Monday, June 14, 2010

The Basics of GURPS

GURPS has a reputation of being overly complex. The problem mostly due to the core books becoming more of a toolkit making it difficult for novices or gamers coming over from other system to figure out how to use the game. GURPS 2nd Edition (which I started) it was easy for AD&D players to understand how the system worked for them. The core set + GURPS Magic was a inexpensive investment for a near complete Fantasy RPG. GURPS 4th edition is actually a better system. Whatever issues I have about the presentation in the art of rule design the folks at SJ Games are top notch.

Anyway enough of the complaints.

GURPS is a point based system. Most GURPS 4th edition campaign start out around 150 total points. This produces a competent character compared to a 5th level character in various editions of D&D. If you want to start a true beginner then 75 to 100 points will do it.

A GURPS characters has four attributes Strength, Dexterity, IQ, and Health. There are four sub attributes based off of the four. Perception, Fatigue, Will, and Hit Points. It is rare to vary these from their base attribute.

You also have Advantage, Disadvantages, Quirks and Perks.

Advantages are things like Combat Reflexes, Magery (needed to cast spells), Social Level, etc. Disadvantage are mental or physical limtations of your character. They included positive disadvantage like Honesty, Code of Honor, as well as the more obvious hindering ones like one handed etc. A typical GURPS fantasy campaign will allow you take up 40 points worth of disadvantages. Disadvantages give you bonus points to spend.

Quirks are 1 point disadvantage. They you use them to define well ... quirks about your character. Like "Always sit with his back to the wall.", "Doesn't like the color red." You typically five of these. Most GURPS GM I know only ask to define 3 and letting the other 2 be defined during the first few sessions.

Perks are 1 points advantages. Little benefits you can buy. Like Alcohol Tolerance, Deep Sleeper, Honest Face, etc.

Typically you wind up spending around 195 points as a starting character.

The reason I and my group like the system is that we have control over the characters we create. My point of view is that the uncertainty of the campaign is good enough for me and I like having control over where I start out.

GURPS 4th edition deals with the diversity of choices by offering templates to use for character creation. These are packages of Attributes, Advantages, etc that allow you to make a character of that type. Some are professions, other represent classic roles like Fighter and Thief. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has a bunch of these for D&D style adventures. GURPS Fantasy has more still oriented towards more toward a low Fantasy Realism.

GURPS Lite is free and provides a good overview of the system. You can find it here.

The 3rd edition version has a small taste of the magic system and you can find it here.


Gothridge Manor said...

It's interesting that you wrote about GURPS this morning because I had a post planned on it also. Love the system, but like you and I have discussed several times is their lack of interest in developing fantasy adventures and a monster manual.

And with their style guide coming in at 46 pages we may not see them. However with their Dungeon Fantasy series there is some hope.

Robert Conley said...

Indeed I was pleasantly surprised to see the Treasure Tables and Tavern wasn't bad either

FrDave said...

I'm curious. In what ways is 4th ed better than earlier editions? I ask because I started with Man to Man which was a lot of fun. So when 1st ed came out my group played a number of campaigns both sci fi and fantasy. We found the system too deadly for the amount of time necessary to create a character and a huge burden for the GM.

Unknown said...

As a long-time Gurps player, a heartily approve of this post. Gurps's reputation for complexity is undeserved (IMHO) and the 4e version of the game is quite accessible.

The Dungeon Fantasy series is excellent, btw.

@FrDave: Creating NPCs can be a burden, if you actually create them using the full character rules. In practice, for most NPCs I only define the basics and use the new Wild Card/Bang skills to encapsulate the gist of the character's skills. This approach, combined with a a few handy templates means I can create reasonable NPCs on the fly.

Michael Curtis said...

It just occured to me that GURPS' quirks/perks system could be adapted to just about any old school RPG that doesn't feature such an option.

While I've got a homebrewed chart that gives each new PC a chance of starting with some minor little benefit, a simple 1 for 1 point exchange method, where the player has to make up some little quirk of behavior in return for a minor bonus could work without the need for charts or dice rolls.

Robert Conley said...

You may want to look at this then.

Kevin Mac said...

My short GURPS experience in the late 90's was not great. I was a new guy to a Friday night group, and I was more used to GM'ing. I'll admit, I was low on my own players at that time and was trolling out there for others.

It did seem complex to me, and I'm a Hero System guy. The games were also kind of sucky. This dude didn't even have notes, and made it up as he went along. You gotta be talented to do that, and this guy was not so.

I turned my back on GURPS after 3 or 4 games with those folk. I have to admit, I let poor gamers and bad gaming in general turn me off it. I never looked back.

5stonegames said...

Lot of GURPS talk today between both you and Gothridge Manor

I've played GURPS since Man to Man, about 1986 or so and for many years it was my favorite go-to game.

I still love it unlike some games with alliterative names, 4th edition is superior ;0

As for Tims commentsa monster manual being worked on though how far along it is, I do not know.

I'll also note that if I had to play only one system GURPS would be it. I'd miss Buffy (my #2) Risus and D&D but could (and have) been a one system GURPShead

Unknown said...

I think one of the reasons for Gurps reputation is the ease that a novice player can get lost in the minutiae. If you arent very careful, or if the gm makes the mistake of not specifying what books are available and which aren't, things can go quite pear shaped.

That said Im very impressed with what Ive seen of Gurps 4e, and especially the templates which Ive seen in other point buy systems.

Anonymous said...

I started with Man to Man too, but I think I stopped playing GURPS around the time the 3rd ed. was published, more because it was easier to find D&D players than anything else. Some of the best games I ever played were in GURPS, but also some of the worst. I agree it has been unfairly painted as complicated. It basically has two mechanics, 3d6 rolls and (roll damage - DR) x some multiplier.