Lots of GULLIVER content is aimed at generic rules that work regardless of the size of characters. This Book adds one more tool to support those games: a generic system for converting huge or tiny stats to easy-to-game units, the same trick that GURPS performs on rabbit-sized stats in Bunnies & Burrows.
The rest of this book offers ideas for some unusual game worlds: big and small, underwater, and an overlong fantasy game background.
Ideally, you can GM thumb-sized PCs as easily as you game normal ones. A PC's tiny stats are just as valid as big, fat integer stats, and GULLIVER tries to make those numbers work as well as big figures. For the occasional character or two, the extra effort involved with fractions is worth the detail.
But in a game with lots of tiny PCs and their shrimp-sized foes, every damage roll or Contest involving physical power requires that you play with decimal-enhanced points and stats. While a computer compares 0.16 damage to 0.8 HP without batting a resistor, our minds balk.
That's where it's useful to scale the game. You center the action around any character size microhumans, bunnies, humans, whatever and deal with "normal" RPG concepts like ST and Move in whole numbers. These game stats can be mutated drastically with no change in effect just by changing the units involved. You can say a man has Load ST 10 when discussing the usual pounds, or Load ST 160 where ounces are involved. You can say a Giant has 40 HP while your sword dishes out 8 points of damage, or announce he has 10 HP and call your sword's damage 2 points. Your Move 10 in yards is also Move 30 in feet, Move 360 in inches, and Move 0.0057 in miles. And so on.
Bunnies & Burrows scales the game, putting little bunnies' stats into familiar numbers centered about 10 and scaling the stats of other creatures up or down proportionately. The technique works in any game, as long as the relevant rules are set up to be unit-independent. Some GURPS rules are, many aren't; much of GULLIVER is aimed at fixing the latter. Examples are spread throughout all the Books.
Where to "center" the game? Take the size that best represents the PCs as the norm. This is human size in most games, but can be bunny-size or anything else.
Call this scale "Base Scale", and call its representative characters Size 0. Scale other sizes up or down to fit.
Example: Your campaign is based on 2" high tiny microhuman PCs. Let's choose a Linear Scale of x1/36; Area Scale is about x1/1000, Volume Scale about x1/36,000. They're Size -9 to us.
But it's hard to run a game where the PCs have Move and Reach scores each a fraction of a hex, so go with the PCs' world view: they're Size 0, and we're Size +9.
They remain 2" tall, of course, and weight is unchanged at x1/36,000 human weight. But as Size 0 characters, they have Linear Scale x1, Area Scale x1, and Volume Scale x1. Only units are changed: a hex represents a yard x1/36, or an inch; Area Scale and Volume Scale represent tiny units 1/1000 and 1/36,000 the size of human-scaled units, respectively.
How about stats? Instead of Linear Scale x1/36 and HP of 0.3 or so, you work with Linear Scale x1, for Combat ST 10 and HP 10. Load ST is also 10, not 0.01. Of course, weight formulae now measure lifting abilities in "millipounds", or thousandths of a pound, and not full pounds.
You can adjust the game's hex size too. Adjust it for the new Base Scale; that lets the tiny fighters grapple in hexes appropriate to their size, a must if you use detailed tactical combat mapping. Default Reach becomes 1 again, but in inch-long hexes. Move will be measured in nice big numbers, representing little hexes.
Make the same adjustments for all characters. Regular humans (Size +9) now have Combat ST and HP of 300+ in microhuman-sized units of damage. They sport an average Load ST of 10,000 when hefting "millipounds". Absolute lifting ability hasn't changed at all; only the label has.
If a microhuman PC is Size 0, what's a Size +2 character? Absolute measures like height and weight will come from two Size levels above 2" on the Scale table: 4" or 5" tall, and about 1/3000 human weight.
For Linear, Area and Volume Scale, look two levels above Size 0 to get x2, x5, and x10, respectively. Those give us length, area and volume and Reach, HP, Combat ST, Load ST, weight, etc. relative to the 2" campaign norm. Big stuff from the microhumans' point of view, but still not too impressive to us.
Example: A party of adventurers, including a Size -1 Halfling and a Size +3 Giant, are shrunk 9 Size levels by a wizard's spell. That makes for a bunch of Size -9 people, with one Size -10 and one Size -6 character. The PCs' new heights are all 1/36 what they were before. Combat ST is lowered to x1/36, Load ST to x1/1000, weight to x1/30,000 or so, and so on.
The GM plans some life-and-death battles against crows and hungry snakes. She sets Size -9 as the Base Scale. Human adventurers are now Size 0, the Halfling still Size -1, and the Giant Size +3. ST and HP stats go back to 10 or 20 or whatever they were; only units have changes to represent millipounds and tiny levels of damage. Move and Reach are in nice integer numbers, based on one-inch hexes.
Now if the wizard comes back into the game, adjust his stats for the new Base Scale. His Reach will be over 30 hexes, his combat ST and HP will be 360 or so, and his Load ST will be around 10,000! Let's hope he's not mad any more...
The goal is easy-to-use units, such as HP 10 instead of HP 0.3. Follow that goal throughout. Express weight in pounds, millipounds, or ounces, whatever makes the numbers easy to use. If you set Base Scale to match the game's Size -4 PCs, and their new Move in little 7"-long hexes is easy to use, great but if they're bunny PCs, they're going to have Move 50! That's hard to map and play, so change Move back to yard-sized hexes, for a nice Move 10 or so. (Combat then becomes a little fuzzy for the bunnies using advanced combat rules are two bunnies occupying one oversized hex in close combat or not? but that's fine for weaponless animals.)
Just be sure to keep units straight when making any computations. The Encumbrance Table is set up to compare pounds with human-sized Load ST. Under microhuman Base Scale, Load ST 12 is for use with millipounds; be sure to divide his weight of 6 millipounds by Load ST 12. Or for a human perspective, divide weight of 0.006 pounds by Load ST 0.012. Either way gives you WSR 0.5.
Use the new Base Scale for things that scale, and the default human Base Scale for things that don't. ST and the game trait Size for example, are relative measures, so the microhuman changes to ST 10 and Size 0, using the Size 0 row of the Table. His weight in pounds and height in inches, however, haven't changed at all; they still come from the Size -9 row of the Table.
Likewise, consider his ratio of mass to surface area (MAR), a measure used in some detailed rules in GULLIVER. If you take the microhuman's Volume Scale divided by Area Scale, the result is 1/30 at default human Base Scale, or 1 at microhuman Base Scale. Which is correct?
It depends. If it's a rule that looks at this ratio compared with the human norm, then 1/30 is correct. If you want to compare things to the microhuman norm, then 1 is of course the relevant ratio, and you can get a human's ratio relative to that by taking Volume Scale x30,000 over Area Scale x1000, to get 30.
Scaling will require you to stop and think at times about just what results you're after and that's not a bad thing.
If the PCs are all microhumans, they'll rake in mega-points for their tiny stats, right?
Wrong. If 2" characters are the campaign norm, then that's the Base Scale, and all costs start from there! It'll cost you the same to be a four-inch, Size +2 "giant" under that Base Scale as it'll cost you to be a four-yard, Size +2 giant under normal human Base Scale. The GM will scale the dangers of any game to its Base Scale, so in all cases you're buying the same relative degree of advantage over those challenges.
At any Base Scale, Size 0 costs 0 points, as do default stats of 10. In a microhuman Base Scale game, ST 10 costs 0 points regardless of the fact that it's Combat ST 0.3, Load ST 0.01 to us. In that game, teeny ST 12 costs 20 points, minuscule ST 14 requires 45 points, and so on. Same with microhuman-scaled DR, HP, anything. A full-sized human will be out of the question as a PC, with an astronomical point cost.
How do Book 5 rules for melee combats and range work when the game shifts from big people to microhumans? Just fine.
Book 5 covers size and attacks. For normal melee attacks, the difference between your Size and that of your smaller opponent subtracts from your TH. The difference between your Size and that of your larger opponent adds to your TH, up to a maximum of +2 TH (+3 if your weapon is long). This is easy to game. A Size +4 Giant has a -4 to hit a Size 0 human, who has a -3 to hit a Size -3 dog, which has a -6 to hit a Size -9 microhuman, who has a -3 to hit a Size -12 roach.
Imagine a shootout between microhumans, at a one-yard distance. Using a human Base Scale, that's a -9 TH for target size, with a +2 TH for distance: -7 TH.
Now use a microhuman Base Scale instead, replacing yards with inches. There's no modifier for a target size of 2" (i.e., Size 0), but the distance of 36 inches (i.e., 36 hexes) gives the same -7 TH range modifier.
Depending on the actual situation, the choice of Base Scale may make a small difference in final TH modifiers, but that's only an effect of rounding numbers. The system itself is sound, however you scale things.
The damage rules from Book 6 are made to work at any Base Scale. That comes from rules based on relative effects (such as comparing amounts of damage with HP) and not on absolute effects (such as looking at absolute points of damage only). Shock, damage levels resulting in slowdown, death rolls and all other effects are tweaked to work independently of size and Base Scale.
Example: Size +6 dragons have Combat ST and HP 120. A dragon-centered game could use dragon size as the Base Scale, dividing damage and HP levels by 10. Call the dragons ST 12, HP 12.
A dragon might hit a fellow wyrm with 3 points of damage (30 points of damage at human Base Scale), for a rounded-up "shock" penalty of -3 IQ/DX. The dragon would slow down when below 4 HP, and roll vs HT to avoid death at -12 HP, -18 HP, -24 HP etc.
The important thing is that effects come out the same whether you use human-sized units or dragon-sized units. Try it and see.
Example: A microhuman's Combat ST is tiny, but making that size the Base Scale, Combat ST is multiplied by 36 so it and damage become nice big numbers. Add a couple of points for a micro broadsword. (Or more realistically, figure extra damage from GLAIVE, multiply it by 36, and tack it on.)
This is a tough one. If a normal wizard shoots 3d fireballs, what does an Ellyl mage dish out? The same searing napalm bombs? Or smoke puffs the size of tennis balls?
There are no answers below. Why not? With mundane physical effects, you want things to work the same from game to game. A punch is a punch, from one campaign to the next (that's the beauty of GURPS). But not so with supernormal powers: in one game you'll want subtle, barely detectable magic, and in the next, mountain-leveling blasts of mana. Faint hints of ESP-like intuition in this campaign, telekinetic mayhem in next week's.
Some supernormal abilities will work the same whether it's a microhuman or Giant game. Others will "scale" with the game, like ST or HP do. In general, you can handle this with the appropriate Linear Scale, Area Scale, or Volume Scale change for the new Base Scale, though which one to choose requires a decision. Depending on the power, skill or resistance modifiers might be more appropriate. Then there's the issue of fatigue costs for "scaled" powers.
The best GULLIVER can do is offer one big general guideline for handling supernormal abilities:
In other words, change the rules of supernormal abilities to fit the "average" PC, or the game's power level, and not the individual wielder. That's the idea in a nutshell. The devil, of course, is in the details:
In a microhuman-sized game, scaled as discussed earlier, two-inchers are normal-sized PCs. Compared to normal humans, Linear Scale is x1/36, Area Scale x1/1000, and Volume Scale x1/30,000. Below are ideas on handling unusual powers at this tiny Base Scale, which you can then use to extrapolate solutions for other Base Scales:
Scaling power: For superpowers that cause direct damage (Ice Spear, Laser), scale damage appropriately. A tiny wizard's 4d Flame Jet does four dice of microhuman-sized damage. The same scaling applies to Healing.
Creations should be scaled appropriately: Animate Shadow forms a little patch of dark with microhuman-like attributes and Move. Light-based Illusions are small (while mental illusions have no size limit!). Powers that create ST-like effects, like Bind, naturally create tiny ST.
Scaling ranges and sizes: Scale ranges appropriately. Linear Scale normally works well: the Flame Jet's range in hexes is unchanged, but these are 1" microhuman hexes. Or use the square root of the change in Linear Scale if you want longer ranges: the Jet's range is measured in 6" hexes. That's a big tactical difference from using 1" hexes, but given the way highly mobile microhumans hop around the battle map, it actually fits the setting well. Choose your preferred method and stick with it.
How to scale wall-like defenses? Shrinking an Ice Wall to x1/36 thickness and height sounds correct until you consider that any normal microhuman, much less a superpowered foe, will leap right over it. Here that square root, or x1/6 dimensions, sounds more fun.
Some physical effects might be off limits, given difficulties imposed by absolute size. If you say that a microhuman-scaled Lightning bolt just doesn't form, then it doesn't.
Scaling area and volume: How can you scale area, for area-effect powers like Neutralize Sound? Using the same scaling you chose for range seems a good idea, giving you area in smaller hexes. Adjust hex "height" appropriately for Powers that affect 3D hexes.
Superpowers that affect a given weight or volume (Animate, Create Liquid) need to be scaled, using either Linear Scale, Area Scale, or Volume Scale. The latter sounds like the obvious choice, but check the numbers: instead of 25 lbs. per level of Power, the Animate power will affect only 25 x 1/30,000 = 0.00083 lbs., or about 0.3 grams per level of Power! Yawn. How about scaling this Power using Area Scale instead?
Neutralize Fire sounds like a hard trick for tiny Supers, given the nasty "cube-square" effects of heat on microhumans. Scale this Power's area down drastically, or disallow it. (Then again, "cube-square" dryness hardly belongs in a four-color Supers game; ignore that last passage!)
The notes above on scaling superpowers apply to psi powers in a microhuman-based game. By default, Telekinesis with Power 20 should let you wreak havoc among fellow microhumans, but not toss cows across the meadow. (The latter remains an option for GMs with strange games in mind.)
Scale range, area, and damage of Powers as above. Healing has microhuman-sized effects. Telepathy and Teleportation ranges have their own special table; you might scale this range in the same manner as other Powers, or might handle it differently.
As with the earlier Animate superpower example, Powers that affect weight or volume may work best when scaled with Area Scale, not Volume Scale. With Telekinesis, that lets a PC move a fellow microhuman at about Power 10, and a whopping one pound at Power 18.
But there may be exceptions where you do want to use Volume Scale for scaling mass-related abilities. For example, Cryokinesis and Pyrokinesis use a measure of 10 cubic inches of material to determine effects. Lowering effect by x1/1000 for a microhuman game, either power will change a tiny 0.01 cubic inches by 50° per second per level of Power. Unfortunately, a microhuman consists of only 0.17 or so cubic inches of matter, meaning very quick death from an enemy psi! This may be a realistic feature of life at tiny sizes, but you'll want to scale those two Powers down more drastically if you want to keep your microhuman psi campaign running beyond one short and deadly session.
Powers like Astral Projection work the same in microhumans and normal humans. But psis' astral "bodies" apparently translate physical prowess to the astral plane, meaning tiny astral stats for a microhuman projectionist. Power-based DR should be scaled down too. On the other hand, you're welcome to take a metaphysical tack in which "body" size and power on the astral plane reflect the strength of the mind, with no influence from the physical body. The astral "body" of a microhuman might be just as big as a human's!
A Power like Combat Sense or Precognition will not vary at all with game Base Scale or user size.
Notes above for scaling ranges, area and damage from superpowers apply to magic too. Healing spells have appropriately tiny effects in microhuman games.
You'll probably want to put some limit on the size of creatures affected by Animal spells. A normal human mage can presumably affect an elephant or whale tens of thousands of pounds with the right spell, or up to 100 lbs. for multiple creatures and Control spells. Scale these weights down by x1/30,000 or by x1/1000 for microhumans, as you prefer. Or for single creatures, use Size differences: a mage can soothe, summon or control single creatures up to his own Size plus 4 levels, without penalty. That allows a 2" mage to control a large rat, which is fearsome power in a microhuman game.
Summoned elementals will be appropriately small. Fire's particularly deadly to microhumans, but a tiny fire elemental itself will suffer from the same "cube-square" problems, starting life as a puny match flame and whiffing out quickly! That brings up problems with fire spells in general: miniature versions of the spells should be poor in both duration and damage, if you play "hard science" magic.
The above notes pretty much cover the basics of magical effects in microhuman games, at least for spells in the Basic Set. Plenty of spells in Magic and Grimoire will require additional thought.
OK, what about half-sized or even microhuman-sized characters in a normal game? Again, GULLIVER suggests a default rule of scaling powers to the game's Base Scale, not to individual character Size. In a typical human-centered Fantasy game, Ellyl, humans, and Ogres all pay the same points for Magery, Telekinesis, and Control Weather. So by default, effects should be the same for all. Ranges, area, damage, and so forth are all standard for game.
But there will be plenty of situations that suggest exceptions. Should it be hard for the team's pint-sized psi to use Telecontrol, Neutralize, or Confuse on a normal being? Can a micromage cast Sleep or Daze with equal ease on targets of her size and on those 30,000 times heavier?
Situations are far too many to cover in detail. A broad suggestion:
Whatever the Base Scale, when a small character uses resisted psi, magical, or superpowered attacks on a larger target, give the target a resistance bonus. An easy one is +1 resistance per level of Size difference, as suggested by GURPS' Shrinking superpower. This is a free effect of Size.
That means a human mage will find it hard to cast Sleep on Godzilla, and a microhuman psi can't easily Mindswitch with a human. Either one of these is good for game balance.
Spells in the Animal College are an exception: as mentioned earlier, they'll affect animals up to a given size without penalty. A suggestion is your Size plus 4 levels. Combining that with skill penalties of -1 per additional level of target Size, you take a -2 to cast Reptile Control on a dinosaur 6 Size levels larger than yourself.
Fatigue for superpowers and psi isn't too tricky: it generally occurs in small doses, or only during Extra Effort. Book 6 has plenty of info on handling fatigue, whether Fatigue is based on ST or HT.
That leaves magic. Things get tricky, as it's not clear what fatigue represents in spellcasting: simply the effort of controlling magical forces, or actual use of the body's energy to power a spell?
If spellcasting fatigue represents absolute energy needed to power an effect, like wattage in an appliance, then Giants should be better spell batteries than Ellylon. Base Fatigue on ST. Use Book 6 rules for this, except that unlike bodily exertion, 1 fatigue from spellcasting doesn't equate a Fatigue loss equal to 10% of ST; it means a simple 1 point of Fatigue lost.
This is easy and is in line with GURPS, but as countless players have pointed out, Giants can power lots of spells, while really small PCs may not be able to cast any. That's probably realistic if fatigue is "wattage", but it may not be fun in play.
If you want to allow spellcasting in a microhuman-based game, you'll want to scale both effects and fatigue down. Tiny effects means tiny wattage, which means tiny fatigue: apply fatigue in units of microhuman ST. Again, you get the problem of giant (i.e., normal human) spellcasters wielding tremendous power reserves, although in this game, the default spells powered by those reserves have relatively puny ranges and damages.
If fatigue represents the mental cost of controlling magic, then it may make sense that a Giant and Ellyl can cast the same number of spells. Here HT works as the base for Fatigue; so does ST if you set 1 fatigue to 10% of ST (see Book 6).
The downside: Everyone's casting the same number of spells. Giants have no advantage over Ellyl.
To allow spellcasting in a microhuman game, no changes are needed. With HT being equal, anyone can cast the same number of spells, whether you use a Base Scale under which Bird Control can handle rocs, or a Base Scale under which the spell maxes out at crows.
If you can think of the perfect solution, GURPS fans are waiting to hear it. An ideal solution might combine the above two methods in some way.
For example, a spell might carry two costs: one for the mental fatigue of manipulating magical energies, another for the fueling of physical effects. Spells like Detect Magic would carry the former cost only: apply normal GURPS fatigue against HT-based Fatigue. Giants, humans and microhumans can all cast the same number of Detect Magic spells. (For an interesting option, use Will, not HT, as the Fatigue pool for this mental stamina; it fits the concept of the strong-willed arch-mage.)
Any spells that scale physically, meanwhile, carry both the mental cost and a physical cost, with the latter applied against a ST-based Fatigue pool. A 3-point fireball does 3d damage, and costs 3 lost Fatigue. A small PC won't have the Fatigue to cast one, but might be able to cast a 1-point fireball, or even a 0.1 point fireball, for appropriately reduced damage and loss of Fatigue. GM willing, a Giant can maybe even cast really big fireballs, burning an appropriately big amount of Fatigue. But he'll have no more HT-based (or Will-based) Fatigue to burn than anyone else as far as the mental strain goes which places a very real limit on his giant fireball casting.
Done right, such a system should work under any Base Scale; no matter what the game size, Detect Magic can be cast equally by all, while fireball size will depend upon caster ST. But the above is a bare skeleton. Making it work will require attention to a host of details.
Derik backed as deeply as possible into the towering thicket of grass, the oak root at his back. But it was too late to hide. He'd twisted his ankle in a hole while driving off that chittering pack of rats and now there was no running from the huge beast that honed in on his scent. The researcher winced as he braced himself against the rough bark and spun his makeshift crutch around, points-first. ''Eat this!' he snarled, and thrust the gold fork forward like a spear as colossal jaws blotted out the sun and hot, rank breath closed in.
''King, git yer nose outta them weeds.'' The Stentorian voiced boomed from everywhere at once, and the immense shadow that threatened Derik was pulled away whimpering by one even more mind-shatteringly massive. The ground vibrated with the tread of giant feet but Derik was saved for the moment. The safety of the Brick Pile lay only a meter or so away from the thicket. He took a hasty gulp of the clorophyll-thick air and lurched forward, parting the grass clump's stout green blades with the fork.
A mechanical shriek ripped through the air, almost knocking Derik off his feet. A thousand screaming wasps in his ear, mind-splitting but unrecognizable. Sounds were so distorted Down Below. What was that...
The grass above exploded in cellulose shrapnel, and Derik knew. Earthworm holes were minor hazards, and hungry rats ran from a good sharp olive fork but a weed-cutter would slice a two-inch man into ribbons!
You've seen movies and read stories about tiny people battling big menaces. These usually don't go for hard-science speculation over what the small world would really be like. That's understandable but what's too bad is that they just as often ignore what's fun about the setting. There's more to enjoy than just towering bugs and deadly lawnmowers. Below are notes on gaming a world different from ours.
The small world is 3D! Tiny weights and that wonderful "strong for their size" effect are what make the environment so different and so fun. You can leap and swing like a monkey, or scurry to the tops of trees as high to you as a skyscraper. And if you fall off hey, so what? You weigh a few grams. Bounce once or twice, brush the soil off your heat-retaining, Day-Glo poison arrow frog bodysuit, and climb again.
Tiny terrain is very uneven, a jumble of roots, depressions, stones, plant detritus, and other debris. But microhumans will scramble over these with ease.
Grass is tough, maybe even sharp. A field is a tangle of nettles, thorns, leaf piles every form of plant life looms above and sprawls below. This "hidden jungle" will be uncomfortably humid with evaporating dew by day, and thick with carbon dioxide at night. But a deceptively weak-looking plant stem will support your weight just fine when you want some fresh air, or just a look around.
Odors will be rich in the small world; the scent of a freshly mown lawn must be overwhelming when you're two inches tall and right down in it. Sights might differ as well, though we can only guess at effects. (Could microhuman eyes see in the ultraviolet like bee eyes do?)
Heat, cold, sun, wind, all the elements are harsher on tiny beings "cube-square" effects can make a sunburn or ivy rash deadly (see Book 6). Stones in the sun heat up amazingly quickly, probably painfully, to tiny microhuman hands. Raindrops will batter, even knock over PCs. Water itself is different down there: sticky, tough-skinned blobs when in tiny quantities.
We love the richness of forest wildlife. Squirrels and mice all about, a rabbit or two in view, maybe a deer or fox if we walk for a while. And there's the amazing fauna of the African savanna: zebras not far off on the left, a herd of elephants and a few wildebeests way out there to the right, a lioness slinking somewhere nearby.
But the small world makes those look like moonscapes! It swarms, it teems, it writhes with life. Gnats, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, little running spiders they leap out of the PCs' path, buzz overhead, swerve busily around the party on their way to bug business. Biologists say a single square meter of manicured lawn can contain 100 spiders, a wild field ten times that many! And those are the predators. Imagine the incredible carpet of life lower on the food chain. There are over 50,000 springtails per square meter of meadow, by one estimate. With every step the party takes, zip, zip, zip, hard-shelled bullets are leaping out of the way.
You'll want to make this all a vivid part of the game background. Describe the buzz and hustle fully at the game's opening, especially if the PCs are visiting the small world for the first time. Creatures are scooting, flying, and slithering everywhere. It's a bug carnival down there! But once you've set that scene, get on with the story; there's no need to take further notice of every leafhopper bouncing off PCs' backpacks.
Still, refresh the background whenever things are slow. "Okay, you spend 30 minutes resting. Professor Zane, you're sitting there updating the map. A few aphids and a millipede crawl over you; there's a couple more species for your journal. Oops, make that three now a ladybug's eating the first aphid. Elly, make an Armoury roll to fix your stun stick; Belter can keep the ants from poking around, if that's OK with him. And Tarea, you said you'd be on bird watch. You spot a falcon, everyone freezes for a few minutes, and you all relax when it wheels away. Okay, after a quick check for ticks and chiggers, you're off which direction?"
Most of that life is local color or a nuisance to the PCs. Some creatures are parasites or disease carriers. Mosquitoes would be even more annoying to small PCs than they are to us, if you can imagine that. But the little people also face birds, cats, foxes, snakes, even the exceptional rat or frog, that'll swallow them up on sight. Man-eaters are everywhere!
That doesn't mean all is lost. Even the crunchy have ways of surviving.
First, keep in mind that size matters: at two inches, a microhuman is still larger than most of his neighbors. Few bugs will attack a two-incher.
There's also safety in numbers: PCs usually travel in groups that give predators pause. Stragglers or lone travelers are fair game, though.
You can also rule that the PCs' human scent isn't a hit with many predators. It limits interest to really hungry creatures (and the occasional microhuman-loving species), while light snackers turn elsewhere. For more intelligent foes, past experience with microhumans' swords or guns encourages restraint.
PCs can also take active protective measures. Clothing with wasp-like colors is a good idea (if you can control older players' John Belushi Killer Bee gags), as is chemical repellent. Sci-fi PCs will have sprays; fantasy PCs will know which herbs (or even bug juices!) the well-protected traveler wears to repel interest. Reduce random encounters when precautions are in place, increase them otherwise. (Once in a while, have a mean foe come knocking, only to flee from the party's colors or chemicals. It's fun for the players.)
The PCs have almost no chance of turning away really big creatures, but big things are relatively few, and may not even notice microhumans. You can make big beasts downright rare if you like: there simply aren't many bears to snack on PCs, or buffalo herds to step on them, in the local meadow of your game world.
That said, deadly menaces are part of the fun of the small world. Players can expect some tense moments battling egg-laying wasps, driving off rats, and fleeing from ravens.
Examples throughout GULLIVER use 2" microhumans a lot. That's because it's a fun size to play! It's small enough to make the game world very different, but not so small that the physics get really bizarre. (Microhuman stats are small, though, so you'll definitely want to "scale" the game to make play easy.)
Another nice benefit of x1/36 human size: one hex really is one inch! GURPS battle maps become life-sized. On the other hand, PCs will tend to zip like chipmunks and jump like grasshoppers, so you'll need big battle maps to keep up with them. That and lots of 3D action can strain a GM's sanity. That's why the small world is well suited to basic combat. Keep the maps and measurements to a minimum, and use fast and loose description to let the action range over field, up walls, and through the air without restraint.
Realistically, kinetic force is a lousy weapon in the small world. A hurled pebble the size of a microhuman's fist isn't going to hurt anything; even a dropped "boulder" of gravel won't deliver crushing weight and speed. Jumping on your foe isn't much good when he can shrug off your puny bulk. Using the full range of GULLIVER rules for weapon damages and knockback, micros battling with fists and staves simply won't accomplish much at all, other than to knock each other harmlessly about.
Tiny PCs should shelve the slams and missiles, and look to insects for weapons that work. Crushing teeth, rending pincers, and poisons are tried and true winners. The efficacy of contact agents on small targets make chemical sprays and spewed digestive acids favorites as well. (That "cube-square" effect again it's why we love bug spray so.) In really tiny targets, resistance to deformity relative DR can get pretty good; drill-like mechanical aggression then becomes the preferred way to burrow through protective surfaces.
Hand weapons aren't the only things that will work differently. Is gunpowder effective in a toy soldier's rifle? How about beam weapons, or electric prods? Electronic devices? Combustion engines? How small can a compass or telescope be and still work? Some items will be fully miniaturizable, others only to a point. The smallest working guns in your world might be chunky pieces as long as the tiny characters are tall. (That's fine if you like that big-gun, party-of-Schwarzeneggers look.)
Cameras can't be made too small; 35mm camera film shrunk to microhuman dimensions (1mm film!) would be hopelessly grainy. Inch-long musical instruments won't sound like anything we know. Items of clothing will be stiff, cardboard-like affairs to microhumans if made from normal cloth; even thin silk clothing won't crease or drape like it does on us.
Campfires are out for tiny travelers. A microhuman-sized campfire is a match flame the heat's not much good, and it burns out in a few seconds. Any fire of sustainable size will be dangerously large. Ovens, cook pots, forges and the such won't work at wee sizes, given the tiny volumes and comparatively huge surface areas involved. A small candle or oil lamp might make an acceptable fire for reading, hand-warming, or roasting little things, but its bulk won't be very portable. It looks like a microhuman society may have to learn to like dinner raw.
Equipment that looks ridiculously big will still be plenty light to microhumans. But while weight might not be a problem, the GM should set penalties for bulk. A microhuman can travel fine with a backpack of adventuring gear larger than herself, but when the action begins, that getup's going to be clumsy.
On the plus side, equipment will be tough, thanks to mass and inertia that scale down much faster than structural soundness. Microhuman-scaled buildings will be a breeze to build, with structural strength of little concern. Microsized electronic equipment could probably survive a fall from an airplane, let alone the inch-high height of your utility belt. The same goes for weapons. When you're out of bullets, take your tiny carbine and bash bugs to your heart's desire; whether the damage is very effective or not, the gun should survive just fine.
Hard science here doesn't mean sci-fi; it means the game, whether future or fantasy, explores the likely effects of life at a tiny scale. Use the rules and speculations offered above and elsewhere in GULLIVER. Players will definitely feel they're in a new environment when clubs barely work and PCs eat half their weight in food each day!
The Micronauts by Gordon Williams is a good inspiration for a futuristic microhuman campaign with a hard science feel as well as an example of how not to run hard science. Some groaners: the book's tiny protagonists are no more nimble than big people, their boots sink into the soil when they walk, they carefully climb down 6" drops for fear of the fall, and they strain to lift pebbles overhead before dropping them with deadly force. Their plastic and metal radio gets smashed under the weight of a "giant" insect!
But if the author misunderstood weight at tiny scales, he manages good descriptions of the sights, overwhelming smells, and deadly battles of the small world. The characters are the same 2" size recommended here, and run into interesting and savage foes (not the least of which are each other). The book's premise of tiny size as a means of survival in a food-starved world is thought-provoking, and 36-hour, full forced-growth cloning almost sounds like plausible technology when the end product is only the length of your thumb!
A cinematic approach to the small world means you toss out any laws or speculations that aren't fun. Do you want PCs to bash bugs (and each other) just like big people do? Ignore the effects of tiny weight on weapon damage or PCs' bug stomps; let tiny clubs and rocks act like smaller versions of our own. Are extra food requirements, fatigue, and environmental hazards a bore to play? Then forget about them: the magic, gengineering or evolution that created the microhumans also boosted metabolic efficiency to compensate for extra heat loss without any unusual food requirements.
Microsized pistols work fine if you say so, as do tiny campfires, gas-powered chain saws, tubas, whatever.
On the other hand, you'll want to keep microhumans' unusual agility, amazing jumps, painless falls, and the such as part of the game. These things are fun!
Building a 2" microhuman is easy: take normal human stats and scale them down to Size -9. Use Linear Scale of x1/36 to get a perfect "1 hex = 1 inch" measure. Linear Scale x1/1000 and Volume Scale x1/30,000 remain easy approximations.
The average microhuman has Combat ST and HP of about 0.3, Load ST 0.01, weight 0.005 lbs., and WSR 0.5 for Negative 7 encumbrance. Move will be about 35 inches per second! Characters can make a standing broad jump of about 9 inches using Book 4 jumping rules, or a high jump of over 4 inches. All these are quite impressive, relative to body size.
Set microhuman size as the game's Base Scale. ST and HP become 10; ST measures lifting power in "millipounds". Body weight is 5 millipounds (about 2 grams). A typical character can lift about 250 millipounds a quarter pound, or 4 ounces. There's nothing particularly good or bad about this as an absolute amount, but as a multiple of body weight, it's like you hefting a sedan overhead. With your friends inside.
That's all worth 0 points. Players then get their allotted points to develop the PCs. Average negative encumbrance alone will cost 125 points, though, so give the players those points on top of everything else.
Give them even more points if you want real "supermicros", a good idea if normal humans or other large foes will be involved. You can decree that whatever power or process resulted in tiny PCs also left them with unusually high DX, HT, and ST. And if you're planning battles against humans, the little people will need all the help they can get; consider superpowers and psionics!
Whether sensory abilities will differ or not is up to you; see Book 1. Thick fur, periods of torpor, and other small-creature methods of conserving heat are also left to your taste.
Falls will present almost no danger to PCs. From Book 6, a 2" microhuman might hit terminal velocity at less than 20 mph and divide falling damage by about 175.
So, are there big humans in the game world? Of course there are, if it's a game of little people hiding from big ones. That brings up all the classic dangers: the lawn mower, the garbage disposal unit, the Nike stomp. Good luck.
It also means big items whether brand new or pre-apocalypse "artifacts" waiting to be used by PCs. Toy gliders, radio-controlled cars, compasses, watches, and so on are obviously useful. Sewing needles make great rapiers; bottle caps become shields; thread works as rope; toothpicks function as staves. A razor blade becomes a bizarre but nasty two-handed weapon. A mousetrap is a deadly trap against fellow small creatures, if you can set one. When it comes to big guns and slingshots, PCs probably won't have the power to put them to use but let them brainstorm.
A game could have shrunken spies/scientists/accident victims trying to survive the elements long enough to get in touch with big people, and find a return to normal size. That'd be good for a short campaign, where finding big people or at least the ones that can help! marks completion of the game.
If it's a game of humans fighting microhumans, you've got a challenge ahead in keeping the little PCs alive. Secrecy would be an utmost concern for the little people, who might take to living in underground warrens to avoid detection. Or they might head for the treetops: flight ability will work wonders in keeping microhumans out of big humans' deadly reach. See the Appendix for more ideas.
In general, it may be hard to mix big and small on an ongoing basis, as opposed to a one-shot or occasional mixing. Physical capabilities are too disparate; even the sight of towering, big humans might induce severe shock in unprepared microhumans.
There's no reason why you need big people at all for a fantasy world or an alien planet with unique evolution. You can run a whole campaign of adventures with small folk the biggest things around (well, except for the requisite bigger, hungry animals). See the Appendix for more.
One odd-sized game world already exists for GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows, the lagocentric world based on the 1976 FGU game by B. Dennis Sustare and Scott Robinson. B&B uses a GULLIVER-like approach to playing small PCs: essentially, a rabbit-sized Base Scale. (In a radical move, B&B also "scales" the IQ score.)
Like GULLIVER, B&B assumes a Load ST different from Combat ST (though without the terminology). Rabbits' Load ST is one-fortieth that of humans; Combat ST and HP are not explicitly stated as a proportion of human levels, but are about one-fifth.
GULLIVER suggests building adult bunnies on Size -4, or Linear Scale x 1/5, Area Scale x 1/20. The Combat ST and HP multiplier fits right in with B&B designs. Set that size as Base Scale: bunnies will have ST and HP of 10 or so, and humans about 5 times the Combat ST and HP.
For lifting purposes, a bunny's ST 10 (or whatever) is hefting weights measured in "rabbit-pounds" of one-twentieth a human pound, or about an ounce. Yes, that's different from the B&B rabbit-pound, but B&B's bunnies seem weak for their size.
The Volume Scale for Size -4 suggests a weight of 1.5 lbs. for a bunny, but that's definitely rounding on the light side. Bunnies are chunkier: use the 4 lbs. average given in B&B.
For reasons given earlier, stick to one-yard hexes as B&B does. While combat positioning will be a little abstract, Move scores will be easier to work with.
The average rabbit weighs 80 rabbit-lbs., for WSR 8 and Negative 3 encumbrance. B&B also gives rabbits DX and HT of 10, but there's really no need to "scale" these stats to make 10 the average. DX and HT have the same meaning for all creatures, regardless of size; as wild animals, rabbits should probably have good DX and HT stats of 12 or so.
B&B suggests special rules for computing rabbits' Speed, Move, and Dodge, but in fact, normal GURPS and GULLIVER rules work perfectly well. With ST 10, DX 12, HT 12, Move Mod x1.5, and Running-12, a bunny has Move 11.25. That's fine for bunny-sized hexes; in one-yard hexes, Size reduces Move to x1/5, or to 2.25. However, a rabbit's legs are decidedly different from ours in shape and number: three levels of Enhanced Move (land) brings Move up to 9 yards.
Figure Speed and Dodge in the normal human fashion. No +1 "rabbit bonus" on Dodge is necessary, as negative encumbrance provides the bonus.
By comparison, the average human has Combat ST 50, HP 50, Load ST 200 (in rabbit-lbs.), and Move 5 in yards. Stats for the rest of B&B's Friends and Foes can be used as is, although the larger creatures' Load ST stats, and possibly DR, might realistically be higher than listed in the book. But don't be too tough on the bunnies!
The whole B&B book is there to answer this topic. Use GULLIVER to fill in any gaps: damage from falls, effects of weight in close combat, etc. Special effects of the small world are as above, though they won't be as extreme for bunnies as they are for microhumans.
There isn't much demand for campaigns based on giant PCs. First of all, where's the challenge? Your foes will have to be even bigger than you, or small but numerous and GMs hate running combats with lots of little fighters.
Anything's possible, though: a game set in a Giant village, the PCs as hulking demigods in Asgard, even a one-shot, Manhattan-flattening night of towering movie monster battles.
If characters aren't quite Godzilla-sized, "scaling" the game to more GURPS-like stats isn't necessary. ST or HP stats of 50 or 100 or so aren't particularly hard to work with and if you do scale those down, any humans in the game will gain ugly fractional stats.
Instead of starring as parties of PCs, giants are usually rare characters in normal-sized games. Their presence can't be ignored in any game scene, and they steal the show when physical power is called for.
But life's not easy at the top. It's been said that the world of small creatures is a world of surface areas and drag, while in contrast, the world of big creatures is one of inertia and gravity. Giants find their own body weight a burden, heavy and ponderous. Climbing and jumping are tough; falls are deadly. Giants prefer sticking to two dimensions.
Giants outside their society have trouble with the homes, tools, and transportation of smaller races. Food's a problem too: though dietary needs are low relative to mass, Giants will still eat human hosts out of house and home.
Consider a chair for a 12' Giant. Twice as big in all dimensions, it has the weight of eight human chairs, yet the Giant is only four times or so as strong as a human. The chair's very heavy to the big fellow. But wait any cross-section of the big chair's frame will have only four times the area of the human chair's, when it needs to support eight times the weight. So just like Giant bones, the frame needs even thicker width and depth dimensions, and that makes it even heavier. You can see why Giants don't rearrange their furniture on a whim.
Giant gear will be heavy and hard to manage for the big guys, let alone for humans. That includes weapons. Giants will realistically have to use clubs and stones that are small relative to size. Shortswords and batons might be all your Colossus can handle, though you can rest assured that the Giant versions of these will be bigger and deadlier than the largest human weapons.
Giant gear will be heavy for itself, with weight scaling up faster than structural soundness. Giants can lighten the load by cutting some dimensions say, making a fry pan thin-walled, or reworking a giant broadsword to rapier slimness but that only increases the fragility problem.
It's an interesting twist on fantasy convention that "real" Faerie might toss their gear (and themselves!) about with haphazard abandon, while "real" Giants would learn to go about their business deliberately and delicately, even in their own Giant villages!
The hard science view of giant creatures is covered by the above notes. The cinematic approach, on the other hand, lets Giants use their huge tools as easily as we use human ones. If you want Giants wielding really big weapons, you'll have to boost ST a lot. A lot of fiction does this, and magic or alien flesh provide a perfect rationale.
Or use this fudge: give your Giants tools light enough for them to handle, but with the special effect that they look like human objects scaled to Giant size. Your Giant's baton somehow has the size and shape of a Giant-length quarterstaff; his Giant throwing hatchet mysteriously looks like a well-proportioned, two-handed Giant axe. It makes no sense whatsoever, but if it's fun, go for it.
Giants in fiction often go even further, wielding oak trees and boulders that are proportionately bigger than the largest weapons a human can use! That's precisely the opposite of how object weight and Giant strength would interact, but the sight fits right into a Norse saga or other over-the-top setting. Again, feel free to invoke cinematic special effect to depict Giant tools as ridiculously large.
All this talk of big and small characters makes you wonder how they got that way:
This one's the easiest: the PCs were born microhumans, Giants, whatever. Simple enough. Fantasy worlds easily encompass such races with no explanation needed. In sci-fi games, gravity explains a lot: microhumans may have developed on high-gravity worlds, and huge races on low-gravity planets.
Movies and comics love "shrinking rays". From Superman comics to Honey, I shrunk the Kids to Asimov's Fantastic Voyage, all you need is an appropriately power-hungry and fragile device that'll shrink down anything caught in its mysterious rays (except, oddly, the base on which target objects stand).
In fiction, effects are usually instantaneous and harmless. Growing things back to full size requires the "reverse setting", or perhaps a different device. The same with a device to turn PCs into giants: it might be a specialized growing ray, or just a shrinking ray turned around. Alternately, neither shrinking nor growing rays need a "reverse"; the effect wears off after a given length of time.
How does the technology work? Through the bounciest of rubber physics, of course, but pick a basic concept. The easiest is that the ray somehow re-creates objects using more or less material. Shrunk PCs are remade with fewer atoms and cells. Of course, fewer cells doesn't work well for a really tiny character, unless you don't mind being converted to an amoeba.
Another technology has rays affect the nature of matter itself, actually shrinking or expanding atoms! That's how scientists shrunk the doctors in Fantastic Voyage to cellular size for their journey through an injured man's body. Such shrunken atoms will have trouble interacting with normal ones. When the above book's voyagers lost the air supply inside their intravenous submarine, they had to shrink down air molecules from the outside world to match their own shrunken size, before they could breathe the air. (But hmm, what happened to the sub-full of miniaturized air released into the patient's blood, when it expanded again at the end of the hour? Forgetfulness on the author's part spared us from having to see that mess.)
Technology that shrinks or expands atoms is no doubt playing with the risk of nuclear explosion or worse. Use carefully. A device that invokes "transdimensional matter swapping" might be safer, if not more believable.
Whatever the circuitry, the tech's often an integral part of the story line: there's a race to leave the ant hill before the shrinking ray wears off, or a struggle to fix the broken Shrink-O-Beam and bring back the PCs.
Bioengineering a person to small or large size may be possible in a few short years! At least for a minor size difference; extreme changes will bring up problems with metabolism, heat loss, weight, brain size, nutrient transport, all the stuff mentioned in Book 1. It'll take many more advances in biotechnology to solve those issues.
If you have braintaping or other mind transfer technology in your game, PCs can be reborn in odd sizes through cloning. Those interested in this sort of thing will enjoy Bio-Tech.
GURPS offers Growth (CI p. 56) and Shrinking (CI p. 65) superpowers that do the job. See Book 3 for a Variable Size trait that can replace both.
Magic can do anything. All you need is the right spell. The best part about magical growing or shrinking is you can brush off any complications you don't like. If you want shrunken PCs to operate just like big ones with no heat loss, food requirement, brain size or other thorny problems, then that's the result the spell gives. Likewise, a growing spell brings no weight problems if that's how you say it works.
Spells for size changes are in Grimoire on pp. 18-19: Shrink and Enlarge for yourself, and Shrink Other and Enlarge Other for friends and enemies. These belong to the College of Body Control. For objects, use Shrink Object and Enlarge Object, as well as Contract Object and Extend Object for one-dimensional changes, from the College of Making and Breaking on pp. 68-69.
A suggested change: let the spells adjust Size directly. Set the Cost of the spell to some base cost, plus additional cost per level of Size change.
Grimoire suggests reducing Cost when shrinking an item that's small to begin with, though there's no detail given. It's a good idea, and so is increasing Cost to shrink a very large item or to enlarge a large item, for that matter.
Here's a suggested revision of Cost, with base Cost determined by the beginning Size of the object. Keeping in mind that an enlarged being is a tremendous combat machine or a shrunk foe, an incredibly weakened one the cost is a little more substantial:
Take a target's Linear Scale from its Size for creatures, or from weight if Size is not certain. Shrinking a human down 9 Size levels costs (4 x 1) + 18 = 22 fatigue. Growing a small elephant (Size +3) two Size levels costs (4 x 3) + 4 = 16 fatigue.
You can replace the costs for Shrink/Enlarge Object with this same rule if you like, though for large objects, GURPS costs are much higher for inanimate objects. For example, doubling a 30-lb. table's dimensions costs 31 fatigue in Grimoire, but only 6 from the above rule ((4 x 1/2) + 4, assuming from weight that the Table is roughly Size -2). Use whichever you like, or further tweak. You might want to use the above suggested Enlarge Object cost for most items, double it for metal or complex items, and increase it astronomically for precious metals and gems!
Conduct all scaling as outlined in GULLIVER rules. Grimoire's notes are already pretty much in line with this, but Load ST needs to scale with the square of linear dimension, and food requirements as Book 6 describes. Sensory or IQ deterioration from size change should be ignored, as should major debilitating problems like blood transport difficulties in a scaled-up human. Other drastic effects, like natural encumbrance, heat loss and fatigue issues, and exposure-related "cube-square" effects, are up to the GM use if you like, or ignore for cinematic simplicity.
Without cinematic benevolence, smart versions of Enlarge might include the effects of Might, to let the mage handle his new size. Or imagine a spell called Beast of Burden or some such colorful name, that grants levels of Extra Encumbrance (duration 1 hour) at a cost to cast and maintain of 2 / level. A mage should be able to cast both Enlarge/Enlarge Others and Beast of Burden at the same time for the appropriately higher cost, allowing super-scaled designs without collapse.
Speaking of Might, it may make sense to base ST increases on starting ST. If you like that idea, use a base Cost of (starting ST / 10), with +2 per 10% ST increase. For simplicity, use Combat ST/10 for the base cost; the additional 10% increase affects both Combat ST and Load ST. Let the maximum increase be +50% ST.
The traditional psi arsenal of tricks doesn't include shrinking or growing, or much at all in the body alteration department. So let's imagine a hypothetical "Somakinesis" psi power costing 5 points per level, conferring skills inspired by mages' Body Control spells.
Each of the shrinking and enlarging spells discussed above becomes a psi skill. Instead of a cost to cast, you have a maximum ability determined by Power. You can work out something based on the fatigue costs for spells above, where fatigue equals the Power you need to effect the change. (Double the above formula's base cost if things seem too easy.)
Or use the Telekinesis table: Power determines how heavy an object you can affect. Each level of Size change requires one additional level of Power. Any Power left over adds to duration: duration is (leftover Power squared) x 10 seconds, minimum 5 seconds.
Whatever your power, the maximum number of Size levels you can change an object is skill / 2, and the speed of change no more than skill / 10 levels per second.
Example: You have Somakinesis with Power 18. Using the Telekinesis table, changing a 100-lb. person requires a base Power 14. You have 4 Power left over. You reduce the target 1 Size level. The 3 remaining levels can be used to affect duration, making it 90 seconds.
Somakinesis power might also include psi equivalents of the above Might and Beast of Burden spells, relieving the encumbrance problems of an Enlarge skill. Other Somakinesis abilities would include face alteration or even greater shapeshifting.
However, psi powers are usually more "invisible" than flashy magical effects, and that's where Somakinesis doesn't work outside a superpowered game. If you like, forget Somakinesis, and make psi Shrink, Enlarge, or other shapeshifting skills obscure disciplines of Astral Projection power, affecting only the astral form. Psi won't radically reshape a fleshly body, but a skilled projectionist can morph his astral shape into a tiny shadow to slip by enemy astral travelers, or swell up to a huge body to crush them, or become something so grotesque it sends them scampering back to their physical shells.
The fun of odd-sized games is playing up what's different from the daily life we're used to. The same goes for games set in unusual environments: emphasize what makes the world different, and enjoy.
Unlike land with its nasty weight problems, undersea PCs can be as big as they like (or can afford to be, point-wise). You've got lots of fun choices: air-breathing, water-breathing or both; amphibious or not; hands or just fins; teeth or tridents. Bizarre natural weaponry and defenses are the norm beneath the waves.
Encumbrance and movement rules from Books 2 and 4 will be important, but can be a little complex at the detailed level. Be sure to learn the water-related rules well so there's no slowdown in play.
The ocean's wide and not subdivided by the mountains and rivers of land. PCs have free rein to traverse the globe! Well, almost; there are some invisible but real boundaries.
Pressure is the big demarcator of distinct underwater zones. Creatures without Pressure Support will have a limited vertical range of environment; adaptation to different pressures can separate underwater societies completely. PCs with Pressure Support will have more travel options.
Temperature is another important boundary. Most sea dwellers will have to stick with zones comfortable to them, but PCs should enjoy wide roam simply by not buying Temperature Intolerance (unless you're using Book 6's advanced rule on the effects of water on heat loss). Ocean temperatures don't vary nearly as much as land temperatures do, and no water will be colder than freezing, for obvious reasons.
Another limitation is dependency upon salt or fresh water, covered by Environmental Intolerance in Book 3. PCs will ideally be able to traverse both environments, but it's not that important if the campaign is sea-based: only 0.01% of the world's water is fresh water! Marine PCs might view "upstream" as either an exotic travel destination or a trip to 'the sticks' to be avoided at all cost.
Otherwise, there's not much to keep aquatic PCs from roaming far. And they'll get to travel in a whole new way: in three dimensions! Leaving the ground involves hard work for aerial fliers, but assuming humanlike density, fish PCs can travel the third dimension as easily as the other two. You'll have a lot of fun if you can GM this freedom of movement (and here abstract, basic combat may be a better choice than tactical, advanced combat); the players will have fun if they learn to let go of "up" and "down" and think 3D.
Three-dimensional movement or not, objects with density different from water including PCs will sink or float. Weight is hard to support with no ground underfoot; Book 2's detailed rules will make it very hard to swim with plate armor.
The seabed marks one end of that vertical dimension. Ranging from bare, flat sand expanses to complex coral citadels, the ocean floor is a unique world with its own unique denizens.
On the other end of vertical is the surface and who knows what that means to water-dwellers. Air breathers visit the surface every few minutes, so it's no big mystery to them. But to intelligent fish, the surface may be the mystical Barrier that lies between their world and a dry emptiness that can be felt and glimpsed, but never swam in. Indeed, swim straight at the Barrier and you'll break through into that nothingness only to have the water pull you right back in with invisible hands!
You just can't stay beyond the Barrier. Perhaps Heaven lies beyond... but no, the dead usually sink downward. And what about the small fish who are snatched through The Barrier by yellow claws, never to return, or those who swallow shiny minnows and are pulled violently through the Barrier, fighting madly, by a magic thread! Clearly, Heaven is below the sea bed, and Hell up in the sky!
Fish theology aside, PCs will probably want amphibious abilities. That's good if you want to run dry and wet adventures. But if the PCs are perfectly amphibious, they may disappoint you by preferring land when you want a sea game, or vice versa!
The undersea world has its own look: the carnival of tropical fish colors, the incredible variety in sea creature size and weaponry, the complexity of a coral reef community, the vast, pitch-black loneliness of the depths.
The density of the surrounding medium makes water a different world. Swung swords and the like won't work well; effective weapons will be bites, stings or thrusts. Non-aquatic and other unstreamlined creatures will move slowly. Knockback will be drastically reduced by drag. You'll want to cut knockback by at least half, or more for heavy knockback; ambitious GMs can take a peek at Book 4 notes on terminal velocity and movement for additional hints.
Visibility is limited underwater. Anyone can blind foes by kicking up clouds of muck at the sea bed; this should be a common escape tactic. Some creatures carry their own inky smoke screens!
Availability of light decreases drastically as you go down. Beyond a certain depth lies essentially total darkness. That makes Bioluminescence a good buy for deep-sea adventurers, though light won't penetrate water nearly as far as it does air. Divide ranges for all effects by 3 or so, more in cloudy water.
Sounds will be distorted underwater, something most of us have noticed while swimming. Scents will travel far and linger. If you like, give PCs Discriminating Scent, and see Bunnies & Burrows for the importance of that on PC activities. They won't be the only ones with the ability, though; watch out for sharks!
There are plenty of rules in GULLIVER for detailed flight action, but it's not much of a campaign environment in itself. Unlike aquatic creatures, aerial PCs will have to come down at some point.
The exception would be what Book 3 calls true aerial creatures: magical or lighter-than-air creatures that live in the atmosphere. Air will still remain primarily a place for getting from point A to point B in the game, though unless you populate an alien atmosphere with teeming life, there just isn't much interesting in the sky. (But see Larry Niven's Smoke Rings for a non-boring aerial world.)
Remove the air from aerial, and you have vacuum. There are rules in GULLIVER for space action, and a galaxial flier does sound kind of cool yet if you think millions of square miles of sparsely populated upper atmosphere are boring, wait until you see the infinities of space. Asteroids and space station exteriors are good locales for sporadic adventures, but the vast interstellar wastes are just that: wastes.
As mentioned in Book 6's collision rules, GURPS scales HP for vehicle and robot size in a different manner than it and GULLIVER do for creature size. Vehicular and robot HP roughly scales with the square of linear dimension (or mass to the 2/3 power), and creature HP with linear dimension (or mass to the 1/3 power). The two systems aren't compatible.
It's been suggested that the differences comes from the inherently superior sturdiness of metal or other unliving structures, compared with soft flesh. But while that sounds good for big trucks, it fails for structures smaller than human size: a foot-high steel structure ends up with HP decidedly lower than that of a foot-high animal. That's not right.
One solution is to change HP scaling in creatures to match that of vehicles and robots. This is already touched upon in Book 1: you can scale creature HP using Area Scale, not Linear Scale. That requires a mess of changes to GULLIVER rules. You'll have to scale overall ST for damage as well as lifting purposes using Area Scale. Various rules relating damage to the square root of weight will use straight weight instead; some rules equating damage with velocity might do better using velocity squared. The whole list of changes is too long to mention here.
On the other hand, lots of those changes have their own elegance (such as getting back to one ST score, not a split one). The only real problem, as Book 1 suggests, is a feel and balance one: you'll end up with huge differences in HP and damage among creatures of differing sizes.
How about changing vehicular and robot HP scaling to match that of creature HP? Try taking the square root of (10 x current GURPS HP) to use as the new HP score. Of course, you've now changed the relationship between vehicular HP and the damage done by their weapons do you perform the same operation on damage levels too, or live with the fact that antitank weapons just became far more efficient? Sigh, it's not an easy thing...
Also note that vehicle arm ST is used for both damage and lifting purposes. To bring this more into line with GULLIVER, give mechanical arms a Combat ST just like that of creatures, calculated as the square root of (10 x Arm Lift ST).
Whichever fix you use, you'll still want bioplast and steel forms to be tougher than flesh and bone. For a construct of any size, give a vehicle or robot some multiple of humanlike base HP: x1.5, x2, or whatever you think is right. That plus plenty of DR will leave hard metals and other nonliving materials considerably tougher than flesh, at any size, even though you've preserved the important factor: that HP scale in the same manner for both.
Arm motors in Mecha, Robots, and Vehicles use ST scores proportional to their volumes. This should be proportional to the 2/3 power of volume instead. Rewrite the rules for arm motors to multiply motor weight by the square root of (Arm Lift ST^3/10), instead of multiplying weight by arm Lift ST. This is a general fix that applies to any HP scaling scheme.
Below is the skeleton of a gameworld for microhumans, which unfortunately never made it to full campaign status. Use all appropriate rules for 2", Size -9 people, with a hard science or cinematic bent as you prefer. Set their size as the Base Scale.
The below isn't far beyond the "example" stage. There are humans and a handful of sample nonhuman PC races (known collectively by the incredibly uncreative name The Peoples), a Big Bad Enemy Race, and miscellaneous neutral or dangerous NPC races, all battling for survival amid scarcity.
The only "hook" so far is the size factor, with its super-leaping action, bug battles, and suitability to races based on animals. Do something with the game from there. Change the background to vast microhuman kingdoms and insectoid empires, with politics or exploration the campaign driver. Flesh out the societies. Make up your own races, even shrinking down favorite Fantasy Folk/Aliens designs. (This might be a fun setting in which to allow players to invent newly contacted races.) Drop the whole thing wholesale into some undiscovered corner of your current gameworld don't worry, it doesn't take up much space.
Default TL is 3. An interesting addition would be a branch of technology making use of biological resources, such as a means of fixing aquatic hydras to the ends of twigs, for venomous "sting stick" weapons.
Add supernormal abilities for a higher-power game. Suggestions appear below. Bunnies & Burrows' Herb Lore, as well as its take on psi powers, fits in well.
Intelligence in this world rose from a couple billion years of evolution, as it did in ours. But not in just one lone offshoot of the animal kingdom; rather, sentience developed in mammals, in birds, in reptiles, in fish, even in insects.
And it only developed in small creatures. Really small ones.
No one in this world knows why that's so, but then again no one's ever thought about it the gift of thought belongs to the intelligent races, and everyone knows there's no thinking being smaller than a hazelnut or bigger than a Rockbird (and even a Rockbird barely qualifies). There are huge beasts out there that are thousands of times the weight of the PCs, but they're just huge, dumb beasts.
Everyone's hungry, both you and the big things that want to eat you. Most of these hungry creatures fall into four categories: animals, Peoples, Others and Ee.
Peoples is a translation of Yhemb, the name given to thinking races by the race that first united them. The Peoples are clever and all can talk in some fashion. Each race resembles some type of animal, leading to obvious nicknames, but any connection beyond appearance is the stuff of religion and myth.
Humans: Humans hold distinct lineages important, with clans and even varied languages. Nicknames for them among other Peoples include Sticks, for that straight, upright posture found in no other creatures. (If there are monkeys in the game world, that's another obvious source for an appearance-based nickname.) What sets humans apart is mental adaptability and an amazing facility with tools and inventions. Those soft, unarmed bodies would never have survived otherwise!
That's a pretty standard treatment of humans in multi-race fiction: adaptable and clever, or in game terms, lacking built-in traits and so highly customizable. You can change that if you want a complete "fuzzy animal" game: give them fur, minor weaponry, maybe even the ears and whiskers of cats or whatever fuzzy is your favorite. But not too much stuff; this is the "default" adaptable race.
Supernormal abilities: Humans show adeptness with armed and unarmed martial arts, Herb Lore, and magic, but their real power lies in their clever inventions.
Dolmice: Dolmice are white rodents. The "'Mice" are fast, furry, nimble-fingered, and almost as clever as humans. They can walk freely on two legs or on hands and feet. They swim poorly. An odd, un-mouselike quirk: Dolmice are carnivores, eating insects and even red meat when it's available, and can unhinge their jaws to swallow a morsel as large as their heads.
Dolmice believe in a complex netherworld of spirits, with a rich lore of dark superstitions and legends. 'Mice live in nomadic mixed-family Packs, and as a race are gregarious to a fault. Two or more, but never one, will leave a Pack to hunt or adventure; without daily contact with another of its kind, a 'Mouse will grow deranged, slip into a paralyzing depression or frenzied rage within a week, and soon die!
Traits: Size 0, Extra Legs (arms), Manual DX, Acute Taste/Smell +3, Incompetence (swimming), Dependency (contact with own species), quirks related to superstitious beliefs. 'Mice are a good PC race if two or more players choose to play the race. The interaction that develops should be interesting, as two 'Mice away from the Pack will develop a bond of literal life-or-death dependence!
Supernormal abilities: 'Mouse powers will center around ritual- and spirit-based magic, as well as Herb Lore infused with a good dose of occultism. Legends such as that of batlike, nocturnal 'Mice that kill for blood are probably not true...
Bolls: Ant-eating Bolls are miniature throwbacks to prehistoric glyptodonts, with two major sub-breeds. "'Dillos" or "Turtles" are big, armored hulks that usually walk on all fours, wielding club-tipped tails able to deliver powerful blows. A Boll can carry several smaller friends on its back. They're excellent tunnelers and build underground warrens that can stretch for dozens of yards. By day, 'Dillos peacefully tend farms above ground.
The smaller "Spiny" Bolls are a warlike breed with fearsome weaponry and a martial code of honor. They live through hunting and robbery, and are being integrated into the Peoples with difficulty.
'Dillo Traits: Size +3, IQ -1, Strong Will +2, DR, Striker (rear hexes), Tunneling, Extra Legs (arms), Discriminatory Smell, Blunt Claws, Curling. Pacifism (self-defense only) is common.
Spiny Traits: As above but Size +2, Sharp Claws on hands and tail, Sharp Teeth, Spines, Catfall, Code of Honor, Reputation (plunderers), and often Bad Temper or Berserk. Remove Tunneling and Curling.
Supernormal abilities: Rare Bolls will have Intuition, Danger Sense and other precognitive psi abilities. Spinies value martial arts. Legends among both speak of Boll shapechangers!
Merrevet: Merrevet are the true fliers among the Peoples, resembling hummingbirds in shimmering appearance and aerial zip. Unfortunately, they take after crows in speech: grate-voiced, crude, and caustically comic. "Rasps" or "Flits" direct barbs at their own kind as much as they do at other Peoples, but have a quiet pride in their large, monarchical nations and cooperative though rowdy communities.
Merrevet couples mate for life and take turns with the eggs or young; visitors to the nest had better be ready for semi-affectionate bickering and nonstop one-liners on mated life. "Hatchlings these days!"
Traits: Size 0, Powered Flight with low weight, Odious Personal Habit (crude, obnoxious), arms built into wings, Fragile.
Supernormal abilities: Adventuresome Flits strive to master an extensive body of aerial maneuvers, some of which lend themselves to martial arts. Most Flits wisely avoid combat, though, leading a few to dabble in defensive magics.
Tar Biters: On the reptile side are Tar Biters (and not even they know why they call themselves that). They're fruit- and insect-eating omnivores that grow throughout their lives; a young adult is smaller than a Tapp, an old adult as large as a spiny 'Dillo. They're called "Dragons" by most, "Cock-eyed" by some, for the eyes on either side of the long heads, each of which takes turns looking at an object.
Tar Biters sport ribs that extend webbing outward for gliding; they climb with sharp claws for takeoff. They're also very buoyant, floating easily while paddling across a stream. A finned tail serves as a rudder in air and water. Most impressive is a corrosive venom spray that shoots from the mouth!
Loose Tar Biter communities form and break up casually, on some schedule other races cannot understand. Mating is casual as well. Tar Biters build complex aboveground cities, like humans. "Dragons" have a keen curiosity about the day-to-day affairs of other races. They dislike confrontation and played the central role in allying the Peoples.
Tar Biters also have a knack for putting creatures to work. They're expert silkworm raisers and herders of food insects; they invent clever harnesses for stag beetles and other "draft" beasts.
Traits: Size -1 to +2, IQ +1, Triangulated Depth Perception, Gliding, buoyant weight in water, tail (+1 Flight, Swimming), Venom (corrosive, spray), Cultural Adaptability, Charisma, Curiosity, Animal Empathy.
Supernormal abilities: Tar Biters' curiosity oddly leads them toward "mundane" sciences, crafts and arts; they find Diplomacy or Animal Handling to be subjects every bit as rich as magical dabblings, and more practical to boot. An eccentric individual might investigate other races' esoteric learnings, though.
Evellar: Evellar look like tiny cobras with arms. Forget serpent hisses and aspirants; "Slithers" speak in a rich lilt and put most birds to shame in song. Unlike snakes, Evellar are warm-blooded and replace a skeleton with soft cartilage, letting them squeeze into the smallest of openings. They're also deadly hunters: silent, poison-fanged, and able to change colors like a chameleon. They can ingest huge objects like a snake. Only in civilized lands have Evellar and Dolmice quit swallowing each other for dinner, and even there the races watch their backs around each other.
Evellar house communities of several dozen in loose jumbles of stones and twigs, but these are segregated by sex. The larger females build stone piles with more generous spaces for egg hatching.
Traits: Size 0 to +1, Voice, Silence, Single Leg, Venom, Chameleon, Flexibility, Squishy, and Infravision.
Supernormal abilities: "The deadliest warrior is never seen", say the Evellar. Elite warriors master Stealth and Invisibility Art, along with Mimicry and Ventriloquism. When secrecy doesn't work, Hypnotism and Enthrallment often do.
Tapp: A Tapp looks like a frog that never lost its flat tail. "Frogs" or "Tappoles" leap with powerful long legs and cling like tree frogs; they swim like fish with that tail. There aren't many places these splendid acrobats can't go.
Tapps are primitive and easygoing, with poor affinity for tools and low concern for the affairs of other races. Whole communities gather to feed at night outside their riverbank burrow cities. Tapps don't have the night vision of many creatures, but don't need it: a Tapp can cause its body or even its eyes! to glow with soft light. The glow attracts insects while reminding all but the hungriest predators that Tapp flesh tastes awful. The surreal light-show and feeding jamboree ends with ritual dances (including mating dances in season), recital of fealty to the community's Trio of Elders, and prayers for a relaxed tomorrow.
Traits: Size 0 (but smallish), Amphibious, Clinging, Enhanced Jump, Long Legs, Cold-Blooded, Extra Legs (arms), Reduced Manual DX, Primitive, Bioluminescence, grabber tongue, Dependency (water), Slime, often Laziness.
Supernormal abilities: Those few Tapps with the inclination will often study an ancient body of arts that center on mind over body abilities, including Meditation, Body Control, Autohypnosis, and the reawakening of a dormant gene to produce skin poison! Tapp heroes often display Harmony With the Tao or Luck, letting them slip by problems in laid-back fashion.
Then there are the Others: races with seemingly low intelligence, which don't ally themselves with the Peoples or each other.
Stopes: Some races are irrelevant, like Stopes. These are largish, oblivious pillbugs that mutter to themselves; they'll answer a question like "Did anyone pass by this trail?" if asked enough times, but unfortunately don't remember anything for longer than 30 minutes.
Gnawers: Gnawers don't seem to have a racial name for themselves. They're small, shrew-like creatures with big heads and gigantic appetites. Edgy, hyperactive, and on a nonstop frantic search for more food, a Gnawer can make conversation and even be personable, but his only thought is on what's edible. Gnawers won't attack larger creatures or intentionally cause trouble for Peoples, but a swarm will eat a community bare (apologizing all the way), and a surprised or sick Gnawer will sometimes chomp down on the nearest thing and literally can't let go!
Size -2, IQ-1, Increased Life Support, Gluttony, Edgy, Short Attention Span, Large Head, Sharp Teeth, One-Way Jaws.
Rockbirds: Rockbirds look like kiwi birds, but can run and take off with short wings. Though they name themselves for the rocky nests they build, the Peoples assume it's for the way they fly. Rockbirds are insectivores, and wouldn't be much of a threat even if they did eat meat they're dimwitted and cowardly. But they're also easily befriended, and will ride a couple of brave characters on their backs for short, harrowing flights, in exchange for some fat worms or protection against predators. Rockbirds also possess a piercing screech that makes them effective alarms, although they'll too often mistake a falling pine cone for aerial invasion.
Size +4, IQ-2, Cowardice, Edgy, Powered Flight with poor encumbrance, Penetrating Call.
Chulas: These arachnid hunters are greatly feared. Four thick, hairy legs extend before a fat, round abdomen. Four arms with crude hands jut from a hard, raised torso. The head is the worst of all, a manlike face with fanged chelicerae and too many eyes. Some spin webs, others jump incredible distances. Some Chulas form loose bands to take down much larger prey through clever pack tactics. There are even worse versions out there patterned after centipedes and scorpions.
Size +1, IQ-2, 2 Extra Legs, 2 Extra Arms, Extra Eyes, Fangs, Venom, No Neck, Stiff Neck, Fragile (abdomen only, -60%), special abilities such as Webbing, Enhanced Move, Enhanced Jump, etc.
The Peoples have all learned that cooperation within a race enhances survival, and cooperation among the races leads to even greater rewards. Each of the Peoples has added to its store of knowledge the lessons of the others, in hunting and agriculture, foraging techniques, predator avoidance, sciences and medicine, arts and crafts.
What the Peoples don't understand are the Ee. The Ee are an advanced, numerous, frighteningly organized race of intelligent insectoids. They compete fiercely with the Peoples for food and territory and they're winning.
The Ee's most characteristic physical trait is the lack of one! Antennae, chitin, and other insect accouterments mark an Ee, but they come in varieties large and small, bipedal and crawling, delicate and armored, flying and swimming. Yet they're not a mixture of species, like a community of Peoples. These Ee are breeds of the same species developed and designed intentionally.
Ee know they're a superior life form. The proof is in the body. Other races may show intelligence like the Ee, true, but they augment their weak, under-evolved bodies with artificial tools. Their knives, crude armor, staves, hang gliders and other "inventions" are crutches for the handicapped. And what an incredible handicap it is: each member of the weak races is born exactly like every other of his kind, without specialization, progress, or evolution!
An Ee hive, by contrast, is equipped for every need. Harvesters reap with scythe-like arms. Warriors have all the weapons and armor they need built in. Workers have stout legs and arms for carrying. Each breed serves its role, each complements and adds to the strength of the whole and the whole keeps improving. The Breeders see to that.
Ee live half as long as humans. They are not soulless hive minds, though not completely removed from that either. They're individuals, with personalities, imagination, likes and dislikes. Most communities of Peoples imagine a "queen ant" controlling mindless minions, but things are far more complex.
Ee construct large conical or pyramidal structures that humans invariably name "Hives", built over an underground warren of tunnels and chambers. Hives are made of sun-baked mud reinforced with twigs; inner structures are made of thinner mud, reeds, or paper that Ee create like wasps.
A Hive is ruled by a Pharr and Ay-Pha, known to humans as simply King and Queen. The Queen is not a bloated egg-layer; she's the hive's deadliest warrior! The King is slow and physically weak, but he provides vital psychic guidance to the Hive.
There are bloated egg-layers, though. The Consorts, which number many to a Hive, do not rule but make up the third gender of Ee "Royals". Most Peoples communities mistakenly believe these are "queen Ee". Actually, eggs develop from a complex process that requires all three genders. For this reason, King and Queen will not risk their lives in battle unless "princes" and "princesses" are ready to take over leadership and reproductive duties. All Ee except the Royals are genderless and sterile.
Castes and breeds: There are many groupings within a Hive. Each breed will have its own rank in the social hierarchy, and some sub-breeds may identify with others as part of a larger breed: leaf-cutting workers and wood-sawing workers, for example. The length of a breed's lineage is one measure of status. On top of that are work unit groupings, bondings based on the same time of hatching, and simple Ee-to-Ee individual bonds. Merit or demerit falling upon any one individual will reflect on many groups of its peers.
There are also four loose castes based on intelligence. At the top are "Memor", breeds with intelligence, Racial Memory, and limited telepathic abilities. These include the three Royal breeds, Counselors (the administrators, planners, and strategists of a hive), Breeders, Warrior Commanders, elite guardian troops, and scholars bred for mental abilities, whose task it is to learn about the outside world (and the Peoples). Some Hives may even have musicians (with bred-in instruments, of course).
Next come "Sentient" breeds such as scouts, assassins, shock troops, and some unit leader workers. These are intelligent, but without Racial Memory or telepathy. Scouts are fast fliers or runners with keen senses and directional ability. Assassins combine the mobility of scouts with the weaponry of warriors, on top of venom and high intelligence. The most effective ones look like lowly workers.
Below that are "Semi-sentient" breeds, or rank-and-file workers and soldiers. While individual personalities, these are low on intelligence, imagination and initiative. Workers are fairly undifferentiated, although multiple arms, Manual DX, and cutting jaws are common in light workers, as are large size, strong cutting jaws, Extra Encumbrance, and wings modified into non-flying carrying baskets in heavy workers. Basic warriors have armor and minimal weaponry; those bred for guard duty add piercing, cricket-like chirps. Heavy warriors sport more armor and weaponry.
At the bottom are "Presentients", dull-witted Ee with Slave Mentality. Some are little more than animals or tools: tunnelers, woodcutters, paper chewers, silk spinners, nectar producers, draft or attack beasts, even "honey pot" living storage tanks for food or water.
Presentients might seem the perfect subjects for rulers, but they require heavy control to be of use, and heavy control means lots of higher Ee. Higher Ee want the honor of their own breeds expanding, but in an odd quirk the race has never overcome, the higher the intellect, the greater the food requirements. The "superior" Memor are too voracious to exist in large numbers!
Ee communicate through spoken language. Silent communication is possible with antennae contact. There's a third form of communication found in Memor, the "telepathic blanket". This is not true communication, but a vague sense of presence and wordless direction. Without the blanket, a Memor would command lower Ee through shouts and pushes; with it, those Ee know where he is, and will accept very simple mental directions ("Go! Attack!").
The King: The King exerts a far more powerful blanket, a critical psychic presence on the rest of the Hive that "uplifts" its intelligence. (It may also play a role in correlating experience into Memor Racial Memory.) Without it, all Ee in the Hive lose mental function! The Hive becomes ripe for takeover by an enemy King, or falls apart on its own. Needless to say, this secret is to be kept from the Peoples at all costs!
The King's blanket has a radius of (IQ x age in years) feet. Range establishes a zone outside which Ee will be less common. An Ee can leave that range safely, but only for a number of hours equal to that Ee's (IQ x age in years), twice that long for Memor. An Ee then risks Derangement. Roll vs the lower of Will and HT, and every like interval thereafter. Reduce IQ by the amount the roll was missed! A reduction to half IQ or lower indicates Slave Mentality, and for a Memor, the loss of his own telepathic blanket abilities. Reduction to IQ 0 indicates collapse and eventual starvation.
With re-exposure to the blanket, IQ will return, though ill effects will be long-lasting in severe cases. Re-exposure to the King's blanket equal to time spent away from it is necessary to "reset" the mental safety clock.
The King's blanket has a "close range" of (IQ x age in years) in inches (minimum 12", even as an egg!). All Ee within close range gain +1 Alertness; those within half that range gain +2 Will and can sense danger to the King.
Don't try to take out the King unless you know what you're doing. With the Concentrate maneuver, he can summon Ee within close range, and directly command all Ee within half close range maybe even command a single PC! Nearby Ee will gain absolute fearlessness in defending him and you don't ever want to see an enraged Queen.
Other Memor: The blankets of other Memor have a range of only (IQ x age in years) inches, with none of the special effects of the King's. Their zones are mainly useful around the Hive for commanding lesser Ee.
However, the blankets act like the King's in preventing Derangement in lesser Ee away from the Hive; these Ee are safe under a Memor's blanket. Of course, the Memor themselves have a time limit and should a war party of lesser Ee lose its Commanders, those who have been away from the Hive past their limit have to roll for Derangement with intervals measured in minutes, not hours!
An individual Ee passes from egg to larvae to pupa to young adult, like an insect, with growth and yearly moltings thereafter. In ants and bees, eggs normally grow into undifferentiated, sterile workers. But gendered breeding classes can be created through "royal jelly" treatment of the larvae. That's how it works with the Ee but they've exploited this phenomenon to an incredible degree, custom-building an infinite number of non-gendered breeds.
Ee Breeding at TL3 is complex. Breeders utilize precise recipes to create preparations using their own digestive systems and that of food processor presentients from huge stockpiles of leaves, fermented fruits, fungi, salts, herbs, meats, and more. The most important ingredient, though, is Ee genetic material! A breed lives on by donating its body to new generations.
The preparations concocted by Breeders are injected into Consorts or eggs, and are injected into and fed to larvae, on precise schedules depending on the desired outcome. Timing and placement of injections, "batch" sizes, matching the desired breed to receiving larvae, and careful monitoring are vital, as is exposure to light at precise intervals. Pupae receive further injections and ointments. In all, it's as complex as the whole range of human technologies for creating tools and devices.
New breeds: Breed improvements, or the creation of new breeds, is the race's ongoing challenge. This requires mixing existing genetic materials selected from the proper body parts, under proper ratios and schedules. A new breed may take years before it reaches "stable" form, and even then it will be watched for late-developing mental or physical defects. Disasters are common. These range from whole batches of dead larvae, to physical or mental deficiencies in adults; from monsters that suddenly turn on the Hive, to Consorts rendered sterile.
Breeds that pass the test of time will be chosen as stock to create future generations, with superior individuals singled out. This can mean sacrificing the best at a young age (and sometimes, missing a late-developing defect), as older genetic material loses purity. This is a great honor for some Ee, less so for those who'd secretly rather stay alive (and thus try to avoid standing out too much!).
Selected Ee are put into suspended animation with preserving agents, never to be reawakened. The bodies are wrapped in silk and stacked floor-to-ceiling in breeding chambers, to be used bit by bit in new Ee. Some body parts are used, and others discarded. Creating new Memor generations always requires the use of Memor brains in preparations, to pass down Racial Memory and the telepathic blanket.
Improvement in the species is slow but real. Quick improvements are risky. In game terms, typical point value of a breed rises slowly with the TL of Breeding. Powerful workers are most likely to have Slave Mentality or physical defects. Assassins sport speed, strength, intelligence, and venom, but invariably display mental defects. An unspoken Ee secret is that defects are frighteningly common; an individual, breed, or Breeder will often try to hide these, for fear of punishment or termination!
Royals: The three gendered breeds can be made with far simpler preparations. A wise Hive will always set some Consorts aside for Royal production only. Experiments to improve the Royal breeds themselves would be an incredibly risky undertaking, messing with the Hive's master genetic material!
A newly designated King egg will develop its own telepathic blanket immediately but the blanket will not grow in the presence of a more powerful one. That means a "prince" must be carried away from the Hive as an egg and tended to by Breeders there. This will usually be an underground nest for invisibility.
Non-Ee material: Ee would never attempt to add body traits from animals or Peoples to their genetic stock; that would be unthinkable pollution. Ironically, they have fewer qualms where minds are concerned. Some Hives' Breeders have begun experimenting with adding the brains of other races to larvae, to instill admirable traits and possibly even memories of enemy secrets! A community or a band of PCs that inflicts heavy losses on a hive may find the enemy openly covets their brains.
Whether such an experiment produces a horrible new weapon (an Ee that possesses the memories of the PCs' dead comrade), ends in a dysfunctional failure, or backfires on the Ee, remains to be seen.
An experimental failure could provide a PC with an Ee's body even "resurrecting" a PC lost to the Ee! The being might have appeared a successful creation at first, with the non-Ee mind rebelling and taking over later. Assuming the character escaped the hive and was somehow accepted by the PC party, it would know the Ee's language and culture, as well as have some knowledge of the hive interior (Unusual Background ), but the mixed mind should not be a stable one! Add a full complement of mental disadvantages such as Flashbacks, Delusions, Berserk, Manic-Depressive, or maybe even Terminal Illness with a twist: when "time's up" the PC snaps and becomes a loose-cannon NPC.
A Hive will move when it eats its surroundings bare, or when it grows to the point where a new King's telepathic power cannot cover his subjects. Even without those problems, the Hive suffers diminishing genetic stock quality; even if new Royals are bred, the replacements are from the same stock as the old. Defects start to multiply.
New Hives are created in a process resembling an individual Ee's life cycle. Instead of exchanging Royals, Ee have two Hives "mate", leaving behind two "Hive nests" to grow or die on their own.
The Kings and Queens of two Hives, with several Consorts and a large contingent of subjects, leave their Hives. (Princes may then enter the old Hive to provide their blanket.) The parties meet midway. Swapping Kings, Queens, Consorts and subjects, the newly mixed groups head for two separate locations, carefully selected by scouts and cleared by armies beforehand.
Tunnelers at each build a small nest, where the new Royal couplings mate and impregnate Consorts. Whether Kings and Queens then return to their original Hives or not depends on conditions there; if they're healthy Hives, they may go back and continue to rule. Otherwise, Kings will become food for the new nest, as their blanket would disrupt formation of a new King. (Queens have more options.) Breeders create a new King egg immediately.
A nest is staffed with several members of all major breeds from each Hive, including Breeders, builders, and food-gathering workers. These are collectively called Caretakers. Chambers are stuffed with food and a veritable Noah's Ark of silk-wrapped genetic material from both parent Hives.
During this "egg phase", the nest is sealed completely. Breeders go to work preparing new Royal and other eggs. When they hatch, Royal larvae are left to cannibalize each other; several survivors are separated and groomed as new Royals.
The "larval stage" covers a year of Breeder work. The nest is opened (though kept hidden) so Caretakers can start making short forays out for more food. At the end of the year, the larvae pupate and emerge. The fittest King and Queen are allowed to survive, as are all new Consorts and other breeds that are healthy.
"Emergence" sees the new King, Queen, and the first batch of new Memor and other Ee start building the aboveground Hive while expanding the underground tunnels. Caretakers from the old Hive teach the new generation, or as necessary, become food or breeding stock. The initial aboveground structure has a 9" diameter at its base: a 3" wide space surrounded by a 3" thick ring of chambers.
Each year the Hive "molts", adding a new generation of Ee along with additions to the hive and underground nest. The radius of the structure is expanded 3" as the outside is covered with another layer of chambers, which is then armored with mud to form a new exterior shell. Meanwhile, the inside is hollowed out by a 2" radius. A 10-year old hive will have a central open chamber about 43" wide at the base, surrounded by a ring of chambers and passages 13" thick, for a 69" base diameter. Height will be roughly the same.
The mating and early stages of a Hive are its most vulnerable periods. A PC party attacking such a nest will still find itself in a real dungeon crawl, especially deadly if the Queen mother from the old Hive stayed along as a Caretaker!
The default campaign status is war with the Ee. The local community of Peoples starts with little or no knowledge of their enemy, or even the reason behind the conflict. It appears to be competition over scarce resources, but as PCs meet Peoples from areas where food is plentiful, they'll hear the same stories of war.
The goal of the PCs will be to explore whether it's possible to communicate with the Ee, whether a peace can be made, and if not, how the Ee can be beat. (And is the local hive really the enemy, or is it just an outpost in some larger Ee kingdom?) Gaining the cooperation of neutral races would make a good plot before final war.
Unfortunately for would-be negotiators, Ee society demands mindless expansion. The upper castes have the most desire to increase their numbers in the world, but they're the hungriest as well. The Ee breeding process itself is food-intensive. And the overarching Ee philosophy of specialization requires large Hives to work where one human can pick up a new task by changing tools, the Ee need to create a new, hungry subspecies!
Having a Hive in your neighborhood is initially a good thing. The Ee will first target their largest competitors for food: the same mice, locusts, and crows that threaten to starve the Peoples. But once the Hive grows big enough to have taken the food from those vermin, whose food will it look to for its next meal? Unless the PCs can somehow find a way to communicate with the Ee and convince this ancient culture to change its ways (right!), there's nothing to do but flee, or exterminate those bugs. (And if you can work that all into a metaphor for our own resource-exploiting ways without appearing obnoxious, you get extra-credit GM points.)
Epilogue: There's plenty more to the story of the Peoples and the Ee, but that's material for a future work. For now, here's a question: what if the above campaign took place in our planet's past?
No one really knows what happened to the Peoples, Ee, and Others. In some lands they inspired stories of "wee folk" before dying out. In others, only a tactical observation of Ee warfare survives (perhaps passed to us by the tiny Peoples), in which pieces representing a powerful Queen, slow King, warriors, and the hive structure itself battle on a checkered board.
In one land, the earth became more and more barren until it was sand again and the many races had to attempt great migrations. Most were not seen again. But some Ee discovered an expanse of flowing water with lush vegetation amidst the desert sands and giant, primitive humans! Miraculously, these looked upon the Ee as tiny gods to be emulated. The giants soon built flat-sided, mountain-sized hives of stone, they wrapped their dead in the thick, coarse silk they wove, they learned to beat reeds into a paper like the Ee made, they decorated their stone temples and dwellings with depictions of Ee and strange-headed Others. Soon the giants had their own Pharr to rule their kingdom, although they never could pronounce the title correctly.
But in time, the giants came to look upon their towering stone idols as more magnificent gods than the tiny creatures that inspired them. They called the insect-men demons, crushed their hives, and forced the Ee into hiding. The Ee fought back with winged, big-eyed assassins, spreading terror among the giants, who would awaken to find another family member poisoned in the night.
A deadly balance held until the giants released horrid guardian animals that hunted tiny invaders, whether mouse, rat, or Ee assassin. The sleek, pointy-eared beasts silently prowled the night, pouncing upon workers, springing out of nowhere to bring fliers down. They received food, homes and even worship from the grateful giants, while the once-glorious Hives finally crumbled to desert dust.
Resurrecting Atlantis for an undersea campaign setting won't get you points for originality, but it's what you do from there that counts. Here are some basic ideas, waiting to be fleshed out by whatever it is that makes your gameworlds unique.
Atlantis is a once-fabulous and technologically advanced nation-state, sunk to the ocean floor by a great natural (?) cataclysm. At the time of the game it has been restored to some semblance of glory in parts but remains in ruins in others. Imperial Rome and Greece make good cultural worldbooks for pre-fall Atlantis and the culture that survives.
"True Atlantans" retain human form, having survived through magic allowing them to breathe water. They swim as proper aquatic creatures. Some can also go ashore; others have lost the ability to breathe air for more than short periods.
Mermen are Atlantans who gained fish tails and gills through magic. They swim quickly but cannot go ashore.
A number of powerful Atlantan technologists survived the cataclysm by loading their consciousness onto the city's supercomputers. These "Netlantans" boast memories predating The Fall, and now they've got mobility too thanks to new (but experimental!) technology for downloading minds into aquatic robot or gengineered bodies.
Other intelligent denizens might include humanoids from neighboring Mu and Lemuria, and ancient races that existed before any of those. Don't forget dolphins! At least as smart as the humanoids, they're fast and powerful. Additional PC and NPC races patterned on sea turtles, seals, and even fish are possible, but these will have relatively low intelligence. Larger whales are the Giants of the game, whether wise, benign roamers or ferocious war engines. Cost will limit them to NPC use.
Allow humanoid PC mages. You may need to rework the effects of several spells for underwater use! Primitive psi abilities Intuition, Empathy, etc. exist in humanoids, but full-blown psi powers are only found in cetaceans. Telekinesis will be common in dolphins, which removes the boredom of playing a character with no manipulators. But even without psi an adult dolphin can be an expensive character, so PCs may have to start as young dolphins with low-level, unreliable psi.
It's all for naught without bad guys. You'll want a group of Atlantans that survived the cataclysm through deals with Dark Gods; these will be led by a powerful mage bent on reclaiming Atlantis (or raising it through vile means, or sinking additional cities to rule). The bad guys need henchmen: enslaved or created races with appropriately icky appearance. Try Fishmen from Fantasy Folk, or humanoids with octopus legs from the waist down.
Throw in a group of enemies with psi powers to challenge the dolphins. Mix in marauding sharks, rogue whales, kraken, magic-using worshippers of Things Merman Was Not Meant to Know, "good guys" turned bad, and Netlantan minds infected or overwritten by rogue minds or spontaneous AI.
Decide what technological artifacts remain from before The Fall, and what technologies the Atlantans still control.
Outside Atlantis itself, good backdrops for adventures are bottomless trenches, coral cities, the shipwrecks of surface dwellers, inland rivers, and of course land itself.
Conflicts with the above bad guys will center on control over something: technological or magical secrets, powerful artifacts, territory, the loyalties of powerful NPCs, and in the end, Atlantis itself. Other possible campaign themes are protecting or hiding Atlantis from surface dwellers (depending on the time period), and discovering what really caused the continent to sink.
It'd certainly be a shame not to mention this setting, wouldn't it? The famous Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726 and depicts the adventures of one Lemuel Gulliver, who travels to the islands of Lilliput and Brobdingnag (as well as Laputa and the country of the Houyhnhnms, whose denizens are more normal in size if not character).
The Lilliputians are about Size -6 and the Brobdingnagians about Size +6. The exact scaling factor is 12 either way, which makes a Lilliputian foot a human inch and a human foot a Brobdingnagian inch. As with much fiction of the sort, Swift didn't venture much into exploring the scaling effects on the physical worlds of the odd-sized islanders; the book is social commentary, not science fiction.
The original GULLIVER, which focused on character size alone, offered an "essay" on using odd-sized characters with some of the older GURPS worldbooks. Here it is with almost no changes:
The typical cyberpunk world is one in which societal norms have gone kaput so if you want to be twelve feet tall, who's going to stop you? Giants and Micros could enter a cyberpunk campaign through cloning or other methods. And why would anyone grow a pocket-sized human? Because in a world of high-tech physical security devices cameras, electric eyes, pressure-sensitive floors, and the like a Micro might be the best man for an infiltration job. He'll walk right under electric eyes. Only the most sensitive motion or pressure detectors will register his passage. Cameras might miss him, or mistake him for a rat. (Warning to housecats: this "mouse" has bionic enhancements, claws, and, yes, an attitude.) A normal-sized accomplice could easily smuggle a Micro into a secure compound, leaving him behind to hide until the place is locked up for the night.
And what could a Micro do once inside and alone? Carting off sacks of gold is out of the question, but the treasures of the future are small in size, and vulnerable to knowledge, not strength. A Micro could make off with a micro-disk, computer chip, or tissue sample. Or just a diamond ring, for Micro burglars of an old-fashioned bent. The sabotage of electronic or other delicate equipment is certainly within a skilled Micro's capability, as is arson if the intruder has a quick escape route ready. (They say there's a 2" arsonist-for-hire ninja going by the handle Firebug, with a kitchen match instead of a sword slung over his back.) Spying and bug-planting are right up the Micro's alley. Even a tiny assassin is nothing to laugh at, if one considers the possibilities. A drop of contact poison or a virus-laced needle are all the weapons he needs, and he can lie in wait almost anywhere.
Keep in mind also that in the purely mental arena of information-gathering, thievery, and general mischief in other words, cyberdecking a Micro is every bit as powerful as the big guys! All he needs is an adapter to let him hook the 'deck into his tiny neural interface. (This adapter might automatically shrink Flatline damage down to Micro levels too unfortunately for bigger characters, such an adapter would be too small to transmit their "bigger" nerve pulses to the 'deck. More ruthless GMs will hit Micro hackers with normal-sized Flatline doses. "Sorry, there's no way you can jack out. You're instant Micro vapor. What a way to go though, eh?")
An interstellar science fiction campaign will find the same uses for Micros as above, and then some. Open battlefields are no place for thumb-sized people, but midget warriors three or four feet tall can be as effective as normals with lasers and other low-ST weapons. The advantages of a midget army include drastically lowered supply (food) and transportation costs; a single jeep could unload dozens of fully-equipped soldiers. On the other end of the scale, giant warriors armed with vehicular weapons modified for handheld use would be a terrifying sight in war. Exoskeletons or other strength enhancements (or plain old low gravity) to counteract their weight would make them into extremely mobile, versatile armored units, true living tanks, possibly even with multiple legs or other horrible modifications. Such opponents would provide a flesh-and-blood surprise for heroes piloting the giant battle robots of comic book and animation fame (see GURPS Mecha).
Future worlds may create off-sized humans for more benevolent reasons as well. A race of strong, light-bodied Micros would be the perfect colonists (or native race) for a high-gravity world. A low-gravity world could support behemoths that would collapse under their own weight on larger planets. If the world contains giant predators, then colonists might be safest cloning themselves to an equal or bigger size. Most likely of all is the idea that Micros will be the new humans to take over a starving world unable to feed big people. This is the premise of Gordon Williams' The Micronauts and The Microcolony, required reading for a near-future "Micros vs ants and owls and big people" adventure. In the same way, a world sending out a generation ship (or any ship, for that matter) will find that it can send a lot of Micros for far less cost than one Big human. Shrinking may be the ultimate form of life support, provided there is a way to unshrink the people at their destination.
In a world where cloning or matter shrinking is common, people may change their size just for function, fun or fashion. Giants would be useful as construction workers and Micros as electricians, although a society advanced enough to freely create such beings would probably do better using robots. But an arena spectacle featuring twelve-foot combatants would certainly draw attention. Micros might have a place in sports too: a bored businessman's briefcase could fold open into a soccer field complete with tiny players (all Pele clones?), and chessboard gladiator arenas could be future versions of the backroom cock fight. Whether the Micros in either case are willing and paid performers, mindless toys, or miserable captives depends upon the type of society the GM creates.
On the lighter side, there could be amusement parks where shrunk guests can ride rabbits and view towering monsters like cocker spaniels (safely behind bars, of course). Needless to say, the GM will have something go wrong, and the characters will be racing for the exit through a loosed menagerie of beasts.
Finally, shrunk-down PCs can be a fun result of hyperdrive failure or time travel snafus.
Along with science fiction, fantasy is a perfect background for off-sized folk. Giants and tiny fairy folk already exist in most fantasy worlds; some are outlined in Fantasy Folk. Best of all, the existence of magic means that PCs can drop into tiny and giant worlds at will, if they know the right spells. The GM will have no problem thinking up adventures involving hidden races of tiny people, giant-slaying quests, curses that shrink the characters, and so on.
Fantasy is more than just pseudo-European knights and wizards. Gamers in the medieval world of GURPS Japan can throw in little people and giants (oni, or demons), and China mentions a legendary race of one-inch people, strong for their size. Players in a Swashbucklers campaign will enjoy discovering Lilliput and Brobdingnag too bad nobody believed the PCs' tales, except for that witty gentleman in the tavern. How will the players react when they find he's made their story into a wildly successful book, none other than Gulliver's Travels?
Meanwhile, back in the world of semi-historical medieval European gaming, the Arthurian legends of GURPS Camelot include Size +1 or +2 Giants, and Trolls and Giants from GURPS Vikings could be built on the same or larger Sizes mythic Viking adventures can feature truly huge monsters. GMs will also enjoy using Pict or Finn magic to shrink cocky paladins and berserkers down a notch or two, and an angry Merlin is always a good way to turn knights into mites.
The Scale rules will come in handy when designing monsters big and small for horror adventures. Better yet, use them on the PCs the players should be horrified to find themselves in the same fix as the Incredible Shrinking Man ("Oddly enough, your clothes feel rather loose when you get dressed this morning.") Once the characters are down to Micro size, a housecat becomes the ultimate horror monster: huge, swift, clawed, and deadly silent. Remind the players that felines see in the dark, then turn the lights out. Oh, and don't forget to mention that cats cripple and toy with their prey before the kill. Force the group's resident cat-lover to confront the Dark Side of Lil' Puddums.
Among its descriptions of bizarre parallel worlds, Time Travel (p.96) offers Microworld, where all mankind inexplicably shrunk to inch-tall height recently in the world's history. World-jumping PCs would probably not be sent to Microworld, as they might psychologically devastate the tiny people, but the GM could send them there "by accident." From there the game could take a Gulliver-in-Lilliput turn, with the PCs as giant celebrities, or degenerate into a King-Kong-inspired free-for-all with the terrified natives hurling missiles and artillery at the PCs.
The PCs are rabbits in this game hopping, furry, carrot-munching rabbits. As discussed earlier, B&B's rules for its 15" PCs work fine as is, although the GM may wish to add bits and pieces from GULLIVER's rules. One nice and nasty game session the GM can run goes like this: Following adventure after adventure in which a particularly vile bunch of humans terrorize, abuse, and dine on the hapless PCs and their warrenmates, the bunnies run into an alien artifact/mad scientist's raygun/magic item which turns the rabbits into 200-pound bruisers, or turns the humans into foot-high squirts. Or both. End of the line, Fudd!
Comics are full of shrinking and growing heroes; the uses of GULLIVER with Supers could be many. A secret valley with tiny people or giants could pop up in a Cliffhangers game. Ice Age adventures require plenty of giant creatures, and possibly giant and small humanoid races (whose remains simply haven't been found yet by scientists). And adventurers in GURPS Imperial Rome or Greece might find that Ulysses' Cyclops wasn't just a legend. Monstrous foes were staple fare for ancient heroes, from Jason to Hercules.
GURPS Atomic Horror heroes will face enormous ants and Martian shrinking rays. Agents in a cinematic Espionage adventure may have to destroy or steal a shrinking ray developed by the Other Side. Not without getting caught in the beam first, of course. (Just as the secret masters of Illuminati had planned all along.) If any groups are into playing out "dreamscape" battles in Psionics campaigns, the GM can liken the invasion of a super-psi's mind to Jack entering the Giant's house: the PC psi is sure to get "stepped on" if she's "seen". Unfortunately, the mastermind's giant "housecat" his subconscious id has picked up the scent . . .
The worlds of GURPS Old West, Special Ops, Robin Hood, Autoduel and so on seem much less likely candidates for off-size adventures, but if a GM can work one in, it'd make for a weird change of pace.