Since returning to the hobby, I have always been GURPS curious. Recently, my curiosity has been piqued further by its coverage by the Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice podcast. The hosts, Roger and Mike, are fans of the versatility of the system. They will often refrain, “I’d have to have a good reason not to do this in GURPS” when faced with a new RPG concept or setting.
From an outsider, faced with the overwhelming number of publications supporting the system, I just can’t find a way in … even if it is a ‘forced entry’.
How do you get started with the game? How do you navigate through the editions and different source books? Why does it have a reputation for lethal, simulationist crunch? If it is such a generic system, how does it change to accommodate different settings? People said that is dead, can it be brought back to life? What is Bane Storm any way?
Whatever you do, don’t head for ‘GURPS for Dummies’, head for Mike and Roger answering these questions. Apparently, I am from an Empire from the North. I was glad to send an emissary to Buckinghamshire to discover the unknown pleasures of GURPS.
Find out more at Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice.
3 thoughts on “Great Universal Role-Playing Survey”
I have very limited experience with GURPS. I played in a Sci-Fi campaign once that was based loosely on Rendezvous with Rama. I once heard it described, unkindly, I think, as the second best rule system for running any setting. I found the system pretty solid and I got the feeling that it really could replicate pretty much anything you could think of mechanically but at the cost of feeling somewhat bland and flavourless. The price you pay for being truly generic, I guess. I think, personally I would prefer to use something like Savage Worlds or Fate.
My most significant inter-connection with GURPS was doing the cover for the Gurps: Traveller, Sword Worlds sourcebook which I was pretty proud of at the time. Unfortunately I also did the cover for the Gurps: Transhuman Space, ‘Toxic Memes’ book but we don’t talk about that one. According to Loren Wiseman when I sent in the first pass it was the angriest he’d ever seen Steve Jackson! It all worked out okay (ish) in the end and I laugh about it now, but definitely not my finest hour. :/
I always liked GURPS and used it for endless homebrews as well as the basis for a PBM. The vast array of sourcebooks just seemed win-win to me; always a tough choice between this and BRP as to which system to favour.
GURPS was the second RPG I ever bought (after the D&D Basic Set), and I carried that torch for years, but for most of the people I gamed with it really was second best, sadly. There’s still an awful lot I like about it, but–perhaps ironically–I think the current edition is the most well-realized form of the game and that’s what helped me conclude that, ultimately, it’s just not for me, either.
That being said, I’ve run everything from grittily realistic historical games up to high cinematic retro-pulp sci-fi with it. The number of buttons, levers, and toggles in the system really do allow you to do almost anything, as long as you’re okay with a certain bias towards granularity and “believability” (as opposed to “realism”) in your mechanics.
You may have seen the analogy that GURPS is like a cow: select the cuts you want, but don’t try to eat the whole thing at once. I also rather like this analogy: http://folks.harbornet.com/ebontower/gaming/humor/beverage.htm