This is the home of GURPS Simple Fantasy, an eight-page free handout I wrote to introduce new players to GURPS. It includes four pages of rules (including basic character creation) and a four-page adventure called In the Court of the River King.

Download GURPS Simple Fantasy.

Design Notes

This document was a long time coming, even before I started working on it. For going on fifteen years or more, I’ve been wanting a self-contained, GURPS-based book containing a traditional high fantasy setting and every rule necessary to run the included adventures. I felt a book like this would be a great way to introduce new players to GURPS…something GURPS has always lacked.

But it just didn’t seem like that was the type of product Steve Jackson Games wanted to produce, and so my friends went on to play other, lesser RPGs…pulling me along with them. (World of Darkness? Really?)

For a while, I could point new players to GURPS Lite 3rd Edition and the excellent Caravan to Ein Arris adventure. But these weren’t specifically written for each other (Ein Arris assumes that there is no magic in the world and references many skills that aren’t in GURPS Lite 3rd Edition).

But then GURPS 4th Edition came out, and with it a new GURPS Lite. This GURPS Lite just…rubbed me the wrong way. Rather than being an introduction to GURPS, it tried to be a quick-reference guide, which is not what you need when you’re trying to convince your friend that no, GURPS isn’t horribly complicated and the Linux of RPGs. Magic rules were gone, replaced by things like rules for suffocation, poison, heat exhaustion, cross-country hiking, etc…just stuff I didn’t consider to be the vital essence of GURPS. Absolutely no offense meant to Scott Haring and Sean Punch, who did a great job…they just went down a different path with GURPS Lite than I would have.

So I was still waiting for the perfect “introduce your friends to GURPS product”. Then I encountered GURPS Ultra Lite, which went too far in the opposite direction!

So I did it myself. I ended up blending rules from GURPS Lite 4, GURPS Lite 3 (for the magic rules, which didn’t change) and GURPS Ultra-Lite. And then I wrote an adventure specifically for the ruleset I created. And yes, the name “In the Court of the River King” is a reference to “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.

The most common question I’m asked about GURPS Simple Fantasy is, “What did you cut, and why?” Well, a lot actually.

Advantages and Disadvantages: Simply too much data to include in a four-page version. Cut.

Will and Per: These are both just attribute rolls against IQ. Didn’t feel the need to include their specific rules.

Skill defaults: Good Lord, there’s a lot of cross-referencing there. CUT.

Weight and encumbrance. Since starting TL3 characters get a staggering $1000 to work with, and I didn’t want to have to deal with a bunch of characters with broadswords and scale armor, I locked encumbrance to the second-lowest level.

Damage Bonus: No damage bonus for high skill.

Minimum ST for weapons: Gone. “Strongly suggesting” that PCs shouldn’t have attributes below 8 takes care of much of this. If you want to swing a broadsword with ST 8, that’s fine. You won’t do much damage, though.

I locked the TL at 3 and only allowed appropriate weapons.

I wanted the skill list to be mostly IQ skills since every single weapon skill is a DX skill. I also wanted an HT skill in there; fortunately Carousing fit the bill perfectly.

The recovery rules are nasty; basically any combat that actually threatens a character’s life (reduces them below 0 HP) takes them out of play for weeks. This is a real problem – most RPGs play fast, with only a night’s rest in an inn required to restore all your HP. Even adding in Minor Healing doesn’t really solve this problem, but there’s nothing I can do because while I was willing to cut rules, I didn’t want to outright alter any of them. If I were creating a real “GURPS High Fantasy”, the first thing I would do is buff Minor Healing and Major Healing.