Thursday is GURPS-Day, and I was going to make a post about attack and defense options on lulls and flurries again, but I’m going to return to that at a later date.
There’s an interesting thread on the Forums which makes the bald statement that “GURPS seems to be engineered for people that enjoy really complex rules.”
This raised my hackles a bit, and I’ll tell you why: GURPS’ basic rules are not complex.
Ooo, I can hear the knives sharpening already . . .
What you Say?
They’re not complex. Seriously, there are about four or five rules you really need to know. You need to know what an attack-defense roll is. You need to know a reaction roll (and if reaction rolls had been made roll-low, use MoS to determine result, there would be one fewer mechanism) and it’s roll-high lookup. There’s a damage or effect roll, where you roll Nd6 for damage, fatigue, or control points. There’s the Quick Contest mechanic, and the infrequently used Regular Contest mechanic.
Those are the rules, really, at their core. The central mechanics. Want to hit something? Great. Roll an attack, roll a defense, if you hit, roll damage. That’s about as simple as you can get and still preserve the defense roll, which I like. A lot.
But everyone knows GURPS is complex. You’re on drugs.
The issue, such as it is, is less that the game is complex than that it suffers from option overload. This comes in two flavors.
Option Overload 1: Choices
You can hit someone with a sword.
Or, you can do an Committed Attack (Determined) with Rapid Strike and Telegraphic, aiming at the leg.
Or Deceptive Attack, Defensive Attack, All-Out Attack, Move-and-Attack, etc. Sweeps, kicks, punches, pointed sticks, Trip, Evade, etc.
Lots of choices. Block, Parry, Dodge, sometimes one or more of all of those.
These, though, are optional depth for those who want it. For those who don’t:
“I hit him with my sword.”“OK, roll to hit: 3d6, roll under your skill.”“I rolled 10 vs. my skill of 14. I hit.”“Your foe tries to parry your blow; he rolls vs his Parry score of 9; 11. Sucks to be him. Roll damage.”“Hah! I roll 2d-1 cut, and roll 8 points.”
If you want to say that’s flavorless, well, it’s the exact same flavor as most games have when you want to play fast and loose. That feels a lot like Pathfinder (though that doesn’t have the defense rolls) to me, and Pathfinder is plenty fun to play, and the 800-lb. gorilla of the gaming industry.
Option Overload 2: Modifiers
The place that does make things seem like a slippery slope to hell is that many of the things you can do cause your skill to be modified to do them. The act of shooting a gun at someone automatically requires a penalty – one of the steepest in GURPS – based on range.
If you choose to do so, you can get “I attack” replaced with “I do a Committed Attack (Determined), with Rapid Strike and Telegraphic, to the leg. That brings up a whole hose of modifiers and restrictions.
Ironically, this nets out to “roll at flat skill,” I’m pretty sure.
That’s complex, isn’t it? Not really. You figure out what you’re doing, and assign modifiers. If you don’t know them, you can either stop play and look them up (which everyone will say don’t do that) or just make something up.
The complexity, such as it is, only comes into play with the list of modifiers, which are in place to provide real choices to players as to what they do. If you don’t want that, and want rules-light “just tell me who hits whom and how hard,” then you can do that.
If you want to do a blow-by-blow detailed fight, well, you can. And in combat, by and large you’re talking either an Attack-Defense pair (a pair of sort-of opposed rolls), or a Quick Contest (directly opposed rolls).
Sometimes, in play, I’ll just hear the description of what the player wants to do, and roll dice. If the roll is really good or really bad, fine. Unless the modifiers are so extreme that ONLY a really good or bad roll can alter the outcome, you can just say “yep, you hit/miss.” If it’s in the middle, drag out the modifiers.
That probably bothers some people. That’s OK too.
The key bit is not trying to eat an entire cow at once. If you aren’t familiar with the ebb and flow of the two or three basic resolution mechanics in GURPS, well, you’d better start with just that. At some point, you or your players might get the hankering for more detail. So you can then add on All-Out Attacks and Defenses. Later on, you can add the intermediate Committed and Defensive Attacks. Then you can toss in Rapid Strikes and other Attack Options. Then Techniques based on skills, many of which will drag in Quick Contests instead of Attack-Defense pairs.
Just don’t eat the entire baron of beef at once. You’ll get a bad case of indigestion, and that applies to game systems as well as yummy yummy cow parts.
OK, Now That Really IS Complex
I forgot one thing: building powers and advantages with the system of power, advantage, limitation that is presented in the basic rules.
I’ll admit those give me a terrible headache, though I’m growing more familiar with them, a touch, through my use of Divine Favor (which is basically powers and alternate abilities) in the GURPS Jade Regent game.
So, I’ll cop to that one full-on. That, to me, is actually complex.
Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I’m differentiating between detail and complexity here. I think they’re different. GURPS has a limited number of things you need to remember at it’s core, but it is a system with multiple optional levels of detail that can be employed depending on player and GM preference. As such, there’s more and more information (modifiers and options) you might have to know, but they’re not of the “special exception” basis, mostly, with very few new mechanics.
I’ve also been playing the game for almost 25 years, and that probably has something to do with it.