Review: GURPS Hot Spots – The Silk Road

The long GURPS drought due to all the work on the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is finally easing and what does Matt Riggsby bring us? A desert! But this offering is most welcome as Mr. Riggsby takes us right into one of the most interesting areas, when it comes to cultural exchange: The Silk Road and especially the Tarim Basin. Yes, it’s a new GURPS Hot Spots volume and that means history nerd paradise with enough forbidden fruit to entice just about anybody.

Cover of GURPS Hot Spots - The Silk Road

Facts

Author: Matt Riggsby (a.k.a. Turhan’s Bey Company on the fora and twitter)
Date of Publication: 11/05/2017
Format: PDF-only (Warehouse 23-only)
Page Count: 54 (1 title page, 2 content pages, 2 index pages, 1 page ad)
Price: $10.00 (PDF), $0.20 per page of content; Score of 6/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG37-0662_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. As a setting book cheese will be most important.

The Silk Road is a bit of an unusual topic for for a Hot Spots volume as even it’s central parts, which make up most of the book’s content, are more far-flung than a regular spot. The time frame (from the 2nd to the 10th century AD) doesn’t help to fix it any more to a specific point. What keeps the setting together is the flow of goods and ideas from East to West and vice versa and the fact that small groups (adventurers!) can make a difference in a region that lies at the margins when it comes to culture, civilisation and state oversight.

Ostensibly, the book deals with the reality on the ground in the Taklamakan, the Tarim Basin, the Hexi Corridor with some forays into further-off areas, but the setting’s feeling, the social interplay between the fringes of empires can be transferred to other settings. Riggsby manages to kindle the reader’s interest with the first few lines (artefacts!) and keeps it up until the bibliography.

There is no denying though that this is a historical supplement. I assume most people have at least some experience with those when it comes to GURPS. It’s not completely different from what has been offered before, but it is very accessible and well-done. Also it has some tantalising cross-over possibilities – indeed the crossover section takes up more than three pages, but let’s have a look at the overall structure.

After a one-page introduction to whet our appetites, we have the usual chapters on geography (twelve pages, with six pages of maps only) and history (five pages), then the book takes a detour from regular Hot Spots and omits notable people in favour of a gazetteer of the area (ten pages). This chapter includes towns and cities along with some other sites, interspersed with boxes on interesting myths, adventure seeds and notable artefacts, followed by an overview of the people, empires and religions of the area. This is similar to other such gazetteers you can find in many fantasy world supplements and serves much the same purpose. It paints a vivid picture of the setting and helps to distinguish places that would otherwise be just names on a map.

Chapter 4 (5 pages) is named War and Money and tells us a lot about the weapons and units favoured by the local powers as well as the trade goods that were shipped along the Silk Road. Stats are not the focus here and the next chapter: Life on the Silk Road (6 pages) shows us how people ate, what they wore and they entertained themselves. Buildings and the intellectual life are also covered.

Chapter 6 (8 pages) deals with the details of running a campaign in the area. The section on characters is relatively short. Campaign themes and cross-over ideas take up more space. A two page bibliography rounds off the whole thing.

Meat

Meaty and crunchy rules are not the focus of the book, but some rules slip in at different places. There is a concise, but nice passage of how to give the present religions the supernatural GURPS treatment. There are new rules for getting lost in the desert and for taking damage from sandstorms. We learn the terrain quality for travel and the environmental quality for hunting and foraging in the Tarim Basin. Tech levels are given in all relevant quarters. Matt Riggsby shows us what elements the armies of the region deployed. There is relatively little news on weapons  and armour, though. Most of these were influenced or even bought from outside and can be found in Martial Arts or Low-Tech. There is even a sourced price list for the most important trade goods and a listing of farther luxury trade goods.

Most meat is found at the beginning of chapter 6 with Cultural Familiarities, languages (including learning languages with more than one script), explanations of skills, jobs and one Craft Secret. Both the Guide and the Holy Mendicant are two interesting jobs that are a good fit for adventurers.

On the whole, there is little missing unless readers were looking for a full gear loadout or complete martial arts styles. The latter would have to be fabrication, because little is known from this area and time. For the fun factor we get a technique for throat-singing and a treatment of cannabis according to Low-Tech Companion 3.

Meat score: 6.5 (more than solid enough for a setting book)

Cheese

While The Silk Road does give a very good overview of its topic, it really shines at the small details where Matt Riggsby can show off his academic expertise. We learn that rope suspension bridges would have been useful, but were unknown in the old world. We hear some good old myths repeated and debunked in the same breath (Crassus’ legion in China). We marvel at wonderful artefacts like the Diamond Sutra (the world’s oldest dateable printed book) and wonder what else might lie hidden in the sands. In short, we find ourselves drawn into a world that was as rich in inter-cultural exchange as it was in danger.

Both the landscape and the history do get a very solid treatment in the book, but you won’t find singular rulers or a overriding passion for dates and battles. The history discussed here is that of the longue durée: slow processes that shape socio-economic development. The reasons that make exporting silk to the west a good strategy for China and much appreciated in the west are all present, while the recurring wars and changes in ownership are merely a background that doesn’t change the overall narrative.

Chapters 3 to 5 give the reader an intimate view of how life in the cities and on the roads of the Tarim Basin must have been. Where the archaeological record and written sources fail him, Matt Riggsby draws on contemporary custom to provide us with a picture (e.g. for food).  Chapter 6 discusses the most important ideas on how to make a campaign on the Silk Road. Apart from the merchants, missionaries and militants three-way split, we are also presented with a mapping on familiar settings. One of these is the Western – we are literally reading about China’s Wild West – the other one is Dungeon Fantasy of all things. After the first mental disconnect this even makes sense. The area features culturally less developed tribal people, fortified trading cities and ancient ruins and even dragon-bones. It’s not a far leap towards the Western as a genre and as we all know the Orcs are just more socially acceptable stand-ins for American Indians.

If there’s anything missing from the book, it may be a stronger link to the empires in the area. We are left with a general remarks on Chinese and Arab officials and customs, but it’s a bit thin for making up military and civil-servant characters. Of course, there is GURPS China to fill the gaps, but GURPS Persia and GURPS Tibet are still sorely missing and GURPS Arabian Nights is a bit far off in tone and content matter.

Cheese score: 9.5 (trying for perfection)

Sauce

After bells and whistles of GURPS Mars Attacks everything would be let-down, but for a historical book the illustrations are quite disappointing. I see that there’s vastly less in the way of royalty-free (or any other) artwork and photos about the subject than say Constantinople or Florence, but one or two authentically clothed and armed Sogdians, Tocharians or Göktürks would have really added to immersion, as would a view of one the mentioned cities or a typical house.

The maps, while useful and correct, could have been more impressive. I might have too high standards in this regard, but the mountain ranges look pretty artificial and the deserts are worse. The high-resolution, small-scale map of the Tarim Basin is the best-looking one and probably the most useful one too. The large-scale overview map of the whole area takes a bit to get used to, though. There’s also a map of a cave shrine complex that is a bit bare bones and would have been better without hexes.

Riggsby’s writing is engaging, interesting and colourful in the vein of the best Anglo-American popular histories. Jokes are far and few between, but this ain’t Dungeon Fantasy, after all. The style fits the subject matter perfectly.

Editing is good as always. I spotted only one minor pointer problem and the index looks fine too. Oh, and kudos for getting the German sharp s in Seidenstraße right!

Sauce score: 6 (give us some illustrations already!)

Generic Nutritional Substance

Generic usefulness is generally not the high point of historical supplements. The Silk Road remained the major route of exchange between China an the west for the better part of a century, though, so there’s a multitude of historical settings where it might crop up at least once. Matt Riggsby also goes to great lengths to present crossover opportunities and analogous settings. I feel Mr. Riggsby is now fully justified to present an expanded version with Zoroastrian Wizard templates as the default setting for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 7.5 (absurdly high for a very ungeneric setting book)

Summary

Hot Spots: The Silk Road is a really enjoyable read that will give its readers many ideas for campaigns and adventures. It is not a book that I can whole-heartedly recommend to people who really hate historical reading, but anybody else can rest assured that this is a good investment if you’re looking for something a little different for the usual RPG fare, while still giving your characters enough agency and interesting opportunities.

It is probably best used for a setting where characters are more or less mobile. While Mr. Riggsby does give a couple of sedentary campaign options, these are often a bit on the mundane even for people who like historical realism like me – although the caravanserai campaign does sound like it could be a lot of fun.

Total score: 8.05 (very, very good)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (15%), Cheese (50%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a cheese-oriented book. A “meaty” tech- or rules-oriented book would turn the percentages for cheese and meat around.

Value score: 7.025 (hits the sweet spot of PDF length)
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 Mars Attacks

Updated 12/06/2017 after PDF release to fix price mistake

After far too much time off the radar I’ll tackle one of the two delicious GURPS hardcovers that came out late last year. It’s not exactly hot off the press any more, but it only got to Germany six weeks ago, so it’s not exactly cold review by that standard either. Anyway, just have a look at that gorgeous cover:

GURPS Mars Attacks Cover

Facts

Author: Jason “PK” Levine (a.k.a. Reverend Pee Kitty)
Date of Publication: 29/12/2016 (date of announcement of store availability)
Format: Hardcover and PDF (Warehouse-23)
Page Count: 96 (1 title page, 2 content pages, 2 index pages, 1 page ad)
Price: $24.95 (hardcover), $0.27 per page of content; Score of 6/10 for the hardcover (+2 for being a full-colour hardcover book),
$15.00 (PDF), $0.17 per page of content, Score of 8/10
Preview: http://www.warehouse23.com/media/SJG31-2510_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.

The first thing that grabs you about the book is the art. You don’t even have to like the B-movie alien horror style to see that this is heads and shoulders above the usual GURPS fare. Moreover, it fits the mood for the setting perfectly. Then there’s the fact that it’s the first full-colour hardcover GURPS book since Low-Tech, albeit the smallest one in existence. Yes, it’s smaller than GURPS Dragons and GURPS Alpha Centauri! It’s still a good size for bringing it to your gaming table, but it won’t give you full-text search.

With the technical stuff out of the way, let’s have a look at the content. This is most certainly a setting book with a useful amount of meaty stats, but not enough to make it a meat-cheese hybrid. Only a little bit over twenty pages deal directly with rules and most of these are character templates. The history of the invasion, different aspects of Martian society, command structure (basically the same) and technology get a lot room as do human responses, the breakdown of global society and game-mastery things like setting the mood, making things memorable and maintaining a good pacing. Indeed, the book does a very good job at streamlining play both on the meta-level and the rules themselves.

GURPS Mars Attacks is divided in five chapters, a short introduction to the franchise and the usual comprehensive index. First we get a timeline of the Martian menace going back to the beginning of the 20th century, then we get an in-depth look at both the Martians and humanity with its allies. Their respective technology is also discussed in story terms in these two chapters. Chapter four deals with character traits and templates – both racial and occupational. The final chapter deals mostly with plots, atmosphere and setting dials, but also includes some NPC write-ups (as you might imagine there aren’t very many).

Mars Attacks is supposed to be a stand-alone book, ready to play with nothing but the Basic Set, but even the introduction strongly suggests Ultra-Tech. I would add High-Tech to the list (the only normal vehicle not covered in here is a jet fighter) and both the Action series Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys is a perfect fit for this style of gaming. More tech books can be added to taste, but they aren’t a necessity. 3rd Edition GURPS Atomic Horror is not a bad addition though. Even if a lot of its salient points have been covered in Mars Attacks it’s a good lead-in for the pre-invasion games and adds a ton of details for a 1950s campaign.

Meat

While stats and rules aren’t the focus, there is a lot of meaty stuff in Mars Attacks still. We get stats for the zany Martian weapons and vehicles and monster stat blocks for their experiments (including “upgraded” humans and giant insects). Giant robots get both the vehicle and monster treatment for use by and against PCs. There are streamlined tech level rules that reduce the penalties for high TLs and variant gadgeteering rules that allow for taking shortcuts in exchange for weird bugs.

We also get a comprehensive treatment of available character traits for both the Martian and human side, including Wildcard Skills and what to do if your players want to play less nasty Martians. Character templates and the accompanying lenses cover most of the common roles you’d expect to pop up, but the variety and niche protection is less than in dedicated series like GURPS Action, Monster Hunters or After the End. There are rules for adapting templates from the former two for a Mars Attacks game, but a small tie-in to the latter would have been even more àpropos, in my opinion.

There are some nice titbits I wouldn’t have expected like half a page of cybernetic limbs with point costs and Range Bands that replace regular range penalties with broader ranges for basic combat. Hilariously, you can also reconstruct the Martian weakness for awful country music, even though that’s not a standard assumption.

All in all, the only thing that seems to be missing is standard military loadout for the humans (the Martians are covered). I’m guessing that there were reasons for not making this an even 100-pages and setting-specific stuff is certainly more important than things you can look up in other books. Still it hurts playability for the target audience.

Meat score: 7.5 (weird tech win)

Cheese

For such a campy setting, there’s certainly a lot of non-campy backstory involved and that makes it possible to play a Mars Attacks campaign straight with the weirdness taking a backseat to the action and horror. That was probably a good decision. After all you can always turn the camp dial to eleven. The book actually uses the three dials of camp, darkness and gore to help the GM get a feeling for how to stage their scenes.The deeper themes of the story aren’t neglected, but they seldom take centre-stage.

Most of the GM advice is about making each session a rip-roaring tale of gruesome adventure and – above all – fun. The last chapter makes it easy to set up good campaign starters (and continuations) even for the less experienced GM. The seeds listed here and in the vignettes should keep players occupied for a long time. What’s missing is a sample adventure or at least a detailed look at an alien base through human eyes. While the book does a good job of inspiring GMs, it’s still bit more work than the popular GURPS series, including Dungeon Fantasy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Mars Attacks is more like regular GURPS in this way and not necessarily the first book to give to a newbie after Caravan to Ein Arris.

Having said that there is still a plethora of information in here that can be used to stage a multitude of scenarios: hapless civilians being caught in a surprise invasion, alien sadists rampaging through the countryside, secretive scientists preparing for the alien menace and special forces infiltrating the enemy’s bases. The fact that the aliens are always considered as a playable faction is a definite plus and lends itself to periodic changes of perspective. The alien mindset is very well represented and helps players portray sadistic, status-obsessed Martians without going completely off the deep end. The preferred option is still playing humane Martians, though, which is probably a good idea for any sort of extended campaign.

For those interested in such matters, the canonical story given here is different from both the trading card series and the movie, but makes more sense than either. I can’t speak for the comics – maybe those are closer. In any case, there are also a lot of divergence points offered, so that nothing is set in stone and can be changed by the GM – or the actions of the players!

Apart from the absence of an intro adventure there is very little that’s missing from a setting point of view.

Cheese score: 8.5 (Martians are very thorough)

Sauce

This is the first GURPS book in while that really makes you happy about how things look and it’s the first full-colour one since GURPS Dragons (remember that first 4th Edition book?). While the art style might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it’s a perfect fit for this style of game. Readers who get really turned off by the art will probably think the same thing about the content. Even the sexualised nature of some of the original artwork is addressed and in a mature manner too.

The writing is top-notch as you’d expect it from PK, but for most of this book he set his humour to extra-dry , which makes it all the funnier. The vignettes (a big one for the Introduction and each chapter and small ones throughout the text) are very interesting reads too and feel a lot less forced than what you often see in RPG books. They do add a lot to the overall look and feel and help the reader explore the world in a more immediate way.

Editing and index are near perfect as we’ve come to expect from SJGames, but the layout is even better than usual. The upper margin with the colourful UFOs  is a really nice touch and using a radioactive symbol instead of a fat bullet point actually helps readability a lot, especially in the templates.

Sauce score: 9.5 (highest Sauce mark so far)

Generic Nutritional Substance

As a setting book, there are always limits to how much you can pilfer for other games. Streamlined TL and gadgeteering are obvious candidates as are range bands and most of the tech and character templates. The GM tips work for a lot of over-the-top campaigns too, but ultimately more than half of the book is explicitly about alien invasion and much is about this specific invasion.

Generic Nutritional Substance score: 6.5 (still very good for a setting book)

Summary

Mars Attacks is is a very good, campy, over-the-top SF action-horror setting to buy that leaves very little to be desired. If you’re looking for a change of pace you could do much worse. Just don’t mistake the book for something it isn’t! It’s not GURPS Alien Invasions in the sense of X-Com, Xenonauts or Black Ops. It’s much more action-oriented and fast-paced and has – for most of the part – more similarity with a zombie apocalypse setting than anything else. And it will be bloody and silly and horrible in equal measure. Still, it’s a useful thing to have even if you don’t plan on running such a campaign any time soon. I certainly got more from the book than I would have ever thought. Add to that the fact that it’s the cheapest GURPS hardcover to date and you certainly have a winner!

Total score: 8.25 (2nd best so far)
Total score is composed of a weighted average of Meat (15%), Cheese (50%), Sauce (20%) and Generic Nutritional Substance (15%). This is a cheese-oriented book. A “meaty” tech- or rules-oriented book would turn the percentages for cheese and meat around.

Value score: 7.125 for the hardcover, 8.125 for the PDF
Your choice. The hardcover is certainly more fun to show around, but the PDF will probably be more useful in the long run and it’s a real bargain.
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.

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 6 – The Glaistig

Right before the end of the Dungeon Fantasy kickstarter, in jumps a new contender for Dungeon Fairy of the year:

Glaistig (15 Points)

Choice Professions: Barbarian, Martial Artist, Scout, Swashbuckler, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Bard

The goat-legged Glaistig are easily mistaken for tallish fauns – a fact that these very prim and proper faeries deeply resent. They used to be protectors of wild herd animals, changed towards domestic herds with the coming of the humanoid races and are getting more and more disenchanted by the modern world and its turning cows into iron-rations mentality. This pent-up anger makes them prone to joining adventuring parties who need someone to deliver a good ass-kicking.

Glaistig, especially female ones, try to disguise their goat legs with robes or skirts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use them to shatter knee-caps and leap over high elves in a single bound. Glaistig enjoy wild nature, but would side with the careful farmer and caring shepherd versus the wild-haired druid. This and their “no fun please!” attitude make them pretty unpopular among other faeries, but well-liked among countryfolk. They often get offered small gifts or discounts on goods and services.

Attribute Modifiers [-20]: DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [5]: Basic Move +1 [5]
Advantages [38]: Claws (Hooves) [3]; Magery 0 [5]; Super Jump +2 [20]; Talent: Good Shepherd* 2 [10]
Perks [2]: Glaistig Discount** [1]; Patience of Job [1]
Disadvantages [-50]: Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; No Sense of Humor [-10]; Sense of Duty (Pastoral Nature)† [-15]
Feature: Leg and foot armour isn’t interchangeable with human armour – but, embarrassingly with faun armour. Tail (neither a manipulator nor enough of a problem to interfere with armour).

*Good Shepherd: You are naturally good at caring for livestock and keeping them safe from predators by clouting those with your crook. This talent aids: Animal handling (domestic herd animals only), Climbing (for finding lost animals), Staff, Survival and Veterinary. Reaction Bonus: simple country folk, pastoral nomads. Only Glaistig may have it and buy up to two more levels at character creation. 5 points / level.

**Glaistig Discount: This is Cheaper Gear (Simple Food, Drink and Lodging) for a 25% discount – an extra 5%, because it only applies in the countryside.

Sense of Duty (Pastoral Nature): Glaistig help inoffensive prey animals that don’t threaten to become a danger to farming. They don’t have any tuck with overgrown groves, but they don’t see a  problem with clearing a path for humanoids either. They do abhor twisted and corrupted nature  just like good druids and the other faeries. This Sense of Duty does not prevent them from eating meat of domestic animals, but they brook no cruelty towards living animals an feel pretty bad when they have to take their lives. Most Glaistig are vegetarians.


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.

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 5 – The Spriggan

The GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter continues to grow and so do these faeries:

Spriggan (20 points)

Choice Professions: Martial Artist, Scout, Thief
Marginal Professions: Knight

Spriggans are the kind of people most folks can figure out at a glance: Their faces all look like they have been violently rearranged a couple of times and the greasy, stringy hair doesn’t help either. They aren’t quite your regular diminutive farie with an attitude though.

When threatened – or really whenever they feel like it – Spriggans can grow to the size of an ogre with the strength to match. They mainly use that to keep others from stealing their treasures or deliver a beating to those disrespecting mother nature. Their dual nature as miserly nature faeries, means they can often be found guarding far-out treasure troves or moonlighting as highwaymen.

Despite their predilection for treasure, Spriggans prefer to travel light. Their growth only covers very light equipment and given the chance Spriggans rather carry a big stick instead of a bunch of armour and heavy stuff. This can lead to problems, but Spriggans are rather harder to kill than most faeries. They like to pretend feebleness only to strike their foes in the back.

Spriggans are short, but stocky – not completely unlike halflings, but don’t tell them that. They aren’t fond of protection rackets and prefer straightforward robbery. Figure height normally for their ST, but multiply the result by 0.5. Multiply the corresponding weight by 0.6.

Attribute Modifiers [-20]: ST -3 [-30]; HT +1 [10]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [0]: SM -2 [0]
Advantages [105]: Spriggan Growth* [105]
Perks [3]: Giant Weapons† [1]; Iron Arms [1]; Patience of Job [1]
Disadvantages [-58]: Appearance (Ugly) [-8]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Miserlines (12) [-10] Sense of Duty (Nature) [-15]

*Spriggan Growth. By concentrating for 1 second a Spriggan can grow to SM +0 and gain +8 ST in the process (for a final racial modifier of +5). A Spriggan can stay at the increased size for any amount of time and revert back by concentrating. Equipment, weapons and armour up to no encumbrance are temporarily transformed to corresponding size. If dead or unconscious the Spriggan reverts back to their original form. 105 points.
Statistics: Growth +3 (Can Carry Objects up to No Encumbrance, +10%; Maximum Size Only, +0%) [33]; ST +8 (Size, -10%) [72]
†Same as the Halfling perk, but more powerful due to Spriggan Growth.


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.

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 3 – The Brownie

Household spirits work in the dark of the night and so do I. Let me present the Brownie in support of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter.

Brownie (25 points)

Choice Professions: Innkeeper, Ninja, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Barbarian, Holy Warrior, Knight

These humble household spirits are often ridiculed by the more adventurous faeries like Pixies, Leprechauns and Fauns – the drab brown clothing doesn’t help either – but many an adventuring party has found them an unexpected boon. Given the chance Brownies would stay in their favourite household forever, but that’s hard to do if the tenants get torn apart by hordes of skeletons. Fortunately, they are quite adaptable. Traditionally acknowledged as masters of stealth, they are able to cook a five-course meal without waking anybody in the house. That their housekeeping skills are without par goes without saying, but only recently have adventurers woken up to the fact that this also applies to butchering monstrous foes…

Unusual among adventuring types, Brownies are not big on being paid. Many go so far as to regard payment as an insult. Fortunately even the most stiff-necked Brownies wouldn’t consider shares of loot to be payment and food given to them is always a gift, right? Brownies get along best with down-to-earth types, who enjoy good food and drink – like Barbarians and Dwarves. As domestic faeries nature comes a distant second to creature comforts, but they do feel some empathy towards animals and plants.

Brownies are strong for their size, but not quite as strong as Leprechauns. They are every bit as tough, though. Find height normally for their ST and multiply the result by 0.3. Weight is generally in the 5 to 10 kg range, but extremely fat Brownies coming in at 20 kg most certainly exist.

Attribute Modifiers [-10]: ST -5 [-50]; DX +2 [40]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [8]: SM -4; Basic Speed +0.5 [10]; HP -1 [-2]
Advantages [59]: Magery 0 [5]; Reduced Consumption 2 [4]; Silence 6 (Cosmic: Stealthy Work*, +50%) [45]; Talent: Household Spirit 2** [10]
Perks [2]: Alcohol Tolerance [1], Clothing Shtick: Sartorial Integrity [1]
Disadvantages [-34]: Bad Temper (12) (Only when deliberately insulted, -60%) [-4]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Vow: Do not needlessly or cruelly kill animals and plants. Use all the parts of those you do kill unless absolutely impracticable. [-5]

*The full skill bonus applies to manual work involving tools and up to full arm movements. Yes, this includes drawing weapons and aiming, but not actual fighting.
**Household Spirit: Your knowledge of household tasks is truly supernatural. You can literally turn monster entrails into gourmet food. This Talent aids Animal Handling: (for domestic animal types only), Cooking, Leatherworking, Professional Skill (Dungeon Butcher)† and Pharmacy (Herbal). Only Brownies may have it and buy up to two more levels at character creation. Reaction bonus: Innkeepers and ordinary, hard-working folk (a small group by Dungeon Fantasy encounter standards). 5 points/level.
†See Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic p. 5.


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.

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 2 – The Pooka

Next in my series on faerie folk in the Dungeon, here’s another classic faerie in Dungeon Fantasy guise.

Pooka (20 points)

Choice Professions: Bard, Martial Artist, Swashbuckler, Thief; Wizard
Marginal Professions: None

Shapeshifters whose “natural” form resembles slightly under-sized, anaemic  elves, Pookas often join adventuring parties without revealing their fae nature. Elves do not appreciate these elvish impersonators. Unlike Pixies and Leprechauns, who got something to prove, Pooka retain much of their capricious faerie nature. They are easily bored and wont to play practical jokes on dangerous foes – a trait that doesn’t endear them to the more stolid professions. They are much more relaxed when it comes to saving nature, but don’t count on them standing back during your tree-felling spree. The myth that Pooka like to turn into black horses and go on wild rides are derided even by the most mischivous Pooka.

Pookas are slim, but not very tall. Find height normally ST, but subtract 20% from their weight. They take 10 seconds to change into another form. They can memorize up to IQ forms and must discard an old form to memorize a new one. None of this affects their stats in any way. The only exception is faking social traits the target might have and lowering their appearance – Pooka can’t convincingly imitate beings with Transcendent Appearance. Blemishes and imperfections tend to creep in. As a side benefit to their shapeshifting they can hide small objects of up to BL/10 in their body. Getting them out takes the usual 10 seconds for Shapeshifting, however.

Attribute Modifiers [10]: ST -1 [-10]; DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [3]: SM +0; Basic Move +1 [5]; HP -1 [-2]
Advantages [61]: Appearance (Very Handsome/Beautiful) [16]; Magery 0 [5]; Shapeshifting: Morph (Cosmetic, -50%; Magical, -10%) [40]
Perks [3]: Forgettable Face [1]; Natural Pockets (Shapeshifted Flesh); Rules Exemption (Forgettable Face with Handsome/Beautiful Appearance) [1]
Disadvantages [-54]: Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Impulsiveness (12) [-10]; Pacifism: Self-Defense Only (Animals and Plants only, -60%) [-4]; Trickster (12) [-15]


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.

Perky Post: Dungeon Faeries 1 – The Knocker

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has a nice little collection of faerie player races, but more options can never hurt. This is the first of new series of mini articles I’m calling Perky Posts. I hope to do one of those each day for the remainder of the Dungeon Fantasy kickstarter. So, without further ado, I present the knocker in DF format:

Knocker (20 points)

Choice Professions: Elementalist, Thief, Wizard
Marginal Professions: Barbarian, Holy Warrior, Knight, Martial Artist

Knockers are both a bane and a blessing to miners, alternately warning them of impending danger and stealing their stuff. While most of them stay in their favourite mine their whole lives, flooding, earthquakes or acute adventurer infestation will make them pack up their stuff and leave. With a penchant for deep places and carrying off other people’s stuff there’s little wonder that displaced Knockers take to dungeon-delving like fish to water. Especially their ability to locate any kind of underground metal is highly-prized among delvers – as even dwarves have to grudgingly admit.

As mining faeries they do not have a sense of duty towards nature, but instead act honourably towards miners and fellow underground dwellers when dangers like rockslides and collapsing tunnels are concerned. They won’t lure anybody into unsafe areas and won’t steal urgently needed survival gear. Of course, all bets are off, when they are aboveground.

Knockers look like wizened old men and women. To get their height start out with regular height for their ST (without taking into account their racial modifier) and multiply the result by 0.4. For body weight do the same, but multiply the result by 0.3 – they are strong and resilient far beyond their looks, but do not reach the level of leprechauns. A Knocker has SM -3 regardless of actual height. Tiny Tools (DF3 p. 8) applies to their gear.

Attribute Modifiers [0 points]: ST -2 [-20]; DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers [5 points]: SM -3; PER +1 [5]
Advantages [59 points]: Absolute Direction (Underground only, -40%) [3]; Danger Sense (Underground only, -40%) [9]; Detect: Metal (Underground only, -40%) [12]; Lifting ST 2 [6]; Luck [15]; Magery 0 [5]; Night Vision +9 [9]
Perks [1 point]: Penetrating Voice (Knocking only, Doubled Bonuses) [1]
Disadvantages [-45 points]: Code of Honor: Professional (Miner’s) [-5]; Dependency: Mana (Very Common, Constantly) [-25]; Kleptomania (12) [-15]


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.