Most RPGs are class based and tied to a specific setting. GURPS is point based and designed to work in any genre, any setting. This can be kind of intimidating as there is an incredible volume of available books and since many are not ted to specific settings a new GM may have trouble deciding what to use. That topic comes up a lot on the GURPS Forums and is also addressed by this blog.
So how do you start?
The PlayersAs a player you do not need any books, though I recommend certain free books,
GURPS Lite is a free streamlined set of rules. It tells you all you need to know to play (or even run) most games. Since it also lists most skills and advantages it also helps you in building your character.
GURPS Combat Cards can be printed and cut up for use at the table. You have more tactical options in GURPS than most games but remembering them all takes at least a few games. The cards explain the maneuvers and have all the rules so no need to pull out a book.
GURPS Martial Arts Technique Cheat-Sheet These are advanced moves for the skilled combatant.
GURPS Skill Categories is a list of the skills in GURPS Basic organized by categories. This is useful when building a character so you know whats available and dont miss any skill important to your character concept.
GURPS Magic Spell Charts is for the default GURPS Magic system and is really only useful for spellcasters. Spells are learned as skills (meaning you dont forget them, just cast the ones you know as often as you want. As long as you have the energy! And if you run out of energy an hours rest will have you back up to almost full power!
The Game Master
The GURPS Basic Set (2 books) $54.90 for the set in digital format, hard copy also available. is all you really needto run a game in any setting or genre you want. Or you can choose a Powered by GURPS book for a setting and the section of the rules needed to run it
Powered by GURPS books include Discworld Roleplaying Game, Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, Vorkosigan Saga Sourcebook and Roleplaying Game, plus a few from Third edition such as GURPS Traveler and GURPS Prime Directive.
Once you have rules you need to choose or build a setting.
I list GURPS settings here and if you want to build or convert a setting I list books organized by genre that are helpful. Also GURPSLand is another blog, and has a nice pretty listBasically GURPS has several genre or world building books such as Action, After The End, Fantasy, Horror, and Space that will help you build your world and setting based on the feel you choose.
After that you just add what you want when and if you need it.
Dont like the feel of the default magic system? GURPS provides several others to choose from and even books like GURPS Thaumatology that help you design your own.
Want equipment catalogs? Pick your tech level and choose the books that suit it.
Want to build your own spaceships? GURPS has a series of books and Pyramid articles covering pretty much everything.
The sheer volume of available GURPS books (and typically one new one each month) can be intimidating. But really the players just need a free book to get quickly up to speed and the GM just needs the two Basic books Characters and Campaigns for most purposes. But if you want more detail and options for a particular game there are a lot of choices, but again none are required.
This blog and others, as well as the Steve Jackson Games forums will help you find what you need before you spend your first dollar!