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Otaku 07-04-2017 10:22 PM

[Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
Previous Week: Duplication
Next Week: Pending

If you need help finding something we've already discussed, johndallman is maintaining an index of which traits we've discussed.


This week, we’ll be discussing Eidetic Memory and Photographic Memory (both p. B51), the first and second levels of the mundane, Mental trait under the joint heading of Eidetic Memory (yes, the same as the name used for the first level). The cost is 5 CP and 10 CP, respectively and both traits reflect having a better memory (and recollection) than your IQ might otherwise suggest. With the 5 CP version, you only have to roll to remember specifics, and it is a straight IQ roll instead of requiring success by a particular margin. The 10 CP version allows you to automatically recall even precise details without rolling.

Neither level affects comprehension, only recall, so they don’t benefit actual Skill rolls but do provide a +5 or +10 bonus to the IQ roll you make for Quick Learning, as well as for retaining Skills learned through intensive training. Speaking of learning, the first level of this trait can be learned.

Other Supplements

Powers only mentions Eidetic Memory in passing, and Photographic Memory only shows up as one of the Advantages used in building a particular ability. Eidetic Memory is referenced a few times in Power-Ups 3: Talents, where certain Talents (and even an Anti-Talent) function in a related manner to or may have Eidetic Memory as a prerequisite. I also found it mentioned in GURPS Social Engineering. Of course, it also shows up in GURPS Update and serves as a reason why past editions get their own section.

Past Editions

As always, I don’t currently have access to anything predating GURPS 3rd Edition, but we’ve got some interesting changes to discuss even from just a single edition ago. From page 20 of GURPS Basic Set: Third Edition, Revised, Eidetic Memory is a leveled trait with only two levels, so that is the same, and provides the same improved recall as the Fourth Edition trait. The first obvious difference is the cost, which is 30 CP per level!

Why so expensive? Instead of providing a bonus to an IQ roll for learning Skills, each level doubles the effective amount of points you invest in a Mental Skill except for Spells. Third Edition divided Skills as Mental (IQ-based) or Physical (DX-Based), with exceptions marked in their write-up, and many Skills that are Per or Will based in Fourth Edition were treated as IQ based. This is where some other Third Edition Vs. Fourth Edition differences become relevant. Most Third Edition characters were only allowed up to [2 x Character Age] points invested into Skills at character creation (adjusted accordingly for non-human races). Another peculiarity of Fourth Edition is that you were allowed to invest CP in Skills (except Spells). Put the two together, and where you would have needed 1 CP or 2 CP for an effective level of competency, you could score it for CP and avoid playing an older Character.

Psionics were handled differently in 3e as well; instead of applying the appropriate Modifier to a trait, you bought a “Power Level” in one of several Psionic Powers, and various applications of said Power were handled as Skills… and here, the multiplier was still in effect. While I already mentioned Spells did not enjoy the same multiplier and requires at least 1 CP be invested in them in order to be cast or count towards Spell prerequisites, there is one final bonus from Eidetic Memory that applies only to Spells: a +1 per level Skill bonus! This allowed Eidetic Memory to function almost like additional levels of Magery, and Third Edition rules imposed a three or four level Magery cap like the recommended one in Fourth Edition.

With all of these benefits, Eidetic Memory could do amazing things for IQ and Skill focused characters, be they knowledgeable but mundane intellectuals, cinematic geniuses, inventors, mad scientists, psychics, supers, wizards… even demi-gods or gods or other “higher beings” if such things were present in the setting. The staggering cost was often still worth the CP, though the typical starting CP of the time - 100 - made it difficult to run many of them. When you were playing characters with more available, especially epic level heroes or typical supers, the only reason to not take this trait was because of sticking to a character concept. Either because you had integrity or because it was a really, really expensive concept so we were back to being unable to spare the CP.

A bit of an oddity, two Third Edition Skills, Bardic Lore and Skaldic Lore, actually carry the recommendation of using the Literature Skill and Eidetic Memory (the first level) when converting a character from Third Edition to Fourth Edition, as these Skills were chiefly concerned with memorization and recitation; you actually had to roll against other skills to perform the actual song or tell the actual story in an entertaining manner. If you wish to read these Third Edition Skills, you can find them on page 146 and 147 of Compendium I.

Useful Links

As is too often the case, I have run out of time to complete this section on my own, which means I risk this being delayed another few days or post now and finish it later. Feel free to make suggestions, both before and after!

Discussion Starters

This is (usually) a generic list of questions for those who feel they need them. Already know what you want to say? Go ahead and skip these. ;)
  • Have you ever taken any of these traits for one of your PCs or NPCs? How did it work out?
  • Is there anything these traits do really well?
  • Is there anything you think these traits should do different, whether it means adding, subtracting, or just changing aspects of it?
  • Any alternate methods of creating these effects, either official or homebrew?
  • Any thoughts on how the 4e version of these traits compares to them in earlier editions?
  • Feedback about BAotW threads in general, such as how I structure them?

simply Nathan 07-04-2017 10:48 PM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory

Originally Posted by Otaku (Post 2108330)
[*]Have you ever taken any of these traits for one of your PCs or NPCs? How did it work out?

I put it on the only GURPS PC I ever played - a child wizard prodigy type - partly because it really fit the concept. Another player took Photographic Memory. The GM was flabbergasted by neither of us players being able to remember the name of the lighthouse keeper who introduced himself two sessions previous.

Flyndaran 07-05-2017 12:28 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
I like Eidetic Memory for a character that has a very minor computer implant for taking notes.

scc 07-05-2017 01:16 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
One thing I have noticed is that I have noticed is that these traits show up on Mage/Wizard templates a lot. My best guess for this is a reference to Catherine Kerr's Devery Cycle, but we never get any rules for such a system (Fantasy touches on it, but never gives any rules)

vicky_molokh 07-05-2017 02:00 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
It's a convenience trait - no more need for a notepad/camera/audiorecorder/flashdrive/etc.
Well, more the former than the latter for the first level. I take it for my PCs occasionally, both in GURPS and outside it.

Also, for skill bonuses, you can look at Powers Enhancing Skills or whatever, where having a very useful trait can provide a +2 or +4 to some tasks.

evileeyore 07-05-2017 03:33 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
I've takent he traits on bunches of characters. More so in 4e than 3 (as it's cheaper, so easier to fit either one into the points).

They generally worked as expected. Once in three 3e I decided it was too potent as we used Time Use records for a year's worth of downtime... and back then according the GM Photographic Memory allowed double dipping.

Jasonft 07-05-2017 06:15 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
In 3E I tended to play caster types and almost every character had it at full. Cost a bit, but the long term value outweighed that to me.

4E not so much, but when I had it I used it a lot. Any town we were in I memorized the map, anyone we met I memorized their faces (surprisingly useful), if I had an internet connection I would check Wikipedia at odd moments and skim articles.

Post mission analysis was a piece of cake if you had it.

Easy synergy with Serendipity: "I read a book about this once." you can then quote the entire book.

Also good for players with smartphones. If their character would legitimately know something they can look it up on Wikipedia as player so they don't miss some minor point.

One of my favorite advantages.

DeathDaisy 07-05-2017 08:53 AM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
I find it incredibly useful. I play a surprising number of robots and for them Photographic Memory is an obvious fit.

But Eidetic Memory is priceless for every character I create for story-heavy campaigns due to my real-life memory being absolutely trash and my note-keeping also leaves a lot to be desired.

johndallman 07-05-2017 04:50 PM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
I don't think I've ever taken it. It was a bit too good in 3e, and I seem to have forgotten about it for the only 4e character I have who could justify it.

I've been fiddling with a Magic as Powers build of it that I might take on a spy character:

Memorisation: Photographic Memory, Magical -10%, Immediate Preparation Required (1 minute) -30%, Takes Recharge (1 hour) -30%, No Magical Signature, +25%, Reliable +1, +5%. [6].

Yes, this is a lot of fiddle to save points: I need to take the Magical power modifier and No Magical Signature, the Immediate Preparation and Takes Recharge are the way several of the character's powers work.

NineDaysDead 07-05-2017 04:58 PM

Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#46): Eidetic Memory, Photographic Memory
Don't forget the Memory Palace perk in "Back to School" page 16. I can't see any reason it shouldn't go to IQ+4.

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