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I have veteran players of class-based RPG systems joining my GURPS 4e campaign. I am having trouble consistently during character creation in getting these folks started. They are all hung up on the work of character creation being given a strong kick start with the character/race systems being well-established. I have embraced the fluidity of GURPS, but find others are paralyzed. The simple solution is templates. This however does not help the player grow, but simply hands then the same crutch they are accustomed to. I want to offer them some physical therapy for their RPG repertoire. I want to give them the strength to stand without the crutch. To have the confidence to start from scratch even if the character comes out similar to a standard race/class combination. I wish they have had taken the time to evaluate how and why they chose to go that route.

Players new to RPGs as a whole seem to take to it much better. Mind you I handle the mechanics for them. I simply have them describe the character they want and help them shop the skills and abilities to make it happen. I have attempted to do this with veterans, but there seems to be some sort of creative block.

Anyone out there have an ice pick for this creative block?

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GURPS is a rule-heavy system with lots of options. Wading through a whole new lot of options could be the problem. Your players might just want you to go back to the previous game. Have you tried a more light-ruled game? – Zachiel Nov 25 '12 at 17:21
We are moving from a 3rd edition D&D background. The campaign is well off the ground. I have found much more freedom as the GM in this campaign than in the last. This has little to do with the gaming system directly and more to do with what I learned in moving to a more ad hoc rule-set. GURPS has honed my skills by forcing me to adopt a new perspective and spend more time on learning what I want and how to build the foundations I need to support myself and those playing with me. Now I just need to find out how to make more gaming time available! – EFH Nov 26 '12 at 0:48
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Start by talking about the characters as people, not as game pieces. Use the background of the game appropriately to give you ways to find out about them beyond game stats.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

  • In modern games, I have given players job application forms to fill out for their characters (we were playing a superheroes-for-hire kind of game).
  • Ask your players to write the blurb on the back of the imaginary book where their new PC is the main character. Or try riffing movie trailer voiceovers about them. You know: In a world where only corporations can own dragons, one troll has the power to see through walls. Only he can free the dragons from their corporate masters, but can he free his heart from the woman who betrayed him?
  • Or how about this? "You're all in the mead-hall, mourning the passing of a great hero. Tell me your favorite story about him/her!" Of course, the dead hero is the PC they're creating now.

The point is to start with a character and then create an in-game avatar to represent that person.

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+1 for the mead-hall story idea. – Joe Sep 28 '12 at 22:32
I have to agree - games other than D&D don't live and die by min-maxing. They don't need optimal, they need to come up with a real-person concept and create it. – mxyzplk Sep 29 '12 at 2:30
+1 for the second one. That will definitely be de rigueur in all future games I run. – aslum Sep 29 '12 at 5:10
The suggestions may or may not work, depnding on the players. But +1 for the last sentence; that's the heart of the problem with charop. – TimLymington Nov 1 '12 at 12:56

Start with templates. It's OK, really. Even coming from a class-race system they will still expect a lot of options at character creation and as their characters progress, and that's when they will start dipping their toes into the deep waters of GURPS' point-buy possibilities.

The key is that they will be able to engage with the range of possibilities free of the dual pressures of 1) "gotta make a character c'mon you're holding up the groooooup!" and 2) "wow, there are a lot of choices".

Gamers suffer analysis paralysis just like everyone. Let them use the crutch of templates so they can ease themselves into learning how to stand on their own two feet with this new paradigm of flexible character creation.

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While you're at it, make sure to give them more character points than they'll spend on templates, so they can dip their toes in the water without having to spend a full character's worth of points all at once. – Paul Marshall Sep 28 '12 at 17:43
I concede the point of paralysis and have been giving the best leg up I can with some minor templates. Was hoping for a methodology of more a clean break. All the opinions and experiences are what I come here for though. Thank you! – EFH Sep 28 '12 at 19:03
@EFH The trouble with a clean break is that GURPS just has too many (literal) points of decision to start with, unless you give them very few points, in which case they're going to be annoyed at playing low-powered characters compared to their "home" systems. If you can solve both at the same time you're golden, but I can only think of templates to do it. – SevenSidedDie Sep 28 '12 at 19:20

Templates isn't a bad starting point. As long as you expect that they will be able to deviate from the class (either by their own cognizance or by a bit of encouragement), it should be fine.

I'd probably be prepared to sit down with the player (and probably have GCA or GCS at hand, to help with some of the mechanical tedium) and help them.

Maybe start with "OK, what type of character do you want?" (they'll probably mention something that is the moral equivalent of "Class X") Continue with "OK, so what skills would you need? What attributes would you consider most important?" and take it from there.

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The GCS on hand is how I did one character. It worked well as the player was not dead set on a specific class and just described characteristics to go with. Using lower point (100) characters also made it easy to start, but leave room to customize. – EFH Sep 28 '12 at 19:01

Start with Story

Ultimately templates, classes, and even races are about a hard-coded approaches to character concepts. Rather than diving straight into the math and many choice gurps offers characters (especially when you get to adding points to their total to spend by adding disadvantages), start your players with crafting the backstory, personality and ethos of the character they want to play. Who were they before, what drives them, what are their goals and how the set about achieving them? Even something as boring as just a class can be distilled into a concept that in general and then can have other aspects of the game itself applied to it.

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Yep. I find that since I have mastered GURPS, I can translate anything the players say (either in character design, or during play) into game mechanics, and translate back to them any limits or game options in English. – Dronz Mar 16 '15 at 21:33

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