Universal systems: Differences and Weaknesses

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Séadna

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This is coming from this thread and it's something I've been thinking about a bit.

It seems many of us see universal systems as not truly universal. That is each has a specific style and thus genres or settings it wouldn't work well with. So the idea of this thread is just to talk about that: Peoples' experience with universal systems and their limits.

For example: BRP and GURPS say are both universal systems, but how would their presentations of Cyberpunk, Fantasy or Horror differ? What particular genres would GURPS be bad at?
 

Fenris-77

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The less a long skill list matters, for whatever reason, the less useful thise systems are IMO. They are a real feature when they're needed of course. A lot depends on individual taste in genre too. For example, I don't need the crunch these systems provide for fantasy, but they'd probably be a better for what I want to do with a Cyberpunk game.
 

David Johansen

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GURPS really struggles with high powered entities. The relationship between skills, advantages, and attributes gets skewed around 600 point and super strength has never worked well. The current official method does make superman possible but is a real cludge during character creation. Supers also tends to be the kitchen sink setting and GURPS works best when the rules in play focus on the needs of the setting.

Savage Worlds does okay with most stuff. Supers isn't really well balanced. I'd argue that gritty realism is the system's weak spot as it's an intentionally cinematic system. It's also not great for non-combat style games, which probably relates to it originating as a miniatures combat system.

FUZION does everything pretty well but isn't internally compatible. So, the various supplements have to stand alone and are often very different from each other. It's an odd game that just never quite came together. It was probably the most extreme instance of a tool box game not being a game in and of itself out of the box.

BRP is like FUZION in that it works well for what it's implemented for but don't expect your wolf riding elf to survive well in the young kingdoms. It's a rock solid system, it really is and it's almost self balancing, in that anyone can die at any time but again, Superworld characters aren't going to break a sweat on Apple Lane.

The Amazing Engine was interesting for its settings but the system itself is just a poor cousin to BRP and the idea of transferring characters really just passes experience between settings without really making the iterations of characters still be the same character just in a different setting. Like FUZION it's not particularly internally compatible but it doesn't even have the tool box aspect, it doesn't give you any setting building tools or generic resources. Even so, Bug Hunters, For Faerie Queen and Country, and Tabloid all deserve note for being excellent settings and full of great ideas.

Rolemaster Standard System covers a lot of ground Fantasy, Science Fiction, Pulp, and Modern Action adventure. It's an involved system but rewards those who learn it. It gives characters a lot of depth and generally hands out enough points to be good at combat stuff without sacrificing non-combat stuff. The level system puts a cap on what can be put into skills so, while it's possible to be very good at things there are diminishing returns on over-investing all at once. It's also a lot of books and there's a few incompatibility issues on the skill lists with how technological skills are added in Pulp Adventures and Black Ops and the later Spacemaster Privateers.
 

Trippy

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It is interesting that you are exploring the term ‘Universal’ over the other term applied: ‘Generic’.

There are lots of generic games with implied settings and even generic settings, like D&D’s Forgotten Realms or Traveller’s Third Imperium, that I find useful in gaming. Generic, in these cases, just means they can be sourced by any number of influences, rather than anything specific. However, I don’t think there are many game systems that are truly universal in as much as the system and writing tends to set a particular tone for the game at very least.

If I use Savage Worlds, I immediately think about slightly cartoonish, pulpish adventures: Deadlands, Flash Gordon, Rifts all fit the tone of the game. On that basis there are lots of genres you could run with it - but I’d never try to run something like Vampire or Pendragon with it, for example.

BRP is possibly more flavourless, but again it has conventions that push it more towards realistic simulation rather than high octane, as does GURPS.
 

PolarBlues

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A agree with the general thrust of this thread. Universal (or generic) systems can be used for anything but each one has its own distictive personality and leans towards one style of play or other, which I tend to view as axis between "Serious" and "Hollywood", though I am pretty it's not just a simple axis. I like to use the term "lean" because it is not all or nothing split.

The kind of things to look out for include:
  • Level of detail in the skills list (from broad to narrow, possibly with viarable costs or with prerequisites)
  • Overall degree of granularity
  • Focus of specific types of actions (in particular combat)
  • Difference between PC and NPC (including things like mook rules)
  • Metagame currencies
  • Power curve
  • Default lethality of combat
  • Non functional elements like the style of the prose and art and the reputation and community around the game. In theory these sort of things should not matter at the table, but they do.
The combination of these elements (and others) will set the overall tone of the system. Do the system suggest you don't sweat the details or does everything need to be carefully considered? Does in make player characters feel special out og the gate or just another face in the crowd? And if you've been led by the character generation rules to pick a whole bunch of combat abilities, is it not fair to expect you'll need to use them during play?

In that respect BRP, though simpler than GURPS, still leans towards Serious. Savage Worlds, Fate and D6 lean towards Hollywood. Fudge, though the most vanilla generic system as it is just a toolset still leans towards Hollywood due to the limited granularity.
 

TristramEvans

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What particular genres would GURPS be bad at?


Superheroes. Oh Gods, is GURPs horrible at superheroes, whether it's teams where various heroes of different power levels work together, or it's modelling superhuman abilities that push beyond the scale GURPs was never set up to handle. GURPs: Supers was a bad attempt at a patch for a system and a genre that never belonged together.

If you ever want to test out your brain and patience for a few afternoons, try statting out Silver Age Superman in GURPs. Around the time you pass 20,000 points you may begin to question what the point of the points are at all...
 

Trippy

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Superheroes. Oh Gods, is GURPs horrible at superheroes, whether it's teams where various heroes of different power levels work together, or it's modelling superhuman abilities that push beyond the scale GURPs was never set up to handle. GURPs: Supers was a bad attempt at a patch for a system and a genre that never belonged together.

If you ever want to test out your brain and patience for a few afternoons, try statting out Silver Age Superman in GURPs. Around the time you pass 20,000 points you may begin to question what the point of the points are at all...
Anything where the power levels goes up in GURPS is a problem for me, because the number of advantages/disadvantages also goes up with it. We found this problem with Transhuman Space because the characters just ended up getting too complex to process - especially if you wanted to ‘re-sleeve’ characters into different morphs frequently (as per the genre). It is also one game I got irritated about it not adopting the metric/S.I units of measurement, but that’s another thing.

Additionally, while GURPS did try to have optional rules for things like Bang skills, etc, I don’t think it was particularly good for anything cinematic or cartoonish, to be honest. Also, what the hell was GURPS: Castle Falkenstein supposed to be? Talk about missing the point of the original game. I’m surprised they didn’t try to adopt GURPS: Amber.....
 

AsenRG

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Superheroes. Oh Gods, is GURPs horrible at superheroes, whether it's teams where various heroes of different power levels work together, or it's modelling superhuman abilities that push beyond the scale GURPs was never set up to handle. GURPs: Supers was a bad attempt at a patch for a system and a genre that never belonged together.

If you ever want to test out your brain and patience for a few afternoons, try statting out Silver Age Superman in GURPs. Around the time you pass 20,000 points you may begin to question what the point of the points are at all...
Amusingly enough, the time when I was really into GURPS and the time when I didn't care about superheroes coincided.
 

Mankcam

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A agree with the general thrust of this thread. Universal (or generic) systems can be used for anything but each one has its own distictive personality and leans towards one style of play or other, which I tend to view as axis between "Serious" and "Hollywood", though I am pretty it's not just a simple axis. I like to use the term "lean" because it is not all or nothing split.

The kind of things to look out for include:
  • Level of detail in the skills list (from broad to narrow, possibly with viarable costs or with prerequisites)
  • Overall degree of granularity
  • Focus of specific types of actions (in particular combat)
  • Difference between PC and NPC (including things like mook rules)
  • Metagame currencies
  • Power curve
  • Default lethality of combat
  • Non functional elements like the style of the prose and art and the reputation and community around the game. In theory these sort of things should not matter at the table, but they do.
The combination of these elements (and others) will set the overall tone of the system. Do the system suggest you don't sweat the details or does everything need to be carefully considered? Does in make player characters feel special out og the gate or just another face in the crowd? And if you've been led by the character generation rules to pick a whole bunch of combat abilities, is it not fair to expect you'll need to use them during play?

In that respect BRP, though simpler than GURPS, still leans towards Serious. Savage Worlds, Fate and D6 lean towards Hollywood. Fudge, though the most vanilla generic system as it is just a toolset still leans towards Hollywood due to the limited granularity.
I was going to write something similar, but you beat me to it.
My preferred universal systems are BRP and Fate Core, for pretty much the reasons you describe :thumbsup:
 

robertsconley

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Superheroes. Oh Gods, is GURPs horrible at superheroes, whether it's teams where various heroes of different power levels work together, or it's modelling superhuman abilities that push beyond the scale GURPs was never set up to handle. GURPs: Supers was a bad attempt at a patch for a system and a genre that never belonged together.
That true of 3rd edition but they fixed it for 4e. It not the best but adequate to the task. The main part of the fix is using advantages for power along with enhancements and limitations (both modifies advantages). The result is can be seen in this. What 3rd edition did was odd, strange, and didn't really work well.

GURPS 50 point abilities
 

Baulderstone

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Savage Worlds does okay with most stuff. Supers isn't really well balanced. I'd argue that gritty realism is the system's weak spot as it's an intentionally cinematic system. It's also not great for non-combat style games, which probably relates to it originating as a miniatures combat system.

Oddly enough, I've found it works pretty well for low combat, investigative games. I ran a pulpier adaptation Mask of Nyarlathotep with the gritty settings turned on, and it worked great. I've found that one of the keys to a good investigative system is that combat is resolved quickly. Once you get past the ten-minute mark in a combat, people's minds start to shift to combat as being the game. When a long combat is over, players have often lost the flow of what was happening in the larger game. In an investigative game, where they are juggling multiple clues and threads of investigation, that is a serious problem. As combat in Savage Worlds moves briskly, it was very effective.

I played as PI in Deadlands Noir game a couple of years ago, and it worked well for that as well.

I do agree that it isn't a game for everything though. Say you want to run a sci-fi game where the players can endlessly tinker with and customize their ship, Savage Worlds can't handle fine details like that.

I used to hang out on the Pinnacle boards when Savage Worlds was new, and the staff there always used to push back against the "universal" and "generic" labels. Yes, it's a versatile system and easy to make stuff for, but it is designed to do what it does. It's not designed to do everything.

Amusingly enough, the time when I was really into GURPS and the time when I didn't care about superheroes coincided.
I got into GURPS after picking up the original GURPS Horror book, and most of what I ran with it was along that line. I never had an issue with the system, and it probably helped that I was always sticking to the low end of the power scale.
 

David Johansen

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It's not designed to do everything.
Which is it's greatest strength really. Necessary Evil focuses on lower power levels like early Marvel comics where the Hulk and Thing could only lift about ten tons. I did have the one player who made a character named Daisy Cutter who had Duplication and Explosion powers.

But my thinking on Savage Worlds and combat is that the edges are largely combat oriented and the mechanical scale of skills and attributes is fairly narrow. But then, I'm an edition behind at this point. My players really didn't take to it so my experience is somewhat limited. It is the game where Necessary Evil ran off the tracks and the PCs wound up in Hawaii at a safe house for supernatural beings.

GURPS big problem with Supers is that some things get ridiculously cheap while others get ridiculously expensive. Under the current system low level super strength is ridiculously expensive and high level super strength is ridiculously cheap. But it can do superman. I built a post crisis / animated series Superman at one point. I could post him as an example if people want. 1800 points or there abouts.
 

AsenRG

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I got into GURPS after picking up the original GURPS Horror book, and most of what I ran with it was along that line. I never had an issue with the system, and it probably helped that I was always sticking to the low end of the power scale.
I got into GURPS after I was told it sucks for supers. My answer (at the time) was "that's a bonus".
 

Baulderstone

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I got into GURPS after I was told it sucks for supers. My answer (at the time) was "that's a bonus".
In my case, I was in a group where were everyone was a GM. We had both a Marvel Super Heroes guy and a DC Heroes guy for superheroes. I was mostly the gritty guy (WFRP, Call of Cthulhu, GURPS) and the guy getting them to play off-the-beaten path games (Ghostbusters, Cyberpunk before it had the 2020, Ars Magica, Vampire). And yes, both Cyberpunk and Vampire seemed really weird to a lot of people when they first came out, as hard as it may be to believe now.
 

TristramEvans

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That true of 3rd edition but they fixed it for 4e. It not the best but adequate to the task. The main part of the fix is using advantages for power along with enhancements and limitations (both modifies advantages). The result is can be seen in this. What 3rd edition did was odd, strange, and didn't really work well.

I haven't looked at any GURPs 4th edition stuff, so yeah, my impressions are based on 3rd edition.

Although, even if they were to substantally improve the issues in order to get to...adequate to the task...is that the curse of a universal system, it can, at best, aspire to being adequately suited to anything outside the range of what does well?
 

Baulderstone

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Although, even if they were to substantally improve the issues in order to get to...adequate to the task...is that the curse of a universal system, it can, at best, aspire to being adequately suited to anything outside the range of what does well?
That's probably a fair statement, but some groups would rather have adequate than learn a new system.
 

PolarBlues

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Adequate shouldn't be dismessed lightly. I think once you get passed the system actively fighting you and reach the good enough plateau, other considerations can become relevant than just the raw system. I guess I take a "system matters to a point" or even perfect is the enemy of good approach to things.
 

Rogerdee

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BRP or Mythras as generic D100 systems are great, but depending upon the setting is whether you need to include some of the optional bits like Pulp or Paragon levels (Pulp Cthulhu or Mythras Companion). Then you have the issue of magic, and how that is incorporated into your setting. To be honest, even if you do turn on Pulp etc, it is essentially a low powered game. Even Mythras Agony and Ecstasy does not quite work for me. Then you have Revolution - which is more crunchy than a gob stopper!

Savage Worlds kind of picks up the Pulp mantle really well, and can enter into low level supers territory - but at higher levels I do not think it works all that well. But damn does it have a lot of really top notch settings that i really want to play in. As well as a functioning multiverse type game that can be used (Suzerain). Powers are quite simple, and everyone picks from the same list - some settings have a few extra powers - but that is perfectly fine.

Then we have D20. Pathfinder has multiple settings which juggle between full on epic fantasy and science fiction but it is essentially geared for fantasy and i do not think it quite manages to do full science fiction...well. Same goes for DnD 5e. My main problem with it are too many classes, powers and different magical systems many of which are not very compatible. They have another recent addition, Supers and Sorcery - which I am yet to read, but having seen multiple threads on it seems to not quite hit the mark. They have also released Amazing Adventures in an attempt to be function in any genre. I have not read this - but it looks interesting.

Finally, we have M&M - another D20 game but it does high level really well, not so sure about street level (I'd likely use SW for that). Like SW it has one source for powers and abilities, and like SW, also has various ways for them to work allowing a veritable tool box approach which is great. The settings are really limited.....

Lastly we have Palladium. That has tried every genre, and we'll not talk about the system that horse has been flogged to death! Then flogged once more, raised by a necromancy beheaded, and then turned into a robotic horse. The settings and fluff are great but it lets itself down wit too much variety in powers, and the fact that the fluff and game mechanics do not tally. Nor do the costs of the powers to use. Whereas supers can blast until the universe burns out; mages get a raw deal and may as well use a big stick to kill someone!

Then we have the narrative systems....not a Fate player so cannot say anything about it.

Lords of Gossamer / Amber / Lords of Olympus - all of which use the same engine, and a very similar list of powers, all of which are simple and easy to use. Costs are little steep considering it is a high level game, but each one is a tool box and can do many things. All are multiverse type games so it is designed to be function in any setting, any setting at all. I personally think it is great, but some do have issues with transferral abilities / powers. There is a massive power jump with the equipment suddenly going from dealing with low grade weapons, to surviving nukes - which is steep hill to climb. Personally LoG begs to be combined with M&M to make a complete supers across the multiverse game (on my list of things to do).
 

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I'm not a supers fan, but it will be interesting to see how Mythras handles supers when they release Destined later this year.

I'm attempting to use Mythras as a universal game as it does the gritty, believable and detailed type of gaming that I prefer and is tailor made for the genres I like, though it is expanding. I can play low fantasy, sword & sorcery & historical. I can play AD&D style with Classic Fantasy. I think I could do a gritty western with it. The only other style I like is B/X D&D style dungeon crawls, and I'm thinking of taking the simplified combat from M-Space and rewriting old school essentials in Mythras terms, like a simplified Mythras Classic Fantasy.
 
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Stan

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I wonder if any systems give up on trying to use every part for every genre. Like, "Don't bother with the full skill system here or detailed equipment, just use ability rolls because this game is all about kicking ass on a psychic plane." Just keep the core die mechanic and basic structure for all games.

I think honest labelling is helpful. Like, "this game is good for everything as long as you want low to medium power level without detailed resolution." rather than trying to be truly universal.
 

TristramEvans

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Adequate shouldn't be dismessed lightly.

Hey...someone's been reading the titles of my old dating profiles!


I think once you get passed the system actively fighting you and reach the good enough plateau, other considerations can become relevant than just the raw system. I guess I take a "system matters to a point" or even perfect is the enemy of good approach to things.


I...don't identify with any of these statements. I wouldn't use a system that's actively fighting me.
 

PolarBlues

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I...don't identify with any of these statements. I wouldn't use a system that's actively fighting me.

I think I expressed myself poorly. My point sometimes a system can be just plain wrong for you or for the type of game you are trying to play. So the old "just hack AD&D for everything" can hit some pretty hard walls. On the other hand if the system is at least an adequate match. then maybe the effort or cost of switching to an now even better system can hit diminishing returns rather quickly.
 

robertsconley

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I haven't looked at any GURPs 4th edition stuff, so yeah, my impressions are based on 3rd edition.

Although, even if they were to substantally improve the issues in order to get to...adequate to the task...is that the curse of a universal system, it can, at best, aspire to being adequately suited to anything outside the range of what does well?
Hero System is still my goto Superhero RPG. But it nice to have powers fixed up to be actually usable because it allows me to creating custom advantages precisely regardless of the genre. Which can be seen in action with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Some of the DF Advantage are actually powers built with the 4e system. Just the math is hidden and presented as it own thing.
 

Toadmaster

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I am a big fan of generic / universal games, but I also have a strong appreciation for tight setting specific systems.

I think I expressed myself poorly. My point sometimes a system can be just plain wrong for you or for the type of game you are trying to play. So the old "just hack AD&D for everything" can hit some pretty hard walls. On the other hand if the system is at least an adequate match. then maybe the effort or cost of switching to an now even better system can hit diminishing returns rather quickly.

Agree, I think game systems have personalities so it is more than "can" a game do something. I mean the claim that a game like GURPS can do anything is true, it pretty much can do almost anything. The right question is can it do it in a fun way. I mean GURPS Paranoia is totally doable but I don't think it would actually be much fun, and it would certainly be different from playing with the standard Paranoia rules.

You also see issues pop up when you take a module from one system and try to run it straight with another. We did this several times using HERO or GURPS to run a D&D campaign, and it just didn't work that well. AD&D makes some decisions that don't always translate well into the other games. Number of enemies being a huge one. AD&D was made to model heroes wading through a sea of relatively wimpy opponents and for facing very powerful single encounters. HERO and GURPS can do that, but it takes work, and is not something to be taken for granted. Similarly AD&D relies on saving throws to counter many abilities. Again these abilities can usually be done but there is a large risk of unintended consequences. So HERO and GURPS both work well for fantasy, but not necessarily for D&D (which is its own brand of fantasy).

I'm not a big fan of super hero games, but I've played a variety and I know my way around the DC and Marvel universe as well as some of the more esoteric comics. Champions, GURPS, BRP, M&M, V&V etc all can do supers, but they do supers differently. Champions is Champions, which is not wholly satisfying if you want to play Justice League with the serial numbers filed off. GURPS and BRP work best for darker, lower powered games Daredevil, Batman, Kick Ass. From the many comments I've read M&M does a much better job replicating Marvel or DC, and of course the Marvel and DC games pobably do them really well, but might not be the best choice for playing The Hoboken League of Superheroes, where I think Champions could mostly pull that off.


Hero System is still my goto Superhero RPG. But it nice to have powers fixed up to be actually usable because it allows me to creating custom advantages precisely regardless of the genre. Which can be seen in action with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Some of the DF Advantage are actually powers built with the 4e system. Just the math is hidden and presented as it own thing.


Yes, HERO is a great generic rule set, and is what I gravitate to, but I think it was a mistake to stop offering some pre-built games where all the gears and sprockets are hidden from view (FH, JI, DI). The game itself is not nearly as complex as its reputation. Minus the power builds I think it is actually a much tighter system than GURPS.

Isn't Dungeon Fantasy a GURPS product?
 

robertsconley

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Yes, HERO is a great generic rule set, and is what I gravitate to, but I think it was a mistake to stop offering some pre-built games where all the gears and sprockets are hidden from view (FH, JI, DI). The game itself is not nearly as complex as its reputation. Minus the power builds I think it is actually a much tighter system than GURPS.
Yeah Hero System can be pretty straight forwards once the basic mechanics are grasped. The only thing that was daunting was the huge huge list of stuff (powers, advantags, limitation, etc). But as you said FH, JI< and DI helped with that.

Isn't Dungeon Fantasy a GURPS product?
It is a powered by GURPS RPG so it stands on it own terms. Behind the scenes everything was built using the GURPS 4e system. On the forum and elsewhere you can find notes breaking down what Sean Punch did.

It only major downside is that its built on 250 points not the 150 point heroic level. Which means character wind up having far more bits even with the DF stuff.

I criticized GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (the DF RPG predecessor) heavily for doing this. But people think that all D&D is about is dungeon crawling, kicking down doors, killing monsters, and taking their shit. So GURPS DF and later DF the RPG was built to make this happen. And 250 points was chosen because that makes DF character survives about as long mid level D&D characters survive for.
 
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David Johansen

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Yeah, I've always thought a more generic lower powered GURPS Fantasy one book product and a GURPS Fantasy Lite would have done a lot more to promote and sell GURPS. That said, the Disc World Rpg is powered by GURPS and complete in one book and GURPS Vorkosigian is also a one book GURPS game and a pretty good one. To my own mind the fan bases for those work like a Ven Diagram and you only end up selling them to GURPS fans who are also fans of the property in question rather than broadening the sales base. Of course, SJG have the numbers and I don't but I'm pretty sure they still have cases of both books in the warehouse.
 

ffilz

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My experiences with Hero and GURPS have turned me sour on universal games.

I ran Fantasy Hero 1st edition, and found lots of problems with the scale of the game. With the average character having Speed 2, variation in Speed was really major. And Speed 1 is almost unable to do anything... I never really resolved the clash of magic items with the birth of the system as Champions where equipment costs points...

My first play experience with GURPS was the original GURPS Supers - before ANY of the patches... I had a neat character, but...

In both systems I saw problems with skills. It was too easy to buy up stats to have a wide base of skills. Hero was the worst where you could either have an 8- skill or based on your full attribute. GURPS at least had the option of several levels below base attribute. But still, a heavy skill based character wanted really high attributes, which then made it very low cost to add additional skills that might be better than someone who wasn't such a heavy skill character but had a few signature skills (so lower attribute, skill bought up a level or two or three.

BRP I've only ever played customized versions, and then really only RQ1... So I have less of a feel for it as a universal system.
 

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It is a powered by GURPS RPG so it stands on it own terms. Behind the scenes everything was built using the GURPS 4e system. On the forum and elsewhere you can find notes breaking down what Sean Punch did.

It only major downside is that its built on 250 points not the 150 point heroic level. Which means character wind up having far more bits even with the DF stuff.

Ok, when I read your post it looked like you were saying it was based on HERO, and thought maybe I had missed a new addition to the HERO system.

Points are another issue that comes up often since for whatever reason point buy is particularly popular with universal systems. More points not only adds to complexity, but also requires a great deal more attention by the GM to make sure players don't break things.
With 100pt PCs it requires the points are distributed with a good balance, the biggest risk is usually building an ineffective character. At 250, and 350+ which has been done to cover PCs that need lots of skills (GURPS Spec ops for example), a PC can really go off the rails. If instead of building a character with some depth, they focus those points into a few skills that can easily place a few abilities into game twisting super powers, without making the PC a complete one hit wonder.


My experiences with Hero and GURPS have turned me sour on universal games.

I ran Fantasy Hero 1st edition, and found lots of problems with the scale of the game. With the average character having Speed 2, variation in Speed was really major. And Speed 1 is almost unable to do anything... I never really resolved the clash of magic items with the birth of the system as Champions where equipment costs points...

My first play experience with GURPS was the original GURPS Supers - before ANY of the patches... I had a neat character, but...

In both systems I saw problems with skills. It was too easy to buy up stats to have a wide base of skills. Hero was the worst where you could either have an 8- skill or based on your full attribute. GURPS at least had the option of several levels below base attribute. But still, a heavy skill based character wanted really high attributes, which then made it very low cost to add additional skills that might be better than someone who wasn't such a heavy skill character but had a few signature skills (so lower attribute, skill bought up a level or two or three.

BRP I've only ever played customized versions, and then really only RQ1... So I have less of a feel for it as a universal system.

Eh, the stats vs skills in HERO is more nuanced than that, particularly at the low power levels of those earlier games. Yeah, you could buy up your stats so your base skills were higher, but when PCs were 50 or 75pts, spending 3-8 points to boost your INT based skills, 6-16 points for PRE based skills of or 9-24 points for your Dex based skills you just took a decent bite out of the points you had to buy skills with. Perhaps worth while if you were a wizard with a lot of KS skills, and not a lot of need for big stats, but not so much for a fighter or rogue type. That same 3-24 pts to give +1 or +2 across the board could give a much bigger boost to a single skill or buy some skill levels with group of related abilities. As I mention in my comments above as the base points grow, the ability to game the system increases and that goes for most point based games.

At normal human levels skills are bought at Fam 8- for 1 pt or based on stats for 3 pts which was 11- for a normal INT of 10. That is a 37% or 62% based on their stat. A 13 gives +1, an 18 +2, or you could get +1 to the skill by spending an additional 2 pts. Not all skills were based on INT, some were based on Dex, some PRE and there were a fair number that were not based on a stat and always started at 8- or 11-.

The points for equipment only applied to Champions, unless you had a personal magic item, and an item you paid points for had some plot immunity because it was part of the character vs a magic item that you found, which was more of an items come and items go thing. Think Aragorn and the broken sword used to cut the ring from Sauron's hand, or Excalibur and King Arthur. These were closely tied to their character, vs some random magic sword found in a treasure cache.

Agree that Speed is of questionable value in lower level Heroic games. In my experience typical PCs were Spd 3 or 4, I only saw one Spd 5 in all my years of playing and the player quickly became dissatisfied since they had spent so many points on Dex and Spd that they basically had the ability to be rather inept at everything, but they could do a bad job really quickly. It did suck for any player than went with a "normal" speed 2, because they spent a lot of time waiting for their turn to do something.

Heroic games could be much simplified by simply getting rid of Speed (and the Speed chart) and simply using some more balanced advantages to allow an extra action occasionally / under certain conditions ir to reduce the time needed to do certain tasks. Kind of like Feats in D&D, double arrow fire, quick reload, quick draw, surprise attack etc. Dex and extra movement alone already provide a lot of benefit to a quick character. A Spd 3 character is 50% faster than Spd 2 and Spd 4 is twice as fast. Just think about somebody able to literally do everything twice as fast as you, that is pretty amazing, and if not a super power it is pretty close to it.
 
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Toadmaster

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D20 OGL is my favorite generic system. It’s been proven to work well with most genres with maybe horror at its weakest.

The d20 CoC was surprisingly decent. That game actually got me to look at d20 for something other than fantasy. Not my favorite but d20 modern was ok as was the d20 Conan. Actually T20 Traveller wasn't awful either, hmm I guess I don't hate d20... who knew. :clown:

d20 as a universal is more like the old house systems, since there really wasn't a d20 "GURPS", rather a bunch of games that kind of shared a common rule system, but one with some significant differences in each variant. You could convert something from one to another, but you couldn't really take a d20 CoC character, a d20 Conan character, a T20 Traveller character nd a D&D 3E character and run them as is in the same game like you could (mostly) with GURPS.
 

Baulderstone

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The d20 CoC was surprisingly decent.
It was. System-wise, it tried to stay as close to the BRP version as D20 could manage, plus it has a GM section co-written by John Tynes. That gives it value whether you like the system or not. I keep it on the shelf even though I'll probably never run it again.
 
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The Butcher

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I’ll stick to the ones I have some experience with.

Long post is long, and rambling, and ranty. Read with tongue at least lightly touching cheek.

GURPS

Never a GM, always a player, and mostly in the 1990s. Look, this is going to piss of some of you but I’ll just go out and say it.

GURPS is a tech-head’s RPG.

I’m sure there must have been some tremendous evolution in the past 30 years on the magic and supers subsystems but back in the day it felt so “sure, we have those too” and then you looked at GURPS Ultra-Tech (or Cyberworld, or Vehicles, or Robots) and WHOA. No one else was doing what they were doing, at least in my (limited, English-proficient but off-Anglosphere) field of vision.

Sure, there’s math, but that doesn’t matter because you are a goddamn tech-head and you like it. You make a big show of not liking it to look cool, but you get a thrill out of doing cubic roots to stat up a boat. Not even a cool robot gunboat or anything, just a boat.

And if you really, actually don’t like math, you ran fantasy with it, and dropped it when White Wolf came along and girls showed interest. If you games with me in the 1990s, you know who you are.

Their chief claim to popularity in Brazil in the 1990s was “rEaLiSm” (in their defense, the competition was D&D and White Wolf) and having gotten a (Brazilian) Portuguese edition out before everyone else.

I just mostly because I love, though. I wish I had the time and inclination to really get into it, GM-side, back in the day. I dig a gritty game. And there’s so much amazing material out for it, across genres even. I still kick myself for never getting the GURPS Conan book that languished for years at a strip mall bookstore.

BRP

BRP really is Call of Cthulhu, Runequest and Stormbringer, and the games they inspired. Yeah, I’m sure Ringworld and Worlds of Wonder were amazing, and Superworld got GRRM to write Wild Talents back when he was a real nerd like us and not some bullshit transmedia millionaire who can’t write shit (where is Winds of Winter, god damn it)but really, nobody cares, in part because the big three are so amazingly, insanely good.

I never really used BRP outside these three because there was always a better golf club in my bag for whatever else I wanted to run. But by all accounts the Big Gold Book was (is?) a damn fine toolbox for it. And the Mythras crew does a fantastic job of pushing the “fantasy” envelope with adventures like A Gift For Shamash, White Death and Agony & Ecstasy.

Savage Worlds

This may surprise some posters but I am a relatively “recent” (10-15 years ago) convert to gritty games and tough-love Viking hat GMing. I was a namby-pamby 1990s-GM-advice-influenced cheerleader GM who had just burned out on d20 in 2007 (Iron Heroes broke my heart. Still bitter) when I chanced upon SW and good Lord, what a horrible, obnoxious core rule book.

Hated it so much it took me a year (and Solomon Motherfucking Kane) to get me to try it, but when I did, I (and the whole group really) took to it like fish to water. Fast and fun indeed, though “furious” would have to wait because (1) I was a cheerleader GM operating on advice like “give PCs ALL THE BENNIES so they can DO COOL STUFF” and (2) who the fuck knew how damage works in this game? I sure as fuck didn’t, at least not back then, resulting in lots of Shaken PCs and not a whole lot of Wounds. (Forgot to apply them on damage raises.)

And that’s when I found the OSR, played a big ol’ Castles & Crusades game and had my heart poisoned into the shriveled husk of player-hating blackness you all know and love.

In my hands it was pretty much the Robert E. Howard RPG: I used it for Solomon Kane, then for a Hyborian Age game, and finally for Day After Ragnarok (a setting its author defined as “Conan: 1948” and “submachineguns & sorcery”).

Haven’t played in six years but would love to give it a fresh try. With proper damage application (hopefully), less bennies and grit dialed up.
 
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Toadmaster

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I’ll stick to the ones I have some experience with.

Long post is long, and rambling, and ranty. Read with tongue at least lightly touching cheek.

GURPS

Never a GM, always a player, and mostly in the 1990s. Look, this is going to piss of some of you but I’ll just go out and say it.

GURPS is a tech-head’s RPG.

I’m sure there must have been some tremendous evolution in the past 30 years on the magic and supers subsystems but back in the day it felt so “sure, we have those too” and then you looked at GURPS Ultra-Tech (or Cyberworld, or Vehicles, or Robots) and WHOA. No one else was doing what they were doing, at least in my (limited, English-proficient but off-Anglosphere) field of vision.

Sure, there’s math, but that doesn’t matter because you are a goddamn tech-head and you like it. You make a big show of not liking it to look cool, but you get a thrill out of doing cubic roots to stat up a boat. Not even a cool robot gunboat or anything, just a boat.

And if you really, actually don’t like math, you ran fantasy with it, and dropped it when White Wolf came along and girls showed interest. If you games with me in the 1990s, you know who you are.

Their chief claim to popularity in Brazil in the 1990s was “rEaLiSm” (in their defense, the competition was D&D and White Wolf) and having gotten a (Brazilian) Portuguese edition out before everyone else.

I just mostly because I love, though. I wish I had the time and inclination to really get into it, GM-side, back in the day. I dig a gritty game. And there’s so much amazing material out for it, across genres even. I still kick myself for never getting the GURPS Conan book that languished for years at a strip mall bookstore.


You are not exaggerating with GURPS Vehicles, and despite all that I still felt it was a let down for Autoduel, because Carwars did vehicle combat so much better. Well it did armored cars blasting each other better anyway, CW didn't offer soul burning power plants. :grin:

GURPS quickly turned into a tech heads dream, but they started with fantasy (not surprising considering its foundation in TFT) and it actually does that quite well, in fact fantasy is what I'd be most likely to use it for, except for the fact that they have redone TFT and I'm more likely to do fantasy with that.
 

AsenRG

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I love generic games. The first one I ran was GURPS and for quite a bit of time, I didn't really understand what's the point of other systems...
This changed. But to this day, I still treat most systems as generic. Like, we want to play supers using Warhammer? I'm sure it should be possible!
Granted, the days I try to stick to hacking systemsthat start somewhere close, in order to avoid the required hacking:shade:.

In my case, I was in a group where were everyone was a GM. We had both a Marvel Super Heroes guy and a DC Heroes guy for superheroes. I was mostly the gritty guy (WFRP, Call of Cthulhu, GURPS) and the guy getting them to play off-the-beaten path games (Ghostbusters, Cyberpunk before it had the 2020, Ars Magica, Vampire). And yes, both Cyberpunk and Vampire seemed really weird to a lot of people when they first came out, as hard as it may be to believe now.
Not surprising at all. My reaction to Vampire inthe 2000s was "what, we play the monsters we've been killing in other games? Where's the fun in being an adventurer's canon fodder?"
My friend: " But the chicks dig it".
Me: *Blink* "OK, let's give it a try!"
 

David Johansen

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hmmm...Is White Wolf's house system a universal rpg? Trinity and Adventure and historical WoD push it that way.

Also, I just have to say it, a cube root is the most elegant and functional tool for the job and people who complain about it are whiners. You push a button on the calculator people! What pissed me off in GURPS Vehicles was having to pay for the seat belts. And I assure you, you couldn't pull a modern seatbelt from a car at the wreckers for $5 then and you sure can't now. :grin:
 

Rogerdee

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I find Gurps wholly too complicate - same for Champions.

Thing about Gurps is, if you can do that, then you can do Champions as I vaguely recall the guy that wrote it also did some stuff for Steve Jackson. There are some seriously good settings for it, which generally you can suite to your taste as needed. And of course...Cabal. I need say no more than that. And thing is, you could easily run Cabal with Champions Mystic Worlds, and by god have you got a game on your hands right there and then.
 
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