Roleplayer #21, August 1990

Everything About Yrth

Writing GURPS Fantasy, Second Edition

by Janet Naylor

"We need someone to finish Yrth."

Words that can change a person's life.

I was sitting online in Conference in Compuserve's RPG Forum, "talking" with Loyd Blankenship. Perhaps it's karma, or luck, or fate, or just plain being in the right place at the right time. Whatever it was, I took him up on his offer to look over the half-completed manuscript and let him know if I'd like to finish the project for SJ Games. I decided I would.

I first saw Yrth as a huge pile of poorly photocopied loose pages. It looked immense. To give Kirk Tate all due credit, he'd done a wonderful job on it by the time I saw it. The outline of the book is his; the basic structure, the entire kingdom of Araterre, most of Megalos and Caithness, and about 90% of the Culture chapter are his relatively unedited words. My initial impression was that I just had to add Elves, Dwarves, Characters, and Creatures and mail it back. Should take about two weeks.

Good thing, too, since they only gave me a month.

I started with Characters. The toughest thing about Fantasy 2 (which I still think of fondly as "Yrth") is that we had to remain basically consistent to everything that had already been printed. This was not a project to break out the new ideas and send them spilling across the page. I spent more time perusing the old books than inventing new material. Fantasy 2, especially the expanded new information on Yrth, had to be basically consistent with everything printed in Fantasy 1, Magic, Harkwood, Tredroy, and any other GURPS worldbook that claimed to be occurring in Yrth, or had elements common to a fantasy campaign.

The nonhuman races had to be, for all practical purposes, copied straight from the old book. Those that weren't were later changed to conform to the new Fantasy Folk. I must attribute all the new skills to Caroline Julian, from whose homegrown game I gladly stole them.

My favorite part of this chapter is the section on "Character Types." It's a guide to new players, or to GMs who must make up a world-full of NPCs. I outlined typical occupations or social classes that characters might fall into, and the advantages, disadvantages, and skills that they would tend to have. The final task was the job table. This one is a combination of the tables in Fantasy 1, Tredroy, and Swashbucklers (of all things), with a good dose of common sense and a bit of historical research thrown in.

Warmed up and feeling cocky, I then attacked the Kingdoms chapter. Once again, my main objective was to remain true to the original text (Fantasy 1), while adding depth and unique flavor to each. I had to recheck the non-human sections of the Culture chapter for consistency, moving a few things back and forth until it all felt right.

The concept behind the organization of the Kingdoms chapter is to present the overall social and governmental structure of the area first, and then to give short descriptions of each major city/duchy/barony/what-have-you, along with one or two paragraphs on current events which could be expanded into an adventure. Thus, while the Yrth sections will never win awards for detail, they give you, the GM, what we thought you wanted most – ideas! So we've provided huge numbers of little skeletons, of people and places begging to be fleshed out and detailed, according to your own master plan. The individual GM can take what we've provided and run like crazy.

Before, after, and in between kingdoms I did the History chapter, adding little bits to the timeline as I came across them in the older texts, scouring Tredroy and Harkwood for events of note. The goal of this chapter was to give the flavor of the development of the world . . . giving the reader a feel for how things got to be the way they are in Yrth's 1990.

And then, finally, Creatures. Dragons were fun – trying to remove the dreaded "wimpy" tag that GURPS dragons have had for so long. Send a party against an intelligently played Adult Dragon, and "wimpy" will be a label of the past. And, for those who want truly godlike dragons, there are the Elder Beasts.

Many of the other creatures were taken or adapted from the GURPS Bestiary. Why reinvent the wheel? I added the domestic animal section for those who remember that not all animals are for killing, with a few bizarre Yrth-specific creations of my own. Most of these were loosely based on animals from our own prehistory – bushwolf, nightstalker, hellshark, strider, and treetipper, to be specific. Since the basic premise of Yrth was that it was "Earth-like," it made sense to me that the development of the native animal population should closely resemble that of our own Earth.

It was fun. I hope to do it again sometime soon.

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