Grade the GURPS System

How do you feel about GURPS?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 21 13.9%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 38 25.2%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 41 27.2%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 17 11.3%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 7 4.6%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 27 17.9%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

I've always been curious about it but I've never seen it for sale anywhere (And I've seen the Nobilis 2nd edition book for sale!) where I live.

And it's so damn intimidating. Where do you even start? There's like dozens if not hundreds of different books and different versions of the system and different editions and yeah. I never bothered.
 

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Ulfgeir

Hero
I rate it as an OK game. It does take a lot of work making the characters, and it is imo best suited for slightly gritty settings. The characters might be very powerful, but it is a very deadly system. Yes, even if using rules like "bulletproof nudity" ;)

Where it shines though is that you can create any type of setting by combining the right source-books. In that regard it is very modular. And the sourcebooks are very well written with a lot of information in them regarding that particular setting.
 

I voted "I Love It" and could just have easily vote "I Hate it". GURPS is a game I love conceptually. In application I have mixed feelings. It's the first thing I reach for when I'm thinking gritty, realistic (not really, but a gameable approximation) with tactical options.. I spend a ton of hours getting it ready to go, and then we play. It's a huge shift in how I normally run a game. I nearly always have some on the backburner for GURPS (right now its GURPS Dungeon Fantasy sandbox Pools of Radiance/Ruins of Adventure game and a gritty Symbaroum hack) and I'm never sure I'll bring them to the table.

Every successful attack in GURPS takes a minimum of three rolls, typically four.
  1. Attacker rolls to hit (Base skill, +/- modifiers)
  2. Defender attempts active defense (base defense, +/- modifiers)
  3. Attacker rolls hit location (no roll needed if (a) you performed a called shot or (b) you assume everything goes to the torso)
  4. Attacker rolls damage
Then we have to assess DR in the specific location vs. Damage to the specific location, and then once we determine what got through the DR we apply the damage multiplier based on the damage type. Every. Single. Time.

Do that with with a 4-6 players on a VTT and it becomes so much clicking, applying, rolling, assessing. It's just really slow for us to resolve at the table.

That said, if GURPS is your game, meaning its what you play most of the time, and regularly, I have no doubt it speeds up.

I haven't mentioned the 300+ skills in the core rulebook (even the ready to run, scaled down Dungeon Fantasy series is ~150 skills), the plethora of options, switches, toggles, buttons, and every other thing. You can skills the skill count up and down a couple of ways, primarily by choosing what's relevant to genre, TL, and setting or by implementing Wildcard skills (Bang! skills). There's probably a pretty decent low fantasy, gritty OSR game in there. Wildcard Skills (Fighter! Thief! Wizard! Fighting! Shooting! Casting!) and base game options and off you go.

At the end of the day GURPS is not a game. It's a toolkit to build the game you want.

You can build nearly any game you want out of it. It excels at anything approaching reality from a real physics point of view (at least as much as an rpg ruleset can). It would be my first choice for anything historical, alternate history, action oriented historical gaming, modern action + supernatural, for a Night's Black Agents (it was my first choice and then I moved it to Savage Worlds).

It would not be my first choice for a limited time slot game (we play three hours on Tuesday night over a VTT) or for a game that you want to run over a VTT (If I run it again on the VTT we won't use the VTT character sheets, just the dice roller, modifiers, and map functions). I think it struggles at higher points levels, high powered Supers might be a problem. Street level, no problem at all.

If you want to build exactly the game you want though, and are willing to really dig in and learn it, I think you will be rewarded. Everything said up-thread about the supplements is true, both as setting guides and the rules supplements themselves are top-notch. There are at least three primary, well supported, different magic systems for GURPS (RPM, Sorcery, Magic + Thaumatology) and plenty of guidelines for tweaking or building your own from scratch. The game can do all the gear porn you want and more.
 

In the context of RPGs, balance is usually referring to combat abilities or the ability to affect the game world. When they designed GURPS, they weren't concerned with balance in that sense. The cost of skills are based on how difficult they are to learn not how useful they are in a particular game. The only balance to the points is to have a baseline for the players. i.e. You all have 50 points to spend on your characters. Hopefully the GM and the players all understand what the campaign is all about so nobody buys any skills that won't be used.
Fun fact: according to Steve Jackson (via Sean Punch, the GURPS Line Editor), point costs were originally designed to control trait rarity, not model utility.

To be fair, I know as a fact that in GURPS, First Edition, advantages were indeed priced for desired rarity in the game, not for their utility. I know this because the designer told me! Combat Reflexes is far more useful than most 15-point traits and many traits worth quite a bit more, but it's priced cheaply because it's common in adventure fiction and not meant to be rare. Warp costs more mostly because it's an outré superpower, and just about always rare when it's innate rather than technological. [Source: http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?p=1566965#post1566965]

Implication: GMs who want a different trait frequency in their games should feel free to adjust point costs accordingly. You want big muscular gunmen like Jayne from Firefly in your space game and your players are all leaving their ST at 10? Reduce the cost of ST to 4 points per level. You want mages to be rare but powerful in your fantasy campaign? Quintuple the cost of Magery to 50 points per level, and also triple the radius and range of every spell.

Go right ahead! It's what Steve Jackson apparently did.
 

Combat reflexes generally gets repriced in my games. I tend to be pretty heavy handed though. Mandating templates, or when I ran an action game we used the Action 4: Specialist rules and tightly controlled how and what was available.

If Rule 0 is have fun, in GURPS Rule 0.1 is the GM has to validate and inspect character sheets. Period. Full stop. You have to be willing to have a conversation with your game group and individual players about what you are trying to accomplish and their selections may or may not fit into the world you are setting up. More than a lot of games a social contract is important. Getting on the same page is important. I say more than a lot of other games, because GURPS, even with templates and other restrictions, is really easy to abuse and min-max.

Interesting too, there are a number of GURPS supplements about hacking the game itself. GURPS Power Ups 9: Alternate Attributes is a deep and far ranging discussion about changing point values for primary and secondary attributes, splitting secondary attributes out from their primary attribute and other things of interest to those who are into looking under the hood. GURPS Power Ups 5: Impulse Buys includes a way to use character points as essentially a meta-currency if you feel you need it.

If your interested in trying GURPS, beyond the Basic books, or GURPS lite, I highly recommend How to be a GURPS GM. It's the second or third essential book to really get started. I would think if they ever did a 5th edition, the How to be a GURPS GM would form the core of the Gamemastering section.
How to be a GURPS GM
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
There needs to be an option up there for "It's complicated."

I've both played in and run GURPS. I'm not even that upset that it has too many options to choose from. That the skill list begins with Accounting is fine. That there are rules for everything is fine. That you need to use the type of math that requires a pen and paper to calculate crash damage is fine.

(No, it's not)

What bothers me the most is that (a) there are so many trap options, (b) any sort of balance is impossible, and (c) there's really no consistency with pricing.

For A, I have only once been able to create a highly competent character (a spellcaster who specialized in something like 2-3 divination-type spells), and she was utterly useless everywhere else. I could barely even succeed at casting any of her other spells, let alone fight or perform other actions. And this was after a long time playing, when she had gotten a lot of XP.

For B, for the character above, and I think for spellcasters in general, it's so much more economical to up your IQ instead of your spells, and that's a problem all around. Unless the GM gives you a hard cap on raising your stats, you basically have to game the system to be half-way competent. And like I said to my mad-for-GURPS GM, a 100-point combat monster (or other specialist) is going to be so much different than a 100-point generalist that it's ridiculous. It's almost impossible to design any sort of encounter because either there's a good chance the genrealist will fail or that the specialist will just mow the encounter down.

And for C, the highly variable cost of skills, skill specialties (if you use them), advantages, disadvantages, perks, and quirks is so uneven that you really did need that Character Program to track it, unless you were very good at remembering every tiny amount everything was worth. Which I wasn't. Even the GM I mentioned above, who had played GURPS for well over a decade, wasn't.

These three things make me much prefer Savage Worlds. You get 4 points to build your character's basic traits. Edges are worth 2 points. Hindrances are worth 1 or 2 points. You get 12 points to buy skills. Skills cost 1 point, unless they would become higher than your attribute, at which point they cost 2 points.

The end. Sure, there's no Accounting skill, but I doubt that more than a miniscule number of games have required Accounting so much or so in-depth as to need it to be a separate skill.

But I love the world books and the books like Biotech and Low Tech, or that DF Treasure Generator. They're amazing and so useful.
 

I fell in love with GURPS when we first met in the 1990s. Converted our long-running D&D Greyhawk campaign to GURPS 3e and kept that going for another decade. Continued playing in D&D games up through 3.5, but most of my gaming friends had become GURPS fans.

I took some time off from gaming to start a new career and a family. Then went back to D&D about 12 years ago. Played it for a while, both 4e and 5e. Had a good time, but it always felt like it was missing something. When the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (powered by GURPS) came out, I bought it and learned the GURPS 4e rules from it. GURPS is now the preferred game for most of the groups I play with. We even have a middle school club dedicated to it and GURPS summer camps for both middle school and high school. (Indeed, my kids are running a GURPS campaign in the next room with some friends as I write this.)

Despite its reputation for complexity (which is fair... the rabbit holes run deep), I've found it incredibly easy to use as a system for new players. The core mechanic (roll 3d vs. skill) is dead simple. It's easy to create characters that feel like real people, with all their quirks and foibles. We regularly hand character sheets to people who have never played an RPG in their life and they can tell what sort of character they've got by glancing over their advantages, disadvantages, and skills. Then they just describe what they want to do and we're off.
 

MGibster

Legend
And for C, the highly variable cost of skills, skill specialties (if you use them), advantages, disadvantages, perks, and quirks is so uneven that you really did need that Character Program to track it, unless you were very good at remembering every tiny amount everything was worth. Which I wasn't. Even the GM I mentioned above, who had played GURPS for well over a decade, wasn't.
When I played 3rd edition as a teenager, we didn't have a whole lot of problems keeping track of advantage, disadvantages, skills, etc., etc. The game even came with a handy dandy chart to to help us out with that kind of stuff. We had it laminated! But it's amazing to me how much I've changed over the years. I used to love playing games like Car Wars, Starfleet Battles, GURPS, AD&D, etc., etc., and while I have fond memories of them, I really don't want to play them these days. I just don't have the patience to mess with it. Aside from my players not liking GURPS, a big reason why I haven't tried running it is that I simply don't want to mess with it.

I'd be happy playing the game if someone else did all the work of building the world. But I dont' want to run it.

These three things make me much prefer Savage Worlds. You get 4 points to build your character's basic traits. Edges are worth 2 points. Hindrances are worth 1 or 2 points. You get 12 points to buy skills. Skills cost 1 point, unless they would become higher than your attribute, at which point they cost 2 points.
And this is why Savage Worlds is my go to choice whenever I'm running a setting of my own creation. It's just a lot easier for me to build things and it's even easy for me to improvise and introduce an NPC or creature on the fly.

The end. Sure, there's no Accounting skill, but I doubt that more than a miniscule number of games have required Accounting so much or so in-depth as to need it to be a separate skill.
Being a universal game, I can understand why GURPS has so many skills that really aren't useful in most any game. But this is a problem in all sorts of other games. In Cyberpunk 2020 you could take Geology, Accounting, Mathematics, Physics, Botany, and Biology for some reason.

But I love the world books and the books like Biotech and Low Tech, or that DF Treasure Generator. They're amazing and so useful.
Yeah. GURPS Horror is still a great read for tips on how to run a horror campaign.
 

dbm

Savage!
Supporter
Then they just describe what they want to do and we're off.
This is a key point in my mind, that is not apparent from the outside, especially if you are used to playing games like D&D which gate a lot of abilities behind feats or classes that are binary in nature (i.e. you either have it or you don’t).

As GURPS is a highly skill based system characters can attempt anything a regular human being could attempt; very little is gated except for super natural or other extreme capabilities. That makes the game quite intuitive to people new to RPGs - they can just say what their character attempts to do and the GM has rules to adjudicate that attempt.

It is almost paradoxical - the high detail and completeness of the game system makes it very easy for newbies to play, even if the price for that is a higher load on the GM.
 

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