The challenge of GURPS, as it is for most gaming systems, is learning the ropes fast and well enough to have fun and be a competent member of the gaming group (some would argue that I will never be competent, regardless of system).
As I look back on my 9 months of GURPS, I have identified some things that were stumbling blocks (hindrances) as well as some things that moved me forward (helps). So here are my thoughts and what hinders and what helps the GURPS newbie.
What Hindered Me In Learning GURPS
GURPS Character Assistant: A wonderful piece of software. Really...it is way cool. But, for the GURPS newbie, it is like having your smart girlfriend doing your math homework for you. You may get an "A" but you didn't learn a whole lot. There is something to be said for creating your first character with paper and pencil, including "showing your work" (do kids still have to show their work in math class?). Had I done it all by hand my first time, I think I would have learned the game more quickly.
Fantasy Grounds: GURPS has a groovy unified mechanic that is so easy to grasp a caveman could play it...everything runs off of 3d6 rolls (except damage...and maybe some other stuff). However, there are a lot of dice rolling going on and a lot of modifiers. We use Fantasy Grounds II as our VTT. Fantasy Grounds does almost all of the math, once you have entered your character data. It is so sweet! But for me, the newbie, I did not get the intuitive feel for rolls and modifiers. The consequence is that I did not have an intuitive feel to make tactical decisions--which is the payoff as a GURPS player.
The Many Many GURPS Books: I went a little crazy buying GURPS book, which was fun for me (not so fun for my wife as part of one of our NYC trips was spend tracking down game stores with GURPS products). However, more books do not help the newbie. Less is better. I have learned that hours of GURPS Thaumatology, GURPS Horror, and even GURPS Fantasy, have not helped me play a 75 point dwarf. All of the GURPS books are great, but they are overwhelming all at once.
What Helped Me In Learning GURPS
A Good (and patient) GM: Rob has done a great job of explaining things while still making me, as a player, responsible for running my character. Rob has given me a lot of information. It really helps to have a generous and patient GM at the start of one's GURPS career.
Helpful Players: Tim has done a good job of telling me when to ignore Rob, as in "You don't need all that, you just need this for starters." (Tim and Rob have been gaming together for 30 years, so all of this happens during sessions...like an old married couple).
GURPS Lite: I wish I had spent more time with GURPS Lite and less time the other GURPS books during my first few months with GURPS.
Blogs and Online Info: There are a lot of great online resources for the newbie GURPS player. It is actually easy to be overwhelmed by it all. I have been finding more and more GURPS blogs. Here are a few posts that I found particularly helpful:
- How To Be a Helpful GURPS Player During Combat and Being a Helpful GURPS Player During Combat, Part II by Peter D (Dungeon Fantastic). An excellent primer on how to actually play GURPS.
- Patrick (Renovating the Temple) had an awesome post, Maintaining Encounter Balance, that I found particularly helpful in making the transition from a d20 player to a 3d6 GURPS player. While his focus was on the differences from a DM/GM perspective, it really helped me wrap my mind around some GURPS fundamentals as a player.
- Jason (RPG Snob) pointed me to Mook's GURPS 4e - Combat Examples. While the site is incomplete, the information that is there is very good and at just the right level of detail for the newbie.
- Peter D (Dungeon Fantastic) does a great job of cataloging GURPS bloggers who are playing traditional fantasy games: Other People's GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session Reports .
- [3/24/13 Addition] Douglas (Gaming Ballistic) has a nice break down of what different skill levels give the PC during combat in Skill Levels for Melee Combat in GURPS and Skill Levels for Ranged Combat in GURPS.
GURPS for Dummies: Yes, you laugh, make fun, and point at the newbie with his bumblebee-colored book. Taunt and mock me if you must, but the character creation section of this book was worth the few bucks I paid for a used copy. It addresses the one glaring weak spot in GURPS Basic Set: Characters, the introductory chapter on character creation (not a great spot to place your one weak explanation).
I know that there are many many more resources but, as a newbie, I want the right stuff, not all of the stuff. The key is to have "just enough info" to get the essence of GURPS and create a character. I think it is also vital that newbies do stuff "by hand" to gain an intuitive feel for the game. You have to roll up your sleeves and put in the work, but once you "get it," GURPS is awesome. Having an intuitive feel is critical to enjoying the awesomeness.