GURPS High Heels

Optional rules for GURPS detailing the effects of high heeled footwear on movement, appearance, sex-appeal, combat, it's cinematic use and interference with several other skills. With one new skill and one new maneuver.
Version 1.7
High Heels keep on walking


choose a pair High heels increase height, appearance, and sex-appeal of the wearer. That makes them popular with some types of GURPS adventurer characters. Played realistically, it is not without drawbacks to wear high heels. On the positive side is that the real-world benefits of high heels can be described in GURPS terms, too. Read on and enjoy. 

Walking on High Heels

New Skill:
High Heel Walking (P/E), defaults to DX-4, Acrobatics-4, Acting -3, or Performance -3.
This is the skill of walking in high heeled shoes. It is unusual for males in the twentieth century, but some male actors or performers need it anyway (and see the note on cowboy boots at the end). It is rather common for females. The height and shape of the heels and footwear gives modifiers to this skill. Someone with a sucessful High Heel Walking skill roll is able to tell wich of the following modifiers apply to a given pair of footwar once she has tried it on.
Broad heels of medium height (+4 to skill)
Condition Modifier
Low heel height (less than 1'') No need for a skill. Walk right ahead.
Medium heel height (1'' to less than 2'') +2
High heel height (2'' to less than 4'') This is the default; there is no modifier.
Very high heel height (4'' to less than 6'') -1
Extreme high heel height (6''+) -2
Plateau soles -1
Thin heels (a.k.a. stiletto heels) This is the default; there is no modifier.
Broad heels +2
Shoes or boots providing good stabilization
(e.g. boots, if not made from soft materials)
Shoes or boots providing average stabilization
(e.g. pumps or courts)
This is the default; there is no modifier.
Shoes or boots providing no significant stabilization at all
(e.g. sandals, sling backs, mules, ballet heels)
High quality footwear (not aesthetic quality, but quality of built); 
costs about five times as much and is rare
Very high quality footwear; 
costs more than five times and up to 30 times as much 
and is very rare
Unfamiliar or new shoes or boots until one has practiced for some time (8 hours).
(It also takes some time of walking to mould new footwear to your feet.)

Click  here for a graphic comparison of heel heights with skill modifiers

The default are thin heels of medium height (2''-4'') and providing average stabilization, which get no modifiers. The terrain also gives certain modifiers (see table to the right). If moving carefully only one yard per second (Move 1), frequently looking down, high heel walking skill rolls are at +4.

Terrain Modifier
Hard, firm and smooth +0
Rough -2
Soft  -3
Cracks, holes, grating -4
Steep surface, downward only -3
Steps, downward only -1
High and thin heels, with no stabilization (-1 to skill)
Very high and thin heels, plateau soles, with no stabilization (-3 to skill) A critical success with this skill will make the wearers movements very feminine and graceful. This gives a +2 to Sex Appeal and may provoke jealously from members of your own sex, just like very beautiful appearance (p. B15), resulting in -2 on reaction modifiers. It also boosts selfconfidence, giving +2 on Will rolls. 
A normal success allows normal movement (but see the next paragraph). A failure may have unpleasant consequences. Refer to the High Heel Walking Skill Failure Table.
Wearing high heels for any prolonged period is painful and possibly damaging to the feet. The higher the heel the more the feet will suffer. Make a HT roll for every 30 minutes of actually walking (not just sitting) in high heels. Use the modifiers for the High Heel Walking skill with a further -2 if wearing footwear with a narrow or pointed toe box (quite common). Failure results in a sensation of pain (DX-1 and IQ-1 until 30-HT minutes after putting the footwear off). The GM may require a roll against the average of Will and High Heel Walking after every 30 minutes that high heels are used for walking (15 minutes for very high heels) to resist resting the feet and putting off the heels for some time. High Pain Threshold (p. B20) or enjoying Sexual Masochism (see GUPRS Sex) helps. This is avoided at TL8+ with surgical modifications, described as "Archwork" in GURPS Bio-Tech (p. BIO63). Very high, thin heels (-1 to skill)

Note that feet in pain tend to swell (increasing volume). Make a HT roll. If failed, it is extremely painful (DX-2 and IQ-2 while it lasts) to put on the same footwear on swollen feet after once taking it off. The swelling might last for 1d hours.

High heels adversely affect speed of movement. Normal move is reduced to 2. A move of 3 to 6 counts as running with high heels and is at -2 to skill. Make a skill roll for every 10 yards (!) of running in high heels. Note that this is usually a quick way of breaking your ankle, heels, or both. A move over 6 is impossible with high heels. Running with High Heels may be improved as a special maneuver:

New Maneuver:
Running in High Heels (Average), defaults to High Heel Walking-2

Prerequisite: High Heel Walking
This maneuver allows running with high heels without further penalties. Roll against Running in High Heels instead of High Heel Walking. Do not use any negative running modifier. But still make askill roll for every 10 yards of running in high heels.

New Maneuver:
Dancing in Heels (Average), defaults to High Heel Walking-2

Prerequisite: High Heel Walking
This maneuver allows dancing with high heels without further penalties. Roll against Danching in High Heels instead of High Heel Walking. Roll once per session of dancing (e.g. once per evening on the dance floor).

High Heel Walking Skill Failure Table

High Heels and Sex Appeal

Boots give appearance +1 (at least)One of the main reasons for wearing high heels is the improvement of appearance. High heels can make the wearer look more graceful, elegant, glamorous, sexy, and beautiful. This works more or less, depending on many factors. It starts with getting the right pair. Make a Sex Appeal skill roll to find a pair matching the wearers style and figure. Each attempt takes at least one hour in a well stocked shop. A success will find a pair giving +1 to appearance, or +2 on a critical success. A simple failure gives no modifier to appearance. A critical failure lets you turn up with a pair looking silly and giving -1 to appearance, while leaving you with the (minor) delusion of looking good. You may try another roll in another shop at no penalty.

Long boots give an additional +1 (cinematic female pirates know this instinctively). Some males react badly on anyone larger than themselves, giving in that case a reaction modifier of -1. For possible adverse social effects of sexy footwear see high heels and Savoir-Faire.

If high heels are worn they may provide modifiers to Sex Appeal rolls, depending on the preferences and inclinations of the target. Make a Reaction roll (p. B205) to determine the general reaction of an NPC to high heels. Fetishists, if attracted by high heels, give a bonus to that Reaction roll of +4. On a Poor or worse result the target does not like the high heels for some reason, giving -1 on attempts to seduce him. A Good result gives +1, a Very Good result +2, and an Excellent result indicates a high heel lover, giving +3 to Sex Appeal.

Any failed roll against the High Heel Walking skill will spoil attempts of using Sex Appeal to some extend. See the High Heel Walking Skill Failure Table. However, it is not always necessary to walk with high heels in order to use them for sex appeal.
Pony heel shoes Pony heels are footwear that has no practical application beside sex appeal. Giving a woman a very exotic look they appeal only to the more extraordinary tastes, adding a further +1 on Sex Appeal skill for rolls to seduce those who like it that way. These unusual shoes and boots are very rare and hard to find. Prices are accordingly high. With some practice one can learn to walk with them: 

New Maneuver:
Walking in Pony Heels (Average), defaults to High Heel Walking-3

Prerequisite: High Heel Walking
This maneuver allows walking with pony heels without further penalties. Pony heels adversely affect movement. Normal move is reduced to 2. A move of 3 to 6 counts as running with pony heels and is at -2 to skill.
Pony heel boots

High Heels in Combat

High heels may affect combat in two ways. First they may be utilized as weapons, and second they may be a hindrance, limiting movement and balance.

Handheld High Heels

When high heels are used handheld as improvised weapons they give +1 to punching damage with Brawling or Karate skill, while retaining all normal Brawling or Karate bonuses. Special prepared high heels might hold concealed spring loaded impaling blades. Treat them as daggers. Assign a -2 penalty for unfamiliarity (p. B43) until one has practiced for some time (8 hours minimum) with these special weapons.

Kicking with High Heels

Beware of the pirate's heels. Treat high heels of shoes or boots providing less than good stabilization as inappropriate for repeated serious kicking. Roll one die. On a 1-2 the heel breaks on the first hit, doing normal damage (see below), but is unavailable for subsequent kicks. On a 3-4 the heel broke in an unlucky way, doing normal damage to the wearers foot. On a 5-6 the shoe is dropped: You are barefoot. If you wear boots, treat a roll of 5-6 as a normal hit.

For high heels of shoes or boots providing good stabilization use the following rules:
Resolve the kicking attack normally, doing Thrust+1/Crush damage. Change damage type to impaling for very high and thin heels. If using special prepared high heels concealing a spring loaded impaling blade, damage is automatically of the impaling type.

Limited Movement and Balance

For every kick with high heels the GM might require the attacker to roll first against High Heel Walking to keep sufficient one-legged balance to launch the attack. For rapid movement use all normal modifiers given under the High Heel Walking skill.

High Heels and other Skills

High Heels and Acrobatics Skill

High heels give an additional -2 modifier to acrobatics. Use all other modifiers given under the High Heel Walking  skill. Any failure might indicate a broken shoe heel (GMs decision).

Pretty Woman with Driving skill -2High Heels and Driving, Motorcycle, Piloting, or Riding Skill

High heels make it somewhat more difficult to drive, pilot, or ride. The modifier to those skills is -1 for medium high heels (2''-4''), or -2 for very high heels (4''+). Note that it is illegal under some jurisdictions to wear very high heels while driving (can't remember where, though). Riding is at an additional -1.

High Heels and Intimidation Skill

The height of high heels directly aids with intimidation: +1 for each 6'' that you have over the subject. A subject with aichmophobia (the fear of sharp things, a -10/-20 points phobia in GURPS) confronted with pointed heels has to make a Will roll and suffer the consequences (see p. B35). If actually threatened with the heels the subjects Will roll is reduced accordingly (-2/-6).

High Heels and Savoir-Faire Skill

High heels are not well received everywhere. Some people regard overly sexy footwear as the attribute of prostitutes. Make a Savoir-Faire roll to judge the possible effects of high heels in a given social context. The Fashion Sense advantage (p. COI24) gives you +5 on this roll. A success will let you find a pair that will be seen as elegant. A critical success will let you find a pair that is very fashionable and gives you a +1 reaction bonus from all fashion-conscious people. A failure by more than 5 will get you a pair that will provide you with an undesired Pretty Woman image, entailing possible negative reaction modifiers.

High Heels and Stealth

Stiletto heels make a distinctive sound on hard surfaces. This gives -4 on Stealth skill rolls. Broad high heels give -1 to -3, depending on the material of the heels.

Cinematic High Heels

Cinematic High Heels (no skill required) The cinematic rules are simple. No needed skill, no pain, no reduced move, no interference with other skills, no failure. True heroines never stumble or break their ankles. Use only raised Appearance and Sex Appeal, plus the possible use in combat. 

High Heels for Men

I was informed by a reader of this article that "In many parts of the US, boots with broad medium height heels are commonly worn by men. These boots are known as cowboy boots. (...) For men, the primary advantage is increased apparent height. They are comfortable if walking on flat smooth level ground. Another advantage is that they are reasonably appropriate footwear for anything from torn jeans to a suit and tie, and when wearing a suit your socks are not visible so you can wear whatever socks you like." Nothing to add (Thank you, Victor).

Broad medium height heels give you a +4 bonus on the High Heel Walking skill.

Adventure Seeds

Do you really expect me to write some down? Maybe the GURPS Sex / GURPS Places of Mystery crossover "Heels of Fortune" :-)

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Christoph Sticherling. GURPS is copyright © of Steve Jackson Games.
Fly back to Dreambird's Lair.