What am I currently running and/or playing as of May 2021? Like everyone else, my gaming has shifted entirely online over the last year. For a time, I was averaging playing in or running five sessions every two weeks. I’ve pared back on that a bit recently. But I thought I’d talk a little about the games I’m involved with at the moment and what I’m feeling about each of them.
The last few years have seen a resurgence of the “kids in small towns encounter weird stuff” subgenre. A lot of this revival is driven by nostalgia for the 1980s, as with television series like Stranger Things and games like Kids on Bikes and Tales from the Loop. In many ways, this type of story is perfect for a pared-down rules system like GURPS Lite.
Some of the earliest eidols that many practitioners learn to summon are counterparts to mundane creatures drawn from various Otherworlds. Here are two such example eidols.
GURPS—the Generic Universal Roleplaying System—is one of my favorite games, but this is not an installment of Favorite Games Ever. Instead, I want to look at some of the reasons I hear for why gamers avoid, dislike, even hate GURPS. I don’t really agree with many of these points, but let’s examine them for what they are, rather than try to dismiss them out of hand.
The Rangers are a division of the Patrol trained in search and rescue as well as combat on dangerous or unexplored planets. Most Rangers operate singly or in very small groups, acting as “marshals” on new colonies and responding to emergency calls to outlying settlements. Often, a Ranger will be assigned to a Patrol ship with a more conventional crew to provide expertise in frontier investigations. These rugged officers earn the grudging respect of their more spit-and-polish counterparts through skill, tenacity, and grit.
More than anyone but the Engineer, the ship is your domain. You get the crew where they need to go, you do it fast, and you do it with style. You fly circles around hostile ships, and you’re familiar with every starport in the Federation. Some of your crew may overhear you talking to the ship, but that’s just respect. You always listen when she talks to you.
Dedicated researchers are found in labs on many worlds. You are something else: a field scientist looking to use your knowledge in service to the Patrol. Characters with this template are more like the investigators on CSI, using scientific expertise to solve mysteries and catch the bad guy.
Every member of the Space Patrol is trained in basic investigative techniques. You are a skilled detective, the one your team calls on when the mystery is too great. Whether your official duties keep you in the cockpit, the engine room, or the sickbay, you’re there to uncover what others would prefer stayed hidden.
Patrol teams rely on their ships, and it’s the engineer’s job to keep the ship in the best condition possible. If the crew engages pirates and the force shields overload, the engineer is there to reroute power through the secondary conduits. If the ship gets a distress call that is just a bit too far out of range, the engineer teases just a little more speed out of the engines. It’s a thankless job sometimes, but if the engineer wasn’t there to do it, the rest of the crew would be dead in space.
The effects of nonstandard atmospheres depend on two factors: pressure and composition. Both are summarized below, though details (like exact pressures and chemicals) are ignored.
In its role as a Generic and Universal system, GURPS facilitates multi-world campaigns, where the same characters may travel from a magical fantasy world one week to a gritty spacefaring setting the next. GURPS Lite lets you run this style of game by including the Jumper advantage. Characters with this ability can travel between parallel worlds without any special equipment or ritual.
Nomad-class Scout Vessel (TL11^)
The Nomad-class is designed for short tours of a few weeks to a few months in uncharted space. Its winged streamlined SM+6 hull features an advanced multiscanner array and FTL comms, a tractor beam, and cabins for eight crew. Offensive systems are limited to a particle cannon and a missile launcher loaded with sensor drones. For defense, the Nomad-class relies on an adjustable light force screen.
You joined the Patrol to be a peacemaker. You dislike violence, and you seek equitable solutions to problems. You genuinely like people and believe that interstellar society can be just and fair. It’s your job to see that it is.
You possess mental abilities that set you apart from other humans. You use these powers in service to the Patrol, but there are legal restrictions. For example, mind reading is illegal without a warrant. Any form of compulsion or mind control is illegal except in moments of extreme danger to the officer or civilians.
You came to space for the mystery. Perhaps you are a former Scout who transferred to the Patrol to reconnect after many years in deep space. Or maybe you wanted to explore more human mysteries as an investigator. Whatever your motivation, you are perceptive, self-reliant, and driven to uncover the next secret.
You may be a commander, a doctor, or an engineer, but at heart you are a soldier. Whatever the situation, you look for tactical advantage, know where your exits are, and size up the opposition. You never shy away from confrontation, and you must be reminded that the Patrol is a peacekeeping organization.
The player characters in a Space Patrol game are the crew of a small Jordan-class Patrol ship designed to respond quickly and equipped to handle anything from transporting prisoners to chasing off minor pirate activity.
SAP 217 is typical of Sector Administration Posts, centrally located space stations that house the sector’s government services. While SAPs primarily function as trade and communications hubs, each also houses an office of Patrol administrators who coordinate the ships and personnel assigned to their sector. When a Patrol officer requests assistance (a benefit of Rank), they generally go through the local SAP.
For most, roleplaying games are a vehicle for fantastical adventures, and GURPS is a fine engine for those kinds of stories. But it could not hope to be a generic, universal system if it couldn’t also handle the more personal tales of people feuding and falling in love.
The survival horror scenario of ordinary people trying to escape a horde of shambling undead is very popular these days. You might be happy to know that GURPS Lite can handle it pretty well, with a few clarifications.
When creating my Space Patrol campaign, I don’t care about things like blackbody temperature or orbital period. I want a streamlined stat block for planets that I can reference at the table. I may work in elements of GURPS City Stats in the future, but for now, here’s what I have on planets.
I’ve included dollar values for all of the equipment in the Space Patrol campaign. Normally, equipment is provided by the Patrol in the ship’s initial inventory. However, if the crew is planetside and needs to requisition gear from a local Patrol base, or if they want something that isn’t standard issue, they need to know the cost of the equipment when making an Assistance Roll (from Pulling Rank).
The adventurer is a better example of the way dramatic templates work in the Space Patrol campaign. An Adventurer-Commander produces the classic starship captain of pulp space opera.
The 150-point occupational template represents your role on the ship. The commander is the leader and spokesperson for a Space Patrol vessel.
In my prospective GURPS Space Patrol game, characters are built by choosing an occupational template (worth 150 points) that determines your specialty in the crew and a dramatic template (worth 50 points) that establishes your role in the fiction. This set-up was directly inspired by GURPS Template Toolkit 1: Characters, and the templates are built using the advice found there.
In this campaign frame, players take the roles of Merry Men, followers of the outlaw Robin of Sherwood. As the campaign begins, the PCs receive word that Robin has been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and will be hanged. It is up to the Merry Men to rescue him.
Each member of the Space Patrol is issued the following equipment. They are expected to wear their contacts, uniform, and communicator at all times while on duty. The multiscanner and ombiblaster are required for landing parties and security details.
I have copious notes for a hypothetical GURPS Fourth Edition space patrol game I may or may not run some day. Here is how I would simplify the effects of gravity and space sickness.