March 30, 2014: Fantasy, No Assembly Required
The recent release of GURPS Magical Styles: Dungeon Magic – a collection of colorful, ready-to-go wizardly orders and guilds – reminded me of something that crossed my mind a few weeks ago. While browsing a well-known RPG forum, I saw people brushing off GURPS as a serious option for fantasy gaming, describing it as a toolkit that doesn't offer much ready-to-use content. Since I have a few minutes free right now, I'd like to clear things up!
Let's start with fantastic abilities. While it is true that GURPS offers toolkits for this stuff, it supports them with plenty of worked examples. For instance, GURPS Powers might be all lumber, nails, hammers, and saws . . . but GURPS Powers: Divine Favor spares you the hard work of building a complete clerical magic system, GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers hands you all the abilities you need for Chinese-themed heroes, and GURPS Psionic Powers delivers a complete standalone system that's sure to please if your personal vision of fantasy includes psi. That Dungeon Magic supplement I mentioned does something similar for GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles, using the tools for defining magical schools to craft seven detailed examples to drop into your campaign "as is."
How about fantastic backdrops? The GURPS Locations series provides, whether you need a dangerous metropolis perched at Hell's edge (Hellsgate), a sedate university town for budding magic-users (Worminghall), or perhaps something smaller like a wizard's tower (The Tower of Octavius) or a medieval cathedral (St. George's Cathedral). Then there are the fantasy drinking establishments of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 10: Taverns and the ready-to-explore locales of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Adventure 1: Mirror of the Fire Demon. And since this is GURPS, it all works together – it isn't exactly rocket science to put a tavern or a cathedral in a town! It is more of trick to adapt a historical setting from the GURPS Hot Spots series to fantasy, but why not?
You'll probably want fantastic critters to battle powered-up heroes in those interesting locations, so check out GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, in which complete creature stats are accompanied by a wealth of ideas on how to use the monsters. When the fight's over, the loot doesn't have to be generic; take a look at GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts. Indeed, the entire GURPS Dungeon Fantasy series exists to spare you hours spent worrying about abilities, creatures, items, and rules . . . it lops off the stuff you don't need and does all the construction work for you.
Oh, and if you prefer "serious" fantasy – the sort that's about more than killing and looting – then be sure to check out the full-length GURPS Banestorm setting. Of course, the supporting supplement GURPS Banestorm: Abydos describes a creepy city of necromancy that would work equally well in a hack 'n' slash game. Another follow-up, GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles, saves you the trouble of wading through GURPS Martial Arts to develop fighting arts for elves, reptile men, werewolves, etc.; that sounds like it would suit over-the-top fantasy, too. Such mixing and matching is the real power of GURPS.
So take a look! You might be surprised at what you find.
-- Sean Punch
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