|AI Art by @nightcafestudio|
Yeah, forgive me; I have been playing GURPS the last few days.
It is a good game to contrast with 5E since the skill system in GURPS is so deep it defines the game. The 5E skills are sorely lacking and are reductive in gameplay and roleplaying. We never had passive checks in the old days; the referee kept a note of the character's secret check values behind the screen and did secret checks. If something was spotted, it was said.
But 5E feels like a combat game first. Even the sci-fi games feel combat-oriented. The powers of Esper Genesis and other games focus a lot on combat, and it feels the same as Starfinder - combat wargame first, roleplaying game second. GURPS and sci-fi do some fantastic things; you don't need to focus on combat to have a successful character.
5E, in comparison, assumes this 'default dungeon' mentality, with every character having the assumed dungeon skills, and most of the powers and abilities being combat-focused. Skilled characters tend to be radar sets to negate things like finding traps and hidden objects, sort of ending up as the 'party tax' for 'who is going to be the passive perception character?'
Passive skills minimize skills, and it makes them so, 'why even have skills?' I like the rule: roll if something terrible happens, if you fail, and there is a chance of failure. With a passive skill, there is no failure, only a number on each side; if X, then Y, read the text. No chance of the person looking to roll a 1 or a 20, and no surprises. Without surprises, the game gets boring.
I wish there was a class and levelless 5E, where you just bought what you wanted as you leveled up. GURPS does this incredibly well, and you don't have to pick a class and be tied to it, or jump around multiclassing. If your bard wants to be a cleric, buy the powers and go.
Another thing GURPS does is morph to fit the character's power level very nicely. You don't need to continuously raise combat challenges through the game if all you do is light combat and focus more on social and exploration. If you can defend yourself, you are all set.
I am still on the Cheapy 5E project, enjoying Level Up Advanced 5E, and am still interested in this project to 'democratize' 5E and make it more of a 'green game' with much less waste. The number of books the Wizards company wants you to buy is sad and consumerist to the point of exploitation, and it borders on forcing players to become hoarders. GURPS gets much more done in much less space, gives you infinite options in the base books, and does not need a library of filler and fluff to give you fantastic depth and options.
5E is better with the base books and ignoring the mess of many additions made over the years.
And I agree, GURPS isn't for everyone. But I am not apologizing for playing it or going overboard explaining why. 5E could learn a lot from a classic game like this. Point-buy character creation in a 5E without levels or classes would be incredible.
I also don't see any value in the 2024 books. 5E is in the wild in many great versions, some free, some not. The game should belong to a community, and the secret sauce (subclasses plus other restricted content), should be free and open for everyone to use. 5E is not as free as it should be, and huge parts are held back to sell books.