GURPS Kickstarter Challenge Review Part 4

This is the fourth and final 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
    • Horror: Beyond the Pale
    • Hot Spots: The Incense Trail
    • Monster Hunters Encounters 1
    • Reign of Steel: Read the Sky
  • Part 4 (you’re here!)
    • Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World
    • Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew
    • How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World

The Broken Clockwork World is a small worldbook about the eponymous TL(5+2)^ steampunk world that recently literally broke apart, devastating its civilizations and revealing its underlying clockwork mechanisms. Transdimensional gates started appearing soon after the calamity, leading to a TL8 world much like our own. In that “unbroken” world the secret isn’t out yet, but both government organizations, conspiracy theorists and random people have already traveled to the other side and returned. That is also the central premise – inhabitants of the unbroken world exploring the fantastical clockwork one.

The broken world is is described in broad strokes, just enough to set the stage – its history, technology and culture are all covered, as well as the Breaking and the situation thereafter. The unbroken world didn’t need much explanation since it’s basically our own, so attention was primarily paid to how governments and other parties interact with the broken one.

The supplement mostly just gives a brief overview of various steampunk elements present in the setting but references GURPS Steampunk for details, although there is a section on several endemic clockwork automatons. It concludes with a section on running adventures in the setting, suggesting character traits, archetypes and activities.

Of all the supplements in the Kickstarter challenge, I’d say this one suffers the most from lack of available wordcount. There is simply not enough material present to run a game without investing significant effort into further developing the setting. It can certainly ignite the imagination of readers, but you’ll need to build your own setting on top of the foundations.

Template Toolkit 3: Starship Crew

The most laser-focused of the batch, Starship Crew delivers a collection of character templates covering all the typical tasks required for operating a starship. They are 150 points apiece, in the familiar format from Dungeon Fantasy, Action, Monster Hunters and After The End. Each comes with a “legendary” lens increasing its core competencies for more high-powered games and a “multi-role” lens for applying to other templates when a single character should cover multiple areas of competence. The supplement concludes with a chapter on typical crew compositions and sizes, giving a nod toward popular tropes in spacefaring fiction.

The templates are very well thought out and while they’re oriented towards a campaign where running a starship is the primary concern, I’d recommend the supplement to anyone running a campaign where player characters are expected to operate a ship. Short, sweet and to the point.

How to Be a GURPS GM: Ritual Path Magic

RPM is one of the systems in GURPS that I like very much but have abandoned due to various reasons. This supplement didn’t bring me back into the fold, but I appreciate what it’s doing and I’d definitively recommend it to anyone using RPM.

It opens up with advice on how to adjudicate various effects, such as the often asked question if something should be a lesser or greater effect, when to add the damage modifier, when to use altered traits, how to treat conjuring or modifying weapons, leeching spells, margin-based effects, etc. Special attention is paid to some of the most often abused or game breaking situations, such as suggesting limiting the number of active buff spells, introducing familiarity penalties for spells to rein in the Swiss army knife effect, or making monster summoning and mind control more difficult as well as better balanced between each other. I was delighted that a lot of advice in this section is flat out invoking Rule 0: if something breaks the game world or campaign, it can just not work, or even better, the GM should talk with the players and explain that it simply isn’t fun.

Two one-page chapters conclude the supplement. The first is “RPM Ultra-Lite”, basically a cheat sheet listing the energy costs of most commonly used spells, assuming some parameters such as a 10-minute duration or 100-yard range. If I were to use RPM again, I’d definitively make heavy use of it. And finally, there are the writeups for half a dozen spells which were used as examples in the previous chapters.