Stone Soup

Those of us that love GURPS are often the biggest evangelists for the game. I’ve made an (anonymous) name for myself as a fan of the game on more than one website hosting discussion of role playing games, and am as quick to recommend GURPS for very nearly every possible scenario, campaign, setting or idea – as often as the Savage Worlds, FATE and Apocalypse World aficionados do with their pet projects. And when someone who has never had a chance to play GURPS pipes up, we are just as quick to recommend that they pick up a copy of the freely available GURPS Lite off of the SJG website.

Yet, when I thought about it, and started asking around, it became pretty obvious that almost nobody actually uses GURPS Lite for anything – at least not by itself. The rules are solid, but the character options are lacking, and you really can’t play a D&D style fantasy game with Lite – there’s no magic, and no alternate races. You can’t do much sci-fi with it – no high tech gear. Anything involving more than the most basic of advantages, like a super hero game, is impossible. All of these popular choices are impossible without adding in more rules from other sources. So folks are playing GURPS Lite are adding to it – a sprinkling of GURPS Magic or Ritual Path Magic; a dash of Ultra-Tech; a dram of Powers.

GURPS Lite is the “stone soup” of freely available tabletop role playing games.

Up front, it’s got some good stuff in there. A tightly condensed set of rules detailing the basics (“3d6, roll low”), reactions, character points and power levels, basic attributes and figured characteristics, introductory combat rules, mental and physical task resolution rules, and injury and recovery rules. As far as rudimentary rule sets go, it’s top notch. But, when you discount things like status, wealth, appearance and reputation, there are only twenty advantages included in these rules (with one of them the inexplicable “Jumper” – the only remotely supernatural power in the bunch). The gear is ancient and modern, but no reference is made to high-tech gear. And even the most basic of magic or power systems is left unmentioned.

There’s an apparent need for an entry vehicle for GURPS – something to send folks towards if they’re not experienced gamers who only need to look at the rules to see if they sound familiar or interesting. We might even need a differentiated set of rule sets – something like GURPS: Fantasy Lite, with the Big Four races, and a few dozen spells and maybe some magical healing or demon-banishing powers for the holy set, and some monsters to kill. Follow that up with GURPS: Sci-Fi Lite, with high-tech weapons and skills, maybe some basic cybernetics built as powers, and a very crude psionic powers section. And to round things out, a GURPS: Supers Lite, with a few dozen pre-built powers or power suites, and some cinematic combat rules.

The three of those, I suspect, could even be sold – for $5 or $10 each in PDF – and would be popular entry points for folks who always hear about how cool GURPS is, but who find the Basic Set intimidating. How lovely would it be to say to folks “c’mon, how complex can it be? The basic fantasy game is only 96 pages long!”


  1. Great idea! I think this would really help to promote GURPS players out there!

  2. I would love to see this. GURPS lite is a great tool, but it's not as helpful for new players/GMs as it could be.


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