GURPS Frameworks

I enjoy GURPS Third Edition and, as I explore the system, I am coming to realise that all I really need to run a game is a Framework to give shape to each idea I have. In my mind, a Framework is a proposal for a simple situation, some notes on making characters to fit that situation, and an introductory scenario built around an appropriate game structure.

In the past, I’ve tended to overthink and overplan my games, leading to rigidity in my approach and a lot of stress. I was holding on to the mistaken belief that if only I could cover all the bases before we started to play then I would become a great GM. The reality is that I already have everything I need to run a great game – I have plenty of imagination, there are several game rules systems that I enjoy, and I have some gaming friends. Oh, and I have dice.

Roleplaying games are a collaborative endeavour. You turn up with your friends and you agree on a starting point – usually this involves an imaginary place (the World), some imaginary characters, and a starting situation. From there, the GM presents the opening situation, the players engage in roleplaying their characters and make choices that lead to declared actions, and the GM adjudicates the outcome based upon the agreed-upon set of game rules. Once the actions are resolved, the new situation is described to the players, and we repeat.

The GM’s primary role is two-fold: set up situations and adjudicate the actions of the characters. Thus, it’s my sense that all I really need is a starting point: an opening situation and some characters (both player-controlled and GM-controlled).

The best games I’ve run have a broad opening situation, a clearly defined player-facing initial objective, and some interesting characters. Once we get started with the play, the emergent experience is one that surprises and delights both players and GM. If the game becomes particularly interesting, we might keep it going for another session. Then another.

What’s a Framework?

The Framework gives the GM and players the basic pieces they need to begin playing:

  • You set up an initial situation in an imaginary place.
  • The players make some characters to put into that situation and place.
  • The GM presents an initial scenario based around an appropriate game structure.
  • The group sits down, the GM presents the opening scene, and we ask the magic roleplaying question: “What do you want to do?”
  • Play proceeds from there.

Of course, that’s a simplification: the situation will imply details that you might want to create ahead of time. Examples include some NPCs, some challenges, and some choices around world-appropriate gear. But the Framework is enough to get us started. It acts like a lens, focusing us in on what’s important to get started.

In my own gaming, the first such framework I came up with was for the Dungeons of Thaarl, a fantasy megadungeon in the desert which we can explore with archetypal adventurers. It’s been a lot of fun and can be picked up and played with anytime because it’s also an Open Table framework. For my next framework, I think it might be fun to mess around with modern monster hunters.

Game on!


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