Welcome to the Generic Universal RolePlaying System!
With GURPS, you can be anyone you want – an elf hero fighting for the forces of good, a shadowy femme fatale on a deep-cover mission, a futuristic swashbuckler carving up foes with a force sword in his hand and a beautiful woman by his side . . . or literally anything else! Thanks to its flexibility, quality writing, and ease of use, GURPS has been the premiere universal roleplaying game for over three decades!
A Generic System For Any Dieselpunk Setting [ edit ]
Unlike all the other games here, GURPS doesn't offer a specific dieselpunk setting of its own. Instead, it provides a generic set of rules, which can be used for any genre of game ... including dieselpunk.
GURPS is a very well-established system, having first been released way back in 1986 as one of the very first "generic" RPGs. In the more than two decades since GURPS has released four major editions and hundreds of supplements (literally), allowing it to be used for nearly every genre imaginable.
GURPS Weird War II [ edit ]
Admittedly, GURPS doesn't have a supplement specifically for dieselpunk ... although it does have a supplement for dieselpunk's sister setting, Steampunk (which briefly mentions dieselpunk). More importantly, GURPS does have a variety of supplements about the dieselpunk era in history. This includes a lot of products for World War II, including a "Weird War II" supplement that's perfect for dieselpunk.
This book offers tons of resources for any campaign that starts with historical WWII, but then adds fantastic elements like conspiracies, the occult, or weird science. Unfortunately it's for GURPS's previous (3rd) edition, but since relatively little changed between the two editions the vast majority of the material can be used without any update in 4th ... and of course all of the great non-rules material that GURPS supplements are famous for remains relevant also.
Lots of Supplements, But You Only Need the Core Rules [ edit ]
And if a GM wants to delve heavily into any of those topics, GURPS has even more books to offer. For instance, a campaign focused on the occult might use GURPS Horror and GURPS Magic, while a more conspiracy focused one might instead want to use GURPS Illuminati and GURPS Conspiracy X, and a more weird science themed one might instead look to GURPS Atomic Horror or GURPS Ultra-tech for ideas.
However, as valuable as all of those books can be, all that a GM truly needs to run a GURPS dIeselpunk campaign is simply the core rules themselves, because whether the players are fist-fighting on top of a train, trying to fly a damaged biplane, or disabling a giant automaton, GURPS core rules are designed to cover any circumstance.
GURPS, 4th Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
Character creation in GURPS is detailed, but slow. There are no levels or classes, just points, which can be used to buy attributes, advantages, disadvantages, or skills. Different campaigns start with different amounts of points, so that (for instance) a superhero can start out as a more powerful character.
GURPS has four attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Health. Strenght and Healthy just define the character physically, while Intelligence and Dexterity are combined with skills to make skill checks.
Skills are how characters accomplish things in GURPS; for instance to shoot someone you would use the "Guns" skill. Skills are based on attributes, so for instance you might buy the Guns skill at a "Dex + 1" level. If you later improved your Dexterity, you'd similar improve your ability to shoot ... or do anything else physical.
Advantages cover any non-skill benefit a character might have, such as a high pain threshold, wizard training, or the ability to move objects with their mind. Advantages can also be further be customized with enhancements or limitations, allowing you to gain more or less powerful versions, that cost more or less points as a result. This can allow for a nearly any power you can imagine to be described as a GURPS advantage.
Similarly players can also take disadvantages for their character, such as Code of Honor or Blind, to gain extra points. All together this system allows for incredibly individualized character, including almost any you'd want to re-create from fiction or real-life (in fact, there are multiple GURPS books with stats for historical NPCs such as Ghengis Khan) ... but it can be a bit overwhelming to newcomers.
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
To succeed at an action in GURPS, players roll 3d6 and attempt to rull under a target number, which varies depending on the action. Most of the time the actio will be a "skill check", meaning the player will have to rul equal to or less than the character's relevant skill.
Critical Successes and Failures
If you fail a roll by more than 10 you critically fail the roll, and the GM decides what terrible fate results. Similarly if you beat the roll by more than 10 you instead get a critical success, dealing extra damage or otherwise succeeding with flair.
A Note About 3d6 (vs. d20 or Other Dice)
3d6 results in a far more predictable distribution of rolls than a single die roll (typical in other systems). Think about when you roll stats for a Dungeons and Dragons character: you usually get a lot of more 10's and 11s than 3's and 18's. In contrast, every d20 roll has an equal (5%) chance of rolling a 1 or 20 as it does a 10 or 11.
This allows GURPS to have critical successes and failures, but have them be rarer and more dramatic, while leaving most rolls with fairly predictable/average outcomes.
Combat [ edit ]
GURPS uses a hexagonal grid for combat. Hexes offers a benefit vs. square grids, when it comes to diagonal movemen: in square grid games (eg. D&D) characters moving diagonally move more quickly ... but since hexes don't have corners, they don't have this problem.
Unlike most games, GURPS does not have a random element to initiative. Instead, characters always move in order based on their basic speed (a stat derived from their Dexterity and Health scores).
If one group surprises the other they can potentially get several seconds of actions before their opponent can react ... and since a single round of combat in GURPS lasts a second, that can be significant.
On their (one second) turn a a character can take a single maneuver, plus any number of free actions (eg. talk or drop an item). A maneuver could be to move, attack, or move and attack (at a penalty), as well as other options such as aiming or feinting. A character who moves can move a number of yards equal to their basic move (ie. basic speed with fractions rounded off).
To attack a character makes a skill check with the appropriate weapon skill, applying a variety of modifiers for things like the target's size, range, and speed, or the weapon's accuracy bonus (if they took the time to aim), the lighting conditions, any cover the target has, etc.
If the check succeeds the target can then opt to make an "active defense". There are three options: Dodge, Block (eg. with a shield) and Parry (with a weapon), and ranged attacks can only be dodged. Active defenses are also a skill check, for Block and Parry; to Dodge you simply roll your Basic Move + 3.
If the active defense roll succeeds, the attack misses.
If an attack roll succeeds the attacker gets to make a damage roll, which will vary based on the weapon they use and other factors (eg. ranged weapons do half their damage when far enough away from a target). If the defender is wearing any armor they can subtract it's "DR" (damage resistance) from the damage, and the rest goes through.
Depending on the type of damage dealt, it might be multiplied now (eg. cutting weapons deal 1.5x ).
Is it Any Good? [ edit ]
If you're curious about GURPS, you don't need to spend a cent to try it out: Steve Jackson Games offers a completely free "GURPS Lite" version. This version obviously lacks many of the advantages, disadvantages, specific rules, and more that the main GURPS rules include, but it still includes the core of the game, allowing a group try GURPS out before purchasing it.
But the real question of course is whether the paid version of GURPS is any good, and based on the review the answer is a clear yes ... if you like detailed and "crunchy" rules that focus on simulation over narration. On RPG Geek GURPS 4th Edition earned an average 7.27/10 from a total of 230 reviews, ranking it 92nd ... out of all of the (thousands of) RPGs/editions on the site.
RPG Geek's reviewers are generally the most critical, and this held true with GURPS. On Good Reads the game's two core books earned a stronger average of 4.03 and a 4.12 (out 5 stars, from more than 300 reviews each). Amazon (also with 300+ reviews) gave the books 4.6 and 4.7 stars (again with 300+ reviews).
With a long-loved and heavily refined core system that can handle almost anything a GM can imagine, and a variety of supplements for both historical and fantastic elements of a campaign, GURPS is the perfect "campaign building toolkit" to let any GM bring their dieselpunk fantasies to life.
Admittedly, the game focuses heavily on "rules for simulating reality", so more story/narrative-focused GMs might find GURPS rules to be too detailed, especially when compared to "rules light, narrative-focused" games like FATE or a Powered by the Apocalypse system. But for other GMs, particularly those looking to run a campaign in a dieselpunk setting of their choice, GURPS will likely be an excellent fit.