I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

GURPS D&D, part I: some quick thoughts on the matter (and attributes)

As you probably know, there is a kickstarter  for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy going on. For all I know, it should be great. And I should know a little about the subject, since I've been playing GURPS fantasy for more than 20 years until switching to old school D&D, a few years ago.

Reading about new GURPS stuff fills me with nostalgia. It is an awesome game and I should probably write more stuff about it.

So, why did I stop playing? Well, I think GURPS can do a lot MORE than D&D with fewer rules. For all the "complexity" fame that GURPS has, I am constantly reminding people that I played GURPS because I though D&D was too complicated and made little sense - of course, had I know B/X before, my experience might have been different.

Still, I switched to old-school D&D because I think there are quite a few things that D&D can do a lot BETTER than GURPS.

First, GURPS combat got boring after a while, for reasons I will explain later. But this might be contentious; a better example is old D&D adventures and OSR stuff - GURPS has nothing quite like it (on the other hand, it has great sourcebooks on everything, and you can use most of those for any RPG). And those Monster Manuals! GURPS has a few good ones, but nothing compared to D&D.

Much of this is OGL's fault. Anyone can do D&D nowadays, and, although there is lots of trash, there are also more hidden gems than I can count. On the other hand, only SJG can do GURPS. The upside is that I used to buy EVERY. SINGLE BOOK. that SJG published because I already knew that they would be good (more than I can say about WotC, to be honest).

In my last years of GURPS, I spent lots of times trying to convert D&D stuff to GURPS. Eventually, I didn't see the point anymore. GURPS is quite simple, despite what people might say; but there is just TOO MUCH stuff (too many skills, advantages and disadvantadges, for one).

So I probably won't back the kickstarter, for lots of reasons - mostly, time and money, but if you have those available, I think you should. I can guarantee GURPS has useful stuff for pretty much everyone.

In any case, there is still a place in my heart for GURPS stuff. There is so much I learned from it, and I reckon some people that never played GURPS can find something useful in it. There is so much I would change too - that is why I play D&D.

And I think Ic an explain GURPS in D&D-speak, which might be relevant to some readers.

If there is enough interest, this might become a long series of posts; if not, maybe I will go back to writing about D&D sooner (who knows, I love when people read and comment on my blog, but I'm doing this for fun).

This probably beats most D&D settings, Seriously.
So, how would my version of GURPS D&D be like? Let us start with attributes.

First, if you've never played GURPS, it has "attributes" instead of abilities. Strength [ST], Dexterity [DX], Health [HT] and Intelligence [IQ].

All attributes start at 10. You can roll 3d6 in order, if you want, or use point-buy, which is quite central in GURPS. Most skills are based on DX and IQ, so they cost 20 points to raise (from 10 to 11, 11 to 12, etc). ST and HT cost 10.

All combat skills are based on DX, unlike D&D, and although ST is what causes damage, a good DX can make up for it, by targeting the throat, etc. This made lot of sense to me back in the day. For combat, DX is probably the main stat.

IQ is another important stat. It is Wisdom and Intelligence rolled up in one, as it includes magic, many skills, perception and will power (and you thought D&D was silly to use Wisdom for the last two!). It also includes Charisma stuff - fast talk, diplomacy, etc. I am not the first person to suggest this is just too much stuff for a single attribute; there are lots of house rules that address this in one form or another.

There is no easy way to elegantly fix that that I can think of without making it too complicated.

One could just use D&D abilities, and it would actually IMPROVE the game in lots of ways. Everything should cost 10 points per level - this is actually very close to how GURPS does things (see Sean Punch /Kromm about charisma cost here).

DEX and INT are too powerful in GURPS terms, since it is a skill-based game and most skills are based in DEX and INT, but INT can be easily fixed if you move some of the skills around.

DEX, on the other hand, is harder. Not only is the one you use to attack, but is also useful for dodging, no matter your armor. And, of course, most "thief skills" are also DEX-based. This is one thing you could change - maybe lock-picking and sneaking require more attention than agility - but then you've got a lot of wise thieves walking around... Not a good idea when you are trying to create archetypal characters.

You might just keep the cost at 20 points per level, if you want the six abilities or think the ability to dodge a punch is akin to the ability of picking as lock. In my own game, I just use two "Dexterity" and "Agility" instead, but adding a new ability kinda ruins my whole "GURPS D&D" theme. To stay true to my D&D house rules, I could rule there is NO combat attribute, and you must rely on classes/skills instead, like in OD&D. This seems quite natural to me in D&D, but feels very strange in GURPS, which has no other skills without attributes that I can think of.

In short, to make this compatible with both GURPS and D&D in some way, I guess I would prefer to have six abilities with DEX defining all attack rolls but having twice the cost of other abilities.

GURPS' way still makes a lot of sense to me, but this whole exercise always makes me reflect on how elegant and effective the six D&D abilities are for this kind of fantasy. There are plenty of reasons to like D&D, but some good ones' for playing GURPS too - which we will cover on future posts.

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