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Name: Generic Universal Role-Playing System
Abbreviation(s): GURPS
Creator: Steve Jackson Games
Date(s): 1986-present
Medium: Print
Country of Origin: US
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GURPS, short for "Generic Universal Role-Playing System," is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow any setting or type of character. Relatively few players cared about the bizarre crossover possibilities of playing dragon-riding warriors in the same game as blaster pistols and space travel, nor for courtly intrigue in the realm of King Arthur mixed with Cthulhu-style eldritch horrors rising from the sea. However, the hassle of learning an entirely new set of rules to play in a different setting was discouraging, and many gamers avoided new games because of it. GURPS made it possible for a group to easily switch between genres, and add house rules and variations, without learning a new system from scratch.

Convention & Online History

This article or section needs expansion.


In 1990, SJ Games was raided by the US Secret Service, who seized computers and publishing equipment believing that the unpublished GURPS sourcebook Cyberpunk was a hacker guidebook of some sort.[1][2] The company almost went bankrupt; support from fans was crucial to its survival. Comic and game store owners encouraged fans to buy SJ Games products to help the company survive while its equipment was missing.

GURPS fans and White Wolf fans clashed in 1994 over the delayed publication of a GURPS licensed edition of a White Wolf RPG. Steve Jackson, the creator of GURPS, posted a public rant flaming White Wolf, and hundreds of fans posted their support, disdain, or boredom with the topic on Usenet.

(TBA: 4th edition release in 2004; deluxe edition; fan reactions)

House rules

Many fans considered the original rules unbalanced in some area or another, or wanted to deliberately skew them to encourage the kind of play they liked best. The most common and widespread house rule for GURPS was swapping ST for HT for the purpose of calculating Fatigue and Hit Points.,,[3][4][5] In 4th edition, this rule became canon, and the original rule became a variant.

Other common variants included different magic systems, including unlimited mana,[6] variable fatigue costs,[7] and several forms of "good vs evil" magic.,[8][9] Some forms of house rules became so well-known and popular they were incorporated into later editions of the game, as either alternate rules or optional ones.

Another common set of "house rules" is "character types/races in our games;" a set of point templates for the (nonhuman) races or character archetypes. Especially common are GURPS-style writeups of characters or races from other fandoms.,,[10][11][12]

Unofficial Sourcebooks

GURPS published separate sourcebooks which detailed a specific settings, sometimes with additional rules only applicable to that gameworld. The optional and mixable nature of these sourcebooks, combined with SJ Games encouragement of fan activity, inspired many players to create their own sourcebooks and collected campaign rules.


GURPS Gulliver,[13] taking its name from Gulliver's Travels, is a sourcebook for "all things physical for characters: building and gaming life forms of any shape or size." The name comes from Gulliver's Travels, and the fan-made sourcebook has rules for designing tiny or huge characters among its options.


Several fans have expressed interest in GURPS games in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar; while an official, licensed sourcebook is not likely (because the appeal is probably too limited to make it financially viable), an unofficial set of rules for the magic in Valdemar has been created.[14]

Others's List of unofficial GURPS Netbooks[15] has over 50 fan-made sourcebooks, including ones for Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Highlander.


  1. ^ SJ Games vs. the Secret Service, accessed 19 June 2010.
  2. ^ GURPS LABOR LOST: The Cyberpunk Bust by Bruce Sterling, 1991; accessed 19 June 2010
  3. ^ The Demesnes - Variant GURPS Rules accessed 12 Oct 2008
  4. ^ Best optional rules accessed 12 Oct 2008
  5. ^ Ingredients for a Better GURPS accessed 12 Oct 2008
  6. ^ Unlimited mana accessed 12 Oct 2008
  7. ^ Variable Fatigue accessed 12 Oct 2008
  8. ^ Silven Campaign House Rules accessed 12 Oct 2008
  9. ^ Colors of Magic for the End-of-Evil campaign, accessed 12 Oct 2008
  10. ^ GURPS X-men thread at, accessed 12 Oct 2008
  11. ^ GURPS Star Trek accessed 12 Oct 2008
  12. ^ GURPS Modern League of Extraordinary Gentlemen accessed 12 Oct 2008
  13. ^ GURPS Gulliver
  14. ^ House Rules: A Short Discourse on Magic
  15. ^ List of unofficial GURPS Netbooks, accessed 10 Oct 2008