G.U.R.P.S Memories

G.U.R.P.S Memories

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons. I always wanted to. I saw the ads with their wonderful art in Marvel comics. I bought a couple of the toys. I even managed to score the beginnings set and some dice from a school companion and work through the solo adventure. But I never actually got to play Dungeons & Dragons with a group of people. Instead I have G.U.R.P.S Memories.

What I got to play instead was a collection of other role playing games. My friends and I did Shadowrun once, we did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles several times, and we did It Came From The Late, Late, Late (not sure how many lates go here) Show a few times, and we bought a whole host of other systems and books. Mostly, though, we played a game called G.U.R.P.S.

G.U.R.P.S. stood for Generic Universal Role Playing System. It was a set of rules that was not limited to just one genre of game but that could be used to play any genre of game: fantasy, sci-fi, western, horror, superhero, and anything else you could think of. I first heard of this G.U.R.P.S. from a friend who had a little more experience with Dungeons & Dragons than I did, and the first think this friend told me about G.U.R.P.S. was that there were no such things as class limits; he told me that you could make a wizard who used a sword, which was apparently something you couldn’t do in Dungeons & Dragons (I guess; I was never really certain on that point) and something that obviously impressed him. In fact, there were no restrictions to G.U.R.P.S. at all; if you could dream it (and were willing to pay the character points for it), you could be it.

I later found out that G.U.R.P.S. had first been released as a combat system and had later been expanded to include other rules, such as magic and movement; I actually acquired a copy of that early battle system. I even later found out that there were a host of supplementary books for G.U.R.P.S. that provided even more detailed rules for certain environments. There was G.U.R.P.S. Cyberpunk, G.U.R.P.S. Space, and, my favorite, G.U.R.P.S. Cliffhangers (Indiana Jones-style adventures).

There were also several tie-ins with well-known book series, such as G.U.R.P.S. Discworld, G.U.R.P.S. Wild Cards (which I played at the Columbus gaming convention), and G.U.R.P.S. Conan. The G.U.R.P.S. books and the books supplements were wonderful, filled with great art and all sorts of really inventive scenarios. G.U.R.P.S. was just a great game

But we were unfortunately not great gamers. We bought all kinds of books but rarely used them. We never powered up any characters; we never got enough experience to power them up. And we never really played any campaigns. We mostly just goofed around and told jokes. Then we all started going to work and role playing just kind of faded away. I still think about G.U.R.P.S. now and then, particularly when I watch The Fellowship Of The Ring and see Gandalf carrying a sword. I always figure at that moment that Gandalf must be a G.U.R.P.S. player; he must be, because he couldn’t have a sword in D&D. Ahh! G.U.R.P.S Memories…


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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10 thoughts on “G.U.R.P.S Memories

  1. I still have the GURPS core book (3rd Ed?) GURPS Cyberpunk, and GURPS Supers. In college I tried to get a group together, but nobody wanted to learn the system because it was so different from D&D…you can also have a wizard with a sword these days in D&D 4th Ed…

  2. I too have played a few games of G.U.R.P.S. thanks to my local friends. I first heard about the game system thanks to the Wild Cards universe book, a series that I devoured in High-School and still read to this day, though I was never able to GM a game for that setting. Which is probably for the best. I’m a much better player than a GM. Ha, ha.

    Great memories, McCoy! I would love to hear about that Wild Cards game you played. :)

  3. OffisaPups says:

    Oh GURPS, how many of your world book cram by RPG shelf, from GURPS Russia to GURPS Bunnies and Burrows. If any one ever wants a fun read, get GURPS Technomancer. It is a world where instead of Atomic power, we use Magical Power. Wacky, Fun stuff include my fav: In Louisiana, a person can be given a greater life prison sentence, thanks to Zombie spells!

  4. Johnny Moronic says:

    Anybody remember the GURPS Cyberpunk fiasco?

    The keystone cops at the US SS raided the publisher with SWAT teams sporting full body armor & assault weapons to seize the game books because they thought they really told you how to build and use the technology in them.

  5. Doug says:

    Don’t remember that, but I did have cyberpunk. As usual, I read the book much more than I played the game.

    The Wild Cards game was probably my best game, because it was at a convention and led by a skilled GM. Still, we mostly just joked around and I don’t think we got even close to accomplishing the objective.

  6. @Doug Did you end up playing an Ace, Joker, or Nat?

    Johnny is right, from the all knowing Wiki: “Steve Jackson Games was raided ostensibly because Loyd Blankenship, who was writing the role playing game supplement GURPS Cyberpunk for the company, was a target of a crackdown. Blankenship, known in hacking circles as The Mentor, was a former member of the Legion of Doom hacker group. He had run a BBS from his home called The Phoenix Project, which had helped distribute the popular underground ezine Phrack. In 1989 it published the contents of a text file, stolen from BellSouth, containing information about the E911 emergency response system. The file only contained administrative contact information, and Bell South later had to admit in court that they sold copies to the public for $13. However, the government agents feared that the stolen document could be used to teach crackers how to compromise the E911 system (a claim that is disputed due to the non-technical nature of the document), and Bell South claimed that the dissemination of the data caused thousands of dollars in monetary damages.”

  7. OffisaPups says:

    BTW, Mutants & Masterminds (which in my opinion is the best Super Hero pencil and paper RPG ever) also has Wild Card books for it. Can’t say enough good stuff about them.

  8. Doug says:

    I was a Nat. My name was Harry. That led to the other players calling me Harry Nat (or Hairy Gnat). I was like a ninja or a hero-wanna-be. I tried to save a girl from an attacker and got messed up.

  9. BinsentoSan says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the great 80s memories. I used to play this game during my lunch break in high school. I found the game system to be more enjoyable than the D&D and Palladium ones. The whole concept of Tech Levels was so cool. I think the highest TL I ever had for any character was 9. Beyond 13 the characters were too powerful. =)

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