I’ve mentioned before that one of the features I enjoy from classic GURPS is the chapter on Random Characters. At the weekend, I dug out my GURPS 1st Edition boxed set and had an absolute blast rolling up some characters using those rules. There are three reasons why I think having those rules is cool.
Firstly, random characters give GURPS a truly quick character creation system. This is invaluable for Open Table play, where you need to onboard players within about 15 minutes. This is also useful for pick-up games. For me, the best use is for giving me a way to generate interesting characters for a solo game.
Secondly, the rules fit the classic roleplaying tradition of eschewing game balance concerns in order to give players meaningful choices to make within the game world. Rolling up a character gives a vast range of character ability but also provides an interesting challenge to those of us who enjoy discovering our characters through play. I’m not worried about whether my guy is comparable in “power” to my buddy; I am interested in seeing what I can do with them.
Thirdly, the rules are a lot of fun to play around with. Although it’s a rather simple set of character creation rules, fitting on just two pages, there is a lot of variety available.
The choice of skills is the best bit: you roll on the table and choose one of the three skills provided before you roll to see what level your skill is at. This process creates characters that I would never conceive of trying, breaking me out of staid design habits that seek to optimise things. There are enough choices to be made to make it a mini game without it being overwhelming or slow.
Random characters add something that helps to overcome the common criticism of GURPS as a game, namely there being too many options when you make a character. Certainly, you don’t get a character with magic or psionics but there’s no reason you couldn’t tweak the tables to make them fit your world. The big benefit is that anyone can roll up a character and be playing in short order.