Grade the GURPS System

How do you feel about GURPS?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 18 13.3%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 34 25.2%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 40 29.6%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 13 9.6%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 7 5.2%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 23 17.0%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

Committed Hero

Why would the player choose a skill the PC doesn't need? If I'm playing a hard boiled 1970s era cop, I'm not going to take Physician as a skill because it's not going to be all that useful.
Because some players build the PC they want. What about more of an edge case, like a Navy SEAL who served on a submarine and has Nuclear Science.

Also, GURPS does a lot of heavy lifting with templates for characters. Some of these are very through but might contain extraneous skills because of it.

log in or register to remove this ad


Limit Break Dancing
Here's the Report Card so far.
  • Our valedictorian is Savage Worlds, with a GPA of 2.96 (a solid B).
  • The lowest grade goes to Modiphius 2d20, with a GPA of 2.24 (which is a C).
  • We don't have any "A" students, but they all have passing grades (C or better).
  • Our most active student is also Savage Worlds, which has been played the most (80.2% of voters). I guess this would be the equivalent of getting your letter jacket?
  • Most Popular is a three-way tie between Cypher, Pathfinder 2E, and GURPS...they might not be the most liked, but 100% of people have heard of them.


So I'm one of the few in the "hate" category.

GURPS to me is a weird amalgamation of 97 individual design choices that, when looked at discretely seem to make sense, and even appear to be superior to alternatives in the same RPG design space (trad / discrete action resolution / emphasis on realism).

But when put into play in aggregate, the entire experience feels like . . . I don't quite know how describe it.

It's as if someone uniquely and purposefully identified all the ways to suck the fun out of actually playing a roleplaying game and then built a system to do it.

It's the type of game that in my experience appeals to the type of people willing to spend literally DAYS building a character. Where the focus is on literally everything OTHER than the shared fiction.

The focus is on the numbers, and how to process those numbers through the system inputs and outputs, and if a roleplaying session happens to arise as a consequence, that's okay too I guess.

It's boring, sterile, and somehow both overly simplistic in its approach in some places (why bother with skills? Just raise core stats and buy advantages) and frustratingly obtuse in others (wait a minute, how many steps are there to resolving a single combat roll again?).

*Edit: And lest anyone think this is based on lack of experience, I've played 30+ sessions across both GURPS 3e and 4e. I owned GURPS 3e expanded/revised core, compendium I and II, martial arts in hard cover. I'm hardly an expert, but this isn't just based on first impressions.

*Edit 2: Removed one paragraph, as it was needlessly critical of the GURPS player base. I'm sure most of the GURPS player base is fine. My experiences with the GURPS playerbase in my area was abysmal and in no small measure indicative of psychopathology in the literal sense -- low empathy, grandiosity, impulsivity, aggression, and lack of remorse for behaviors.
Last edited:

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.

The simplicity of the core mechanic is worth emphasizing here, in contrast to The Least Interesting Type of Crunch games with lots of fiddly special cases for how to roll dice.

There are a couple of core combat-related use cases like taking damage where that core mechanic turns into a multi-step stateful mechanic, but especially for new players, the GM has the option of modifying the rules to make things simpler. For example, instead of "you can Retreat from one enemy per turn", a GM can say "you can Retreat in one direction per turn" and apply retreat bonuses to enemies coming from that direction. A GM can say "for today we're not going to roll knockdown and unconsciousness when you take damage, only death checks; and stay-conscious rolls at the start of your turn" and that makes combat OD&D-simple.

+1 for the simplicity of reading character sheets.


GURPS really needs a guided character generation from the GM based on the specifics of the game- just getting the books out and telling people to go hog wild will not give good results. It's a good system, but it doesn't work out of the box, you really have a lot of work as the GM to do the adaptation and cull out the things you don't want. I find it rewarding, but some of the flaws have been spelled out.


I voted "I Love It" and could just have easily vote "I Hate it".
Amusingly, back in the mid 90s when I would ask people whether they liked GURPS or not, I either found people who either loved it intensely or hated it intensely, and there seemed to be no middling ground and never the twain shall meet. Until that one time I was telling someone this very story and they replied "Oh, I'm find it kind of so-so..." and thus ruining my ability to tell that story ever again, heh.

Which may be why I never looked too deeply into the game system. I do have a couple of the GURPS sourcebooks -- the cyberpunk one (FBI raid = good advertising?) and Bunnies and Burrows. But I've never played it. What I saw didn't seem to have much advantage over the HERO system (which I was already familiar with) and perhaps seemed blander on the whole. Couple that with the bifurcated opinions on the game it didn't entice me. (So I voted I never played it.)

But the B&B sourcebook was pretty good indeed!


David Jose
GURPS was a game that I was never exactly crazy about, but as my philosophies of design changed over the last 15-20 years, the game definitely soured for me.

In the 80s and 90s, the concept of a plug and play framework mistaken for some flavor of "realistic" was something I would have given an encouraging thumbs up. My main problem with it at the time were that the groups I was most heavily involved with that used GURPS, used it to run amazingly boring campaigns.

Today, it ranks somewhere around "chewing fish tank gravel" for me. It's just completely antithetical to what I want an RPG to do.


My main problem with it at the time were that the groups I was most heavily involved with that used GURPS, used it to run amazingly boring campaigns.

I could never quite figure out if it was the group / GMs who ran GURPS or the system itself, but my experience was identical. It's the only system where I broke my own rule of not looking on my phone / surfing the internet while playing, because the GMs could never figure out what the hell they were actually doing.

It's as if the chore of running GURPS somehow takes away the ability to actually create situations/scenarios the players can actually invest in / care about.

No sense of pacing. No drama. Zero stakes. Nothing interactive or interesting or useful about the settings. So many useless "Roll an INT check to spot something"; "Roll a horsemanship check to approach the stables . . . oh wait, no horsemanship? Okay, roll INT -5 as a default instead." Bland, boring, repetitive, "rowboat world" interactions (as @Celebrim would call it), interspersed with restless players also getting bored and initiating combat at the drop of the hat just to have something to do . . . only to have each round of combat take multiple minutes each to go through the exercise.

Calculate facing. Calculate actions available to do in 1 second. Calculate attack roll. Roll active defense. Roll passive defense. Roll damage. Roll hit location. Roll damage penetration through armor. Calculate actual damage. Roll health + knockdown + shock + consciousness checks.

15 minutes later, someone else gets a turn.

* NNNNNgggggghhhh Snoooooore * Oh, I'm sorry, is it my turn? Did something interesting happen?

I had already abandoned D&D proper when I first starting playing GURPS back in 2009, played in 3 different short lived campaigns up through maybe 2019. But I knew right away, whatever the problems D&D had in play, GURPS wasn't the solution to whatever it was I was looking for.


whatever the problems D&D had in play, GURPS wasn't the solution to whatever it was I was looking for.

Back in the 1980's, basically everyone assumed that if GURPS wasn't the solution to D&D then it was something like that with more concrete mechanics, shorter turns with less abstract actions, active defenses, magic points, no classes, point buy chargen, normalized distribution of outcomes, lethal hits, and so on and so forth. All of those things were "logically" just better than the "unrealistic" mechanics of D&D.

I can remember so many arguments back in the 1980's and early 90's about how basically every table problem could be solved if you just insisted on more realism.

Then I tried to actually run GURPS and I hated it. So I tried to actually make GURPS more realistic. But that just made it harder to run and impossible to prep.

Playing GURPS taught me a heck of a lot about RPG design and it has influenced me to this day, but a lot of what it taught me was why intuitive solutions and "realism" weren't the solutions to the problems of play I was just assuming that they were.

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I rated it poorly, but the worldbooks are well-researched, there are properties that likely would never have gotten an RPG, but they have a GURPS supplement. I own a couple - GURPS: New Sun (based on Gene Wolfe's Urth) and GURPS: Humanx (based on Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth sci-fi universe). Oh, and GURPS: Celtic Myth.

I didn't buy them, they were gifts from That One Guy. Y'know, that one guy in your group who loves a system the rest of you can barely tolerate, and keeps running it in the vain hope y'all will come around?
for us, in our GURPS group, it was that one guy who wanted us to all learn to love Ars Magica 1st edition. Sorry That One Guy, we play a 180pt build character to have "balanced" characters 🙃

An Advertisement