GURPS has 4 primary attributes and a number of secondary attributes that are based off the primary ones and can be raise or lowered individually. It has a very broad list of skills and advantages, though these are not all available in every campaign. Building a character is actually pretty simple and easy and requires just a little addition and subtraction for most genres.
Powers based characters such as Supers do require more math as you build various exotic abilities, about as much as Champions.
Where the system can intimidate people is not in its complexity but in its selection possibilities. Consider character creation to be like ordering food at a restaurant.
- Fast Food: Very few choices, sometimes a specific combination. This is easy and fast as you don't really need to know much about it to understand what your getting.
- Family Dinner: The cook picks the meal and you have very little, if any choice about what to eat.These can be very simple, or more like a holiday meal.
- Formal Meal: Similar to the Family Dinner but the meal is more complex and comes in courses. Again choices are limited and they are spread out so you make a simple choice, eat (level up), pick the next course, eat and so on. Its structured to allow more variety but not overwhelming by having to choose it all at once. Trouble is you often need to plan ahead as the early choices limit later ones.
- Buffet: This kind of system lets you pick from a wide variety of foods for a unique plate (charecter). However you have to choose what you want to eat, and while some buffets have limited options, others may have quite a lot.
- The Great Waiter/Waitress: IMO the best method, especially for newcomers to the system. Requires a GM experienced in the system and good communication from everyone but the GM can listen to players ideas and quickly direct them through the menu to get the best meal for their dining experience. I'll discuss this in another post, along with tips for how to do it.
Standard GURPS Character Creation
This is the buffet approach, your presented one or more books and told to make your choices. A good GM will curate some lists and tell the players what books and rules are allowed and whats not for the campaign. However, if your new to GURPS this is not ideal and you will build a character that winds up having things of little use and missing other things you really wish you had. Again a good GM can help here by guiding your choices, though of course you have to listen to the advice!
This is really most peoples experience with GURPS and it can be frustrating.
This idea cane about later and is sort of antithetical to GURPS, or at least seems so. Templates can be Fast Food (Give me a fighter) where the character is a pregen and already built for you. Most templates are a focused buffet, like choosing between a Chinese buffet, Japanese, TexMex, or a Steakhouse type. You pick a template (profession or class) and it comes with a short list of skills and advantages, often in combinations to customize your character.
The limitation of this method is templates need to fit the campaign setting. GURPS thus created several books with template driven character creation.
- GURPS Action is based on action movies, primarily modern day.
- GURPS After the End is a post apocalypse setting, think Mad Max, though it worls great fpr any disaster - including zombies.
- GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is for the classic dungeon crawl.
- GURPS Monster Hunters is modern day secret monsters, think Men in Black, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Dresden Files, and many others.
- Powered By GURPS are various books where most of the rules are tossed out and only those needed for a specific setting are included. This includes Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, Discworld, and some from Third Edition.
- Setting Books, several setting books come with their own list of templates.
When using templates the GM may enforce niche protection by limiting character advancement to the templates and associated power-ups or open it up and let characters choose from other templates or abilities in the appropriate books.