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GURPS Space (Fourth Edition)

4th Edition

A Generic Ruleset That Will Let You Explore Any Universe You Can Imagine

Publisher Description

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 Set of Rules That Work Great in Space [ edit ]

GURPS, the "Generic Universal Role-Playing System", has been around almost as long as Traveller, having first been published back in 1986.  Since that time GURPS has gone through four major editions, but has always remained focused on offering a set of generic, detailed rules, that can be applied to any type of RPG adventure.

Although GURPS is designed to support any campaign, it has long had support for the "space opera" genre in particular, from space supplements in its early edition, to books set in both the Star Trek and Traveller universes in recent editions (plus a fan-published Star Wars adaption).  Because of the flexibility of GURPS, it's possible to either adapt your favorite setting as is, create your own custom version of it, or simply start with your own completely unique universe.

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 ]

Hexagonal Grid

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.

Active Defenses

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 ).

A Great Space RPG, That Also Works For Other Genres [ edit ]

If you want a detailed existing universe, a random character creation ("life path") system, or just an RPG system solely dedicated to space, Traveller will be a much better fit for you.  But if instead you want a generic RPG, which has been used to run space adventures for almost as long as Traveller ... and also can be used to run any other sort of RPG (eg. fantasy, super hero, post-apocalyptic), you should instead check out GURPS.

Also, if you're looking to adapt an existing setting, or create your own completely new universe, GURPS's generic rules offers everything you need to do just that, no matter how unusual your setting of choice is.  And to help you with the technology-specific rules parts, GURPS offers several key supplements.

A Generic Toolkit to Build Any Space Campaign (Optional) [ edit ]

Although all you really need to run a GURPS space campaign is the core rulebook, if you want to create a custom space campaign the GURPS Space supplement is highly recommended.  To be clear, this is not a "stat book", with space ships, technology, and various aliens detailed.

Instead, this book presents all sorts of technological options for different space faring societies, interstellar organizations, and rules for creating your own custom alien races (and monsters).  In short, if you want a toolkit to help you build your own space campaign, look no further than GURPS Space.

Detailed Starship Rules (Optional) [ edit ]

Depending on your campaign, you may not even need any special starship rules beyond the "Pilot" skill in the GURPS core rule book.  However, if your group wants to actually have detailed, rules-based starships in your campaign, which can race other ships, fight with them, and so on, you'll want to pick up a copy of GURPS Spaceships.

This book provides rules both for creating spaceships, and operating them, along with a gridless space combat system.  Unlike older GURPS vehicle rules, these latest rules are much simpler and lighter weight, with the publisher promising that it takes "only minutes to build even the largest spaceship".

Detailed Space-Age Technology Rules (Optional) [ edit ]

The core GURPS rules provide only the barest minimum description of a few "space age" technologies, and GURPS Space offers a guidebook for planning the society-level technologies of your campaigns, neither book addresses the rules for how futuristic technology (other than space ships) actually works.   For that, you need GURPS Ultratech.

GURPS Ultratech offers a wide variety of different technologies for each of GURPS different "technology levels".  These technologies range form futuristic weapons and armor, to more mundane medical, exploration, etc. gear.  Of course, a GM is in no way forced to use all of these technologies in their campaign, but by providing a comprehensive range of items, and specific game rules for using them, Ultratech gives GMs a rules basis for whatever technologies they do want in their campaign.