GURPS: the RPG that got me back into RPGs

I've been thinking a lot about GURPS (the Generic Universal Role Playing System) mostly because I've been thinking about the system and what I want out of a role playing game.

I ran into GURPS in the late 2000s, just after JoDee and I got married. For whatever reason I was primed to look at Role Playing Games again and GURPS stood out as a role playing system that could do literally anything. The rules were really comprehensive and I enjoyed the idea of rolling under a particular number for success. The advantages and disadvantages system made sense for me and I could see beauty in how it balanced taking the bad with the good.

I got hooked on the books and started purchasing them at a fever pitch. I waited with bated breath as e23 reprinted digital copies of supplements that I didn't get to purchase when they were new. I scoured eBay for GURPS lots. I adored that GURPS books were usually based on earth (as Ken Hite always says: "start with Earth!". Over time I built a library of GURPS books that I was proud to have.

I evangelized the system wherever I could. If someone asked for a system I would think about it for a bit but generally recommend GURPS as something to try.

I built characters. True, I didn't build great characters (that comes with practice and patience, something that I'm not particularly great with) but I still enjoyed seeing how the various pieces fit together. It sparked a part of my game design brain that had laid dormant for a while.

As time progressed though I started finding other systems. Fudge was a system that I had previously ignored (Fudge Dice? Why should I buy different dice! Pshaw!). That lead me to Fate. I also looked at True 20, D6, Basic Roleplaying System, and many others that I've either forgotten or briefly encountered. For me learning about these systems was more fun than playing the games.

But something happened. As I started discovering other systems I started feeling like GURPS wasn't the end-al-be-all system (Actually that would be EABA, the End All Be All system, but that's a joke that I'll leave for now). I found whenever I wanted to play GURPS that it took more time to try to build a character, and those characters (because I wasn't skilled in making them) didn't really capture what I wanted them to do. I found myself at odds with the system where the balance that I previously enjoyed was now hampering what I wanted from a character. (Again, this is totally on me for not practicing this).

I also lurked a lot in the Steve Jackson Games forums for GURPS. One thing that I kept seeing were questions on how to model things in GURPS. Those topics were never interesting to me. I know for some they want to know in excruciating detail how the Blues Brothers car manages to fly through the air the way it does. For me it's OK to say that it does and move on. That was my first insight into why I was starting to move away from GURPS: GURPS answered questions that I wasn't interested in answering.

The second thing that I started noticing is that I was gravitating more toward open-licensed games. Games like Fudge, True 20, and early versions of Fate had an Open Gaming License. This license allows for folks to reuse parts of the game engine without having to negotiate a separate license. Later, Fate Core adopted a very permissive Creative Commons License. The license also introduced me to games like Eclipse Phase, Dungeon World, and many others. GURPS on the other hand has a fan license that was very permissive for the time, but feels restrictive compared with the Open Gaming License and the more permissive Creative Commons Licenses (eg: excluding the "no-derivatives" licenses).

What I've learned in the 10+ years is that while I still have a soft spot for GURPS it really hasn't matured with me as I have matured. The questions it answers are not the questions that I find interesting anymore, and the style of role playing that it offers doesn't excite me anymore.

I used to get excited when a new line of products for GURPS was announced. After taking a break from the product newsletters I realized that my enthusiasm was inertia, and I was trying to pursue nostalgia for those moments when opening a GURPS book was akin to opening a new world for me to explore.

I still adore the world books of GURPS (they set a really high bar for research and excellence) but it's time to let other folks enjoy this system. As someone who has a hard time letting go of things that I've invested time and effort into learning and acquiring it's hard sometimes to realize that they're no longer giving you any joy. I think it's time I let myself find joy in the other systems I've already embraced.

I wish nothing but good things to the people who still enjoy GURPS and enjoy playing it. It's a solid system that truly shines for the questions it does answer and the experience it offers. For the curious I would suggest checking it out to see if it offers you any of that joy. GURPS Lite is a quick way to get a small taste of the system and its capabilities. GURPS is what got me back into this hobby and I am eternally grateful that it provided me an excellent on-ramp. But now I wish it every critical success (roll 3d6 = 3) as I choose a different path to explore.