*Note: this was written two months ago, but became lost; thus never posted due to my hectic work schedule.
Last night I GM’d my first GURPS game. It was slow going at first, but in my opinion, most games take about 15-20 minutes before players start to loosen up enough to get into the story (and their characters).
I’ve had these books sitting around for quite a while, GURPS Basic Set: Characters/Campaigns. They are the equivalent to Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide. I was so used to playing D&D, and that is a significant enough investment on its own (150$ for all three starter books) that I never looked beyond. Not to mention, players who are dedicated to hanging out and playing a game, may not be players willing to invest the energy it takes to learn a new system for each new campaign. There are a lot of rules to remember. Even if most tabletop RPGs are similar, the specifics can add up confusing the players.
A few weeks ago we just ended a nine-month-long D&D campaign. One player didn’t make it out of the final quest, three essential NPCs died along the way, and another two went missing. The group in the end “won” but it felt a tad exhausting finishing it all out.
Another player of ours in the group, because of scheduling reasons, needed to either pull out of the game altogether, or we had to start meeting roughly once a month in order to start up a second campaign; sort of a continuation of that story. Our biggest issue was what to do in-between these games? Our core group is used to meeting once a week. This is the fourth campaign with three of us and the second with one player. This is a weekly tradition that has been going on for literally years (about 2012).
That’s when I was walking around my apartment and opened up our gaming armoire. Yes. We have an armoire, and it is full of games. I was bored, needing to scratch a gaming itch with no one to play a game with. I saw my GURPS books and said to myself “Damn it, I’m going to learn this game even if I have no one to play with.”
And I did.
The core books are not structured as well as the D&D books always have been. Even in the earlier incarnations, I would say for first-time tabletop players, D&D is much easier to learn. I would not recommend newcomers to pick up GURPS out of the gate; and if you do, make sure to have veteran players around to interpret and make sense of the rules.
There are some main differences in the rules, the most prominent being LOW rolls are good, not HIGH rolls like D&D require. Every player has a set skill number. For instance, a player may have a Strength Skill of 12. To succeed at something in the game that would require strength, take 3d6 (three six-sided dice) and roll them. If it equals or is lower than 12, you succeed. If it is higher than 12, you fail. A critical success is always a dice roll of 3 or 4; a critical failure is always a dice roll of 17 or 18.
D&D works differently. In D&D you take 1d20 (one twenty-sided die) and roll it. You take that number and ADD it to a strength score. The DM (D&D equivalent of GM) then TELLS you if you meet the score they set. If the number you roll added to your ability number is equal to or greater than the number set, you succeed.
So, that is just a for instance. There are many more differences, the largest one being D&D revolves around you making a character based on a pre-made template. You have options to modify the type of character you want to make, but it all boils down to a few possibilities the books have given you.
GURPS has an entirely different approach. Make what you want, how you want. Want to play a legless blob with forty eyes and a robot mouth? You can do that. Well, as long as the GM has a world and a story where that sort of abomination is realistic.
That brings me to our game.
It’s 1959 in fictional Vermont county of Chester. Timberland Sound is a small, backwoods farm town. It has a growing main street, a thriving culture that wishes it was large scale, but is very OK with it never actually becoming anything close to the hustle and bustle of New York City.
We started with the players: three high school seniors are sitting around in the local MALT SHOP (yep) on New Year's Eve trying to figure out what best to bring to a party.
After everyone became acquainted with the rules along with their characters the game was very fast paced, in action not in plot progression. Overall the in-game time progression led my players from 6pm-11:30 pm. They explored parts of the town, spoke to shop owners, caused some shenanigans, got into some fights, broke up a couple of fights and examined the old derelict farmhouse that the party was taking place in. You could tell that they were savoring the vast options they had in a realistic setting, with realistic characters. It became a game of detail and RP, rather than jumping from one battle to another.
I loved that we were able to do all that! No dungeons, no dragons, no treasure chests. It was pure and simple high school fun. I did add a bit of fantasy to the game, as things in the party turned into a horror scene as a girl was found dead, and they believe a monster attacked her. (It may or may not be a monster in the future, ps.)
I’m a huge fan of the GURPS system. Our trial run was fantastic, and I hope to play more games of it in the future. Any gamers that may be reading this, if you are not afraid of putting some serious time into learning a new gaming system, and perhaps are familiar with games such as Pathfinder or D&D, indeed, check out GURPS. It will not disappoint, and you will be able to do LITERALLY anything you wish with the story.