GURPS Triage, Part One


tri*age n.: sorting and allocating need on the basis of need for or likely benefit from medical treatment.Welcome to GURPS Triage, a game of high stress and drama in a medical environment. You may be asking yourself: "Why a medical drama as an RPG?" Well, my only response to that is, because I thought it might be neat, that's why.

tri*age n.: sorting and allocating need on the basis of need for or likely benefit from medical treatment.


Welcome to GURPS Triage, a game of high stress and drama in a medical environment. You may be asking yourself: "Why a medical drama as an RPG?" Well, my only response to that is, because I thought it might be neat, that's why.

In all honesty I expect the majority of you to read this article and think it is just neat and never play it. Some of you will probably try it and never go back to it again. But I know there are those people, all three of you, who will love the concept and play it to death.

Now, with this said, you are probably asking yourself: "Why would someone waste their time if they think no one is going to like it?" My answer to that has some real logic to it: I assumed with all the popularity of shows like ER and Chicago Hope, maybe people would like to play it as an RPG. It is to you that I write this.

I have a question for you: "Why are you sitting there trudging through my babble and not reading on to see if you are one of those three people?"


GURPS Triage characters are built with 100 points like most other GURPS games. If so desired the GM may wish to raise or lower the point total as per the rules on the sidebar of GURPS p. B11.

Typical Characters
Triage characters have many things in common; the major factor is they are almost always medical personnel. It helps if they work together too. Typically characters tend to fall into a few set roles as defined by their job. The following are some of those roles most common.

  • Doctor
    Most people are going to want to play doctors, probably because they are assumed to be the most important. This is not always true. In triage, doctors are usually the ones who have to make the real life and death decisions (who get most of the glory), and get their hands the dirtiest. High DX and IQ are typical to doctors and some useful advantages could include Common Sense, Strong Will, and Intuition. Doctors are usually the most educated members of the team and this should be reflected in the number and level of skills, most common include Diagnosis, Physician, Surgery, Biology, and Physiology. A doctor without these skills is not much of a doctor.
  • Nurse/Aide
    The largest number of personnel in a hospital, or any medical facility, are the nursing staff. The only real difference, in game terms, are nurses are more educated and, of course, get paid more. The three levels of nursing include, from highest to lowest: education, Registered Nurse (RN), Practical Nurse (PN), and Certified Nurses Aide (CNA). In a triage situation, typically, aides just get out of the way while the nurses and doctors do their thing. This is not to say an aide is useless (they wouldn't be any fun to play if they were) because an extra pair of hands are always needed. Usually an aide can not handle medication, while nurses can, but by default, in triage, it is assumed an aide has received this additional training. Typical advantages include Alertness, Common Sense, and Strong Will. Skills usually include First Aid and Physiology and nurses usually have Diagnosis also.
  • Paramedic
    To take triage out of the E.R. and onto the streets, where it is just as vital, some people may want to play a paramedic or an EMT (emergency medical technician); for the purposes of a game these two are virtually identical. That is not to say they are not productive team members in a facility setting when faced with a massive emergency situation. Typical advantages include Alertness, Common Sense, Intuition, Luck, and Strong Will. Skills almost required are Diagnosis, First Aid, Physiology, Area Knowledge, and Driving.

These are not the be-all and end-all of the rolls a character could fill. Other options include Pastoral Care (Priests and Nuns) in a religious hospital, maybe a unit director or a hospital manager, a security guard, or maybe even a patient.

Advantages, Disadvantages, And Skills
This section expounds upon chapters 4, 5, and 7 in GURPS Basic Set 3rd Ed. In a triage setting some things are different due to the situations and circumstances that commonly arise.

  • Advantages
    There are no changes to advantages but some that are common or useful include Alertness (p. B19), Common Sense (a surprising amount of medical personnel still lack this in any definable amount)(p. B20), Intuition (p. B20), Strong Will (p. B23), and Empathy (p. B20).
  • Disadvantages
    Disadvantages are changed only slightly. Certain Phobia (pp. B35-36) are worth an additional -5 points due to their frequency, these include Death And The Dead (necrophobia), Sharp Things (aichmophobia) or Squimishness, others may be included if decided by the GM.
  • Jinxed (pp. B240-241) is worth an additional -5 points per level due to how detrimental this can be in a triage situation.
    The most significant change is Illiterate (p. B33) which is now worth -20 points due to the necessity of the written word in labels and charts. Imagine a nurse administering medication and hoping she is giving the right kind.

  • Skills
    Skills are not changed at all but many are almost required to do triage work and be any good at it. These include most medical skills, Diagnosis (p. B00), First Aid (p. B00), and Physiology (p. B00), and in the case of doctors Physician (p. B00), Surgery (p. B00), and Biology (p. B00).

Medical Politics In Status, Reputation, Wealth, and Jobs

  • Status
    Status is derived from two things in the world of medical politics. Those two things are first, a character's job, and second, a character's experience in the field.

    The following Status Table shows a general reference of the hierarchy. If a character has a higher status level than their job, it represents years of experience or seniority per level. If a character is lower than their job indicates, they are very green, either just out of school or recently transferred form another facility.
    0 Orderly or Aide
    1 Nurse
    2 Nurse Manager
    3 Doctor
    4 Unit or Department Manager
    5 Corporate Sponsor
    6 Hospital Manager
    7 Hospital President

  • Reputation
    In the medical world the rumor mill churns constantly, so reputation is something that really gets noticed. If someone is a skilled or empathetic worker, it gets noticed. Also, if someone messes up, it really gets around.
  • Resources
    Almost all necessary supplies and equipment a character will need will be supplied by their employer, so wealth is not an important factor unless a game will focus on a character's home life, which most good medical dramas do. Starting wealth is the standard amount for the setting, which in the default modern setting is $15,000.
  • Jobs
    Jobs in triage are pretty straightforward and define a character's role in the team.
  • Job (Required Skills), Monthly Income
    Poor Jobs
    Volunteer (No Requirements), $400
    Orderly (No Requirements), $500

    Struggling Jobs
    CNA (First Aid 10+), $800
    Student (First Aid 10+), $800

    Average Jobs
    Nurse (First Aid 12+, Physiology 10+), $1000
    Pastoral Care (Theology 12+, Status 1+), $1200
    Hospital Security Guard (ST 10+, Brawling 12+), $1200
    Paramedic (Driving 10+, First Aid 12+), $1500
    Nurse Manager (First Aid 12+, Physiology 10+, Administration 10+, Status 1+), $2000

    Comfortable Jobs
    Unit or Department Manager (Administration 12+, Status 2+), $3000
    Doctor (Physician 12+, Diagnosis 12+, Physiology 12+, Status 2+), $4000

    Wealthy Jobs
    Hospital Manager (Administration 14+, Economics 12+, Status 3+), $5000
    Glorified Doctor (Physician 14+, Surgery 12+, Physiology 14+, Status 3+), $6000
    Hospital President (Administration 18+, Economics 14+, Status 4+), $8000

To make a list of all the equipment involved with a triage setting would be a daunting task to say the least, and a bit beyond the scope of this initial work. So the best alternative I recommend is to get yourself a medical supply catalog and use it. Another alternative would be to watch some medical drama shows and see what they use and have around, then just place that equipment in your setting.

So, as promised, this is the player's section of GURPS Triage. Mind you, I never promised it would be good, just that it would be there. Please come again to my posts for GURPS Triage Part Two: This Time It's Not GURPS Triage Part One. Or more accurately, the gamemaster's section of the article.

Very interesting, Mr. Wendol (hoping someone here gets the Crichton joke). Looking forward to Part 2.

Thanks Coctus.

I don't get the Mr. Wendol joke. Sorry. What book is that from? I've read most of them so I might just not remember him.

This article is as it was when rejected from Pyramid Magazine. The fine folks here at (who will post anything it seems) gave me a chance.

I have an odd feeling that pre-med students may take an unnatural likeing to this...

The term "wendol" is from Crichton's book _Eaters of the Dead_. I thought it doubly appropriate given that Crichton was also the creator of ER. ;)

Doh! Guess I should've mentioned that the wendol were the eaters of the dead.

Go you!! Very fun - when we playing? I want to cut you open .... mwahahaha

Just a "lil bit" ;)

Man, it's been so damn long sense I read that book I don't remember the name of the tribe. Eaters Of The Dead is where i came up with my screen name too, jeez. I mostly remember the norse guys, they were awesome, and the fire snake. I didn't like that book as much as I should have 'cause I didn't like the writing style, that particular form allways annoyed the crap out of me.

And Tia. You can cut me open anytime, baby. He He He.

Dangeresque 2: This Time, It's Not Dangeresque 1!

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun... But I wonder, how will a person not in the medical field run a campaign, much less play, successfully? Perhaps a brief summary of some medical conditions, terms, and treatments could help those not up to snuff...
as a medical student (NRCMA program), I have to say I'd probably have a blast, myself :)

You know Spoot, this article was rejected from Pyramid magazine for that very reason. There was now way to just grab it and start playing. Granted, this is just the first half of the article, and the second half will be buy in a little while. But still, it's playable, but not for people who don't know medicine allready. If the GM can't say to a player that their new patient has a pulse of 115 and a BP of 66 over 42 and have them understand it or realise that that is a bad thing than the game looses it's drama and is reduced to "Ok, I made my medicine roll with a 5, so his lung is all good now, right?" The idea of some med terms and whatnot is a really good idea though. I may revise the GM section before I submit it to include your ideas. Then, I might also be too damn lazy.

And Aubri, I'm glad someone got the Strong Bad joke. So stay tuned in Summer 2004 for "GURPS Triage Part Three: The Criminal Projective."