Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 4 – The Ganconer

Another faerie that likes doing things in the dark. Though the things the Ganconer does to support the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter are quite different from the Brownie‘s household chores.

Ganconer (20 points)

Choice Professions: Bard, Druid, Martial Artist, Ninja, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: None

At first glance these roguishly handsome blokes – and lasses, though the latter seem rather less common – could be mistaken for some sort of rustic nymphs. Ganconers are, however, far more immediately dangerous. Seducing simple countryfolk of both genders is far more than a pleasant past-time for them. Like a vampire they can drain their lovers of energy and life force. They don’t suck blood, though.

At the same time they are stalwart defenders of mother nature – though they have far less of a problem with ordinary rural farming-folk than some of their more distant kin. Ganconers have  been known to band together with elves to drive rampaging orc hordes from the forest, only to leave their erstwhile allies strangely exhausted after the obligatory victory parties.

Despite this, they have gained a bit of a reputation for skedaddling when the odds aren’t in
their favour. Their natural ability to turn invisible makes this too tempting. Unfortunately, it only works on their bodies and doesn’t include their clothes. Rumour has it that this is due to a jilted elven goddess. Be that as it may, ganconers have adapted and become supernaturally good at shedding their clothes.

Ganconers look extremely similar too elves, but true faerie connoisseurs can tell their true nature from the slightly too long ears and the too mundane hair colours. Figure height and weight as for elves, regardless.

Attribute Modifiers [10]: ST -1 [-10]; IQ +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [-2]: HP -1 [-2]
Advantages [68]: Appearance (Very Beautiful/Handsome) [16]; Leech 2 (Accelerated Healing,+25%; Accessibility, Requires sexual intimacy, -25%; Contact Agent, -30%; Steal FP, +50%; Takes Extra Time 10, -100%) [6]; Invisibility [40]; Magery 0 [5]
Perks [1]: Clothing Shtick: Explosive Disrobing*
Disadvantages [-56]: Addiction (Tobacco) [-1]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Lecherousness (12) [-15]; Sense of Duty (Nature) [-15]

*Explosive Disrobing: Ganconers have perfected the art of removing their garments and even their armour, leaving the offending coverings in a ring around them. Roll vs DX +2 to remove summer clothing in one second or ordinary clothing in 2 seconds. Subtract -1 from the DX roll and add 1 second to the time to disrobe for every point of DR the clothing or armour provides. Only Ganconers can have this perk.


GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 – Born of Myth & Magic

Not one of the new series Kromm and PK have been hinting strongly about, Peter V. Dell’Orto’s newest oeuvre will be very much welcomed by Dungeon Fantasy players and other GURPS fans alike. It’s close in style and content to Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, but whereas the former volume had a lot of unique, original and lesser-known monsters, the current one deals to a large degree with classic ones. The title is right on the money and if a monster is not connected to myths, it’s sure to have some magical slant to it (actually the mythic monsters are also magical).

Cover Page of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 - Born of Myth & Magic

Facts

Author: Peter V. Dell’Orto
Date of Publication: 02/06/2016
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 24 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1 index/ad page)
Price: $5.99 (PDF), $ 0.29 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0338_preview.pdf

Review

As all my other reviews this one will be rated according to meat (rules, stats, game mechanics), cheese (setting, characters, story), sauce (form, writing, style, art) and generic nutritional substance (universal nature, adaptability). At the end you find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 follows the format established in DFM1: Each of the 16 monsters presented gets a page with game stats, description, GM advice and (in most cases) possible variants. Only the notoriously hard to run Doppelgangers get two pages. Apart from the introduction, there’s a short section explaining how to read the monster stats, two pages on meta-traits not in GURPS Basic (two of them brand-new) and new prefixes. There’s nothing especially surprising about all that.

The same can be said of the mythical monsters. Basilisk, Cockatrice, Doppelganger, Dryad, Harpy, Manticore, Medusa and Phoenix are old standbys in fantasy games, but it’s good to see full game stats for all of these. It would have been nice to see non-western myths represented, but you really can’t argue about the sheer iconic value of this selection. Some less expected monsters like Giant Ant, Lava Lizard, Phase Serpent, Rock Troll and Shadow Warrior to provide variety. But my favourites are the weirdos, of course: Living Pit, Octopus Blossom and Rot Worm are surely going to provide hours of fun for your players – or painful seconds of death more precisely. A special mention goes out for the myrmecoleon – an ant with a lion’s head from medieval mythology.

Meat

As would be expected from a Dungeon Fantasy supplement, the diet is leaning towards the meat side of things, though not as much as the recent Power Items. We get the expanded stat block that has become the standard DF notation and notes how everything works in play (read: combat). There are some boxes on special combat rules, where warranted – note the large number of gaze or sight attacks. Variant round this off. We get four different Basilisks (not combinable), two different Cockatrices (not combinable), three types of ants (workers, soldiers, queens) combinable with six variants (some of which can be combined for even more fun), Sirens as variant Harpies, scalable Living Pits, five variants of Manticores (free to mix and match), six Medusa variants (stackable), six Octopus Blossoms (some of them combinable), rules for making variant Phase Critters, five different kinds of phoenix (only one burns), guidelines on using prefixes on Rot Worms and rules for making different Shadow Beings (Shadow Warriors already can be modified by race).

The two new meta-traits (Amorphous Stone and Plant) are very useful, the prefixes (Flying, Furious, Holy and Phase) a bit less so with Phase being the most interesting one. Rules for fighting monsters without looking at them, for attacks out of phase, falling into monsters and a decapitation Achilles Heel for Unkillable 1  round off the rules-side of things. All in all, the book comes through for all those who cherish stats and rules.

Meat score: 8.5 (deliciously roasted monster meat)

Cheese

Despite the rules-heavy outlook of the book, there are also roleplaying hints for all creatures, though those are often on the short side of things and sometimes solely confided to tactics and whether they are able and willing to negotiate. The exception is a very good treatment of what to replace with your Doppelganger adversary.

Cheese score: 4 (none of these monsters are giving up any milk)

Sauce

Except for a rather boring composite of interior art on the title page, the inside art is quite good. While it’s certainly not up to DFM1 level, it’s a clear step up from most GURPS offerings nowadays and gives off a cool medieval bestiary vibe too. Peter V. Dell’Orto also manages to capture the tongue-in-cheekiness of Kromm’s Dungeon Fantasy.  While he doesn’t quite reach the master in all cases, I laughed out aloud at least once and chuckled many times. Whispering tree gossips, pit-fighting, death by weasel, chibitrice and the dreaded leaping ethereal dungeon shark are among the funnier concepts I read in RPG supplements lately.

I did manage to find three spelling mistakes, which is abysmal for a GURPS supplement, but still stellar for regular RPG products. I’m not marking the book down for that.

Sauce score: 7 (pity there wasn’t a chuckling variant for the Cockatrice)

Generic Nutritional Substance

The monsters presented are optimised for fairly high-powered fantasy, but many wouldn’t look too shabby in a Monster Hunters campaign or any urban fantasy with a couple of tweaks. Indeed, there is a nice range of power levels present in this volume. Prefixes and especially the new meta traits are pretty dang universal. I can’t believe we didn’t have the Plant one before now. The extra rules are also useful for fighting any weird foes and will come handy in many unrealistic campaign settings.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 8 (a true bestiary)

Summary

On the whole, there is only one true criticism I have for this book: It’s too short. Even another four pages with non-western monsters would have been nice, but with this topic I could have seen a full eighty-page treatment – though that would have necessarily overlapped with 3rd Edition’s Monsters. A pity most titles on the GURPS wishlist are for 30 pages or less.

Total score: 7.45 (my favourite title for the year so far, barely edging out After the End 1)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (50%), Cheese (15%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a meat-oriented book. A “cheesy” setting- or drama-orientied book would turn the percentages for cheese and meat around.

Value score: 5.725 (just at the right length to get a positive price rating)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

Review: GURPS Disasters – Meltdown and Fallout

A pity this one didn’t get published last week to coincide with Chernobyl’s 30 years after. But it’s still a topical first release in a long-awaited (at least by me) new series. Didn’t expect  this one specifically – the title wasn’t in the examples section – but it’s a nice companion for the recently released first helpings of After the End. At the same time, it’s nice to see GURPS going back to its roots by providing gameable abstractions of real-world situations.

On the first page, there’s the sentence “All the real-world information in this
supplement was obtained from public sources and off-the-record discussions with experts.” If such a line comes from a GURPS author, I’m  inclined to believe such a promise.

Cover Page for GURPS Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout

Facts

Author: Roger Burton West (“RogerBW” on the forums)
Date of Publication: 2016/05/05
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 31 (1 title page, 1 contents page, 1 bibliography page,  1.5 index pages, 0.5 page ad)
Price: $7.99 (PDF), $ 0.30 per page of content (counting the bibliography); Score of 3/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-1710_preview.pdf

Review

As all my other reviews this one will be rated according to meat (rules, stats, game mechanics), cheese (setting, characters, story), sauce (form, writing, style, art) and generic nutritional substance (universal nature, adaptability). At the end you find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

Author Roger Burton West has a good track record when it comes to articles and books about robots or nuclear stuff, including the 4th Edition incarnation of Reign of Steel: Will to Live.

As the first title in the new line, it’s interesting to take a look at the book’s composition. First off, we get the introduction that briefly brings us up to speed why the topic is interesting in an RPG and how it can be used in different campaign frameworks. There’s also a glossary of the terms provided Then we get seven pages of real-world background information, including possible accident scenarios. Next are nine pages about gaming the meltdown, followed by two pages of radiation gear – real and (mildly) speculative. Rounding it off are eight pages about possible campaigns and adventures, a bibliography and the index. Nothing surprising here, but surprise is not actually what you’d be looking for in a book about real-world topics.

This is, of course, a book addressed mainly to GMs. I’m not sure you’d need anything besides the Basic Set to play around with it, but it’s certainly not bad to have High-Tech at hand. Do note that some High-Tech equipment stats are updated here. There are some ties to After the End, Action and Zombies, but those are strictly optional.

Meat

The meat of the matter is contained mostly in the first three chapters – but it’s mixed heavily with the cheese. The first chapter starts off gently by explaining fission and sustainable chain reactions in layman’s terms. We learn about the different reactor models and radiation types, fuel, waste and how to protect against radiation (including updated Protection Factor numbers). There are also sections on economic and social impact, but they are fairly short. There’s also a box on ultra-tech meltdowns, dealing with fusion and antimatter reactors.

The second chapter “Gaming a Meltdown” first has a Characters-like section that presents us with a list of the very much expected exotic traits to resist radiation. Then it veers off into versions of common perks, disadvantages and quirks. The latter two – Always Jokes / No Sense of Humour About Radiation – are a bit weird. More interesting are the skills. More useful are the skill notes that explain what specialisation covers what. There’s also a small section on superhero mutations. And then there’s the meltdown itself. If you ever wanted to know how much damage a reactor’s steam explosion could do, you need not look further. Also there are detailed rules for nuclear weapons – which frankly surprised me a bit – but that was the one area where 4th Edition’s High-Tech  was lacking compared to its predecessor.

Also in this chapter are both After the End‘s simplified Radiation Threshold Points and a more detailed, realistic method for simulating radiation exposure. There are also some rules for affecting truly exotic characters. Fallout dispersion gets a detailed treatment too.

The gear chapter has very specialised realistic anti-radiation remedies. Fun fact: Some of the really advanced stuff is so hideously expensive it makes regular cancer drugs look like chump change.

Some meat is also found in the boxes and tables of Chapter 4, like fright check modifiers for radiation exposure and likely damage from fires, steam, toxic chemicals and electricity.

Personally, I would have liked a little bit more on radiation effects on wildlife, vegetation and machinery – as well as even more detailed rules for radiation sickness on characters. That’s mostly nitpicking, though. The book answers most of my questions on how to treat a nuclear disaster rules-wise and even some I didn’t know I should ask.

Meat score: 8 (reactor is critical)

Cheese

Some of the campaign-building and flavour parts are distributed through the first two chapters. That includes real-world effects that aren’t quantified into crunchy rules and also descriptions of historical disasters. Most of the cheese is contained in chapter four, though. That one deals explicitly with campaigns and adventures.

Obviously the focus here is on modern-day earth and the seven decades before today, but there are alternatives that include nuclear steam engines (not as unrealistic as you might have thought), spaceship reactors and magical reactors. Technomancer‘s NEMA is briefly discussed, as is general magical “radiation” as well as magical smybolism. We learn about different countries’ nuclear safety nets, security forces and the global organisational oversight.

The chapter presents different kinds of hazards from a story point of view – whether as the main focus or a just a complication. Meltdown-focussed adventures are split in two flavours: prevention and disaster management with many different sub-grouping and specific (if generalised) adventure seeds thrown in between. Infinite Worlds gets a seed, but there could be more ties to other settings, especially After the End and Reign of Steel.

Necessarily some things have been left a big vague as there are many different types of reactors and safety and security arrangements, but I would have liked a bit more on specific hazards that occur during clean-up or rescue, maybe in the form of ‘hazard seeds’ boxes just like there are adventure seed ones. It’s not a big problem, but sometimes things feel a little bit removed from the action on the ground.

One thing I’m feeling a bit ambiguous about: The book tries hard to be neutral about atomic vs. renewable energy, but there is a certain undercurrent in favour of the atom that doesn’t taste very good to me. Your mileage may vary, of course. As a member of the Chernobyl generation I might just be a bit touchy.

Cheese score: 7 (politicians clearly back nuclear energy)

Sauce

Burton West’s prose is clear and elegant, but quite technical at times – don’t expect many Kromm-like jokes (there is one though, have fun finding it). The book doesn’t require excessive physics knowledge, but readers should be generally aware how atoms work, at least to tell apart electrons, neutrons and protons.It gets more technical in some spaces, but rarely to the point where the interested reader becomes less so. Science-shy readers might want to avoid looking too closely at the “Measuring Radiation” box, though.

It’s still weird to me to read science with degrees Fahrenheit, but the average American reader won’t have that problem. Another thing that’s annoying are that the giga-/peta-/eta-becquerel numbers that are really hard to visualise, but there’s not much Mr. Burton West could do about that.

There are a couple of intersting titbits here like Lake Karachay, the most polluted place on earth, or the 2012 Oak Ridge Incident, in which an 82 old nun and two companions broke into a top secret nuclear facility, but unfortunately they not very detailed – come on, at least mention that she was a nun!

There are some some slight compositional problems: e.g. the output of a normal reactor in MW is found in a sub-heading in Chapter 4 and as contrasting number under Turnkey Reactors. That isn’t ideal, but we’ve had worse.

Illustrations, as usual, are extremely sparse – three out of four can be seen on the title page and the third one is a warning sign. They’re not that pretty either. I do like the brushed steel for ‘Disasters’ on the title page though.

The bibliography is pretty exhaustive for such a small book, but I find myself incapable to comment on the non-fiction. It seems a pretty good mix overall, though.

Sauce score: 4 (think about lowering those graphite rods!)

Generic Nutritional Substance

That’s better than you might think, actually. Sure, you can only get bona-fide nuclear disasters in relatively modern or future settings, but the book also considers the problem of magical equivalents / ramifications. It’s still rather limited, but it does raise some interesting questions. Much of the information is about the real, of course, but that also covers a heck of a lot of campaigns.

As a special bonus, much of the material will be applicable to other game systems too. Most of the equipment can be used as is and the real-world data doesn’t change with the system.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 6 (dodged that lethal dose)

Summary

A very promising start for a new series. I’m looking forward to more from both the author and the series. I won’t exactly start putting nuclear stuff into my campaigns, but I feel confident I could manage that better than before, should the need arise.

As always I wouldn’t have minded another half a dozen pages, though. Up your standard length to 38 pages already, Steve Jackson Games!

Total score: 6.575 (expected half-life of 20 years on my digital shelf)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (32.5%), Cheese (32.5%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a book balanced between Meat and Cheese.

Value score: 4,7875 (cost more tax dollars than expected)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

Review: GURPS After the End 1 – Wastelanders

As all my other reviews this one will be rated according to meat (rules, stats, game mechanics), cheese (setting, characters, story), sauce (form, writing, style, art) and generic nutritional substance (universal nature, adaptability). At the end you find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

Not at all surprising given RPK’s recent ask-me-anything session, this week’s release kicked off a new quick-start line with GURPS After the End. The big question is, of course, how it compares to the already existing ones. I’ve never had a chance to delve into Monster Hunters, but AtE doesn’t need to hide from either the Dungeon Fantasy or the Action series.

GURPS_After_The_End_1_Wastelanders_1000

Facts

Author: Jason Levine (“Reverend Pee Kitty / PK”)
Date of Publication: 03/03/2016
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 36 (1 title page, 1 contents page, 2 index/ad pages)
Price: $7.99 (PDF), $ 0.25 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/gurps-after-the-end-1-wastelanders

Review

The book follows the existing framework for a quick-start line. It mainly gives us the “Player’s Guide” with a one-page intro, character templates (15 pages), cheat sheets for traits and skills (5 pages), equipment (7 pages) and a few extras. In this case the extras mutations and new rules for Long-Term Fatigue, cinematic Radiation exposure – half a page each – and Mutations (a 3-page chapter).

The page numbers alone show that templates are the most important part of the book, but there’s more than that and it definitely includes more information on world-building and related topics than either DF or Action. The new mechanics are also unusual for a character guide, but of course they are needed to streamline some rules that also impact character creation.

On the whole, this is still mostly a book for players with some added details that will mainly be of interest to GMs – and not all of them at that.

No additional books past the Basic Set are needed, but Bio-, High- and Ultra-Tech along with Psionic Powers certainly add depth to the setting.

Meat

The templates as such are not nothing absolutely new. Yet pretty much every template gets more detailed packages to help differentiate characters made with it. The exception is the Nomad, who will be defined by their choice of vehicle. The packages are mostly about slightly different roles, not just weapon choices like in DF. The customisation notes are likewise extensive (more than 1/3 of a page each) and tied to the packages. The advice given there is very solid and helps keeping players used to more resource-rich environments grounded. Common mistakes with trait and skill choices are mentioned as well as good equipment buy strategies. These also include tips for which templates can stand in for others in a pinch with correct trait selection.

What isn’t immediately obvious to the novice GM is the fact that that the templates are very much regular heroic level instead the larger-than-life ones in Action and Dungeon Fantasy protagonists. Fitting for the setting this gives characters more scope for personal growth. It also means that you won’t find traits like Weapon Master, Gunslinger
or Trained by a Master on any of the templates, which incidentally leads to less of a gap
between combat-oriented and support characters.
The biggest change to Dungeon Fantasy is certainly that social traits are included in the templates, which is – of course – crucial for the setting. Wealth doesn’t exist as a concept, though – well, nobody is going to miss these rules much. And maybe RPK will come up with some ingenious mechanics for the accumulation of stuff in the upcoming “GM’s Guide”.

The lenses presented here are not tied to character background like in Action. They act more like Power-ups or the lenses in DF: Denizens – Barbarians in giving characters a special shtick like “Fast” or “Hardy”. They do all have the same 50 point price tag, though.

The cheat sheet is nothing special, but it is a crucial piece of information for the novice GM. It lists what does and doesn’t go in a wasteland setting and also gives you tips on how to handle those boring background skills that might exist reasonably.

This chapter also includes the Long-Term Fatigue and Radiation Threshold Point (RP) rules. The former offer an easy way to remember that you’re not only fatigued, but dehydrated, sleep-deprived, starved etc., but aren’t what Douglas H. Cole did in “The Last Gasp” (PYR/3.44) – but given that this is a framework that should appeal to newbies that is a good thing. Even veterans might snatch the rules for another setting, but don’t expect any wonders. RPs are a cinematic way to treat radiation that fits in very well with most postapocalyptic portrayals and avoids unfunny outcomes like “dies painfully over weeks” without making radiation a non-issue. They’re basically a hit-point-equivalent mechanic and can be bought up and down from a base value.

As mentioned, mutations get their own chapter and the system itself is pretty slick. All mutations are accompanied by a Freakishness value, which apart from making it obvious for others that you are a mutant and giving you a reaction penalty also necessitates rolls on a side-effect table, when you reach certain thresholds. The nice thing about that table is that the disadvantages won’t generally ruin your character concept (though Berserk and Callous might in some cases). The mutations themselves run from subtle to freakish, while decidingly leaning to the latter.

The last chapter deals with gear and gives some world background. The “economic” TL of the world is 4 and all the prices are figured from that using the standard rules for higher TL gear. What’s disappointing is that we are basically told to stop using TL modifiers for skill use. I had somehow expected an ingenious compromise between realism and cinematic usability.

The equipment list is not quite as colourful as in DF: Adventurers, but provides most of the basics that aren’t in Basic: Characters. I’ve missed cross-country bicyles and expected a couple of out-there PA motor vehicles, but alas there aren’t any. What is there are a table for problems with scavenged vehicles and very detailed rules for fuel replacement mechanisms. That last page is where old GURPS Vehicle stereotypes will rear their ugly heads in the unconverted. It is good stuff, but it might put off the less technical-minded.

Meat score: 8 (that rat jerky ain’t irradiated)

Cheese

Given the examples one could expect AtE1 to do poorly in this regard. That’s not the case. Granted, it does contain only a small amount of world-building and non-rules oriented material, but what’s there is certainly nice enough.

The “How did it all end?” box spells out different end-of-the-world scenarios and encourages GMs to mix and match to create something unique. It also talks about how distant in the past the end should be set. You can’t have proper a post-apocalypse if everybody is still sad about missing the end of Game of Thrones.

The customisation notes for the templates talk a lot about how they will fit into the world, much more so than in Dungeon Fantasy and still more than in Action (which uses the modern world anyway). Even the traits in the templates give some world information, though often these aren’t further explained (like Secret: Organ-legger) and the GM has to work them out for themselves. There are interesting bit-pieces like trader becoming the last DJ, but they’re far and few between.

The outlined barter economy based on rifle cartridges makes sense. You wouldn’t want to invest ins something as perishable as cigarettes and who needs bottle caps anyway?

All the notes about what still is and what isn’t useful give the GM something to work with when designing treasure hoards. Even the rules for fuel-substitutes are good as inspiration for world-building – or for deciding that everything runs on mystical petrol.

Cheese score: 6 (Brahmin milkshakes for everyone!)

Sauce

As always Jason Levine’s style is readable and pleasant, without quite reaching Dr. Kromm’s tongue-in-cheekiness. It is one of the funnier RPK books though – even the author section seems more hilarious than usual.

The illustrations are again the weak part. Even though none are bad, the resulting theme is pretty incongruous. The title page is a good indication of what to expect.

The only real beef I have is that I would have wanted a clearer indication of Freakishness level for the mutation section. Yes, Freakishness is treated as a regular disadvantage, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have that spelled out near the front of each mutation.

Sauce score: 5 (Sure, that’s soy sauce!)

Generic Nutritional Substance

How generic can a book be that deals with civilisation after the end of the world? Pretty dang generic actually. All the new rules work for any setting that might touch on the subjects of survival, radiation and mutation (which could be from demonic powers just as easily).

All the world-building information is relatively generic too. Yes, something went terribly, terribly wrong, but that’s not that specific. It could happen in a fantasy world too, though the guns are, of course, a problem. The templates chapter has a handy box called “Inappropriate Skills” that helps you determine when some of the listed skills are inappropriate because of setting contents.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 7,5 (Man, generic rat paste is the best!)

Summary

GURPS After the End 1 – Wastelanders is a good product for beginners (GMs and players alike) that benefits from the fact that there aren’t so many postapocalyptic settings out there and that GURPS really shines at simulating realistic survival. It’s not quite as easy to use as the first volume in the Dungeon Fantasy or Action series, but that has a lot to do with the subject matter. There’s a much broader range of images that come up, when one thinks of the wasteland.

Let’s hope there are two or more of these coming this year and we’ll all be set to ride the fury road!

Total score: 7.275 (best in 2016 so far, beating out Epic Treasures by the tiniest of margins)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (50%), Cheese (15%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a meat-oriented book. A “cheesy” setting- or drama-orientied book would turn the percentages for cheese and meat around.

Value score: 5.1375 (it’s always the low page count that gets this one down)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.

2015 – (Re)Commencing to Blog

When I started this blog in June last year, I did it for two reasons: To promote GURPS, especially new books, through reviews and articles and to structure my own ideas better. From my livejournal experience I didn’t expect much of an audience outside the GURPS forumites and the occasional Google search for reviews. Now, either things have changed greatly in the last decade or my interpretation of the traffic data is completely deficient, but in 2015 alone I got more than 600 and more than 1200 views. Even discounting a third as bots, that’s far more than I would have expected.

What hasn’t changed is that hardly anybody ever comments, but that I expected. I’ve got one subscriber on wordpress (Hallo dknxohq!) and two comments so far. Now that’s still pretty good if you assume only one visitor in a thousand ever gives feedback. And I did have some external feedback on Twitter and on the forums, mainly from RPK, Turhan’s Bey Company and Archangel Beth. That’s pretty good, considering that there’s hardly any GURPS blogger living on wordpress. I really should have gone to blogspot, but I refuse to have anything more to do with Google than I have to.

So, what did people interest in 2015? In one word: reviews. With the Thaumatology – Sorcery review leading the parade at more than 300 views, I can be pretty sure that’s what people want. Even the most popular rules article has only one tenth of that (though that’s getting close to the less popular reviews).

Some rules articles only have 2 or 3 views at all. Now that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get any use out of them, because they did help me to finally focus on some topics that I only treated in passing before.  Now, I’d love to get some feedback on my Language article, Technique pricing and thoughts on Afflictions, but I guess I should push my blog a bit more on the forums.

The articles on The Dark Eye roleplaying system got relatively disappointing views numbers in the lower double-digits, but that might be due to most of them being written in English. I should really ask SJGames about translating GURPS rule terminology. I got a comment anyway – thanks, Dunkelzahn.

Resolutions

This also brings me to my blogging resolutions for the new year. In 2016, I’m going to try to review each new GURPS release – with the possible exception of Monster Hunters and Action instalments, which I haven’t really followed and don’t feel competent to judge.

I know, I’m bad at self-promotion, but I’m going to try and do a bit more in this regard too: Opening a blog thread on the GURPS forums, tweeting each new article (without forgetting the hashtag), maybe spending a bit more time on the forums and being a little more assertive about linking to my stuff.

Then there’s the mentioned translation: If SJGames gives me the go-ahead, I’ll make that sure that I publish at least one DSA article a quarter, though these might be German-only in this case.

I’ll also post a number of maps I made over the years and see if somebody can’t find a use for them in their game.

If everything goes well, I might even post a some campaign transcripts, probably from DSA’s Phileasson Saga.

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds

As all my other reviews this one will be rated according to meat (rules, stats, game mechanics), cheese (setting, characters, story), sauce (form, writing, style, art) and generic nutritional substance (universal nature, adaptability). At the end you find a weighted average of those components and a value score that also takes into account price per page.

Matt Riggsby seems to be on a roll, when it comes to Dungeon Fantasy. A month after kicking off the Treasure subseries,  he brings us GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds just before Christmas (Is it just me or would that release have been better for Treasures? Well the vagaries of publishing, I guess).

Cover page for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 17 - GuildsNow, I am on record for saying Riggsby’s last book was less DF than what we’re used to. This doesn’t quite apply to this title, even though it does have applications outside of Dungeon Fantasy. Before I elaborate further let me say that the book builds on the social rules for DF that Dr. Kromm introduced in “Traits for Town” (Pyramid 3.58: Urban Fantasy II). In fact, pretty much the whole of the article is reproduced – not counting the “Professional Discounts” box, but that one has been expanded for each discussed guild. So if you thought about buying Pyramid 58 just for this article, you can just buy Riggsby’s book instead. If you already bought it, don’t begrudge SJGames the slight recycling.

Facts

Author:  Matt Riggsby (a.k.a. Turhan’s Bey Company on the fora)
Date of Publication:  2015/12/10
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 31 (1 title page, 1 content page, 1 index page, 1 page ad)
Price: $7.99 (PDF), $ 0.26 per page of content; Score of 4/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/products/gurps-dungeon-fantasy-17-guilds

Review

As a DF product kind of dealing with setting details, Guilds is a square peg in a round hole, but much less so than Treasures. Yes, it deals with worldbuilding too, but it does so in a style that is decidedly dungeon-fantasyesque. Nevertheless, the book is pretty much balanced between rules and setting tips.

The book is split in two chapters and an appendix of rank titles. The first chapter reproduces Kromm’s rules, which is important as this reintroduces social traits into Dungeon Fantasy. Then Riggsby takes us by the hand and shows us easy-to-use ways of using organisations in DF. He makes heavy use of the Pulling Rank rules first introduced in the Action series and expanded by the good doctor and Riggsby himself.  There is also some historical background information, but that amounts only to two paragraphs.

The second chapter details fifteen types of organisation (along with a couple of variants) for use in your campaigns. Each of those takes up one and a quarter page or so and they tie into DF templates a lot. The three questions “Who are they?”, “What do they want?” and “What can they provide?” are answered in some detail for each. Be warned though that these are very much types, not ready-to-use sample organisations akin to the magical styles in Dungeon Magic. The appendix of rank titles is just that: titles for each of the organisation types.

Meat

So, why would you want to add in all these fiddly social bits into a beer-and-pretzel game like DF? Simple: to give the players more options for customising their characters. The cleric who holds high rank a congregation will play differently from the one who’s someone in a noble court and the one who rubs shoulders with university-types. Organisations also provide ample plot hooks, but that’s a setting (and therefore cheese) thing.

The basics here are Kromm’s rules, but everything concerning guilds comes from Riggsby. The assistance rules from Pulling Rank et. al are nicely streamlined to fit a DF setting and not bog down play. All the different types of assistance are detailed complete with samples. The guild entries show at a glance what each can easily provide and what not.

Ease of use is a big thing here. We get a complete listing of DF professions with sources, a a complete overview of social traits, a sorting of professions in each guild (who are the masters, rank & file, hired help?) and a rank range for each organisation. Especially nice is that guilds don’t always use Administration for the assistance rolls. Intimidation or Streetwise might work just as well. There’s a lot of simple stuff like adding rank to contest skill rolls or wealth level to sell loot that might also work well outside of DF, even if they are a bit gamist.

Add to that some odds and ends (rules for technical jargon, cants and slangs are neat) and you’ve described most of the book’s rules. There’s nothing in here that doesn’t work, although there are no complete revelations for those who already know the Pyramid article.

Meat score: 8.5 (extra half-point for streamlining)

Cheese

As this is a balanced kind of book, setting matters just as much and although we don’t get any cute worked examples, this book can be a great help, especially for the beginner GM who just starts exploring their world. Riggsby explains why leaving the dungeon from time to time is a good idea. He shows how each of the guild types can provide hooks for further adventures and how advancement in rank can serve as a means to achieve the game’s ultimate goal: get better bling and cooler powers.

We do learn a little bit about historical guilds and communication problems that made large organisations impossible in the middle ages, but that information is relatively sparse. Don’t buy the book for its real-world data. The rank names are, unfortunately, mostly boring. Apart from one or two odd men out most of the tables have nothing interesting to them. The Congregation table is at least an odd mixture of religions, but only the Hermetic Cabal titles are truly close to old D&D weirdness. Who wouldn’t love to be called “Hidden Instrument of the Verities”?

As it stands Guilds is a good stepping stone to a more nuanced style of play and might lead people who cut their teeth on that other game and DF to actual worldbuilding. It’s only a first step, though, and it is a bit constrained by its length. Personally I would have liked a Dungeon Magic approach better with detailed worked examples added to the generic types. Even a half-page sample for each type would have been nice. Maybe we can still get this as a follow-up? Pretty please?

Cheese score: 7 (good framework in need of filling)

Sauce

There’s a very limited amount of pictures in the book, but most are appropriate if unspectacular. I like the ornamental title pages, as I’ve said before, but it’s nothing special. There are some jokes in Kromm’s text that make you laugh out loud, Riggsby’s jokes are more wry and less frequent, but they are well-executed and his writing is fluent and easy to read. There’s one cut-and-paste error, but apart from that the editing is good. The only surprise concerning the sauce was a pull quote from Pope Francis. The pope in Dungeon Fantasy – now that’s an association you’ll have a hard time severing.

Sauce score: 7 (okay art, nice jokes, good writing and editing)

Generic Nutritional Substance

The information, while DF-centric, is useful for any kind of fantasy campaign and might be even used for some that take place in higher-tech settings. By their very nature most of the guilds are, however, tied to a setting where there’s some pretty rigorous diversion of labour. In campaigns where there’s none of that, the write-ups will be much less useful.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 7 (generic enough)

Summary

Dungeon Fantasy: Guilds is no must-have title for those who strictly adhere to the genre’s core values, but for those who want to stray a bit farther afield it is more than useful. More than some DF titles it is a toolkit, though – albeit a toolkit that takes the novice GM’s hand and leads them into that fearsome land of social roleplaying.

Total score: 7.4875  (a really good book, especially for less experienced GMs)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (32.5%), Cheese (32.5%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a balanced book

Value score: 5.74375 (cost-to-length ratio is always hard to beat)
Value Score is composed of the average of Total and Price.


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