GURPS was designed to be a game system that transcended genre. Where there existed fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and even superhero role-playing games, GURPS went in the direction if being all of those and more; saw both the 1st and 2nd editions of the system released as boxed sets. Traits are purchased with points. Traits come in five basic flavors: attributes, advantages, disadvantages, quirks, and skills. This became the definitive edition of the game for many years.
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GURPS was designed to be a game system that transcended genre. Where there existed fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and even superhero role-playing games, GURPS went in the direction if being all of those and more; saw both the 1st and 2nd editions of the system released as boxed sets. Traits are purchased with points. Traits come in five basic flavors: attributes, advantages, disadvantages, quirks, and skills.
This became the definitive edition of the game for many years. The rules were extensively cross-referenced and well written. Supplements were released like clockwork; over the years, more than source books would be written for this edition of the game.
Although it never cracked into the top three for RPG sales, GURPS 3rd Edition became—and remains—one of the most successful lines of role-playing material ever published. The core rules, called the Basic Set, contained a fixed set of advantages, disadvantages, and skills. This book left all of the material in the front of the book alone. In the very back, in a page area that originally held a sample fantasy adventure, a mini-supplement of material they wished could be in the core was included.
But this was far from extensive. Enter Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch. Together, these books included everything that would have been in the core book had it been possible to expand it without breaking down all of the indexing of the system.
GURPS 3rd Edition was approaching 15 years of age; the sheer volume of material written for the system had created a level of cruft—piled on specialized sub-systems—which detracted from the streamlined beauty of the system.
Steve Jackson announced that the system would be extensively supported with premium product. This fell apart quite quickly. The books were to be released in August of that year with an aggressive release schedule through the end of the year. A web-chat took place to answer questions. In this chat, they confirmed that GURPS would have a very aggressive release schedule; the books would all be long see below , full-color, hardcover books—what I will call premium books.
These points are important to many fans of the system. Steve Jackson—the man and his company—were promising to bring premium production to their already premium content.
If the fans were to be enticed to come over to the new system—as opposed to using the 3rd edition with whatever house rules they had developed over the years—they needed: Support: this meant releasing books for the new system, in the new premium format, to replace the extensive libraries most hard-core fans had acquired over the years.
They needed to rebuild their library. Something Extra: this meant something to make the switch worthwhile. An aggressive release schedule handled 1; premium books were unusual for Steve Jackson Games. It seemed to be an enticing carrot that could bring the old-guard over. The original so-called gorgeous artwork was almost universally regarded as anything but gorgeous. Since this is entirely an aesthetic issue, the good folks at Steve Jackson Games took this is stride and asked their fan base: can you do better?
The answer was yes. For a while, the finalists in the contest and the original designs were available for viewing. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The first hurdle was cleared with ease. All appeared to be going well. In fact, for all intent and purpose, it was. Since this was released prior to the Basic Set, it was written as a hybrid, capable of easily being used with either the 3rd Edition or 4th Edition of the game. And so on The aggression of the schedule was not in question.
The ability for Steve Jackson Games to deliver on this schedule most certainly was. But more importantly, the ability for Steve Jackson Games to deliver on this schedule the premium production values was being tested early on. The original covers with the sub-standard artwork and flat, bland look were gone and replaced with the puzzle-look that had won the covers contest. These were seen as a great step forward and resulted in beautiful books.
This book was considered a universal success. The choices for advantages and skills to include in the trimmed list was suspect e. Given that this was a PDF and free-print product, it was given some slack.
In the end, it was considered a success. This was exacerbated by the fact that the initial announcement and follow-up web chats indicated that virtually no conversion would be needed.
Explanations were offered indicating that the document focused mostly on adjusting the point values of characters rather than adjusting capability. Response to this was mixed. It is about this time that some of the old-guard GURPS fans were starting to question choices made in the new edition.
For a line that was touting itself as premium production, this fell flat. The issues that had been well documented were not corrected. The optional systems—those things that make GURPS the flexible tool-kit that it is—were left out completely. GURPS Magic, it was said, is where multiple systems and flavors of magic would be discussed and fleshed out.
Magic suffered not only from creative lapses, but editorial lapses as well. A series of charts in the book detailing the steps needed to reach a particular spell included calculations indicating how many spells were prerequisites for a given spell. This chart was intended to allow a Game Master to move a spell without making it too easy or too hard to obtain. The problem: a large chunk of the calculations were just plain wrong. In December—four months later—the play test seemed to be having trouble.
The Basic Set devotes one-third of the space to animals as it does to magic. Many—myself included—feel that a role playing system without a good manual of monsters is incomplete.
What we got was nothing. Did We Say "Aggressive"? It did not take long before books began to slip in the official schedule. The original aggressive schedule was supposed to be one premium book per quarter, plus the three books that were scheduled to be produced in the last quarter of i.
In this same timeframe, the number of products—please note, I did not say books—that have been produced for GURPS 4th Edition is stand-alone items, and issues of the PDF magazine, Pyramid which was shut down in December of This is impressive. A total of products. This comes out to approximately one product every two or three weeks.
The problem is that these products consist almost entirely of electronic releases i. As premium books were produced, they would generally last one print run; most never seen in print form again. Others might get a softcover, grey-scale reprint. But the vast majority would move straight to PDF only. What Happened? It has not been for some time; it will not be in the foreseeable future.
Role-Playing Games are a sideline business for the company as Munchkin takes over the vast majority of their resources. Additionally, Steve Jackson is a man who wants to do some things simply because he wants to do them. And this is a good thing! Thanks to this sort of drive, a Kickstarter campaign raised nearly one million dollars to revive the OGRE line! You cannot argue with success like that.
But he is just one man, and Steve Jackson Games has limited resources. When Munchkin takes up most of the time, and other projects eat into what it left None of this is to say they are wrong. Steve Jackson Games is a business. Like any other business, they look at their market and adjust accordingly.
What Needs to Happen? First, we need to establish some assumptions so let us recap some points from above : GURPS is, at its core, one of the most robust role-playing systems ever written. A few miss-steps were caused by having goals that were unattainable or unsustainable depending upon whom you ask ; others were caused by internal editorial and design choices GURPS 4th Edition is not getting the support and attention it needs thanks to a company that needs to focus on its largest money-maker.
All of this said Role-playing is far from dead! Assuming this were to happen, a 5th Edition should be created. GURPS is—and should always be—a premium content brand, not a premium production brand. Pretty pictures are useless if the content is not there.
Excellent content is not made better with pretty pictures. Primary subsystems e. Books going into these concepts in detail should be planned and assigned as the 5th Edition is being put together. Specialized subsystems e. Books detailing these concepts in detail should be planned and assigned as the 5th Edition is being put together as well. Applications of the subsystems e.
GURPS Lite (Fourth Edition)
This article is a skub. It has loads of numbers and expansion books. GURPS is the quintessential universal system; it is so flexible that you can bend it in half, fold it through itself, and then tie it in a 4-dimensional knot. It is the paragon of the simulationist category of games. Its detail is surpassed by I. The basic premise behind the system is that you create your character and customize all of his abilities using points that you get both at creation and as your character progresses. There are assloads of physical, mental, and social defects that can be used to get more character points to channel right back into your advantages.
GURPS Character Sheet