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GURPS Summary, part 1

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  • bryan_j_maloney
    As I promised in the main pcgen list, the beginning of a summary of GURPS. Since it was in the context of XML and multi-system support, I m putting it here.
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 13, 2002
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      As I promised in the main pcgen list, the beginning of a summary of
      GURPS. Since it was in the context of XML and multi-system support,
      I'm putting it here.

      Introduction
      This is a very informal attempt at describing the structure of GURPS
      (Generic Universal Role-Playing System), a trademarked product of
      Steve Jackson Games. While aspects of that system will be cited and
      short quotes may be necessary, there is no intent to infringe upon the
      trademarks nor other intellectual property of Steve Jackson Games. To
      this end, I will often say "Consult X for specific details". I
      realize that you may not have "X". Right now, though, the specific
      details are unimportant for getting a bird's-eye view of the task. I
      have most of the GURPS supplements that would really be necessary for
      this project. If a PCGen GURPS whatsit takes off, then the missing
      materials could be fairly readily supplied by a fanbase (this is what
      has been done very successfully with GURPS Character Assistant). If,
      that is, there is a fairly simple way of translating the GURPS
      concepts into PCGen concepts. The current "lst: file format would not
      work, but an XML-based system with an editor that made the XML tagging
      invisible would. Essentially, we need a filespec that would NOT
      require a specialized monkey to use.
      I will first briefly summarize the meta structure of GURPS as a set of
      interlocking systems. Then the structure of a GURPS character will be
      discussed. Finally, details of character generation will be delved
      into. This is a somewhat "muddled" approach if compared to the
      typical way game rules are presented. But given the structure of
      GURPS, a reader will likely see some wisdom in my approach.

      1: Meta-Structure
      GURPS is one of the few major "universal" systems available on the
      market today (the Hero system has sadly been reduced to an also-ran in
      recent years). Thus, there is a "baseline" GURPS, as outlined in the
      GURPS book into which everything else is supposed to be modular
      (reality is less modular than it could be). I will refer to this as
      "G-". In recent years, however, "baseline" GURPS has been extended to
      include all material in two other GURPS books, GURPS Compendium I (CI)
      and GURPS Compendium II (CII). Little of the material in CI or CII
      changes the numbers of the game in a mandatory fashion. All of the
      material in CI and CII can be referenced freely by authors of any
      GURPS supplementary products as being presumed to be in the hands of
      any prospective reader. In essence, CI and CII offer a set of
      extensions and optional alterations that have been given official
      sanction but not mandatory use. This means that any product that
      claims to be able to manipulate GURPS characters will have to take
      these into account. This combination will be referred to as "G+"
      In addition to G- and G+, GURPS has somewhere around umpty-gazillion
      official expansions and umpty-gazillion to the great-gawshamighty
      fan-produced expansions. Some of these expansions are of the
      "worldbook" variety. Worldbooks concentrate primarily upon presenting
      a setting and permuting extant GURPS rules to fit that setting.
      Little to no new rules are presented, and completely new concepts or
      frameworks are almost never seen.
      The other type of expansion is of the "sourcebook" variety.
      Sourcebooks usually concentrate on large-scale additions to the GURPS
      rules and often involve introducing frameworks that significantly
      alter the play of the game. Most expansions combine some element of
      worldbook and sourcebook. Some (GURPS Russia), are almost pure
      worldbook, while others (GURPS Vehicles) are pure sourcebook.
      Nobody within seventy-doodle parsecs uses all the GURPS expansions in
      a single campaign. This is a great boon to those who would write
      GURPS-related software. All GURPS character generators that I've had
      experience with take advantage of this fact and each GURPS book is
      usually loaded in seperately, as desired. One common feature is the
      ability to define sourcebook sets for quick-loading on startup.
      (Sound familiar?)

      2: Fundamental Structure of a Character
      The following things are utterly sacrosanct and no author of any
      official GURPS product is permitted to alter them, except as a noted
      difference between G- and G+: A character is described by
      "Attributes", "Advantages", "Disadvantages", "Skills", and "Quirks".
      There are also hybrid frameworks, which combine Advantages and Skills.

      The Attributes are as follows:
      ST (Strength)
      IQ (Native Intelligence AND General Knowledge)
      DX (Dexterity, Agility, AND General Physical Training)
      HT (Health AND Physical Resiliency)

      In G-, ST determines how quickly a character is fatigued and HT can
      influence a character's hit points. In G+, these two functions can be
      but are not required to be reversed.
      In G-, IQ is used as the basis for all willpower and
      perception-related checks. G+ gives several possible alterations to
      this. Consult CI for specific details.
      DX and HT are used to derive SPD (speed) and MV (movement rate)
      through a simple arithmetic formula.

      The other function of Attributes is that they are the fundamental
      basis for all GURPS skills. All skill use in GURPS is ultimately tied
      to an Attribute score. More detail later.

      Advantages are a catch-all for all manner of "good stuff" that a
      character can do, has, or is. Wealth is an Advantage. Aptitude with
      certain skills is an Advantage. The ability to see in darkness? An
      Advantage. Ambidexterity? Yup, an Advantage. Enhanced senses,
      social status, a good reputation, luckiness, and more all fall under
      Advantages. Additionally, the majority of "racial" abilities and
      quite a few "super" powers are "Advantages" in GURPS, although
      "racial" abilities are often restricted to Gamemaster-only (when
      designing a race) selection. Advantages also include any NPC allies
      or Patrons. Some high-tech campaigns might require that certain
      personal enhancements be considered Advantages. Other campaigns might
      say that they're just equipment. Both rules are options in GURPS.
      And as been mentioned before, there are Advantage-Skill hybrid
      frameworks. Some Advantages can be modified by (wait for it) modifiers.

      Disadvantages: Any kind of "bad stuff" is a Disadvantage in GURPS.
      Bad luck, ugliness, poverty, physical debility, constant drooling,
      stinkiness, cowardice, compulsive behaviors, delusions, phobias, and
      more fall under this. In addition, there are several personality
      traits that are very virtuous that are also Disadvantages. Codes of
      honor, truthfulness, extreme charitability, in short, any sort of
      behavior that significantly restricts a character's options. This
      category also covers enemies, dependent NPCs, duty to an employer,
      etc. Some Disadvantages can be modified by (wait for it) modifiers.

      Skills:
      In GURPS, nearly every ability any character has any voluntary control
      over is governed by a "skill". Even "innate" powers often have a
      "skill" component in GURPS. Skill success has two ratings. Untrained
      use is based off a Default, which is usually some Attribute (but might
      be another Skill) plus or minus a number. Some skills have no
      Default, they cannot be used untrained. Trained use depends upon the
      skill rating. Skill rating is an Attribute score plus a number.
      Advantages and Disadvantages can modify this. Some Skills require
      specific Advantages. Some skills require a minimum rating in another
      Skill or set of Skills. In addition to the basic success roll, some
      Skills give specific modifiers to other character abilities. These
      are usually a bonus equal to some fraction of the Skill.

      Skill Specialization
      G- has two forms of "specialization" for Skills. "Required"
      specialization gives no bonus to the skill rating. Instead, a
      character must pick a specific area to which that skill applies. To
      learn other areas, a character must learn the skill more than once.
      "Optional" specialization means that a character gains a +4 to skill
      rating within the specialization but has a -1 to all other uses of the
      skill. The G- forms of specialization are restricted to purely mental
      skills.
      G+ gives an alternative to "Optional" specialization of G-, extending
      the "Martial Arts" skill framework (see below) to apply to all other
      skills, although it does not give "maneuvers" (see below) for skills,
      leaving this up to the gamemaster.

      Skill Frameworks
      There are at least four types of "skill frameworks" (not an actual
      GURPS term) and one optional-rule framework. These give structure to
      a subset of skills and extend other skills. The majority of "magic"
      and "magic"-like rule systems in GURPS use some sort of skill
      framework. Two of these frameworks appear in G-. A third is in G+.
      The fourth and the optional fifth only exist in specific sourcebooks.
      Each introduces significant enough change to bear mentioning here.

      1: "Vanilla" magic
      The "vanilla" magic system of GURPS appears in G- and is the simplest
      of the frameworks. It is a set of interlocking skills (spells), most
      of which require possessing some level of the "Magical Aptitude"
      advantage. Some of these spells also require a minimum IQ. Some
      require minimum proficiency in specific spells or a minimum number
      from a list of spells. Otherwise, skill level in individual spell is
      independent of any other. Magical Aptitude acts as a bonus to all
      spell skill levels. Note that the magic in this system and the
      systems based on it "consumes" Fatigue temporarily.

      1a: Improvisational/Rune magic
      This originally appeared in GURPS Magic (or GURPS Fantasy) and is a
      flexible version of the above. Instead of having skill in individual
      spells, a character develops skills in "spell colleges" (defined by
      the rules, not the player) and then can cast spells within those
      colleges (albeit at a penalty).

      1b: Knacks
      A knack "Advantagizes" a spell, making it an innate ability. GURPS
      Magic includes rules whereby one does this.

      2: "Psionics"
      "Psionics" is a hybrid framework. "Powers" are Advantages, that can
      be had in varying ratings. Each Power then determines how--powerful
      the results of using skills associated with that Power are. Skills
      are learned normally. To mess up the mix, in addition to getting
      intact Powers, which usually cover several skills, it is possible to
      get additional levels of sub-Powers that apply to only one skill.
      Limitations upon Powers make them easier to acquire. Fatigue might or
      might not be "consumed" by this system.

      3: Martial Arts
      While G- has the "karate" and "judo" skills, G+ greatly expands the
      scope of "martial arts" within GURPS. The first (and VERY TRUE) point
      G+ makes is that martial arts are NOT restricted just to Asia. Nor
      are they restricted to unarmed combat, the use of Asian weapons, nor
      even to not wearing heavy armor. Martial Arts are defined as clusters
      of skills (and sometimes Advantages). They do not all have to be
      combat skills. The skills are divided among Primary, Secondary,
      Optional, Cinematic, and Maneuvers. Ratings in Secondary skills is
      limited by ratings in Primary Skills. Ratings in Optional skills is
      limited by ratings in Primary and Secondary Skills. Ratings in
      Cinematic Skills can be limited by ratings in Primary skills. Some
      campaigns may disallow all Cinematic skills.
      Maneuvers are a special case. They are specific--maneuvers! They
      could be a specific type of kick, the riposte, etc. Their base rating
      is always determined from a parent skill. Many of them have a maximum
      rating (parent skill + X).
      Martial Arts is further expanded and detailed in GURPS Martial Arts
      and GURPS Swashbucklers.

      4: Ritual Magic
      This system was introduced in GURPS Voodoo and is currently published
      in GURPS Spirits. It is a collection of skills that are divided into
      "spheres" and "rituals". Spheres are mental skills that are normally
      acquired. Rituals are based off a Sphere skill score with a (usually)
      negative modifier. Individual rituals can be improved. Specific
      Advantages (Initiation ranks) are not required to learn and use ritual
      magic, but they do make it much easier. Magical Aptitude does not
      apply to ritual magic. A character is required to know the "Ritual
      Magic" skill, and any and all effects within the system can be
      attempted (at rather large penalties) by somebody who only knows
      Ritual Magic. Fatigue and Hit Points can be used to enhance results
      in this system.

      4a: Spirit Warrior and Initiate Powers
      This usually appends to the Ritual Magic system, although it could be
      used separately. The Initiate Powers require a minimum rank of
      Initiation and hinge around making Ritual Magic more efficient,
      winning friends, and influening people. Spirit Warrior Powers are
      essentially physical super powers, albeit given a more "mystical" flair.

      5: Optional Super Power Groups
      The first edition of GURPS Supers automatically grouped Powers in a
      Psionics-like fashion. Subsequent editions have ungrouped them and
      all can be acquired separately. Note that quite a few "powers" in
      GURPS Supers are Advantages from a game rule standpoint.

      Mixing frameworks.
      It is possible (and indeed I have) mixed frameworks. The most
      successful is applying the Martial Arts framework to any of the other
      frameworks. For example, one could use the vanilla Magic system but
      make all spells Secondary Skills. The Primary Skills would be Latin,
      Mathematics, History, and Literature. Optional skills could be
      Alchemy, Zoology (Arcane Beasts), Area Knowledge (one of any number of
      other planes), etc. This would reflect a very scholarly guild of
      mages. A college of war mages could have Broadsword and Shield as
      Primary skills, spells as Secondary, Riding and Lance as optional, etc.

      A digression upon arcane abilities.
      GURPS calls arcane abilities "magic", "psionics", "powers", "cinematic
      skills", or other names. Unlike D&D, there is no assumption of how
      these relate to each other. Several worldbooks make it plain that it
      is up to the gamemaster how they relate. They could all just be a
      form of "psionics". They could all just be different ways of
      focussing Chi. They could all be entirely and radically different
      things with completely different power sources. It is up to the
      individual gamemaster. For example, it would not be prudent to build
      any assumptions into PCGen regarding "psionics" beyond the bare bones
      of the rules just because it is called "psionics". Likewise, there
      are no hard-and-fast rules about who can and cannot acquire these
      abilities. In some campaigns, the rule is "If you don't start play
      with it, you can't have it." In others, it's "Go ahead, pile it on."
      It's all up to the gamemaster.

      You will notice that there is no "divine" magic in GURPS. This is
      because the source of any "magic" or such power is entirely up to the
      setting and gamemaster decision.

      Special Functions
      Most combat skills have a special function. Most melee combat skills
      use their rating for base attack roll and half that rating for base
      parry roll. Some skills use 2/3 the rating, instead. A very few
      melee combat skills have no parry rating, being used purely for
      attack. Some combat skills give a bonus to damage. An Advantage can
      extend this to all combat skills.
      The Running skill increases a character's Move but only for the
      purpose of determining distance moved in a turn, not for the purpose
      of enhancing initiative.
      The Lifting skill (G+) gives a bonus to a character's ability to lift
      beyond the untrained use of raw ST.
      Some few combat skills in G- and G+ give a bonus to Dodge, but only
      against thrust melee attacks.

      Quirks:
      Quirks are personality traits that do not reach the level of
      Disadvantages. They are meant to reflect deeper aspects of the
      character's personality. GURPS PCs usually have five quirks.

      Some examples:
      Pays with exact change.
      Dislikes wine.
      Considers himself a "swordsman" (a quirk in a modern-era campaign).
      Adores spicy food.
      Likes to argue.

      These should have no numerical effect on game mechanics. If they come
      to dominate a character, they have become Disadvantages.

      Other Stuff
      Equipment will have a cost, a weight, and a game effect, depending
      upon what it is.
      Characters, of course, have the basic physical descriptors, although
      none of them should alter game mechanics unless an Advantage or
      Disadvantage.
    • chris
      GURPS on PCGEN, that would be good if you need help doing it let me know.
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 13, 2002
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        GURPS on PCGEN, that would be good if you need help doing it let me
        know.
      • bryan_j_maloney
        ... Right now, my knowledge of XML consists of get used in it.
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 14, 2002
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          --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
          > GURPS on PCGEN, that would be good if you need help doing it let me
          > know.

          Right now, my knowledge of XML consists of "<" and ">" get used in it.
        • chris
          Tell me when you need help with the LSTs. ... me ... it.
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 14, 2002
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            Tell me when you need help with the LSTs.

            --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "bryan_j_maloney" <bryan_j_maloney@y...> wrote:
            > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
            > > GURPS on PCGEN, that would be good if you need help doing it let
            me
            > > know.
            >
            > Right now, my knowledge of XML consists of "<" and ">" get used in
            it.
          • Keith Davies
            ... That s okay. We need domain experts too. Hopefully something posted this weekend, folks. course, I said that last week, too. Hopefully I won t hurt my
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 14, 2002
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              On Thu, Nov 14, 2002 at 12:31:33PM +0000, bryan_j_maloney wrote:
              > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
              > > GURPS on PCGEN, that would be good if you need help doing it let me
              > > know.
              >
              > Right now, my knowledge of XML consists of "<" and ">" get used in it.

              That's okay. We need domain experts too.

              Hopefully something posted this weekend, folks. 'course, I said that
              last week, too. Hopefully I won't hurt my foot again.


              Keith
              --
              Keith Davies
              keith.davies@...

              PCGen: <reaper/>, smartass
              "You just can't argue with a moron. It's like handling Nuclear
              waste. It's not good, it's not evil, but for Christ's sake, don't
              get any on you!!" -- Chuck, PCGen mailing list
            • bryan_j_maloney
              ... That would be in GURPS Vehicles? You re talking about those naval cargo vessels, right?
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 15, 2002
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                --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                > Tell me when you need help with the LSTs.

                That would be in GURPS Vehicles? You're talking about those naval
                cargo vessels, right?
              • chris
                Nope, I ment the GURPs Data files.. I want to help make them :-)
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 16, 2002
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                  Nope, I ment the GURPs Data files.. I want to help make them :-)

                  --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "bryan_j_maloney" <bryan_j_maloney@y...> wrote:
                  > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                  > > Tell me when you need help with the LSTs.
                  >
                  > That would be in GURPS Vehicles? You're talking about those naval
                  > cargo vessels, right?
                • bryan_j_maloney
                  ... First, some sort of XML Schema and DTD would have to be composed. I posted the information on the pcgen-xml list because I want to have as little to do at
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 19, 2002
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                    --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                    > Nope, I ment the GURPs Data files.. I want to help make them :-)
                    >
                    > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "bryan_j_maloney" <bryan_j_maloney@y...> wrote:
                    > > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                    > > > Tell me when you need help with the LSTs.
                    > >
                    > > That would be in GURPS Vehicles? You're talking about those naval
                    > > cargo vessels, right?


                    First, some sort of XML Schema and DTD would have to be composed. I
                    posted the information on the pcgen-xml list because I want to have as
                    little to do at all with that hideous kludge that pcgen currently uses.
                  • Keith Davies
                    ... I think I m very close with what I have now (and will hopefully post soon). Things... changed over the weekend. I have the skeleton of the meta-level
                    Message 9 of 9 , Nov 19, 2002
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                      On Tue, Nov 19, 2002 at 02:13:02PM +0000, bryan_j_maloney wrote:
                      > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                      > > Nope, I ment the GURPs Data files.. I want to help make them :-)
                      > >
                      > > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "bryan_j_maloney" <bryan_j_maloney@y...> wrote:
                      > > > --- In pcgen-xml@y..., "chris" <waxman80014@y...> wrote:
                      > > > > Tell me when you need help with the LSTs.
                      > > >
                      > > > That would be in GURPS Vehicles? You're talking about those naval
                      > > > cargo vessels, right?
                      >
                      >
                      > First, some sort of XML Schema and DTD would have to be composed. I
                      > posted the information on the pcgen-xml list because I want to have as
                      > little to do at all with that hideous kludge that pcgen currently uses.

                      I think I'm very close with what I have now (and will hopefully post
                      soon). Things... changed over the weekend. I have the skeleton of the
                      meta-level schema written, which could then be used to describe the
                      game-specific schema. I probably could have used XSD for my
                      descriptions, but I haven't taken time to learn it yet.

                      Anyway, I'm preparing documentation for my meta language and will try to
                      get it out tonight or Thursday.


                      Keith
                      --
                      Keith Davies
                      keith.davies@...

                      PCGen: <reaper/>, smartass
                      "You just can't argue with a moron. It's like handling Nuclear
                      waste. It's not good, it's not evil, but for Christ's sake, don't
                      get any on you!!" -- Chuck, PCGen mailing list
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