Thursday, May 29, 2014

Some GURPS-thoughts Occasioned By Transparency

No "Solo GPC" update this week, I'm afraid. Keep an eye out for the next installment this time next week.

I do quite like the idea of trying to stick to a posting schedule of one post every Thursday, minimum. So, in order to keep up the momentum, this week I'm going to ramble a bit about GURPS.

Okay, this is actually pretty cool.
If you've been a follower of this blog for any length of time, you know I have a...complicated relationship with GURPS. It's the system I've always wanted to love, but never really been able to commit to. The bad apple I just can't seem to drop.

A couple weeks ago over on Gaming Ballistic, current GURPS line editor Sean Punch and frequent GURPS author David Pulver weighed in with some surprisingly candid thoughts on the state of the game today. I have to say, I was really impressed with their candor, and I took a lot away from the thread personally, particularly this bit:
GURPS Vehicles. With apologies to David Pulver, this supplement was the origin of the "too much math" meme. Before it, GURPS was the go-to system for well-researched supplements; after it, GURPS was the go-to system for geeky number-crunching. We can't really "undo" this.
Yes, this precisely. I hadn't really thought about Vehicles as being the tipping point, but it's so true.

Prior to Vehicles' release in the late 90s, my main problem with GURPS wasn't the system at all, but rather convincing my friends to give it a try in preference to more dedicated genre games. But after Vehicles, I found myself grappling with the system as well. A subtle but significant change was under way, one that I wasn't even aware of until, some years back, I stumbled across an obscure note at the bottom of a neglected page on S. John Ross's website in which he coined the phrase "Classic-Era GURPS" (a sort of proto-OSR for the GURPS set, I suppose?). Written back before the release of GURPS 4e and Ross's own switch to using his Risus RPG as his go-to system, he had this to say about how he played GURPS with his home group:
...I game a little differently, using only what I call "Classic-Era GURPS," meaning (to make a long, rambling story short) GURPS that uses only rules present in the GURPS Basic Set, 3rd Edition (and some of my house rules, like Unlimited Mana). This means I still use Magic and Grimoire, for example, because they use the same spell rules as in the Basic Set, but I don't mess with more complex additions like Maneuvers, the Supers rules, or the Vehicles rules.
(Those bits he mentions towards the end? They would all end up folded into the core rules with the release of Fourth Edition GURPS.)

I honestly hadn't realized the change that had come over the system until I read that piece, and I think that's probably when my true disenchantment with the system began.

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the Gaming Ballistic comment thread. There's some really illuminating discussion about the current state of the game, and some tentative stabs taken in the direction of getting the game back in a direction of accessibility to the general gaming public. I, for one, would love to see a Fifth Edition of GURPS that took the game back towards its "Classic-Era" roots while retaining some of the improved mechanical changes from 4e.

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