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!
GURPS: Generic Universal Role-Playing System [ edit ]
Steve Jackson's GURPS was the second generic RPG ever published, way back in 1986. Since then GURPS has grown and matured through four editions, while still remaining the same core system throughout. As a result, material from all four are at least 90% (if not 99+%) compatible with each other, and that's a lot of GURPS supplements.
But GURPS doesn't just have quantity, it also has quality. While of course there are exceptions, in general GURPS supplements are filled with well-written/edited solid gaming content. In fact, since much of that content is valuable even without the GURPS rules, GURPS books are sometimes recommended ... even for non-GURPS fans.
A Detailed and More Realistic System [ edit ]
To succeed at an action in GURPS, players roll 3d6 and attempt to beat a target number, which varies depending on the action (typically equal to or under the character's relevant skill). This results in a far more predictable distribution of rolls: just as when you roll stats for a D&D character and (usually) get mostly average results, rolls in GURPS will have a far more average spread of results than (say) a D20 roll in Dungeons and Dragons.
However, there are a lot of details in the GURPS rules. Although it's not required, if you want you can play GURPS with miniatures and a hexagonal grid. Again, a hex grid may seem strange to players of D&D and other square grid systems, but the choice eliminates an issue that square grids have, with diagonal movement being faster than horizontal/vertical.
GURPS also has a great number of situational rules. For instance, to make a ranged attack you can't just roll under your shooting skill: you also have to consider your target's distance from you, and their speed, then consult a table to get the appropriate modifier. Just like the rest of GURPS, this results in a more-realistic feeling system ... but it also makes GURPS a more "crunchy" system, which will take a bit longer to learn than other options.
Character Creation [ edit ]
Character creation is similarly detailed, if slow. There are no levels or classes in GURPS: instead characters are allotted a number of points (based on the power level of the campaign), and use them to buy attributes, advantages, disadvantages, and skills.
Skills are how characters accomplish things in GURPS; for instance to shoot someone you would want the "Guns" skill. Skills are based on two of your attributes: if you improve your Dexterity, for instance, you similar improve your chance to ride a horse, shoot a gun, or do anything else physical. The remaining two attributes set how strong and tough the character is.
Characters can also choose advantages, which cover any 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).
The main problem with GURPS's creation system is simply how detailed it is: it takes awhile even for experienced players to make a character, and first time players may find all of the options a bit overwhelming.
GURPS Possibilities [ edit ]
As mentioned the core GURPS rules offer a wide variety of options, and can be used to play almost any setting imaginable. However, GURPS also offers a number of supplements with further useful support materials.
The bulk of GURPS books focus on a genre or aspect of the game. For instance, there are multiple technology-related books: Low-Tech for medieval and primitive campaigns, High-Tech for more modern campaigns, and Ultra-Tech for futuristic campaigns. There are also supplements with expanded rules for Magic, Martial Arts, and Space (with separate books for both Space Ships and more ordinary Vehicles).
But GURPS also has a large number of supplements dedicated to various specific worlds. In it's latest edition there are books for the popular Discworld setting, as well as for GURPS-specific settings such as Banestorm (Fantasy) or After the End (post-apocalyptic). And if you go back to the previous edition there are far more, from popular non-gaming franchises like Conan and Hellboy, to worlds created specifically for other games. There are GURPS supplements for Castle Falkenstein, the World of Darkness (Vampire: The Masquerade), and even Deadlands (whose original rules les to another generic system: Savage Worlds).
Because of their high compatibility it's easy to use the older 3rd edition books even with the 4th edition rules, and there are literally hundreds of such books ... which means that whether you want to explore one of the many worlds that GURPS has a book for, or whether you want to run something completely unique, GURPS has the core rules and supplements to help make it happen.
Should You Pick GURPS? [ edit ]
Despite it's long history and wealth of high quality supplements, GURPS has lagged in popularity in recent years, at least relative to newer generic systems. In large part this is because GURPS is a very crunchy system, with lots of detailed rules, at a time when lighter systems are preferred.
However, many of GURPS detailed rules can simply be left out if you want, as the core of the game is all you really need. And in fact, if you'd like to get a taste of that core before purchasing GURPS, Steve Jackson Games makes a reduced version of the rules, called GURPS Lite, available for free online at http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/lite/.
But whether you go with GURPS Lite, the full GURPS rules, or something in-between, GURPS offers a much-loved, well-balanced, generic system, which lets you play almost any adventure you can imagine, and which offers all the rules and supporting supplements that a GM could dream of.