steve jackson games

Tabletop RPGs other than GURPS and diving into the OSR scene

What a hefty title! As I type this out, I’m listening to Mörk Borg by GNOLL—that’ll be important a little bit later. As I’ve talked about in at least one of my monthly updates (including last month’s in which I shared a link to a thread about alternatives to GURPS), I’ve been experiencing GM fatigue, burnout, whatever you want to call it; but I also think I’ve been experiencing some kind of GURPS fatigue. (Maybe I just need to put more points in HT.) As much as I love the system, I think it might be too much for me—at least, for right now. The way that my group plays (and I tend to GM) is looser and more narrative and more focused on what feels right even though we all so much adore that GURPS is so great at simulation, which is really cool, but it kind of begs me to overthink things a lot. At our core, I think my group is more of a Fate group, but that’s not the right system for us either because it’s too loose and things start to feel very same-y after a while. (And I’m only talking about our experiences, of course.)

So, what do I want? Well, it would be something a lot like Fate (flexible, narrative, player-focused), but it would feel less like a toolkit, it would put a greater emphasis on equipment, it wouldn’t be so narrative-focused that it kind of waves away magic, and it would scale well in size and power level (which is why I thought “Knowing Your Own Strength” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV was such a good start at this for GURPS). I really enjoy not having HP (which is why I really like “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V), classes, and levels.

Well, what else is out there? As I said, I have some experience with Fate, which I really do like. For a party-ish pick-up-y game, I’ve played lots of Everyone Is John, which is also fun, but is obviously not the kind of game I want to play for anything more than a session or two. Of course, there’s always Dungeons & Dragons, and I’ve dabbled in 3.5e, 4e, and 5e. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to find Eberron, but even D&D feels like too much while also feeling restricted. (Again, to me. I’m definitely not saying it is, and your mileage may greatly vary!) I’m not a fan of classes and spell lists, and I really think that there are just better alternatives even if I want that same D&D feeling (without going full Dungeon Fantasy RPG, of course). I also tried out the first edition of Pathfinder way back when, and that gave me similar feelings.

Now, as we’ve recently been playing Deadlands in my group, I know that Savage Worlds exists. As I’ve read over SWADE, it seems like it wants to be what I want: fun, fast, and furious. Better yet, PK has some great house rules and gives the system a nice recommendation: “Despite its quirks, Savage Worlds may be the best universal system when it comes to balancing groups of wildly disparate abilities and power levels.” That really speaks to me, and I even reached out to let PK know that said review convinced me to give it a go. Which I haven’t yet. But I’ll surely get there! Now, Savage Worlds still has a spell list of sorts with its powers, but they’re much more generic and there are guidelines on how to reflavor them, which is great. Plus, there’s a wonderfully-made Eberron conversion for SWADE, which means I can play Eberron without D&D and also without doing the heavy lifting of converting Eberron to a more palatable system (for my particular tastes).

Some other options I’ve found:

  • Numenera and the Cypher system in general seem pretty promising, and I’d definitely like to actually give it a go at some point. Numenera was actually the first tabletop RPG that my partner played—thanks to some random frat party.
  • Call of Cthulhu and the Basic Roleplaying system also seem interesting. If our group was more into horror, it’d probably be a higher priority.
  • Big Eyes Small Mouth and the Tri-Stat dX system, the Hero system, and Mutants and Masterminds are all recommendations I’ve been given, but they feel so close to GURPS that I’d rather play that instead (though, I will say that all three of them handle powers and balance quite a bit better).
  • Powered by the Apocalypse feels like an okay narrative system, but I don’t think we’d like it.
  • Genesys seems really popular for this kind of play style, but I don’t like the funky dice.
  • Cortex Prime also feels promising. It seems like it falls somewhere between Fate and Savage Worlds, which sounds right for us. I’ll definitely be giving this one a try.
  • Blades in the Dark is relatively new (to me, at least) tabletop RPG that I know very little about, but it seems like people on the internet really like it. Industrial fantasy sounds up my group’s alley, so this one has to get a try at some point.
  • Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine is another game that I’ve heard about only recently, and, while our group doesn’t ever really do the whole slice-of-life thing, we all enjoy Studio Ghibli movies, so it seems worth checking out for that feeling.
  • The Fantasy Trip is supposed to be something like GURPS 0e, and it has gained a fair amount of support and popularity since its revival in 2019. So, of course I have to check it out.
  • Everywhen just popped up on my radar, and I’ve seen a lot of reviews talking about it as if it’s the middle ground for other people who have likewise pendulum’d between GURPS and Fate—just based on that alone, it seems like it’d be worth a try.
  • Mörk Borg then showed itself to me. (Really, I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it even though it was just a few days ago. Perhaps it was the will of SHE.) A rules-lite over-the-top doom metal fantasy game that leans into itself while simultaneously not taking itself too seriously that hasn’t been out for long but already has a great community? Fantastic. Now, I’m not usually a fan of d20 systems (as I’m a true believer of the 3d6 bell curve), so that says a lot. Plus, the game is gorgeous. It feels like someone tried to turn in one assignment both to their art and game design class. Now, the art (and the dozen fonts) can detract from the experience of reading it, but it has a handy more-easily-readable guide toward the back of the most important rules. I judged a book by its cover, and it has already paid off.

Let’s leave the bullet point and talk even more about Mörk Borg. (I love the colors, and my site is currently pretty much themed for it.) It’s fun, fast, and furious—so, watch out, Savage Worlds. But what exactly is Mörk Borg? Like, what makes it tick? Where did it come from? Why does something like that even exist? What had I been missing in my GURPS-centric world? It turns out I had been missing a growing community filled with indie tabletop RPGs and zines. Why let Wizards of the Coast or some other big company have all of the fun if indie hobbyists can do it better? A big part of this seems to be OSR, which is Old School Revival (or Renaissance or Roleplaying). I am just a wee baby, so I would rather let Questing Beast explain what OSR is. Now, I guess Mörk Borg isn’t actually “true OSR”, but it is definitely OSR-ish or OSR-adjacent or whatever. (And I guess that would make The Fantasy Trip something like GURPS OSR.) Still, the spirit of OSR tends to capture what I’m looking for, especially those that focus more on narrative and eschew classes (and, yes, I know that Mörk Borg has optional classes, but it also has an optional non-class-based feat system).

So, I stumbled into a whole new facet of my tabletop RPG hobby, and I hope this mania simmers and leaves me with a steady rekindled flame of passion. Especially because I’m going to be running Mörk Borg in about a week and a half.

Some games that I’ve stumbled upon so far (not all OSR or even adjacent):

  • The White Hack (a streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • The Black Hack (a more-recent streamlined and innovative OSR-compatible retroclone)
  • Macchiato Monsters (which is like a fusion of The Black Hack and The White Hack, and it is very high on my to-play list)
  • Beyond the Wall
  • The Legend of Zelda: Reclaim the Wild
  • Legend of Zelda RPG (which was made by 4chan, I guess)
  • OSRIC
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  • Maze Rats and also Knave (which are made by the Questing Beast, look amazing, and are very high on my to-play list)
  • Into the Odd and also Electric Bastionland
  • Jump the Shark (another silly one-shot micro-RPG)
  • Over Arms (which is inspired by JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Persona—count me in!)
  • NUMA (which is about frog samurai—count me in!)
  • Pacts and Blades
  • Into the Bronze
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • OSE
  • Prole and also Tunnel Goons
  • Acres Past (the game formerly known as Acres Wild)
  • Night Yeast (a cool zine)
  • Dissident Whispers (a great BLM-supporting anthology)
  • Troika
  • Torchbearer
  • Swords & Wizardry

Really, I can’t vouch for any of these too terribly much, and this list is likely way more helpful for me (to keep track of all of this stuff) than it is for you. Still, there’s some kind of lesson in here about how I’ve been into the tabletop RPG hobby for over a decade and have only just now stumbled across these games thanks to chance and GM burnout. I’m excited to do something different. Well, more than something… There are a lot of games on my list. The good news is that I’ll probably never burn out on a system again. Oh, but—one last thing—I can vouch for Mörk Borg. I ran a quick one-shot duet with my partner, and we agreed very quickly that it feels nice and fun.

End of July report

I’m not sure if this month really happened—that might just be my excuse for feeling like I didn’t get as much done as I would’ve liked to. What did happen? I aged up a whole year. I saw my family in Bloomington, which is always bittersweet (now with a touch of dangerous in the middle of a pandemic, I must admit). I’m probably forgetting something, but that feels like it’s it in terms of significant events. I beat a couple of video games, I watched a couple of movies, and I haven’t had internet for two days (outside of a few hours of spotty up-time).

I’m tired—a depressed kind of tired.

Conlang stuff report

I have no notes in my project document, which must mean nothing really happened. I have lots of greyfolk language ideas, but I haven’t written any down. Globasa turned one, which is cool! It was my plan to review it for its birthday, and I’m a bit behind, but I’ll get there.

RPG stuff report

Well, I’ve been running that Deadlands campaign using my own GURPS-Fate homebrew system. I’ll say that my highlight was introducing a new player to GURPS! The Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS 2020 PDF Challenge went really well, and I already have all of my PDFs. They’re quite great, and I’ll get around to reviewing them as a bundle quite soon.

I started a thread about alternatives to GURPS as it’s starting to feel like my GM burnout was also largely a GURPS burnout. Cortex Prime (when it’s out), Powered by the Apocalypse (maybe using Legend of the Elements), Genesys (maybe using Avatar: the Second Age), and Savage Worlds all seem to be in my future—if not also Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. Everyone Is John is definitely in my future, and it has also been in my past a handful of very fun times. I’m planning on playing it again this weekend just to give myself a much-needed break. As a forever GM, I really miss being a player sometimes. I am struggling with my perfectionist mentality for GURPS and as a GM, and it’s so counter-intuitive because, as a player, I think I’d just be happy to play again. My god, I’d welcome D&D 5e with open arms if it meant being a player again. Maybe I need to work on getting over being shy and finding a group.

Writing stuff report

This should’ve been my saving grace, but I ended up not participating in Camp NaNo. I don’t know what was up with me, but I’ve just been having this huge creative block.

It’s a life update! 4

First of all, I want to apologize for the dry month on my blog. It’s good news, not bad news. I’ll start by saying that I have started GMing tabletop RPGs again! (Oh wait. I said that in my end of April report.) More on that a bit farther down.

Well, my new mechanical keyboard did finally come in a couple of weeks ago. It’s an HK Gaming × Durgod Hades 68 with Gateron Silent Brown switches. I love it so much. It’s like my Vortex Pok3r but quieter, better quality, and with arrow keys. Maybe I’ll do a more formal review sometime!

As the COVID-19 era continues, I have remained quite politically charged. At some point, it’s not even about politics. I bought two reusable masks for me and my partner, and we wear them whenever we go out. I’m not a sheep. No one’s rights are being infringed. It’s uncomfortable, sure, but I am an unselfish person, so I am willing to sacrifice a tiny bit of comfort to help in the effort of taking care of humankind. Furthermore, I wear mine for those who can’t wear one. It’s like vaccines all over again. Don’t even get me started.

My arm is just about back to its old self, but I am now doing physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction. It seems like the pain from my infection has my nerves and muscles all in a bind where they just don’t want to chill out, and trying some physical therapy sounded like a better option than jumping straight into nerve surgery. I’ll freely admit that I’m a wimp about that stuff. Ick. I was actually the one who suggested it to my urologist (it was an informed idea backed by medical papers—I’m not one of those patients). He was totally on board with the idea! Which was great for me. I’d much rather do stretches and yoga, and my physical therapist is awesome. I’m continuing virtual therapy and Al-Anon as well. It’s wonderful as always. It’s important to accept and seek help. Doing so can sometimes be a better show of ‘strength’ than just trying to go it alone.

I haven’t played any video games. It’s been weird.

I have kept up on my coffee game. I just got a bunch of pre-ground coffee from an international market. Don’t get me wrong. I love grinding my own beans. I just also love not having to take the time to grind beans whenever I want coffee. Plus, I like cheap Cuban espresso for café cubano. My espuma has been consistently good, so I’m really happy with that, and I’ve been experimenting with chicory to make New Orleans iced coffee as well. I also donated some coffee to local front-line workers with the little extra money I do have to spend right now.

I’ve been re-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars with my partner. We’ve also been watching a lot of Psychology in Seattle and James Hoffman videos on YouTube.

Oh, and the Steve Jackson Games Summer 2020 T-Shirt Collection has three days left on Kickstarter. You know I’m all about that Basic Set shirt. Plus, they’re supporting a local printing company to get these shirts made. It’s worth every penny.

On that note, yes, the rumors are true—I’ve been GMing again. It started out as Fate, but I quickly missed GURPS. So, I started integrating some rules. Well, then it turned into GURPS with some Fate rules integrated. It’s a fun system, and I will have to go into more detail soon. Well, what about the setting? I mean, obviously, I went with Deadlands. More on that later too!

I’ll try to squeeze out another post between now and my end of the month report, and I will make good effort into getting a bit more published in June!

End of April report

COVID-19 is still here, but my new mechanical keyboard isn’t. What a way to start this report! Truly, I feel so grateful to be safe and healthy, but I have grown ever more frustrated and weary with the world, especially my country and the people within it. Don’t worry. I won’t get too political—well, not yet, at least. However, I think I can fairly argue that one person’s freedoms and rights end where another person’s freedoms and rights begin. My expectation to not get sick can be greater than another person’s freedom to not wear a mask. It’s not tyranny. My expectation of safety on the road is more important than another person’s freedom to go 20 over or another person’s freedom to drive while intoxicated. Furthermore, it goes beyond that too. A law requires a person to wear a seatbelt while driving, but that doesn’t affect other persons (very often, that is). Yet, that’s not tyranny either. A person has the right to be dumb and reckless. A person has the right to say racist things. However, actions also have consequences. I was so frustrated about protesters that I even made two whole tweets on an otherwise empty Twitter account.

I have good news too. My arms has been feeling much better after slowly starting to work it out at home more. My symptoms from my infection still come and go, though, which is a real bummer, but it’s never as bad as it used to be. I have another appointment in a couple of weeks to see what can be done. I finally started playing tabletop RPGs again, which is so nice. I’ve been keeping up with therapy, and I even get to virtually meet with my old Al-Anon group from Bloomington. I’ve also been writing a lot. Anyway, where’s my damn keyboard?

Conlang stuff report

Oops. I have barely half an entry in my project document for this month, which I wrote yesterday, and the previous entry is from March 9th. It’s actually been nice to take a break. My next step is to really focus on function words again. I want to make sure I have a robust set before I start adding a bunch of content words. I also think I need to renew my Language Creation Society membership, so there’s another oops. As I spend less energy on writing and gearing up to start playing tabletop RPGs again, I expect to have much more energy for conlanging. It’s really nice to be able to switch between a few really core hobbies.

RPG stuff report

Well, I created a flexible powers/magic system for GURPS called Modular Powers that I ended up reworking into my Wildcard Power Pool system. I’m still having some internal conflict about game design, but that’s really only because I’m trying to bridge GURPS and…

Fate. Yes, I’ve jump-started my tabletop RPG hobby with Fate. It’s a generic and modular system like GURPS, but it puts the narrative first. It’s also not as exceptionally detailed. However, the positive way to put that is that it’s very streamlined. Of course, the first thing I did was hack in a logarithmic system for damage. It actually works very well. It’s not a crazy assumption to say that Fate could work on a +6 = ×10 scale. (I don’t know math. Please be gentle.) That allowed me to squeeze in some ideas from Knowing Your Own Strength and Conditional Injury, and, because it establishes that bridge, it allows me to convert between damage in GURPS to damage in my Fate system along with being able to say how many characters points a stunt or a skill level is worth in Fate (which seems to be ~16.67 points). It’s easier to start small again. It’s easier to take off the pressure of wanting to be perfect at GURPS because I love it so much.

Also, I virtually attended FnordCon. Here are my highlights:

  • Kromm said that coronavirus is not related to 5G, and I’m pretty sure he works for the Illuminati, so I think he would know. Conspiracy de-confirmed.
  • Kromm also said that he really likes Fate, so I feel like I have his indirect blessing.
  • They talked about doing a Space Opera line like DFRPG.
  • Douglas Cole mentioned doing some Secret Wars Mission X stuff after Norðlond. He mentioned it being inspired by X-Com games, so that’s interesting. Not my typical cup of tea, but I usually drink coffee anyway, so I’m happy to try new things and support his stuff.
  • In response to a question about what gives GURPS players the most grief, Kromm said something along the lines of when people ask a question on the forums only to receive 600 replies but zero actual answers. I can confirm.
  • Steve Jackson was asked about ways to make GURPS more narrative-first, but he said that GURPS isn’t really the best fit for that. He basically said that, if you want to play Powered by the Apocalypse, then play Powered by the Apocalypse. Though, Douglas Cole added that it is still very possible to sand off all the splinters (paraphrasing his actual words) to make GURPS a bit faster, lighter, and narrative-forward if not first.
  • I also was allowed to record Steve Jackson telling my best friend’s dad to clean up his house, which is the highlight of highlights.

Now that I really think about it, I guess I should’ve made a post-FnordCon post, but oh well! This is good enough for me.

Writing stuff report

I participated in the April Camp NaNo, I set my goal for 10,000 words in a month, and I hit my goal on April 20th. So, yeah, I’m pretty content with that. I worked on a continuation of the story I wrote last November, and it’s still coming along quite nicely. This is a small report for what was a good amount of story, but I think I’ll talk more about it when the first draft is actually finished.

Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

The Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG was released not too long ago this year, so I’m finally catching up. It was a ‘Quickstarter’ with no stretch goals, so the turnaround was really quick for this book. I like stretch goals, but it made sense for them to be absent from this book because this book was made up of stretch goals past that were never met. That’s neat in itself. I’d love to see this trend continue; i.e., book with stretch goals, book with stretch goals, book with no stretch goals that includes stuff from previous stretch goals that were missed. I don’t know if it’s because of that or if it’s just coincidence, but this book is my favorite DFRPG supplement that isn’t written by Douglas Cole. It has some magical items (with ways to introduce them), a handful of new monsters (with adventure seeds), and some enemy PCs. That’s great on its own, but it also includes so many new rule tidbits. In the magical items section, there’s stuff like wood as a new armor material (under the Oudou). In the monsters section, there’s stuff like a playable centaur race for PCs (under the Centaur, obviously). But the villains section? That’s where this shines. Each villain is awesome in their own right and comes with an adventure seed, but every single villain comes with a rules tidbit from new racial templates to new abilities for professions to new spells to use. If that isn’t great design, I don’t know what is. Plus, what better way to introduce new abilities and new spells than to have a villain use them first? So, yes, get this book. And, if you haven’t already gotten into the DFRPG, do yourself a favor and get on that right now.

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out at the end of 2019, so I’m not too far behind on this review. This review will likely be the shortest because I don’t usually deal my players a lot of magic items like these, but these are really cool and I love anything DFRPG, which is exactly why I backed the Kickstarter campaign. Really, though, the items in the book are really cool and quite memorable, and each item has a paragraph or so about how to introduce the item to the game—e.g., for the Darkrazor, which is a magical straight razor, the book explains that it’s likely to be wielded by an enemy in town than actually found as loot. Neat! Of course, it says much more than that, but that’s just a short example of the greatness within this book. Plus, as always, you can come for the items and stay for the extra little bits of rules. For example, for the Skull of the Cyclops, there’s a box that introduces a rule for a new armor material: bone. I love this kind of stuff, and this is an area where GURPS (and, thus, the DFRPG) really excels. If you want something really fun (and that’s saying something since I’m not a big fan of the standard magic system), check out the new (to DFRPG) spell named Evisceration that gets a box under the Wand of Tentacular Intrustion. Need I say more? It’s a great supplement to a great game!

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out in 2019, which makes me a little late to the party, but the… party better not be late… if they want to defeat this monsters? That wasn’t really that good. But this book is! Take the original Dungeon Fantasy Monsters book, add more classics and more original monsters, include more and better art, and then give adventure seeds to every monster. What do you get? A huge success. That’s what this book is. Yes, the deep beyonder is basically an aboleth and the forgeling is basically an azer, and I absolutely love that. I love the twists and interpretations of classic monsters (be it actually like like a chimera or ‘D&D classic’ like the aboleth), and I love the manaplasm and the fly-dragon. What’s not to love? Every monster in here is usable, and, again, the book just hands you adventure seeds (and I believe there are always multiple per monster) to help you fit them in. Okay, I’m in love with the adventure seeds. As I am the forever GM of my group, the adventure seeds are where it’s at, especially because I like to do a monster-of-the-week kind of deal, so the adventure seeds are crucial in saving me prep time. Or, if we just want to keep going, it’s easy to plop down any one of these monsters.

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS), the GM Screen, and the Dungeon Fantasy Companion from Steve Jackson Games

This has been a long time coming. The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Kickstarter) came out way back in 2017, which is already crazy for me to think about. I think I would best describe is as the younger sibling of GURPS that is really into fantasy, which meant it was perfect for me.

5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice.
Suggested Retail Price $79.95 ▲ Stock number 01-1005
UPC 091037863317
Available Now – click here to order!

430 pages. PDF. ▲ Price $40.00 ▲ Stock number 31-1005
Always Available – Click here to buy!

Just look at that. 5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice. That’s 430 pages of an offshoot of my favorite tabletop RPG. I really don’t need much more in my life. It helps that the books, the maps, the figures, the dice, and even the box that it all came in are of really nice quality. I enjoy displaying them on my shelf. In fact, the DFRPG has its own section. That says very little of the content, though. I want to keep this review quick, but I will go through each piece of the box set. And then some…

Adventurers is about 123 pages, and it’s all about the characters. Chapter one (Basics) covers the basics of the point-buy system (so you’re buying traits with points instead of picking from a few cool options), the attributes (Strength/ST, Dexterity/DX, Intelligence/IQ, and Health/HT), the secondary characteristics (HP, Size Modifier, etc.). Chapter two (Professions) covers the professions, which are like classes in D&D, and many of those professions have their counterparts in that other game. Unlike D&D, because this is a point-buy system, there is a lot more flexibility, and you can spend your 250 points however you’d like on the traits available for your profession. Chapter three (Races) covers the races, which are fairly standard as far as fantasy races go. Chapter four (Advantages) covers traits that cost points, which is anything from Ambidexterity for 5 points to High Pain Threshold for 10 points to Unfazeable for 15 points. Chapter five (Disadvantages) covers the traits that give back points, which is anything from Callous for -5 points to Oblivious for -10 points to Very Unfit for -15 points. Chapter six (Skills) covers the skills that characters can use, and almost all characters can use almost all skills since they have default levels. There are dozens of skills, but the DFRPG makes choosing easy by offering packages of skills in the profession templates. Chapter seven (Cash and Gear) covers, well, cash and gear. I’ve been a bit redundant. Anyway, this is my favorite part, especially because there is so much great equipment to choose from, and the weapon and armor tables have been updated quite a bit from the original tables in the GURPS Basic Set (thanks to GURPS Low-Tech).

Exploits is about 107 pages, and it’s all about playing the game. It covers skill rolls, combat, poison, fire, treasure, character advancement, you name it! Being powered by GURPS, the rules lean toward being fairly simulationist, which means there can be a lot of them. But my emphasis in on canGURPS has received much flak for being so rules-heavy, but you are free to take what you like and leave the rest, and the DFRPG even supports that right away! Take a look at page 6:

“. . . With Spikes”

A quick-and-fun way to assess penalties is to apply a cumulative TDM of -1 per nasty qualifier that describes a task. For instance, whatever the normal modifier is for climbing or balancing on something, making the surface slimy, twisting, and smoke-obscured adds another -3. Intensifiers count! If the surface is horribly slimy, wildly twisting, and smoke-obscured, that’s -5 instead.

Furthermore, if hit locations and distance penalties are too much to remember, you can start without them. If the slam rules are too much to remember, get over it because they have been streamlined from the original rules in GURPS. If using a hex map is too much, use theater of the mind—most of my GURPS/DFRPG experience has been with theater of the mind.

Spells is about 79 pages, and it’s all about using magic. It uses the standard GURPS Magic system, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it gets the job done, and I still much prefer it to how D&D handles magic. There are spells for almost everything—dozens and dozens and dozen of them.

Monsters is about 63 pages, and it’s all about that sweet bestiary. There are plenty of classics (or takes on classics), but there are plenty of new monsters that make it a fun read for that alone. There aren’t as many illustration as I would like, and even the illustrations leave a bit to be desired, but, on the flip side, those 63 pages are packed with monsters.

I Smell a Rat is about 24 pages, and it’s all about those first dungeon feelings. I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but it is quite fun. It’s short and sweet, and it’s easy to drop into just about any fantasy setting. With the quality map and cardboard figures, it’s really fun to set up and play.

Oh, and the Eye in Pyramid Dice are also great. I have a bunch of sets at this point.

Also, something that I love about the first couple of pages from Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, and Monsters is that they make up a little GM Screen. Of course, I went in for the physical GM screen on Kickstarter, which is not part of the boxed set, but it is unquestionably helpful.

Last but not least, there’s the Dungeon Fantasy Companion, which is Traps, Magic Items, and Against the Rat-MenTraps is about 24 pages, and it’s all about traps and puzzles with plenty of fantastic examples. Magic Items is about 24 pages, and it’s all about magical items, potions, and unique rare and very magical artifacts. Against the Rat-Men is also about 24 pages, and it’s another fun dungeon about—just kidding, no spoilers.

I backed at the $250 tier because I wanted it all (which is much more than is just listed here), and I must say that it’s probably the best $250 I’ve ever spent. To be very honest, my boxed set has not gotten a lot of use, but that is only because I run a lot of GURPS homebrew stuff. If I weren’t, however, I would probably stick to the DFRPG (with some homebrew rules that I can’t live without), and I would certainly choose the DFRPG over D&D any day of the week (not to say that D&D isn’t a fun game, but I can’t go back at this point). Still, even then, even though I don’t get much use out of it, I don’t care. I really don’t. Let me be blunt and real. For the hours and hours and hours and hours I’ve gotten out of GURPS, I would’ve gladly paid $250 to let all of those great books collect dust, knowing that I had spent good money in a good place. Because I love GURPS and I love the DFRPG so very much. They are great products made by some really great people. And I plan to play some more DFRPG, especially because there is a great setting for it that I am dying to play to its fullest: Norðlond. And I plan to get into that a whole lot after my GURPS hiatus.

Other Quick Reviews:

End of January report

Infection or no infection, injury or no injury, I can type out a short update and I did make some progress before I injured my arm. Also, I moved away from specifying my reports as for the greyfolk language or writing or GURPS because I will hopefully be talking a bit more about each of them in each report.

It took me a long time to write out this update. I’ve been working on it for two days because it’s hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful to type for long periods of time. Between my injury and really focusing on maintaining better posture, it just takes a lot out of me. I’ll probably be like this for the next couple of weeks, but here’s to hoping! 🍻

Conlang stuff report

If I am remembering correctly (and I’m a bit too lazy to check), when I last talked about what was next for greyfolk language, I’m pretty sure that I mentioned disyllabic roots and words were next but also that I wanted to find a way to organize them so I got good efficiency out of my choices while avoiding roots that were within Hamming Distance of each other. For example, I don’t want «meta» and «peta» because the only difference is «m» and «p», which do not have enough Hamming Distance between them (in terms of how they sound). The Hamming Distance between «m» and «p» is 1 (they are both labial sounds, which is an HD of 0, but «m» is a nasal and «p» is a plosive, which is an HD of 1), but I need a Hamming Distance that’s greater than 1 for the sounds in each word to be far enough apart to contrast. So, «mena» and «peta» would work because «n» and «t» also have a Hamming Distance of 1 (they are both coronal sounds, which is an HD of 0, but «n» is a nasal and «t» is a plosive, which is an HD of 1). That brings the total Hamming Distance between those two words to 2, which means they are far enough apart in sound (according to my parameters, of course) that I can use both words.

Of course, that means, if I want to have a lot of disyllabic roots and words, I have to be efficient like I was for the monosyllabic roots and words. Each extra syllable, however, seems to add that much more work. I talked to a friend of mine about creating a program to help me, but it seems that would be more trouble than it’s worth, but I think I found a way to do what I need in Microsoft Excel. I’ll hopefully come back to that sooner rather than later after my arm has healed and after I fully figure that system out.

Also, because Globasa does it (and I just went over how much I like Globasa in my previous post), I’ve been considering allowing «s» at the end of syllables. I need to be careful not to over-complicate my conlang, so I might just put syllable-final «s» in one of the dialects.

GURPS stuff report

As I looked back through my notes, I realized that most of my work in January (as well as December) was done on GURPS. After NaNoWriMo 2019, I was really inspired to work on GURPS again, and it was going quite well! I have a better way to merge Conditional Injury and Knowing Your Own Strength than I did before. I was still figuring out how to do weapons and armor in the least complicated way, and I was getting pretty close to something that I felt was acceptable. Instead of having a damage modifier, a weapon would have a ST modifier. That modifier would be added to the wielder’s Basic Lift, and the total Basic Lift would be the new ST of using that weapon. DR would work similarly with a tricky caveat. Yes, this requires table look-ups, but… Well, I don’t think it’s frequent enough to be awful. I’ve struggled so long with balancing realism, fairness, and ease of play.

Continuing down the path of combat while trying to balance realism, fairness, and easy of play, I have been trying to figure out how to speed up combat for a long time. There are many approaches, and I tried to define each approach by its complexity and its (level of) abstraction. One could resolve an entire combat with nothing more than a Quick Contest—that would be Complexity 1 but Abstraction 10. However, that curve is not smooth. Some methods are only a small step up on the scale of complexity while being a larger step down on the scale of abstraction, which is pretty ideal. For example, I’ve been getting really into Mass Combat and Tactical Mass Combat because the combat isn’t very complex and there are some neat ways to deal with the abstraction. However, the big problem is that PCs remain quite abstract unless you use Heroes on the Mass Scale, but that breaks down really quick for any unit that’s anything less than heroic in scale. So, I could try to rework the entirety of Heroes on the Mass Scale or just assign Troop Strength, Classes, etc. as best as possible to PCs (and any other unit, really). That idea got pretty close to one of my original ideas, which was to run combat like a D&D Skill Challenge where the PCs need x skill successes before getting y skill failures. That’s quite abstract in that it doesn’t take into account the power of the enemies! So, using Mass Combat with guesstimated stats (based on existing units, of course) seems rather balanced between complexity and abstraction, especially by allowing PCs (and enemy bosses) to perform significant actions, which is like a Skill-Challenge-esque factor in Mass Combat. Then, when I want to get a bit more tactical, there’s Tactical Mass Combat. For non-mass-scale scenarios, I’ve been working on a way to modify each for the 1:10 scale so each ‘unit’ is just a character, which is a bit trickier (but oh so satisfying) to do for Tactical Mass Combat.

Last but not least, I worked on some worldbuilding for my very own Project Sirocco, which is really going to end up extremely similar to or part of the setting from my NaNoWriMo 2019 story. I really took a dive into religion and mythology to start working on some cultures for that world. That led to a discussion about how ‘barbarians’ are the same Tech Level with different beliefs and ‘savages’ are lower Tech Level with different beliefs. I learned a lot about comparative theology and the Bronze Age and the Iron Age and Sub-Saharan African history. I spent a good amount of time trying to find places on Earth with very varied climatic zones, and I think I landed on Tierra del Fuego and the Big Island of Hawaii. There are a few places in the (contiguous) United States with very diverse climatic zones in a small area too.

Writing stuff report

I did more work in December than I did in January, but I was working on some background worldbuilding as well as figuring out how I want the story to end to myself me a clear(er) goal.

Thoughts on decapitation in GURPS

To make execution and decapitation fit the rules better, there are a couple of worthy suggestions:

Kromm says:

If “triple damage” is possible on a lucky shot, then in a set-up situation where luck doesn’t come into it, it ought to be possible as well. So a strong man (but not a musclebound thug) with ST 11 starts at swing 1d+1, adds +1 for a sword, adds +1 for a fine blade, and adds +2 more for All-Out Attack (Strong). His damage roll is 1d+5, or 6-11. To the neck, that’s 12-22. Triple it for ideal circumstances with all the time in the world, nobody fighting back, and endless practice — let’s say that a Professional Skill (Executioner) roll allows this — for 36-66. Average is 51. That’s -4xHP for most people, -3xHP for some really big ones. Three or four HT rolls are needed to survive. If the guy doesn’t die (low damage, high HT), the rare second blow will mean an average of 102, which is automatically lethal even at 17 HP.

Those who want to postulate monstrous guys with 20 HP and HT 18 will be introduced to my bigger executioner with ST 13 and a very fine blade, who will do 2d+4 and average 66 points a chop.

PK says:

My suggestion: Steal from the Forced Entry skill as well.

Professional Skill (Execution): IQ/A

This is the knowledge of how to kill another person quickly and cleanly in a controlled situation. It is of no use if you do not have complete control of your target and access to appropriate equipment (i.e., an executioner’s sword as opposed to a normal combat-oriented sword, a chopping block, etc.) Add +1 per die to the damage done to the subject if you know this skill at IQ+1, or +2 per die if you know it at IQ+2 or better. Decapitation takes at least five minutes to set up (use standard rules for reducing or taking more time) and requires a roll against this skill as well as an attack roll against the subject’s neck (almost always an All-Out Attack after Evaluating, net modifier +2). If both rolls are successful, the damage is tripled (for a net x6)!

That’s fairly generous, but frankly, for executions that don’t involve supernatural targets, I’d usually just call it death by fiat anyways. Brings the range of damage from 36-66 up to 48-78 for a skilled executioner, the average of which is enough to easily auto-kill a HT 10 man. A poor damage roll or higher HT target allows for survival rolls, which might necessitate another chop.

Another suggestion is to add decapitation to the to the dismemberment rules. A limb requires HP injury, so it follows that the neck might require HP×4 injury (or HP×2 penetrating damage), which would require 20 damage for the average human. Then, I thought about the spine hit location in GURPS Martial Arts. Of course, this has been asked before, and Kromm said:

Cervical Vertebrae (-11): Crushing, cutting, impaling, piercing, and tight-beam burning attacks from behind can target the spine in the neck. The vertebrae provide an additional DR 3. Use the wounding modifiers for the neck, but any hit for enough injury to inflict a shock penalty requires a knockdown roll, at -5 if a major wound. Injury in excess of HP cripples the spine. This causes automatic knockdown and stunning, plus all the effects of Quadriplegic (p. B150). Roll after the fight to avoid gaining this disadvantage on a lasting or permanent basis! A miss by 1 hits the neck.

So, this is getting crazy! I’ll say that decapitation can only come from targeting the cervical vertebrae (which only makes me think of my fun time with cervical radiculopathy). That -11 penalty will be hard to soak along with that DR 3. I’d be willing to say then, at that point, HP×2 injury is enough to decapitate, which is going to require 13 damage.

A true longsword (i.e., the GURPS bastard sword—they’re essentially flipped in name) wielded in one hand by a ST 10 individual can do a maximum of 7 damage, or, wielded in two hands, can do a maximum of 8 damage. A greatsword wielded by a ST 12 individual can do a maximum of 11 damage or 12 damage if it’s a falchion (rule from GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2: Weapons and Warriors). An All-Out Attack (Strong) can gives +2 damage to each of these examples, which lets the greatsword do it regularly, and, honestly, that doesn’t feel right.

By the time I had finished writing that paragraph, I started considering HP×3 injury, which would require 18 damage, and that number is much closer to the original 20 damage. It’s -2 to damage but also -6 to skill. So, I think the 20 damage to the neck (-5) works cinematically and that 18 damage to the cervical vertebrae (-11) is probably a bit more realistic. One would need ST 16 and a falchion greatsword doing an All-Out Attack (Strong) to even have a change of doing this in combat—that’s 2d+6 damage for maximum of 18 damage. Maybe Hafþór can try. Of course, if the ST 16 individual has Weapon Master and the falchion greatsword is very fine, that raises it to 2d+10 damage for an average of 17 damage, which is just shy of the 18 damage required.

Where does Professional Skill (Execution) fit into all of this? Well, let’s say that the more realistic executioner is that ST 12 individual wielding a falchion greatsword for a minimum of 7 damage, an average of 9.5 damage, and a maximum of 12 damage. Being able to triple minimum damage to 21 ensures a clean cut every time. I’d probably base it off of Power Blow a bit more, so one can either get ×2 damage or ×3 damage, depending on skill and time, which may allow for some combat use.

Anyway, thinking about damage/wounding multipliers got me in a tizzy! Multipliers don’t make much sense for logarithmic damage (which might be important if I’m using Knowing Your Own Strength, though I’m still not sure if KYOS damage is “logarithmic” or not). But changing cutting to +2 injury and impaling to +3 injury doesn’t scale either—because HP are still quadratic. Well, scaling back HP actually makes it worse in some cases unless I used some kind of system for logarithmic injury—e.g., 7 injury plus 7 injury isn’t 14 injury, it’s 10 injury (because doubling the value is a +3 under logarithmic ST). But do you have to do 10 more injury to get to 13 injury or is another 7 injury wound enough? How far down does the rabbit hole go?

And I never figured it out for sure. Of course, this will work with standard damage. It gets messy with Knowing Your Own Strength. And throw Conditional Injury in there? Then, it’s back to the drawing board.

But, if you want it to work with CI or both KYOS and CI, then I’d say that decapitation requires a Severity 3 wound, which feels like a nice little bonus for a huge -11 to hit. Normally, it takes Severity 4 for an instantly fatal wound, but Severity 3 can do it if you’re cutting at the cervical vertebrae. Sounds fair enough to me! If you can do 6 more damage to the neck, though, you’re better off not trying to soak up an additional -6 to hit.