Wednesday, April 22, 2020

In Which I Gander at GURPS Again

Anybody who knows me well at all knows that I'm a bit of a masochist. Sometimes this takes the form of mental self-flagellation by way of revisiting game/rules systems that I don't like, especially if I had an acrimonious split with said system. In these recent times of madness, that took the form of me dusting off GURPS. Specifically, I decided to take a gander at GURPS 4th edition.

I broke up with GURPS 3rd edition sometime in undergrad, when I lived in the dorms... so that had to be circa 2001 or 2002. I put it so far out of my mind that I sort of still perceive GURPS 4th edition as "new" GURPS, even though it's old enough to drive, older than my freshman students, and I think possibly old enough to have been out longer than GURPS 3rd was. 

Man. I didn't even make it twenty pages in. Far less, I think.

GURPS 3rd edition has the energy of a college professor you thought was alright: methodical, detailed, a little bit plodding, very prone to sidebars, but you felt like you learned something. GURPS 4th edition has the energy of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. (Hate that show, by the way.) It starts off shouting at me about what Tech Level my character is relative to the campaign tech level and how that impacts the character. It nags me about just how fluent my character is in the languages they speak. It's very important to know if they have just a slight accent or a very thick accent. Oh, and have I given any consideration to the effects of non-standard gravity worlds on my character's effective ST score? Well no, I haven't. I kind of figured we could get into character creation first and then if I'm playing a game where that kind of thing is germai- nope, here's the formula for ST in non-standard gravity. Oh, hey, remember Dai Blackthorn? Yeah, the character from 3rd, the thief- WELL now Dai is an agent for a pan-dimensional police force and he can teleport and jump between worlds-

I put it away, my brain somehow reeling from reading a goddamn gaming book.

Not to be completely bested, I downloaded a free copy of GURPS Lite from Warehouse 23. It felt... incomplete. I remember paging through GURPS Lite back in the 3rd edition days and feeling like it was more playable. Luckily, W23 has GURPS Lite 3rd still available, so I grabbed it. It was definitely more complete. It had a shell of a magic system for one, whereas GL4 had no magic at all. Perhaps GURPS Lite 3rd was what I was looking for all along.

Then, just paging through it, the guns at TL 9 are unable, on average, to penetrate the armor at TL 9.
Le sigh.

I have Hereos & Other Worlds. While it is a retro clone of The Fantasy Trip and not GURPS, there's just enough proto-GURPS in there to perhaps fulfill that itch without all the detritus that would eventually pile on to metastasize into a game system that tries to get me to calculate the surface area of a humanoid automaton.

I suppose, with the right skill list and maybe some pilfered (if adjusted) weapons tables, H&OW could also be browbeaten into doing genres besides fantasy. (I'm really kind of hung up on the other worlds part of the title.) In the meantime, GURPS will have to go back into the dusty shelves, both physical and digital.


  1. I didn't know there was a TFT retroclone! I've been interested in the game from an outsider perspective for a while, but I suppose I should check it out at last; not like I'm going anywhere in the next week, right?

    1. You can get it either or PDF or POD on Lulu. It's a delightfully compact little rpg.

  2. GURPS was my jam back in the day, but other than a few hermits who play via ham radio and have very long beards, I don't think anyone actually plays it any more. Or do they? I have no idea.

    1. I haven't met anyone who played GURPS since undergrad, and I graduated in 2004.

      Ham radio theory checks out.