“How to Be a GURPS GM” Update

Welcome to the weekly GURPSDay content-a-palooza, GURPSaphiles! Enjoy the mountain of goodness that this week, and every week, brings.

My contribution at Game Geekery this time around is a quick look at the products released for GURPS 4th Edition in the nearly two years since “How to Be a GURPS GM” was published and where they would fit in there.

On pp. 9-10 of “How to Be a GURPS GM,” under “Choosing a Genre,” I answered the oft-asked question of ‘Which books should I use?’ for a few of the more common genres. A lot of books have been released since then (25, to be exact):


Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds
Dungeon Fantasy 18: Power ItemsDungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians
Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo
Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic
Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes
Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 2: Epic Treasures


Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology
Zombies: Day One

Modern Action

Action 4: Specialists

Science Fiction

Aliens: Sparrials
Transhuman Space: Bioroid Bazaar
Transhuman Space: Bio-Tech 2100


High-Tech: Adventure Guns

And I would add in a new genre…


After the End 1: Wastelanders
After the End 2: The New World
Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout

In addition to the genre material, there were books released related to character creation (“Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills,” which I would also mention on p. 13, and “Power-Ups 8: Limitations”), magic and powers (“Magic: Death Spells,” “Thaumatology: Sorcery,” “Powers: Enhanced Senses,” “Powers: The Weird”), and organizations (“Boardroom and Curia”).

The final release, the odd man out, was “Social Engineering: Back to School,” a genre book for school-based games and a rulebook focusing on learning and teaching.

One final thing struck me as I was skimming through “How to Be a GURPS GM.” On pp. 10-11, under “Choosing a Style,” I talk about games that are “Realistic or Cinematic,” and “Rules-Light or Rules-Heavy.” Today I would add a third metric of “Narrative or Simulationist” (though I’m not thrilled with the names), and talk about some of the ideas I discussed in the “GURPS and Fate” series about tweaking GURPS to be even more story-centric.

Overall, I think it has held up really well… are there any things from the last couple of years in GURPS you think would affect “How to Be a GURPS GM” if it were released today?


If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?


  1. Hi The Mook,

    Let me express a concern of mine here:

    Using the specific concepts and names “narrative” or “simulationist” actually is to support the flawed “GNS theory”, which I really think GURPS doesn’t need at all.

    • Hiya, Axel. I admitted I’m not thrilled about the names, but I still think the underlying concept remains useful (quite apart from any connection to GNS).

      If you have better labels for the ideas, I’m all ears. 🙂

      • It’s true that you already mentioned that lack of enthusiasm in that sense.

        I was going to say anyway that perhaps my comment above did sound a bit harsh, and rather what I was aiming for has been just a quick comment for what is worth.

        Also I think that additional GURPS GM advice is good and what you said above is totally ok for me.
        Concerning the labels: what I think is, perhaps we can wonder if they are truly necessary? Could a description suffice, instead? What about “a dramatic approach” and a “realistic focus” (depending on what is going to be stressed), respectively?

        Now, since GNS seems to be so popular, many people will recognize its terms at first glance, which is good for communication purposes. And if you want to stick to pure labels to my mind there aren’t better substitutes for what you meant above (I hope to be wrong, though).

        Now, it should be possible to think in rpg game styles without that specific GNS frame, which is artificially limited.

        For instance, the “Gamist” and “Narrativist” categories overlap, obscuring, another one we could call “Symbolist” (the Chess game and other traditional board games also would match there, along with a number of D&D aspects), meaning by it that what the game or style stresses is a perception, a logic or development different of “Narrativism” (psychological and sentimental) and “Gamism” (playing just to win in a trivial way).

        I mean, such an hypothetical category would stress role playing stories and dynamics by means of the logic inherent to symbols ( * ). And it happens that since it’s not very well known currently (I’ll not talk here about psychoanalysis, which to my mind is unrelated to what I mean), it’s very easily mistaken as arbitrary mechanics, the GNS mentality then proceeding to apply the “Gamist” label unaware or unconcerned of it being an unfair reduction of things.

        This example could serve to question GNS’ ways of categorization (on the other hand, GNS’ “Narrativism” is “Simulationist” of drama, etc.), and along with how often such theory tries to forcefully enclose the GURPS system as “Simulationist”, denying its “generic universal” character, you can see some of my reservations when it’s about this subject.

        Even if I’m not really serious, let me say it anyway: in the worst case the “Narrativist-Simulationist” labels could be used with scare quotes, indicating reservations in their usage. But I don’t think it would be elegant 😉

        I’ll tell you if I find something else with the potential of being useful here, and excuse me for for the long reply!

        Warm regards

        ( * ) I’ll point here to two small posts my G+ profile (just the names, links aren’t allowed here) concerning how it’s related with already existing games: “Dungeons as mystical places” (GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, D&D) and “Noble games (II)” (Chess). The following one is more general and related to the fantasy genre: “On Fairy Tales, morality and children”. There are more, but these can convey part of what I mean.

        Concerning game dynamics (“mechanics”), it can be things like the specifically limited geometrical movement of the Chess pieces on the board, unrelated to notions of physics (arbitrary assumptions, or just unknown ones?), or the classical concept of levels in Dungeons & Dragons, which surpasses the notion of training set of skills.

        • Hiya, Axel!

          Thanks for clarifying your reservations. It’s clearly an issue you have some passion for, but I think you may be overestimating the influence of GNS/the Forge. It’s a niche theory from a niche site within a niche hobby.

          The overwhelming majority of tabletop gamers don’t read gaming forums or study game theory. Not one of the dozens of players I chat with offline have ever mentioned GNS theory, and I am certain the chance that any random gamers I asked at, say, a convention about GNS would just look at me blankly. It’s just not a thing the vast, vast majority of gamers get into, just we few happy grognards.

          When people read “narrative” or “simulationist” in the context of this article, I am pretty certain most of them assume they mean “focused on story” or “focused on simulating reality,” not “Oh, he’s diving into that GNS theory from that one site that closed more than a decade ago.” 🙂

          • It’s true that Internet demographics don’t match with the real world. Now, they still are something and definitely have an impact in the industry.

            The GNS (along with “the Big Model”, etc.) still is very active between people interested in game design at the Internet (even game design as a hobby) and at the forgist/indie movement with its related narratist RPGs and respective online communities.

            On the other hand, if we are rigorous, it’s true than the fact of placing the “narrative” and “simulationist” terms inside a GURPS frame (in the “How to be a GURPS GM” book, or in an expansion to it) already can be speaking of something different, since certainly it wouldn’t be the GNS frame.

            In any case, as you have seen, I was expanding my first commentary here, since it was extremely very brief. However I’m not aiming to make a discussion over the subject.

            I prefer to have expressed my thoughts about the matter to you. As you know, just for what is worth.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.