d20 vs. GURPS?

Ashrem Bayle

Explorer
I know next to nothing at all about GURPs except regarding it's "generic" nature. However, I'm interested in checking out some new systems, and this one came to mind.

How is GURPS different than d20? Are the power levels about the same? How is the magic system? Psionics included? Just how powerful does the magic get?
 

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Committed Hero

Explorer
These are what I consider to be the large differences:

(1) GURPS characters are made with character points, instead of levels. Everything is purchased in this way: ability scores (4 vs 6 for d20), skills, advantages, and disadvantages (negative points, which allow for more positive things). This allows more flexibility at chargen, but can make it daunting with the sheer amount of choice available.

(2) Instead of rolling high, GURPS rolls low on 3d6. Using a bell curve rather than a straight d20 roll makes critical hits and misses much more rare. The basic idea for actions is to roll under your relevant skill for any action, from combat to spells & psionic powers to skills. Every activity is boiled down to a skill (or a default from another skill, sort of like an ability score check).

GURPS tends to run "realistic" things well, in which combat is deadly no matter how skilled your character might be. It tends to need additional rules and a tweak here of there to run cinematic or superhero-level games. There are a variety of magic systems, but they boil down to the same mechanic described above.
 


Committed Hero

Explorer
Ashrem Bayle said:
How is the magic? Vancian? Spell Points? Freeform?
I guess spell points, since casting temporarily reduces either Health or Stamina. Losses also depend on the caster's skill and the "mana level" of the setting; ie, whether magic is plentiful or rare.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
This is a very involved question, but I'll try and sum up.

* Magic works on a mana system. Mana points don't get that high; most common spells use 1-3 points of mana, while uber-spells would need things called Mana Stones (essentially mana batteries, some rechargeable, some not) plus other people contributing their own mana via Group Magic and so on.

* You learn individual spells much like you would learn skills and feats; 1 skill per spell, but some spells have prerequisites of other spells (example: Fireball would require Create Fire first, or you couldn't learn it).

* You must make a caster check to "activate" a spell. Once activated, you might have to make a combat check to lob, shoot, or maintain it. You can have any number of spells "on" at any time, but each additional spell makes casting other spells harder.

* Combat rounds in GURPS are ine 1-second increments. Casting damaging spells becomes a huge pain in this system; casting a Fireball (for example) nets you 1d6 the first second but you must "charge" the spell each second to get more damage potential. The trade-off is that a 3d6 Fireball will probably kill anyone in one hit... but most of your melee pals will have chopped your foes into bts by then. It's wonky like that.

* In the "default" Fantasy setting, no one may learn magic without the "Magery" advantage (like a feat). This advantage increases your effective skill levels for ALL your spells, though. Because of its character point (CP) expense, combined with the expense of learning spells in the first place, you will find very few 'dabblers' in the arcane arts.

* There are two GURPS gaming books chock full of magic spells (the Basic GURPS book having a few, well, basic spells), ALL of which are extremely nifty. GURPS Magic and GURPS Grimoire are a MUST (!!!) have for the wizards.

It's been a while since I've played GURPS. My first character ever was a jack-of-all-trades type who was very AD&D 2e Bard-like in capability. He was a Song Wizard; he had to be able to sing to cast spells, couldn't cast spells UNLESS he was singing, and enjoyed a cheaper spell cost to learn new magic as a trade-off.

Making GURPS characters in general is extremely (!) daunting at first. Limit yourself to the Basic rules until you become more familiar with the system. Then, start introducing spells from the other Magic books.

I've also found that the more GURPS books you buy, the more precarious it is to make characters as the wealth of options becomes overwhelming and you're never quite sure what's b0rken until you actually see it in play, which is usually much too late. ;)
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
Committed Hero said:
I guess spell points, since casting temporarily reduces either Health or Stamina. Losses also depend on the caster's skill and the "mana level" of the setting; ie, whether magic is plentiful or rare.
That, too.

I forget the actual rates of recovery for spent mana, but the default mana level for Fantasy recovers at an average rate. Very High mana worlds regenrate mana at a rate of up to 1 per second, while Very Low might do 1/day.

Also, I forgot to mention that, at higher skill levels, spells cost less mana to cast and at very high levels, do not require verbal/somatic components (again, the default assumption of GURPS Fantasy magic requires V/S components for spells).
 


Stormborn

Explorer
GURPS PCs are always fun to create (although you as GM need to keep a tight rein on what is allowed and how much it costs) and the basic system can be used for just about any setting. Keep in mind, however, that GURPS characters don't really advance much after creation. A few points here and there will make a few skill better, but no major abilities or going to be added. Of course, as GM you can change that, giving out more points if you feel the need to do so. There is no "Leveling up" and for many gamers that is a major change.

Personally I prefer GURPS for one shots or small single adventure campaigns, specially ones not set in a Sword n Sorcery world, and d20 for on going or longer campaigns.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
One thing I've found about GURPS is that it is a bit deadlier than D&D; for one, Health (basically, your Hit Points) don't improve over time, or VERY slowly if you're putting points into it. Also, firearms are very deadly; e.g. if you've got let's say 12 or 14 hit points, an undodged rifle bullet can do anywhere from 4d6 to 8d6 damage, depending on make and caliber. You don't die immediately, but you do go down at -1 or more health, and have to make a check periodically to avoid dying. Past -(5 x HT), you're dead; past -(10 x HT), you're hamburger. Melee weapons are pretty deadly, but less so, doing anywhere from 1d6 minus a number to about 2d6 plus adds in damage. Again, dodging death and the defense from armor is your friend.

It's a varied system, with lots of good add-ons, and SPECTACULAR source-books. Some of the early source books are some of the best reading material I ever found, in addition to being good game books.
 

beholdsa

Explorer
Stormborn said:
GURPS PCs are always fun to create (although you as GM need to keep a tight rein on what is allowed and how much it costs) and the basic system can be used for just about any setting. Keep in mind, however, that GURPS characters don't really advance much after creation. A few points here and there will make a few skill better, but no major abilities or going to be added. Of course, as GM you can change that, giving out more points if you feel the need to do so. There is no "Leveling up" and for many gamers that is a major change.

Personally I prefer GURPS for one shots or small single adventure campaigns, specially ones not set in a Sword n Sorcery world, and d20 for on going or longer campaigns.

I'm actually the other way around. I prefer d20 for one shots or very small adventures because of its quick and limited character creation. I prefer GURPS for longer campaigns as it has a more in-depth character creation system that allows for a great deal more customization and a more flexible spell and combat system.

Although I admit, the GM needs to keep a tight reign on what's allowed for characters in GURPS. It is one of those systems where you need to run it for a short campaign once before really getting a feel and balance for things.
 


Committed Hero

Explorer
That brings up something important - GURPS uses hexes instead of squares, but miniatures can play the same role in the system (that is, plenty or not at all). You do need to worry about facing and so forth, just as much as in a d20 game.

It is a pretty deadly game, compared to higher level d20 stuff.

Character creation is by definition pretty wide open, so the GM needs to alert players as to what the game will involve and what things will or won't be used. A lot of supplements have templates for starting characters that show you what a bare-bones character in a given role will look like.

You should check out sjgames.com, you can still get the Lite versions of the 3rd & 4th edition rules for free. They switched to the new edition in 2004, cleaning up some of the complexities in the older system, but 80% of the sourcebooks are for 3rd edition.

Another thing to mention is that their historical and genre sourcebooks are the best in the business, good even for d20 and other systems. Some of them have even been required reading for college courses! There are books on just about every interesting historical period (India is the conspicuous exception), and every major style of play (maybe a bit thin on post-apocalyptic). As for licenses, if you like Discworld, Hellboy, David Brin's Uplift Universe, and Conan, they all have GURPS versions; as do games like Blue Planet, Conspiracy X, Mage the Ascension, Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, In Nomine, & Deadlands.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I'm a GURPS-hater- I admit this. However, I DO respect it. Both my hate & respect come from years of gaming with a group of players who loved it, and who occasionally did some playtesting of material.

I generally agree with the discussion of the game's mechanics, above. I just don't like its flavor, and I don't think the system is as flexible as, say, HERO. The game has some scaling issues, for instance, and supplement incompatibility.

To illustrate- a telekinetic PC in Basic GURPS has to invest a LOT of points to become strong enough to lift a bowling ball, for instance. But some of the supplements made becoming a powerful TK rather cheap & easy.

This means that PCs couldn't be easily transported across genre- and thus, judging PC power could be a guessing game. A 100 point PC using one set of supplements could be VASTLY more powerful than one using a different set. I found this to be a serious flaw for a game claiming to be the Generic Universal Role Play System.

That said, the current version, I'm told, has improved many of the issues I had with earlier editions. From what I've seen, its a vast improvement, but I'm still not satisfied.

There is also the main saving grace of the game- the historical sourcebooks. They are some of the best in the entire hobby, and their writers tend to do their research. If you want to set a game in a historical locale, you probably won't find a game with more accurate info for your campaign. Despite my dislike of the system, I own several of the GURPS sourcebooks.
 

kenobi65

First Post
Committed Hero said:
You do need to worry about facing and so forth, just as much as in a d20 game.

Moreso than in d20, I think. "Stock" d20 games, like D&D, don't have any facing rules (unless you consider flanking to be a derivative of facing). GURPS, OTOH, has very explicit facing rules.
 

Stormborn

Explorer
Something else that needs to be mentioned is that while GURPS has some of the best source books of all time (I,like others, use them for all kinds of things) they have few adventures as such. A subscription to Pyramid over at SJGames.com can provide some, but GURPS is a much more labor intinsive effort for the GM if you are used to using a lot of ready made adventures.
 



bento

Explorer
Another bug-a-boo about GURPs is the length of time it takes to create a character. Any GM that likes to stat out complete NPCs will find GURPS to be daunting in this regard.

I read a thread over on RPG.net where a GM recently threw up his hands and decided to instead just provide bare essential stats for his NPCs. There's also some good discussion about GURPS prep:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=277526

A couple of other sources I can think of for the potential GURPS GM is first the SJGames Forum (http://forums.sjgames.com/), and the second is a the trait sorter. I stumbled on the trait sorter a year ago when I was getting info together for players in my one and only GURPS adventure. A GM uses the trait sorter to clarify which skills, advantages and disadvantages are allowed, recommended or forbidden in his/her game. They are long lists, but they get to the point on what YOU allow in a character build.

http://www.sjgames.com/gameaids/gurps/sorter/sorter.cgi
 


Ruland

First Post
I gamemastered GURPS for several years, but I will almost certainly never turn back to it. Keeping players from taking painfully senseless traits was a real headache; if they don't want to hear, you have to decide whether to grudgingly accept their choice or banning them from the game (thus perhaps ending the campaign before it starts); character generation uses up hours on end, and bookkeeping and generally keeping track in combat was exhausting for me as the GM.

No, I changed to d20 and later to Storytelling and are now re-won for d20 by True20, but going to continue with Vampire: the Requiem nonetheless.
 

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