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gurps and Hero

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When GURPS was in its original development stage, it stood for the Great Unnamed Role Playing System.  The acronym stuck, but they couldn't keep calling it that, so they figured out something else to do with it.  

 

I'm not certain a game can be both universal and complete, unless some of the rules are treated as switches.  That's how Hero does it.  And, while GURPS had to more or less accrete all of its completeness, I would assert that it did so.  I also assert that Steve Jackson never claimed that it was instantly and perfectly complete and universal from day 1; in fact I'm pretty sure he claimed that it wasn't at the time, but would eventually be, and that if you wanted to play in a genre or setting for which there wasn't a book that you could easily convert.  The very first three supplements were Fantasy (which included the magic system, which was not included in the first edition books), Horror, and Autoduel; each of the latter two included its own firearms combat system (which was also not included in the first edition books), slightly incompatible with that of the other.  (I know this because I ordered them directly from Steve Jackson Games, using the order form that came inside the very first GURPS product ever, Man To Man, which was essentially the character creation and combat systems from GURPS, optimized for combat in the style of SJ's earlier game Melee.)

 

GURPS 1st edition didn't quite consider fantasy as its default set of assumptions.  It considered SCA combat as its default set of assumptions, given that SJ was a member in good standing and a fighter in that organization, and a lot of the original combat system was based on his own experiences.  (He was quite proud of the fact that during his design, he would reality check every part of it to the extent that he could; if he needed to know, for instance, how much time it took to swing a sword, he and his SCA friends would go out with a stopwatch and some swords.)  I will argue that despite its universal nature, the HERO System treats superheroes as its default set of assumptions.  I also claim that a game has to start with some default set of assumptions, or else it's nothing but a flavorless skeleton.  It really needs to be something, if only so you know what to change before it can be something else.  (BRP started out more or less as a flavorless skeleton, but really needed something for its default set of assumptions.  Fantasy was the most popular genre at the time, and not using that would have been shooting itself in the foot.  TSR's Amazing Engine also started out as a flavorless skeleton, but never settled on a default set of assumptions; it ended up being an incomplete game that you needed to buy supplements for in order to play something with.)  

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From its first edition, GURPS stood for Generic Universal RolePlaying System. It said so right on the front cover.

 

I don't think being generic and universal means it has to be "complete" (whatever that means), but it ought to mean that it doesn't assume a genre bias (medieval fantasy in this case) in its fundamental combat mechanics.

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From its first edition, GURPS stood for Generic Universal RolePlaying System. It said so right on the front cover.

 

I don't think being generic and universal means it has to be "complete" (whatever that means), but it ought to mean that it doesn't assume a genre bias (medieval fantasy in this case) in its fundamental combat mechanics.

 

Oh it handled "realistic" gun combat well enough, the kind where you rely heavily on cover shooting and just being faster than the other guy.  It was weak on swashbuckling derring-do unless you tinkered.  And of course when it was introduced it was more "generic universal" than anything else on the market at that moment.  Other games came along afterward that just outdid it for a time. 

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(1) Throughout the 90s, when I played a lot of GURPS 3, I heard a lot about the GURPS/HERO rivalry. When I took up Hero around 2002, I discovered that this was not a Thing, certainly not among Hero players. I'm glad to see that continues.

 

(2) I find GURPS, in general, to be a grittier, more realistic and deadlier system than HERO, which works better for gritty realistic games. HERO does cinematic, heroic and superheroic games better than GURPS.

 

(3) Both games have optional rules that extend the range of their sweetspot; using the right optional rules, GURPS can do cinematic well and HERO can do gritty well. HERO still tends to do superheroes better.

(4) GURPS is easier for players to grok, but although it's quite flexible, it's not as flexible as HERO. HERO, however, has a longer learning curve - partly as a result of the build-from-effect paradigm, which is very unusual in games (and is also the source of its flexibility).

 

(5) GURPS 4, while keeping its gritty base, has moved closer to HERO's methodology in its Powers system. In my opinion that's moved it out of its comfort zone and into an area HERO does better.

For these reasons, while I tend to look to HERO as my default generic rules set these days, I still enjoy the detail and grittiness of GURPS 3 in realistic games. Although I have a number of GURPS 4 books, I've yet to use them for a game.

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Oh it handled "realistic" gun combat well enough, the kind where you rely heavily on cover shooting and just being faster than the other guy.  It was weak on swashbuckling derring-do unless you tinkered.  And of course when it was introduced it was more "generic universal" than anything else on the market at that moment.  Other games came along afterward that just outdid it for a time. 

 

Fair enough.

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  (BRP started out more or less as a flavorless skeleton, but really needed something for its default set of assumptions.

 

Unless you know something I don't, Basic Role Playing started as Runequest.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary says the genericized rulebook along with Future World, Super World, etc. came later

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As a GM I have killed many a PC over the years using Hero System. In fantasy type games I can only think of one who was insta-killed. Most were killed by cumulative effect of wounds or from bleeding out. Not sure where the less lethal thing comes from.

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As a GM I have killed many a PC over the years using Hero System. In fantasy type games I can only think of one who was insta-killed. Most were killed by cumulative effect of wounds or from bleeding out. Not sure where the less lethal thing comes from.

Depends how your game is set up. A 8 STR goblin wielding a 1D6 dagger against a Knight in 10 rPD armor that doesn't use hit location or activation rolls equal no damage at all.

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Depends how your game is set up. A 8 STR goblin wielding a 1D6 dagger against a Knight in 10 rPD armor that doesn't use hit location or activation rolls equal no damage at all.

 

Balance of DC versus DEF is critical in a game that doesn't have optional combat rules. As somebody who runs games only at the Heroic level (so far), I am well aware that a point or two (in either direction) off of the average can make a huge difference between a defending character laughing or gurgling in a pool of his own blood. The lower point your game, the more those variations make a difference.

 

So yeah, your setup is important, but a properly balanced Heroic game can be deadly. Optional combat maneuvers make it deadlier, but even lacking those, Heroic games are often deadly from attrition. That's not even accounting teamwork, multiple attacker bonuses, using terrain features and all the other unpredictable goodies that go with running a game.

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