Thursday, February 23, 2017

Carpe Blogiem: Why GURPS?

In all the roleplaying games in all the world, you have to roleplay in mine... Someone asked me a while back: "Why GURPS?" Well, there are a couple of reasons I use GURPS pretty much exclusively, but let's ignore me for a bit. Let's assume that you've just stumbled onto my blog:

"What is this GURPS thing you speak of, O Blogger?"
"Welcome, internet wanderer. Sup from the fountain of 3d6 and know the joys of the generic and the universal."
"But I play games with inherent engines. I do not need these things."
"Oh, but you do. You simply do not know you do. Behold. The power of GURPS!"

Or some such, but more seriously. Why use GURPS at all? The other systems are arguably more popular and have a lower point of entry. You want GURPS  when...

...You Want a Campaign Wholly of Your Design
You don't want to use another person's intellectual property, game setting, etc. You want to run or play in something of your own design. Optionally, you want to run or play in a setting that hasn't been adapted over to a role-playing engine. Maybe it's your favorite movie or book. Maybe it's a videogame you think is cool. Maybe you want to put yourself in the shoes of one of your favorite comic book heroes. Whatever the reason, with a little knowhow, time, and patience you can use the GURPS game engine to recreate it.

...You Want More Simulation or More Narrativistic Control
GURPS does a few things remarkably well, one of them is to simulate the real world in a way that doesn't feel...bodgy. It uses the same measurements (or conversions using those measurements) that the real world does and assigns it game stats from there. That is huge. Not many games do that. (This also aids the first point.) You can take just about anything and make it into a gameable construct.

Now, the second point is likely to shock some of you, but it's true. Even the game's line editor had this to say:
"Despite the system's reputation for realism and popularity with simulationists, the numbers are and always have been assessed in the service of drama." ~ Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch
You can run a badass superhero drama or a cinematic spythriller or any other "fast and loose" game you could think of. GURPS does this well and it does it out of the box. Other various supplements (GURPS Action, GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, etc.) will help you achieve this goal, but it can do it and it can do it well.

...You Want Tactical Combat That Feels Tactical
GURPS can do "theater of the mind" combat just fine, but it can truly shine when you go "tactical." Everything feels intense and like you are in the muck and blood with your character. Now, it can also be overwhelming to the new GM. There is a steep learning curve with GURPS and combat is about 40% of it. 

...You Want an Internally Consistent Game Engine
But the beauty of it is that once you know the basics everything else just sort of falls into place. I had one player once remark that he created a house rule to do something and I replied with "That's how it works in the system." He was a bit baffled for a sec, and then said "Well of course it works like that." And really, all of GURPS could be summed up that way. Once you understand the framework everything else is easy to understand.

...You Want ONE System to Do it All
This is perhaps one of the more salient and important aspect of GURPS. It literally does every genres, mode, or type of game you can think of. That's the entire point of GURPS - its raison d'être - it is the last system you'll likely to ever run because it can run anything you want. Just think about that for a second. You can use a single game engine to run any type of game you can think of. Will it take a little work? Sure, but it saves you time in mastering a new system and grows your mastery in the same action. That's a pretty big deal.

Picking Over the Bones
I could list a dozen other reasons why you should use GURPS but I think my list stands for itself. So if you are new to GURPS or coming back to to it or just saw my post and thought "Huh. Neat." Maybe consider trying it out. Start with GURPS Lite or go ask questions on the GURPS Discord or Steve Jackson Games Forums. (Or leave comments on this post.) There are folks in both places who will help you get started.


  1. "...You Want a Campaign Wholly of Your Design" is how I got hold of GURPS. I'd spent over three years creating a galaxy/galactic society, and wanted a roleplaying game to run it in. I looked at game system after game system after game system. Trying to adapt them seemed like so much work it wasn't worth it. I basically gave up.

    Then a friend talked me into looking at this game called GURPS. I agreed to at least look at it--and read the entire basic set straight through. It worked perfectly.