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Old 04-22-2017, 02:50 PM   #1
Otaku
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

Last Week: Daredevil, Luck, Super Luck
Next Week: Doesn't Eat or Drink, Reduced Consumption, Universal Digestion

The intent of this thread is to discuss the selected Advantages in their entirety. This begins with how the traits were written in [Basic]. I only copy and past entries from GURPS Lite because it is available as a free download; I will paraphrase entries from [Basic] simply because it is at the heart of the discussion so I cannot leave it out entirely, plus it can sometimes help to hear the same thing said in a different way. I'll mention other supplements that cover the topic but will not go into exacting detail because they are not an actual part of [Basic], and are usually covered in something that is for sale. ;) I would also like to include links to other useful sources (threads, blogs, etc.), and if it seems worth it, the rules for the traits from past editions.

Sharing thoughts and experiences on the matter means people will be free to praise, criticize, or merely report on the traits being discussed. I'll avoid sharing my own thoughts and try to minimize my bias. Except where it is necessary, such as when I don't really understand the trait all that well myself. Thanks to the index of topics johndallman created as is maintaining, it is much easier to keep track of what we've covered and where also lessening the need for me to try to cram every remotely related trait together or keep them all separate (whichever might make them easier to find).

Basic

Today we will be looking at Discriminatory Hearing, Discriminatory Smell, Discriminatory Taste, and Sensitive Touch. While not sharing a common header, these four traits are very closely related, with some mechanics common to them. All but Sensitive Touch (p. B83) can be found on p. B49. All four traits are Exotic, Physical traits that improve one of the five main human senses to superhuman levels. It is worth noting, however, that these may be quite mundane for non-humans, such as various animals or machines.

Each of these Advantages grants a +4 bonus any task using the relevant trait, which stacks with any bonus you have from the appropriate Acute Sense Advantage. Some of these also include a bonus for when using a particular Skill; I cannot tell if these were meant as examples of the task bonus helping with a Skill or if it is applied in addition to or instead of the usual +4 bonus. They also enhance the relevant sense to the point that you can use it to distinguish between people, places, and things, putting the sense at least on par with vision under comparable circumstances.

Discriminatory Hearing costs 15 CP and ensures you can differentiate between similar subjects by the sounds they make; for humans, this means you can tell people apart by their voice, for machines, you can tell them apart by their (quoting the text here) "sound signature". Nothing listed for animals or locations, but one or both may have been implied. This is another area where I could use assistance with clarifying intent. It also allows you to commit a sound to memory, but you must listen to it for one minute and make a successful IQ roll; if you fail you not only don't memorize the sound, but you've got to wait at least a full day before trying again. The Skill specific bonus it lists is when Shadowing a noisy target. You can add Accessibility (Only underwater) for -30% to simulate the passive sonar used on submarines.

Discriminatory Smell costs 15 CP and allows you to differentiate between just about anything by the different scents; people, places, or things. It allows you to memorize a scent by sniffing it for at least one minute then making an IQ roll; failure means you have to wait a day before trying again. The skill-specific +4 bonus is for Tracking. While not a trait specific Limitation, the text mentions you might take the Temporary Disadvantage Limitation if your improved olfactory sense can sometimes backfire. The example is if Revulsion (as a Temporary Disadvantage) to reflect becoming ill from certain scents. It does have a specific Enhancement, though: "Emotion Sense" is worth +50% and allows your Discriminatory Smell to act as the Empathy Advantage when within two yards of the subject.

Discriminatory Taste costs 15 CP represents a heightened sense of taste, to the point you can distinguish between people and substances with it. The text mentions how it works a lot like Discriminatory Smell, and states how it is different, but leaves me wondering about aspects not specifically covered. You have to ingest something in order to taste it, but it does allow for bodily fluids for a living creature; no amount is specified so I don't know if you can lick someone and their surface sweat will be enough, or if you need a larger or more concentrated amount. Its own entry doesn't state you can commit a taste to memory but does mention you roll against IQ to see if you recognize a taste, whether the substance is safe to eat, etc. With the right skill, you are able to gather more information: Chemistry, Cooking, Pharmacy, Poisons, etc. No specific Skill receives a bonus, just the general +4 for tasks where your sense of taste is important, and no trait specific Modifiers.

Sensitive Touch costs 10 CP as well, and as the name suggests it means your sense of touch is well beyond the human norm. The text for this entry is clear, and (I hope) clarifies the others; you get +4 to tasks where your sense of touch would matter, and lists comparing and contrasting pieces of fabric with the Forensics Skill or doing a patdown with Search as when the +4 applies. No rules are provided for memorizing or recalling how something feels, though it does mention that besides better noticing texture, you can detect residual heat in a chair, the faint vibrations in the floor caused by someone approaching. No ranges are given, leaving it ambiguous. No specific Modifiers are given, either.

Other Supplements


Powers does treat the Discriminatory Senses (less Sensitive Touch) as a unit like Acute Senses and points out that Hyperspectral Vision and Sensitive Touch are the equivalents for those two senses on page 47. Hyperspectal Vision will be covered at a later time, both because there are traits I think are more pertinent to examine with it. It lists a new Enhancement (Profiling) for the Discriminatory Senses while suggesting for what powers each would be appropriate how they interact with some other traits (like Obscure), and an ability or two built with them. Sensitive Touch gets some specific Enhancements on page 73 ("Stethoscope" and "Ultra-Fine").

Discriminatory Hearing shows up as a Prerequisite or Enabler for Musical Ability Talent in Power-Ups 3. GURPS Social Engineering mentions how various non-human senses can grant benefits to social perception, which includes Discriminatory Hearing, Discriminatory Smell, and Sensitive Touch. I don't own a copy of GURPS Powers: Enhanced Senses so can someone let me know what it has to say on the matter.

Previous Editions


I don't have anything from prior to Third Edition, but I was able to find Discriminatory Smell, Discriminatory Taste, and Sensitive Touch in Compendium I on pages 52, 53, and 65. They are mostly the same as their Fourth Edition counterparts, with the differences being a matter of either language or rules revision (at least, based on what I am seeing). Appendix 2 of the book lists GURPS Supers page 38 as the source of Discriminatory Smell and GURPS Supers page 45 as the source of Sensitive Touch.

Useful Links

Pending. Suggestions welcome.

Discussion Starters

This is a generic list of questions if you need them; if you already know what you want to say, feel free to just chime in.
  • Have you ever taken any of these traits for one of your PCs or NPCs? How'd it go?
  • Is there anything these trait 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 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?
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Last edited by Otaku; 05-14-2017 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 04-22-2017, 03:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

My most memorable uses of discriminatory smell was by a werewolf in a monster hunters game who used it to ID individuals that were previously at crime scenes. Very useful in that way.
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Old 04-22-2017, 04:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

I've taken Discriminatory Smell for humans, because as written, the advantage is perfectly possible for some people to have.
The intent may have been to describe superhuman dog level senses, but nothing in the write up actually says that. Other than the near meaningless exotic label, of course.
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Old 04-22-2017, 04:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

I have a cat-like character in a sci-fi game who has Sensitive touch. I'm the GM in that game, not the player of this character. And I have trouble trying to think of situations where I can let him get a benefit from sensitive touch. But I try to keep it in mind.

So far I have had him use it while in some sewers to feel movement in the water (so he could know the direction of enemies even though it was pitch black). And another time locate a big engine by following the vibrations it made through the floors and walls inside a big building. And that's about it, for almost 10 game sessions. And number two was even himself suggesting it.


I feel like smell and hearing come up a lot more often. They had a dog-like NPC with them for some time with those two traits and he got a lot more value from them.


What situations have you used Sensitive Touch in?
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Old 04-22-2017, 05:04 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

Those uses sound more like Vibration Sense than sensitive touch.

Touch would allow detection of minute pressure or temperature changes. Which path someone took by feeling which spots were warmer. Which objects saw more use by being more worn.
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Old 04-22-2017, 05:22 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Those uses sound more like Vibration Sense than sensitive touch.

Touch would allow detection of minute pressure or temperature changes. Which path someone took by feeling which spots were warmer. Which objects saw more use by being more worn.
Thermoception is the real world name for the sense that detects heat, in some animals it may be more of a vision type in gurps terms than a touch sense.
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Old 04-22-2017, 06:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

My view is that Hyperspectral Vision isn't actually comparable to the others, and that there isn't a place for a visual sense that is, because human sight is already discriminatory. Birds, primates, and cephalopods are the high end of the entire animal kingdom visually; the average mammal has about one-tenth the resolution of humans, and invertebrates are mostly worse than that. (Compound eyes, in particular, are disastrously bad at resolution.) GURPS more or less supports this by saying that discriminatory/sensitive senses commonly provide enough data to substitute for vision, and that's true, in particular, for the star-nosed mole, whose sense of touch has ten times the resolution of human fingertips.

Hyperspectral Vision is special in quite a different way: It covers a wider frequency range, multiple octaves rather than the less than one of human vision. That doesn't give you fine detail, but it will let some things jump out at you that human eyes miss. (Then there's the mantis shrimp, which has a still different ability: There's a bar down the middle of its retina that has twelve different visual pigments, rather than the human three, giving it extraordinary spectral resolution. You might could call that Discriminatory Color Sense. But I don't think its spatial resolution is anything special.)
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Old 04-22-2017, 06:47 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
Thermoception is the real world name for the sense that detects heat, in some animals it may be more of a vision type in gurps terms than a touch sense.
It really isn't. For one thing, the wavelengths that are given off by objects at temperatures lower than 100C/212F are so long that you can't get as good resolution. For another, sense receptors like a pit viper's pits are pinhole cameras with no lenses. And for a third, thermal IR has too little energy to initiate chemical reactions with single photons the way visible light can; you need to detect the general heating of tissue by large numbers of photons, which blurs the image further. Snakes have Targeting but not Imaging.
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Old 04-22-2017, 06:48 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Those uses sound more like Vibration Sense than sensitive touch.
Sensitive Touch explicitly allows picking up vibrations in the floor from footsteps.

Really, both Vibration Sense and Hearing are just specialized tactile senses anyway.
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Old 04-22-2017, 07:12 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week (#40): Discriminatory Senses, Sensitive Touch

I have used Discrim Touch for some Supers in Detectives.
Also built a race of beings that were inspired by Travelers Vegans and moles.
They have arms that end in several long tentacles instead of hands and fingers and have the perk Acessory: Jewlers tools and can polish and cut gems with their hands.
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