5-ish Things Good and Bad about GURPS


I’ve mentioned that game design is lots of work.  So much, I think I’ll leave it to those with way more free time and the professionals. I still need to find a system that suits my needs. My needs are twofold.

First, I’m looking for a system to place my source worlds into. Game settings need somewhere to leave. Writing a setting that is system agnostic seems to be losing something trying to make it fit for everyone. Plus, I don’t know every system anymore. There was time in the mid 90s when, I’d say I had experience with 95% of everything, now after a long break, not even close.  Second, I’m looking for the go to system for my gaming group, which meets so infrequently, it makes sad pandas even sadder. And that’s pretty sad.  My gaming group, (membership varies from 1990 to present) by and large, played a lot of GURPS.

My next exercise, Five (ish) things I like about a system and 5(ish) draw backs.  I think this might help collect my thoughts and come to terms with what I think is really important.

So…here is 5-ish Things Good and Bad about GURPS.



  1. Spell Components- Plot device only. Game Masters that punish their caster types by making them seek out eye of newt or whatever are doing a great job of not getting people to enjoy/play casters.
  2. Character depth- Characters can be very unique and detailed. This is good and bad. Some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever played have been in this system, and they were interesting with how they were built using the system. I converted my half orc, gruel cooking, low IQ shaman type with Jackie Chan’s fighting style to D&D 3rd at one point, and he lost most of his charm.
  3. Versatile – The system does lend well to almost any genre, without too much tweeking.
  4. Hexes – Hexes over squares, any day of the week.
  5. Magic System – Mostly…I like the spell colleges. Basic fire spells leading up to fire balls and such. Makes sense and is pleasing. I like energy going into whatever spell I want. But see #5 below on bad.



  1. Character depth. While GMing, I also feel like every city guard, merchant and waste sanitation worker needs to be fully flushed out with advantages and disadvantages. I feel point balances have my hands tied at every turn.
  2. Character growth- As player, using recommend experience progression, it feels like the character you had session 0 is the same person at session 20, with maybe a few new skills.
  3. Defense Rolls- A fellow player once coined the phrase “Going into GURPS Tactical” which meant for the next few hours we’d be rolling dodges and parries as the party barely defeats a small group of bandits. Swing for a hit, parry. Swing again, dodge. Etc for the next 3 hours.
  4. Game breaking mechanics- I once was in a party with a really bad ass fighter, than never used his sword. He would grapple and wrestle everyone, and lock them down. After the 15th combat of the same thing, it becomes rather boring and silly.
  5. Magic Users suck. At the point totals recommended and with how character growth goes, these guys never have a chance to be good. I’ve played 4. Warrior types always own you, especially due to some of the casting times. 3 seconds for good size fireball? The fighter from above could grab, pin and incapacitate our poor wizard, before the fireball even formed. Also energy is too low. That wizard after 20 sessions, still can cast only 3-4 energy spells and is spent


Summary:  I think strive for point balance kills this one for me more than anything else. Other drawbacks: support. Steve Jackson games seem to be giving this product line minimal attention and it shows with recent editions. Player base is a concern. I don’t see many flyers for GURPS games at the local game store or on roll20. Would hate to be tied to a sinking ship.


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