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Thursday, 1 July 2010


For our gaming group, GURPS is the role-playing system of choice. We grumble about it from time to time. Combat can be very fiddly, especially when you venture into the maze of special cases involving grappling. As the referee, it's hard to apply commonsense rulings without seeming arbitrary because the rules are so precise, yet they tend to produce absurdities at high skill-levels (in the case of stealth, for example) that risk unbalancing the game if allowed to stand as written.

And yet - it's hugely versatile. (Well: "Generic Universal..." What would you expect?) Steve Jackson and his team have done a heap of work so that you can just get on with your game. It's such a gift to a harassed referee just trying to get the work's adventure ready. Do you want to figure out the relative damage of a Wogdon Dueller or Nock's Volley Gun? Thought not.

For years, the big flaw at the heart of the system was the way it is built on just four stats. This is an evolution from Jackson's earlier Fantasy Trip system, which had its origins in tabletop games. It's simple - but it's a fake simplicity, given the baroque detail layered onto that narrow base. In a nutshell: if you are a great archer, chances are you'll also be a great swordsman and great sneak thief. If you are a great scholar, chances are you'll be sharp-eyed, strong-willed and exceptionally empathic. That's because dexterity (DX) and intelligence (IQ) pretty much drive everything else.

I figured that a little bit of extra detail in the roots of the system would make for more interesting variety between characters without adding any complexity to the game. And so leapt forth 7URPS, a set of quick notes that lets you alter GURPS into a 7-attribute system with the addition of agility (AG), empathy (EQ) and willpower (WL). Take a look for yourself here, and if you think it could be your cup of tea, you can get Frazer Payne's almost magically self-calculating 7URPS character sheet here. A caveat: it will mean nothing to you unless you already have the GURPS rulebook, so go and get that here.

Oh, and the pronunciation? We say "zurps".


  1. And how about magic then? In what way do you catch the flavour of Legend using the rules of GURPS?

  2. Joakim, none of our player characters gets to use magic. That's therefore entirely in the hands of the referee. That's pretty much the only way to capture the mysterious feel of "real" Legend magic, which of course is nothing like the spells and item lists of Dragon Warriors.

  3. Hi Dave! I think you summed GURPS up excellently, and it's nice to see someone notice this. WP is an attribute that was always begging to be added, and both AG and EQ look wise as well.

    But the reason I'm writing is because when you put all 7 attributes together, they look like a linearly dependent vector space - there's redundancy there. More specifically, I think a person in real life with high ST and AG necessarily has high HT. I'm also not convinced that high DX and high ST don't also imply high AG, or that high AG and IQ don't imply high DX. Moreover, did you not (quite rightly) note the problem with having sensory skills based on IQ?

    Part of the problem, of course, is that the original 4 attributes of GURPS are really not as well chosen as, say, the 5 attributes of Dragon Warriors. At the risk of sounding overly fiddly, have you considered something like merging HT into ST and AG, and introducing then some sort of SN (senses) or PR (perception)? Say, ST, AG, DX, IQ, EQ, PR, & WP?

    1. Thanks for some very thought-provoking suggestions, Mark. Off the top of my head, I don't think high ST and AG necessarily imply high HT (which also includes staying power - the reason boxers do so much running) but certainly there's a case for deriving AG from high ST, high DX and low size... Ths is making me think of my interview at the NPL in the gap year between school and college, when I questioned whether the candela should be a derived rather than fundamental S.I. unit. I can't remember enough physics to argue that now, but it seems quite similar to how we should categorize attributes (and as GURPS 4e does, in fact).

    2. One of the things I've thought of doing is to make ST a relative stat to a Weight or Mass or Bulk statistic. That ST/Weight ratio would define a lot of what we look for in power as well as a bonus to agility-based feats. It's easier to do gymnastics with a high ST/Weight ratio (and impossible to do some tricks without it), and that bonus would come across well.

  4. Hey, do you want to be included in the GURPSDay blog roundups each week? If so, drop me an email at

    You can find instructions on what to do, as well as the collected links from Jan 1, 2016 until today, here:

    If you know other bloggers that talk about GURPS, please share this out. We've got 27 or 28 from which we pull now, and more is better!