Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Category: Books

If only there had been an enemies book…

I’m obviously a big fan of Gaming Ballistic (see the Nordlond game), so it should come as no surprise that I’m drooling over this: a big book of Nordlond enemies!

Highly recommended. Go check it out. You know you want to.

Appendix N

On page 224 of the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, we find the notorious Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading. This is where the patron saint, Gary Gygax, laid out the bibliography for dungeon crawling.

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To The North!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s now a lot more content for Nordlond: “Four New Nordlond Sagas: Available in PDF

As a backer, I’ve had a chance to look the new books over, and here’s my thoughts. (Spoiler-free, I hope, since I know my players read these posts and I certainly want to use this material in my game.)

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Thieving From The Wastelands

GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders, is here! If we had only waited a few short months, we would be making characters for a Fallout campaign right now, rather than working our way through a total party crippling… But! That’s neither here nor there. The important thing here is, I can steal bits from it. The first bit to be pried out, of course, is Long-Term Fatigue Points.

From the start, I knew that my apocalypse campaign would need to involve hunger, and thirst, and lack of sleep, and general all-around bad times for the PCs. I wanted more “survival horror” than “two-fisted action”. As I’ve often mentioned to the players, I wanted to find out what happens when there are six PCs and one remaining can of creamed corn. In session #2, the PCs started to feel the first hunger pangs.

… and we rapidly discovered the bookkeeping problem. It’s one thing to count off the last ten cigarettes in Steve’s last pack. It’s a whole other thing to keep track of a couple of Fatigue lost to cold, and one to hunger, and three spent on hiking… Cumbersome. Fiddly. I could feel the frustration with the paperwork mounting.

So, LFP couldn’t come along at a better time.

It seems like I’m not the only enthusiast, either.  Christopher R. Rice, over at Ravens N’ Pennies, has a post expanding on the idea. I’m likely to use his “Scrappy” modifier for Fit and Very Fit. I think Farrah, in particular, could use it…


Pyramid 3/83: Alternate GURPS IV

The new Pyramid‘s out!  The new Pyramid‘s out!

“Pointless Monster Hunting” (Christopher R. Rice)

My group hasn’t had a Monster Hunters game yet, and we’ve never experimented with this whole “pointless” business, so I’m really not the target audience, here. That said, I am terribly intrigued by the “pointless” method. I would think it would be a fantastic way to define a campaign world.

If you haven’t seen “Pointless Monster Hunting”, or “Pointless Slaying and Looting” from Pyramid 3/72: Alternate Dungeons, the general idea seems to be that you take all the complexity of the GURPS character creation system and lump it together into bigger chunks so as to cut down on the number of decisions that need to be made to create a character. Instead of fiddling with Attributes and Secondary Characteristics, the player chooses a package based on the character’s archetype. (“Strong, fast, or smart?”) Instead of choosing from an infinite menu of Advantages, there’s a set of abilities suitable for the genre. (“Are you a mystic? A gunslinger? A healer?”) And so on.

“Pointless Monster Hunting” not only boils GURPS character creation down into a streamlined “one from column A, two from column B” system, it bakes in the concept of Destiny Points, a meta-game currency used to buy and sell successes and role-playing complications. This isn’t just a new number to track, scribbled into the margins of the character sheet; it’s something that’s built in to the character creation system from the beginning.

I think the “pointless” method really demonstrates GURPS’ claim to being a toolkit. You could take this article, redact all the GURPS crunch, type up a clean copy, and hand it out to novice players who would never know the system they’re really using. I couldn’t say why, exactly, but after skimming this article, I find myself wanting to convert my old copy of Feng Shui… (Whoa, there’s a new edition?)

Probably won’t use it directly, but I might be plundering it for parts.

“Knowing Your Own Strength” (Sean Punch)

Logarithmic Strength, where, when you add X to your score, it multiplies the weight you can lift by Y. It reminds me of how they do it in HERO System. If I were thinking of running Supers again, I would have to consider using it. I found that Super ST worked fine in practice, when we used it, but it did draw some funny looks. It might be less jarring to re-scale ST and be done with it.

“Eidetic Memory: Playing With Health” (David L. Pulver)

This article digs in to Health. It spends a lot of time exploring the idea of basing Perception on HT rather than IQ and oh my goodness that is such a great idea…


Let’s just say I see quite a bit of merit in the idea. I’m contemplating adopting it for the upcoming campaign. That would ruin the whole “running straight from the core rulebook” vibe I was getting into, but it might be worth it. It wouldn’t be too hard to set up the GCA files, would it?

“Schrödinger’s Backpack” (Douglas H. Cole)

Awesome: A middle ground between obsessive equipment tracking and full-on gonzo Gizmos!

Of course, the upcoming game is all about the obsessive tracking of equipment, so nothing I can use immediately. Some day, though, for sure. My players seem to have latched on to the idea of Gizmos doing the impossible (“I got a gun through the strip-search!”) more than Gizmos simulating planning and forethought in packing (“Good thing I thought to bring the shark repellent!”). I think the Backpack would open up some space between the two concepts, so we might have characters who know what to bring even when their players don’t, without outright breaking the laws of physics. (And/or decency, as the case may be.)

“Possessions Under Control” (Timothy Ponce)

Adding more depth to attempts at possession and exorcism, replacing “Roll. You fail. You’re possessed. Have a nice day.” with a system with more give-and-take. I don’t expect many possessions in TEOTWAWKI (or do I?), so I doubt I’ll have cause to use it, but I still like it. If I were running some kind of “Tomorrow People”/”Scanners” psi-conspiracy game where everything third villain has mind control powers, though, I would definitely consider it.

Hmm. Come to think of it… Strike that. Reverse it. Considering the article has me thinking about running…

Also, the cover art is really awesome. The game room wall really deserves a copy.




“… another in a long series of diversions in an attempt to avoid responsibility….”

So, GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School has become available. I’m only a couple of pages in, but I’m already dreaming about running a wacky 1980’s college comedy campaign.

Why, yes, learning too hard CAN lead to new quirks…

More practically, I’m thinking it might end up being handy for the long-discussed, little-done post-apocalyptic game that I’ve been kicking around for a couple years now.  It’s fine for larger-than-life characters to go out, arrange for a training montage, drop 30 hoarded character points, and come back as a certified ninja after a weekend. (Hey, James Bond did it!) If the campaign’s more grounded in grubby ol’ reality, or if it’s just trying to give that impression, I find that one of the best ways to drive it home is to crack down on experience points, and learning in general.

For the Space Cowboys game, I handed out one (1) experience point per session, plus a player-voted Cool Point to one character. That no-more-than-2 points was meant to be a bare minimum to cover purchases from fortuitous plot developments, like saving someone from stepping out into traffic and thus gaining a Contact — purchases that the player knows about, but the character thinks of as accidents. If the character knew about it, then the character had to work for it, through study or training or the like. If Osolo wanted to raise his ST, he hit the gym. (And, indeed, first bought a point of Lifting ST, then a Hit Point, and then traded them both in for a full-fledged point of ST.)

At this point, I’m thinking I’ll have to run post-apoc the same way. Who knows, depending on how the apocalypse plays out, it might be worthwhile for the keepers of the flame to dedicate people to nothing but learning…


Eww, slimy…

Funny thing:  just as I find myself thinking about all things oozy and icky in the dungeon, out comes GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo. Excellent timing, there.

(slurp, slurp, ooooze)


Wrestling with Technical Grappling

At this time, I can say for certain that the future of the Dungeon Fantasy game will include some form or subset of the rules presented in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. It’s all just a question of figuring out the sweet spot of rules to use and rules to ignore for speed. I would be a lot more skittish about the change without the evidence provided by reports based on actual play, like this one over at Dungeon Fantastic, and examples like “Technical Natasha” over at Gaming Ballistic.

I’ve been going through the PDF, start to finish, making mental notes of neato stuff. There’s a lot there, more than we can use at the moment.

* * *

I love the idea of Grip CP — “CP” being “Control Points”, a central concept for these rules, representing how much control one exerts over the thing being gripped, grappled, wrestled over, or wrung out — as presented on page 12. Effectively, anybody wielding a weapon has a grip on that weapon, with a rated strength. Under the basic rules (B370), two people wrestling over control of a weapon would engage in a Regular Contest of ST. Under the TG rules, they would attack the grip, modifying the Grip CP as they go. As the current grip varies from turn to turn, the weapon might be hampered but still usable, or retained but unready, and control can pass back and forth depending on who is doing better at the time.

As I look at the equivalent basic rules, it occurs to me that there doesn’t seem to be an option to force an opponent’s weapon to become unready:  if you win the Regular Contest, you take the weapon away; if you lose the Regular Contest, you lose your grip on the weapon; while the Regular Contest is being contested, the weapon is grappled and apparently the wielder apparently suffers a -4 DX when attempting to use it.  Unless there’s something I’m overlooking, under those rules, anybody trying to grab Gabby’s rapier is just setting themselves up for trouble. She won’t be wrestling for control, she’ll just be happy that you’re standing still and perforate you at an effective 15 skill. Offhand, that sounds like “Telegraphic Attack to the vitals” and “stabby-stabby-stabby” to me.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and the proper way to interpret the basic rules is to say that while the Regular Contest is going on, the weapon is flat-out considered unready. (Doubt it.) However, that means anybody who can make the initial grab can take away a person’s weapon, at least for a moment, and we’ll never, ever see (say) a kobold (ST 8) wrapping all four limbs (Grip ST 12) around Alric’s axe in an attempt to slow him down, only to have Alric eat the penalties and keep on swinging. That image alone is enough for me.

TG takes that Regular Contest, and injects a bunch of fresh nuance and options. It seems like it would just feel more like slowly peeling the enemy’s fingers off the grip, one by one. It offers the chance for more descriptive combats — “Since two hands aren’t doing it, I’ll add my teeth!  I bite his thumb!” — rather than just rolling until somebody fails.

* * *

More options for the light fighter types. The basic books don’t seem to support armed grapples, only unarmed. GURPS Martial Arts appears to be where the Armed Grapple technique appeared, but I wouldn’t expect either Needles or Gabby to be much interested in it. Now, under TG, they’ll be receiving a bonus to their Trained ST — well, Gabby will, anyway, and I’m sure Needles will be raising his skill higher in time — which should help offset that reluctance.

Furthermore, I’m toying with the idea of having Trained By A Master and/or Weapon Master (and/or Heroic Archer, if anybody ever decides to pick up a ranged weapon and take to pinning bad guys to the walls by their clothes…) turn on one of the cinematic switches, and double inflicted CP.

It seems appropriate to me that a quote-unquote “Weapon Master” would be just as much bad news grappling as they would striking. At the very least, a master of nets or the like, weapons that entangle without damaging, should get some benefit equivalent to the normal damage bonus. It seems appropriate for other masters as well. Many’s the time, in movies and cartoons, I’ve seen the teacher snag the student’s collar with a weapon and drag ’em around.

* * *

Bolas. Oh, goodness. I used to hate bolas. If they weren’t such a weird, off-brand weapon, I bet there would be more talk about ’em. One of the characters in the old street-level supers game (not the Supers 1200, but an earlier, 500-point attempt) was a pseudo-Batman-knockoff who used bolas, among many other weapons. Made sense, what with the less-than-lethal nature of the weapon. But in play… gah, they were horrible.

By the rules on B410, if you hit, and they try to Parry, you have a good chance of taking away their weapon.  If they fail to defend, you’ve just taken away the target’s next three actions. If you manage to entangle both their hands, they’re… I dunno, I guess they’re stuck until somebody comes along to free them. There’s no provision for escaping through ST or skill.  (Which is odd, since Escape would be available if someone were tied up carefully with a bola, but not if one is thrown at them.) If someone tried to entangle Rhino like this, I would just have him start doing thr-1 damage against the weapon itself until he broke free, which wouldn’t take very long at all, but that’s not very helpful for characters of high but still near-human strength. All else being equal, I would expect Conan’s superior strength to free him faster than the normal soldier beside him.

Conan’s probably got more Luck, too, which helps, but that’s beside the point.

At any rate, TG removes all that magic and turns them into just another entangling weapon, works the same way as everything else, by inflicting CP. A skilled user, one dedicated enough to slam the points into it, can still pull off crazy stunts… but the weapon itself isn’t an instant-win. It’s possible to get a bit of a hold on a target, enough to hamper but not enough to drop ’em. It’s equally possible for the skilled or lucky wielder to get massive CP and put a target down indefinitely, rather than having an upper limit of three DX rolls’ worth of inactivity. That’s win-win, as far as I’m concerned. It puts a lot more distance between the master and the student.

Funny thing about the Batman-knockoff:  over time, he used the bolas less and less, preferring to use a taser when seeking live prisoners. The taser was pretty darn effective, but not nearly as much as the bolas: it didn’t work on robots, and Rhino often likes a HT-based rolled better than three DX rolls, even with a steep negative modifier. It was almost as if the player became embarrassed at using such an annoying weapon.

* * *

The rules concerning the differences between a wrestler wearing loose clothes and a sturdy backpack versus one wearing a loincloth and covered in oil (TG7-8).  When TPoTKotBO ran his experimental GURPS fantasy game, I played a wrestler, name of Dog, who made a habit of making sure he had a good coating of olive oil at all times. The GM allowed me a level of Slippery to account for this, which was cool of him, but the TG rules add some necessary spice. They don’t just have slipperiness making it harder to grab a character. They actually make it possible to lose CP over time, as the target slides from one’s grasp.

Makes me want to run a greased pig competition. Douglas Cole already outlined how to do a tug of war. If somebody writes up some good rules for bobbing for apples, Tembladera might have to have a fair.

* * *

Spending CP to reduce hit location penalties with a strike. Simple and elegant, and it covers a bunch of moves with a single mechanic. Grabbing the head to set up a headbutt. The old trick with a hand on either shoulder and a knee in the natural place for a knee to go. From behind, one hand on the forehead and a blade across the throat. The smiling assassin, taking a handshake or a friendly hand on the shoulder and turning it into a grapple and a yank onto the concealed dagger.

Know something else you could adapt it to, I betcha?

Bishop, performing surgery.

Bishop, performing surgery.

You can do something similar with CP using Grab and Smash (TG24, updating MA118), where you make two attacks in a single turn (by whatever means), start off with a grapple, and then spend some or all of the inflicted CP to increase damage. (Some of those examples above could be played out this way, too.)

Hmm. Seems like you should be able to spend your CP’s to reduce the penalties for someone else’s attack, like when one guy puts the victim in a full nelson and the other guy punches the victim in the jaw. On the other hand, that could just be the active control penalties at work. Plus the All-Out Attack that sets ’em up for a surprise kick from the victim…

* * *

The options under “Muscling It” (TG26) look like they’d come in quite handy, if we ever go back to playing any kind of supers. They’re also a key piece to running a rodeo in GURPS. (There’s that greased pig again…)

I’m inordinately fond of any set of rules that opens up a weird new kind of campaign. When GURPS Social Engineering came out, it made me extraordinarily happy that I could now set up a campaign around one character’s run for President. In a similar vein, I’ve been known to threaten a Matlock-based game, after a couple of drinks. I wouldn’t rule out a modern-day game based around rodeo competition, with or without the optional solving of mysteries or battling against supernatural menaces on the side.

* * *

The One Foe option, where the character concentrates on one enemy, to the exclusion of any others, to get a benefit in defending against that enemy. It’s never, ever going to see use in the average dungeon brawl, of course, but it’s just the thing for one-on-one fights.

Who knows, maybe TKotBO will get his honorable duel one of these days…

That quiet is the sound of digestion

Between the sale at Warehouse 23, and the new stuff that’s been coming out for GURPS, I’m way behind on my reading. My gaming time has been spent with new PDFs, rather than doing anything terribly productive around my own campaign.

Along with the new stuff, I’ve been hoping to circle around and give GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling another look. I played a wrestler in a fantasy game that TKotBO’s player ran a while back. Sadly, my character didn’t get to do as much actual wrestling as I had hoped, but the one match he did have — against an animated four-armed statue — was quite entertaining. We were using the basic rules, not the Technical Grappling option, though. Rumor is, the TG rules open up a satisfying level of detail for Dungeon Fantasy games. I’ve got visions of Alric wrestling Dagoth like the original barbarian did in the Conan the Destroyer movie.

The special effect that Should Not Be.

The special effect that Should Not Be.


What little productivity I’ve got left over has been mostly dedicated to setting up GCA data files for the Order of the Sun magical style. I’ve got the new spell chains working, which originally seemed like the hard part, and I’ve got a first draft of the template for the style itself. The next hurdle is figuring out the best way to present that long list of Perks… and if it needs to be presented at all. The path of least resistance would certainly be to skip it, but I suspect that would just mean that without an easy list for me to pick from, PC stylists would choose Perks and NPCs wouldn’t.


No talk now. Read.

I finally managed to take notice of my surroundings, and saw the news about How to Be a GURPS GM. I’ve been impressed with the author’s work in the past. Therefore, I’ll be consumed with reading for the next little bit.

The next time a player cries at me when I turn down some character concept (“I know you said no aliens, but, how about an alien?”), I’m going to point to the first Kromm quote on page 4.

I’m still mulling over the Invisibility question, but I think I’m sneaking up on a resolution. Needs more pondering time, and then I’ll have to run it past some of the players. If you never hear from me again, they must have objected. 😉


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