Introductory GURPS: What do Basic D&D and WEG Star Wars tell us?

There are a couple hot threads over on the SJG forums right now about where to take GURPS in order to expand the revenue base, which would turn into more product, higher quality product, and the kind of exponential growth (though that too would saturate eventually) that you need for a bit to have an RPG line stand neck-and-neck with a hot brand like Munchkin.

Though as Steve Jackson notes, if you have to choose between a meteor dropping on the D&D wing of Hasbro vs. the Magic the Gathering wing, you will probably hope and pray it hits D&D, since it’s the collectable card games and Munchkin-like sales that keep retailers afloat . . . at least for those that still shop in such places.

Here are some of the threads:

So, I love me my GURPS, I do. It’s the primary system for which I write, and I like dealing with the company, and love dealing with Sean, Steven, and especially with the co-author pool that I interact with. I feel like there are very few topics Peter, Christopher, and I couldn’t make awesome. Christopher provides the inspiration, I’m a structure and metasystem fiend, and Peter has a feel for playability that can’t be beaten by many.

That being said, if I’m currently going to get drawn into a game by other, dollars to donuts it’s D&D, and these days, that’s more likely to be OSR than not, but also D&D5. Other than the various D&D-derived systems simply being the 800-lb gorilla on the market, there’s a few things that make for smooth entry.


Good things about Basic D&D, S&W, and D&D5
One of the nicest things about the Basic D&D and S&W sets (and I feel this way just as strongly about the old WEG Star Wars RPG) is that you can sit a half-dozen or even a dozen people down at a table with nothing, and be playing in less than an hour. Perhaps much less. Even with limited copies of the rules. 
The Basic D&D game I played in yesterday came with the direction to go find one of the online generators that exist for the older versions of the game (and some of the new ones, too). Smoldering Wizard has collected quite a few.
Add in a bit of world-inspired background, and you’re ready to rock.
With Star Wars/WEG, you get the same basic thing, and I once took about fifteen players through chargen with one or two sets of books in about an hour. 
What are the keys there? I think there are a few of them, and (much like another recent post), some of this is obvious as soon as you write it down. It’s a lot like business school, really – there are very few things out there that are that off-the-wall bizarre or inherently hard. But getting them laid out all at once? There’s value there, enough to differentiate those with MBAs or the equivalent training from those without one (I got my B-school training from McKinsey and Company via the ‘drink water through a firehose’ method – three weeks in the Netherlands with fantastic faculty).
But back to it. What are the keys?
  • Easily assimilated, shared assumptions
  • Enough choices to allow differentiation
  • Few enough choices that speed is possible
  • A good mutual model of how to turn imagination into action
  • Results that meet expectations and do not break suspension of disbelief
WEG Star Wars

One of my favorite game system engines ever. I think, in retrospect, that one of the reasons is that it so easily fit most of the five criteria above.
Star Wars was (and is again, more than ever) a universe that nearly everyone that is likely to be roleplaying is familiar with. This was even more true before the LotR movies came out than the usual D&D tropes would be. Nearly everyone geeks, jocks, or anyone, had either seen it or heard of it. So when it came time to gather players, explaining the game was easy. “We’re going to be playing as if we were part of the Star Wars universe. Here’s the background: [a few particulars about the starting scenario].”
Boom, game on.
The next criterion, which is enough differentiation, was met by the brilliantly tongue-in-cheek template system that WEG used. There were more than a dozen, but fewer than two dozen basic templates in the back of the book. Each of them was built on a common model: you had 18 six-sided dice (at three pips to the die, so 1d6, 1d6+1, 1d6+2, 2d) to divide among six main attributes, and if you want to be a force-sensitive character, there were three such attributes – Control, Sense, and Alter.
So if you wanted to play a Brash Pilot, a Laconic Scout, a ruthless Bounty Hunter, a Gambler, or a Quixotic Jedi, you could grab a template and get going. You could then take the template and by assigning extra pips and dice – common to all – boost specific, finite sub-skills. As an example, Strength included Brawling, Climbing/Jumping, Lifting, and Swimming. If you had 3D (average for a hero, above the 2D Joe Average score) in Strength, you had 3D in all the sub-skills. But if you allocated some of your spare dice/pips to one of the sub-skills, you could be particularly good at that thing. So you might have 3D Strength, but have Brawling at 4D+1 if you were a scrapper. 
It was pretty balanced – if you were good at one thing, you were less good at another. Jedi paid for their Force abilities by cannibalizing their six other major scores. So if you were to be a strong starting Jedi with 2D in each of the three Force abilities, you were going to average 2D in the six primary attributes – on the average a full die lower than your companions in everything but “be a Jedi.”
Granted, a strong Jedi with a lightsaber was still a (ahem) force to be reckoned with . . . but he did pay for it.
But still – the character sheet was the same for all, with the same nine attributes and a few dozen sub-skills. An example I found onlne of a completed sheet shows how quickly it can go. Especially since equipment was pretty bland, with only a few items listed per template (though I remember the Bounty Hunter, I think, whose equipment list was something like ‘blaster, big blaster, thermal detonator, knife, another knife.’). So you spent a few minutes on your character, wrote down a couple of items to get going with, and boom. Start playing.
In terms of turning imagination into action, it was easy. You say what you want to do. The GM sets a target number, which was something like counting by 5s (easy task was ‘roll 5+ on your dice, medium was 10, and really, really difficult was 30 or something, so you needed 9D or so to get there). If you wanted to do two things on your turn, you subtracted 1D from everything. OK. Great. Go play.

And in terms of suspension of disbelief, the only time that ever got pinged was the first time, in high school, that I shot a Stormtrooper . . . and he didn’t just drop. His armor actually did something. I remember arguing with the GM about that. Good times. But really, Star Wars is such a heroic, wonderfully cinematic game that it was very hard to break suspension.
So a near-perfect game, where you could get going, immerse yourself deeper in the genre, and have some great adventures. Very few complex mechanics (the wounding system was the most complex, if I recall; maybe some of the force powers took a bit, and there were some mechanical oddities about lightsaber combat).
Basic D&D

Roll 3d6 in order or 4d6 drop lowest. Either write ’em down or if your GM is feeling generous, arrange as you like. Pick a class for which you meet the prerequisites. Get a bit of gold and some equipment. Maybe shop. Definitely write down your spells, unless you’re a poor sop of a 1st level cleric and then it sucks to be you, because is all you can do is “hit him with my mace.”
If you’ve gamed at all, you’ve probably played D&D. Orcs are bad, kill on sight. Kobolds? Kill on sight. Ogres? Kill on sight. Dragons? Kill on sight, but if you see him, he probably sees you, and will try and kill you on sight. Sorry, you’re a 1st level Elf with 3 HP. You get killed on sight. Good thing it doesn’t take long to make a character. Life in Basic D&D is cheap, and character sheets are plentiful.

The mechanics are mostly fairly simple, and when they’re not simple they’re at least chart-based. Still, I’d forgotten how many different types of tests there were. Roll high on d20 for hits and saving throw. Roll 1d6 for some things, and d100 for others. Sometimes you open doors or whatnot by rolling low on 1d6. That sort of thing.

D&D5 



Not to much to say about this one, because a lot of it applies to Basic D&D as well. The game has evolved a bit, but it is, especially in this latest incarnation, not so far removed from Basic D&D as to be a wildly different game.

Decide what you want to be, roll stats or (for even easier and more level-setting time) take the standard array, assign as you like, pick equipment, spells, some background, and go play. 

It is definitely a more . . . deep . . . set of rules than Basic D&D was. Skills, backgrounds, flaws, and other details. Race is different than class, and which you choose matters if you want to be a specialist or a generalist. 

On the other hand, unless you biff it completely, every class has something to do both in and out of combat, so unlike Basic D&D, where my elf might get killed if someone accidentally sneezes in the next room, by and large you can expect to be a tetch more robust. That’s good for bringing a new player into the game, since “you’re about to experience the joy of your fifth character tonight!” doesn’t necessarily bring new blood to the table in an era of Save Game.

How does this relate to GURPS?

A lot of words have gone by since the beginning of this post. And now coming back to it. How to increase the revenue base of a game – in this case GURPS – that’s been in existence for quite a while now?

Make it easy to hit the five points above.

Easily Assimilated Shared Assumptions


While GURPS’ flexibility to do any genre, any power level, any time period, any character is its core competency, from a “get people playing” perspective, that is all air through the engine, to paraphrase Captain Tightpants. 

So what we need is something that nearly any player will be able to nod and say “yeah, I get that.” That leaves us with still quite a lot of choices, so let’s take a look.

A widely popular property


Most people know that SJG has the licence to Discworld. And despite me poking at Phil Masters in this post of one of the threads linked above, Phil (the Discworld RPG author, whose book is on hold right now due to market conditions) is correct that this series has sold 80,000,000 or so books. That ain’t nothing. But I get the feeling that the discworld is one of those things that’s ridiculously popular with those that have read it, but has little reach or influence outside.

It’s not Star Wars, It’s not Battlestar Galactica. It’s not Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or one of the major video games, such as HALO or Fallout (the game that was almost GURPS-based, until stuff happened. You can Google that one yourself).

Harry Potter would be a spectacular fit for GURPS. The students are basically regular people, except they’re Wizards. The Wizarding World can be played as the weird place it is for those steeped in the movies and books, or for new people, they can play magically talented muggles, experiencing things for the first time just as we experienced it alongside Harry through the books and movies. As it turns out, the skill-based spells that the students studied are a rare exact match for GURPS’ native magic system. And the franchise has made about $25 billion worldwide, and has spawned theme parks, conventions, and all sorts of stuff.

Star Wars is big, immersive, and about to break out. But I don’t think that it’d be a great fit for GURPS, even if you could get the licence. Oh, sure it could be done, but I think it’d squeak too much around the edges, since GURPS tends to support mostly-quantifiable play, while Star Wars defies quantification in many respects, and falls flat (cough midicholrians cough) when it tries.

HALO, now, would be an excellent fit. It’s a gun-heavy game, and GURPS does guns as well or better than any system out there. Five games and a $3 billion dollar franchise, with efforts being probed to explore alternate media – though initial efforts haven’t gained the traction sought after. That might be a good thing, from an RPG perspective, in that licencing might not be crazy-town. Someone once mocked up – complete with stealng SJG trade dress – a GURPS HALO book even. I won’t post that picture – it’s easy to find if you look, though.

Battlestar Galactica, which has its own game (as do many of the others on this list) would be, with its slightly more modern-accessible tech, be in its own way a better fit for GURPS than Star Wars or Star Trek. BSG has big ships and big dogfights in space, but otherwise is missiles and guns and normal folks without any funky superpowers or magitech other than hyperdrive. While BSG was pretty good, it’s not an ongoing property the way that Star Wars is, so there’s limited appeal from a ‘grow the game along with the audience’ perspective.

Are there others? Sure. Most people would have heard of King Arthur, of course, and fantasy gaming is 800-lb gorilla of the RPG world. There is no licence to be had for a tale that old – you could just do it.

One fun option might be to get in on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. +Sean Punch has already written the magnum opus on Zombies that could be mined for details, +Peter V. Dell’Orto and Sean also already have all the martial arts you would ever need for such. A setting book where you get to stomp on Victorian Zombie Ass would be a nice compliment, and having read the book and having every intention of seeing the movie, would be a nice, lightweight introduction to the game. It would probably be very conducive to a Dungeon Fantasy/Action style of play as well: rules-light, fun-heavy, trope-filled.

Finally, I’ve always thought that a good fit for GURPS would be the Aliens universe – specifically the Colonial Marines. Someone should write that. Hmm.

Another one that would work fairly well is Pirates of the Caribbean. (It always takes me three tries to spell Caribbean for some reason. It’s my Kryptonite when it comes to spelling). Again, leverages the very strong Horror/Zombies offerings already in print, limited character templates but with strong variety within those templates, and a high-fun, low-fidelity attitude that invites replay.

Getting away from space, pirates, and zombies . . . how about GURPS CSI or a TV property? GURPS Castle? The game has the chops to do procedurals and investigative work fairly well, and they both have the advantage of . . . 

Right here, right now


One solution to the issue of having everyone understand the genre and assumptions is to have everyone living the genre and assumptions. To me, that means modern-day adventuring . . . which for a game like GURPS, lends itself best, I think, to either military or police action. This could be more Lethal Weapon movie style, or it could be Black Hawk Down. Or The Expendables, to go over the top. But “you’re playing soldiers in the modern day” is something that people can get. You can use Google for maps, leverage the fact that the internet exists, and otherwise make it easy for the GM and players to not worry about hidden game assumptions – up until you spring The Surprise on them, if there is one.

Enough for Differentiation/Few Enough for Speed


This is where GURPS needs to approach a starter differently than it does today, I think. Right now, if you want in on GURPS, you either go Lite (which is not a great starter product, though it is a great streamlined ruleset – the two are not the same) or you buy the core books.

That’s not where I’d go. I’d hearken back to the Powered by GURPS attempts, but bring in some differences.

The first is to look at the successful Spaceships line, which basically said “pick 20 mass slots, and you’ve got youself a ship.” If you don’t get crazy (and you can get crazy), you can very rapidly make an endless variety of ships by making no fewer than 20 choices.

So should it be with intro GURPS. Reach immediately for a treatment in the style of +Sean Punch‘s Pointless Slaying and Looting, from Pyramid #3/72. In it, Sean avoids the trap of potentially making 250 individual choices in a Dungeon Fantasy game (if you spent all 250 points one at a time) by making a selection from a much smaller set, with no points to speak of. Each selection does basically come in something like 20 or 25 points equivalent, but allows you to get descriptive about selection rather than accounting-based. +Christopher R. Rice followed suit in Pyramid #3/83 with Pointless Monster Hunting and gave that much more point-intensive genre equal treatment (characters are based most commonly on 400 points).

This would allow people to build flexible characters by picking from a list of descriptors, which also happen to have game mechanical value. Archetypes are 100 points, Major Abilities are 20 points, and Minor Abilities are 10 points. But in reality, you’d phrase this as archetypes are 10 slots, major abilites two, and minor abilities are one slot. A DF character might be allocated 25 slots. A Monster Hunters hero would be 40 slots. A more mundane but still heroic character might be 15 slots . . . and the archtypes toned down to be 6-8 slots instead of 10. 

This means, much like spaceships, you make fewer than 20 choices, all with nifty descriptions, to make your character. Then you get playing.

This same approach should be done for equipment loadouts, with a few pieces of specific gear provided, and then something like my Schrodinger’s Backpack article (also from Pyr 3/83) to handwave away the “shopping trip” that can stand between game start and play start.

If you’ve never looked at the “Pointless” articles, they’re worth your time. I’d absolutely, 100% follow this path on all genre-specific treatments in a future GURPS line rollout, and a notional 4.5 edition or 5th edition would have an entire chapter detailing how to create slots, with lots of examples (take the two articles already written, and blow them out a bit more). This would also make for great fan-fodder, as people could come up with as many variations on slots as they’d like.

Imagination into Action


This is already GURPS’ strong suit, and at the core, there are very few actual game mechanics to worry about. A roll-under skill roll. Effect rolls (the most common is damage). Defense tests and contests – with a unifying mechanic if possible (I thought of one earlier today that I’m definitely going to refine). Maybe even redefine the reaction roll to roll-low instead of roll-high, so that influence skills and reaction modifiers are unified.

There might even be ways to simplify some of the tracking even further in some places – I’ve got some ideas percolating for injury and fatigue – and that’d be to the good. There are few enough individual mechanics that game play should be easy to assimilate. The basic 3d6 probability curve is easy to understand, look up, or memorize, so you will know instantly how frequently you expect to succeed in a given test. That’s important – it gives a feel for risk-reward. You know if you need a 15 to hit AC 4 in Basic D&D then you’ll hit one time in four. You know if you’re rolling Sword-10 in GURPS that you’ll throw a blow worthy of defending against 50% of the time, and your foe of equal skill will parry one time in four, or about one in three if he retreats. 

Don’t Break Suspension of Disbelief


Again, since GURPS is based in real-world units, with real-world expectations, by and large this isn’t a problem for the game engine itself. The basic system has being hit by a sword or shot by a gun suck mightily for the victim, so players will rightly fear being hit and act accordingly. When GURPS is centered in mostly-real stuff (such as modern or near-future combat, men vs zombies, and traditional fantasy games) it shines here, and few things break the suspension of disbelief o’ meter hard enough to ruin fun (though watch out for dodging laser hits – that one can be tricky).

Parting Shot

GURPS is a fine game engine. But it, at the moment, is not a fine introductory game experience. If you know most of the basics about RPGing in general, you can be fairly easily guided through the character generation process, but for newbies (or even newbies to GURPS) this can take a long time. Hours with paper and pencil, and not that much less, necessarily, with GURPS Character Assistant or a similar game aid.

GURPS tends to be “front-loaded” in terms of effort. You do a lot of work and write a lot of stuff down in the beginning, and after that, mostly what you need is on your sheet or an easy GM/friendly player reference (not always, but mostly). That again isn’t something that drives assimilartion and uptake, but it is something that rewards system familiarity and mastery. It’s like the art of building a 15th level Pathfinder character from a blank sheet of paper. There are lots of ways to do it, and lots of ways to do it wrong (since the Feat trees in Pathfinder reward system mastery). 

What GURPS needs to grow is easy entry. I think this can be amply provided with the right vehicle, and by leveraging innovations that have been brought to the table (mostly through the excellent GURPS expansion system that is Pyramid Magazine, but there has been innovation via PDF release as well). It doesn’t have to be a huge, big-name, expensive licensed property. The point of a licence is to provide shared assumptions and a knowledge base. Heck, if one could play GURPS in the Pathfinder Golarion world (which I’ve done), or borrow from the worlds being populated by D&D5, that might work too (but maybe not; that’s not ‘bring new people into the hobby’ so much as ‘hope that in a month/year that Primary Game doesn’t have a release people will spend those dollars on GURPS). 

Right now, I suspect GURPS doesn’t do as well as it could because of the first three of my “easy in” requirements. The game itself is the engine, Infinite Worlds requires too much research to understand easily, and the front-loaded nature of character generation is a barrier to entry.

Ease these, and it would be a lot easier to expand the total available market of gamers – specifically gamers that spend money.

More than GURPS

While my thoughts are, of course, geared to GURPS because of the active discussions going on in the forum threads linked above – which have seen enthusiastic and honest participation by SJG CEO +Phil Reed as well as insiders and oft-published notaries such as +Matt Riggsby (author), +Sean Punch (GURPS Line Editor), +Andrew Hackard (Munchkin), and the aforementioned Phil Masters (author). But they also lay out some useful criteria for game design as well as sub-system design. 

Designing, say, a new grappling system for a game? It better have a good body of shared assumptions, not make all fighters the same, not take forever to detail someone skilled in the system, be fast to take from concept to in-game action, and not break reality. Same thing with overarching rules design.

14 thoughts on “Introductory GURPS: What do Basic D&D and WEG Star Wars tell us?

  1. GURPS actually does have a problem with imagination into action for beginners, and that's the one second turn. Players new to RPGs will invariably describe what they want to do in terms of a chunk of action from a movie or book: "I run up to the guards, and stab one in the face, while kicking the other in the crotch" "I flip my chair back, grab one of the spears off the wall, and hurl it at the vizier" It is frustrating as all get-out for them to be forced to back that all out and redo it one fraction at a time, with everybody else having a go in-between. And that's when they're not doing something out of a Hong Kong action flick (or Peter Jackson's Hobbit) jumping on top of an orc's head and running from orc to orc shooting their bow. Granularity is not a beginner's friend in this any more than in chargen.

    1. I think that's a good point. I've written both about a five second turn as well as telescoping time segments in the past, and it would be worth figuring out if and how to deal with that for an introductory game. The one second time split is useful and good for managing frantic action at high resolution, but less good for roll and shout.

    2. Maybe you could default to a five-second or so turn with a way to chunk the actions so as not to require a whole bunch of rolls, but players could declare "bullet time" if they wanted to resolve things blink-by-blink.

      Anyway if you could figure out how to do something like this GURPS, Jr. I'd be willing to give it a go.

  2. It really doesn't take 30 mins to get into a game if you use templates and lightly more descriptive templates could make that even faster.

    E.g. big dumb fighter bang auto selects everything then you're prompted with 'alignment' for the disadvantage theme and you've spent two minutes.

    Most people spend much more time Working out gear. Which come to think of it sucked up time in D and D too.

    Regardless I've gotten three brand new RPG players into GURPS there issues for dropping out weren't character generation. They were more concerned when mechanical issues popped up in GURPS some people don't want the fiddly bits after.

    Word on the street is that JK Rowling is not an RPG fan (several people have suggested Computer RPGs for Harry Potter).

  3. If you cant get your character in shape in 30 minutes or less using a template, then you're doing something wrong.

    I bang on periodically about this, but GURPS is not difficult. It is not complicated. People make it that way.

    Nymdok

    1. Yes GURPS mechanics is not complicated but the presentation is. The problem with GURPS 3rd and 4th that their rulebooks are references and toolkit to build the specific campaign you want to play.

      This is fine and dandy and GURPS does it well in both editions but for the novice and the causal gamers this presentation is absolute hell.

    2. TBH I've wanted GURPS index to be a real book that has references to all the rules I can never find when I need it.

      Just can be so difficult to find modifiers, a specific weapon, an opinion etc

      Maybe I'm the only one IDK

  4. Very good article, and something I've struggled with trying to get my gaming group into GURPS. I've loved GURPS since Man-to-Man. I've tried on mulitple occasions to get my crew to play, with varying levels of success. Character creation is a big one, as you've mentioned, and I also agree with Joshua's post regarding 1-second turns.

    For me, I've also found that player's seem to suffer from 'option overload' when it comes to what their characters will do in any given situation. It's related to the above, where a player wants to do something meaningful on their turn, but have difficulty deciding because half of the options, while useful to the game, are not meaningful to the player.

    And lastly, from a GM perspective, I've had difficulties setting up my games. How many / how powerful should my bad guys be for my given play group? How many / how difficult should my skill rolls be? I'm not a very experienced GURPS GM, so this part, IMO, could use more 'fleshing out'.

  5. The template system is a great help with this. I have been running a pbp game for over two years using 4e, and about ten years ago, I did the same using 3e. The platform pre screened for players looking for the system, but the Mook has a great intro seties for new players, and a great book on how to gm lite style.

  6. The template system is a great help with this. I have been running a pbp game for over two years using 4e, and about ten years ago, I did the same using 3e. The platform pre screened for players looking for the system, but the Mook has a great intro seties for new players, and a great book on how to gm lite style.

  7. This is a great article. The only thing I would add is that the notion of intro games should include the adventure. I think 5th's Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fantastic intro for new players and Gms, but also for those older players who just don't have the time or interest to do so much work to get a game up and running. Most of the conversation about attracting new blood to GURPS revolves around character creation, but I think that lack a good selection of modules is as big a problem. There are lots of gamers in their middle years these days, and gaming is different than when we were younger. We want easier play, less time away from the table. I used to know a couple folks at Wizards and they said the success of each release of D&D was because the gamer base is getting older and has more money. But the needs of these gamers is different as well. Creating characters is the fun bit, settings are important, but as a practical matter having a good module is every bit as important… in my opinion.

  8. GURPS is a great system for creative GMs, but I think it intimidates the "I just wanna play" crowd. As mentioned, I don't think character creation is too much of a burden if there are a decent array of templates to choose from, but the templates need someone to build them–again, not so friendly for GMs who just wanna play.

    With the exception of the small bit of Infinite Worlds material, the basic set doesn't include a setting, and what is included certainly isn't anything a GM and group of players can jump right into. Games like D&D have an implied setting, even if it's not really spelled out; I've spent many many hours playing without any real thought to whether I was in Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms or a GM-created world or whatever. I was in a fantasy realm killing stuff, and the GM didn't really need to specify much more than that. I've never played Dungeon Fantasy GURPS, but I imagine it's much the same. But D&D comes with a playable hint of a setting right out of the box, which GURPS doesn't offer. And genre books like GURPS: Fantasy and GURPS: Space are–again–great for the creative GM, but not much help for the ones who–again–just wanna play.

    So, maybe make the rules part of the setting books (so that the Transhuman Space book, for example, includes the GURPS rules necessary for play rather than requiring the Basic Set be bought as well). That way, when you purchase a setting, you get a complete game. It wouldn't include any rules that don't apply to the setting, nor any of the worldbuilding material, since it's already been built.

    You could still have genre books, but even they could include enough of the GURPS rules to make them stand-alone items. And lastly, offer the full Basic Set for those of us masochistic GMs who want to make our own things, or expand on the possibilities of the settings they already own. And, lastly, you could create supplement-edition versions of the settings that don't include the game mechanics, for those who already own the Basic Set and don't need the redundancy.

  9. I find that switching from "what do you do?" to "what do you want to accomplish?", ("I want to prevent him from hitting Alice!") then suggesting a maneuver + options to accomplish it ("Yeah, I'll do that!") works wonders with a lot of players.

    There will be the occasional system mastery dude who wants all the options laid out all the time so he can make his own (inferior) choices, but it's really a minoriety – and players grow to remember their preferred options.

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