After all of the pro/con discussion – most of it remarkably civil, thanks – I stumbled upon a fun (if strongly tilting towards the negative) counterpoint that ups the ante on the topic of GURPS‘ relative complexity:
The “TLDR” section contains a lot of goodness buried (intentionally) in what he himself calls Bittervetting.
While I might disagree with some of his points, I think there’s not much doubt that his perception of the perception of GURPS to the general public is spot-on, or at least a depressing amount of accuracy.
So, what would successful GURPS look like in his eyes? Based on his description, it’s simple.
This answers all of his questions, more or less, except those about the presentation of the Basic Set.
It’s got pared-down character creation based on Templates. So a prospective player can look at a list of job descriptions, and say “yeah, gimme that.” Then only look at the basic mechanics enough to figure out what his character can do, as opposed to any character that might exist for the rest of time.
The GM has a list of simplified options, since DF is explicitly based on “kill monsters and take their stuff.” There are some fun pre-built monsters in Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, and if you need NPCs or humanoid fodder, you can’t do too far wrong to pick up Henchmen, since that gives options for quarter- and half-strength guys with a lot of variability to their role. Need an enemy evil cleric? Grab a half-strength template, slap on a few mods, and roll with it.
I love monster hunter type settings in the modern day. The only issue with this one is that the templates are so huge (400 points go a long way in GURPS) that for a new player, it’s probably still overwhelming. Fortunately, you can bite a small chunk of the apple with the “only” DF-powered Sidekicks, which are 200-point “half strength” heroes that are probably easier to work with.
I think this is one of GURPS’ diamonds in the rough. A lot of the complaints people might have with option overload and rules depth are answered in this one, quite handily. It never took off, though, for some reason. Maybe not enough worked examples, or that those who want to play modern-day games don’t want simplified treatments. Dunno.
First off, for the players, to get them “in the mood” to want to play the game, there needs to be a list of templates, which is something that the more successful sub-lines are already doing. Where I think that we could do better is that either in addition to, or instead of, the massive list of choices you have to make (and even that list is pared down from the full list in the Basic Set), we could present types of lenses that group the actual choices in a template into themes.
Monster Hunters already did some of this with things like Motivational Lenses (p. 6), which are fun little bits – but only 15 points of choices, which is digestible by basically everyone.
But head on down to the first template on the list, Commando, and I hate to say it but it’s a nearly unapproachable stat block. Choose 30 points from a list of over 30 options – some of which are categories, like “Perks” or have a lot of sub-options within them (point cost [Varies]).
I know why the packages are presented as they are – to save space on the page, and I’m sure that the bulleted list that this type of “Choose from . . . ” thing screams out for would look quite terrible in the standard two-column layout that is part of the trade dress. The massive amount of white space such a list might create would probably look bad on the page, but between “lots of white space” and “a block of text so dense your eyes glaze over” there must be a happy medium.
Granted, this template format works great using GURPS Character Assistant, and the program explicitly supports these templates (once the books are out and a happy volunteer does the coding) and presents the choices in easily digestible visual format.
But if perhaps we grouped some of these choices into pre-generated lenses:
Commando 30-point Advantage Lenses
Strong-Jawed Leader: Born War Leader 2 ; Danger Sense ; Fearlessness 2 ; Brave .
Fightin’ Machine: DX +1 ; DR 2 (Tough Skin) ; 4 Gun-Fu perks .
Will Never Stop: HT+1 ; Will +2 ; Fit ; Rapid Healing .
You might still list all the possible choices for people who like to fight the power and build their own specific mix. But these sorts of ready-made collections are simply gold for getting the game moving along in digestible pieces.
And in fact, if you get through the block of text, you find Customization Notes that provide exactly this in text, rather than bullet, format. So it might be easy to miss – but Jason did put it there.
Cutting to the Chase
While GURPS depth and coverage is impressive, it’s also daunting. And it’s likely that while I can draw pedantic differentiation between complicated games and worked examples of simple rules, the fact of the matter is there’s a lot to bite, and if people won’t play then the argument of whether GURPS is complicated or simple in the Clauswitzian sense is moot.