The first GURPS book I bought was GURPS Space. It was the only the bookstore had in stock, and for some reason I thought it might be a complete and standalone game. I’d never heard of the system before, and had no idea what I was getting myself into.
A read-through cleared things up for me, but I wasn’t bothered. The book was still fascinatingly useful, collecting a whole bunch of interesting and useful information about both real world space, and fictional genre applications.
Most interesting, perhaps, was the system to randomly – but logically – generate star systems. Even without the core GURPS book… which I did eventually buy… I spent hours just rolling up starfaring settings to set stories in.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always been a huge GURPS fan. I love research. I love learning new things. GURPS books are amazingly handy reference materials, and long before I was writing professionally, I used them to make sure what I was doing was as accurate as I could manage.
But oh my god the system is so crunchy!
It’s really not. GURPS can appear intimidating at first blush – so many options, so many skills, so many choices – but all that crunchiness is front loaded, and optional. The raw basics of the system is very simple: 3d6, get under your target number.
Everything beyond that can be fine-tuned.
I’m not a system evangelist, though. I firmly believe that a game system is only a tool, and that while you can really use any system to run any game, there is always a best system for any given project.
To me, where GURPS excels is in two cases:
- Where no other system exists to do what you want to do
- Low-powered realistic gritty gaming
And when I was playing GURPS, in the mid-90s on, that was largely what I was looking for. I ran street-level superhero games, dark low-fantasy games, brutal cyberpunk murderfests. There were a few years where I used it for basically everything, but as I collected other systems, I’d find something better for certain types of game.
For everything else, though, there was GURPS. I learned it well enough that I didn’t even need the books, most of the time.
I still bought them, though. I spend hundreds of dollars on GURPS books, sold them when 4e was released, and used the money to buy the 4e books.
I won’t lie.
GURPS is showing its age. It creaks a little when it walks, and gets this pain in its knee when it rains. It’s still the best there is at what it does: what no other system wants to.