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IYO why is GURPS better for Low powered campaigns and HERO is better for High powered campaigns?


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It is oft said on the internets rpg'o'sphere that GURPS is better for running campaigns/settings that are closer to 'human/normals' power scales and that GURPS tends to break down at higher 'superhero/cosmic' power scales. And it is oft said that the HERO System is better for running at higher power level 'superhero/cosmic' scales but lacks the granularity to run campaigns/settings closer to 'human/normals' power scales.

 

Now IMO I'd say HERO does lack the amount of 'granularity' I'd like for near normals/heroic roleplaying and has no problem at all modeling superheroic/cosmic scale power level games. (HERO is my all time favourite RPG engine/took-kit and I love it dearly. It's also the system I mechanically know the best and am most comfortable with, 'system mastery' you'd call it)

 

GURPS however is a system I am only tangentially familiar with (despite owning many world books from the 3E era, and the 4E core books) And I've always had this niggling feeling in the back of my head that I'm cheating on HERO when I begin to read the GURPS rulebooks as their are so many similarities between the two systems (I know I know it's silly, I have the same issue with watching 'Family Guy' vs the Simpsons. It's stupid but it is what it is)

 

So

 

I am making a concerted effort to learn GURPS 4E as of late but I also am curious if it's worth the effort in a sense that it will replace HERO as my go to do everything generic rpg engine. Will it handle 'Heroic Scale' games as smoothly and effortlessly as it will Superhero gaming?

 

Or

 

Will I never achieve the holy grail of gaming (one system to rule them all)(I'm also a notorious/rabid system collector and ever in search of the 'perfect' RPG engine for any particular genre, let alone the ultimate prize of the perfect generic RPG engine) and just accept that HERO is for High Power stuff and GURPS is for lower powered stuff.

 

Also feel free to disagree with my thesis and tell me why HERO is the best at Low Powered games and fails at Cosmic Supers or vice versa.

 

  • P.S. Both systems are 3d6 bell curve based at their cores. And a +1 to a roll is a big deal in both systems. So if that is the case, to me at least how can GURPS be more granular/better at human scale/heroic games when many (not all of course) folks feel HERO isn't, yet HERO also uses the 3d6 bell curve, and a +1 or -2 to a skill roll is a pretty big deal. Bigger impacts than a +1 in a d20 game or a +5% or +10% to a roll in a d100/BRP game.

  • P.P.S.Thanks in advance for everyone's feedback and opinions. I value the thoughts of those with experience and system knowledge of both rpg engines. And also I'm not looking to poo poo on GURPS or HERO, this question comes from a place of love for both RPG's and Generic systems.
     

* Post EDITED for grammar/spelling/formatting*

Edited by Korgoth
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I don't see the two games filing the same role myself. 

I find GURPS is the game I choose if I want very granular simulation of gritty setting.

 

Hero is better for everything else. While Hero let's me have detail and granularity it does not require it.

 

 

Both systems are great,  but I always suffered from severe ADHD, so I tend to fixate on systems for months at a time then just drop it like a hot potato and switch up.

PS: Is it just my phone or is there some weird formatting issue making the post hard to read?

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I have to agree with Christopher on this.  Hero system has a lot of optional rules that can allow you to run any type of campaign you want.   I have been in many low powered champions games and have never found them lacking.    

 

If you want a gritty granular campaign it is a matter of setting up the campaign parameters and making sure people understand that is the game, you are running.  This usually means imposing campaign limitations on powers especially defenses and stats.   Just because the average SPD in most Champions game is 5 does not mean it has to be that way.   Simply let the players know what is appropriate for the campaign and enforce that.  

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It isn't your phone, Ndreare.  Not quite sure what happened, but OP's post formatting got *mangled* somehow.

 

GURPS doesn't scale well to a high-power game.  For example, to get even moderate super strength in GURPS is incredibly expensive, IIRC.  GURPS Basic Lift is (STR * STR / 5) pounds.  Hero's max lift is pretty much GURPS' 2-handed lift, which is 8 * BL.  A 30 STR in Hero can lift 1600 kilos...3500 pounds.  3500 / 8 = 440.  x5 = 2200  SQRT(2200) is 47...which is 370 points.

 

And that's just 1.6 tons...really not that exceptional.  But GURPS' STR scale means a fourfold increase in lifting STR requires doubling your STR score.  

 

Similarly, defenses in GURPS are actually fairly expensive.  If you want to blow off a .30 caliber light machine gun, t'll cost you.  Make it a .50 cal...LOTS more.

 

I do think GURPS is much better for lower-power games because its skill system is far better.  That said, setting up a GURPS character is also FAR more complex...even in just the base rules, the knobs and tweaks are far more complicated.  I have a copy of the GURPS 4E PDF...somewhere, I can't find it at the moment, could be on a different computer.  And a copy of the character builder tool...but even with the tool, it was like...whoa.....this is work!  I was building one of my favorite character types...the 'heavy' martial artist.  Good STR, fairly good defenses.  It was kinda tricky...and got expensive fast, I thought!  

 

To be sure, some of that is far less experience...I vaguely remember a game that was gonna get run in GURPS, but basically, yeah, I've only read the rules.  There's tricks, I'm sure...but OTOH, most melee-only characters are a piece of cake to set up in Hero.  An issue with 6E in particular is trying to be everything at once...GURPS does too, by definition, but it's about 2 levels MORE complicated.

 

 

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I find that Hero doesn't scale well to a really, really high power game either.  It does well up to a point then things just stop working.  You can have 150 STR, which is enough to lift, I dunno, Pluto, but you're only doing 30d6 damage.  I mean, that's a lot but you should liquify entire cities with a punch at that level of strength.

Edited by Christopher R Taylor
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12 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I find that Hero doesn't scale well to a really, really high power game either.  It does well up to a point then things just stop working.  You can have 150 STR, which is enough to life, I dunno, Pluto, but you're only doing 30d6 damage.  I mean, that's a lot but you should liquify entire cities with a punch at that level of strength.

 

150 STR can lift 25M tons...which, according to 1 site (searching for world's heaviest objects) is about 1/2 the weight of the Great Wall of China.  All 13,000 miles of it.   So, not quite Pluto, but still essentially a practical infinity.

 

There's aspects that don't.  That's a big one;  lifting STR is exponential, whereas damage is linear.  What I do is say, ok, the high STR is enough to justify more damage, in and of itself...so you can get a 12d6 punch without Class 100 STR, which is VERY high end.  For me, it's 1d6 per 5 points of STR over 20, is built in.  Your choice of HTH MA additional damage, or HA/HKA, or a mix.  So, a 35 STR gives a base 7d6.  35 is 15 over, so, let's say, +3 DCs HTH with martial arts.  Your +2 DC strikes include Basic, Fast, and Martial...so you're at 12 DCs.  And 14 DCs with some penalties, if the GM's cool with that.  

 

Defenses also are an issue, because you've got to manage that LARGE amount of STUN now.  For 20d6, 77+ STUN happens 20% of the time, and 80+ STUN happens 10%.  If you go with a 28 CON, you need to reduce at least 50 STUN, and that's hard to do.  Along similar lines, the risk related to any defensive hole grows.  No or low Power Def?  10d6 Drains will HAMMER you.  20d6 Mind Control will turn you into a complete puppet.  

 

Essentially, at lower power levels, a substantial amount of the cost of a special attack can be countered by the built-in baselines, or with minor purchases...this is analogous to the first several dice of a Blast are about overcoming defenses.  But once you've done that...it's all smacking down the poor schmuck on the receiving end.  And, sure, the GM can recognize it, and not use Mental Illusions very often, if at all, but this only goes so far, in my book, before it starts feeling contrived...the GM just handing you things you can handle.

 

All point-buy game systems have their sweet spots...areas where the mechanics work well.  Hero's not great at the lower end;  the fact that Heroic rules let you use equipment at no point cost, is a strong indicator.  And too high, and...you can do it, but just recognize that when building an 800 point character, you should *not* expect "twice the power" of a 400 point character.

 

 

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My gut feeling has always been that Hero doesn't handle quasi-realistic low end campaigns well because weapons are insufficiently lethal.  If you waive the realism in favour of character survival, it does just fine.

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With all the optional rules in place, Hero combat is plenty lethal, particularly if you are careful about defenses.  Most heroic games you won't even have defenses; Western Hero, maybe Clint Eastwood wears a cast iron vest, but that's pretty much it.  Cops and robbers, Indiana Jones adventures etc, your defenses are not being hit.  Fantasy you tend to have more, but a good GM will keep a close eye on it, so you don't see that stack up too much.

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  • 2 months later...

Thieves World Novels are GURPS to me, as Avengers and Justice League Europe is to Hero System.

 

I felt that GURPS captured the grittly death by a dagger in the ribs in a dirty back alley.

While Hero system ss more able to easily handle the powerful wall smashing, earth rending powers that could be on display.

 

We played a 12 year campaign and my Gurps Player Characters became so many points and so powerful but just NEVER really felt like the should be fighting Dragons and Demons.  I always had this feeling.

THIS WOULD JUST BE FAR SUPERIOR in HERO SYSTEM.  Especially Magic at higher levels trying to capture Mordenkainen, Elminster or Dr Strange's power levels.

 

Echoing what @dmjalund says. SKILLS is GURPS.  I feel Skills are far more relevant for lack of a better word and varied in Gurps over the averaging out skills of Hero system.

Just my two cents.

 

Thanks for the thoughtful query. 

Got my brain and rpg nostalgia running.

 

Payback Aka Styxx42

 

 

 

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On 3/26/2024 at 7:56 PM, Korgoth said:

It is oft said on the internets rpg'o'sphere that GURPS is better for running campaigns/settings that are closer to 'human/normals' power scales and that GURPS tends to break down at higher 'superhero/cosmic' power scales. And it is oft said that the HERO System is better for running at higher power level 'superhero/cosmic' scales but lacks the granularity to run campaigns/settings closer to 'human/normals' power scales.

 

I can't help but wonder how much of this is personal experience and how much is just people repeating what they've heard.

 

In my experience, HERO works at least as well as GURPS for fantasy.  I've played in a lot of Fantasy Hero campaigns and at least one yearlong GURPS Fantasy campaign.  And played in a little bit of GURPS Supers as well, in fact. 

 

With the right dials-and-switches settings, in my experience, GURPS isn't terrible for superheroes.  And as I said, Hero is at least as good for fantasy as GURPS.

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Okay, I'll get flamed for this i know. When GURPS came out it could do Low point games better, this was around 3rd-4th when it was mainly just Champions and everything else had been shoe-horned into lower campaigns. With the Advent of 4th/5th and going back and adding things they were missing Hero does all well, just different.

 

Now GURPS to me is the b(beep)d child of Hero and D&D, with a little bit of Runequest/Superworld tossed in. IIRC GURPS Fantasy was one of the first books (if not first) to come out - so it was created and geared for low point, gritty style games. Even in the long run (again IIRC) a LOT of material at the start was low point gaming - Fantasy, Men in Black, Car Wars, etc. While it's taken a stab at high point style things (World of Darkness) it always seems to come back to low point swords & sandals or espionage level things. True I haven't touched it since MAYBE 3rd edition...Hero does what I need and when it doesn't i go to material designed for what I want (Buffy RPG, pure Star Trek/Wars).

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GURPS does have one advantage that Hero can only dream of: seemingly endless amounts of support books and campaign settings.

 

As far as the building system and combat system go, it seems to flame out just a bit over the levels of a reality simulation. It can handle cinematic stuff at the lower levels. If I wanted to run a gritty Goodfellas or World War II type of campaign, I could see using it, but I haven’t had good experiences with it in the past. And the build system makes Hero seem almost effortless in some ways.

 

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On 6/8/2024 at 10:55 PM, Chris Goodwin said:

 

I can't help but wonder how much of this is personal experience and how much is just people repeating what they've heard.

 

In my experience, HERO works at least as well as GURPS for fantasy.  I've played in a lot of Fantasy Hero campaigns and at least one yearlong GURPS Fantasy campaign.  And played in a little bit of GURPS Supers as well, in fact. 

 

With the right dials-and-switches settings, in my experience, GURPS isn't terrible for superheroes.  And as I said, Hero is at least as good for fantasy as GURPS.

I can't speak for others. 

 

I personally have Gm'd Both Champions since the 2nd edition and Gurps since it came out as MAN to MAN.

Loved them both but I just found with out creating a bunch of house rules for Champions the SKILLS part of the game fell apart or was to easily covered with EVERYONE could do everything and personally I think that is why I found lower points  better for Gurps and higher points for Champions\Hero System.

Were the lines blurred was

Dark Champions.

Both Gurps and Hero System were\are equally great.  Gurps again being a little less action heroisk(if that is a word) and Hero System allowed for Vampires smashing through walls etc.

I honestly love both systems. 

 

I have had to bow out of my gaming group of the last 25 years because they have begun playing 5th edition BECAUSE it is simpler.  It just is not fulfilling for me even with the comradery of my long time gaming group.  I just need more meat in my game to cover actions and skills rather then just sitting around story telling with no rules or mechanics.  Old school gamer that LOVED 1st edition Armor class adjustment for weapon type. WOW did it put a stop to every fighter using a long sword when they were - 8 to hit Plate mail.(or something like that)

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/2/2024 at 6:59 PM, Christopher R Taylor said:

With all the optional rules in place, Hero combat is plenty lethal, particularly if you are careful about defenses.  Most heroic games you won't even have defenses; Western Hero, maybe Clint Eastwood wears a cast iron vest, but that's pretty much it.  Cops and robbers, Indiana Jones adventures etc, your defenses are not being hit.  Fantasy you tend to have more, but a good GM will keep a close eye on it, so you don't see that stack up too much.

Bleeding

Hit Locations

Disabling and Impairing Wounds

Using combat skill levels to increase damage

Realistic recovery/healing rules

 

All of the above will certainly make combat more lethal at the lower level.

 

A 1d6 killing attack is potentially lethal with those options in place.

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On 4/2/2024 at 11:59 PM, Christopher R Taylor said:

Cops and robbers, Indiana Jones adventures etc, your defenses are not being hit.  Fantasy you tend to have more, but a good GM will keep a close eye on it, so you don't see that stack up too much.

 

It never felt like Long Term Endurance was much loved but the first edition Fantasy HERO was the first game I played where the mechanics really provided a balance between heavily armoured and lightly armoured opponents.  the fact that heavy armour ran up LTE costs, meaning that the lightly armoured fighter could dance around seeking to tire out the tank before getting in when they became too tired to attack without burning STUN to fuel action.

 

I love the LTE mechanic as it was a built-in way to mitigate against layering on defences.

 

Doc

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On 6/9/2024 at 9:04 PM, DentArthurDent said:

I’ve never used “The Ultimate Skill” book.
Has anyone used it?

Does it improve Hero for lower power scales?

 

It improves Hero in general. The main thing it adds is differentiation, you can have a team of casino shysters that each specialize in one type of gambling or a Fast and Furious group of gearheads that each bring something different to the table. You can do this with regular Hero but Ultimate Skill makes it easier.

 

I'd say it improves lower scale Hero more but mainly because skills are more important in lower scale games.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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