Many a GURPS newcomer (and some experienced players too) ask: Can GURPS handle huge and tiny creatures?
You bet! And it does so well, too. But even in GURPS 4e, the built-in tools are lacking in spots. A little added clarification and exposition fills in the gaps, giving you all you need to unleash beings of any size in your game.
What is it?
The original GULLIVER for 3e is an old, nut-made fan-crafted expansion for the GURPS 3e roleplaying game. It explores many topics, mostly dealing with character/creature design and physical performance. (It does so thoroughly, and is renowned for its volume.)
The newer GULLIVER Mini for 4e is a very small PDF supplement for GURPS 4e, summarizing and expanding upoon one topic: building and gaming odd-sized creatures.
All versions of GULLIVER are non-commercial, fan-authored works, and are not “official” parts of the GURPS system.
Update 2019-02-25: GULLIVER Mini v1.2 for GURPS 4e is out (a minor update to cosmetics; no change in content). Download below!
New addition: Related links
For a few other resources on this site related to building and gaming creatures of any size, see links at the bottom of the page.
GULLIVER Mini for GURPS 4e
New! GULLIVER Mini
It’s here! See the announcement.
GULLIVER Mini is one page of info for building and gaming odd-sized creatures (with a bonus page of designer’s notes and extras). It marks the old work’s first update for GURPS 4e, as well as a new shift to a narrow focus: just creature size and topics closely related to that. Nothing else.
Whither the old GULLIVER for 3e? Many of its copious topics no longer need to be addressed under GURPS 4e. Others remain perfectly good for 4e gaming, some requiring a bit of updating. Core topics related to size form the new GULLIVER Mini for 4e; other topics from the old work, if updated and re-released, would appear under other titles. Many have already been worked into other Games Diner articles and supplements.
Among the credits for assistance (see bottom of Mini‘s first page), I want to point out that the size-based packages were first suggested and initially drawn up by D Weber. Also, PMR-based agility, divorced from actual encumbrance, is something I recall Dataweaver suggesting some time ago; I was cold to the idea then, but warmed up to it.
GULLIVER 3e to 4e quickie “conversion notes”
The new Mini covers the basics for 4e, in amazingly little space. As for the rest of the 3e version:
- Many “changes” will be obvious, and will thankfully consist of things in the old GULLIVER that you can simply ignore, as 4e now addresses the topics. I’ll list some here as they come up, but for the most part, 4e-fluent players will have no trouble spotting the outdated points.
- One big change in 4e is handling of ST, an undying trouble spot in 3e. Designing and playing creatures of unusual ST is much easier under 4e. You can ignore all GULLIVER references to Load ST. Instead, scale ST with linear scale (per GULLIVER), forget about buying Load ST, and figure your BL normally per GURPS 4e. In GULLIVER rules, replace any use of Load ST with BL/2. Easy!
Q: Just Mini for now?
Yep. No serious plans at this time for an expanded work.
Q: What happened to natural encumbrance rules?
Mini simply can’t carry a complex treatment of mass, weight, encumbrance, etc. The minimal rules in Mini are enough for most players’ wants, I think, and hew to the 4e Basic Set’s line of “let’s just assume actual encumbrance from body weight doesn’t exist”. For anyone wanting the full treatment, it’s a potential topic for the future.
Download GULLIVER Mini for GURPS 4e
See link at bottom of page. PDF, two pages, A4 (should print fine in letter size too).
GULLIVER for GURPS 3e is a big rules expansion for the game, mostly focusing on all things physical for characters: building and gaming life forms of any shape or size. It’s the biggest expansion ever on that topic for GURPS (or maybe any RPG). Picture a GURPS Vehicles for creatures, with a good dose of biomechanical science as its base.
It is not a single use-it-or-don’t-use-it item. It’s a collection of independent and semi-independent rules additions. Many add detail and complexity. Some simplify GURPS and make it easier to play. Together, they create a more universal, generic rules set that works equally under extreme scales/situations and under normal human conditions. You can pick as many or as few parts as you like, and mix and match as you please.
The are two GULLIVER for 3e products:
- GULLIVER v5.3 for 3e, the full set of rules in HTML files, developed over several years.
- GULLIVER LITE v1.2 for 3e, a tidy PDF file condensing the core goods into 24 printable pages.
There are several other add-ons contributed by GURPS fans, available for download from the GULLIVER v5.3 online page.
GULLIVER v5.3 for 3e
The web’s largest single GURPS supplement, GULLIVER v5.3 for 3e consists of 9 “Books” as HTML files, plus a main index HTML file and navigaional frames. It can be downloaded as a single archive and accessed from your computer, or navigated and viewed online (for a while longer, anyway) at http://www.gamesdiner.com/gurps/GULLIVER/indexframe.html.
NOTE: Those old v5.3 HTML files may be chock full of outdated links and such. Stick to this page for the latest links, downloads, and so on!
GULLIVER LITE v1.2 for 3e
The web’s largest single GURPS supplement… finally gets smaller. GULLIVER LITE is all the good stuff from the Brobdingnagian v5.3 boiled down into 24 Lilliputian PDF-format pages. A version of these rules you can actually print out and use!
The full v5.3 HTML set still contains plenty that LITE doesn’t: Detailed explanations of basic rules with additional topics and options; examples galore; “designer’s notes”; a ton of new and revised traits; detailed creature write-ups; campaign background ideas; and much more. Set aside a week and wallow in its pungent delights.
GULLIVER LITE‘s PDF format is suitable for printing on either A4- or Letter-sized paper.
Download GULLIVER for 3e
Both GULLIVER for 3e products can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
Reader-made add-ons for GULLIVER for 3e
One download is available at present: the GURPS GULLIVER Racial Traits List, gathering all the new and modified character traits from the work into one RTF file. Hearty thanks to the compiler, Joel Oberdieck!
This is a slight updating of the old FAQ here.
Q: What is it?
GULLIVER for 3e is a big, fan-made GURPS supplement that grandiosely subtitles itself “Rules Upgrade for GURPS” (aka “Still The Poor Man’s GURPS Compendium III”, aka “I Got Yer BS 3.5 Right Here, Pal”). It’s mostly concerned with making more generic, universal, improved rules for characters’ physical performance, including related areas of creature design and combat.
Many of its improvements can now be found within 4e. Other parts aren’t addressed by 4e, and are still worthwhile improvements for 4e games. Yet other parts would benefit from deletion or updating under 4e.
Q: What does the name mean?
The name is a strained acronym for GURPS Large and Little Voyages Rules.
For a more descriptive but equally silly name, try ABCDEFG (Advanced Biomechanics & Creature Design Expansion For GURPS).
Q: GULLIVER is “scale rules”, right?
A: A very small portion is directly concerned with “scaling”, in the narrow sense of adjusting stats for creature size. There are also rules for centering gameplay around any character size, but anyone who’s played GURPS Bunnies & Burrows is familiar with that process.
The whole work, though, is concerned with “scale” in the broader sense of creating rules at every level, not only stats, that work independently of unit measurements, creature size, power level, and so on. That’s the real issue of scale tackled here.
Q: I need it to play big or small creatures, right?
A: No. You don’t need any of it to play anything. In fact, you can GM all situations on the fly and dump 90% of existing GURPS rules. Maybe 95%. Roleplaying is about adventure, storytelling, characters, and having fun, not rules.
That said, players do like to resolve many situations with rules, which is why there’s the whole Basic Set. And Powers. And Bio-Tech, and Martial Arts, and detailed job tables, and precise mechanics for hundreds of spells, and…
If character and storytelling are the heart of roleplaying, simulation at least merits a lung. GURPS began life as the combat simulation game Man-to-Man and still revels in realistic simulation. GULLIVER adds more of that – but only for those who want it.
Q: It’s a “fix” for broken GURPS stuff, right?
A: Please see it as a tribute to GURPS, not a repair job! There are plenty of “fixes” for rules, but most of GURPS is a remarkably robust and flexible system for simulating “reality”, or a gameable version of it.
If anything, GULLIVER is concerned with extending GURPS where the game stops short of its own considerable potential. All of its detailed simulation would be pointless if GURPS weren’t already equipped to support it.
Q: It’s not “compatible” with GURPS, right?
A: Ha. There are a lot of areas where a “fresh start” approach would have been the easiest and cleanest, and to be sure, many peripheral topics do take the clean sheet approach. But where core rules are involved, GULLIVER bends itself into pretzels to stay compatible. (For example, its “split” handling of ST in won’t win points for elegance; it’s a tradeoff between the need to fix aspects of the stat in the game, while staying compatible with GURPS 3e rules and designs.)
Of course, there’s no harm in suggesting clean-sheet optional approaches to core rules, and the text indulges at times.
Q: It’s complex / it’s difficult / it’s <fill in the blank>
A: This is a common comment, and a pet peeve. The problem: in the context of complex/simple/difficult/easy, there is no “it”. “It” is a set of many, many independent rules items, some of which are complex (these are usually labeled as such) and can slow play, and some of which are easy and can speed up play. If you’d to talk about complex/simple/difficult/easy, Your Author would like to hear it – but please talk about specific items, not a whole “it”!
If you’re just looking for the simple/easy parts, it’s true, they may be hard to pick out quickly. See this separate list of GULLIVER bits that Your Author actually recommended for GURPS 4e inclusion; it does a better job of identifying the simplifications. (And as shown here, SJG had similar thoughts about many of those items.)
Q: What’s cool in all that text?
A: Humility off:
The natural encumbrance rules inject power-vs-weight considerations into creature design, modeling creature mobility more accurately than any RPG ever has. Yet they’re only a simple extension of the GURPS encumbrance rules we all use, not a brand new system.
Rules for athletic feats go far beyond the cursory once-over of other RPGs. The jumping rules work for Olympic athletes and fleas alike; the throwing rules can measure the speed of a major league fastball in mph.
Simulation lovers should enjoy detailed handling of collisions, weight vs mass in mobility, “working” airfoils in wings, Move adjustments for air or water drag, attacker and target size in combat, effects of size on sustenance requirements and life span, and other flights of geekery.
Simplicity fans will appreciate new, easier ways to handle situations including odd-sized creature design, shock and pain, and relative size in combat, with fewer patches, special rules, and tables than GURPS 3e uses.
There are lots of new creature features for getting a design just right. Choose your level of bioluminescence, mix and match claw types, create a squishy body, steady yourself with a tail, or add oddball details like a slimy hide and giant eyes.
There are lesser, easy-to-miss goodies hidden among the reams of text; you’ll have to find your own favorites.
Q: What’s not so cool?
A: Boy, this one’s easy. The HTML files are long. That’s a tremendous load of reading, though GULLIVER LITE puts all the important stuff into a very usable size.
As mentioned earlier, there are compromises made for playability and compatibility, at the expense of greater realism or a clean tossing out of legacy rules.
And there’s no way Your Author and his immediate circle could have playtested this all! Many of the basics, like natural encumbrance, size-based stats, and movement-related rules have seen the light of the gaming table. But Your Author has yet to put a Size +3, Slime-covered invertebrate with Locking Muscles and Wrestling-14 through an unarmed brawl with a Size -1 foe in microgravity while making Climbing control rolls on a cliff ledge. That’s for readers to help with!
Q: Why is it so long?
A: Glad you asked. Start with the many topics covered, add reasonings behind rules, pontification on needed changes, detailing of multiple simulation options, and warnings of the pitfalls lurking under every suggested tweak, and you’ve got a mega-set of rules plus full designer’s notes.
That’s intentional; why would anyone bother to implement some unhinged fan’s rules changes without a word on the point behind them? Reasonings, explanations, and options make it easy to choose or modify rules to your liking.
But it all makes the work one big, long exercise in game design, exploring the most gearheaded, dry reaches of combat, creature design, and more. Some of it’s meant for immediate play, some is an investigation into how much simulation of a real-world field (primarily biomechanics) can be packed into game rules, and yet more is there just for the heck of it.
If you want just the rules, there’s LITE. And the HTML files are digital text, so you can also delete everything else that you don’t need.
Q: Where’d this all come from?
A: The short version: Years ago, Steve Jackson Games was interested in a GURPS book for tiny PCs; Your Author was interested in PCs of any odd size. They talked a little, and the original GULLIVER was written and submitted.
Through some mix-up over in the Austin offices, a then-reigning editor quickly responded “no thanks”, and Mr Jackson actually saw the work years after it was sent to him. GURPS and Your Author had each moved on by then. GULLIVER has undergone several revisions and expansions as a fan-made “house rules” work.
Q: Why not ask SJG to publish it?
A: Aside from the first crude submission many years ago, GULLIVER’s goal is not publication. First off, it’d make a lousy GURPS book as is! The HTML version has the word count of two large worldbooks or more, is as much verbose designer’s notes as it is rules, takes shocking liberties with some existing rules, and includes topics nobody’s ever asked about. Most GURPS players are clamoring for settings and other fun stuff, not for more rules!
A: Yes, though not necessarily as direct borrowings.
The fine folks at SJG had been aware of this über-supplement for GURPS: Your Author flogged it to them in person – both GULLIVER itself and its stripped-down list of 4e inclusion wannabees from Ingredients for a Better GURPS – and SJG even gave it public mention in its poll sounding out players’ thoughts on the upcoming GURPS 4e.
In 2004, GURPS 4e came out. Your Author compares his original wishes with what 4e brought us in The New GURPS Delivers – Or Does It?. The short story: yes, many of those wishes were granted, and the new 4e is cleaned-up, scalable, and universally and generically spiffy enough that a good swath of GULLIVER can be safely retired.
But to repeat part of that article’s vital disclaimer:
This article does NOT take credit for any of the new bits in 4e, or even suggest such. I’m not the sole (nor necessarily the first) creator of many those ideas; half of them are common-sense notions that any number of players will have thought up independently. SJG, for its part, hardly needs enlightenment from benevolent fans to come up with improvements as obvious as, say, giving creatures SM, or losing an unnecessary extra table for biting damage.
Please follow the link to the article and read the rest of the disclaimer.
So, the summary: yes, many of the suggestions in GULLIVER are now found in 4e. For that, you can thank common-sense thinking by the good folks at SJG, as well as the whole larger world of GURPS players who had also latched upon and called for such changes.
Yes! It has been, but much lighter form: just GULLIVER Mini. That’s partly thanks to 4e, which finally addresses many of the old GULLIVER‘s topics, and partly an intentional shrinkage. GULLIVER for 3e covers a huge range of topics, which is fine by itself, but the breadth has always put off some readers, who believed that the whole thing had to be read and adopted en masse, or that the thing was an impossibly long treatise on “size rules” only. Reassurances to the contrary didn’t always reassure.
The new Mini for 4e touches upon “size rules” only, and briefly at that. If there’s any further updating of old GULLIVER material, size-related topics will stay under the GULLIVER label, and other topics will find new homes.
Meanwhile, there are still a number of good suggestions in Ingredients for a Better GURPS that were not reflected in 4e. And, of course, GULLIVER for 3e is chock-full of bits that are fine additions to some peoples’ games, but were never suggested as being 4e additions anyway. If any of that looks good to you, you can probably bring it into your 4e game with little update effort.
The following touch on building and gaming creatures of any size:
- Gaming Notes: Playing Giants in any Game System
- RPG science: Designing dinosaurs just got easier?
- GLAIVE Mini: Weapon Builder System for GURPS
- GUTHS: GURPS Unified Theory of Hitting Stuff
- Godzilla is stronger than you.
- Scaling of Move
- Summary of ways to handle power-vs-weight in GURPS creatures
- Much of the rest of the GURPS Diner (just poke around in there!)