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

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

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

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

  • Game design musing: Drawing a bead on ranged combat targeting

    D. Cole, an inveterate rules hacker, Pyramid contributor, and GURPS community guru on things gun-, bow-, and armor-related, is posting plenty of good stuff on his Gaming Ballistic blog. If you’re the sort of gamer who likes this site, you’ll probably like his even more so. Hie thee to it. D.C.’s recent post Shoot/no-shoot: checking fire under pressure resonated with me, because I’d pondered something similar in the past: In a game’s ranged fire rules, is there a way to simulate the act of “lining up” your sights, only firing when you’re “where you want to be” (as D.C. nicely puts it)? As noted there, this can involve highly variable timing, and…

  • Minor brush-ups to COSH

    I made some very minor tweaks to COSH, my GURPS 3e-centric combat skill creation system. The changes consist of a few wording improvements and typo fixes. I also clarified that the reader-created Evade is best built as an unarmed skill, with oddness resulting when built as armed; it’s a good exercise in design. Those changes don’t make for a must-re-read, but COSH itself is worth checking out if you haven’t done so yet! Take that Evade, for example (with thanks to KBantar!); it’s a cool skill that lets you slickly evade any sort of attack, and is perfect for an unusual alien fighting style, a pacifist martial art, or a…

  • RPG Science: Physical performance with armor and other loads

    Just how tiring is heavy medieval armor? How much does a load slow down climbing? If you’re the type who appreciates a bit of realism in your RPG action, here’s what recent research and an anecdotal report have to say about those questions.  Heavy metal: Walking in plate armor Quite a few months back, a study published by The Royal Society B looked at the effects of medieval armor on physical performance (BBC summary here). No one should be surprised by its finding of “hey, heavy armor is tiring!”. But the researchers’ detailed approach of measuring actual energy consumption under controlled treadmill conditions yields some quantitative crunchiness for the consideration of…

  • Minor update to GLAIVE Mini

    Hear ye, hear ye. I’ve made a minor update to my GLAIVE Mini super-easy melee weapon design system for GURPS 4e, taking it from v1.0 to v1.1. The changes consist of minor clean-ups, plus a change to skill use for semibalanced weapons. The old rule specified the use of unbalanced weapon skills, or balanced skills at a -2 default. The new rule suggests either balanced or unbalanced skill as the natural skill (designer choice), with the other at a -2 default, depending on which is more natural for the weapon. Thus, a semibalanced weapon could be specified as using Axe/Mace or Broadsword skill normally, and the other at the -2…

  • Slashdot takes note of new Steve Jackson Games releases

    I was mildly surprised to see a Slashdot entry on the new Steve Jackson Games releases shown at SXSW. Can’t say I recall that site focusing on SJG in the past – but then again, even this “old fashioned” tabletop gaming company is going to have a lot of cred with the tech-focused Slashdot readership. As the blurb notes, the company’s infamous run-in with The Law over its GURPS Cyberpunk book helped lead to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And, as the comments clearly show, there’s a lot of recognition of and love for SJG among the techies. There’s a ton of wistful praise for Car Wars (and…

  • RPG science: Dinosaurs heavier than thought?

    “Dinosaurs may be lighter than we thought!” That’s the news item I welcomed in RPG science: Designing dinosaurs just got easier? a couple of years ago. I liked the sound of that discovery, as the crushing weight of dinos made realistic designs a challenge when considering the effects of weight vs power. But now? T. rex was bigger than thought, mused paleontologists more recently – over 9 tons for the Chicago Field Museum’s resident specimen, Sue (“I’m not fat, I’m just really big-boned”). So we may be back to super-heavy reptiles (go easy on the carbs there, Rex!), and back to various tweaks needed to keep the big dinos mobile under design…

  • Now in Pyramid: GURPS Combat Options from the Games Diner

    “Ten Tweaks to Customize Combat” in Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS is Your Author’s first article for Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games’ digital magazine for serious gamers, by serious gamers. (It’s the second SJG offering with my handle on it, following the GURPS Range Ruler.) The article gathers 10 simple GURPS combat-related rules from the Games Diner, polishes them shiny, and pares them down to their sweetest essence. If you’ve read the Pyramid article, this post offers a bonus aid: links to the rules’ original write-ups on this site. “Ten Tweaks to Customize Combat” gives you all you need to drop the rules into a game, so don’t think that you need…

  • Rules Bit (GURPS): Throw Like You Mean It

    Intro: “You throw like a kobold” GURPS’ thrown weapon stats neatly spell out the best distance (Maximum Range) you can achieve with a toss. These are multiples of Strength, typically STx1.5 for heavier weapons (spear), STx1 for very light ones (dagger), and STx2.5 for middle-weight weapons that hit a sweet spot for distance (throwing axe). Working from those stats, Conrad the Bavarian and his ST 16 can hurl a javelin 16 x 2.5 = 40 yards. In battlemap terms, that’s right off the dining room tabletop; it’s a throw that should send even the hardiest of orc miniatures fleeing to a safer distance. With some Extra Effort, Conrad could hit…