GURPS: World, Then Rules

One of the best results that has arisen from my decision to build my new Universe around the GURPS game engine is that unlike with most RPGs, the game system isn’t dictating the parameters of the game world. I don’t need to hack GURPS to make it fit my world – just choose those elements from the rules that fit and ignore the rest. This is liberating.

The most significant freedom I am experiencing is the ability to sit down and describe my game world in all the detail I enjoy without worrying, “Will this work with the rules?” Unlike when I played with any edition of D&D, for example, I am not bound by the assumptions baked into the game engine. I get to choose everything from the ground up.

For some people. choosing everything from the ground up is a bug. Being able to take, for example, D&D off the shelf and run a world without having do much choosing about the fantasy is one reason most people prefer the regular kind of game. The result of the regular kind of game is the regular kind of (fantasy) world. Thus, it’d be a bug to have to choose everything to get the regular kind of game.

Some of us, however, don’t want the regular kind. I don’t like Cornflakes and I don’t like Domino’s Pizza. I also dislike the regular kind of D&D because, well, it’s what everyone else is playing. For the neophiles and adventurous souls who like geek out with different kinds of gaming experience, GURPS provides a great toolkit to do something weird. For me this is a feature, not a bug.

Thus, with GURPS it’s world first, rules second. You design the world and then you choose the parameters for play using the rules. You get to tweak the game system to suit the game world in a very detailed and specific manner. It’s taken me a LOOOONNNG time to get my head around this simple difference but I am glad to have finally arrived.

Suddenly my Universe feels exciting because it’s no longer the regular kind. My game world is expressing my ideas and desires at the table. GURPS can handle it because this is a game designed to be generic enough to fit any vision. I’m loving the freedom and the new energy that I have discovered as a result.

Game on!


  1. Hello Che

    I’m right there with you “Irrideemably Old-School”

    I do not, not play D&D 5e because it’s what everyone else is playing. I don’t play it because the design abstracts things that I prefer detailed, and details things I find are better abstracted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed! I dislike the abstractions too – I talk about it in my forthcoming podcast, “Uncomfortably Old-School” – but also… it is the regular kind. GURPS gives me freedom.


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