19 September 2022

Sign Me Up, Sarge!

 So ... I’m going outside my old player base for new players for the first time in a good while.  And it strikes me that here’s the best spot to go into my style and philosophy as a GM, to give those interested a handle on what they can expect ...

* I run 4th edition GURPS, but with a significant “but!”  Effectively I run GURPS Lite; I’m not going to slow up play fishing for book modifiers each and every time someone uses a skill.  You’re climbing up that brick wall in dry weather using a knotted rope, lightly encumbered?  Alright, just give me a Climbing roll at -1.  You’re doing that with an 80-lb pack, without a rope, on a cliff face, in an ice storm?  Damn, it’s your neck, but if you’re really feeling suicidal, give me three.  (Code for roll 3d6.  The book mods for those, for what it’s worth, are -2 and -8, respectively.)  There are rules from earlier editions I use – the big ones are in missile rules and in the cost of attributes – and I’ve a handout of itemized houserules.

* I have a dense, gritty setting.  It’s a Renaissance tech fantasy world, very loosely based on Kenneth Bulmer’s Dray Prescot/Scorpio series.  It is now getting into the Gunpowder Age.  Realism is a hallmark of Celduin, and you won’t see magical streetlights, orcs carrying hundreds of gold pieces or flying cities.  “High” fantasy this is not; more Leiber than JRRT.  You can dive as deeply or as shallowly into my setting materials as you like, but someone who understands -- eventually -- what a “paktun” or an “amak” is, or the gravity of calling the clerical type in the red and grey robes a coward, will get a lot more out of my game.  (Don’t worry too much about it: two of my players are veterans and are happy to help you along.)

* We have a collegial, laid-back atmosphere with a bit of socialization and digression – someone expecting wall-to-wall Action!!! will be disappointed.  (Then again, someone who can’t hack two hours of rip-roaring combat will be disappointed too.)  I run a character-driven game more than a plot-driven game; of course there’s plot, but I want the players to tell me what they’re going to do far more than I push the plot into telling the players what to do.  ‘Tis a sandbox.

* I find resource management fun and fascinating, myself.  In any event it’s important in my game.  Equipment lists matter, encumbrance matters, and not having the right tools to hand means needing to improvise or doing without.

* I’m as much about the journey as the goal.  I don’t handwave the two week trip to get into the mountains to reach the ruins to find the dingus (nor, with a nod to the above, the need of the players to make adequate preparations for that trip).

* I strongly recommend broad-based characters.  Someone wholly maximized for melee combat will be bored for long stretches in my runs.  Someone with no combat skills will be twiddling thumbs in any prolonged battle.  An outdoorswoman who can’t stand being within town walls and a city slicker whose idea of “roughing it” is spending ten silver a night on the inn suite will have big problems.  We'll get together on Discord to discuss creation, so that I can answer questions and give guidance.

* Wizardry: first off, playing a wizard or a priest involves a lot of moving parts; I encourage players to become more familiar with my campaign before diving in.  (With that, a casual mage -- M/1 with a handful of spells, say -- is fine.)  While the mechanics of spellcasting remain essentially the same from Basic Set and GURPS Magic, the spells and Colleges have been heavily revamped and reorganized.  I've added hundreds of new spells and over a dozen new Colleges.  There are also templates and writeups for the various wizardly Orders and clergy.

* The genre is cooperative, and it is neither my job nor those of existing players to come up with schemes to motivate your character to become part of the team.  I also despise player-vs-player with all my heart, and backstabbing within the party is an unforgivable offense.  A handful of players have had problems with these in the past (which is why I’m mentioning it).

* Something that surprises some folks (GURPS, after all, being a relatively deadly game system) is that my campaign has a pretty low mortality rate.  A good bit of this is my belief in what I call the Tasha Yar Rule: I’m very disinclined to kill off a PC because a schmuck orc archer in a throw-away encounter rolled a 3.  The great majority of PC deaths over the years have come from heroic last stands, charges of the battlements ... or extreme stupidity after a couple of warnings. 

* [April 2023]  Last bit, which is an unfortunate recent add-on: this is not a casual, drop-in campaign where one shows up as long as there's nothing better to do of a Saturday afternoon.  Life happens, people get sick, there's the sibling's wedding, sure.  But I do expect regular attendance, and some warning if something's come up.  I do not again want to have designed a plot arc around a particular character's Enemy, only to have that player fail to show up (without warning) for four straight sessions.  If you're looking for a game where you can show up -- or not -- as you please, this isn't it!

* Some blogposts here that give more indepth insights into my style and thinking; look them over if you feel like it!



  1. Steven here, Grognard who started in high school, too, West Springfield, Class of 1975. Been reading s few of your articles, after finding the mention of The Tin Soldier on Court House Square.. I ran D&D and Traveller sessions there about 40 - 42 years ago.

    1. Good to hear from you, Steven! Yeah, that whole Court Square block was derelict for many years, and it was a huge crying shame -- the interiors of the hotel itself were quite nice. It only started getting serious redevelopment this past year, with the casino finally chiming in with the Picknellys.