Thursday, February 24, 2011

A thought about GURPS

As you might now, soem people have tried to assemble lists of what kind of games are "old school" or not. I have no idea if GURPS ever was on one of those lists, but it was mentioned in the comments on Grognardia (you know the way there, right?) and it got me thinking.

Steve Jackson have, for a few years now, posted a "Stakeholder's Report". In this he keeps us all in the loop of what's going on at SJG HQ. Steve is indeed a very interesting fellow in this business. Anyway. One thing that has become clear is how utterly dependant SJG is on Munchkin, and how totally insignificant GURPS have become. I am, after all, primarily a rpg player and am thus mosre interested in the GURPS part of that equation.

Why on earth have GURPS shrunken so in the market place?

What are all the former GURPS fans playing today? GURPS 3rd ed. still, and buying nothing new for the shiny 4th ed.?

Frankly, it puzzles me.

Anyone have a theory?


  1. The group I played 3e GURPS with in high school still plays GURPS today, and they have updated their libraries to 4th edition. They still regard it as the ultimate RPG engine. One of the selling points for them is that once you have the basics, you don't need to keep buying products— you can simulate any game world you can imagine. I think that premise may be a major reason for the low sales of the product.

    One of the guys told me he recently bought a GURPS sourcebook from his local game shop, and the clerk sneered at him, saying the game didn't sell well and must be worthless. He retorted that GURPS GMs don't need a continuing stream of supplements to keep their games going, because the game unlocks infinite possibilities for anyone with a little imagination.

    That was the main appeal for me when I played GURPS all those years ago: That you could have a single toolbox to run any game you wanted to. Since then, I realized that what I like about role-playing is it's potential for narrativism&mdash or fiction-rich gamism, depending on the group —and the kind of simulation in GURPS has little appeal for me. Still, I'd probably play or run a short scenario if the occasion arose with the right people.

  2. …But even then, I'd definitely use "GURPS Lite", which is available as a free download.

  3. I actually used to love GURPS, but fell totally out of love. Is simulationistic games just dying? I see no other such sign.

  4. Like Gaptooth says, role-playing games have been moving away from highly realistic simulation for some time now. That's always been one of GURPS' key selling points.

    Since the other key selling point of GURPS, the broad range of topics its sourcebooks cover, has been shifted largely to the GURPS PDF offerings, where it's much less visible to the buying population, it's not surprising the line's dropped significantly on the publisher's priority list.

  5. The other big problem with GURPS is the lack of support materials. My friend (Rob Conley of Bat in the Attic) have tried to get things published or encourage them to produce adventures for GURPS, but they had no interest in putting effort into that. But I guess they are working on an actually monster manual and they had a decent series of Dungeon Fantasy, but still no actual adventures. May not have help, but who knows.

  6. Tim, does Rob's blog have any accounts of trying to get material published? I'd be interested to read about his experiences in that process.

  7. The game used to be simple. The core rules were easy to grasp. And the character creation was flexable and straight forward. Most of all the game was a one book system. One rulebook to rule them all. But late in 3rd ed came the compendiums. Now it was a 3 book system. Not long after that the new 4th edtion came out. It was more complex than before. And yet more rule books. I think it colapsed under its own weight.

  8. I suspect that games like Munchkin just sell a lot better than role-playing games. GURPS could be doing relatively well in the RPG market and still not be a contender, no matter how much you tweak or retrify it.

  9. I'm with Andreas.

    I used to love GURPS, but eventually I grew to find the system tedious and detail-obsessive. As a GM, I felt that combat ran too slowly.

    I will say this: GURPS has some dynamite supplements, and I still have GURPS Steampunk just for the concepts and ideas. I'd never run the game again, though... I'd use FUDGE or Savage Worlds for anything I would've used GURPS for ten years ago.

    That being said, I do sorely miss SJ's In Nomine.

  10. Well I mostly used GURPS for fantasy and ran it 'loose' and not at all heavy-sim. Once Chargen was done - which can be a bit heavy going - it played very much 'rules-out-of-the-way' (like BRP) and all we needed for the whole campaign was the core 3e book, 3d6, and some pencils and paper.

  11. I think I have nearly every GURPS 3E product printed, and I own - I think - everything for 4E. I also order every new GURPS book listed in Previews ... which unfortunately is only 1 or 2 products a year.

    The key word might be "printed." When the pace of 4E material dwindled to a trickle I simply assumed that GURPS was falling out of favour, or SJG had hit a financial speed bump, or that the FBI had seized its computers again.

    I hadn't realized they had shifted to a largely PDF business model. I prefer print to PDF and originally assumed that anything in PDF would soon be collated and offered in a print volume.

    I've started picking up a few OSR PDFs but most of the time I prefer to buy a print book. If SJG offered all its new GURPS material on a print-on-demand basis I'd probably buy more of it.

  12. Part of the perceived lack of love for GURPS is that a few years ago in the height of the 3rd DnD everything must be hard bound phase Steve made the decision that all GURPS books needed to be hard bound to keep up with the joneses... Couple that to the strict style and quality production guidelines SJG's produce every product with slowed down new production of books while increasing their price to a point of thought.

    Then the is the not quite and edition change. GURPS 4th edition is really 3rd edition with some of the writers campaign/house-rules thrown in. It was done in such a way that if you where happy with 3rd there really was no real reason to pick up 4th.

    Now couple this GURPS is static while some updating has occurred with the core technical books. The back catalog of source books are become available as pdfs, so the reasoning why rewrite them? Why reprint them at a loss?

    And Munchkin is the shiney PROFITABLE critter, it is probably got 100 times the market penetration the GURPS ever had. I'm just happy that new PDFs are being produced, and the PDFs are generally priced at a point where I don't think twice when buying one.

    Side note, the iPad while not as good as a book in some respects, is a massive step forward for RPGs. I am amazed how much more I love my PDFs now I can sit on the can with a game book and think. And be able to jot down notes for later... It just works.

  13. @JBM: SJGames did mention in their stakeholder report there's a room set aside in their building for a POD set-up. The sooner they get that underway, the sooner they'll be getting a lot more of my money for all those wonderful books currently only available as PDFs.

  14. Sounds like SJG have not managed to reach out to all fans about the PDF's.

    Personally, I'm also dead tree only.


Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Andreas Davour. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Blogger.