On GURPS Powers

For the first time since I bought the GURPS Powers book (2005?), yesterday I sat down and started to use it. It wasn’t as scary and complicated as I expected – impressions forged with my first experiences with GURPS Fourth Edition around 2005 – but it did emphasise a big truth about that game system: there is more than one way to build a special ability in GURPS.

GURPS is a toolkit. It’s a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, system for roleplaying games. I’ve known this all along… but it’s been a relatively recent realisation. The gap between knowing something and understanding is often larger than we realise. The GURPS Powers book is probably the most obviously “toolkit” supplement I have read so far.

I was trying to build a particular effect for a game I’d like to run very soon. I had scoured GURPS Magic and concluded that the exact approach I wanted to take didn’t quite fit the standard GURPS Magic system. Nothing wrong with that but it wasn’t quite the right fit. Next, I read read GURPS Thaumatology and explored the ideas there. Ultimately, the “magic as powers” approach seemed most flexible.

For readers who are rolling their eyes and shouting, “Just use a simpler system!”, well, this isn’t a matter of complex. It’s a matter of approach. It’s about rummaging for the best tool for the job. Thus, I arrived at GURPS Powers: a very large – and optional – toolbox.

But this is also where I felt the warmth and enjoyment that I so often get from GURPS ignite my heart. Here is a game in which I can specifically customise the system to give me a special ability that works just exactly how I want it to work. It was also pretty easy… except for the discovery that there is more than one way to build the effect I was imagining.

Sensing the uncertainty in that discovery was initially difficult for me to handle: uncertainty triggers anxiety – the “am I doing this right?” feeling – and that, in turn, can cause me to stutter or stop. This time, however, I realised something simple and profound: there is no single “correct” way to build a Power in GURPS. You do it the way that makes sense to you as GM.

From there, I began to explore the couple of different ways I could build the effect and price it out with Character Points. Different mechanical dials get twizzled as you play around with the options and it’s pretty engaging stuff. You become a game designer, tweaking the system to fit your vision of the game world. This is a reversal of the regular way with most other systems where you have to adapt your idea of the game world to fit the system.

It seems I am finding my feet in the ever-rich soil of GURPS roleplaying. This is where I can make things work my way without having to write (or re-write) all the rules of the game. Here is where I can customise the experience I want using the tools already offered by the publisher. This is the system wherein I can find my particular style and flavour to build the game worlds I truly want to explore.

I’m beginning to imagine more possibilities as a consequence. The choices are all mine to make.

Game on!

One comment

  1. Wonderful that you have the energy and persistence to find these gems.
    The benefit of playing with this system longer is that you’ll begin to know which specific toolkit to use, in order to do the thing u wanted.
    I think what’s intimidating about GURPS IS the very thing that makes it so customisable and adaptable… that’s a LOT of resources to pour through if u don’t know where to look…. but how satisfying when you do.

    Glad you’ve found an anchor system, for the tides of interest to let u shift around, but not leave.
    Hopefully these tools are things u might be able to port into/adapt to other systems that seem to be missing that last lil touch ur after.. but still give u an alternate flavour from the GURPS hold.

    Have fun with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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