A Look At The Crunch of GURPS
September 9, 2013

A Look At The Crunch Of GURPS

GURPS. A rather amusing title for a role-playing game. Standing for the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, GURPS was created by game-writing legend Steve Jackson, creator of the incredibly popular Munchkin card game and many others. As for what this game is about, it is all in its name. A true generic system, GURPS was designed to be completely crunch, letting the Gamemaster create the fluff. However, they have taken this idea a step further by creating a vast series of game books that cover various settings, archetypes, and campaigns in surprising depth. Titles like GURPS Dragons, GURPS WWII, GURPS High Tech, GURPS Ultra Tech, GURPS Space, and GURPS Supers are all incredible titles in their own right, and could easily be full games on their own. One of the greatest parts of GURPS is that these could all be their own games, or they can be mixed and matched to suite the needs of the Gamemaster and players.

GURPS is a rather simple system. Characters have four attributes; Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Health. From these attributes, players determine things like base damage, Fatigue and Hit Points, movement, and similar derived values. Characters then pick advantages and skills, which are tailored to various campaigns, then select disadvantages in order to gain more points to use in character creation, which are also tailored to various campaigns. Characters are then given a set amount of money, determined by the Gamemaster, to purchase any gear they might want. Finally, the last and one of the most important steps, is choosing five Quirks for the character, with each Quirk counting as a one point disadvantage.

There is no list of Quirks, as they are just that. They are any personality quirks your character might have. They can be anything you can think of, just so long as you role-play them. They can be anything from a tendency to hum a tune when bored or happy, if they are prideful, if they cannot stand still, a catchphrase, or anything else you can imagine. A very simple part of character creation, this can be something that takes players a long time to come up with, as these will define their characters in the minds of their fellow players and Gamemaster more than anything else. It is a great example of Crunch meeting Fluff within the game’s mechanics.

GURPS is great for Gamemasters who already have a well defined campaign thought out that does not fit within the set settings of other games. This is not to say that GURPS is in any way inferior to other games, but lacking a set setting can be a complication. Without a definitive to fall back on, players often find themselves lost in a sea of possibility. When you can do anything, you cannot always think of something to do. This is why setting is important, and GURPS leaves that fully in the hands of the Gamemaster. That is why it is incredibly important for the Gamemaster to detail their campaign before hand, and let their players know what the setting will be before (preferably a good while before) character creation takes place. If I tell my players I’ll be running a game of Anima: Beyond Fantasy, my players who are familiar with the game will be able to start thinking about what character they would like to play and what they would like to do. If I were to say that same thing, but with GURPS, it would mean very little. GURPS is a game that can take a lot of work, both on the part of the players and the Gamemaster to work, due to this fact alone, but it is a great game that is well worth the additional effort.

Image Credit: Steve Jackson Games

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