Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

How a Tightwad Traveller Fanbase Sounded the Death Knell for a Realistic GURPS 4e

It’s big.  It’s bad.  It’s the amazing 4th edition of Steve Jackson’s “end all be all” Generic Universal Role Playing System.  It’s ready to rock on in the new millennium: this baby takes an already flexible design to a higher level of abstraction.  Let’s take a quick sample of what the fans are saying:

“Going through the changes between 3.0 and 4.0, it’s like they read our house rules hand-out.” — Ian Turner

“3e was more like an erector set where you could build a framework and then you spent a lot of time having to fill in the blanks with GM fiat. 4e is much more ‘complete’ where anything that can be done, I can reproduce.” — Mark Skarr

“Ultimately after spending hours and hours on a character I will realize that NOW I have a CHARACTER concept I can use in any game system.”  — LemmingLord

“[It’s] the perfect RPG recipe: Here’s a ton of rules and options to cover just about anything. Pick what you want, ignore the rest. Season with whatever house rule additions and mods you like. And feel free to wing things whenever you please.” — tbone

“The 4e rules spell out that each GURPS game is most about genre. Not reality. Not combat, or worlds even, or rules when you get down to it. You think of the style of book, TV show, movie, comic or whatever you want to emulate, and choose the rest based on that. To me that was the key to running GURPS after years of D&D.” — jimminy

While many game masters are thrilled with with new internal consistency and streamlining, there’s always, especially in this age of the internet, a crowd of vocal naysayers ready to pick at it.  Let’s take a quick look at what they’re saying:

“The intellectual buy-in too high, the requirement to build everything yourself too demanding, the learning curve for new players too great.” — Taliesin

“The problem is everything but the kitchen sink is dumped on the new user – it’s like handing a cook a cow and asking him to grill a steak.” — Infornific

“A combination of ‘icky-feeling’ paper, a nasty smell, sub-standard art and a layout that just throws every single advantage / skill / whatever into a messy cross-genre jumble ended up hugely turning me off to the whole 4.0 launch.” — Ian Turner

GURPS Character Assistant software and the free Skills Category PDF can help navigate this gigantic system, but even with that you can’t expect to please everybody.  While some people are erroneously attempting to detail all of their NPC’s to the same standards they require for PC’s, others are getting bogged down at the thought of having develop an entire pantheon of abilities using the moderately technical GURPS Powers toolkit.  However, the real issue is that some people just haven’t had their minds illuminated  to the power of a few simple Enhancements and Limitations.  But once they do… let me tell you, it’s like scales falling from their eyes:

“Not having really used powers in 3e, or the enhancements and limitations, this part was the one that took more time to sink in, but it was also the key to what made GURPS better for me. Something as simple as Attractive (Takes Preparation, 1h) is just an example.” — Gudiomen

That said, there are yet some valid criticisms among the unconverted.  Lo, I say unto you… a crappy index and a mediocre GURPS Lite present not a small barrier to those that seek the true path of gaming goodness.  Fortunately, the imminent Dr. Kromm takes responsibility for this and doesn’t try to pass blame onto the sycophantic proles that Steve Jackson Games has conned into doing the grunt work:

“In an effort to get the GURPS Basic Set, Fourth Edition out on time and have GURPS Lite, Fourth Edition ready to go with it, we had to divvy up tasks. I was busy proofing the final PDFs for rules consistency, so we had no choice but to assign the index and Lite to others . . . and I wasn’t available for those guys, because as I said, I was busy.”  — Kromm

Oh great and powerful Kromm… please tell us more about the genesis of our most esteemed and finely crafted rpg…  Tell us dark secrets….  Tell us, for example… why cinematic super powers get so much emphasis in the Basic Set.

“Books like Psionics and even the much-maligned Supers far and away outsold books like Old West and Espionage. Had GURPS Traveller and GURPS WWII fans been more numerous and bigger spenders, I can assure you that 4e would have looked quite different.” — Kromm

What…?  Huh?  A different game?  Can you be more specific?

“Things That Would Not Be: Less attention to Affliction, Binding, Innate Attack, and exotic and supernatural advantages in general. Fewer cinematic and supernatural skills in the core rules. Possibly no chapter on magic, either. Tech and artifacts chapter would omit enchantment, gadgeteering, and weird science. Iconic characters would have lacked odd abilities and been strictly baseline humans. Lots of little things like Transcendent appearance, wildcard skills, the vampire template, and essays on high-powered and cinematic gaming wouldn’t be there.

“Things That Would Be: Character weight and size would cost points and be tied into ST, HP, Move, jumping distance, etc. A longer list of mundane Talents would compensate for fewer exotic abilities. More templates for generic historical jobs. More and more detailed weapons, especially WWII-era firearms. Mapped-out tactical combat would be the assumed default. Rules for injury and dangerous enviroments would be more exacting and extensive. Tech and artifacts chapter would dwell primarily on vehicles, vehicles, vehicles.

“One could safely say that instead of getting Basic Set, Third Edition plus all of Compendium I but only bits of Compendium II, all heavily influenced by Psionics and Supers with a view to Powers being an early supplement, you would have seen Basic Set, Third Edition plus all of Compendium II but only bits of Compendium I, all heavily influenced by High-Tech and Vehicles with a view to WWII for 4e being an early supplement.”  — Kromm

Thank you great Kromm for revealing these truths to your vile and insignificant fan base….  [Much groveling and bootlicking ensues.]

But mighty Kromm… I’m still overwhelmed….  There’s just so many options in GURPS 4e.  I don’t know what to do with it.  Why did you put all those rules in there?  I have to roll on the Shock and Awe table every time I crack a GURPS tome!

“I put all of those rules in there so that 1,000 different gaming groups could run 1,000 different, custom-fitted rules-light versions of GURPS. I didn’t really imagine that there would be people who would want to turn on all of the switches.” — Kromm

Thanks be to Kromm, for his benevolence truly knows no bounds.  We truly crave such reassurances about the design of our beloved system.  For there can be only one true system, and all others are as unto pale imitations and are as yet feebleminded drivel.  We thank Kromm for his ceaseless efforts to bring true excellence unto gaming.

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