Grade the GURPS System

How do you feel about GURPS?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 21 14.0%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 37 24.7%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 41 27.3%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 17 11.3%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 7 4.7%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 27 18.0%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

We created our own characters the first time I played GURPS. To make matters worse, I am caster obsessed and insisted on making a caster. I realize that was my choice but it was what I wanted to play. The character creation process took many, many hours and gave me a headache. ... It is difficult for me to offer specific criticisms because it was a long time ago (2009) and I never understood the game, lol.
I wonder how much of the difficulty you experienced was due to the the combination of horrendous organizational choices of the GURPS Magic book, and the sheer volume of available spells.

Like, don't have both a complex system of prerequisites for magic spells AND a non-alphabetical organization of those spells.

SJG learned from that mistake and at least in DFRPG, Dungeon Fantasy: Spells has all the spells in each college listed alphabetically, and it helps a lot, but wizards/clerics/druids/bards are still one character type that I cannot generally create from memory. I need to use the books and/or a web app (Dungeon Fantasy Spell Prereqs) or sometimes both.

Anyway, my point is that the gameplay is pretty simple and even the rules aren't too bad, but the design of the book may have made chargen unnecessarily complex in this case.
 

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Voadam

Legend
One of the things with GURPS is the atomization of details leading to compound costs of multiple things being appropriate for a single concept you want to build up to.

I remember sitting down to translate a long time AD&D magic user character of mine with well defined characterization and see how I would stat him out in GURPS. In the campaign I had been a mage who had been a talker who made deals, became a spelljamming merchant, and worked his way up politically to be a merchant prince political power mover and shaker, part of a city state ruling triumvirate, which was all narrative in D&D with a little non weapon proficiency aspect. His stats were basically magic user with spells and items. His vast trade empire and political power and network of contacts and allies was all narrative, no accounting of gps and such but a bunch of hooks for the DM to use and to guide some roleplay interactions.

So in 3e GURPS lite to just do the merchant prince stuff there is status and wealth to start as advantages pretty core to being a merchant prince. Also a lot of expensive point options to get to a rich noble. Being able to buy pretty much anything you want without considering the cost is 50 character point, status is five points each with eight levels of status available to buy. Reputation and allies could be appropriate. Merchant prince skills are a bit of a judgment call, Merchant definitely, but also Influence diplomacy, and Influence savoir-faire, Area knowledge. Leadership?

So a potential lot of points out of the character point pool before building stats and mage and spell stuff or any of his appropriate skills like spelljamming pilot and research and occult.

It is real easy to spend a ton of GURPS points on executing stuff for a flavor concept in the system out of the pool that goes to all your stats and combat aspects as well.

The system really rewards narrow specialization in a number of ways, and throwing as many points as you can at your stats. The more focused with fewer things to spend points on, the higher level results you can get.

One answer is to build to the game you expect to actually require mechanics for and turn characterization into your roleplay as much as you can instead of mechanics. Since I did not track wealth in D&D or spend money as a merchant prince, it does not really need to cost points if I am not going to spend on hand money in GURPS. Those points can then go to magery and all the prereq spells so I can throw lightning bolts again.

Another option is to ignore most appropriate skills and advantages but pick out a few. Take merchant and influence for skills, and for advantages take a token status and then move on. Spend a small flavor tax of points and then build for the mechanics of the character you want to focus on with points (probably a combat niche or style or specific powers).

Another is just to accept that being able to do a bunch of stuff in the system generally means being a master of none. To get a bunch of advantages and skills the stats are probably going to be lower.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Kromm says that Steve Jackson denies the utility aspect, at least. The quote is upthread.

He can deny it all he wants, but advantage costs were based on something, and neither difficulty nor rarity is relevant. So they're either based on utility, or they're based on nothing.

I think later GURPS editions have tried much harder to align on utility, and the resulting community discourse around trying to find the "right" point values for magic spells or high tech equipment is very much not to my taste. I.e. I think the original GURPS design goals you're throwing shade at here were perfectly fine.

Except I don't believe them. Some of them were simply not possible.

Edit: Let me do an addendum so I can make my position clear.

Skills and to some extent attributes can be based an difficulty. Skills that are harder to learn are more expensive, and skills and attributes that are higher are more difficult to learn and more expensive.

Now let's talk about when you get to magic, powers, advantages and disadvantages and other similar things. What can you base the cost on? They're genre independent (at least should be since they're for general use), and many of them have no metric for difficulty.

So if they're not based on utility, can't be generically based on genre, they're based on--what? Rarity? Outside of context?

I roll to disbelieve utility was not a factor there.
 
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He can deny it all he wants, but advantage costs were based on something, and neither difficulty nor rarity is relevant. So they're either based on utility, or they're based on nothing.
I disbelieve that "rarity is not relevant."

When Kromm says that Steve Jackson says Combat Reflexes is cheaper than other more useful abilities because it's diegetically common in adventure fiction, whereas Warp is expensive because it's an outre superpower, I believe him.

That's clearly not a utility-driven paradigm.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I disbelieve that "rarity is not relevant."

When Kromm says that Steve Jackson says Combat Reflexes is cheaper than other more useful abilities because it's diegetically common in adventure fiction, whereas Warp is expensive because it's an outre superpower, I believe him.

That's clearly not a utility-driven paradigm.

And outside of specific genres, I consider that as big a problem as the rest. If you don't want something to occur, making it expensive just turns it into an intelligence test, the way Extra Hit Point were in Supers 1e. Nobody with a brain would take it at its cost, so it would have been better to just not have it.

But some of the costs only make sense on utility. They're common but the cost for them in the game is still relatively pricey.
 

And outside of specific genres, I consider that as big a problem as the rest. If you don't want something to occur, making it expensive just turns it into an intelligence test, the way Extra Hit Point were in Supers 1e. Nobody with a brain would take it at its cost, so it would have been better to just not have it.

But some of the costs only make sense on utility. They're common but the cost for them in the game is still relatively pricey.
Can you give an example to help me understand your point? What's a power whose cost cannot be interpreted as an attempt to influence rarity via "market price"?

And what do you mean by "outside specific genres" anyway? A given game always takes place in a specific genre, doesn't it? You can adjust point costs for the game and genre you intend to run. If you want a space game with high tech AND mighty thews, you bring down the cost of ST until players start buying it.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I think Steve Jackson would agree with you about the point system: it's an artificial market economy intended to shape PC distributions, nothing more.

I get the sense that Kromm might disagree, based on his advice to GMs to ensure that disadvantages are triggered regularly, while still agreeing that Steve's original 1E design is very much NOT oriented towards points measuring utility.
Originally, it was representative of 200& some hours of training per point. Per SJ's designer's notes in Roleplayer. It evolved into the even less useful thing in 3rd...
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Can you give an example to help me understand your point? What's a power whose cost cannot be interpreted as an attempt to influence rarity via "market price"?

After not having engaged with the system for 20 years? No.

And what do you mean by "outside specific genres" anyway? A given game always takes place in a specific genre, doesn't it? You can adjust point costs for the game and genre you intend to run. If you want a space game with high tech AND mighty thews, you bring down the cost of ST until players start buying it.

Now ask how many people using GURPS are going to adjust from its assumptions in cost based on someone's perception of how common a given ability is in some broad sense. If 20% will do so when warranted, I'd be surprised.

Commonality can at least be argued for in specific genre adjustments (though I stand by my opinion its a bad way to do it); its a dumb design choice in a generic system.
 

And what do you mean by "outside specific genres" anyway? A given game always takes place in a specific genre, doesn't it?
Well, no. A campaign generally starts in a specific genre, although this may be quite tightly or loosely defined. For example, the genre of "This campaign is about retrieving the fragments of the Rod of Seven Parts from the dungeons where they are known to be hidden" is rather more specific than "You're going to go treasure hunting all across a continent that's as large as Asia, with a similar variety of terrain, cultures and languages."

Long-running campaigns (which are my preference as GM and player) also have a tendency to grow out of their initial genre and style, in ways the the players and GM cannot foresee at start-up time. I had no idea whatsoever when I started running Infinite Cabal how the story would conclude. I knew who had recruited the characters, the first job they would be given, and some general ideas about the construction of the universe they would explore. I discovered far more about the universe when a player decided to ignore the rules for safe inter-world travel, and I was forced to explain what he found.

I had no clue at the start that the PCs would be recruited by Athena to assist the Greek deities in overthrowing the Ancient Egyptian demiurge who had been miss-managing the Infinite Worlds for millenia. Nor had I even heard of the female German Jewish mathematician from 1920 who would replace the demiurge as controller of the universe, concluding the campaign. Those ideas emerged from running the game over more than 200 sessions, plus a lot of reading about history and theoretical physics looking for game applications. Many of the ideas and insights came from the players, and from NPCs I was running in the same immersive manner as I use for my PCs in other people's campaigns. Many other ideas that sounded good, or seemed to fit into the initial design of the campaign, were discarded as better ones emerged.
 
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corwyn77

Adventurer
I found that the design parameter that makes difficult skills cost more - while realistic - will hurt a PC in a game that doesn't require these skills.

The sourcebooks are extensively playtested and always top notch. I know one book was part of a syllabus for a college course back in the day.
GURPS Camelot, maybe. Years ago, on the GURPS forum, a guy said he included it in the bibliography for a paper he wrote. The prof asked "what's a gurps?". He read it, then next year added it to "other reading" for his class.

There stuff has amazing research. I showed Ice Age to my Anthropology prof and she was impressed. Multiple times, people on the forums have said they can't stand the system but have an entire shelf of books. Their historical and genre books are without peer, IMO. Rome, Greece, Middle Ages, Fantasy, Space, etc.
 

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