Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Long Term Fatigue in GURPS

One issue with the GURPS fatigue model is that fatigue recovers too quickly. Joe Genero can work himself to exhaustion and recover by sitting around for two hours. If Joe Genero goes to the track enough to pick up the Fit, he can recover in less than an hour of rest. This is arguably suitable for high heroic games, but it's a terrible model for reality. It also has all kinds of negative effects for fatigue based magic, since mages have massive fatigue pools overtime.

There have been some attempts to fix that, but many of them are cumbersome to track and finicky in the details. I prefer my game rules to be simpler.

Simple Long Term Fatigue System

GURPS already has several mechanics for fatigue that doesn't go away quickly: starvation causes FP loss that can only recovered by eating extra meals, and FP lost from missing sleep can only be recovered by sleeping. These FP become "lost FP", that can't be recovered by simply sitting around. Since that's what I want, using these mechanics would be good.

Most FP lost should be recoverable with only a short rest. Brief periods of exertion doesn't make one tired or hungry the same way that extended exertion does. There seems to be a threshold for fatigue before it can't be recovered quickly.

With all that in mind, here's the rule:

If a character accumulates more than FP/3 in lost FP, then 1 of those FP is long term fatigue. Long term fatigue counts as both an FP lost to starvation (B426) and to missed sleep (B427). For every extra FP/3 accumulated with more than FP/3 lost, another FP becomes long term fatigue. A character never accumulates long term fatigue as long as they never accumulate more than FP/3 of lost fatigue at one time.

Long term fatigue does not count as starvation FP for characters with Doesn't Eat. It also doesn't count as missed sleep for characters with Doesn't Sleep. Characters with both of those advantages and FP scores do not suffer long term fatigue.

Long term fatigue never applies to FP spent in an Energy Reserve.


This is pretty simple and takes advantage of existing GURPS rules. People who only do brief bursts of effort with plenty of rest aren't affected, but anyone who really pushes himself will end up tired and hungry.

It has the side effect of weakening fatigue based mages. It's very easy for a mage to cast 1 or 2 spells in a row that cause them to accumulate long term fatigue. Losing access to 1-2 FP for a day after every encounter makes resource management much more critical. Given that I'm moving more and more toward Threshold magery for other reasons, I don't consider this a real downside.


  1. I really like this approach. Very interesting. I would probably implement this in future campaigns!

  2. Hey Mark, I have implemented long term fatigue as an illness.

    1. Nifty.

      Actually, I think your rules and mine are complementary (though a bit harsh for my usual over-the-top gonzo cinematic game).

      Taking those together and adding Doug Cole's action points, you end up with 4 different types of tiredness:
      * AP use, which is very quick burst activity, recoverable in a just a few seconds
      * normal fatigue, which is still short spurts of activity, but requires some definite rest
      * long term fatigue, which is touching the body's reserves with extended consequences
      * exhaustion, the result of several days of continuous hard effort.

      There's a nice continuum there that more-or-less matches my experience: running up a flight of stairs costs AP and I need to catch my breath for a moment; riding a bike for 30 minutes and I have normal fatigue and need a bit of rest; riding for a couple of hours non-stop and I'm hungry and tired; riding all day for a couple of days and I'm an exhausted wreck.

  3. I definitely agree with the notion that there needs to be a differentiation between immediate term, intermediate term and long term fatigue. Not sure I like any of the answers I've seen thus far 100%, but I do like the direction we're going.