GURPS Wizard 2: Playing Nice in Infinite Worlds
The versatility of GURPS is a marvel. The first time you sit down with the book and realize “I could make Teen Wolf…better yet, I could make Robo Teen Wolf”, it’s a great experience. Of course, your other group members will have realized the same thing, replacing Robo Teen Wolf with whatever bizarre characters their warped little minds can concoct. Someone will invariably pose this question: “Hey, why don’t we do an Infinite Worlds campaign?”
Infinite Worlds is the “iconic” GURPS campaign- a hodge-podge of radically different characters inspired from a dozen different sources, all coming together to work towards a common goal. The GURPS Basic Set has a party of such characters, much like the iconic D&D characters we’ve all come to know and love. Of course, instead of Tordek the Fighter and Lidda the Rogue, we have Baron Janos Telkozep the vampire financial expert and C31R07 the Buddhist war-mech.
Maybe that makes you cringe. Believe me, there is value in the Infinite Worlds campaign. The players have a lot of fun exploring the eccentricities of their fish-out-of-water characters, and adventure hooks are nigh inexhaustible.
But there ARE problems. What happens when one player wants to make a laser-toting space cowboy and another wants to play a fantasy-style ranger? If you use the wealth of GURPS source material, a laser does something like 15d damage, while a good bowman can get about 3d. That some space cowboy is probably wearing space-age material that absorbs obscene amounts of punishment, and the ranger is wearing leather. Maybe someone wants to play a World War II field medic. Maybe someone else wants to play a cleric, blessed in the healing arts. How do you deal with this?
Our group solved this problem by using what I call a “pure points” system. Characters bought no equipment that was important to the function of their characters, instead spending points on what that equipment would have provided their character. Rather than buying the listed laser pistol, the cowboy now buys Innate Attack (burning), and the ranger ditches his bow for Innate Attack (piercing), properly modified with equipment limitations like Able to be Stolen and Breakable. Nobody buys armor, they buy Damage Reduction with points. The WWII Medic and the Cleric both have the Healing advantage, but the medic also likely has Takes Extra Time, and Requires Roll (first aid). Of course, he might elect not to take these limitations. Maybe he’s a cinematic combat medic, patching people up in a speedy and unrealistic way like in half a hundred different movies and video games. In this way, the flavor choices will never feel “wrong.”
I’ve had players dismiss this way of doings things before. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief. But once they got used to it, they usually do very interesting things. The space cowboy added the Reflexive enhancement to his laser pistol to represent his supreme gun slinging speed, meaning he could take his attack even when it wasn’t his turn. The combat medic added a limitation of his own invention to his healing ability: Nuisance Effect (Must Pep-Talk). What once was a run-of-the-mill healing roll became an excuse for the player to shout “Live, damn you!, LIVE!”
It’s all more than a little absurd, but in my opinion that’s what an Infinite Worlds campaign is all about. I doubt a game of this kind will lead to any revelations about the human psyche, but it’ll certainly make for some good stories in the future.