Highlander: A GURPS Supplement
Version 2.5

There can be only one!

A revised PDF file of these rules is available!


Table of Contents
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Introduction Background Characters Quickening Combat Miscellaneous Afterwords

Introduction

"In the end, there can be only one."
—Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos Ramirez

Think of it: immortality. Living forever. What would you do if you could live forever? Amass great wealth? Ponder the mysteries of the universe? Lop a few heads and gain unimaginable power? Alas, all we mere mortals can do is imagine what all these things are like, which is made a bit easier by role-playing. By creating characters—immortal characters—and then pretending to be them (at least for a few hours), imagination can be more than just an intellectual exercise. GURPS allows this to happen, in combination with the following rules. The genius of the GURPS system allows players to run their own immortal campaign (which, understandably, might prove a little difficult if you want to run a multi-immortal game) or to combine it with the World of Darkness books, like Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, or Mage: The Ascension (I am speaking of the GURPS versions of these books, although the White Wolf originals provide essential reading and atmosphere—as does Hank Driskill and Greg Gavigan's Highlander: the Gathering, 2nd edition, the inspiration for these rules), and run a campaign with vampire, mage, werewolf, and, of course, Immortal characters (in any combination you choose). Please note, however, that the following rules were written from the point of view of playing immortals in the World of Darkness (because we like it that way), but can be easily modified to ignore that viewpoint (see the Miscellaneous section).

Immortals have a unique place in the World of Darkness (WoD) in that they are without clans, or tribes; in effect, they are loners, wildcards, mavericks. They are also human, with all the emotional baggage that comes from being human. They differ from humans in only really one way: they possess the Quickening, a life force which keeps them alive and allows them to do some pretty amazing things.

What follows are the basic rules to create and play an Immortal character in the GURPS format. A familiarity with the GURPS system is highly recommended (or an affiliation with those who do know).

And remember, there can be only one.

Notes for the 2.5 edition:

What's changed (as of 4/07/01): Updated format for the PDF file (now 2-column and only 8 pages).

What's changed in brief (as of 6/23/00): the Immortal Template, starting character points, a Sample Character (finally!), slightly different fighting on Holy Ground consequences, and the rules in PDF format!

Disclaimers

The material presented here is our original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games. HIGHLANDER is a trademark of Davis-Panzer Productions and Rysher Entertainment and used without their knowledge or consent. This is not meant as an infringement of their copyright. The phrase "World of Darkness" as well as the accompanying ideas are copyrighted by White Wolf and are used without consent. Again, this is not meant as an infringement of their copyright. All else is copyrighted for Eric P. Isaacson and Travis L. Sparkman. This web page is non-commercial and non-profit. Distribute these rules freely, providing this disclaimer accompanies them.


Background

"From the dawn of time we came; moving silently down through the centuries. Living many secret lives, struggling to reach the time of the gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you . . . until now."
—Ramirez

Immortality and the Prize

"I know! I know everything! I am everything!"
—Connor MacLeod

There have always lived among normal humans those who seemingly never became sick and could come back from the brink of death. But these men and women never stayed around long enough for interested parties to delve into the mystery. They came to be known as Immortals and became legend throughout the centuries.

What few know is that these Immortals are in a war with their own kind. There exists another legend, one perhaps that is even older than the oldest living Immortal—the Prize. When the last two Immortals face each other, they will battle for each other's Quickening, a culmination of all other Immortals' power and experience. When only one Immortal remains, the Prize will be theirs. No one really knows what the Prize is. Some speculate it is ultimate power, others wisdom. But either way, it is why all Immortals (with very few exceptions) live by the sword, if for no other reason than to stay alive—in that, they really do not differ from us mortals.

Pre-Immortals

"You've the devil in you!"
—Dougal MacLeod

Pre-Immortals are just like normal humans, with one exception: they will come back to life after their first "death," awakening to immortality. PCs wishing to play a Pre-Immortal pay 2 points for the Pre-Immortal advantage, which includes Rapid Healing (5) and Sterility (-3).

Watchers

"I am a Watcher. Part of a secret society of men and woman who observe and record, but never interfere."
—Joe Dawson

No one knows what prompted this mysterious group of men and women to ban together to watch Immortals and their struggle. Whatever their reasons, the Watcher's edict is to watch and record, never interfere. Mostly, this simple procedure has been kept intact over the years, but occasionally, a watcher may become friends with, and sometimes protector of, the Immortal they watch. This benevolence has not always been the case, however (see Hunters below).

PCs who wish to play a Watcher certainly may. Keep in mind that a Watcher should be heavy in, say, various Professional, Scientific, and Spy skills.

Hunters

"There is nothing greater than the power of man!"
—James Horton

Recently, a group of Watchers could no longer tolerate the possibility of an (evil or otherwise) Immortal gaining the Prize and possibly plunge humanity into an era of darkness. Led by James Horton, this renegade band of Watchers began hunting Immortals. Though killed by Duncan MacLeod, Horton's legacy lives on and the Hunters are still a threat to those Immortals who don't know that they're being watched . . . and loathed.


Characters

"You've no knowledge whatsoever of your potential!"
—Ramirez

Character Creation

"I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings . . . "
—Queen

Immortal characters should be created as typical 100 point characters first, keeping in mind the time period in which the Immortal first "died" (a detailed history should be made at this time as well, to be given to the GM). Keep in mind that an Immortal should have picked up a lot of skills over the years, unless that's not part of her character concept (she lived on holy ground for sixty years, contemplating God and picking berries).

To reflect the idea that "older" Immortals may have "been around" and learned various skills (not to mention taken a few heads), the following table is used for starting points:

The remaining points go to attributes, advantages, and skills. Also, if a character has been out of commission for a long while (thus not hanging around, picking up skills), but is created at a higher age bracket, an Unusual Background cost will be applied to compensate, at GM discretion. A detailed history is required of all PCs (this will help when choosing advantages, disadvantages, and skills), with extremely detailed histories being awarded extra character points to spend.

Note: The above table is offered as a suggestion only. Feel free to disregard and use your own setup.

Immortal Template

To reflect that Immortals all seem to possess essentially the same immortal attributes, the following template is offered. The point cost is listed to the left of the attribute/advantage, while the corresponding rule reference, as listed in the Basic Set and Compendium I, is to the right.

15

Unaging (CI69)

10

Immunity to Disease (B20)

50

Fast Regeneration (1 HT/min.) (CI64)

25

Rejuvenation (new)
The ability to heal aggravated damage only at a rate of 1 point per hour of uninterrupted sleep, not to exceed 10 points in any given sleep cycle.

10

Recovery (CI64)

10

Gills (CI56)
Immortals don't really have gills, but they seem to be able to extract enough oxygen from water to sustain life.

185

Immortal Resurrection (new)
Similar to Resurrection (CI64), but allows an Immortal to begin healing immediately after "death," unless he is beheaded or sustained enough damage (-HT x 10) that resurrection is impossible. The Immortal regains consciousness after regaining a positive HT and meeting the necessary roll. The -25 point rule per resurrection does not apply.

75

The Last (new)
A catch-all advantage which includes The Buzz as well as providing almost psychic powers—see description.

-5

Sterility (CI84)
The extra 2 points is for the emotional burden an Immortal carries for not being able to ever bear children (and to round out the cost).

-15

Potent Blood (new)
The corollary to Efficient Digestion (VC15). All Immortals' blood is rich because of the Quickening in it. This can become a nuisance (or worse) because vampires and blood mages may want to take the Immortal's blood for their own uses. For every 2 Blood Points taken, they are worth 3.

-5

Immortal Code (new)
All Immortals follow this code: No fighting on Holy Ground and only one-on-one fighting. If the PC wishes to do away with this "limitation," s/he should discuss it with the GM.

-20

Secret (CI78)
If the Immortal's Secret is made public, the PC must take on appropriate disadvantages whose point values equal twice that of the Secret, e.g., Enemy, Bad Reputation, Social Stigmas, Status, or even Wealth.

335

Total

In addition to the above template, PCs and GMs should decide upon the frequency in which other Immortals will appear in the adventure to take the PCs head. A standard disadvantage of this type was not included in the template to allow for more campaign control, however -30 points for other Immortals showing up on a 9 or less seems a good starting point. This disadvantage does not count towards any limit on disadvantages (see Character Creation above).

Advantages, Disadvantages, and Skills

Here are some typical Advantages, Disadvantages, and Skills a typical Immortal may have. They are provided as suggestions only.

New Advantages, Disadvantages, and Skills

Low Profile (5/level)

Similar to Arcane (MTA44), but this is more the ability to slip away unnoticed when, say, curious reporters want an interview. Or not to be the focus of attention in a group. You become, more or less, hardly noticeable. However, if someone is actively seeking you out (by sight or recording device), that person must make a Will roll at a penalty equal to your level.

Emotional Isolation (-5)

Due to so many dying around you as you lived on was too much to bear and now you have cut (or try to) yourself off emotionally from others. You come across as cold and unfeeling. A -2 to all Social skills and you cannot have Empathy. A +2 bonus to resist attempts to manipulate you emotionally.

World-Weary (-10)

You have seen enough to know that nothing is ever truly new under the sun. You rarely pay much attention to those around you and assume you know all there is to know about them once you have determined what part they play on the world stage. -2 to all Perception tests, as well as Psychology and Detect Lies involving people you know. Also, a -2 on the first action taken following a surprise.

Cloak Weapon (new; MVH)

Similar to Holdout (B66), but applies only to an Immortal's sword and gives a +4 to conceal. A long coat (duster, trench coat) adds an additional +4. A short coat provides an additional +2. This is a fairly recent skill (within the last hundred years or so).

Traditions

Because Immortals come from such various backgrounds, cultures, and times, Immortal traditions are few and far between. They live by only a few rules. The first and foremost is that There Can Be Only One, meaning that they must fight each other until only one remains and claims the Prize. Another primary rule is no fighting on Holy Ground. Holy Ground is a sanctuary for even those Immortals who abide by no rules, mortal or otherwise. Finally, Immortals fight one-to-one; there is no double teaming. With very few exceptions, Immortals are loners—not that they do not associate with other Immortals, but they usually keep to themselves and do not "pal around" with other Immortals for too long.


Quickening

"The sensation you're feeling . . . is the Quickening."
—Ramirez

No one knows for sure just what the Quickening is. Some say it is a life force that flows through every living thing and just happens to be stronger in Immortals. Others claim that it is unique to Immortals and what really separates them from the rest of humanity. In any case, it is a power to be reckoned with.

Powers of the Quickening

From the outside, Immortals appear to be normal humans, but at times they can call on the Quickening they have gained to do extraordinary things. The following "powers" are representative of this, thus the PC is allowed to customize his or her character with these powers, reflecting the speculation that Immortals are able to somehow manipulate their Quickening depending on their personality and experience.

The cost per level is shown in the tables and the skill level, where applicable, is noted next to the title. All Quickening Powers can only be increased by gaining Quickening Points (QP). Also, one point fatigue per use of a power (regardless of level) is applied, whether the roll was successful or not. Ex: Duncan uses Level 2 of Charge Sword and Level 3 of Augmentation: Speed, which costs him 2 points of fatigue.

Charge Sword (MVH)

An Immortal is able to channel some of his Quickening into his sword, causing aggravated damage. The visible effect of this is shown in the films and tv series by the arcing electricity when two Immortals' swords clash.
Qualifications:

Augmentation (MVH)

This allows an Immortal to temporarily increase his Strength and/or Basic Speed. Use the same table for both advantages, but buy them separately, i.e., a PC may elect to buy Level 1 in Augmentation: ST and Level 3 in Augmentation: Speed at a total cost of 20 points. The PC must also buy a separate skill level for each category of Augmentation.

ST Level Basic Speed
+1 Level 1 (5) +.5
+2 Level 2 (10) +1
+3 Level 3 (15) +1.5
+4 Level 4 (25) +2
+5 Level 5 (50) +2.5 (+1 Attack)
+6 Level 6 (75) +3 (+1 Attack)
+7 Level 7 (100) +3.5 (+1 Attack)
+8 Level 8 (125) +4 (+1 Attack)
+9 Level 9 (150) +4.5 (+2 Attacks)
+10 Level 10 (200) +5 (+2 Attacks)

Qualifications:

Note: Normally, new PCs can only buy up to Level 5 in Charge Sword and Augmentation, with the additional levels purchased only by gaining Quickening.

Healing

This increases an Immortal's healing time. There are several levels:

The Last

This ability bestows information to the Immortal to his benefit, i.e., it allows an Immortal to “know” things which he could not normally know. It is similar to ESP and allows them to sense one another (called The Buzz). Quickening also conveys some automatic advantages, at least where vampires and mages are concerned. Because of the powerful nature of the Quickening, Immortals cannot be blood bound, nor be turned to Ghouls, and they certainly cannot be turned into Kindred. Mages, too, cannot affect an Immortal's Quickening—their Prime energy is considered immutable. The only exception to this is if a mage is within range when one Immortal takes the head of another; then the mage, if he won a contest of skills (against the victorious Immortal's The Last skill), could steal the escaping Quickening from the victor and stealing a bit of the victor's as well (see Two-on-One Fights below). Also, Immortals are not affected by the effects of the Life sphere (beneficial or not), nor any other healing ability (such as the Obeah discipline).

The Last allows for some balance between the Immortal character and the other WoD inhabitants (vampires, lupines, etc.), allowing, for example, the Immortal to sense other supernatural creatures. It is to be used at the GM's discretion and rolled against an Immortal's IQ and the GM should never use this to intentionally confuse or mislead the PC. An Immortal can increase the value of The Last, as follows:

Qualifications:

New Quickening Powers (Optional)

To better reflect some of the abilities displayed in the movies, television series, and original scripts, the following advantages are provided to add a bit of flavor to gaming and should not be looked upon as must-play items. The cost is noted within the parenthesis, and the appropriate skill level next to it.

Disorientation (10; MVH)

With a successful roll (vs. the target's Will), an Immortal can distract a person (be they Immortal or not), causing them to become confused and disoriented. Duncan did this to Amanda while she was on the high wire (see the episode "The Lady and the Tiger"). The target must be within eyesight of the Immortal.

Sense Emotion (10; MVH)

Immortals can sense true emotions of the target, as Connor did when the Kurgan was trying to hide his fear of Connor and losing the Prize (see the original script). This should be treated as a crude "detection" device, i.e., Immortals should be able to sense only strong, simple emotions—anger, joy, sadness, etc. A larger success margin will yield a more specific "reading."

The Gaze (20; MVH)

Immortals can make others feel more at ease around them (how do you explain the attraction of women to Connor?) or uneasy (as when Connor was "looking" at Garfield at the police station). It requires eye contact and affects only one person at a time. The PC must announce which part of The Gaze s/he is using before rolling. Optional: Allow The Gaze to work on animals as well. This might explain Canus' appeal to his dogs.

Gaining (and Losing) Quickening

"Don't lose your head."
—Ramirez

The only way for an Immortal to gain Quickening is to behead another Immortal and absorb the escaping Quickening. This is accomplished in game terms by taking the total point value of the beheaded Immortal and multiplying by a percentage. Depending on whether you want to slowly build up power or gain it quickly (it's the Gathering!), use 1-5% (rounding up). Two percent has proven to be a good balance between the two gaming extremes. These points can then be spent by the victor on any of the Quickening powers he chooses, remembering that the point cost for raising levels is now doubled (with the exception of the Healing power). Ex.:

Only these "banked" Quickening points can be used to increase Quickening powers; character points awarded by the GM cannot be used to do so.

In the situation where an Immortal gains Quickening and wants to buy a power he does not currently possess but his foe did, he can do so (remembering that the cost is now double) as well as receiving a skill level equal to IQ - (20 - IQ)—for example, a PC with IQ of 14: 20 - 14 = 6;14 - 6 = 8—and that skill level can only be increased through the use of character points (and the successful use of the power).

Holy Ground and Two-on-One Fights

"Holy ground, Highlander! Remember what Ramirez taught you!"
—Kurgan

Because these traditions are part of the Rules of Engagement presented in the Highlander franchise, the following is used to explain and enforce these rules.
Holy Ground
Immortals do not fight on Holy Ground (consecrated places, Cairns, Nodes, etc., at GM's discretion) because the Holy Ground is considered the victor in any such fight. The beheaded Immortal's Quickening is automatically absorbed by the Holy Ground, while the "victorious" Immortal loses one level in a randomly selected Quickening power or attribute by rolling dice, as follows:
And the Immortal must pay double points to regain the lost level (with the exception of Healing).

Two-on-One Fights
In Two-on-One fights, the victorious Immortal (the one who actually takes the head) takes the beheaded Immortal's Quickening and some of the remaining Immortal's as well. Ex.:

Spending Quickening Points

Points gained by beheading another Immortal can only be used to increase the levels of Quickening, not the skill required to use them (such as in Charge Sword and Augmentation); the skill can be increased by character points, awarded by the GM. Nor can Quickening points be used to increase "regular" skills, or temporarily increase Quickening power skills, i.e., they are not used like Blood Points in Vampire: The Masquerade.


Sample Character

Follow this link to an example character created with these rules. The talented Azurian Scribe has posted several sample characters. Please note, however, that Azurian uses slightly different rules than are presented here.

If you would like to use these rules to create characters, please send them to me and I will provide a link or publish them from my site.

Combat

"If your head comes away from your neck, it's over."
—Ramirez

Combat between Immortals is the same as between mortals, with one exception: when Immortals battle they usually use swords (or other bladed instruments). There are no special combat rules that apply to Immortals, but it is recommended that PCs have a decent sword and skill to use it.

There are some special rules that do apply, however, to assessing damage.

Fatigue after Gaining Quickening

The absorbing of Quickening is an arduous ordeal. Because of this, an automatic 5 points fatigue is applied to the victor after the beheading.

Damage and Death

Regeneration of non-essential body parts, i.e., those which are not intrinsic for the body to survive (hands, limbs, ears, etc.), does not occur in an Immortal, although, say, a lost heart would regenerate. Also, damage to the neck area, if severe enough (critical success) or caused by aggravated damage, leaves a scar (determined by failing a HT roll).

An Immortal's body is very much like a vampire's in that it is immortal, but there is only so much damage a body can take before it simply falls apart, i.e., immortality is not invulnerability. An Immortal can take up to -10 x HT before the body simply ceases to be a body and the Immortal dies. If there is any Immortal within range when this happens, they are considered the "victor" and receive the escaping Quickening, otherwise, the Quickening simply dissipates into the ether.


Miscellaneous

This section is merely for those nagging and straggling questions and concerns that crop up about the franchise in general and this game in specific.

What if you don't want to play in the World of Darkness?

Easy. Merely take out any cost incurred for those advantages/powers. In this case, the cost of the template is now 300 points (take away Potent Blood and The Last is now just 25 points for the Buzz and the ESP-like powers).

And what about all those headless bodies, anyway?

You can choose to play this as you like. You can have the authorities in the campaign simply ignore the headless bodies, as if they weren't even there (as in the series), or add some spice and have an intrepid detective asking questions about the Immortal PC (as in the movies and first season of the series), or come up with some other explanation, such as when the Immortal's head is dislocated, then the retarded aging process catches up with the Immortal and his body slowly fades to dust (but what to do about those "new" Immortals, eh?). It's up to you.

Links of interest . . .

Highlander related links (current as of February 15, 2009):

Afterwords by Eric P. Isaacson

When I first saw Highlander (the movie) I was . . . amazed, to say the least. This was well before I was into playing GURPS. Sure I'd played D&D a couple times and some other games which I believe are now defunct (ah, Superworld, where are you now?), but GURPS came much later, only a few years ago. Then, of course, the big thing was GURPS Vampire: The Masquerade, a game which I still enjoy immensely. Then one day, while cruising the "information superhighway," i.e., the world wide web, I came across Hank Driskill's and John Gavigan's Highlander: the Gathering, 2nd edition (based on the White Wolf Storyteller system). I thought, "Cool! A Highlander role-playing game!" But I was unfamiliar with the Storyteller system—how could I play? "Ah-hah!" went my brain. "Why not make a GURPS Highlander?" "Okay," I said to myself. So I got together with a friend of mine and we battled it out (on paper and in our heads) what a GURPS Highlander RPG should be like, albeit within the WoD because we liked the GURPS rules versions of that world. Betwixt the twain, we came up with the above "rules." I put that word in quotes because I think the best thing about GURPS is its flexibility; if you don't like a rule or it doesn't quite fit, you can change it or throw it out. We've had to play a little fast and loose with the "evidence," i.e., the information presented in the movies and television show, but I think the rules work, so far (we're always playtesting). If you can come up with additional rules or improvements to the existing ones, let me know—collaboration is what makes GURPS fun.

About the authors:

Eric P. Isaacson is a writer of superhero and dark fiction who enjoys living vicariously through his Internet connection.

Travis L. Sparkman lives in a purple shoe box in Clarkston, Washington, and one day hopes to make a living selling maps to the stars.


If you would like to respond to these rules or offer suggestions, please email me here:

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