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Old 05-14-2009, 10:38 AM   #1
vicky_molokh's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Kyv, Ukraine
Default [FAQ] Section 0. Before you start using GURPS . . .

Greetings, all!

This should help clear some of the confusion, as well as help newbies understand what to expect, how to use the system. It is probably the only part of the FAQs intended for people who haven't even read GURPS Lite yet (though those who read the two Basic books and are now wondering what to do with them might find some useful info too).

GURPS is a toolkit
AKA Some assembly required

GURPS isn't intended to be used exactly 'as is' out of the box, unless you're using specific optimized packs such as Action, Dungeon Fantasy, Monster Hunters or some of the genrebooks and setting books. It is expected that you'll use the tools you need, and leave alone those you don't. For instance, choosing which (if any!) cinematic rules you use can create very different types of campaign - from realistic to silly; likewise, using optional detailed bleeding rules (or the even more optional bleeding and crippling rules from Martial Arts) can achieve a very gritty feel during games. The same thing applies to Advantages, Skills, Equipment etc. - you don't need supernatural Advantages in a historically accurate WWII game, nor do you need the Piloting and Driving skills in a generic fantasy world.

GURPS is flexible
Being a point-buy system with no separation between trait types (i.e. Character Points, 'CPs' are a universal 'currency' with which you can 'buy' any of: attributes, skills, advantages etc.), GURPS is very flexible. You can make almost any character in GURPS that you can imagine. But please be aware that many fictional characters (such as those from comic books and movies) are often portrayed inconsistently, and translating them into GURPS requires resolving these inconsistencies (just how strong is The Hulk? What can a Vulcan Mind Meld achieve, and what it can't?).
Also, always remember that you are limited by the GM's character-point budget allotment and list of allowed traits. ("No, you still can't play an ancient vampire in my gritty/realistic WWII game!" is an appropriate, if somewhat silly, quote.)

GURPS is modular
Yes, you can theoretically GM any campaign with just the Basic Set (some manage to run complex campaigns using only Lite, but that seems like too much work). However, the many supplements can be 'plugged in' to improve the experience, as well as to make GMing (and often playing) easier. They can be roughtly split into: genre books (how to GM in a given genre), crunchbooks (books full of new rules for a certain topic), techbooks (AKA gearbooks, dealing with the technology in a given field or era), settings, and ready-to-play packages (a collection of genre, tech, and crunchy information).
Notable examples:
  • Bio-Tech helps those who want detailed medicine and other biotechnologies, especially in science fiction.
  • Ultra-Tech is a crunchbook/techbook/gearbook, primarily concerning itself with the gear found in science fiction settings. But remember about the toolkit principle - as a GM, be sure to choose what gear can and what can't be found in your setting/world.
  • Space and Fantasy are genrebooks which assist worldbuilding - they contain hints (and some crunch) for GMs who want to create fantasy and science fiction worlds.
  • Powers and Martial Arts are crunchbooks dedicated to GMs who want to have detailed 'supernatural powers' (in very broad terms) and detailed combat. These books are intended to be read by both the GM and the players.
  • Dungeon Fantasy, Action and Monster Hunters are special products dedicated to GMing (and playing) in very specific styles - those of oldskool fantasy, hollywood action-movies, and monster hunts.

Just because it is listed in an official book doesn't mean you'll get it!
Players: don't expect to be allowed to use whatever you want, especially if it's unreasonable.
GMs: only allow stuff that is appropriate for your game's style, genre and setting.

Don't port over characters just because you can. Think of the consequences.
You can't expect to take a 250-point realistic/gritty Navy SEAL and put her into a campaign intended for 100-pt cinematic/silly Merry Men. The great flexibility of GURPS comes at the price of having to specify what traits a character should posses before participating in a campaign.
And this is for two reasons:
The simpler reason is that difference between high-power/low-power characters (which is probably well-known to most roleplayers anyway).
The more complicated one is the genre/style/setting dissonance: a character can be highly out of place due to different abilities, problems, or approach to life. A clairvoyant can 'break' many superspy games, while a callous soldier will 'break' a social high school politics game. Sure, sometimes mixing stuff can lead to fun - when done right. But often (especially when done carelessly) it just ruins the fun for everyone.
(But do note that rules-related portability is rather high, as long as the GM knows some finer nuances of the two campaigns - like female gender being a serious Disadvantage (Social Stigma [-10]) in some feudal settings and not an issue in modern West etc. Just be sure you know what you're doing.)

GURPS front-loads calculations
GURPS chargen (the process of generating a character) can be intimidating, but this 'front-loading' is done to speed up the game after the character-generating process. For instance, Basic Lift - calculated as (ST)0.2, is a number that is used in many things - such as lifting and carrying stuff (including figuring cargo space in vehicles), digging holes, and even generating electric current (for electricity-manipulating superhumans).

Character point totals don't necessarily indicate combat power . . .
A 25-point gritty soldier will probably slaughter a 150-point dedicated librarian. Since GURPS doesn't have a direct link between point value and combat value (though point value mostly sets the upper limit for combat value), it is to be expected. Instead of judging by point values, try to compare skill levels, damage output, armor etc.
This doesn't concern only combat - the idea is portable to other activities as well.

. . . And so, NPCs don't necessarily need point values.
Since very often NPCs only show their most important sides (important for the plot/players), their true point value can be irrelevant for a game. Also, regarding balancing combat encounters: since a GM should learn to estimate combat value by effects alone, the point cost of an NPC's combat abilities can also be ignored as long as it is balanced for the intended purpose (remember, not all NPCs are created equal; some might be defeatable, some might be better avoided).

GM supervision required.
AKA GURPS is not a wargame!

Unlike its granddaddy (the system called Man to Man, for those interested in history), GURPS Fourth Edition isn't intended to be a wargame. You can certainly use GURPS' game engine and reassemble it into a wargame engine, similar to man-to-man, by defining which optinal rules are used and which aren't, creating strict limits in character generation etc. However, as of the time of writing this FAQ, no official supplement exists that would do it for you.
As a consequence, it is expected that a GM should revise all characters before the game starts to make sure there are no unwanted elements that would ruin the mood/setting/balance/etc. Same applies to spending earned character points.

Thoughts? Additions?
Thanks in advance!
Vicky 'Molokh', GURPS FAQ and uFAQ Keeper
Also, GURPS Discord is a nice place for (faster) Q&A and overall GURPS dicussion.

Last edited by vicky_molokh; 05-05-2011 at 04:11 AM.
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