Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Note and an NPC

Posting will be light this week, as I was on vacation last weekend and am planning for a new campaign starting this Sunday.  It's an all-fighters campaign set in the China-esque lands of the East in my gameworld.  For your amusement here's one of the lieutenants of The 44, a local pack of bandits plaguing the campaign's starting area.  I've left most Advantages and Disadvantages off this sheet, but I figure the stuff I did list would be readily found out.

White Faced Killer


ST 11 HP 11 Basic Speed 8
DX 16 Will 14 Basic Move 8
IQ 10 Per 12
HT 13 FP 13 SM 0
Dodge 12 Parry 12 Block 10 DR: 0


Broadsword • Swing (24): 1d+5 cut at reach 1.
Broadsword • Thrust (24): 1d+4 imp at reach 1.
Karate • Punch (16): 1d-1 cr at reach C.
Karate • Kick (14): 1d cr at reach C,1.


Attractive Appearance; Callous; Code of Honor (Pirate's), Distinctive Features (White Hair and Skin); Vow (Never Refuse a Challenge to Combat); Others


Acrobatics–16; Broadsword–22; Carousing–14; Cloak–16; Dancing–16; Fast-Draw (Sword)–18; Gesture–11; Intimidation–14; Jumping–16; Karate–16; Leadership–10; Meditation–12; Philosophy (Avgatism)–9; Riding (Horses)–16; Sex Appeal–14; Streetwise–10; Throwing–16.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How I Made Death Matter Again

This little remembrance came up in one of the sessions of an online game I'm involved in on weekends.  Nowadays, in my GURPS game world, death is almost always permanent.  The standard GURPS Magic spells exist, including Resurrection, so just based on the supernatural abilities that are available it shouldn't be.  There are social restraints in place  that keep it rare: any legal use of raising the dead has to be licensed by a jury of three Bishops of the Goddess of Death, and such licenses are rare and precious.  There are a couple of ways around this, including a Quest (capital Q intended) to find the Resurrection Crypt from one of the 3rd Edition GURPS Magic Items books (1) (2) (3) (I don't remember which one.)  Since I implemented these restrictions, a dozen campaigns ago and probably twenty actual years,  I think maybe three PCs have come back from the dead.  This was the result of one PC with too much money.

Lareth and the Purse With No End

Lareth was a character in the first GURPS campaign I ever ran for my Tuscaloosa group.  He had 75 points of Wealth, the best and most enchanted armor money could buy, and Health 10.  The HT 10 is important, because, in GURPS, armor helps when you get hit, but Critical Hits are a thing, and a strong enough enemy can hurt you through your Maximum Plate.

So Lareth died.  A lot.  He was already rich, the party did things that made them richer, and as a result death never stuck.  This made me wonder: why aren't the wealthy and powerful in my gameworld just immortal?  Accident, old age, or murder are no threat to someone with the resources to take care of the issue, and that's not what I was going for.

So, I implemented religious and social restrictions on Resurrection.  An unlicensed resurrectee gained Social Stigma (Excommunicated) and was in danger of being outlawed by the secular authorities, at which point the Church sent its religious warriors out to send you back to the land of the dead.  I came up with this around the time GURPS Religion came out, if I remember right, and so I was already thinking seriously about religion and society in worldbuilding anyway.  Having it be a social taboo with real consequences helped make death hurt again, and ultimately the players wanted that.  Steve had already stopped playing Lareth precisely because he was sick of being able to buy his way out of anything, including death.

Other Endpoints

Death doesn't have to be the only potential endgame for a PC, and I think for some it's not even the worst potential hazard.  I feel like my players would be more bothered by getting their PC's stuff taken away, or their characters slandered and forgotten in the in-game histories of the world than just by dying.  Plus, about half the players I currently have already have a backup PC or two ready to go because they enjoy making characters.  That faction is better served by giving them a chance for a meaningful PC death or a good retirement.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Alchemy Styles

Styles were introduced in GURPS Martial Arts, and expanded into the standard magic system in GURPS Thaumatology - Magical Styles.  Other variations on the idea came up in Pyramid 3-54: Social Engineering and GURPS Powers: The Weird, and it made me consider other possible applications.  I think Alchemy as presented in the Magic book could be an interesting vehicle for it, so here's my notes on what the style perk might give and an example style.

Feel free to comment, especially on anything for the sample style I might be missing.  It seems a bit thin, even for the first Alchemical style I've written.

New Perks

Alchemical Style Familiarity†

You have studied the mysteries of an alchemical art.  Paying a point for the familiarity gives the following benefits:
  • The style's public elixirs and their appropriate forms (not any secret elixirs) are automatically entered into your formulary.  You never suffer the -2 for an unlearned elixir with them and may pay points to improve their techniques without seeking training.
  • When you deal with another alchemist who has the same perk, neither of you suffers -3 for lack of Cultural Familiarity when making Savoir-Faire rolls, Teaching rolls, and so on.
  • You get +1 to identify any of the elixirs your style teaches.

Secret Elixir†

You know one of your style's hidden elixirs that isn't taught publicly.  It's entered into your formulary as the public elixirs are.

New Techniques

Speed Analysis (Hard)

Prerequisites: Alchemy, Efficient (Alchemy) perk
Defaults: Identify Magic Item (Alchemy) -8, may not exceed default

You can attempt to alchemically identify a magic item instantly. (Generalized from a power-up in Pyramid 3-82.)

Alchemical Esoterica 

7 points

Those who study the Esoterica consider themselves students of the universe as a whole, and try to understand both the natural and supernatural underpinnings of reality.  The Elixirs learned from this school focus on knowledge and that which can improve the student's understanding.  They also have a few occasionally used on ambitious rivals...

Skills: Alchemy, Astrology, Expert Skill (Natural Philosophy), Hazardous Materials (Magical), Occultism, Thaumatology.
Learned Elixirs: Alchemical Antidote (-3), Craftsmanship (-2), Endurance (-1), Foolishness (-1), Foresight (-1), Forgetfulness (-4), Keen Sight (-1), Magic Resistance (-3), Memory (-1), Music (-1), Reanimation (-3), Self-love (-1), Sleep (-1), Tranquility (-1), Wisdom (-2).
Techniques: Identify Magic Item, Speed Analysis.
Perks: Efficient (Alchemy), Equipment Bond (Alchemy Lab), Permit (Elixir of Reanimation), Secret Elixir (Lichdom).
Secret Elixirs: Lichdom (-7).

Optional Traits

Attributes: Increased IQ.
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Increased Per and Will.
Advantages: Single Minded.
Disadvantages: Absent Mindedness, Odious Personal Habits (Intentional obfuscation of speech), Overconfidence.
Skills: Archaeology, History, Meditation, Scrounging, Search, Throwing.


Pyramid 3-28 - Thaumatology II:  "It's Pure Magic" by Christopher R. Rice
Pyramid 3-82 - Magical Creations:  "Dungeon Brewmasters" by Jason "PK" Levine

Edited to add the Secret Elixirs perk.  Not that anyone couldn't figure it out, but I figured it was courteous to define a new thing.

Review: GURPS After the End 2: The New World

The release a couple of weeks ago was the follow-up to After the End 1.  I did a quick review of the first volume, but I decided to mull this one over a bit more and post a more thorough breakdown.

The End

I like the mild joke of making "The End" the first chapter.  This is a list of possible end-of-the-world causes, secondary effects, and pointers to appropriate hazards, discussed in the next chapter.  This is a comprehensive list: bombs, robots, nature's wrath, and other such elements are discussed, as well as ways to mix and match them.  I'm sure you could come up with some that aren't listed but it definitely hits all the most common elements, covering the background elements of Mad Max, Fallout, and most post apocalyptic B-Movies at the very least.  I really liked the Primary Cause and Secondary Effects sections of each catastrophe, as they include lots of good notes about things to look up and consider.

Wasteland Hazards

This chapter covers the places and things that want to kill you in the Wasteland. It's a very meaty discussion, broken up into sub-sections by theme, so you have Chemicals and Munitions, Climate, Disease, Gangs, Mutants (complete with Fallout Super Mutants with the serial numbers filed off,) Nanotech, Paramilitaries, Radation, Rogue Bots, and Zombies.  Throwing all of these at the PCs at once means you're either a very naughty GM or you're running an even more kitchen-sink setting than Fallout.

I thought this chapter was excellent.  There's a lot of good notes about each category of badness, and while, as usual, a GURPS GM has quite a lot of prep work to do, you at least have a list of things to go through and consider what elements you want or need to throw in, with enough guidelines to make the decisions easier.

Boldly Going Forth

This is the "How do the PCs use their skills" section that all the dedicated lines have, and it's as good as I've come to expect from these ongoing series.  The Survival section has a quick Survival skill rule about gathering supplies I'm probably going to immediately start using in my Fantasy games, as it cuts down on the non-exciting rolls while making high skill levels still important.

The section on Ruins is worth mentioning as well, as a quick die roll can settle the important question of "Is this piece-of-crap gonna fall on my head?"

Next is Scavenging, with some of the best guidelines for using Scrounging I've seen yet.  That's rather appropriate, considering the book's aimed at the genre where scavenging is at it's most important, but it's also useful and is something else I might start using in my non-AtE games.

The next section, on inventing stuff, is also very good, with a couple of charts of modifiers worth printing out for your Gadgeteer if you have one in the game.

Computers, Combat, and Persuasion round out the chapter, and they're useful but don't have anything worth noting independently unlike the earlier sections.

Post-Apocalyptic Game Mastering

The final chapter is the GMing chapter, which I sort of glossed over in my reading.  It's a bad habit of mine with most if not all gaming books I own.  I will say the section on Making Everyone Useful is definitely worth a second read-through.

Final Grade: A.  This was a solid book, and it's another must-have for post-Apocalyptic GURPS.  I'd highly recommend picking it up.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Making Diseases Effective in Fantasy

Maybe "effective" isn't the exact word I'm looking for, but deadly diseases should be a society-wide threat and fear in faux-medieval fantasy, and in a world with readily available magical healing, that's just not the case.  I've handled that differently at times in my GURPS gameworld, but none of the solutions I've come up with have satisfied me.  I tried breaking down the standard Cure Disease spell into specific versions for different diseases, but that just leads to unnecessary bookkeeping.  The old standby "Mummy's Curse", wherein a disease is a curse and not really a disease, is another possibility, but it seems like in most games of GURPS I'm as likely to have PCs with the Remove Curse spell because the Curse spell is terrible.

My latest solution is having Magic-Resistant diseases, and making Cure Disease one-try.  So, for example, the Grey Death, which is often fatal and has Magic Resistance 10, can be a real threat to a society.  This seems to be the best one so far.  I think it's also appropriate for some diseases, especially "true" leprosy, to be Cure Disease immune.

Why the Focus On Disease?

I think it's reasonable to ask why I worry about this.  After all, no-one really wants to roleplay having cholera (roll 13 vs. HT 11: "OK, you poop yourself again and are Terribly Dehydrated.")  For me, it's more a question of world-building than the actual gameplay.  My gameworld is definitely late medieval Europe in inspiration, and even a cursory read of the time period should give you an idea of how constant and present the threat of disease was. Some, like leprosy, were a terror from the biblical age on.  To have a universal panacea like Cure Disease really changes the tone away from what I'm looking for.  Plus, while I don't want to constantly affect the PCs with nasty sicknesses, they should occasionally face an actual threat from it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Review: Pyramid 3-89: Alternate Dungeons II

Last week's release was the March Pyramid, which a follow-up to Pyramid 3-72.  It's focused on Dungeon Fantasy, and even though I don't run straight DF I find most of the releases for that series useful.  Here's my opinions article-by-article.

Havens and Hells by Sean Punch

A big article on a specific background for Dungeon Fantasy campaigns: the characters are citizens of Havens, totally safe zones where no-one can die except by old age or suicide, surrounded by a vast Hell of chaos.  The Havens are safe, but lack resources, so PCs are required to adventure in Hell to get stuff (including wood and other mundane supplies.)  If they die outside the Havens, they respawn in the nearest Haven minus their equipment (and 25 points.)

This would be a good basis for a MMORPG or Diablo inspired campaign.  I'll never use it myself but it's a solid setting.  So: this one was an enjoyable read, but not much practical use for me and not very inspirational for my purposes because it's very far removed from what I run.

Eastern Adventures by Christopher R. Rice

This one is essentially Oriental Adventures for GURPS.  There are notes on the basic Dungeon Fantasy 1 templates, a Samurai lens for Knights and Swashbucklers, new Races, and Power-Ups.  It goes to show that even the aggressively background-free DF line can use some tweaking to cover cultures removed from the "Medieval Europe with modern sensibilities" default of most dungeon-fantasy gaming.  It's good, solid advice and I could see similar articles for other broad scopes, like African or Arabian Nights inspired settings.

My favorite bit was a tweaking of the Duel of Wills from Martial Arts at the end of the article.  I've always found that a neat rule and this expands it a bit.  This was a good article and somewhat timely as my next campaign (all fighters all the time) may be set in my gameworld's East.

Eidetic Memory - The Titan’s House by David L. Pulver

A short adventure showcasing the stronghold of a really, really big giant (30') and his family and attendants.  I usually only find published adventures useful for inspiration, but a short and sweet one like this is an exception.  I think the enemies are a touch too stout for most of my starting characters as I normally run at 150 points.  It's an adventure which would probably take no more than a session to play out.

I liked this one. I could see myself throwing this at a party at some point, and I don't often use published adventures of any sort.  The shortness of it, the inherent danger present with high ST foes in GURPS, and the generous potential treasure (much of which is easily overlooked) makes it useful to me. The thought of PCs being savaged by a deadly giant chicken also had me chuckling.

Random Thought Table - The Secret of the Explorers by Steven Marsh

"What if adventurers were outlaws" is the best explanation I have for this one.  It's another setting framework, wherein the players can cause too damn much trouble by kicking in doors.  The world's in the grip of a supernatural Cold War and jerks like the PCs could make it hot again.

I found this one neat, though once again I doubt I'll ever use it.  The nature of the Explorers is a bit of setting background the gameworld would have to start with, and since I run in the same world I've used for twenty five years or so, it's not happening.

Short Bursts - Five Best Places to Nearly Get Killed Before You Die! by Matt Riggsby

Cool, Car Wars is coming back.

Final Grade: B-.  A solid issue, but there's too much in there I won't ever use.  I'd likely use some of it if I was creating a new campaign from scratch, but I run in the same world I've used for quite a while.  Still, the articles are thematic and it includes a rarity for me: an adventure I might run as written.