Saturday, October 12, 2019

GURPS Basic Set (3rd Edition) - Chapters 13 - 23 (plus appendicies)

Ow, I think my brain might have melted out my ears. This book is dry as hell. That wouldn't be a problem, per se, but GURPS has this weird thing where it seems proudest of all the things I like least about the system.

I may have been slightly premature when I said it compares favorably to AD&D 2nd edition. The bones of the system are good. It is admirably consistent in sticking to its 3d6, roll under resolution mechanic. But there are so many modifiers.

It's not that any particular system is overloaded (though ranged attacks come close, especially the bit where you figure your to-hit penalty on a moving target by calculating its speed and direction of travel), but they just keep coming. Every particular circumstance you can imagine adds its own pluses and minuses to that 3d6 roll, and never does the book come to the point of admitting that you can just eyeball it, giving a big modifier if there's a lot of confounding factors and a small modifier if there's only a few. No, it's a -4 to hit a target that's precisely 1 and a half feet long and a -5 to hit a target that's one foot long.

They call this "realism."

What I think is going on here is a culture of the same sort of adversarial tournament-focused dungeon-crawling as characterized AD&D. GURPS didn't want to be like that. It brags about "making true roleplaying possible," but it couldn't escape its historical context. Its understanding of "true roleplaying," is rooted in being able to write "geology" and "prospecting" down on your character sheet as separate skills, despite no major mechanics being associated with either one (not that I'm asking for them, mind you). It has only a vague and intermittent understanding of things like story structure and flow of play.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It's all part of being written in 1988. Even the Storyteller family of games wouldn't really get it until some time in the early 21st century.

However, I have to confess, that if I were ever to run GURPS, I would deliberately do it wrong.

UKSS Contribution: Computer hacking did eventually make it into this book, in the appendix they added in the 1994 reprint, though they mainly referred to it in its role in the cyberpunk genre. I think I'm going to have to go, instead, with the most prominent information technology that managed to make it into the initial printing: telegraphy.

That's right, GURPS has a skill specifically for measuring how fast your character is at sending and decoding telegraph messages. It breaks it down to words per minute, giving you two for free and then imposing a -2 penalty for every two words per minute faster than that. Out of respect for GURPS, I will decline to even speculate about what game circumstances would make this relevant, let alone worth spending some of your limited amount of character points.

But telegraphs themselves are pretty cool. So I can feel comfortable saying that Ukss has them.

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