The GURPSICLE (A One-Page GURPS Game Aid / Cheat Sheet)

It’s a free fan-produced game aid! Download The GURPSICLE (GURPS In a Concise Limited Edition cheat sheet) v. 1 for GURPS 4th Edition:

Download PDF:

Download Editable Microsoft Word docx:

How To Use It

Like any fan of an esoteric hobby, I am 100% committed to growing the player base. That means in my games from one-quarter to half of the players have never played a tabletop RPG before.

I find GURPS is a fantastic system for first-time players, as long as the GM is experienced. This isn’t the GURPS reputation among RPGers. But I think the lack of a noob-friendly reputation is wrong!

While GURPS is certainly not as simple, elegant, or “fractal” as something like FATE, if you learn a few core GURPS concepts they are implemented very consistently. The whole thing hangs together and you avoid that sprawling-grab-bag-of-tables-feeling. Yet there is a lot of depth if you want to dig deeper.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the simulationist bent of the GURPS rules helps me help noobs. In many settings you can say to new players “Well, if you think that would kill you in real life, it would probably kill you in GURPS!” And it’s true! In other systems this advice does NOT work.

I’ve thought a lot about how I do my “onboarding” process for GURPS. A key tool has been the one-page GURPS cheat sheet originally written by Karl Gallagher as a convention play aid and later revised by Eric B. Smith. As Karl wrote way back when, this is not a one-page version of the game, it’s “intended for someone who’s been handed a pre-gen character or given a lot of help making one.”

  • When I’m recruiting a new player, I sometimes email them this PDF to give them a sense of what they’re getting into. I say “you really only have to know three concepts!” (And that’s almost true! I’m only lying a little!)
  • I create the character sheet for new players based on our conversations. I then give them the character sheet along with this handout as a kind of “key” to the attributes.
  • When I run in-person games with new players, I print a couple of these out and put them in the center of the table.

Some of my players NEVER go on to learn any rules beyond the basics on this page and they are very effective players. It is possible to keep a lot of rule complexity on the GM side if your players prefer that.

I think it is also very psychologically important to fit this on one single page only.

Anyhow, I’ve revised the handout over the years to make it more useful to me and I wanted to share my changes in case this helps anyone else:

Although this game aid / cheat sheet is not meant to contain the rules, you could in theory use it with GURPS Lite, the short and free version of the GURPS rules, or of course you could buy the Basic Set 4th edition and you’d be all set.

Change Log

Changes from Eric’s revised version:

  • tried to give it a more memorable name
  • added color (I have a color printer) but made sure it still prints OK in black and white
  • added some “advice” (in italics with yellow highlight) — it’s generally applicable advice but I admit some of it is more suited to my GM style, YMMV.
    • e.g., parries and blocks don’t come up too much in my sci-fi games!
  • tried to do some graphic design work to make it more appealing
  • Added an explanation of levels and a table for your chance of success for 3d6.

Mini-rant: Bell curves are not obvious to new players. I find that the number one thing new players need and refer to most often is a table that specifies what their chances are to roll a particular number on 3d6.

  • Revised the text to answer some of FAQs from my own player onboarding experiences.
  • Shortened the trait descriptions to add space for other material.
  • Made the font smaller to allow for the fact that my printer allows me to print closer to the margin. I can thus have this thing print on more of the page, producing about the same size in the end.
    • However, I left the margins set at a reasonable figure in case your printer is not like mine. Some printers require more margin. A note on the PDF tells you how to adjust the print to make it bigger if you can.

Mini-rant: Another common confusion is: When are low numbers good and when are high numbers good? Yes, if you are a veteran RPG player you probably feel this is obvious and consistently implemented in GURPS. If you’ve never played ANY tabletop RPG before, it’s not obvious.

  • embedded the fonts in a Word document so that other people can make changes that suit their own play style (even though designing this in Adobe InDesign would have been 10000000% easier for me — using Microsoft Word for graphic design is masochistic).
    • TMI: Word does not handle multiple fonts on the same line with grace, so this document required me to do manually specify paragraph-by-paragraph leading like some sort of barbarian.
    • And I still can’t get everything to line up perfectly.

Please give me a shout-out if this is useful so I’ll know to keep posting this stuff (or let me know if I made any typos)!

(Image coda: The cover of GURPS Basic Set, used with permission via the SJ Games Online Policy.)

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