Transcript: Hunter and PK talk After the End

Thursday is GURPSDay, and much like Christmas time, I was gifted with the transcript that someone did of the conversation between Hunter Shelburne and +Rev. Pee Kitty (PK Levine, Jason Levine) regarding the GURPS worked-example series After the End.

For an absolutely shameless set of plugs, if you want some comprehensive reviews of each volume, check out After the End 1: Wastelanders (review) and After the End 2: The New World (review) that I did previously.

But what was the interview, you ask? It was part of SJGamesLive.

(I should note that these transcripts, whether it be this one or those on The Firing Squad, are pretty intense piece of work. As an example, the AtE transcript is just shy of 10,000 words long. That’d be about a 12-page Pyramid article, which is on the longer side of things. So there’s a lot of content here.)

Hunter Shelburne (HS) interviews PK Levine (PK) on YouTube  Hunter Shelburne (HS): Hey guys! I’m Hunter, the Community Manager here at Steve Jackson Games. Welcome to SJ Games Live. I’m here with PK Levine, our Assistant GURPS Line Editor. How you doing, PK?

Jason “PK” Levine (PK): I’m doing well, Hunter. How about you?

HS: Doing awesome. Very happy to be here, interviewing you. I guess, I’m not technically interviewing you; the fans are interviewing you, it seems. We collected some questions on our forums over the past few weeks, trying to get an idea of what people wanted to know about the After the End and some other things that we’ve been doing with GURPS — specifically, what you’ve been doing with GURPS — and you’re going to answer some of those questions today. So, you ready?

PK: Yeah, absolutely.

HS: Awesome.

PK: Let the fans speak through you; be their proxy!

HS: Beautiful. I’m pretty good at letting other people speak for me here. So, we have EvilEeyore from the forums — I say “from the forums,” but that’s pretty much everybody here — he’s got a couple of questions. Let’s start with, “What should the presumed TL be for a bog-standard ATE game (After the End) and what do you mean by ‘for economic purposes’ when discussing TL4?”

PK: Okay, actually something that just occurred that I probably should have brought up earlier: should I give a really brief summary in case anyone doesn’t know what After the End is?

HS: Sure, yeah, let’s go through it. That’s perfectly fine.

PK: Sorry about that.

HS: No, no, you’re fine!

PK: Yeah, rewind one notch here. So for anyone who doesn’t know, After the End is a recent series that I created for GURPS which allows you to — it makes it *easier* for you to run a post-apocalyptic campaign, where the focus is adventurers journeying through the wastes, scavenging old treasures, and dealing with the crazy hazards that are out there. So it’s kind of a mish-mosh of everything. And it can run anything from kind of realistic to completely gonzo — pretty well, actually, in my humble opinion, which is completely biased.

BOTH: (laugh)

PK: Okay, so he was asking, sorry about that, EvilEeyore, right? You were asking what I meant by ‘economic purposes’ of TL4, right?

HS: Yeah, that’s correct.

PK: Okay. I know the exact passage you’re talking about. This caused a little confusion on the forums; I actually went back and edited it a little bit to try to make it a little more crystal clear. The actual tech level of an After the End game is “whatever the old world achieved.” So if the world got to tech level 8, tech level 9, you know, modern or a little past modern, and then everything collapsed, then your game is a TL8 or TL9 game. It just is. The tech level 4 is strictly for establishing *prices* and that’s it.

The value of any item that’s low-tech/medieval-tech is going to be the same because anyone could still make that. It’s just that, as you go higher up the tech level and you start to get to things that need industrial work, electronics, things like that, their effective *value* increases, but it doesn’t mean that the world is at tech level 4.

It just means that that’s the level that kind of sets the economic baseline. So it’s really *just* about prices, nothing more.

HS: So not as complicated as it sounds, honestly. Okay, cool. And the second part of two questions is, “Can we get a quick few words about TL (tech level) and how you’ve been handling it for your game? Skills, skill check penalties, repair, gear costs, etc.?”

PK: Sure, yeah. I will say, not to foist it off, but the majority of this actually, if you have After the End 2, in the rules for inventing and repairing and analyzing gear, that’s all in there. I have tech level penalties, tech level bonuses — obviously, it’s easier to figure out what a firebow does, a caveman-style thing, than it is to figure out what a robot does, necessarily — and that’s in there.

About the only thing I can say regarding the high-tech gear is deciding how much of it to include in your campaign is kind of a GM call. If your world got to tech level 9, it’s kind of up to you and your setting whether the whole world had so much TL9 stuff that it’s everywhere, or whether that’s going to be some extravagant, rare find.

I might be able to address something like that in a future supplement, but for the most part, everything else about how TL interacts with skills is basically straight out of the inventing chapter.

HS: Cool, so you said that was After the End 2 that would give you a lot of that information, right?

PK: Yeah, After the End 2: The New World, has the rules for doing stuff, including inventing stuff and analyzing it and fixing it and all that, and tech level factors very heavily into that.

HS: Cool, okay, so just in case you wanted to get an idea where to get that from, there you go. So let’s see, next down the line–

PK: (inaudible)

HS: Sorry, what was that?

PK: On, ladies and gentlemen!

HS: Yes! I’ll throw a link down into the description actually on that one. Thanks for reminding me. Next up we have Douglas Cole. Douglas has done a lot of stuff with us on GURPSday; he’s done a lot with the GURPS blogs and things like that. He asks, “If you could wave a magic wand, what creative support from the exterior writing base would you like to see? Adventures, characters, more gear, worked examples of disasters, etc.?”

PK: Oh man, okay. I could go on.

HS: Please do!

PK: Well first off, shout out to Doug because I have to say your GURPSday collaboration and compiling all the GURPS blogs every week is beautiful. Beautiful. Love it. Okay, I would say what comes to my mind with where this can go and where I’d like to see it go:

I think among other things, we do need some sort of book about building settlements and communities, because a lot of people want that. I know that there’s a lot of people who want to focus on building up an area, and I think there’s adventure to be had there. I don’t ever want the game to not be about adventures and fun stuff — I don’t want it to be accounting, that’s lame — but there’s a lot of adventures that can be had in defending a settlement and things. So a book like that, which might be an ATE book, but might also just be a general supplement book that also covers post-apoc would be nice.

I think if anyone wanted to do a loadouts book, I could get behind that. Traditionally in this game, characters start with very little gear. You don’t give them a lot. I’m actually a little more generous than what I suggest in the book. I kind of just capped it at $500 worth of gear so if the GM wants to give more, no one will complain, but they’d complain if the GM said $500 and they’d be like, “No, PK said we should have had $1,000!”

HS: (laughs)

PK: So figuring out how to load your character on a tight budget? A loadouts book that was just like, “Here are some $500 gear kits that you can start with. If you’re a hunter, start with this.” This would be great, you know?

I’d like the game to eventually have a supernatural side. I didn’t go into supernatural stuff because there just wasn’t enough room. I’d love to see a fantasy magic apocalypse, a religious apocalypse straight out of Revelations, expanding the game that way.

My first thought when I wrote books 1 and 2 was that the third one might be detailed scavenging rules. Though to be honest with you, I’m just a huge fan of the scavenger as a concept. Kind of like what Dungeon Fantasy did with Treasure Tables, just detailed lists of all the different stuff you can get.

Maybe a dirty-tech book where it focuses on inventing stuff and realistically what could be turned into what, if that makes sense–

HS: Oh yeah.

PK: –the idea of “let’s grab a tire and turn it into” . . . um, I don’t know what you’d turn a tire into!

HS: Well, I guess that’s what that table would be for. (laughs)

PK: Yep, exactly! Like a dirty-tech book that covers that. There’s more, but I’m going to shut up there because that’s a pretty wide range of ideas. Anyone pitching one of those ideas, I’m probably going to be behind you.

HS: Nice. That’s actually a really cool question because I know one of the big draws of our community is we have so many people contributing in the community to supplements and things like that. We have so many people doing homemade, fan-made stuff that’s a huge boon. Plus personally, of all the GURPS stuff that I’ve seen and gone through, this is one of the most interesting worlds to me personally because I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stuff. So hearing you talk about making a religious one, possibly a Revelations-type thing? I didn’t even think of it in my mind. I’m used to the more traditional stuff, so now I’m thinking that’s a totally different slant to it. You can totally have supernatural things in there, that makes a lot of sense. Like, that’s crazy, I like the idea. That’s a really good question, Douglas.

PK: Yeah, I definitely want to go there at some point.

HS: Cool. Well, we’ve got a big one here, we’ve got a few questions here. We’ll go through them one at a time. This is Ghostdancer. Let’s see, “Tell me why you chose to leave the supernatural out of After the End 1 and 2.” Well, we already covered that.

PK: Yeah, that was just space and cohesion. I would have had to include so much extra stuff to include the supernatural, the books would’ve been twice the size. That’s got to be a later book, it just does.

HS: Honestly, having one that’s just focused on supernatural makes sense too, from just a thematic standpoint. It doesn’t always go with all the tech and stuff. That makes sense. The next question is “Lots of people are buzzing about your gadgeteering rules.” This is all from Ghostdancer, by the way. “How did you arrive at them? What makes them different, better, or worse than the Basic Set’s rules?”

PK: Actually, they’re really not that different. They’re just more detailed and presented differently, with a couple of changes to address the fact that a post-apocalyptic game doesn’t really have a tech level; it’s super fluid. You could be whittling arrows one day and then working on a fusion engine the next day. You know what I mean? So they had to be very broad. I started with what I did for Monster Hunters 2, my previous series. I had expanded the gadgeteering rules and drilled them down to focus on — I kind of expanded and simplified at the same time (or tried to, at least) so that you had more options, but that it was very straightforward what options to pick. And a lot of people liked that; I had people tell me, “I understood the gadgeteering rules for the first time when I saw them in Monster Hunters.” So I started with that and then just expanded it a bit, because Monster Hunters was over the top, crazy cinematic. So this, I had realistic inventing over here, and then [quick] gadgeteering over here, and there’s a level in the middle called “regular gadgeteer” that’s just basically right in the middle. So you can have the totally realistic inventor, the crazy over-the-top inventor, or just the cinematic one that kind of fits, say, the Fallout setting where you’re not an “inventor” but you can craft a gun. You know what I mean?

HS: Yes, essentially giving you a few different options, a few different avenues to take on that. I like it.

PK: It’s kind of like three different “power levels” of gadgeteer, based on how crazy the GM wants to get.

HS: Yeah, it tends to be, at least in games where I’d be involved in, would want to get as crazy as possible. So giving us many options is pretty solid! So again from the same poster, “Mutation is interesting. Where did the ideas for Freakishness come from?”

PK: I’m pretty proud of that one, actually! For anyone who doesn’t know, the idea behind mutations and Freakishness is — in GURPS, usually things have a power modifier, which reduces the cost by a fixed percentage. The way I did it here was that all mutations come bundled with a new disadvantage, Freakishness, and the more you get, the more terrible things that happen to you: you become uglier, you gain side effects, you gain weird oddities and such. And originally, it started off as a power modifier, just like any other power, and I’m thinking, “Well, it’s a power that shouldn’t have a Talent, that seems weird. But it should have a power modifier.” But then I was basing the effects on how many points you saved, and then I realized that I’m just going the long way around to give someone a disadvantage. So I just converted the whole thing into a disadvantage and just added it on. So the idea was, “Okay, you have a -10% discount on this power that saved you 3 points; we take those 3 points and put it into a disadvantage.” And then I realized, why not just add the disadvantage, straight up? Does that make sense?

HS: Yeah, so you took the system that was a point-based system and essentially just negated the points out of it and said, “Here’s a disadvantage,” and hand it to them. Which makes sense.

PK: I did the math ahead of time, “These are the points, we just bundle it right in.” It’s like a direct effect, like I just kind of taped it to the side, which is ugly but it seemed to fit mutations.

HS: Actually, I’m kind of the opposite. I think that’s actually, I hate to use the word when it comes to this kind of game, but that’s actually more elegant to me. It’s simplified. It’s easier to understand. It’s just, “You get this good thing, here’s the bad thing.” It’s easy to teach people, it’s a simple concept, they don’t have to do any math or anything; you’ve done all the math for them.

PK: And there’s this table. that you can see, as your Freakishness goes up, bad stuff is going to happen. And some people have called out the fact that if you have Freakishness 7 and you go to Freakishness 8, nothing changes. And people have asked, “Why is it worth an extra point of disadvantages?” But it’s not that, it’s that you’re getting scared the more this goes up. It’s not that going from 7 to 8 doesn’t change anything, it’s that do you dare go to 9? Because at 9, bad things happen to you.

HS: (laughs) It’s the fear of what’s coming. And that is Freakishness 9.

PK: The mounting terror.

HS: I like it. Still the same poster. “What was the reasoning behind choosing the apocalypse of generations before, instead of apocalypse now, right now, or recently?”

PK: I made a point, in both books, to make it clear that the game should be set at least a couple of generations after the end — hence the name! — because I want people to be focused on “this is the new world.” Let’s kind of accept it. And you can make it better, but let’s try not to go back to the old world, because that’s a different genre. You know what I mean? So I guess that was just a personal preference there. I could have done a book where the apocalypse was happening right now, but that’s not, in my mind, post-apoc. In my mind, that’s like a disaster movie, you know what I mean? If it’s happening now, you’re trying to *stop* it. Does that make sense? You’re trying to hold it off.

HS: You wanted people to play within the apocalypse. You didn’t want them to try to rebuild the world, essentially. Or at least rebuild the world they knew, necessarily.

PK: Exactly! Building a new world? Awesome. But going back and rebuilding the old world? And if you want to play that, that’s fine — I actually think the rules will help you with that — but it was never my focus. I actually recommended, I said that the minimum should be within about two generations. But really, if you’re the second generation, that’s only 20 years after the apocalypse. And you can go even less than that. It’s more just a social contract with the players, so that they’re not trying to go back and fix the world, but they’re embracing the new one. If you don’t think your players are going to do that, then you can set it two years after the apocalypse and be fine. I just found from experience that 20 years is about the minimum buffer where people stop assuming that everything can be fixed and reversed and we can go back to the way we were in 2016 and happy. The world has changed.

HS: Well, that makes sense to me honestly. I just had some questions in our chat here; we’ll get to those questions, just to let everybody know. Feel free to ask questions in chat and if we have time at the end and we can answer them I’ll give those questions to PK as well and we’ll go through those as well. Let’s see, we’ve got one more question from Ghostdancer. It is, “Your rules for radiation and long-term fatigue are brilliant simplifications with mechanics that could easily be ported elsewhere. Where else would you port them?”

PK: Well, thank you for the compliment. (laughs) I don’t know if I can go with “brilliant” but they work well. We actually already ported them, a little bit. Roger Bell_West wrote this great supplement, Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout, which was a very realistic take on radiation, nuclear plants, and such. And during the playtest for that, people actually said, “Is there a way to get simpler radiation rules?” and I offered them up. At the time, we didn’t even have a release date for ATE. We didn’t know for sure if or when it was coming out, but we figured, let’s port them in there and they seem to work pretty well. They’re a little bit cinematic if you let people — basically, it turns radiation points, they’re like hit points. The more radiation you take, you lose radiation points. You get too low, you get sick, you get too much lower, you get dead, because radiation’s bad. So if you’re running a cinematic game, then you let people heal all their radiation points. If you’re not, then the rule is you can only heal 90% back. Like if you lose 10 radiation points, you can recover 9. That 1 is gone. Because you’re going to die eventually. It’s fair.

And long-term fatigue, I had been playtesting that for a while. I’m actually surprised it never made it onto — I have a website where I post a lot of my house rules. I kept meaning to post it! Never did. And it just ended up in there. Basically, it turns starvation and missing sleep into — they lower your fatigue pool’s possible max. Like, if you have a fatigue pool of 10 but you missed a couple nights of sleep, your pool drops to 7. Not just your pool and what’s in it, but how big it can get. You know what I mean? It lowers your maximum. It’s a lot like how the new Fallout handles radiation, which is funny considering this was written way before Fallout 4 existed.

HS: Nice. You’re a trend setter. That’s how it works though. I like that; it makes sense. It’ll all make sense thematically.

PK: Yeah, it totally fits.

HS: Nice. Cool, well thank you for those questions, Ghostdancer. Quite a few of those are really good questions. We’ve got a few here from Anders as well. Got a Kromm drop. “Kromm made a classic post on ‘everyman skills,’ skills every character should have. How would you amend this list for an ATE campaign?”

PK: Oh, so what skills do you need to survive in an After the End game? Well, first off, I’ve got a list of the important skills in the first book, After the End 1: Wastelanders. And I’ll flat-out tell you, what I did was, we have this thing called the GURPS TraitSorter that lets you tell the sorter what advantages, disadvantages, and skills fit your game and what don’t, and it just spits out a page that’s all nicely formatted and all that. I just straight up used that to make chapter two! So that has all the skills that I think will be useful.

But I would say if you want to survive, you would need some sort of skill to get the lay of the land, because you’re probably going to be traveling. Even if you’re doing a settlement, you need to know the land, so Area Knowledge, Current Affairs, Navigation, something like that. If you’re going to live off the land, you want Scrounging to find stuff, Survival skill or Urban Survival, Weather Sense. I’m not sure if that was one group or two I just gave; “living off the land” and “lay of the land” are kind of related. Some way to travel, like a vehicle skill, Hiking, Riding, if you have an ice age, Skating or Skiing; that would be a category I’d throw in there. You have to be able to win fights or avoid them in some way I guess. If you build a character with no combat skills at all, you’re probably going to die! Even if your character’s not a combatant, this world is harsh and things want to kill you. So if you don’t have any weapons skills or at least unarmed skills, you’ll be missed.

HS: (laughs)

PK: I usually recommend you want some sort of close combat skill, some sort of ranged combat skill. Probably something high-tech and low-tech, like Broadsword and Rifle; it works, because wherever the one doesn’t work, the other one does. And then, some sort of knowledge of the world, like the Expert Skills, Archaeology, Anthropology, Current Affairs. And the last thing I’d throw in there, I would say you almost have to have *some* sort of social skills, even if you’re not the face person, even if you’re just an angry hulk with Intimidation, that is at least a way to deal with people. Because sometimes social skills are the only option that you have.

I tried to hit all this stuff; I mean, this is basically just coming out of how I build the templates. Every template kind of covers all of this, but some focus more than others. Like some are combat monsters with no social skills, the trader is a social monster with very few combat skills, but it all balances out.

HS: Makes sense. The intimidating hulk sounds a little bit more like my type of character, personally. I like how that’s a social skill, but it makes sense!

PK: Yeah, it totally is. It’s awesome actually. In our current game, the player of the hulk talked me into letting him skip Intimidation and he has regretted it ever since because he needed it continually and it just doesn’t work. He’s good at being menacing, but in a way that people aren’t sure. They think, “I could probably still take him.”`

HS: He’s not big enough! Anders has another one here, “Also, some settings would incorporate cyborgs into the setting, like [blank] character’s arm in [redacted].” We’re not going to do the license on that. “But any thoughts on how to treat cyborgs? Would the Freakishness mechanism be a good fit for a street cyborg wearer as well?”

PK: You know, you could use Freakishness, but Freakishness focuses a lot on the social, but also a lot on changing and being morphed. And the mutation rules tend to assume that you can hide them and then people get a bonus to tell that you’re a mutant. I figure with the cybernetic stuff, most of it’s going to be pretty obvious, like if you’ve got a cybernetic arm or leg. I would actually use the Ultra-Tech rules. I think they’re great; I really do. I think David did an amazing job with them. Basically, you take the advantage (what does it give you?) and then you apply the Temporary Disadvantage of Maintenance, like you have this extra strength in your arm but it requires maintenance every week. You take the disadvantage One Arm, and then you put Mitigator on that, so it’s like disadvantage One Arm but Mitigator: As long as I have my my cybernetic arm attached, it’s cool. So it’s like the good and the bad. So I would use the straight up Ultra-Tech rules. I think they’re great.

HS: There you go, Ultra-Tech rules it is. Another one from him, “If you used a magic system for ATE, how would you decide which one to use?”

PK: (laughs) Hell if I know! We have a lot of them! Man. At some point, I expect in the future, I’m going to be sitting down with someone — either I’ll be writing it myself or sitting down with someone and talking about a magic book for this, about magical fantasy apocalypses, and we’ll hash through that then. I have no idea.

HS: Okay, fair enough. Let’s see, last one from Anders, “Why are there no stats for flame-throwing guitars?”

PK: (laughs) Which is undoubtedly the most important question that is going to come up in this thing, I guarantee you that. Because the license that we’re not mentioning in question? That movie was released after this was written, okay? So if that timeline had flipped, I promise there would have been stats for flame-throwing guitars. Actually, one of my players, he’s a trader — that’s T-R-A-D-E-R, not traitor as in Benedict Arnold —

HS: Well, he hasn’t shown that side yet. You don’t know. He could be both.

PK: He built a trader, who are the more social characters, and he actually said, “I don’t like any of the options; can I be a rock star instead?” And I was like, “Oh, that’s an awesome idea!” So I helped him design a custom rock-star package. So I’ve got that and some equipment ideas kind of boiling around in my head to eventually be a “Ragnarok-and-Roll” Pyramid article that I imagine I’ll get out some time.

HS: Cool. Well, there you go. If you have a rock star in your party, we’ve got the rules for you, hopefully.

PK: Who knows when? But they’re in here somewhere.

HS: Let’s see, NinjaMonkey. This one, I’m going to butcher the pronunciation, because I always do this with these, but, “I think Caravan to Ein Arris has some great elements for use with ATE. What are your thoughts on how to go about converting it?”

PK: For the record, I’ve only seen it written. I think you nailed the pronunciation; I don’t know.

HS: We’ll call it nailed then.

PK: Exactly. I think so. That would work good; traveling across the wastes is like traveling across the desert. Dealing with social intrigue and going between two cities, which could be settlements? I could see that. You’d just want to reskin the whole thing. Don’t underestimate how much reskinning it takes to make something come across as post-apocalyptic and not fantasy. Basically, if you did that, spice up the encounters a little bit? If it’s like the party’s attacked by wolves, then no, they’re attacked by *mutant* wolves. A sandstorm comes in? No, it’s a *fallout* storm. Just spice it up a bit. I think it would actually work pretty well. I’d run that!

HS: Just run some of the ATE rules like the radiation for a rad storm or something? Makes sense.

PK: Exactly, yeah.

HS: Well there we go. Pretty simple reskin there. Bruno’s got a question here. “You mention that you’ve run or are running an ATE campaign. What can you tell us about it?”

PK: (laughs) Okay.

HS: Oh boy.

PK: I can tell you that my players are insane. All right, so the setting I use — because one of the things about After the End, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that it’s a “choose your own apocalypse.” It doesn’t have a fixed one. You choose what the apocalypse was. So what our group came up with was the idea that it started as a civil war but also brought in robots and radiation. The idea was the military was using advanced robots and drones and nanotech weapons, and then when they went into the hands of the police and the state, people revolted, there was a civil war, the revolutionists used mininukes. So artificial intelligence was never invented, but there’s these poorly misprogrammed robots, glitchy nanobots, and nuclear radiation craters all over the place from this war. I mean, that’s the buildup for anyone who’s curious about my world-building, basically. So there’s robots and mutated creatures, because the nanotech mutates the creatures and turns them into weird things.

Our group basically, I’ll try to summarize them. There’s an unsocialized hunter and two docs that he’s traveling with. One of them is this naive, mutated one called Dr. Cool who, in game, we don’t ever stop making fun of, just because he chose the name “Dr. Cool,” he’s a 16-year-old brain surgeon and–

HS: (laughs) That’s amazing.

PK: –his most heavily used mutation is a Flesh Pocket which just . . . I’m going to stop there, but it lends itself to all sorts of jokes. We’ll just move on. And the other doc is basically a meth-head who’s based on Hunter Thompson. Straight-up “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” And they run into this charismatic rock star and his mutant hulk bodyguard, his techie mechanic, and their mutated scavenger assistant. And they fight crime! Wait, no. They explore.

It’s been fun. The general plot of the first arc, which we’re just now wrapping up actually, is they heard about this flying vehicle that crashed into a mountain. And of course everyone is like, “Oh my god!” Some of them are smart enough to know, “There were planes, but planes don’t still work. How are they doing that?” So they figure they can gain lots and lots of valuable resources if they go check that out. They go on this long journey, they run into this crazy racist group called the Redeemers who just absolutely hates mutants, and then one of the Redeemers stows aboard on their wagon, and the other Redeemers are trying to track her down. They have to get rid of her, and then negotiate their way through these mutants; there’s this mutant camp called Aftershock that’s on the mountain they’re trying to reach. They finally talk their way through it, they get up, and now they’re fighting robots and mutant plants and deadly mold. That’s mutated mold, I mean it’s not just — it’s creepy.

HS: (laughs)

PK: And they finally get in, and finally get to the room where they figure is where the plane crashed into the side of the mountain. And there’s not a plane; there’s a *tractor*.

HS: What?

PK: And everyone is completely confused, until they sit down and look at the place, and realize that this is a missile defense silo with these microwave beams that would also shoot down missiles. And those were powered by this massive magnetron that was just hit by lightning a week ago. Got hit by lightning?

HS: Oh man.

PK: The dishes pulled the tractor from a mile away–

HS: Wow.

PK: –and everyone saw it streaking across the sky. I’m proud of that because none of them saw it coming. They still, I made sure they got so much cool stuff that they don’t hate me. They have broken robot parts and they found a laptop and night-vision goggles, all these things that are really, really useful. So no one’s upset about it, they were just amazed.

HS: That’s a good twist. You just telling me that, I didn’t see it coming.

PK: Yeah, they’re like, “PK, you’re a jerk.” I’ve got to mention one more thing that I was actually just ranting about. I don’t know if you’ve seen the mutant chapter of the book, but there’s these creatures called “teddies.” They’re killing machines. They’re these mutated bears. They’re fast, they’re strong, they’re cunning, they’re *deadly*. They had to fight a couple of them. And then they found a young teddy back at the camp, because they tracked them back to the camp, and two of the characters decided to adopt it. As a pet.

HS: Oh my god.

PK: This has not worked out well for them. But they are stubbornly, steadfastly clinging to the notion that this teddy will one day be their pet and love them. Her name is Babette and she is beautiful and she will love them. They are sure this will happen. Point of fact, the last game session ended mid-combat because Babette broke free of her chain.

HS: I have a feeling, one more session, they’re not going to have a nice pet anymore.

PK: The nice thing about having two docs is that they are pretty good at whipping up sedatives and getting them in her. So there’s a wrestling match where they’re trying to wrestle her to the ground and inject her with chemicals.

HS: Perfect! I hope Dr. Cool has something for that, I guess. Still my favorite character, I think.

PK: Oh yeah, Dr. Cool and the hunter are the two ones who — the hunter is Dick. Dr. Cool and Dick are the ones who are just convinced this is going to be their pet. And they’ve been doing a good job of training her, as good as you can do, but she’s still a wild animal and she’s a mutant and freakish. And the rest of the party basically has reluctantly accepted it and just apologize every time they go somewhere.

HS: (laughs)

PK: And they have to give this warning to the people in the settlement, “Look, there’s something in the back of the wagon that’s going to scare the crap out of you. Just don’t look. Or if you do, just know she’s chained.”

HS: “We’re here to help. We promise. Maybe.”

PK: (makes air-quotes) Yeah, “Help.”

HS: Great question, Anders, or no, that was — that was a really good one. Here’s a funny one–

PK: Yeah, that was Em.

HS: –John Dallman, “Will you continue Kromm’s fine tradition by explaining ATE via interpretive dance?”

PK: (pause) No.

HS: Perfect! There we go. That was easy enough. (laughs) We’ve got Humabout has a couple of questions here. (tries different pronunciations) The first one is, “Was it a conscious decision to avoid using simplified chase rules from Action 2: Exploits? I noticed range bands surfaced again and was expecting to see something chase-related to,” an example being the desert chases through the movies that we are not mentioning.

PK: Hmm, I don’t know if you can say it was a conscious decision. The books are just stuffed. I crammed in a lot and that just wasn’t one of the things that I thought necessarily made the cut. I think I can see where there’d be a need for it. I’m hoping that — actually, let’s add this to the list of possible supplements or support — would be some sort of vehicle- and nomad-focused book would be nice, with those chase rules with those kind of range bands, too. I think there’s definitely room for that, a post-apoc vehicles thing.

HS: Cool.

PK: I think it could turn up there. But it wasn’t so much a conscious decision as just — man, I went over page count already and had to apologize and get permission, so I couldn’t go further, sorry.

HS: At a certain point, you have to cut it off. But you guys got a lot of stuff in there so I mean that’s — you crammed it full of stuff. And there’s always room for more supplements. Hey, always a thing out there so you guys can work on that. Let’s see, the second question, “My post-apocalypse game features a century of supernatural Nazi conspiracies culminating in The End, and my players want to go monster hunting after the end. How well do you think these two genres will mesh?”

PK: Okay, so Monster Hunters and After the End. I applaud your brave spirit, all right! Those should work in theory. I mean, you’ll have to make some adjustments obviously. Money doesn’t exist, so you’re going to have to scrounge equipment, repurpose equipment. Some of the deduction rules obviously rely on technology or modern society, you’d want to change those. But I don’t think anything comes to mind that you would have to change that isn’t kind of obvious, so if you just make the tweaks here and there to kind of fall back to the After the End rules when they make more sense than the monster hunting rules? Go for it! Please try it. Let me know how it works for you. Seriously, I hope to see about this in the forums; I really want to hear.

HS: Cool. Well there you go, you’ve got something to try out there. Vilobion, “Hey PK, how do you feel about mininukes? Was any thought given to their inclusion in ATE?”

PK: Well, they are! I mean, they’re not in the books themselves, but that’s because I only included the basic stuff, the stuff that you want characters happily starting off with. But they’re in Ultra-Tech. Just pop open Ultra-Tech and go to the index; they’re under “mininuke” I’m pretty sure. So as long as the GM is using Ultra-Tech and the game got to at least, I think, tech level 9 or 10? Whenever they show up. Yeah, they’re totally a part. I just didn’t need to stat them up because that’s been done for me.

HS: So yeah, that’s come up a couple of times now; if you guys are looking for a supplement that’s already got a lot of this stuff in it, you might be looking for Ultra-Tech. That’s what you’re looking for.

PK: Yeah, pretty much if you have Ultra-Tech, you’ve got your shopping catalog right there.

HS: There you go. On Warehouse 23! Going to bump it one more time.

PK: (inaudible)

HS:, where all your dreams come true!

PK: And nightmares sometimes. We can guarantee nothing.

HS: (laughs) Chandley here, “Do you think ATE could support a mutant animals/plant bestiary? Cinematic animal templates, animal- and plant-specific mutations, any changes to Freakishness needed, etc.?”

PK: Oh god yes! Wow, I should have mentioned this with the whole “what do you want to see support for?” I could totally see “After the End Adversaries,” like a sub-line, kind of like “Dungeon Fantasy Monsters.” Definitely a mutants book. I could see a predators and prey book, which is more realistic animals, because not everyone uses mutants and that’s totally cool. Maybe one book for gangs and paramilitaries. One for like “murderous machines.” Pretty much anything, except zombies, because Dr. Kromm covered that just too darn well; there’s no point in touching anything. Just throw people at [GURPS] Zombies because that’s a hell of a book.

HS: There you go. We keep adding to that first question, pretty much. We keep adding stuff that you guys can work on for us.

PK: Absolutely, yeah. And remember, if you’re out there and you have no writing cred with us yet, start on Pyramid. Write some Pyramid articles. Let us know what you want to write. If you want to write about mutant creatures, then submit a Pyramid article, write one up with mutant creatures. It doesn’t have to be a whole book. And that’s how we get to know you and eventually, once we know you can write and be counted on and we like your stuff, you have a way better chance of being offered a book or having your book offer being accepted.

HS: Yeah, exactly. That’s something we’ve mentioned on our website. Things like that, getting into writing for us, definitely Pyramid’s the way to go. Actually Doug mentioned it, Doug from our GURPSday, mentioned [in the chat] that it would be a good Pyramid article, some of the stuff we’re talking about earlier. So yeah, a lot of good ideas here. Let’s see, wabishtar, “I’ve been wanting to use GURPS City Stats to build independent communities in my ATE game. Can you give some guidelines on how that might be done? Examples: How do I determine the Wealth statistic of a community and military resources, given that the Wealth statistic does not exist?”

PK: Yeah, I mean money, wealth? That’s not a thing. That’s going to be a little tricky, because it is true that City Stats does base itself on money a lot. I suppose you could do a “money equivalent.” It would certainly be reasonable to say, even if you don’t know actual funds, “This settlement has Average Wealth, this settlement is Very Wealthy, and this one is Filthy Rich just because they have resources.” But I’ll be honest, I think you really are going to need either to throw a book at this, or at least a really nice, detailed Pyramid article with conversion notes. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can give you a couple sentences worth of good guidelines here. It’s going to take some thought.

HS: Sure, that makes sense. So not something we can answer right now, but something that might be thought about, something you guys might look at in the community, or post about in Pyramid as well. Minuteman37 had a related question, let’s see if we can do that, “I feel in many ways City Stats is lacking mechanically. Do you agree? Are there any plans to add more to the City Stats system?” This is kind of going into other stuff and realms.

PK: True, but I can diverge for a second. I don’t think it’s lacking so much. The thing it’s important to realize is City Stats was always meant to focus on a high-level view. The city as a whole. Just like an overview of what you’d get in travel maps, so you have general information. When you want to get more detailed and kind of go deeper, you really want to use Boardroom and Curia. GURPS Boardroom and Curia is a later supplement that you can use to flesh out government offices, trade guilds, merchant houses or corporations, and other “towers” and key points of the city. Because it’s the city as the whole, and then underneath that you’ve got these — “towers” probably isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean, the *pillars* of the community, that’s what I’m thinking of, like the houses and corporations and the government and all that, and then you have the people. So I think it’s important to use the right book for the right thing: City Stats at the top, Boardroom and Curia at the bottom, and then people of course are just regular GURPS.

HS: Great, so there you go. Gives you more things that you can look at in supplements down the road. Just a comment from our comments, “Just listening to this has got my campaign brain juices flowing: how immortal superheroes deal with living after the end.” That sounds really cool actually.

PK: (laughs) Definitely. Especially, yeah, if you time-skipped a couple of times. It’d be kind of cool if you started off 10 years after the end, and then 50 years, and then jump to 100 years at some point, you know?

HS: I dig it, that sounds really cool. I’m going to keep looking back here in the chat here; I don’t see any overt questions at the moment, just comments about some of the stuff in the past. But we’re moving into kind of the other stuff; it looks like we have a little bit more time so we might as well answer some other worked-series here. We’ve got Daigoro–

PK: And if anyone has any questions about After the End, throw them into the chat.

HS: Yeah, if you guys have any questions about After the End, please drop them into the comments. We’re definitely looking for more After the End stuff here. Let’s see, let me pull up the other questions here. So these are just a couple in the worked-genre area. Daigoro, “When will you give cyberpunk this worked-genre treatment?”

PK: That’s actually a pretty fair question. We’ve talked about it, actually. Cyberpunk is one of the genres that’s been on the table as a discussion point. Let me clarify: We have no current plans for it, unfortunately. (I like cyberpunk.) It’s certainly possible; it’s one of the things that if we can find the right combination of time to do it, author for it, and all that, and it seems to work out, well, it’s certainly possible. But at the moment we don’t have it in the pipeline; I’ll just be completely honest with you.

HS: Well, Anders has got a couple more here, and these are some continuations. “If you were to rewrite Monster Hunters today, with what you’ve learned since then, would you change anything about it and what would you change if you did?”

PK: It really did turn out about the way that I wanted. All I can think of is I might change the name of Ritual Path Magic, just because that confused people. We have a Path/Book Magic and a Ritual Magic and I wrote Ritual Path Magic. I admit, it’s confusing, sorry. “RPM” is an awesome abbreviation for a magic system, and I stand by that, but I could have named it something better. Sorry I don’t have anything deeper for you, but I think Monster Hunters turned out pretty much exactly how I wanted it.

HS: Cool, yeah, awesome. And that’s cool that, you obviously have grown a lot as a writer probably since then, but it’s cool to look back at your old work and say, “I still like this.” I know as someone who writes non-, I don’t don’t write GURPS or anything like that, but as someone who writes in the general sense, it’s sometimes hard to go back and read stuff that you’ve written and be like “I like that,” even right after the fact.

PK: Yeah, usually my going back — I’m fortunate in that my worst things were that I had some key grammatical issues that I would constantly mess up, even as an editor, but fortunately we have other editors working with me to catch those. So usually I feel more disgruntled when I look back and read my unedited drafts of things, and I’m like “Whoops!” (grunt), I’ve learned to stop misusing that word!

HS: (laughs) There you go. Doug actually dropped another comment in our chat here, in which you can ask us about ATE. This isn’t exactly ATE, it’s a worked genre, “Would you say that a worked-genre treatment is an advanced GURPS writing topic, or because it has such a clear outline, would it be a good intro for a writer?”

PK: That’s a good question. I don’t think it’s so much a question of intro versus advanced. I think it’s a question of how well the author gets what we do with these worked-genre series and understands how to define an area, a focus, like a scope to keep it in — and then stick to that scope, and do all the work ahead of time for the people. So I don’t think that’s so much an advanced versus intro thing as it is really more of a paradigm, if someone can wrap their head around what we’re trying to do there. I will say, I don’t think that we would want to give a — and this is more Steven and Kromm’s thing — but I’m of the opinion we probably wouldn’t want a first-time writer out of the gate to start with a worked-genre book, but I don’t think it would have to be necessarily that long a time if they seem to really understand what it needs.

HS: Cool. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Maybe not the first project, but it’s not something that’d take too long to work into. Requires a very disciplined approach, yeah, there you go. That’s a good comment there, Doug, thanks for that question. Actually mentioning, you were talking about RPM a second ago. Humabout came back with a few questions about Ritual Path Magic, “The Ritual Path Magic system has been out for a while now, and I was wondering if there was something you would have done differently or wish you had included in its publication?” I guess other than changing the name and keeping the acronym! (laughs)

PK: Yeah, a cooler name! Actually, there were some things that I wanted to add, change, and make some tweaks to, but I did. The nice thing about being able to keep writing stuff is that GURPS is a living, growing system. In Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic, that is almost a mini-supplement for RPM. And among other things, that’s where I got to focus on new limitations for it, on ways to make it more specialized. Because people pointed out, they complained and said, “The system favors generalists so heavily, there’s no reason to be a specialist,” and I addressed that very tightly. Also in that, this is not me, but Christopher Rice (Ghostdancer) had another article that further expands it. And then I had a couple more small changes that I snuck into Monster Hunters 5. In case anyone did not know or did not notice, Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology is part Monster Hunters book but is also kind of Ritual Path Magic Part 2. Because I included Technomagic and a bunch of little fixes and tweaks that are suggested rules to make things run better.

HS: Cool. And I guess, building off that same question, “Is SJG interested in” — or I guess us in general — “interested in putting out books of RPM rituals? If so, would these be themed a la Plant Spells and Death Spells, or just random mixes of rituals?”

PK: I think we’d try that, sure. If you want to pitch it, go for it! It would probably make more sense for them to be themed in some way, but really, we’ve done grimoires of the standard magic spells before. A lot of people want more examples of Ritual Path Magic. It’s a very flexible system, and it requires figuring out how to put the spell together, so more examples are better. If anyone out there wants to pitch that, shoot us an email!

HS: Great. And it looks like on that same level, “If someone was crazy/fanboy enough to include Divine Favor, RPM, and sorcerous enchantment all in one game, how well would they play together?”

PK: Oh, they’d play great! I’ve done it. They work together very well. Now, sorcerous *enchantment* seems a little specific, because that’s how you get magic items, but that’s certainly a valid way to create magic items. But Sorcery itself works well. I don’t know if you know, Hunter, but RPM tends to take a while. The whole idea is you have this versatility where you think of what spell you want, you stat it up real quick, and then you gather the energy and form it together and it takes time. Sorcery is the complete opposite. Sorcery is, you only have 4 or 5 spells, but you can cast them quick, repeatedly, and with no effort. So basically you spam them. An RPM fireball is the kind of thing that you have to prepare in advance or accept that you’re going to take a couple of minutes to make each fireball. With Sorcery, the fireball is just (pew pew pew). But they work together well, because they cover each other’s flaws. RPM is incredibly versatile, Sorcery is incredibly limited.

HS: (inaudible)

PK: And Divine Favor? Not to sound immodest, because I wrote it, but it plays nice with everything. It’s just, you get help from god when you need it, and I’ve never had it have a problem interacting with anything.

HS: Well, you’ll probably like this comment. Doug also commented, and this is not a question, but he said, “Divine Favor is bar-none the best clerical magic system I’ve ever used in any game.”

PK: Wow, thank you, Doug! (laughs) I appreciate that. Yeah, we have a Dungeon Fantasy game going on right now, and our saint is basically a holy warrior who uses Divine Favor. And he just loves it. He’s a minotaur for Jesus–

HS: (laughs)

PK: –and he just prays and prays and prays for everything, and it has helped us immensely, I’ve got to tell you. His blessings have been wonderful. They have meant the difference between life and death for our group.

HS: That’s always great to hear. Thank you for all the comments, by the way, Doug. You’re really coming in strong with that. We have a couple of fun ones here at the end just to throw in, we wanted to leave them in. Anders said, “If GURPS was a pizza topping, what would it be?”

PK: Ah. It would be a pizza, with little pizzas on it. And each of those little pizzas would have little pizzas.

HS: (laughs)

PK: It goes infinitely deep.

HS: It’s the pizza of pizza toppings! That’s how good it is. That’s where we’re at; that’s awesome.

PK: Fractal pizza. GURPS is a fractal pizza.

HS: Fractal pizza.

PK: If we do a 5th edition, I’m going to push for that tagline: “GURPS: The Fractal Pizza of Roleplaying.” And I will probably get shot down, but I will push that.

HS: You’ve got full support from me. I’m going to start using that on social media now so I can get used to it. Push it there, work on it; it’s like an Inception move.

PK: Everyone, make this a meme! Make this a meme: the fractal pizza of GURPS.

HS: Fractal pizza, the pizza recursion — that’s the comments we’re getting.

PK: Yes, exactly. I want to see a Basic Set-shaped pizza with other little Basic Set-shaped pizzas on it. Don’t let me down, Internet!

HS: (laughs) Get on it, Internet. You’ve got some GURPS articles to write and some memes to create. Last question we have is Minuteman37, “Vanilla or chocolate?”

PK: Ginger.

HS: Oh, there you go! Damn.

PK: Sweet, spicy, and refreshing.

HS: See? That’s what I like about this. We got some fun answers there at the end. So that’s really it looks like all we’ve got. I’m checking the chat one more time to see if you guys have any last ATE questions. But while I’m doing that, thank you very much PK for doing this. This was really awesome to get a little more insight. I’m very happy you guys in the audience actually got a lot of great questions for us. We definitely want to do this again in the future at some point. These were really in-depth questions; that’s kind of what I was looking for, kind of digging into the system a bit rather than skin-deep stuff, so that was really cool. I got a little more insight into it myself as well. Is there any last thing you wanted to talk about, PK?

PK: No, just wanted to say thank you guys for all the questions. You know how to find me on the forums, you know how to find me on Twitter if you need me. I’m certainly not going to stop answering; this was just your chance to trap me in a corner and demand answers.

HS: We were going to take his lunch money, but you guys asked good questions so there you go.

PK: (laughs)

HS: We prevented that horrible torture. “Who’s who”? That’s a good question. So just in case, if you caught us at the very end, I am Hunter, the Community Manager here at Steve Jackson Games.

PK: I am PK Levine, the Assistant GURPS Line Editor.

HS: Perfect, and we’ve been talking about GURPS After the End. We do have one more last-minute question; we’ll go ahead and grab this one since it came in. There is, “How do you feel about mixing supers and After the End?”

PK: Hell yeah! Honestly, if you just run unrestricted mutants, like mutations with no limits, you can practically have a supers game. I’m kind of running into that problem in my game — well, in my mind, I don’t mean to say a problem for you, you know what I mean — where two of the characters have so many mutations that it’s starting to feel a little bit “supers-y.” But just blatant supers, flying around and stuff? I assume whoever asked that, I would hope that you have read “Ex-Heroes,” which in my mind is one of the best post-apocalyptic supers book existing. If not, go read it. “Ex-Heroes.” I think it shows that supers in the wastes? Perfect. It goes.

HS: Awesome. Well there you go. Thanks for that last minute question, there, Christopher. That was Christopher Rice on our live chat there. So guys, this interview is going to be just staying on our YouTube channel, so you can watch it later if you like, and feel free to share and all that good stuff. But PK, thank you for joining me for this interview.

PK: Thanks for having me.

HS: Yeah, no problem at all. We’ll have to do this again some time for sure. Maybe for After the End 3, who knows?

PK: Which I hope someone will propose soon.

HS: Awesome.

PK: I’ve given you topics, people.

HS: Yeah, get on it! After the End 3 is literally out here. It’s in this video. You just need to collect that information and make it, guys. This is up to you now. So thank you guys for joining us. This has been Hunter and PK with Steve Jackson Games. We’ll see you guys next time.

PK: Praise “Bob.”


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