Simple Character Conversion Between GURPS(TM) and Fantasy Realms RPG(TM)

Copyright (C) 1996 By Joseph W. Teller

One of the most successful roleplaying game systems, spanning a series of world books and source books is Steve Jackson Game's GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System).

GURPS is a wonderful system for what it is and what it has been used for. Designed for a good level of realism and capable of handling a wide range of world design concepts, it covers what many people want in a roleplaying game.

GURPS is suited to particular styles of roleplaying. It works best with people who want extremely realistic combat, prefer to use miniatures and who want a mechanics solution to every possible contingency. The 3rd edition book weighs in at 250+ pages, with worldbooks and source books that run another 150+ pages. It continues to grow and expand the number of supplemental books (Magic, Martial Arts, Psionics etc each have a seperate rulebook devoted to them). A wealth of information, opportunity and research has gone into the GURPS books over the years.

Fantasy Realms is suited for a different style of roleplaying. Its designed for streamlined simplicity, without the use of miniatures and with a slight sacrifice of combat realism in return for a more cinematic/fictional feel and less time spent on logistics and complex tactics. Each Fantasy Realms release includes all the basic rules associated with the worldbase it is intended for, without need for a 'core rulebook' and without supplemental mechanics books to handle special contingency situations. Character generation is faster, with a viable Random element to character design for those that prefer such (instead of GURPS constructed-only system). Less mathematics are needed in Fantasy Realms for both character generation and play as well.

In keeping with it's realistic outlook, GURPS starting characters are real "beginning" characters, approximately equivalent to a high school graduate. GURPS uses a single point pool for all attributes, advantages, and skills. In order to avoid abuse this point pool is limited in most GURPS games, to the point where it is virtually impossible to have any attribute at maximum at start. Additionally, in GURPS, experience is earned slowly, reflecting a preference for long campaigns, lasting years.

In Fantasy Realms, the average starting character has been around a while, and has a background and history to bring into play. Instead of being equivalent to a high school graduate, they are more often professionals with at least some experience. Additionally, it is possible to achieve maximums in an attribute at start. And, experience is usually earned by skill usage, so that the more a character does, the better they become, often more quickly than in GURPS. All this reflects the cinematic nature of the game.

In other words the systems are very different in playing style. I won't say one is better than the other - I feel that both achieve their perceived designer goals admirably (though I am prejudice towards my own system and playing style).

Despite these differences, I believe there is common ground, and that a Fantasy Realms GM could adapt worldbases from GURPS to Fantasy Realms, and thus it should be possible to translate player and non-player characters as well, at least in a basic rough way. Because of the difference in power level between the two games (between a realistic and a cinematic system) it is necessary to "increase" the abilities of GURPS characters to some extent in order to maintain balance. Translating in the opposite direction is possible, but presents the problem of decreasing a character's abilities, something most players will not put up with. Thus it is not covered in this article.

No translation can be perfect. It is the concepts behind the characters that are most important. Its not important that a character who could carry 50 lbs in a backpack in one system can only carry 40 lbs in another. What is important is the personality, basic attributes, history, powers, traits and general nature of the character.

This article only deals with the basic 3rd edition GURPS rules, and does not cover any of the other sourcebooks or worldbooks for the game system (nor the advantages and disadvantages therein). Covering all these seperate books would take a book in and of itself.


GURPS uses less attributes then Fantasy Realms does, but uses them in more complex ways. GURPS has four main attributes (ST, DX, IQ, HT) while Fantasy Realms has 10 (and sometimes 11) main attributes (B,C,H,L,M,PC,PW,S,T,W and sometimes F). Human range attributes in GURPS range in Value scored of 1-20, with a 10 being the default and the 'average range' being a score of 8-12. Fantasy Realms attributes have human range attributes ranging from 1-8, with 4 being the average.

Numeric Values being so different, we have to design a basic conversion table for these numbers between the two systems:

          -----------      --------------------
             1-3                   1
             4-6                   2
             7-9                   3
             10                    4
             11-12                 5
             13-16                 6
             17-19                 7
             20                    8
             21-23                 9
             24-25                10
             26-28                11
             29-30                12

Attribute Conversions Table

   GURPS Attribute         Fantasy Realms Attribute
   ---------------         ------------------------
       ST                          B (Body)
       DX                          C (Coordination)
       HT                          H (Health)
       (ST+HT)/2                   L (Lift)
       IQ                          M (Mind)
       (IQ+HT)/2                   S (Spirit)

Thus a character with the 10 base ST in GURPS would have a 4 B (BODY) in Fantasy Realms (after consulting the numeric chart). For a character with a 12 ST and a 10 HT you would calculate their Fantasy Realms LIFT as being (12+10)/2=11 (GURPS) and being scored thus as a 5.

Note a character with the Advantage of Strong Will should add +1 per level of that advantage to the calculation result for Spirit. This is also true of Magical Resistance.

PC (Perception), PW (Power) T (Toughness) and W (Wealth) are all attributes that in GURPS are primarily calculated based not on simple numbers but via Advantages/Disadvantages.

Since this is not that way its handled in Fantasy Realms, we have to devise a way of scoring these attributes that appears to be reasonable. Each gets handled a little differently (sorry) because their handling in GURPS is different in each case.

PERCEPTION : Take the GURPS IQ. Modify this based on which advantages and disadvantages they have, as per below. Then take this and use it on the numeric conversion chart to determine Fantasy Realms Value.

    Adv/Dis                  Modifier
    ------                   --------
    Bad Sight                   -2
    Blindness                   -4
    Deafness                    -4
    Hard of Hearing             -2
    One eye                     -1
    Acute hearing               +1  per 2 levels (round up)
    Acute Taste & Smell         +1  per 2 levels (round up)
    Acute Vision                +1  per 1 level
    Alertness                   +1  per 1 level
    Combat Reflexes             +2
    Peripheral Vision           +2

POWER: If the character lacks Magical Aptitude AND Psionic POWER then they do not have a POWER attribute in Fantasy Realms and this attribute is a 0. Otherwise Take GURPS IQ. Modify based on which advantages and disadvantages they have, as per below. Then take this and use it on the numeric conversion chart to determine Fantasy Realms Value.

    Adv/Dis                                  Modifier
    -------                                  --------
    Magery 1                                   +1
    Magery 2 (instead of 1)                    +3
    Magery 3 (instead of 1 & 2)                +5
    Per POWER level (in all Psi abilities)     +1

(Remember that in Fantasy Realms POWER is used by BOTH Magic and Psionic abilities, and there is no restrictions or rules against having both Psionic and Magic abilities in most game worlds).

TOUGHNESS: No attribute is used as a base to this, we simply calculate directly to Fantasy Realms. High Pain Threshold gets a +1; Each level of the Toughness advantage gets a +1; Having combat reflexes adds a +1.

WEALTH: Wealth, in GURPS varies based on whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage. In Fantasy Realms it is an attribute, but the range of this attribute is modified from worldbase to worldbase, and changed by optional advantages that can raise it beyond that range. In order to do it we must base it in part on worldbase ranges.

GURPS           FR Range 1-8     FR Range 1-20
-----           -------------    --------------
Dead Broke            1              1 - 3
Poor                  2              4 - 6
Struggling            3              7 - 9
Average               4             10
Comfortable         5 - 6           11 - 13
Wealthy             7 - 8           14 - 16
Very Wealthy        9 - 10          17 - 19
Filthy Rich         11+             20

Skills Conversions

In GURPS skills are partially based on an attribute score, while in Fantasy Realms this is not the case. Since both systems rely heavily on skills the conversion of these are very important.

GURPS Skills normally have an attribute and a value of generally of their base attribute and a -4 to +5 modifier for mental skills (-3 to +5 for physical skills).

In conversion to Fantasy Realms it is better to take this roll value of the skill then trying to backwards engineer it, since there is so much variation in how this is calculated (including factors such as skill difficulty and prerequisite skills). So we take this value (ex: Spear Usage, a Physical/Average Skill; DX-5 default which on an average person is a value of 5; and thus investing 1/2 of a construction point becomes under GURPS a skill of DX-2 or 8 for our average example) and compare it on the following chart to find the Fantasy Realms Equivalent skill Rank:

       ----------------          -------------------
       Less than 8                       0
        8 - 10                           1
       11 - 12                           2
       13                                3
       14                                4
       15                                5
       16                                6
       17                                7
       18+                               8

Other Conversions

Advantages and Disadvantages become Traits in Fantasy Realms, and for the most part can be carried over without changes - don't worry about the numeric values difference about the converted items too much, you won't get completely perfect math balance in converting. Just make sure that once a character has been converted that all future experience gains, rolls etc are done so under the Fantasy Realms Mechanic and things will smooth out over time.


Magic systems are quite different between GURPS and Fantasy Realms, and primarily the various authors writing under GURPS have kept to the system outlined in the basic rule book and fully detailed in the seperate Magic Books instead of creating new systems that might be more appropriate to a particular worldbook.

In Fantasy Realms the Magic system is modified a little bit to fit each worldbase and the magic laws therein. This gives more flexibility, and yet retains a basic simple mechanic.

Thus it is best to assume that converted magic can be adapted to the base mechanic and retain its concept of prerequisites, colleges etc under GURPS. Spellcasting is the base skill used throughout Fantasy Realms, whereas in GURPS each spell is a seperate skill in and of itself.

So, to determine a character's spellcasting score in Fantasy Realms give them 1 rank for magery 1, +2 ranks if they also have magery 2, and +3 ranks if they also have magery 3 (thus from magery a maximum of 6 ranks in spellcasting). If they have more than 10 spells give them an additional +1 rank, and if they have 20 or more spells give them a +2 instead (thus maximum of 8 ranks, as per standard Fantasy Realms Rules). Assume they have 1 rank in spell memorization for each rank in magery and give them another +1 for every 10 spells they are starting with in translation.

Additionally, for characters that have learned specific spells under GURPS they can be considered (because of the way the GURPS system works) specialized in those skills, and thus have a seperate Skill in the spells. Take their skill roll value and use the skill conversion table earlier in this article to find their specialized skill rank in the spell. (Like all skills, Magic spells allow a maximum of 8 ranks).

Calculating spell difficulties is something that should be done for specific spells by comparing their power to that of existing spells in the worldbase you are bringing the character into. A comparable spell to an existing Fantasy Realms Spell should have a comparable difficulty.

Remember that there are no spell points in Fantasy Realms, so the 'costs' of GURPS are primarily ignored in the translation of spells.

An alternative is to go thru the character's spells and to give them directly Fantasy Realms Spells for the specific worldbase that have similar effects to their existing spells, and thus avoid the calculation stage of spell translation as above. If doing this then you would NOT use the 'Specialized skill' concept previously outlined, but would calculate a 'Realm' skill (or several). To calculate this assume that for every 4 spells they have that fall within a Realm that they have 1 skill rank in that realm (with the usual maximum of 8 in any one realm applying).

Final Notes

Remember that, as GM, one must consider a character fully before allowing it to be translated. If a character is considerably off balance compared to the rest in a campaign, then it will be a cause of friction within a game between players. An overpowering character quickly becomes too much in control of a game (ex: playing Superman(TM) with a party of normal humans), an underpowered character can become frustrating to the player running them (ex: playing a country peasant with agricultural skills in a party of mages and swashbucklers).

This same caution should be applied when using a scenario/adventure or setting that someone else has written for a particular worldbase and adapting it into your own. Make sure the culture, economics, religions and concepts fit into your worldbase effectively and that the characters won't find themselves overly crippled, overly limited or too easily able to overpower the locals. An adventure should usually have elements of mystery, excitement, danger (though it does not have to be physical), romance and a motive for the player characters to be involved.

Thus, above all, be sure that what you translate will help to make a game both interesting and fun for all players and GM involved. If its not, then why bother?

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GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games Incorporated, and use of the name in this article does not challenge the trademark status in anyway.

GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) 3rd Edition is copyright 1986,1987,1988 by Steve Jackson. Their mailing address is : SJ Games, Box 18957, Austin TX 78760. They also maintain a World Wide Web Site on the Internet at :

Fantasy Realms (TM) is a trademark of Joseph Teller. Fantasy Realms : World of T'Phon (TM) is a trademark of Joseph Teller. World of T'Phon (TM) is a trademark of Joseph Teller

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