Happy GURPSDay, folks!
Today I’m mainly posting my thoughts on the current state of the GURPS line, prompted by the recent “Report to the Stakeholders” by Steve Jackson Games (SJG) looking back at 2016 (though scroll down for some info on the Discord server and running games online with Roll20 as well). These are solely my own thoughts and opinions as a gamer, long-time fan of SJG, and one-time author — I have zero behind-the-scenes or insider info beyond what I read online.
Report to the Stakeholders 2016
For many years now, SJG has posted an annual “Report to the Stakeholders,” kind of an overview of how the previous year at the company went, successes and failures, profits and losses, goals for the next year, that sort of thing. It is exactly the kind of refreshing customer interaction and transparency that makes me such a huge fan of the company and its people. The most recent one, looking back at 2016, was posted recently (and has spawned numerous discussions, including ones at the SJG Forums, RPG.Net, and Reddit).
There are exactly two points made about the GURPS line, but they are important ones.
Our Kickstarter project to create a GURPS introductory box set has run into more troubles and derailments than we would like. A game that was meant to go to the printer before the end of 2016 is still clogging our pipeline and causing constant distractions… At the moment, barring a miracle, what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss.
I was 100% hoping the upcoming Dungeon Fantasy boxed set would be a huge success for the company — and it still looks like it might be, in terms of generating interest and expanding the overall GURPS base — but in terms of actual dollars and cents, seems they may be lucky to break even.
Discworld and Mars Attacks – We published two new GURPS hardcover books late last year. GURPS fans celebrated, and the books turned out well, but their disappointing performance further supported the unfortunate realization that sales are no longer strong enough to make traditional distribution work for GURPS hardcovers. Today’s cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there. Does this mean more crowdfunding for GURPS? Maybe! But until we see the retail sales of Dungeon Fantasy, we’re holding off on any more printed GURPS releases. PDFs will continue, and we’ll revisit the question of “print GURPS?” later this year.
This isn’t surprising, but still disappointing.
While I definitely like PDFs and understand they are undeniably the future of gaming, I really, really like having hard copy books. The inexorable decline in physical GURPS releases in the past decade has been a real let-down, and leaves me yearning for years past when my shelves strained under the weight of hundreds of 3rd Edition books.
On the other hand…
In many ways this is a Golden Age of GURPS. New PDF releases are churned out steadily, as is the digital Pyramid magazine. Every day I have access to dozens of GURPS fans chatting about the game in real-time, as well as an active official forum with a long history and frequent posts by company staff and freelance authors. Personally, at the conventions I attend, there is a strong GURPS community and enthusiastic support from the local Men in Black volunteers. For scratching that hard copy itch, I can easily put together my own Lulu-printed collections from PDFs, or purchase the increasing number of official Print on Demand titles being released.
There is also the fact that, RPGs being what they are, even in the worst-case scenario of GURPS ceasing to exist, I could easily continue to run games with it for the rest of my life.
So, despite a lot of concerning discussions going on about “the death of GURPS,” I remain optimistic. Steve Jackson Games is a solid company, one of the very, very few to still be around from the industry’s early glory days, and I can only trust that they will keep on doing everything they can to keep the GURPS line alive.
As an aside, I feel like owe a personal and sincere “Thank You” to Steve Jackson himself. GURPS continues to exist solely because he wills it to be so — many other owners would have long since abandoned a game that shows such marginal profit/struggles to break even. But he loves it, and he knows a lot of us out here do too, so he keeps it chugging along.
GURPS has a rocky road ahead, but I continue to enthusiastically support it because it is the one system that does exactly what I want, in the ways that I want, with the quality I want. The fact that I have so heavily internalized it over decades of play is an enormous factor as well.
I have occasionally spent time checking out other games for GMing — most recently Fate Core — but I invariably return to GURPS.
I have occasionally put great time and effort into creating my own RPG rules… but I invariably return to GURPS. (Though the creator in me still sometimes gets that urge! It would also make publishing things a lot easier. But, I digress…)
Bottom line for me is, the reports of the death of GURPS are greatly exaggerated, and I hope to still be buying new GURPS material from my nursing home.
The GURPS Discord Server
Moving on to rosier topics, I’m happy to report that the unofficial GURPS Discord Server continues to grow and be a fantastic community for GURPS fans to hang out, chat about games, ask rules questions, get help with their ideas, and find GMs/players for their online games.
To facilitate that last point, I’ve added a community Google Docs spreadsheet where GMs can post details of their games so players can see what’s available. It just started yesterday so there are only a few games posted, but hopefully it will expand and become a useful tool for getting GURPS players and GMs together.
GURPS on Roll20
Finally, just a quick note to say that I’ve been tinkering around with the Roll20 app quite a bit recently, with an eye to hopefully running some of my Quick-Play Adventures and Convention One-Shots online. I still have no idea on when or how, but with any luck I’ll get things set up in a way I like (character sheets, tables, that sort of thing) and be ready to start GMing some online GURPS in the coming months. I’ve talked to a few folks already, but I’d love to hear from anyone about their experiences with Roll20 and GURPS!
See you next week. Throw some dice out there and show folks GURPS is still alive and well.
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