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BURPS: The Banally Unimaginative
Role Playing System



By Ed Kolis

So you've tried every RPG known to man, but still you haven't reached Gaming Nirvana, that elusive state where mind transcends and yada yada yada. In other words, you're bored with ordinary RPGs, and you want to move on to the next level, Well, then BURPS is the system for you. Because only BURPS takes roleplaying back to its simplistic roots - a Game Master and several players, telling a story. No fancy dice, no fancy rules, no fancy anything - just genuine roleplaying experience. Oh, and not that namby-pamby "180 XP for level 2", we mean REAL experience.

So how do you play a game of BURPS? Well, it's simple. The GM describes the current situation to the players, and the players respond with what they want their characters to do. Whenever a character, whether PC, NPC, or monster, tries to do something, the action can either succeed or fail. This is represented by a coin toss. (NOTE: A coin is the ONLY paraphernalia you will need to play BURPS - well, save perhaps for paper and pencils to keep track of characters' inventories). If the toss comes up heads, the action succeeds. If the toss comes up tails, the action fails. It's that simple.

Let's look at a game in progress to get a feel for how BURPS works:

GM: OK guys, you're in a large room, about 20 by 20 by 10 feet, and there are 3 hobgoblins who are looking at Valieuv menacingly.

Dan: Valieuv glares back at the hobgoblins.

GM: OK... <flips coin, it comes up heads> You manage to get them mad at you. One of them comes and attacks. <flips coin, it comes up heads> Oh no, it seems he's killed you, Valieuv... Anyone else want to do anything?

Ed: I shoot the leader with my crossbow.

GM: <flips coin, it's heads> OK, you managed to load your crossbow... <flips again, heads> managed to avoid pointing it at your feet... <flips again, another heads> ...boy are you getting lucky, you managed to aim it in the general direction of the hobgoblin... <flips again, tails> ...oh no, Zephai's crossbow misfires and the bolt flies and hits Arden the Avenger... <flips, heads> ... and it kills her.

Kate: NOOO! I reached level 13! You cheat, Brian!

So while the BURPS system can be easily abused, it does have the advantages of being... umm, anybody still listening??? Hello??? Anybody there???

Ed Kolis is a former dabbler in RPGs who is more interested in computer games but might get into roleplaying again if someone would just start a group nearby... maybe it would help if he got some friends, too. You can email him at, well at least for the time being while he's still a student at UC; after that, who knows what his email address will be? Certainly not that dumb Juno account.

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