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…