Play Report: Tales of Adventure (GURPS)

This is a critical fail.
So my good friend and epic GM J is running a GURPS (I know, right?) game he's lovingly called Tales of Adventure. This game has three groups going, each within the same world and the same country, so far. At any point, logically, our characters could meet up, clash swords, order heads be removed, become friends, or fall in love. Anything is possible is this vast and war torn country named Tandesea.

I've played GURPS before, twice. Both times with J, so I can't say I know if he's running it correctly (although I doubt he's screwing with it much, he likes rules), but I will say it's becoming increasingly more smooth in every carnation he presents it. The first time was with a game called Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, based on the novels by Michelle Paver. Our characters weren't designed for combat, and there ended up being a lot of combat, so it got a little boggy. In the second game, Shakleton Crater, J brought us to the moon, based loosely on the feel of Moon (the movie), the game invoked feelings of fear, isolationism, and the internal struggle to reconcile what one had to do to survive the Moon. The system was used much better in this game, but there wasn't much combat.

The Cast of Tales of Adventure. Art by the GM, J.

Finally, in ToA, we've found a good midground of combat, where it still flows smoothly, and has a purpose we can understand. But this time we did all make adventurers. At least in my game. My game features these epic characters: Hywel, an old soldier and man-at-arms to the Queen Mum. Colin, a new marquis and assassin at the delicate age of 16. Aeryn, the runaway noble girl who just wants to be more than a wife. Crow, the many talented street urchin with his magical scamp of a dog. Pythia, the slightly magical princess off to try to save her prince.

Pythia, the sweet, innocent, gullible, and horribly honest princess is my character. She's an interesting character to play in the world where she doesn't really use a sword, and doesn't really have much to do in combat. However, the role playing we're getting out of that amazing group is incredibly fantastic. J organizes the game so that we tend to each have personal story lines going on, which gives us individual scenes, as well as some great group scenes and dynamics. There's political intrigue, personal stories of growth and redemption, and some of my favourite things, like dealing with classism, PTSD, war, and the effects of war on a country. Education, poverty, and the issues of feudalism have come up as well.

But these aren't the lead themes, so much as stopping the evil and finding the prince is, with an emphasis on finding the prince. However, these other themes are woven into the story in such an elegant way that the game could be an epic fantasy novel and attract a number of readers. J easily makes space for character dilemma and growth, and easily rolls with anything random that we tend to throw at him, such a Crow proclaiming himself a prince from a country called Griffen (the name of his dog), and managing to succeed his roll, so as to convince both the lord we're dealing with, and my gullible character. It's becoming a hilarious side line story, with dangerous repercussions as Crow gets himself involved in political intrigue.

GURPS doesn't, in my experience, lend itself to balanced playing, like a lot of story focused games do (save Fate). In my opinion, it's a clunky, too-many-rules simulationist game that makes me want to cry when combat gets too long. And I will say that it can get extremely long. And draggy. We're now playing the new edition of GURPS which seems to work a lot better. I can't say I know the rules well enough to mention how this happens, but I just know it does.

Why there's a skill for everything, and a stat for everything, and a rule for everything, I'll never bloody know. High intensity simulation playing is usually something I avoid, because anytime you ask me how encumbered I am, I tend to get up and leave the table because NO ONE CARES ABOUT ENCUMBRANCE. Seriously. Does that rule make anyone happy? Nope. Does it add any dramatic effect to every day life in a game? Nope. So why make it a rule? Good question, Kate!

/rant. So overall, if you're looking for a high simulation game that can give you a rule for every situation, and takes everything into account, I do recommend GUPRS. There's enough diversity in traits and disadvantages and skills that you will never have two characters exactly the same. Naturally, because of all the things, it allows for a high level of character customization, and character growth, which I'll admit is the fun part. Character creation, however, is arduous and takes longer than Deliria, which in my opinion is a feat. However, if the combats are shorter, it does make for some intensity and some quick decision making as you consider how long you need to aim for and if you can aim that long.

As far as GURPS encouraging role play? Welllll.... no. I think J encourages role play and loves improv and that shows up in his games. I do not think the system itself seriously encourages it. I think it encourages it maybe a bit more than D&D, which isn't much. Because of how advantages/disadvantages work, and the skills and stats, it lends itself to min/maxing in order to succeed, otherwise you have a lot of things that aren't great and you can't really succeed at much.

Seriously? Roll better.
It functions on three d6, and roll under your skill. So if Pythia is trying to heal someone with First Aid, and her skill score is 15 (this is gotten by how many points I put into the skill, how hard the skill is to learn, and the bonus based on how many points was put in there to begin with), I roll my 3d6 and end up with an 18 (critical fail). Normally you'd get something lower. But it's me. Although I don't think I've critically failed a heal yet, but the dice have decided I heal strangers way better than my friends. So useful!

The mechanic is simple enough. Getting that number is a little more complicated than I would like it to be, but in the grand scheme of logic, it makes sense, so I can't fault it for it's simulationism. Because even though it's enough to make me want to burn the books, it's very logical and well thought out simulation, unlike a lot of D&D rules. I would play GURPS before I would play any old school D&D and other fantasy games, which is saying a lot.

By Allison, who plays Crow
Price: $50 for each core book. You need two. So $100 for the base starting books. World books cost about $30 each after that.
Players: 5 - 7
Gm Work: High. Make a world. Find ALL THE RULES. KNOW ALL THE RULES. It's a lot of work and a lot of game prep and a lot of reading.
Dice: 3D6
Materials: All the books. Character sheets. Maps. Minis. Any props you wish.
Feel: WHATEVER YOU WANT! <---- one of the best things about GURPS is that there are enough rule books you could actually play in whatever setting you want, from sci-fi, to western, to fantasy, to modern.
Rating: 4/5 - it does what it does well. it's still a convoluted, too many rules, focus on stats/dice instead of role play, min/max inducing game. These are my opinions.