Generic universal role playing system?

I’ve been hemming & hawing (1) about what system to use for my next campaign.

I’ve been looking at all the flavours for D&D from B/X & OSR clones up through to pathfinder & 5e.
I even bought the Pathfinder 2E book.
(I took some SAN damage, survived, and have placed it in the locked, lead-lined chest in the attic.)

None of them really do what I want to do without heavy house ruling.

I know this sounds familiar - but unlike Brent I don’t (2) want to rebuild my version of D&D from the ground up.

I suspect it was the SAN loss - but I’ve started to look at GURPS. A good friend spent years trying to get me to run the system - which I resisted as he knew it inside and out and was one of THOSE players - give him 3d6 and he’d find a way to roll a 27 for his strength. He’s passed away now and I can hear him laughing at me as I type this.

I’m hoping some of you have had experience with the system as GMs and can give me some pros/cons. Can I run a D&D style game with the system or will it be fundamentally different?

Thanks in advance for any comments you fine gentlemen/women/creatures are about to make.

  1. for those like me who wonder about such expressions:

  2. I lie - I do - but it seems like so much work…


I have never played GURPs but I have played a lot of HERO and our did Fantasy Hero quite well. Burn are fundamentally toolboxed to make your game whatever you want to model with it, but is as much work as doing a house-ruled game probably?

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Thank you Hobbs - part of me suspected that would the case.

Hmmm… it’s not like I have my ch to do with my spare time…


I’m very interested in this topic. Can you extrapolate on what it is you want out of a fantasy rpg that is not D&D?

And I can +1 Hobbs on the Hero System (and, by all reports, your experience with GURPS will be similar). Champions (Hero System) was my game of choice in my late-rpg-career youth, but it’s a toolbox. It pretty much says, here’s a bunch of parts and some design principles. Now build your game. It’s great, but a lot of work, and most of that, now, I can do in a microsecond with anything OSR/DIY.

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Hi Gabe,
D&D (overall) has what I want - but I like bits from different editions.
I think you’re both right that the appeal of GURPS (from the reasearch i’ve been doing) is the toolbox approach - take what works & leave the rest.

I could do that with D&D:
The weapon mastery system from BCEM is my favorite weapon system from all editions.
I really like the skill mechanic from AD&D (roll under a target number)
I really like the breadth of skills in 3.0, and gaining skill points to purchase them.
I also like the skill format from AD&D Skills & Powers - skills have different costs based on how difficulty they are the master, and have different “base values”
I like Feats - but oh my god do i want to narrow them down - Pathfinder’s plethora of feats made me insane…
5e’s saves for each stat - lovely!!

I could go on and on but I think just your two comments (Gabe & Hobbs) made me realize I was looking at GURPS not as a solution for what I need in the rules, but rather as a way to introduce the game i want to run to my players.

It’s easier to present a subset of rules my players are not familiar with (in this case GUrps) and say “let’s try this - it’s going to model the campaign world you’ll be playing in” than it is to say;
“I’m going to run AD&D, but I’m adding feats, skills work like this, of and we’re using saves from 5e…”

I’ve been playing of late with people who expect when the new article of “unearthed arcana” comes out that all the new whatevers in that article should be available for play.

I think you’ve both helped me realize I already know what I want to do, and I’ve been in denial about it.
I want to build my own D&D game - just like Brent.

I’ve been playing every iteration regularly for the past 40 years of my life, I know the rulesets very well so I should be able to build a serviceable Golem from the parts I like & use that.

Thanks guys - i needed a voice from outside my head, and you delivered.

This community is awesome.



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You understated when you said you were interested in this topic.
I looked at your profile & followed the link to your blog. I spent a couple of weeks in July looking at Rolemaster as one of my options - so needless to say what I see on your blog is very interesting.

I think I’m going to take some time reading through your “the way I play” entries.

Thanks, yet again.

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Wow! Thanks! I’m not sure if I ever got around to detailing the “Referee“ side of the way I play, but perhaps you’ll find the player-facing discussion of interest.

My group right now—the PCs are darlings—employs a lot of metacurrencies and character shields. The players also frequently make requests for rules changes and class features.

We’ve put together a rules appendix to Swords & Wizardry, which may also be of some interest.

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Hi there

I’m new to the forums and this thread jumped out at me.

I’m in the same boat Rory - I’ve played most editions, I like most things about all of them by dislike key details in each, and have accepted I just want to create my own iteration.

My biggest challenge has been whether to stay with the D&D core or not, or wander into territory that is closer to “inspired by” yet compatible with D&D (ie can still use AD&D monster manuals and other resources but depart significantly in some ways).

I have 3 versions right now - a 5e graft (essentially house rules); one that’s basically a retro clone; and a more genetically engineered model that uses the same DNA but has a different phenotype. The main task is balancing what I would like vs what my players are willing to learn (they’re a conservative bunch).


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Forgive me if I’ve missed it, but what exactly are you looking for?
Do you want to keep playing Fantasy games, just want to switch to something non-DnD?
Are you looking to play multiple genres and want to find one system that can handle them all?
Or are you just looking for opinions on GURPS?

Hi Joshua,
I was specifically looking for opinions on GURPS. I think I’ve moved past GURPS as a choice for a system to run, however I’m always interested in opinions!

@joshua220 you did miss it. :slightly_smiling_face:

To be fair-it was a long ramble of a post.
Plus it’s 2020 - who has the energy left to read all of that…

Okay, so you’re looking for a system to run fantasy and wanting opinions on GURPS as it relates to that.

I see you mentioned earlier realizing you want to homebrew DnD. Any reason you would do that over using a toolbox system like GURPS? Are you just married to D20 games?

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Annoyed I missed this the first time round. I ran a fairly traditional GURPS fantasy game in the 90s… but I bent things pretty hard towards the gritty end of things. GURPS generally doesn’t do heroic play in the same way as your various D&Ds – I mean right out of the gate, pretty much anyone with a sword or a gun can kill a PC at any time if the dice fall right / wrong. (Quite different from HERO in this regard, though killing damage in HERO could be pretty nasty too.)

But since you’ve moved on, I won’t belabor further!

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Hi Joshua,
When I posted I had been looking a heavily”toolboxing” a set of d&d rules - I’ve been a d&d player and fm since 1980. I have played other games , but d&d fantasy has been my mainstay.
I own a couple of GURPS books and like how some of it worked and wanted to know how it played / ran from the gym side of the table.

I think I’m likely going to do what Brent described and build a custom set of “houserules” for my next campaign-stealing from various editions if D&D. Easier for me to toolbox a system I know very well rather than using strange sets of tools whose synergies I don’t understand.

No worries Harriman - any and all insights are good - and that is the sort of info I was looking for!
Who knows I could change my mind as COVID drives us all batty - so any info you have is cool. Who knows there could be lurkers who might find this thread valuable.

I was in the same boat as you were a few years ago, I wanted to run/play the current edition of D&D 3.x), but wasn’t a huge fan of the system, my 2e AD&D books were starting to fall apart and the rules are a bit clunky (but I do enjoy the system), so I dabbled in GURPS a while before ultimately deciding that I didn’t want to do all of the design work that I would need to do to make it more D&Desque, plus there wasn’t much out at the time for GURPS 4e and I didn’t want to build the setting from scratch.

Eventually, my partner decided that she liked Pathfinder 1e and got me at start running that as a game, and since Paizo fixed some of the issues that I had with 3.x, I went along with it, that is until I decided to stat up some NPCs for the game (kind of a Marco Polo finding a route to China deal) and I spent four hours working up a core 7th level bard and I still wasn’t done.

So, long story still kind of long and almost a year past the original post that’s been resolved, I ended up designing my own game (:woman_facepalming:t3:) which focused on quick character generation, but not at all fantasy related (it’s anthropomorphic animals in a Wild West setting).


Hi SydneyMay,
I think that your comments about the amount of “design work required to make it more D&Desque” is the crux of the issue.
Ultimately, although I would love to PLAy other systems - at the heart of it I love D&D and really want that sort of experience, and I think house-ruling my own version of D&D is going to be the best fit for me.
Taking what I already know very well (across multiple editions) and pick the bits I want to tweak.
I hear what you are saying about Pathfinder as well - I finally stopped running Pathfinder as I could not effectively use the stat block on high level monsters - some of them have 6 feats across 3-4 books.
Somewhere between AD&D & 3.0 is my sweet spot.

Congrats on designing your own game - I am picturing a badger just trying to run his saloon - but those bandits are stirring up trouble, so he’s going to have to break out his rifle & pistols he swore he would never pick up again…


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