GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 3

This is the third part of my GURPS 2020 Kickstarter Challenge review. The article series includes:

  • Part 1
    • Action 6: Tricked-Out Rides
    • Action 7: Mercenaries
    • Boardroom and Curia: Tomorrow Rides
  • Part 2
    • Dungeon Fantasy 21: Megadungeons
    • Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 3: Deep Night and the Star
  • Part 3 (you’re here!)
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Horror: Beyond the Pale

Another adventure, this one is intended for modern-day horror campaigns where players are investigators of the occult. Framed as a murder mystery, it can serve both experienced investigators and (with just a little bit of work from the GM, if at all) as “initiation” for those still mundane. The plot is interesting, contains some fun gruesome scenes, and presentation is top-notch (I don’t recall having to jump between sections of the adventure, or anything being unclear) except for a single small detail.

The antagonists are written up as a racial template instead as a full stat block. This was apparently inherited from GURPS Horror, but I’d much rather have full stats for any relevant critters in a published adventure than having to figure them out myself.

Otherwise, the only thing I can really lament is that it is rather short. I could imagine the adventure lasting for just one session with a team of players experienced in this kind of thing. Allowing for a bigger word count would have flat-out improved it.

That being said, I could see this used in many other contexts aside from the one it’s presented it. A Monster Hunters adaptation would be trivial, the GM would just need to beef up the antagonists a bit. Taking it down to TL5 would require very little effort, and not much more for even lower TLs; it could make for a fully functional and very fun low-tech mystery. I think even adapting it for higher TLs and setting it in space wouldn’t be too much effort, it’s right up the Doom or Dead Space alley.

TL;DR: sweet little investigative adventure you can use in any setting.

Hot Spots: The Incense Trail

GURPS used to have a reputation for well researched historical supplements back in its heyday, and this supplement is a continuation of that proud lineage. It gives an overview of the Arabian Peninsula in antique times focused on the eponymous trade route. It covers geography, history, economy and culture of the land before giving a short gazetteer of the most well known settlements. It concludes with giving advice for setting-appropriate characters and adventure ideas.

Since this is a historical worldbook its use is rather limited, but aside for its intended context I would also recommend it if you’re looking to represent a believable Arabian-themed land in a fantasy game. I don’t have any complaints about the supplement, but also can’t sing any praises because it’s really just a brief, decently compiled overview of antique Arabia without any extraordinary elements to wet my appetite.

Monster Hunters Encounters 1

This supplement contains two “encounters” for Monster Hunters campaigns: the first is about a bordello ran by vampires, the second about a hidden village of cannibal witches and lycanthropes in the woods. They can be straight up dropped in as “monster of the week” episodes into existing campaigns, or with some additional effort spun up into more encompassing adventures.  They are presented in a clear and concise fashion following the structure of monster hunting / investigation rules from Monster Hunters 2 with a lot of interesting and useful details. I love them.

The only complaint I can field, aside from “I want more!”, is that the second encounter features spellcasters (one of which has “dozens of prepared charms”) and explains what kinds of spells they could use against the players, but doesn’t write them up. I imagine it would take quite a bit of effort to come up with those spells, so this is yet another case where an extra page would have added significant value.

Similar to Beyond the Pale, I can see this being used in a wide variety of settings. The adversaries could be toned down for much lower point totals and the settings scaled all the way down to antiquity, or even adapted for use in space-bound campaigns. I’m personally considering using this for a Dungeon Fantasy oneshot. Can definitively recommend!

Reign of Steel: Read the Sky

As someone with only slight familiarity with Reign of Steel I must say that initially this adventure confused me, it wasn’t clear at all for whom the PCs worked for. Are they human survivors / rebels, or working for the local robot government? I kinda think it’s the former, but can’t confirm as I don’t have access to the 3e Reign of Steel book, and the 4e Will to Live doesn’t address it.

Otherwise, this is a nice adventure written on a “heroic but realistic” 200-point baseline with notes on how to adjust specific elements for running it with Action. The PCs are special operators sent to investigate a small town fallen out of communication, finding out that it’s been having problems with pirates. They need to get rid of them without stirring up too much of a scuffle as that would result in the robot overlords deciding that the town needs to be purged.

I was a bit disappointed that the adventure doesn’t really have much to do with Reign of Steel other than being set in the setting, as the involvement of robots is minimal. It’s just about avoiding their general attention from afar, and maybe getting to fight a single malfunctioning unit. On the flipside, this makes it very portable to other settings. It could be used with very little adaptation in most After the End games, and just with a bit more effort in any kind of TL5+ (even into Ultra-Tech levels) setting where checking up on a frontier settlement gone dark makes sense. It could even be reskinned into a Low-Tech adventure.