Introduction to GURPS

This is the first of a number of articles I plan to write about GURPS (General Universal Roleplaying System), by Steve Jackson Games. So what exactly is GURPS? GURPS is a pen and paper roleplaying system, like dungeons and dragons, designed to be used with any genre of game you might want. The game is currently in its 4th edition, released in 2004. GURPS is “generic”, in that it doesn’t try to emulate a particular genre from the start, and generally tries to simulate reality. And “universal” in that by adding optional rules to the core system cna emulate various genres. This introduction is meant to be as brief as possible, since I intend to examine certain aspects of the system in more detail in later articles.

GURPS uses four core attributes: Intelligence(IQ), Dexterity(DX), Health(HT), Strength(ST). IQ represents a character’s general mental abilities. DX represents a character’s physical coordination. ST and HT are fairly self-explanatory. Having only four core attributes may seem overly simple. However, In my opinion, this is a good thing because the aim is to emulate a wide range of genres. So its best to start simple and expand from there. Additionally, these four core attributes are used to define a number of secondary characteristics:
IQ = Perception(PER), WILL
DX+HT =(Divide by 4)=> Basic Speed(BS) =(Round Down)=> Basic Move(BM) =(+3)=> Dodge
HT = Fatigue Points(FP)
ST = Hit Points(HP)
PER and WILL don’t really require explanation. Basic Speed determines the order in which character’s act in combat, or other situations where order or action is important. Basic move determine how far a character can move. Dodge is the ability to avoid attacks that target the character. FP fluctuates throughout the game in response to physical effort, use of powers and magical spells. If a character’s FP is reduced to zero the character may pass out. HP also fluctuates throughout the game and is decreased by physical injury. When reduced to zero the character may die. Each of these secondary characteristics can be adjusted independently of the primary attributes from which they are derived. In a realistic game, featuring human protagonists, there is generally a limit on how much a secondary attribute can be adjusted. The GM can adjust these limitations based on how realistic the campaign is, if the protagonists are non-humans, or have powers beyond those of normal humans.
During character creation, each of the core characteristics starts at 10, considered to be the score an average human will have. Character points can be spent to increase a characteristic, or a characteristic can be decreased to gain more character points. To determine if a character succeeds using one of their characteristics 3d6 (Three Six-Sided Dice) are rolled, and the results added together. If the result is equal to or less than the characteristic the roll succeeds.
Skills add greater depth to a character by further defining their abilities. Skills are based on IQ, PER, WILL, DX, or HT. No skills are based on directly ST, however ST can determine how effective a character is with certain physical skills.
Magical spells are a special class of skills base on IQ that are used to produce various supernatural effects. Unlike mundane skills they generally cost FP and require concentration. Spells are also organized in a complex hierarchy. So you must know certain lower level spells before you can learn higher level ones.
–Advantages and Disadvantages–
Advantages cost character points, while taking Disadvantages give more character points. They have a wide range of applications, so I won’t discuss them all in this brief introduction. A few important include defining a characters social interactions and connections, adding further detail to one of a character’s attributes, fleshing out a character’s personality, defining talents, knacks, supernormal powers/traits, and racial characteristics.
–Perks and Quirks–
Perks and Quirks are minor effects that are basically minor Advantages and Disadvantages. They often give a +1 or -1 modifier respectively in specific situations. Taking a Perk costs 1 character point, while Quirks give 1 character point.
So those are the basics, as simply as possible. If you have any questions just ask. You can also check outGURPS Lite, a free basic version of the game. It is a full game in its own right, and is great for beginners. The GURPS Basic Set is contains core rules for the full game. I also want to recommend GURPS for Dummies, which is a great companion for the Basic Set.


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