), the disadvantage is worth just -5 points. If the target of intolerance is rarely encountered, it is worth even less, all the way down to a -1 point quirk for very rare creatures. Even on a positive reaction, the intolerant character will never be at ease or friendly with the disliked being; the best he can do is a stiff civility. Most intelligent beings will notice this intolerance, and react to it negatively.

It is possible that a character will be intolerant of all races, cultures, or faiths other than his or her own. This type of intolerance is definitely worth -20 points.

Primitive   -5 points per level

A Primitive character comes from a world with a Tech Level lower than that of the Commonwealth. Since the overall Tech Level in the Commonwealth is TL 9, anything lower than that would be considered Primitive. The cost of this is -5 points per Tech Level below 9.

A character with this disadvantage cannot have any knowledge or default skills relating to equipment beyond his or her own Tech Level. Starting skills or equipment must come from his or her own culture. It is possible that more high-tech characters may look down on the Primitive character, but that would be a separate Social Stigma disadvantage.

The character may not learn mental skills relating to high-tech equipment until this disadvantage is bought off. Physical skills, such as Driving or those using weaponry, may be learned at no penalty.

Ranger’s Code of Honor  -10 points

The Code of Honor disadvantage means more than just believing in a certain code of behavior; it means being willing to live by that code even at the cost of one’s life. It is also internally generated; you live by it even if nobody else cares. While there is a certain ethic to being a Ranger (see “How to be a Ranger in Seven Easy Lessons”), the Ranger’s Code of Honor goes further. It is possible to be an extremely good Ranger without this code; with it, life is more difficult and even other Rangers might find you difficult to live with.

Ranger’s Code of Honor: Never give up on a case. Protect the innocent, no matter what. Follow the law and legal procedure no matter how frustrating. Never let personal emotions get in the way of doing the job correctly. Always be trustworthy to fellow Rangers. Always take criminals alive if it is at all possible.

Sense of Duty: Rangers  -10 points

Unlike ordinary Duty, a Sense of Duty comes from within. You feel bound to be a loyal Ranger. You will never shirk your duty, abandon your fellow rangers, or fail to help them when they’re in trouble. This would even go as far as going out at 3:00 AM to sit with a fellow Ranger who is drunk and upset over his impending divorce—even though you don’t like the guy! He’s a Ranger, and he needs someone; that’s all you need to know. If this Sense of Duty becomes known, you will have a +2 reaction roll from all Rangers—they know they can trust you.

Please note that this is not identical with Ranger’s Code of Honor above. It is possible that a corner-cutting, dirty Ranger will still feel a strong sense of loyalty to his brother and sister officers. As a matter of fact, dirty cops in today’s world often have strong loyalties to other cops, even though they are incredibly dishonorable in many ways.

GM╒s note: If you violate the interests of fellow Rangers even though you have taken the Sense of Duty: Rangers disadvantage is bad roleplaying, and there will be a penalty. Don’t take a disadvantage you are not totally ready to roleplay.

Sense of Duty     -5, -10, -15, -20 points

In addition to the Sense of Duty: Rangers disadvantage, it is possible to have a Sense of Duty to other people or groups, for example your companions, the Commonwealth, and so on. See p. B39 for more detail.

Space Sickness    -10 points

A character with the Space Sickness disadvantage is miserable in free fall (a.k.a. zero gravity). Such a character may never gain the Free Fall skill, and must use the DX-5 or HT-5 default for Free Fall operations, whichever is better. Spacesick characters must roll against HT on entering Free Fall. If he fails the roll, he chokes as though he were drowning. He loses 1 point of fatigue and has to roll again in five seconds, and so on. When the character makes a successful roll, he makes a roll again after 1 minute. If that is successful, he can make rolls every five minutes. If the any roll is a failure, start the cycle over again.

In addition, the character will be incapacitated as long as he is in Free Fall. Every roll he makes on attribute rolls or to attempt to use skills will be at -5.

If the character makes the initial roll, he does not have this incapacitating effect, but he still makes all skill and attribute rolls at -2.

Inappropriate Disadvantages

While there are many disadvantages that make for interesting characters, some will no be appropriate for Ranger characters. Among these are Blindness, Bully, Combat Paralysis, Cowardice, Deafness, Fragile, Gullibility, Illiteracy, Indecisive, Jinxed, Lame, Lunacy, Manic Depressive, No Depth Perception, One Arm, certain types of Pacifism, Paranoia (I’ll supply that), Planetbound, Pre-Frontal Lobotomy, Quadriplegic, Sadism, Solipsist, Split Personality, Terminally Ill, Tourette’s Syndrome, Unfit, Unluckiness, Weak Immune System, or Xenophobia. It is assumed that these would cause a character to wash out of Ranger training. This is by no means a complete list, so please design characters appropriate to the campaign spirit. There’s still plenty of weird stuff that might make for wonderful characters.