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Old 04-20-2018, 02:59 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Deafness [-20] is a mundane physical disadvantage. It is total deafness, you can’t hear anything at all. You have to receive communication via sign language, gestures, or writing (given literacy). You can also read lips, given knowledge of the language. Time spent communicating counts as study of the relevant skills, so you will become pretty good at them with time. By default, you start knowing a sign language and a regular language in written form.

Hard of Hearing [-10] is also a mundane physical disadvantage. It gives you -4 to all hearing rolls, and to any other rolls where understanding someone else’s speech is important. It’s effectively -4 levels of Acute Hearing [2/level], rounded up to [10] because of the understanding problem.

Both of these disadvantages date from GURPS 1e, and have not changed much since then. They do have some minor upsides, in helping to resist attacks like Kiai or Musical Influence. Before 4e, GURPS offered the option of requiring a player whose character was deaf to wear ear-plugs. This is a lot more practical nowadays with noise-cancelling headphones, but still doesn’t seem like a great idea, unless the player wants to do it.

Hard of Hearing is a fairly common option on templates for characters who work with explosives or shoot guns a lot, as well as elderly professors or wizards, and some exotic races. Deafness is much rarer, though Banestorm Octopus Folk and Bio-Tech biological spaceships have it, as does the Plant meta-trait. Both disadvantages can be useful for representing temporary problems, from drug side effects to heavy metal concerts. High-Tech has the rules for concussion imposing these disadvantages, and for hearing aids; Madness Dossier has more advanced equipment, since Deafness can be quite useful in that setting. Most Low-Tech helmets give Hard of Hearing, and there are attacks in Martial Arts that can cause either disadvantage. Power-Ups 6 has quirk-level versions of Hard of Hearing, and Powers: Enhanced Senses has more detail on deafening, and sensory enhancements that dull other senses. Psi-Tech uses it in an unethical way of helping you gain psi powers, and brains-in-a-jar have Deafness, while Psionic Powers has attacks to cut off senses. Many Reign of Steel robots have poor hearing. Social Engineering: Back to School has details of these disadvantages’ effects on teaching, and Tactical Shooting has more on loud noises. Ultra-Tech has sonic weapons, but even the smartest missiles are deaf.

The only PC I recall with Hard of Hearing was a wizard in my playtest campaign of the original GURPS Discworld, whose player wasn’t that interested, but was willing to go along with the group. He put absorbent cotton in his ears as a simulation device, slept quite a bit … and found a way to move the plot forward dramatically with a simple spell.
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Old 04-20-2018, 03:53 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Before 4e, GURPS offered the option of requiring a player whose character was deaf to wear ear-plugs. This is a lot more practical nowadays with noise-cancelling headphones, but still doesn’t seem like a great idea, unless the player wants to do it.
While this might be good for table chat, I think that the amount of GM talk which should be affected by a hearing impediment on the character is fairly low: things heard, and speech from NPCs, but not things seen, or game-mechanical stuff.

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The only PC I recall with Hard of Hearing was a wizard in my playtest campaign of the original GURPS Discworld
Wasn't your Elizabethan artilleryman Hard of Hearing?

I don't think I've ever used either version of this disad.
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Old 04-20-2018, 04:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Back in the day, I played Fornication Jones, master gunner on a pirate ship in the Caribbean. One of his disadvantages was Hard of Hearing. It didn't have much game mechanical effect; it was mainly a basis for roleplaying.
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Old 04-20-2018, 04:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

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Wasn't your Elizabethan artilleryman Hard of Hearing?
So he was - I had forgotten.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:55 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Back in my old 3rd ed CLiffhangers campaign my character quite early in the very, very long time the campaign ran got Hard of Hearing during play. In a completely unnecessary barroom brawl the NPC made a Critical Head Blow, and the result was "deaf on one ear". I failed to make the recovery roll the GM set (or maybe he refused one - I can't recall). We simulated this with Hard of Hearing.
Initially I was ticked off by this nerfing of my character, but in a short while it became a recurring gag and was lots of fun. I refused to even things out by buying him Acute Hearing, but he picked up Lip Reading. Since he spoke 7 different languages this became a huge boon. Aside from missing almost every Hearing roll the deaf ear was roleplayed.

Many years later we ran a Pirate campaign, I think it was still back in 3rd ed. Another player designed a gunner/cannon caster, he was also Hard of Hearing, due to work related injuries. He also took the Quirk "Weak bladder" and was habitually out back taking a leak when action started, so he joined in a few rounds later. Hilarious! Sadly this didn't run for very long.
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Old 04-23-2018, 01:39 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

An alien borderline-sapient NPC in my current campaign is Hard of Hearing (and also has the 0-point version of Infrasonic Hearing, which makes it more like Deaf for speech purposes). This means that attempts to establish contact and build a joint vocabulary have to rely on a more visual approach. Lots of roleplaying fun with that.
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Old 04-24-2018, 11:44 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Various forms of armor can impose it to
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Old 04-24-2018, 12:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Yes, helmets as a rule inflict Hard of Hearing if they have face coverage, and probably should apply some kind of Hearing penalty even if they don't. Vietnam-era US soldiers were notorious for taking their helmets off because they inhibited hearing, and in the heavy jungle growth you had to hear trouble because you couldn't see it.

I think Technical Shooting is the book that has rules about temporarily (or permanently) suffering Hard of Hearing as a result of firing a gun in an enclosed place, or extensively.
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Old 04-24-2018, 12:49 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

My sample wrestler for DFRPG has Hard of Hearing, mostly as an excuse to yell 'WHAT?' a lot. This is a wrestling joke.
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Old 04-24-2018, 01:39 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Deafness and Hard of Hearing

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Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
Yes, helmets as a rule inflict Hard of Hearing if they have face coverage, and probably should apply some kind of Hearing penalty even if they don't. Vietnam-era US soldiers were notorious for taking their helmets off because they inhibited hearing, and in the heavy jungle growth you had to hear trouble because you couldn't see it.

I think Technical Shooting is the book that has rules about temporarily (or permanently) suffering Hard of Hearing as a result of firing a gun in an enclosed place, or extensively.
Some Ancient Roman helmets had large cutouts to avoid blocking the ears at all.
Head protection vs. sensory acuity is always an issue.
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