Review – GURPS Action 1: Heroes (Introduction)

Great, so you went out and purchased GURPS Action 1: Heroes. Excellent choice. Your discernment makes you a paragon among men.

So open it up. Read the introduction. Good. Read it again.

Now read it again.


Got it? Good, because it’s that important.


No surprise for +Sean Punch, but I’m not kidding when I say that the introduction is very key to this entire series. In six tightly written paragraphs, our fearless author sets out some very important caveats for the book. They’re important enough that I’m going to deal with just this one page in a post by itself.

Ninja Nazis. We hate these guys.

  1. The book covers the style and feel of roughly a century of storytelling. The feel, plots, and archetypes derive from the pulps of the 1920s and 1930s. The visual style is pure cinema, from the 1930s through the 1950s, where good was good, bad was bad, and we hate Nazis. Finally, the high-caliber full-auto violence derives from the hard-edged 80s and 90s, when even comic books bled. Oh, and we’re borrowing the loving care for gear lavished on decades of appearances by Q. This one, not that one. 
  2. This book is around character design guidelines. They will be deep enough to allow fidelity to the genre
  3. The games will involve nonstop thrills and tension. If you have a down moment, it better because there’s a ticking bomb, or two ninjas/Nazis (or better yet, ninja Nazis!) getting ready to kick in the door. If it’s not high octane, you are expected to brush by it. The only real room for realistic but unexciting skills is to provide a moment of levity or to be used to obtain clues. But if you can make obtaining them exciting . . . do that instead.
  4. Most action/adventure movies feature a lone hero or perhaps a pair. Indiana Jones. Murtaugh and Riggs. Rambo. Riddick. Bond. However, most RPG groups are more than that – somewhere between the six in the GI Joe films, or the assault team from the first Predator movie or the Colonial Marines from Aliens. Well, before they all get killed. Fewer cast members than The Expendables. A superhero team like the Avengers would come close, but it’s not quite the right genre feel. The team from Ronin is about perfect (which it’s why it’s mentioned in the text, along with Ocean’s Eleven and Sneakers).
  5. Characters are defined by what they do, and the book will define them by niche. There will be a flavor-lens for exactly that – and those lenses will be useful – but in the words of Kuato, you are what you do. And much like a party in D&D, the game will benefit from multiple archetypes, while still supporting unique characters from the same archetype, and games where all can play the same one.
  6. The last paragraph is the most important. It states what it is not. It is not about realism. Where there’s grit, grime, and dirt, it serves as something to allow the hero(es) to rise above. PCs can get away with a lot that will get normal folks thrown in jail . . . but that’s because they’re always proved right in the end, and the opposition is truly despicable. To quote the final line in full, because it matters: “Use Action in serious games at your own risk!”
The introduction sets the tone for what follows. This book will be about high action, high adventure, and low-fidelity realism. What is awesome is what matters – though a high-action, high-competence game can be toned down to achieve the feel of Ronin. 
The rest of the book will provide templates, and how they fit various games and campaigns (Chapter 1), and actually providing the cut-down list of advantages, disadvantages, and skills that is appropriate to the genre. This is good advice, if lengthy to execute, for any campaign (to cut it down, that is), and Sean executes it for you. In Chapter 3, the background comes to life with advice on how to leverage the agencies and organizations to aid the mission. Finally, we hook up with Q for Chapter 4: Gear, which all sorts of toys.
We’ll cover each chapter in turn. 

5 thoughts on “Review – GURPS Action 1: Heroes (Introduction)

  1. Action 4 lets you build down to about 150 points (and up to 450-500 on the high end). Anything less is REALLY light on skills and general proficiency due to the cost of the base attribute+advantage template.

  2. Action 4 lets you build down to about 150 points (and up to 450-500 on the high end). Anything less is REALLY light on skills and general proficiency due to the cost of the base attribute+advantage template.

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