From Academic Kids

GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System), created by Steve Jackson Games in 1986, is designed specifically to be a role-playing game that adapts to any imaginary gaming environment. In 1989, GURPS won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1988 , and in 2000 it was inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame. Many of its expansions have also won awards.


The GURPS Concept

Prior to GURPS, role-playing games of the 1970s and early 1980s were developed especially for certain gaming environments, and they were largely incompatible with one another. For example, TSR (the publisher of the Dungeons & Dragons game) published its D&D game specifically for a "fantasy" environment. Another game from the same company, Star Frontiers, was developed for science fiction-based role-playing. TSR produced other games for other environments, such as Gamma World, Top Secret, Gangbusters, and more. Each of these games was set with its own self-contained rules system, and the rules for playing each game differed greatly from one game to the next. GURPS is an attempt to create an all-encompassing, "universal" role-playing system that allows players to role-play in any environment they please without having to create a new set of rules for each game.

GURPS is not the first role-playing system to present a "universal" set of rules for different gaming environments. The Chaosium role-playing system, best known for the highly successful Call of Cthulhu and Runequest role-playing games, were also developed to be a "generic" set of role-playing rules.

GURPS is part of the first wave of role-playing games that eschews random generation of characters in favor of a point-based system. Role-playing games of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Dungeons & Dragons, use random numbers generated by dice rolls to assign statistics to player characters.

GURPS, in contrast, assigns each player a specified number of points for each category of their characters. Together with the Hero System, GURPS was one of the first role-playing games in which characters are created by spending points to get characteristics, skills, advantages, getting more points by accepting low characteristics, disadvantages etc. This approach is increasingly more common, in part due to the success of GURPS.

GURPS' emphasis on its "generic" aspect has proven to be a successful marketing tactic: it is one of the more popular role-playing games on the market today.

One of the strengths of GURPS, say its proponents, lies in its large number of worldbooks, describing settings from several science fiction, fantasy, and historical settings, adding specific rules but mainly giving general information for any game. Many popular game designers began their professional careers as GURPS writers (including Robin Laws, S. John Ross and FUDGE creator Steffan O'Sullivan).

Before GURPS, Steve Jackson wrote a set of games called The Fantasy Trip, which are strongly related to GURPS.

GURPS also became part of the hacker sub-culture, when the company's Austin offices were raided as part of Operation Sundevil, which was targeting the author of GURPS Cyberpunk. Word spread that the feds had mistaken a guide to pretending to take down fictional computers for a handbook on computer crime. The incident was directly contributory to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Steve Jackson Games released GURPS Fourth Edition at the first day of Gen Con on 19 August 2004. It promises to simplify and streamline most areas of play and character creation. Some of the changes include: an edited and rationalized skill list, clarification of the difference between ability from experience and from inborn talent, simplifed language rules, revised technology levels. The 4th edition was sold as two hardcover, full-colour books.

Overview of the GURPS Mechanics

Character Points

A character in GURPS is built with character points. For a beginning character in an average power game, a player is given 100 points to modify attribute stats, purchase levels in skills, and selecting other modifications. A player can select numerous Advantages and Disadvantages to spice up the character with special abilities and weaknesses. Advantages benefit the character and cost points to purchase. Selecting Disadvantages returns character points. There are also many Quirks to choose from which give a character some personality. Quirks neither hinder or benefit the character, but they do add role-playing flavor. Remaining points are then spent on Wealth and Reputation scores which give the character money to buy equipment and other perks.


Characters in GURPS have four stats: Strength (ST), Dexterity (DX), Intelligence (IQ), and Health (HT). These represent the main attributes of a character, covering physical power, movement, reaction, mental capacity, and general stamina. Having only four stats is much simpler compared to other role-playing games which can have several main stats that cover more defined abilities. Each stat has a number rating assigned to it. Normally they begin at 10, representing typical human ability, but can go as low as 1 for nearly useless, to 18 (or higher) for superhuman power. Players assign these ratings with points. The higher the rating the more points it will cost the player, however, assigning a stat below the typical 10 gives the player points back to assign elsewhere. Stat ratings also calcuate several derived stats for the character, such as Reaction Speed, Willpower, Perception, Hit Points, Fatigue Points and others.


Complementing the stats are numerous skills. A player buys skills with character points. Skills represent physical and mental areas of specialty which can prove useful in the game. Skills vary widely, from Acrobatics to Vehicle Piloting. The availability of skills depends on the particular genre the GURPS game is played. For instance, in a Medieval Fantasy world, skills for operating a computer, or flying a fighter jet would not normally be available for the player to choose unless they time traveled. Skills are rated by level, and the more levels purchased with character points, the better the character is at that particular skill.

Skills are categorized by difficulty: Easy, Average, and Hard. Easy skills cost less points to purchase levels in, while Hard skills cost more. A player can purchase a skill for his character at any level, up to 3 below his stat or 4 above it. For example, if a character has a Dexterity of 12, the player can purchase the Dexterity skill of Climbing at 3 levels lower than the Dexterity score, for a level of 9, or up to 4 levels above it, for a level of 16. The lower you choose the less points it costs to buy the skill, and the higher you go, the more points it costs. Some skills have default levels, which indicate the level rating a character has when using that skill untrained (i.e. not purchased). For example, a character with a Dexterity of 12, uses the Climbing skill untrained. Climbing has a default of DX-5 or ST-5, which means that using the skill untrained gives him a Climbing skill level of 7 (12-5) if he tied it to the Dexterity stat. If the character had a higher Strength stat, he could have a better chance of success if they tied the Climbing skill there instead.

Success Rolls

GURPS uses six-sided dice for all game mechanics. For instance, if the damage of a weapon says "3d+2" then you'd roll three six-sided dice, add the results of each die together, and add 2 to that result. Likewise, if it said "2d-1", you'd roll only two dice and subtract 1 from the total result. For stat and skill checks, the player always rolls three six-sided dice.

Making stat and skill checks in GURPS is somewhat reversed to other RPG mechanics, where the higher the total of the die roll, the better. GURPS is the opposite. You want to roll as low as possible under the tested stat's rating or skill's level. If the roll is less than or equal to that number, the check succeeds. There is no "target number" or "difficulty rating" set by the Game Master, as would be the case in many other RPG systems. The GM may however, calculate various modifiers to add or subtract to the die roll. In this way, positive modifiers increase the chance for success by adding to the stat or skill level you must roll under, while negative modifiers deduct from it, making things more difficult.

For example: a character makes a pickpocketing test for his character. The player has assigned a Pickpocket skill with a level of 11. Rolling 3 dice, the result must be 11 or less to succeed the test. If the player rolls above 11, then the character has failed his attempt at pickpocketing. No matter the level of the skill, a die roll of 18 or 17 is always a failure, and a roll of 3 or 4 is always a success. The Game Master may choose in such cases, that the character has failed miserably and caused something disastrous, or succeeded incredibly well and gains something beneficial as a result.


Like most other RPGs, combat in GURPS is organized in rounds. A round is equal to one second of real time. Some other RPGs usually have longer rounds. In one second, a player can allow his character to take an action, such as attack, or move. Free actions are simple actions that can be done at any time. Characters in a party have a set initative every round that is based upon their Speed factors.

There are two kinds of attacks, Melee (with handheld weapons) and Ranged (for bows and guns). Attacks made by a character are checked against their appropriate skill in the particular weapon they carry. For instance, if a character is attacking with a pistol, it is a good idea to have high levels in the Firearms skill. Like any other skill check, a player must roll equal to, or less than the level of the skill. Failure means a miss, success scores a hit. Rolls of 3 or 4 are "critical hits", where the weapon deals it's full possible damage to the target without rolling it. Attack modifiers are set by the GM when factoring in such things as body armor, and cover.


Damage from melee weapons, (clubs, swords, daggers, etc.) have damage scores based off a character's ST rating. The weaker a character is physically, the less damage he or she is capable of inflicting with a handheld weapon. Ranged weapons have a set damage value for the projectile they fire. When damage is inflicted upon a character, it is deducted from their Hit Points, which are calculated with the Health stat. Like any other RPG, when a character loses their hit points, they're in trouble.


Finally, the most useful award after playing a good session of GURPS are more character points, which can be used to advance the character with boosted stats and skills, and other goodies.

GURPS in other media

The computer game publisher Interplay licensed GURPS as the basis for a post-nuclear war role-playing computer game in 1995. Late in development, due to miscommunications between the two companies, the GURPS character building system was replaced with the SPECIAL System, the GURPS name was dropped, and the game was released under the name Fallout.

See also

External links

es:GURPS fr:Generic universal role playing system it:GURPS ja:ガープス nl:GURPS pl:GURPS ru:GURPS simple:GURPS pt:GURPS fi:GURPS zh-cn:泛用无界角色扮演系统


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