Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Review: Pyramid 3/34 Alternate GURPS

This issue is probably the most genre-independent yet: it focuses on stretching the core rules to cover the extremes while providing lots of optional variant rules to address nuances that often emerge in play.  In the process you get an insider’s look at why GURPS was designed the way it was.

Alternate Spaceships: This is  about using the 4th edition spaceship rules to make vehicles, tanks, wet navy ships, and buildings.  It also has rules for adapting the system to support CAR WARS style armor facings.  Are we looking at the foundation for the next GURPS Autoduel?  I couldn’t tell you… not yet, anyway.  (I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve gotten the chance to run the spaceship rules through their paces.)

A New Take on Grappling: If they ever make a compendium of awesome GURPS rules that aren’t in Basic Set… this is one of the things that will go into it.  Grappling rules are something that are almost uniformly horrible in 1980’s role playing games.  The standard GURPS rules are already pretty good.  The rules in this article not only fix some of the nuances, but they let you play out Wrestling matches on a move-by-move basis and they cover all those “make the bad guy drop the weapon” type scenes as well.  These rules will take some investment of time and energy to master, but if you have players that are SM+1 six armed Judo masters that want to grapple peoples’ heads and wench their necks off… they will work nicely.  (I like having monsters do some sort of grappling move in order to set up something particularly gruesome and horrible.  These rules should be useful for designing such attacks and maneuvers while giving the players a flavorful way to resist them.)

When We Were Small: This is a good blend of crunchy variant rules, genre advice, and immediately useful stats. Whether you want to run a game with Reepicheep or Tinkerbell as characters this article has everything you need.  Fractional strength and hit points are covered, as are typical animal disadvantages.  You also get a chart of small animals with their size, weight, and ST.  Combine this with Basic Set and Martial Arts to get a modern take on Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles role playing game!

Extreme Damage: GURPS is not optimized and is maybe even broken at the Giant Robot or Ogre Mark VI scale.  This article explains why this is the case and how to fix this by altering the strength damage, hit point, and explosion progressions.  This is not relevant to typical human scale campaigns, but anybody that wants to run a vehicle oriented game should take a look a this.

Ten Tweaks to Customize Combat: When I look at the GURPS Basic Set, the first thing I think is, “gosh… if only there were more rules!”  Okay, I don’t think that.  Yeah, there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of what’s there.  It works… and it’s worth the effort.  But the rules are all optimized for a “pretty darn good in most cases” approach.  This set of ten options shows how to address some surprisingly common situations with a little more nuance.  They are entirely intuitive and are easy to recall once you grok the basic idea.  I don’t think adding the to your game would really increase the complexity; indeed, these are typical of the kind of on-the-spot rulings a GM would be making anyway.

A Deck of Dice: This is a filler article covering a simple, obvious-once-you-see-it type idea.  There are two flaws here.  One… there should always be a chance, however small, for people two roll two natural 3’s in a row.  (Star Fleet Battles’ damage cards were abandoned for just this sort of reason.)  Two… role players are insanely particular about their dice and love having their own personalized set in front of them.  They’d never give them up for a set of communal index cards….

Armor Revisited: This is a fascinating article.  On the one hand, it is a concise set of designer’s notes that explains the foundational premise of the GURPS firearms rules.  On the other… it provides two additional dials that can be applied the the weapons and armor stats in the game.  As a bonus, these are explained in such a way that it is clear when and why to do things in the alternate way.  A big part of running a game depends on being able to visualize what is happening before the players begin to interact with it.  This article explains what the core combat rules actually mean in such a way that a GM that understands this can better improvise his rulings on the fly.  This is surprisingly interesting given the technical nature of the ideas.

I Never Met a Meta-Rule I Didn’t Like: The editor provides advice here on how to try out variant rules in the context of an ongoing campaign.  I actually wrote up some of this myself while writing this review, but it looks like Marsh has gone a bit further… coming up with several variations of this trick that I’d never considered.  So… this article might be “obvious” to anyone that’s run a serious campaign, but there’s probably something new here for everyone anyway.

Okay, that is a mind-bending amount of GURPSness!  This is not lightweight bathroom reading, either, but extremely dense and technical writing.  Almost every one of the writers presented here is a long-time GURPS developer with the equivalent of a doctorate in their sub-discipline.  None of this is something I could have worked out on my own.

But do I want this stuff in my game…?  I’m probably most likely to use T-bone’s combat options.  They are just so easy to apply on the fly.  Weapons and armor that utilise “Armor Revisited” may well turn up in my campaign.  It’s comforting to know that I can handle very small characters in a pinch, or (alternately) shrink the PC’s down to the size of a jaybird for a session or two.  The grappling rules will probably require players that actually want to go to that level, but even without people like that around I can still develop monsters that use special wrasslin’ moves.  And the giant robots…?  Some day I might try that… but it might not be before someone else sits down and works out some more of the crunchy bits for me.  This is a truly epic issue.  Even if I stick to my normally rules-light, play-to-the-system’s-strength ways, I now know exactly the range where GURPS strengths lie and where the system starts to break down.

One response to “Review: Pyramid 3/34 Alternate GURPS

  1. Pingback: Review: Pyramid 3/44 Alternate GURPS II « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

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