Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10 Things I learned from my Old School GURPS Game in No Particular Order

Running an old school -dungeon fantasy style GURPS game has been a learning experience for me and much to my surprise has changed some of my long held preconceptions about games in general.

#1 I love dungeons.

In the past I thought they were just dumb but these days, I like them a lot, a heck of a lot more than a I did as a young grog. Not only do they make my job as GM easier by keeping everyone on the plot but they help concentrate the groups fun and keep them focused, something essential with a group as big as mine.

#2 I don't really like GURPS rules system for this kind of game.

Its a good system but it doesn't support my wahoo, old school, rules not rulings gaming style the way I want . It simply isn't as much fun as I expected and given the limitations of my group I have to cut it in ways that take away GURPS strengths . I might be willing to give it a try with a more experienced group or on different subject matter but mainline GURPS is too complex and my version of GURPS Medium-Rare is just not doing it.

#3 I dislike GURPS magic.

This really isn't new . I have had a mild distaste for it since Fantasy 1.0 (about 1988 or so) . The system is fine and there is nothing wrong with Evil Stevie's rules but its bland and balanced in ways I dislike. Too meh in combat, too strong in its world building implications.

#4 Fate Points are fun in any system.

I grafted a fate point system based loosely off various GURPS rules and it worked as follows
Basically 1 point makes any roll a success, 1 point saves you from certain death and 2 points allows certain death to become a flesh wound. Players start with 2 and gain 1 per session and 1 for a really cool moment. This worked great as it encouraged player involvement, allowed anyone a chance to shine and let me save key NPC's for later. Mwah Hah Ha Hah...

#5 My world is too weird.

Its a sandbox designed to allow pretty much anything with an emphasis on creative chaos and a world that responds on a semi realistic fashion to actions. It works fine but the mix of Earth stuff, Cthulhu, Space Aliens, Faeries, and standard D&D tropes was a a bit nauseating, kind of the game world equivalent the suicide special drinks we mixed as a kid (a little of everything in one glass) . Its not as good a combo as I'd hope.

#6 The Earth stuff helps the game as I hoped.

The fact humans are from Earth helped get the players into it as I hoped.

#7 I need to tone down the silly.

My flaw really, I think my game might benefit from a bit less chaos arrows, funny voices, talking animals, pet zombies and a bit more taking seriously. This silly doesn't impair the fun factor but I have the feeling its wearing on the me and players.

#8 Borrowing from other systems is good

I came up with a a couple of quick house rules for chases and stealth based off 3e and 4e D&D take 10 and they worked great in GURPS. They kept the drama up, were faster to play and still were basically the same as GURPS 4e core rules math wise. I'll post these later but suffice it say, don't let purism deter you from fixing the rules as needed.

#9 GURPS is incoherently laid out for Fantasy games

This is a not a system issue exactly but one of layout. GURPS really needs a good critter book not a book of mostly real world animals like its Bestiary (though that would be a useful book) or a book of folkloric critters like the quirky Fantasy Bestiary but a straight forward "Monster Manual" with things to encounter and kill. This should include people (bandits, soldiers, cultists, enemy mages) as well. Open book, grab stat block, play. As it is while the rules are all there (mainly in Dungeon Fantasy) the stuff I need especially the monster stats are too spread out for ease of use. I understand and respect the business case (its a sound publishing decision based on well thought out and researched sales metrics) but that doesn't help my game .

#10 I need to do more world building and mapping

I have a smart group who "gets" whats going on but I think my world building needs a boost, Now Midrea was intentionally designed in a haphazard way, what I need than, make it, use, it . This is fine but it needs to jell together better. I need to make a map somehow, put the nations in place and make a world book for people to see if they wish. This would I think improve the game a bit and help take away the "silliness" more than a little.

Well thats that ..

Later I'll include those house rules I promised and an article on why I am not a member of the SCA.


  1. I'm with you on #3 and #9.

    I'm not a big fan of GURPS Magic, even once you gut the world-bending stuff like Dungeon Fantasy does. Wizards tend to be extremely versatile but can't (or don't) do too much exciting stuff, so they wipe out mundane problems that could be fun and don't bend individual fights in fun ways. Although as I play more with higher point mages (Magery 6, say, on one of my PCs) it's not as bad as before.

    #9 is just a consequence of the fact that there are like 1000 people in the world gaming with GURPS and they don't all buy books. It's just not convenient even though there are in fact a lot of monsters out there.

    I find #9 is easily solved by just making up my own stuff. but #3 is harder to solve and balance.

    Just IMHO.

  2. Thanks for dropping by. Its an honor to have you. I have followed your GURPS work for quite some time. Martial Arts 4 was most impressive . Its not quite suitable for my gaming style at this time but its a great book. I know one of my players wants to use it bad but when you have 1 rusty GM with no 4e experience, 1 4e guy and 6 new people its not that easy

    its I also have to say, your blog inspired me a little and helped me realize what my campaign was doing in a more concrete way. I appreciate that.

    On your #9 reply, thats what I did as well. I just don't enjoy it I guess. I have that freebie 4e bestiary conversion from a while back too and could put it to use.

    And yeah I understand the numbers, I suppose you can count some more players soon enough. The group enjoyed the game heartily and has been asking about getting books. Hopefully the recession will let up soon and they can buy more than just the basics.

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed MA. I totally understand not using it with new players. It's a toolkit, anyway - I don't use all of it, neither does Sean. You need to pick out what's useful and helpful and fun for your particular game and group.

    And it's nice to hear people might buy more GURPS books. The more the merrier!