Daily Illuminator

September 21, 2010: The Very Model Of A Modular Roleplaying Game

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy A while ago, GURPS Line Editor Sean Punch, Assistant Line Editor Jason "PK" Levine, and I were talking about plans for a forthcoming project (which I can't talk too much more about right now, I'm afraid). At the time, Jason mentioned that he was aiming for more of a "GURPS Medium" approach -- making an obvious comparison to GURPS Lite.

I found this notion intriguing, because I realized how much over the past few years GURPS has managed to branch out, including source material suitable for rules-light lovers, new possibilities for GURPS gurus, and everyone in between. On the lighter side of the complexity spectrum, we have ready-to-use support material such as the GURPS Creatures of the Night series or the MacGuffin Alphabet. They're compartmentalized and bite-sized; use a few pages for inspiration or the basis of an adventure!

Around that same area we have the pick-up-and-play goodness of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and GURPS Action series. All you need for any of these is the GURPS Basic Set -- and players probably don't need to understand much more than is contained in GURPS Lite.

GURPS Martial Arts Toward the middle are things like GURPS Psionic Powers, GURPS Mass Combat, and the GURPS Spaceships series. These provide extra design options, additional subsystems, and new rules for players and GMs.

Meanwhile, at the GURPSiest of the GURPS possibilities, I'd place products such as GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators or GURPS Gun Fu (and its sister book, the forthcoming GURPS Tactical Shooting). It's not that any of these supplements are particularly hard; rather, they merely require that other books be assimilated and understood. (You probably need GURPS High-Tech before tackling Gun Fu, and you won't be able to do as much with Martial Arts: Gladiators if you haven't read GURPS Martial Arts.)

Unlike some other games whose "lighter" options are wholly incompatible with the main game, all the varieties of GURPS play splendidly together. So if you start out with the neophyte-friendly GURPS Action and decide to add the more-complex GURPS Gun Fu, the system survives just fine -- in fact, it's even better, because you've made it your own. And isn't that what the Generic Universal RolePlaying System should do?

-- Steven Marsh

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