I've finally had enough d20/D&D


After all these years of using and defending the d20 system, I've finally realized it's major shortcoming. After all the campaigns I've run, it's finally started to stifle my creativity.

Over the last several campaigns I've run I've felt something not-quite-right with...something. Something I couldn't put my finger on. I realized the other night while in a Guiness induced state of frantic creativity that I couldn't abide the system anymore. I've always stated that system doesn't matter...and with a good group of players, a good GM, and a good setting I still believe that; to an extent. However, at a certain point, any class based system will put the cuffs on what you as a GM (or as a player, I'm sure) are trying to do.

I've found myself constantly doing something like this; "I'm going to do X...but X doesn't do Y. Hmmm. Well if I replace this with that, then X becomes about 15% of the Y I was looking for. Now I just have to add Z and I'm good. Hmm...Z cancells out part of X. Now I'm at about 60% of what I want. And then I have to remove anything that relies on the parts of Y I'm not using. Okay...now I'm almost there."

All of a sudden it's three hours later and I've barely come close. And I'm out of time to plan.


As many others have said before, that's the nature of the beast. In fact, I myself have often made the case that with a creative enough GM and the will to change what doesn't suit you one can make the d20 system do whatever you want. I never cared about the time...I never cared about the effort. That was part of what I enjoyed. Making the system do what I wanted to.

Isn't it easier though to use what suits you, rather than remove what doesn't?

I realize now how much time I've spent with my paring knife forceing an unweildy beast to do what I want it to. What a colossal waste of time!

The real clincher for me to walk away from it was when I started to think what it would be like to convert my world to another rules system. I've always stated that system doesn't matter, and the fact that I've converted my setting through three different rules systems before converting it to d20 was my main ammo in that arguement. However, while thinking about converting to something else I realized that d20 is a virus. It's completely infiltrated my setting to the point where it's become some kind of evil construct whose CR is far beyond my abilities to defeat. LOL. It was just a thought excercise...I never intended to convert away from d20 to begin with.

Now I see that I can't. It's completely invaded my setting. It pervades everything. I never wanted that. It's like the techno-organic virus from Marvel comics. It self replicates and homogenizes everything.

More and more, ideas that I would come up with would become a ridiculous battle against what was written and what I wanted.


So I started reading GURPS, and now I'm developing a new setting that is what I *want* instead of what I made do with (or wrestled forth at great effort).

Commence with the "I told you so's". I deserve it.

I'm in the same boat Scott. Commiseration's all around! I just hope GURPS is as GM friendly as the new D&D is. That's the one thing about 4th that I liked. It was very GM friendly, as far as d20 could be. Oh, well, I leave an old favorite I recently spent $100 dollars on (I suppose I could sell it on ebay or something) to try something new. GURPS, huh? Well, here goes nothing...

I hope your ready for GURPS, some parts of it can get pretty freaky, It's one of those rare systems thats both rules and roleplaying heavy. I'm not overly fond of d20 system either, thats why I made my own!

We have played a GURPS campaign in the not-to-distant past. We actually found it to be quite rules-intensive particularly in combats. The referee ended up hiving off the job of running combats to one of the players who's an accountant with aspergers' syndrome and accustomed to performing lots of calculations quickly in his head.

Not having actually played GURPS (just read a few of the books), I do feel it's on the flexible-but-difficult side. In any case, I wish you the best in moving your group to a new system, I know it can be a real hassle.

BTW, I'm interested: what exactly did you try to do that was so convoluted?

I think it invoved flamethrowers. My character was on the sidelines during the combat scenes as he was a Bletchley Park boffin with virtually no combat skills so the details are a bit of a blur.

So I spent yesterday moving a bunch of d20 stuff into boxes and away from the gaming area. It felt sort of like packing up your ex's stuff after breaking up with her. LOL! It felt pretty good...no commiserations required. Then, I spent last night beginning a GURPS campaign for Tara. Which also felt great. So far, we both prefer it...from character creation right through to splitting a case of cider and getting into the first session; it's all good.

I can see how GURPS would be rules intensive if you let it. What I prefer about it having read through the basic rules for 3rd edition three times now is this; "take what you want". Most RPGs tell you at one point or another in the rule books that they are only suggestions and that you don't have to use them if you don't want to. But they always come across (to me anyways) like when your mom or dad or teacher says, "you don't have to do it this way...not if you don't want to". The statement always reads more like, "listen, you can do it your way if you want, but you'll see what happens when you do". GURPS actually seems sincere when it says it.

Combat could be *very* rules intensive if that's the way you like it. What I loved about that part of the rules book was that there are two chapters...one for Basic Combat, and one for Advanced Combat. If all you use is the Basic chapter, you're golden. You don't have to use all the rules. Unlike alot of systems I've read, you're actually and honestly *encouraged* to only use what you want. (None of this, "alright, don't use it...but you'll regret it" tone that pops up in almost everything else I've ever read).

The session consisted of some mystery, some shocks and fear, a little bit of combat...I tried to work a bit of everything in there to test drive it and see how it went. All in, it was a great first session to what is going to be a great campaign. You know how you can just *tell* sometimes during the first session that "this is going to be a good one*? I hadn't felt that in awhile, and last night I got it back.

The rules (and the lack of rules where I chose to leave them out) really suits our style of play better. I should have done this a long long time ago.

Back when I was DJing several times a week, I started to get bored of drum & bass all the time every time. A friend of mine (also a D&B DJ) told me "hey man, I always hated tomatoes, then actually tried one one day...turns out I really really like tomatoes". He was referring to how he had started to play bits of dubstep and ghetto house and breaks in his D&B sets...but the analogy holds true here as well.

Turns out I really really like tomatoes too.

(oh, and what was I trying to do that was so convoluted? Pretty much everything. But in that specific example I was trying to make a class for an NPC that had to be *just so*. And I didn't want some multi-classed thing that was so top heavy it would fall over at the slightest breeze. I was sick and tired of making NPCs, or watching my players make PCs, that had all these abilities they would never use because they had to take a level of X to get ability Y and that was all they wanted from it. I realize that it's easy enough to customize things, but I was *so sO SO* very tired of doing it. It felt like I was playing with someone elses toys, and when they weren't looking I was taking the head from Skeletor, putting it on Roadblock's body, and sorting him out with Perceptor's weapons and Barbie's car. After over 20 years of gaming I felt like it was time to build my own set of damn toys and stop making what I wanted out of other peoples.)

Scott, I'm much lazier than you, so in your stead, I'd just make a "close enough" approximation.

Speaking of lazy, one of my fears is that NPC generation for GURPS is very labor intensive (speaking from memory of the 3rd edition rules) - isn't it more work than D&D? Also, why aren't you using GURPS 4th edition?

I always made "close enough" approximations. I got tired of that and started making bang-on NPCs. That didn't work for me either. I think I just generally got tired of it. I was using d20 more out of habit and familiarity than any real desire to continue using the system (sort of the same reason that I stayed with one of my first girlfriends two years longer than I should have).

And yes...NPC generation for GURPS would be very labor intensive; but for some reason I feel alot more comfortable with "close enough" approximations using this system than i did with d20. I don't yet forsee people using ability A to cancel out ability B that they surmise the NPC simply *must* have because the animal companion tips the player off that this is indeed a Ranger. With GURPS, the players have no way of knowing what the NPC will be capable of until they see it...just like in real life. So "close enough" really means "close enough"; instead of meaning "close enough until some wiseass figures it out and it becomes apparent that I should have spent waaaaay more time planning". It's also easy to just assume that most normal people have normal scores, tack on an Advatage, a Disadvantage, and a couple of Quirks and away you go.

I'm using 3rd edition because I inherited a collection of over 90 3rd edition books from someone that clearly didn't understand the scope or value of the colection they were giving away to me (someone passed on, and a very loose acquintance didn't want the books sitting in a box and i wouldn't allow them to be burned or sold at a garage sale. Now they live at my place). Changes from edition to edition mean less to me than having a collection of source material that's just as formidable as my d20 collection is. It's unlikely I'll ever use GURPS Conan, and I'll probably never do more than just flip through Humanx; but it's still nice to be able to think that I could swim in my book collection if I so chose. For what it's worth, Lensman is sooo bad ass that I'm going to be hunting down the books that it's based on at my local used book megastore.

Ooh, ooh! Read GURPS Space! It's magnificent and I would recommend reading it to anyone who wants to design a sci-fi campaign of his own devise, regardless of system.

I have that one too. Fantastic from the flipping and leafing I have done so far. I really have more than I'll ever really use here...it's almost intimidating now that I have taken them all out of the boxes and tried to group or organize them. It's a lot of freakin books man! My cat looks scared to come in the room!

"because the animal companion tips the player off that this is indeed a Ranger"

Surely, just because someone has a pet dog it's no proof they're a ranger?

And you could always give your ranger a tapeworm as his animal companion. They'll never guess.

True true about the pet dog. Which is why I added the "close enough until some wiseass figures it out and it becomes apparent that I should have spent waaaaay more time planning" part later on. LOL, wink wink and all that.

Taking it even further, the tapeworm could be the Ranger and have the rangerish fellow as *his* animal companion. Now *that* sounds like good D&D.

Doesn't this open up a whole new can of worms regarding the separation of character-player knowledge?

I think it might, but since you've already opened up a Can Of Tuna (+2, at least), I'll let the can of worms slide.

Me and Tara are over the top gaming nerds. Seriously.

When we go out for pints we talk about gaming. When we walk down the street we try to stat out the people we see. When we aren't busy doing other things (like planning for a session or reading something that might spark my creativity...or playing Mercenaries 2 until Fallout 3 comes out) we are roleplaying.

So, we've put over 40 gaming hours into this campaign so far. It's been fantastic, and I can't wait to get the rest of the group on board. Who am I kidding? They're already on board; we're playing tomorrow!

And especially given the topic of conversation in another thread near to this one; I have to admit that I feel a bit smug about how much fun we are having NOT playing D&D for once. If these are sour grapes, I say bring on the lemons.

Any tips, Scott, with running GURPS? I'm gonna make the change myself, so any ideas on how to maximize the game would always be nice.

Feels like I'm leaving my family or something. Course that could be because I really am, but I can't tell.

Hmmm...there are probably people that can give tips better than me. However...as with any system I would recommend taking the time to make your own setting. There's enough GURPS info out there that you can pretty much make any setting you'd like, without having to compromise or "settle". (you could probably even do a damn fine "high fantasy" setting without all the crap that you dislike about it).

As with any system I've ever used, I only use the rules that suit me and ignore the rest completely. I've found that to be much easier with GURPS; but only because I bought a couple pads of sticky notes to use as bookmarks so I can easily flip past all the things I'm *not* going to bother with. Plus, an hour with my scanner and printer was very helpful in compiling the things I was using so I wouldn't have to reference multiple books during play. It's all in a binder that I use while playing so as not to have to touch the well worn (I mean loved) books that I inherited any more than I have to (ex-comic nerd habits die hard). I've always done this, but with GURPS I've found it much more useful as the source material I'm using is spread over literally 12 different books.

I have, though, found that the rules I'm using are simple enough that I haven't had to reference the core rules once during play. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm used to more complicated rules and so did spend the first session looking things up and then saying "oh, it really is just DX? Huh". Then an hour later, "oh, it really is just IQ? Huh". I haven't looked at a core rule in 3 sessions though. d20 was like that too, but only because I'd used the 3.0 rules for so long that I knew what I needed to know through practice rather than logic.

Sounds good. What GURPS supplements are best? Just in general, really, but ideas for fantasy is always nice as that's the setting I'm planning on using.

If you're looking at GURPS seriously, you can do no wrong in downloading the GURPS Update and GURPS 4e Lite ... then take a look at GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.

Ugh...I hope that was directed at Tzuriel. I hate fantasy. LOL.

Seriously though, Ive been happy enough with the 3rd edition rules. It does what I need it to do and no more; I can't see myself needing to upgrade to 4th edition.

It was indeed aimed at Tzurial. The Dungeon Fantasy line basically provides loads of templates and ideas to help run dungeon crawls in GURPS, with tongue firmly placed in cheek with references to that other game.

As regards 3rd and 4th edition, you will find as I did that 3rd edition has some idiosyncrasies that can only be addressed by house-ruling. 4th Edition takes the contents of the Basic Set, Compendium I and Compendium II; streamlines them and then makes it all work together. I would seriously recommend downloading GURPS 4e Lite and the GURPS Update, if only to get a picture of what's changed and what's new.

And don't worry, 90% of the 3rd edition stuff is still valid in 4th Edition. SJGames has a complete ludography on their site that will steer you true.

(Yeah, I'm a long-time GURPS GM, having run a Daggerfall (3e), a ShadowWorld (3e) and a Mystara (4e) campaign using GURPS).

What are the problems with GURPS, if any?

So far, the only problem I've encountered is a massive amount of options for players when making characters. You really do have to make a list of what is allowed for your setting and what isn't. You should also make sure people have a fairly firm concept in mind before they start picking Advantages, Disadvantages, and skills. As soon as they get their hands on the lists from Compendium 1 players start taking forever to make their characters. LOL.

However, compared to what I'm used to with "that other game", this has so far seemed to us to be a pretty good problem to have. Oh no! Too much freedom and choice!

To be fair, I have rose colored glasses on right now when it comes to the system. If there are any problems with it I won't find them for awhile. I haven't had to house rule any idiosyncracies yet, but we play so rules-lite anyways that I don't know if that'll ever be a problem.

Okay ... I'm not going to preach about the bugs, features, etc. or the differences between editions. Instead I will supply you some links that will allow you to make your own judgements:



(On a personal note, I will say that I feel the investment in upgrading to 4th Ed will pay off in next to no time and that you will find the changes so intuitive that you'll wonder why they weren't put into 3rd Ed.)

I've never really found "rules systems" to be intuitive at all. A system can be "as intuitive as possible", but it's still not really "intuitive" by the strictest definition of the term. After looking at the links here, I still don't think I'll bother switching. I barely use any of the rules anyways, so I don't see it as being worth the time or cash.

It's kind of like I was just given a nice used car that does exactly what I need it to do and no more. I'm not going to say "I love this free used Corolla! I'm going to go buy a new one!"

Thanks for the links though. I like reading stuff like that no matter whether I'll ever do anything with it or not.

For the record, Tara is not taking the switch to GURPS as well as me. I think that part of her misses d20 from a nostalgic perspective alone; but she's not as willing to cut things away as me. She never has been. That, and reading the last book in the Sword of Truth series is making her pine for fantasy again. Ugh. What am I going to do!?!

Ah the horrible fantasy curse! It is truly a bane to mankind! sorry, dude, can't help. good luck!

It could be worse. At least I'm not being asked to run Bunnies & Burrows.

The nice thing is that I'm able now to completely rework what fantasy even *means* and start at the beginning with no implied setting getting in my way. If I was more into the genre it would be easier though. Still, I've started developing 2 settings recently...adding another (and fantasy to boot) isn't a prospect I'm loving.

Scott I agree with you. I like D20 but I hate WOTC for repeatedly changing their product lines, and the mass of brainless followers for buying new books. Its ridiculous. I have played Gurps many times and its great. Gurps lite is all you need. Another system I like is Fuzion, the cyberpunk engine. Savage worlds is also very good. When I was in High School I adapted the TOP SECRET from the black box rules to fantasy . Its easy, streamlined and fast in combat. Die rolls were based on stat and levels of skill on d100. We never played wizards or clerics so we didn't need to make up spells. It was fun. I'm a big fan of easy. For me its not the game system its the roleplaying, making a character and playing the character. If your bogged down with multi rules like Champions (Which I'm playing in right now, but will never DM due to complexity) and it takes 2 hours to do a combat it bores me. Really what are all these WOTC devotees so hyped about? 4th edition is like playing superstats in WOW. Retarded. Guess what everyone? They will change the system again. MUHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Lackeys! All you need is a DM and players with good imagination and an easy combat resolution system and your fine.

GURPS is a great system and I LOVE the freedom of character creation. 4th ed made changes that my group had already used as house rules. Otherwise, it’s the same game, really.

One such change is basing hit points off of ST rather than HT. Just makes sense if you think about it.

Another thing that gets addressed in 4th ed are loopholes in the rules regarding magic and the like. Can’t get Magery 3, Eidetic Memory of 2, and have one point count as four when purchasing spells. For example.

Someone asked for pitfalls so here are a few.

If you are using Martial Arts, it is MUCH better to use it as a single PH Skill rather than out of the martial arts book. If you make a martial artist out of the book, you will have no points for anything else.

Avoid Psionics. Like the plague. There is no way to control it. Line of sight, and no limits other than power. And it doesn’t take much power to kill someone.

Ranged Combat is WAY too complicated. GURPS takes into account the size of the target, it’s speed, distance from the shooter, visibility, time spent aiming, weapon accuracy, and more. It’s easier to just assign a negative and look it up after the game.

The biggest problems that I have with GURPS is that a lot of my character ideas require a LOT of points to make. A Knight for example, is easily a 200 point PC. According to the book, a Knight is only 150 points. But a starting character only has 100 points (and SUCKS ASS).

So a typical group would have two PCs made with 130 points, one mde with 150 points, and one made with 200 based on their concept and background story.

It is also just a bit too realistic. You have penalties for everything. GURPS is oneof the most realistic and well written games out there. And it’s fun. But getting negatives for everything just gets old.

If you play modern day or sci fi, then try not to get shot. Especially with an Uzi. You will not live.

That’s all for now.


I've had people make 100 point PCs for a gritty sci fi campaign, 200 point PCs for a pulpy screampunk campaign, and 400 point PCs for a fantasy campaign in my new setting where *every*one knows magic.

The 100 point PCs are everyones least favorite. The 400 points are the top of their list. Then I showed them Lensman for 3rd edition where the superbadass Lensman (can't remember their exact description?) are 1000 point PCs. They are more than happy to stick with loving 400 points.

"But a starting character only has 100 points (and SUCKS ASS)."

lol that's great.

Yeah, it was me who asked about the pros and cons. Well, I like realism so that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Easy death from gunfire makes PCs careful and explains why they're used so much compared to other weapons that might be cheaper. For instance, in my WoD game, we gave guns an automatic +3 modifier in addition to whatever they grant by virtue of themselves. It gets the point across - DON'T GET SHOT! Which point fits into my realism nicely.

As for penalties for everything - that does get old. Do you just house rule that out?

And for suckass starting characters, how fast do you advance in GURPS? I like starting weak but letting PCs get powerful at a relatively speedy pace, for the contrast and development.

I'm thinking I might use WoD and GURPS as my primary systems. WoD for modern, GURPS for everything else.

GURPS characters really don't pregress very fast. They're like proper action heroes in the sense that they start as badass as the GM allows, and only marginally improve from there. However, you could award Character Points liberally and do whatever you see fit. That's the beauty of GURPS; it's as balanced as you let it be. You cn hand out 50 CP after each session if you want (I generally give 1-3), as long as you give them to everyone and also to your NPCs. It's the perfect toolkit for doing what *you* want, rather than what *designers* think you should.

Important to note...a normal guy on the street (not any of us mind you...but those other guys over there for sure) is likely made with only 25 points or so. Average scores don't cost one single point, and most man-on-the-street types don't actually have points in any skills....they use default values. And as for Advantages; well, if you listen to college music (aka...emo...ick) you're well aware that current generations have no advantages whatsoever. At least that's what they would have us believe.

So, 100 points is pretty sick actually. Just not compared to a 5th level Fighter. The example Calamar makes above about a knight is a good one...a *realistic* knight is not really a "starting out" hero; he has lands and titles, followers and retainers, has seen several battlefield engagements, and has upgraded his equipment at least once.

Hmmm...I'll have to buy this mysterious game and check it out. If it doesn't work out, I'll just abandon general fantasy and be indie.

As for emo...don't ever mention that heresy again. I don't want it tainting an awesome site.

I have to agree, Emos are seriously stupid and anyone identifying themselves as such should immediately be given a Darwin award.

Moving on now...

When running GURPS I found it easier to ignore starting points and simply creating a character based off the background that the player provides. An ex-assassin hermit with have a LOT more points than the black smith's apprentice. But that's what I'd get for backgrounds.

As for experience points...

1-3 points per session is about perfect. I actually do 0-3 points because I don't give out experience just for showing up. In GURPS, experience is more about how well you ROLE played rather than ROLL played. No experience for killing things.

The system does want you to give out an extra point or two when the players finish a story arc, overcome a major obstacal, and things of that nature. I typically give out an extra point if someone came up with a really cool idea, kept the story going, or did something else deserving.

If you give out 3-5 points a session your characters will advance very rapidly. Any more than that and they will spiral out of control. Just FYI.

One thing that I found in GURPS that was cool was to make three version of all my stable NPCs. Three types of basic fighters, three city watch men, etc etc...

I made a folder of these and used them over and over. Players never caught on and thought that I was just REALLY prepared, even if I wasn't. And again, I didn't really worry about points, but my NPCs were prolly around 75.

BTW 4th edition changed cost of stats. ST and HT are 10 points a level. I think that IQ and DX are 20 points per level. It's easier to be strong and healthy than smart and nimble. I guess...

Another main reason for that change is that since all Skills are based on DX and IQ, they felt that those attributes should cost more.