GURPS Games on Demand

Howdy, folks, and Happy GURPSDay!

I’ve been thinking recently about convention Games on Demand. Most RPG conventions use a system similar to the one Strategicon uses: they break up the con days into four-hour slots, assign games to one or more of those slots, and then the players pick the ones they want to register for. This is the way I’ve been GMing GURPS con games for the past few years, and it generally works pretty well.

Games on Demand, though, does things a bit differently. Using Strategicon again as an example, the blocks are only two hours long, and the start times are 10-15 minutes after those on the usual track, to give players and GMs whose games don’t launch time to drop in and still hopefully find something fun for a couple hours. It’s also much less rigid, in that the GMs offer a few different games they’re willing to run, and players pick the one(s) they want until there are enough people to actually start.

It’s an idea that I find intriguing, but so far I haven’t GMed on the Games on Demand track because it is almost exclusively focused on independent and small-press games, of which GURPS is certainly neither. I still, though, would like to maybe give it a shot in the near future. GURPS is my favorite RPG ever, can be used for any game, so I want a way to showcase that amazing versatility and flexibility.

Since I already have a system I enjoy for creating rules-legal GURPS characters in just a few minutes, that base is covered. What I need is a system for quickly creating an actual game, one that the players and I can decide on together, quickly, at the table. So, this is what I’m thinking.

First, I’m assuming four players at the table, as that’s the group size I’m best at. Each of the four players would roll 3d6 GURPS-style, with the lowest total winning, the next-lowest 2nd, then 3rd and 4th. For now, I am using the following four attributes to define a 90-minute adventure:

The broad category of game. Old West? Spies? Gladiators? Viking? Star Wars? etc.

The specific place and time in which the game takes place. Montana, 1875? North Korea, 2018? Rome, 150 AD? Lindisfame, 793? Alderaan, 1 BBY? etc.

Power Level
How powerful/capable the PCs are. Notable? Heroic? Epic? This affects the level of attributes and the number of skills allowed, as explained here.

Story Type
What kind of tale is to be told. Murder mystery? “Dungeon” crawl? All-out warfare? MacGuffin retrieval? etc.

The player who won the initial dice roll picks one of the above four attributes and suggests his preference, e.g., “I’d like to play an Old West game.” Then the second player picks one of the remaining three attributes and does the same, until each of the four players has defined one attribute. It might end up with something like…

Genre: Samurai
Setting: The village of Onpai in Feudal Japan
Power Level: Epic
Story Type: Protection of the weak

After everyone has made a choice, we’ll need to reach a quick consensus on the actual game to be played — it’s no fun getting stuck playing something you really don’t want to, so compromises will need to be made until everyone can agree. Then, once the game parameters are established, we can whip out some PCs that will fit into that game and get to playing.

In a two-hour slot, I’m thinking we could do 15 minutes on defining the game, 15 minutes on creating PCs, and still have 90 minutes of actual play time. (Note: the Color Coded GM Screen would be super handy to use with this.)

Naturally this is a work in progress, but I think there’s something usable there, not just for convention games but also for pick-up games when you’re just looking for something fun to do for a few hours with some buddies.

What do you think? Would you play in a game like this?


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  1. I like this idea. And yeah, you’d have to use your Quick-Start character creation system to jump into a 2 hour game without a 2 hour character making session.

    Showing up to a convention prepared to run any setting and any power level is definitely a challenge appropriate for a GURPS GM.

    • Yes! I literally hear *nothing* but good things about Big Bad Con, and hope to make it out next year. I believe the fella who runs the Strategicon Games on Demand brought it over straight from BBC.

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