• Idea Pot: Earn-as-you-go disadvantages for GURPS

    In a game like GURPS, what do you get for saddling a PC with a disadvantage? A more interesting character, of course, but also a more immediate benefit: instant character points you can spend on stuff that makes you awesome. Not everyone’s crazy about how that works, though. Like this SJG forum commenter: I don’t like buying disadvantages at character build time… I’d much prefer a system (or option) which rewards disadvantages as they come up during play rather than as a big chunk of bonus points beforehand. Hmm. Could that work in GURPS? I think it could. Even better, I think it could work alongside the game’s tried and…

  • Gaming Low-Power, Low-Tech PCs, Part III

    This is the wrap-up of thoughts on keeping a campaign going when the threats are high-powered but the PCs are low-powered – that is, when the PCs are “mundanes” with no magic, no special powers, and little technology. Again I use GURPS Fantasy II‘s Mad Lands setting as a prime example, but the considerations will hold in other settings, especially low fantasy or non-fantasy. Part I was a short look at the challenges of keeping such a game going. Part II suggested beefing up the PCs to match the challenges – specifically, understanding “low power” to mean character sheets that may lack spells and energy blasts, but are still packed…

  • Gaming Low-Power, Low-Tech PCs, Part II

    Introduction I’ve changed the title of this article and its Part I, to better fit what the articles are really about. Yes, they’re nominally a look at the Mad Lands setting of GURPS Fantasy II, but let’s think bigger. What I’m really writing about is how to keep PCs alive, and growing as characters, in any setting that sharply limits PC power without dialing down the threats they face. So, while I focus on Madlanders as a perfect example of no-magic, no-powers people – “mundanes” – caught between hammer and anvil, what follows might be of use in any low fantasy game where monsters and wizards wield great powers that…

  • Gaming Low-Power, Low-Tech PCs, Part I

    In the center of the world is a land hammered by the weather, tortured by insane gods, plagued by grotesque monsters and haunted by magic. Only the bravest survive in the Mad Lands.Yet they do survive . . .  Indeed, they do. But how? Yesterday I took another stroll through GURPS Fantasy II (subtitle: Adventures in the Mad Lands), from noted gaming author Robin D. Laws. It’s an old book, from the days when the GURPS line used the “Fantasy” moniker for its specific fantasy game worlds. The first Fantasy gave us the world now named (and book-titled) Banestorm; Fantasy II introduced the bizarre, dark-fantasy world that, if published now,…

  • Anouncing MERC: Make Every Roll Count

    Make Every Roll Count (MERC) by Ben Finney is a set of gaming guidelines for placing story first and making the most of gamers’ time at the table. More narrowly, it homes in on a key question at the heart of all RPGs: When should the dice be used at all, and toward what end? The answer involves a change from the too-common focus on resolving tasks, to a focus on resolving players’ intent. While MERC includes specific guidelines for use with GURPS, it’s applicable to RPGs in general. I think it offers good advice to GMs both new and experienced, and am pleased to see it here at the Diner. What do you think? MERC: Make…

  • MERC: Make Every Roll Count

    Intro: Keep it interesting! RPGs evolve. New games don’t just invent snazzy new mechanics; they poke deep into questions of what game-table play is about. MERC stems from author Ben Finney’s interest in the innovations of recent games, and ways to strengthen those concepts in the now-classic RPG GURPS. Broadly speaking, MERC is a set of guidelines for placing story first and making the most of gamers’ time at the table. More narrowly, it homes in on a key question at the heart of all RPGs: When should the dice be used at all, and toward what end?  From the GURPS perspective, that often equates to “When should we make success checks?” The general answer…

  • Game Master tools: Keeping combat challenge level right

    Here’s some further musing on a SJG GURPS Forum post I just made. The question: How to keep “challenge level” right for PCs going into combat – not so easy as to be dull, but not so deadly as to litter the cave with PC corpses? The question was posed by a D&D player just starting to GM GURPS, which makes it a particularly good one for him to ask; GURPS combat can be much deadlier than D&D players might expect, leading to that cave-floor litter. But it’s a good question for any GM to ask, new or experienced, whether changing game systems or not. Whatever the game, the right…

  • Gaming Notes: Playing Giants in any Game System

    Introduction Ogres. Hulking Trolls. Tree-sized Giants. Mountain-sized Jotun. If they’re defined by a size bigger than us, then for this article, they’re all Giants. Because whatever the specifics, they all share one thing in common: “TARG SMASH PUNY HUMAN!” I’m liberating the Big Games notes on gaming Giants from my old GULLIVER rules for GURPS, to give them a proper new home within the Diner (with a little freshening-up too, including a pinch or two of content from other sections). Although I’ve got some GURPS 4e-specific notes at the end, the general overview is useful with any game system. Yet it’s all pretty brief; sorry, I haven’t witten The Complete…