GURPS Fourth Edition

We arrive back where we started: GURPS Fourth Edition. The other day I sat down to create a wizard character and decided, even after my trip through the earlier editions, to build it with the current rules. On the whole, it was a good experience and has me encouraged to play more.

The GURPS Fourth Edition Basic Set is clean and well-presented, very well referenced, pretty easy to use, and basically just what you need to get playing with GURPS. Despite all the chatter about complexity, the reality is that it’s a very simple game at core.

Of course, GURPS Fourth Edition intimidated the crap out of me for years and I am very late to the party. Why is it so scary? I used to think it’s the game itself – the myriad of choices and options is an easy thing to point at and scream, “Complexity!”

What makes GURPS scary is that you have to design what you want to play. There is no default way to play the game. It’s a game that has very complete mechanisms and deeply rendered detailed choices for the player and GM to leverage, but it largely lacks a predetermined approach to play. GURPS is descriptive, not prescriptive.

That means you have to know what you want to play with. There are no pre-built character classes or archetypes to bind you… nor to guide you, really. There are example templates which help point you in the direction of typical character types but, ultimately, you have to know what you want to play.

I realise that, as a gamer, I have become dependent on the structures that other games have given me. I learned to play with career paths and character classes, prepackaged archetypes which speed you into play but also truncate your imagination.

I notice a modern trend with players who seem hungry for new and wilder, more creative character classes and playable species. GURPS has always had this covered without requiring you to move beyond the Basic Set, freeing you from the churn of buying more tomes just to follow the latest published splat books.

But the corollary is the scary bit: you have to build your own fantasies. Some players seem to prefer to stick with the tried and true – which you can totally build with GURPS – rather than think too deeply about their character prior to play. Perhaps that is as much to do with pick-up-and-play transitory gaming as it is imagination.

For me, GURPS offers me the opportunity to play anything. I can mix up whatever blend of fantastic elements I want. My problem is that the infinity of choices is paralysing. I am learning to overcome this fear and allow myself to imagine… but I can totally understand the desire to stick with a more limited selection from other games.

In the end, I arrive back where I started: wanting to play more GURPS, fairly sure finding a consistent group willing to play is going to be the biggest barrier, and buzzing with ideas to try out.

Who knows, eh? Maybe I just need to begin.

Game on!

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