We picked up having . . .

just opened up a door into a room full of crystals pulsing with dark light in some sort of indiscipherable pattern. Some of them are magical, others are just full of what we assume is evil black ooze that glows with a black light, as strange as that is. Nothing seems to be moving.  There are other things that look kind of like the control panels at the doors, but several orders of magnitude more complex.

Thumvar: “So, can we grab some crystals for fun and profit or what?”
Staver: “Or do they bite?”

Cadmus: “Someone else can do that. I’ve had my fill of messing with pulsing crystals”

Shiba starts grabbing crystals, and meanwhile makes a Thaumatology roll.
GM: Shiba, you believe this is some sort of thaumaturgic machine. You’re guessing by the dust in this room it’s been here for… several thousands of years. Minimum. It also appears to still be doing whatever it was designed to do. Two crystals about as large as your index finger in different parts of the room are definitely independently magical, and they’re also definetely tied into the functioning machine. You have no idea what the purpose of the machine is, but you’re guessing it’s related to whatever reason this tower was built for. To be clear, they’re independently magical. But they’re tied into the machine’s functioning in some manner that you can’t figure out.
We’re told we have no idea what removing the crystals that are involved in actually operating the machine would do. Maybe nothing. Maybe boom. Maybe make it do something entirely different. 
Shiba decides to pull the crystals anyway. After Cadmus’ trick with the control panel last game, I can’t really object.
Shiba and Staver notice that all the crystals in the room
seem to be vibrating at a VERY high speed. Their edges are blurring, and
there’s a high pitched whine filling the room. Also, the black light seems to
be bleeding out into the surface of a lot of the crystals.
Shiba: Shiba has no compunctions about retreating. He does.
Though he must be stoic – “Pardon me, coming through the door now.”
he pants calmly.
GM: You get within a yard of the door before all the
crystals in the room explode. The fragments seem to be coated in a smoking
black ooze. And there are a LOT of them.
Shiba gets peppered with a lot of shrapnel, and including his armor, he bounces the first 2, take 3 injury on the right arm, 1 on the right leg, 10 on the right leg (and crippled), 3 on the left arm, and 1 on the left leg. He spends a destiny point on a HT-5 roll so he’s not poisoned, blinded, or otherwise awful things. He stagger/crawls out of the room, and kneels facing the door.
Thumvar pulls a Neo and dodges 
Cadmus rushes up to lay on hands, and decides to prime the pump with a Major Healing potion first. Having healed him and others, we decide we just destroyed a major black magic artifact, patted ourselves on the back, and ride the elevator up another floor.
Whether through accident or apurpose, we see a Remorhaz icon in the middle of the new level.

GM: A huge hexagonal hole lies in the floor of this huge hexagonal chamber. Four stone platforms jut from the walls 16 yards up from the floor in each of the cardinal directions. Above these platforms, a pair of open windows in each wall look out over the icy landscape outside. Six large crystals are embedded in the walls between the windows, glowing with a fierce blue radience. High above, a wide hexagonal opening pierces the cieling. Beyond this opening, a massive sphere of blue light sheds a dazzling radiance. Bolts of crackling electricity join the crystals in the walls with the ball of energy. A howling gale sweeps downwards from the sphere, carrying a rumble of distant thunder.

Immediately to the south of the shaft you just rose up from, you see another crystal control panel embedded in the floor.

As you rise to even with the floor, you see a massive white and blue worm. It’s mouth and it’s scales glow red hot. as it snaps around to look at you. It looks angry. Or hungry. Maybe both.

Mark Langsdorf: I’m suddenly reminded of Peter dell’Orto’s recent blogpost about focusing on the important stuff when describing the room. ie, WHAT ABOUT THE COLD LIZARD DRAGON THING?
Cadmus is thinking this is the perfect time for Righteous Fury, but alas, it’s defined as a “per day” power, not a “per session” power. My daughter happens by and asks if I want some of her Power (she’s four). I say yes; I’m going to need it.
There are also four icy wraiths circling the electric blue sphere, and furtive movement on one of the high platforms.
Staver starts off by sinking an arrow into the Remorhaz’ blazing-hot interior. The thing screams, the shaft burst into flame. 8(2) pi damage, and we’ll see how ugly or not that is.
The movement on the West platform proves to be Kayiyanna, a a beautiful woman with blue skin covered in white whorls peek out from over the edge of the platform. She naturally casts a darkness spell at Thumvar, who has taken flight to try and nail her. In a deadly way. We hope. We also presume that she’s the scary woman that the previous shaman was writing bad poetry about. No one likes a bad poet, so Thumvar will kill her twice.
The ‘hoarfrost spirit’ that Thumvar can no longer see plunges downward. 

GM: You spot movement from the northernmost platform and whip your head around in time to see the decayed corpse of a white dragon launch itself from the platform, soaring unimpeded by the wind towards you.
Cadmus: Oh, shit.

The Remorhaz gets another arrow, this time Guided, from Shiba, who’s got wicked imbuements. It does 9(2) pi, though doesn’t penetrate as deeply as Staver’s. It also bursts into flame, and the hardened steel tip melts out of the wound channel.
Cadmus lumbers after them. He really needs higher Move. I note Cadmus is keeping an eye out for threats, and so

GM: Since you specifically mentioned you were keeping your eyes out, as you’re moving towards Shiba’s back you throw a quick glance over your shoulder and notice a second undead white dragon swooping towards the group from the East.

We are so screwed.
Staver fires another two arrows at the Remorhaz, one hits, another dodged, and again hits for 10(2) pi damage, which elicits another shriek. 
Thumvar flies on, and leaves the darkness enshrouding him behind. The GURPS version of darkness isn’t tied to the subject, thankfully for him. He bursts out of the sphere and travels a few more yards. 

This close to her you see midnight blue hair whipping around her head, and wings of blue-black feathers spread slightly behind her. The feathers aren’t being torn at by the wind like you would expect.Her hands sport long silver nails that glint like razors, and she’s barehanded but wearing a steel breastplate patinaed with frost and a shield on her left arm.She quirks her head quizically in your direction, then twists her hand in your direction while jumping forward and down towards the sphere of blackness.

A lightning bolt sizzles down from the sphere above us, narrowly missing Thumvar (he dodged). And with the dark sphere floating in mid-air, things are going from bad to worse to awful pretty fast.
The Remorhaz charges at Shiba and snaps at him with his jaws; missing. 
Shiba: “Rude.”
Now, a howling spirit composed of wind, with a skeletal face, erupts from the sphere and charges at Thumvar, doing a slam. Thumvar blocks with the silvered sharp edge-blade of his shield. It squeals and peels away. 
Thumvar: “Yah, that’s what I thought you wispy wuss.”
Right about then something freezing cold sweeps through him from behind; he takes 1 point of burn damage from the cold, armor doesn’t protect. The cold alerts Thumvar to the attack, and he slaps some silver in the way on his way out, doing thrust damage for the sword. (lucky roll at -4) He manages 9(2) impaling damage (!), which ain’t bad.
Both of the dragons swoop towards Cadmus and Shiba, and one breathes a torrent of black ice. Cadmus flings himself aside, while Shiba uses his magical Peshkali shield to block the attack, and then tries to use Blinding Defense (Shield) vs. the dragon. This imparts a -6 Obscure penalty to Dragon #2.
And two pillars of whirling air approach from the south. Big pillars (SM+2).
Mark Langsdorf: It’s like Nate decided he likes boss fights so he decided to just have a bunch of bosses in the fight.
Shiba shouts “The Caterpillar Grasps the High Leaf!” and stabs the Remorhaz in the eye, extending his energy blade into the creature. It lashes out in defense with one of its many legs, but Shiba spends a Knight! point (his second for this blow) to make the defense go awry. 8 imp to the eye later, Shiba neatly sidesteps as it brainlessly continues past, coming to a sliding stop 
Cadmus rolls away from the sliding beast, invoking Smite for perhaps 6 injury, but the fire is muted, likely by the incredibly Evil vibes from this place.
And the wind spirits arrive at the party. Both slam Shiba, who seems to be the punching bag of this fight, for 10 cr double knockback, so he takes 6 injury and is pushed one hex. He keeps his feet nicely, though he’s cooked a bit (armor protects) by standing too closely to a recently-alive Remorhaz. The second deals 5 cr double knockback, which is ineffective.
Staver takes aim with two Deluxe arrows: Balanced Fine Silver Accurate +2 Puissance. Yow. Emily triggers her Mighty MapTools Macro of Doom:

Fast Draw: 2 Arrows (19-2) result:
by 3 »
Ready (18)
by 10 »

Shoot Bow at Katiyana
@ range penalty -3
by 6 automatic deceptive attack for -2/-1 » -1 to
defend due to DWA
Damage is 11
imp (2) if successful.

Shoot Bow at Katiyana (20) @
range penalty -3
by 6 automatic deceptive attack for -2/-1 » -1 to
defend due to DWA
Damage is 8
imp (2) if successful.

Pretty cool, eh? Alas, the nimble minx blocks both.
The blue lady of darkness is mid-sphere, so cannot be seen by Thumvar, so he Heroic Charges past Hoarspirit 3, chopping at it with a Deceptive Attack, then jinks down to 1 yard above the ground. He spends a Knight! point to hit, and since it’s back is to Thumvar, it is cloven nicely in two.
Katiyana reaches one taloned hand out to Staver, her eyes flashing. Staver spends 1FP on a Feverish Defense, and critically succeeds. A lightning bolt flashes down, again, from the glowing sphere above, slamming down with a resounding crack. She then moves. Fast. 
A hoarfrost spirit charges through Shiba; another charges through Staver, to the backs of both. Shibas shows great sense, disappearing through the floor. Maybe out of range of Cadmus’ Smite maybe not.
The dragon that was close by Cadmus keeps going swooping into the black sphere. The other hits rather a lot of us with another strafing run. Katiyana is too high to be affected; everyone else is immune to cold. Shiba blocks with his magic shield, and Cadmus dodge-and-rolls out of the way. Lucky.
Shiba: Step back, shout “The Bell Tolls!” (Project Blow, Knight) and “The Termite Undermines the Pillar” (Penetrating Blow, Knight), and chop Dragon 1’s neck from a distance result:  «succeeded by 1 » and result:  «failed by 3 » taking the maximum DA penalty possible from by skill of 19 for 9 cu damage. Naturally he spends a Knight point to make this attack succeed. The dragon defends successfully, however.
A wind elemental gestures at Cadmus, unleashes a bolt of lightning, which misses, and another fires one off at Shiba, 
And the almost-see-through surface beneath Cadmus and Shiba’s feet flickers out of existence over a chasm 120yds deep.
We end there.

Session Notes

Cadmus was more or less not active this game. Got in one smite, one heal, and mostly a lot of nothing because he’s slow, has no ranged combat ability, and is generally ineffective on flying creatures. Also, some discussion was had about Righteous Fury, which is by the rules a per-day ability (in-game day), but I’d like to make that the 0% switch to per-game-session, because there are lots of other coolness things, like the supply of Destiny Points that enhance a character’s utility, that do work on a per-session basis. Also, RF is self-limiting – since I can’t keep it up when I Smite or use Protection from Evil, in fact, by letter-of-rules it dispels the RF effect, whenever I’ve got RF up (and therefore am toe-to-toe with some bad guy), I’m off my status as “guy who can bring wrath to the undead” for 3d seconds.

We’ll see what the GM says.

Sumo Wrestling is the ugly red-headed stepchild of GURPS grappling skills. It really doesn’t get much love in character design from what I can tell.

So, is that bad? Or is it appropriate to relegate Sumo to the dustbin of skills that should be eliminated, replaced, or otherwise shunned?

Sumo! Huh! What is it good for?

Slams and shoves are strikes, and so were not included in Technical Grappling’s consideration of combat grappling skills. And yet, Sumo Wrestling is the only such skill that adds to that damage. It contributes its training bonus to slam and shove damage using Sumo on the fast progression, like wrestling. So if you’re rockin’ Sumo at DX+7, you get a +4 bonus to Trained ST, and that doubles at ST 20-29, triples at ST 30-39, etc. If you like simple scaling as a multiplier, consult Harsh Realism: Scaling Trained ST on p. 7.

Sumo is the only skill that breaks into two progressions – perhaps another reason, though a new one, not to like it much. But what it’s good for is some pretty core stuff: making and resisting grapples, slams and shoves, breaking free, forcing a posture change, and sweeps. Everything else – such as locks, throws, position changes, and pretty much anything not on the “approved” list, uses the slow progression instead.

Staying Upright

Any time you go to the ground in GURPS, you’re going to be at significant penalties unless you’ve had the foresight to buy off Ground Fighting. That’s a very smart investment of 5 points to cancel offensive penalties and leave the defensive penalties at -1. Or you can spend an extra 2 points to buy Technique Mastery (Ground Fighting) and another single point into Ground Fighting itself, which gives 6 points in the skill, buying off the -3 penalty to defend on the ground completely. So, for 5-7 points, you’re as good on the ground as you are standing up.

That’s a pretty good use of points . . . if you want to go to the ground with your foe.

But in a swirling melee, especially an armed one with many foes, you often do not want to do that. The limited mobility can be a killer – literally.

With Sumo, a lot of the moves you will do once you get your foe down are on the slow progression, and often one or two points of Trained ST lower than the fast one. In reality, that’s probably only 1 CP different, but it will be 2 points different in Contests of Trained ST, so there’s that.

In any case, what can you use Sumo for? Getting someone on the ground while you stay upright.


The most basic is to grapple someone on one attack, and do a takedown (Force Posture Change) on the next attack. This could be done with the always-risky All-Out Attack (Double), as well as Rapid Strike. If you’ve got 25 points to burn, you can pull it with an Extra Attack . . . but you can also buy +6 to skill with those points, and just throw the Rapid Strike by itself and all other stuff with that skill.

The next one is the Sweep, which is done at Sumo Wrestling-3, and just dumps them in one move, with no grapple needed, and the contest can leverage Trained ST or Sumo Wrestling-3 on the offense (or Sweep if you’ve bought it up) on the offense. If you do grapple first, you can spend those CP to get your foe down, and since Sweep doesn’t retain CP, you should do this.

Finally, slams and shoves. If you do more damage than your foe, he has to roll DX or fall down, and he automatically goes down if you do 2x his damage. So this is a nice option with Sumo, since it can inflict actual injury, and might knock him down regardless. A shove will push a foe back one yard for every ST-2, and again, if any knockback is suffered, there’s a DX-type roll (check p. B378 for details) or fall down.

Instant Takedown, Just Add Weapons

Combining Sumo Wrestling and a good weapon skill can be all kinds of fun, especially with the right weapon. A “bearded” axe (or maybe any axe) can probably be considered a Hooking weapon (TG, p. 15) and be used at +2/die CP to perform an armed grapple. Shoving someone out of CC or Reach 1 to your preferred Reach (say, with a Bill or dueling bill), then using hook to grapple and perform a Force Posture Change using the extra CP boost from a rigid melee weapon on top of Sumo Wrestling can just be an exercise in badassery. The question of “how do I prevent someone from closing to Reach C or 1” can be answered with a Sumo Wrestling shove, or you just embrace it, grapple from Reach 1 using Committed (Long), or step in and grapple and takedown . . . or just sweep . . . with your unarmed grappling skill.

Parting Shot

I said this in TG, and I’ll say it again now: if you really want to be a weapon fighter, but want to have a good close combat option while remaining a weapon fighter, Sumo Wrestling should probably be your go-to choice. It’s not well known, but with the right tactics, it should be a devastating combination.

Hmm. I will test this, and make my upcoming Dwarven Loremaster with this ability. +Christian Blouin is using the TG rules in his game(s), so I’ll get the opportunity to see how this plays out, maybe even this Tuesday!

After all of the pro/con discussion – most of it remarkably civil, thanks – I stumbled upon a fun (if strongly tilting towards the negative) counterpoint that ups the ante on the topic of GURPS‘ relative complexity:

How to GURPS and why it sucks anyway, by Mu.

The “TLDR” section contains a lot of goodness buried (intentionally) in what he himself calls Bittervetting.

While I might disagree with some of his points, I think there’s not much doubt that his perception of the perception of GURPS to the general public is spot-on, or at least a depressing amount of accuracy.

So, what would successful GURPS look like in his eyes? Based on his description, it’s simple.

Dungeon Fantasy

This answers all of his questions, more or less, except those about the presentation of the Basic Set.

It’s got pared-down character creation based on Templates. So a prospective player can look at a list of job descriptions, and say “yeah, gimme that.” Then only look at the basic mechanics enough to figure out what his character can do, as opposed to any character that might exist for the rest of time.

The GM has a list of simplified options, since DF is explicitly based on “kill monsters and take their stuff.” There are some fun pre-built monsters in Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, and if you need NPCs or humanoid fodder, you can’t do too far wrong to pick up Henchmen, since that gives options for quarter- and half-strength guys with a lot of variability to their role. Need an enemy evil cleric? Grab a half-strength template, slap on a few mods, and roll with it.

Monster Hunters

I love monster hunter type settings in the modern day. The only issue with this one is that the templates are so huge (400 points go a long way in GURPS) that for a new player, it’s probably still overwhelming. Fortunately, you can bite a small chunk of the apple with the “only” DF-powered Sidekicks, which are 200-point “half strength” heroes that are probably easier to work with.


I think this is one of GURPS’ diamonds in the rough. A lot of the complaints people might have with option overload and rules depth are answered in this one, quite handily. It never took off, though, for some reason. Maybe not enough worked examples, or that those who want to play modern-day games don’t want simplified treatments. Dunno.

Parting Shot

There’s a clear recipe for success in here, I think, and it’s worth teasing it out.


First off, for the players, to get them “in the mood” to want to play the game, there needs to be a list of templates, which is something that the more successful sub-lines are already doing. Where I think that we could do better is that either in addition to, or instead of, the massive list of choices you have to make (and even that list is pared down from the full list in the Basic Set), we could present types of lenses that group the actual choices in a template into themes.

Monster Hunters already did some of this with things like Motivational Lenses (p. 6), which are fun little bits – but only 15 points of choices, which is digestible by basically everyone.

But head on down to the first template on the list, Commando, and I hate to say it but it’s a nearly unapproachable stat block. Choose 30 points from a list of over 30 options – some of which are categories, like “Perks” or have a lot of sub-options within them (point cost [Varies]).

I know why the packages are presented as they are – to save space on the page, and I’m sure that the bulleted list that this type of “Choose from . . . ” thing screams out for would look quite terrible in the standard two-column layout that is part of the trade dress. The massive amount of white space such a list might create would probably look bad on the page, but between “lots of white space” and “a block of text so dense your eyes glaze over” there must be a happy medium.

Granted, this template format works great using GURPS Character Assistant, and the program explicitly supports these templates (once the books are out and a happy volunteer does the coding) and presents the choices in easily digestible visual format.

But if perhaps we grouped some of these choices into pre-generated lenses:

Commando 30-point Advantage Lenses

Strong-Jawed Leader: Born War Leader 2 [10]; Danger Sense [15]; Fearlessness 2 [4]; Brave [1].
Fightin’ Machine: DX +1 [20]; DR 2 (Tough Skin) [6]; 4 Gun-Fu perks [4].
Will Never Stop: HT+1 [10]; Will +2 [10]; Fit [5]; Rapid Healing [5].

You might still list all the possible choices for people who like to fight the power and build their own specific mix. But these sorts of ready-made collections are simply gold for getting the game moving along in digestible pieces.

And in fact, if you get through the block of text, you find Customization Notes that provide exactly this in text, rather than bullet, format. So it might be easy to miss – but Jason did put it there.

Cutting to the Chase

While GURPS depth and coverage is impressive, it’s also daunting. And it’s likely that while I can draw pedantic differentiation between complicated games and worked examples of simple rules, the fact of the matter is there’s a lot to bite, and if people won’t play then the argument of whether GURPS is complicated or simple in the Clauswitzian sense is moot.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and I was going to make a post about attack and defense options on lulls and flurries again, but I’m going to return to that at a later date.

There’s an interesting thread on the Forums which makes the bald statement that GURPS seems to be engineered for people that enjoy really complex rules.”

This raised my hackles a bit, and I’ll tell you why: GURPS’ basic rules are not complex.

Ooo, I can hear the knives sharpening already . . .

What you Say?

They’re not complex. Seriously, there are about four or five rules you really need to know. You need to know what an attack-defense roll is. You need to know a reaction roll (and if reaction rolls had been made roll-low, use MoS to determine result, there would be one fewer mechanism) and it’s roll-high lookup. There’s a damage or effect roll, where you roll Nd6 for damage, fatigue, or control points. There’s the Quick Contest mechanic, and the infrequently used Regular Contest mechanic.

Those are the rules, really, at their core. The central mechanics. Want to hit something? Great. Roll an attack, roll a defense, if you hit, roll damage. That’s about as simple as you can get and still preserve the defense roll, which I like. A lot.

But everyone knows GURPS is complex. You’re on drugs.

The issue, such as it is, is less that the game is complex than that it suffers from option overload. This comes in two flavors.

Option Overload 1: Choices

You can hit someone with a sword.

Or, you can do an Committed Attack (Determined) with Rapid Strike and Telegraphic, aiming at the leg.

Or Deceptive Attack, Defensive Attack, All-Out Attack, Move-and-Attack, etc. Sweeps, kicks, punches, pointed sticks, Trip, Evade, etc.

Lots of choices. Block, Parry, Dodge, sometimes one or more of all of those.

These, though, are optional depth for those who want it. For those who don’t:

“I hit him with my sword.”“OK, roll to hit: 3d6, roll under your skill.”“I rolled 10 vs. my skill of 14. I hit.”“Your foe tries to parry your blow; he rolls vs his Parry score of 9; 11. Sucks to be him. Roll damage.”“Hah! I roll 2d-1 cut, and roll 8 points.”

If you want to say that’s flavorless, well, it’s the exact same flavor as most games have when you want to play fast and loose. That feels a lot like Pathfinder (though that doesn’t have the defense rolls) to me, and Pathfinder is plenty fun to play, and the 800-lb. gorilla of the gaming industry.

Option Overload 2: Modifiers

The place that does make things seem like a slippery slope to hell is that many of the things you can do cause your skill to be modified to do them. The act of shooting a gun at someone automatically requires a penalty – one of the steepest in GURPS – based on range.

If you choose to do so, you can get “I attack” replaced with “I do a Committed Attack (Determined), with Rapid Strike and Telegraphic, to the leg. That brings up a whole hose of modifiers and restrictions.

Ironically, this nets out to “roll at flat skill,” I’m pretty sure.

That’s complex, isn’t it? Not really. You figure out what you’re doing, and assign modifiers. If you don’t know them, you can either stop play and look them up (which everyone will say don’t do that) or just make something up.

The complexity, such as it is, only comes into play with the list of modifiers, which are in place to provide real choices to players as to what they do. If you don’t want that, and want rules-light “just tell me who hits whom and how hard,” then you can do that.

If you want to do a blow-by-blow detailed fight, well, you can. And in combat, by and large you’re talking either an Attack-Defense pair (a pair of sort-of opposed rolls), or a Quick Contest (directly opposed rolls).

Sometimes, in play, I’ll just hear the description of what the player wants to do, and roll dice. If the roll is really good or really bad, fine. Unless the modifiers are so extreme that ONLY a really good or bad roll can alter the outcome, you can just say “yep, you hit/miss.” If it’s in the middle, drag out the modifiers.

That probably bothers some people. That’s OK too.

Complexity Management

The key bit is not trying to eat an entire cow at once. If you aren’t familiar with the ebb and flow of the two or three basic resolution mechanics in GURPS, well, you’d better start with just that. At some point, you or your players might get the hankering for more detail. So you can then add on All-Out Attacks and Defenses. Later on, you can add the intermediate Committed and Defensive Attacks. Then you can toss in Rapid Strikes and other Attack Options. Then Techniques based on skills, many of which will drag in Quick Contests instead of Attack-Defense pairs.

Just don’t eat the entire baron of beef at once. You’ll get a bad case of indigestion, and that applies to game systems as well as yummy yummy cow parts.

OK, Now That Really IS Complex

I forgot one thing: building powers and advantages with the system of power, advantage, limitation that is presented in the basic rules.

I’ll admit those give me a terrible headache, though I’m growing more familiar with them, a touch, through my use of Divine Favor (which is basically powers and alternate abilities) in the GURPS Jade Regent game.

So, I’ll cop to that one full-on. That, to me, is actually complex.

Parting Shot

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I’m differentiating between detail and complexity here. I think they’re different. GURPS has a limited number of things you need to remember at it’s core, but it is a system with multiple optional levels of detail that can be employed depending on player and GM preference. As such, there’s more and more information (modifiers and options) you might have to know, but they’re not of the “special exception” basis, mostly, with very few new mechanics.

I’ve also been playing the game for almost 25 years, and that probably has something to do with it.

A comment that was recently made struck an idea in my head, and that was that what makes characters different is what makes the game fun. The differences in their capabilities.

That struck me funny, and it took me a moment to realize why. GURPS allows two different characters that have completely identical capabilities to play absolutely differently. It’s a matter of player choice.

You can have two characters with absolutely identical stats that play very, very differently depending on player choices of maneuver, and especially of Attack and Defense Options.

Player 1 might play aggressively, with lots of Deceptive Attacks, Committed Attacks, and never using Retreat except to close with the enemy.

Player 2 might play defensively, with Defensive Attacks, lots of Retreats, maybe even holding his weapon in a defensive grip. He can lower his foe’s defenses, but does so leveraging Riposte rather than Deceptive Attack.

Player 3 might use extensive use of Combinations (OK, that legitimately is something you’d spend points on), or always use Feints and Beats, followed by the nearly-suicidal All-Out Attack (Strong) to land that one killing blow (or Committed Attack (Strong) instead).

Point is, all of these could be done with the same character – a “generalist” – but depending on player choices and style, can have very different impacts.

I’m not going to claim that this is unique to GURPS. I suppose two Pathfinder characters with identical Feats might have the same choices – I’ve never seen that, though, so I can’t comment. But I bet you could hand out five characters to five players that are basically identical, and get at least three good emergent play styles, if not five.

For my second interview – technically I suppose it’s a podcast – I took +Sean Punch up on his suggestion during our discussion that the next time we did something like this, he’d like to have some of his fellow creators with him.I aimed big, and invited +Steven Marsh, Sean, +David Pulver and four of the most prolific contributors to Pyramid Magazine to what would be up to two hours of conversation using Google Hangouts On Air. As before, I provided a list of questions that I’d likely be asking, but also noted that I’d let the discussion go places on its own.

This time, I got ahead of things, and so this post will contain the video link, an uploaded audio file, and the full text transcript of the interview. Thanks to +Christopher Rice, who did the transcription, for getting this done in just a few days. And of course, thanks to +Andy Vetromile, J Edward Tremlett, +Matt Riggsby for spending time with me on Saturday night!

Edit: Matt Riggsby came in late and was plagued with some technical difficulties. He graciously expanded on his thoughts on some of the questions that were asked, and posted them to his blog, Tetsujin No Llama. They’re worth reading!

Christopher Rice also blogs at Ravens N’ Pennies.


Click for MP3 Audio File

Pyramid Panel Discussion – Text Transcript

Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic): Just be yourselves and that’s why we have some of this [holds
up glass of red wine] so we can all be ourselves . . . or more of ourselves than we usually are.

I wanted to first thank you guys for joining. To have so many people make
time, a couple of hours, is gratifying and I do appreciate it. So, let’s
get started.

Welcome to the second interview conducted on Gaming Ballistic.
After the interview with the GURPS Line Editor, Sean Punch, I
invented . . . ahh invited! (Invented? I didn’t invent anything.) I invited StevenMarsh, Sean Punch, David Pulver who are very much regulars at Pyramid
magazine, being the editor, line editor, and regular columnist; and the four
most published authors since Pyramid volume three hit the
shelves. That would be Andy Vetromile, Christopher Rice, David Pulver, JamesTremlett, and Matt Riggsby will hopefully being joining us later.

So just
getting right into it, I wanted to start off with giving Steven the opportunity
to tell us a little bit about Pyramid magazine and what it means – or is – to Steve Jackson Games – kind of a mission statement, or purpose . . . or evil
plot or conspiracy, which would make a good segue to the next question.

Steven Marsh (e23 and Pyramid Editor): From my perspective, Pyramid is the official support magazine primarily for GURPSnowadays, but we are certainly open to supporting other Steve Jackson Games products. Umm, primarily role-playing games. Designed to be both a regular source of material for gamers as well as kind of the cutting edge of what GURPS is doing and where it’s going. So it’s a proving ground for new authors, a regular source of material, and kind of a spot where we toss out ideas and tell the fans what do you think of this…thing here. And it’s pretty much been working well in all those capacities, certainly with the start of the third volume. Five years ago now, as of this month.

Douglas: How well does that mission statement resonate with you guys? Do you like to write crazy stuff? Do you like to get out there with expansions on existing material? How do you tie what you’re writing to either the themes Steven has suggested or what’s in your heart.

Andy Vetromile (Pyramid Author): I have a tendency to go more for systemless articles, which is odd given that Pyramid has become something more of a house organ or dedicated more towards GURPS, but, it is not so much that I don’t want to write the GURPS statistics, it’s just that sometimes I worry I might not do them justice.So I kind of like doing the more free-form tings. I shy away from anything too specific that requires me to start creating a lot of characters. But characters and such are kind of like the quotes in a school paper: it takes a lot of nice spice, but at the same time it takes away from word count you could be doing something else with.

Christopher R. Rice (Pyramid Author): Okay, I have the exact opposite kind of view there. I think that GURPS gamers – and [all] gamers – but specifically GURPS gamers want crunch. But they want just enough fluff to justify the crunch, I usually between 40% and 50% to 50% and 60%, give and take, that way people can jump off whatever I have come up with. I especially like doing system add-ons. I like taking a book and grabbing and seeing how I can twist it into other different pretzely shapes.

Andy: My comments certainly weren’t meant to estimate the audience for the book, certainly it was more a estimation of my shortcomings than anything else.

Steven: I have to concur that Christopher’s really good at that 60%/50% mix. I get a 110% article and I’m like what am I going to do with this, ya know? So I just cram it in that issue.

Christopher: [laughs] In my defense, you’re keeping me aliveeee.

[Everyone laughs]

Steven: No pressure for me.

Douglas: What gave you, Steven, the idea for coming up with themes for magazines. So every issue has a theme, and you posted a list of themes in the wish list. And later on when we do the text transcript, we’ll have a link to the wish list so people can get to it. But why themes? Why not fill it with random stuff? Does that speak to what you want to see or how writers write? What drove the theme concept I guess? The theme theme.

Steven: To offer a little bit of background, the first volume of Pyramid, started 25 years ago, I think this year. Might be 20 years.

Sean Punch (GURPS Line Editor): On the order of . . . it was a long time ago.

Steven: Umm yeah, so for the first 30 issues bi-monthly paper magazine, it was a system, or industry wide cover-everything kind of gaming magazine. So you’re likely to find anything in a particular issue.With the advent of . . . that magazine ended and we started up the HTML version of Pyramid which lasted from ’98 to five years ago, whatever that would be, 2008 I think. And that was a weekly log-in subscription based HTML, anything goes, cover everything online magazine.It was a great magazine, I loved editing it, and we had some very dedicated fans, but the format of it was such that when you subscribed you got access to the entire back catalog of issues, which I used to joke at conventions means that the longer you don’t subscribe the better the deal you get when you do. But encouraging people to not scribe isn’t the best long term strategy.

With the third edition, we went over it a fair bit and I believe it was actually our marketing director at the time – Paul Chapman. And he noted – and I didn’t disagree – that if we’re going to go to a PDF format, folks are going to want a issue where they have a reasonable shot of using most of what’s in a particular issue.

So if it was just a hodgepodge of articles, and they are only into sci-fi gaming, and there is only one sci-fi article, a bunch of Dungeon Fantasy articles, and some modern day, and they’re paying their $8 a issue for 5 pages of material or whatever it is.

So with the themes we’re really trying to foster the long tail and encourage folks to pick up the issues that interest them. And those who subscribe get something cool every month, but the theme is a way to kind of tie back issues together, as well as inspire authors that they may not of thought of before. I’ve gotten lots of queries that are like: “Oh, I really hadn’t thought of doing a Victorian article, but since you got a issue coming up, here’s my pitch.”

David L. Pulver (System Architect and Game Designer): Yeah, the theme, the theme concept is quite good because it really does inspire you to get out of a rut. Doing things like cavemen and dinosaurs in a dungeon was something I would have never thought of except that you had a prehistoric theme. And I had a dungeon.

Douglas: Who doesn’t have a dungeon? So what does the rest of the author panel think? Do you like writing the theme? Or do you have this…, I know that Christopher has you know 700 articles covering a broad range of things and just you know, and just puts them all in Stevens [email] box to encourage sanity loss, but you know, for the rest of you guys do you write to theme or…?

James Edger Tremlett (Pyramid Author): I find it helps me to kind of focus my ideas a little bit. I remember back during the second iteration of Pyramid when I first started writing for the magazine that it would take me a little while because I was running the Wraith project at the time, and I was typing like mad to get that out every month. I think “Hmmm, what can I do for Call of Cthulhu this month?” and finally something would come to me.This way I can actually look at a list that says “We like this… this month, this next month, this that month.” So I can actually start thinking, “Yeah, here’s an idea I can throw at that . . . here’s a idea I can throw at that.” So from a writer’s perspective at least it’s a very useful thing to be able to say: “Okay, I really need to start thinking space adventures some time really darn soon or I’m going to miss the cut off and I’m going to bang my head against the wall.”

Andy: I’ve got a love/hate relationship with it. I like the idea that I get some guidance so that I’m not completely at sea with what I’m writing, but at the same time some of the…if you run up against one of the more esoteric topics, then you may or may not be able to come up with something. I’ll brainstorm, I’ll call it brainstorming, but it’s truly brain pounding, uh slapping my head against the desk trying to come up with something that fits. It isn’t always that easy.But, sometimes, yeah, sometimes it does push you that little extra bit further and other times I end up missing it cause I think “It’s natural magic this month, what am I going to say that hasn’t already been said about magic,” which leads me back into how great I am with system mechanics.

David: Some of the magic articles were the hardest for me to come up with a theme concept. Magic on the battlefield. Laws of magic. That sort of thing.

Sean: I have to admit I’m not much of a theme player. I work for the company so I can get away with writing over the transom pretty much full time. So I send Steven random stuff to make him lose hair. I think I’m the company version of Christopher. Christopher does it from the outside and I do the staff version. So Steven doesn’t really have a choice but to create a issue to entertain freaks like us. And I know Christopher doesn’t like clowns, so I’ll say for example I sent Steven something about carnies.

[All laugh]

Christopher: No man, that’s not cool. No.

James: That’s always cool.

Douglas: Did you actually write an article just to tweak Christopher? Cause that’s awesome.

Sean: That was retroactive y’all. I didn’t know he didn’t like clowns till just now.

[All laugh]

Christopher: It’s okay, I’m not gonna run screaming.

Sean: The tachyon feed from the future told me this, so I was acting on knowledge from my own self from the future without realizing it. I saw that in Prince of Darkness, good movie.

Steven: One of the secrets of Pyramid is I really try to plug in things as best I can. And sometimes, y’know, I just end up fudging it as best I can. We had a Tools of the Trade: Thieves issue that got some folks who were writing about law enforcement, and folks who were writing about how to stop thieves, so I was like, okay. This has drifted off course, but there is still obviously a unifying theme here. I just need to figure out what it is. I think it was “The Rogue’s Life.”

Christopher: Yup.

Steven: And that was a kind of a past, present . . . future even . . . look at both sides of larceny basically.There was a mystery science theater 3000 segment where they set up a crisis hotline for one of the movies, “Hobgoblins.” And one of the folks calls in and says “Oh yes, I have a terrible problem.” And they’re like okay “It does relate to the movie Hobgoblins, right?” “Oh yes, yes. So one day, while I was watching the movie Hobgoblins, I came across this totally unrelated problem.” [Others laugh]So, umm, I’ve frequently find myself [saying] “Well, when frequently facing dinosaurs you might use . . . Martial Arts” and slap a intro on there that otherwise I can squint and it works okay, y’know.

Christopher: I personally love themes, because it gives it me something to write too. Like, I ran out of wish list – you need to get on that by the way, Steven. I’ m out of wish list. You need to give me something to do, you don’t want me bored.

[All Laugh]

Christopher: Bored for me is Bad™.

Steven: I’m working on about 14 issues concurrently. Really, my sanity is not where it should be at this point.

[All laugh]

Sean: Steven, you know, this is not something I’ve ever seen. You work for the same company as me, you’re not allowed to be sane, right?

Steven: There is that.

[All Laugh]

Andy: I’ve got articles I wrote over a year ago that aren’t going to see publication for another three months. So, it can be interesting it’s almost like “found money” when you get that check in the mail. “Oh yeah, I wrote this.” I seem to have some recollection of that.

Steven: [laughs]

David: What’s everybody’s longest article, not longest, but longest time they took to get an article published? I know the earliest one I ever submitted was in 1989 for the old Roleplayer, and I only just got that published a few months ago.

Douglas: Oh, wow.

Steven: That wasn’t me [laughs].

David: That was the mecha article. I submitted it a while back for Roleplayer, but Steven picked it up for Pyramid.

Sean: Roleplayer, wow. I did find Pyramid number one by the way, that’s what I was flashing, it was made June ’93 actually.

David: That’s cool.

Sean: Now we know.

Andy: ’93…wow.

David: Yeah.

Andy: Thanks I was feeling pretty good about myself until this point, now I realize . . .

[All laugh]

Andy: My subscription could be going to college, grad school even.

David: Anybody got any issues of GURPSnet?

Andy: [laughs]

Douglas: I will occasionally find posts of mine that I did on GURPSnet, usually about your Vehicles book, David.

David: No, I mean the newsletter.

Douglas: No, no not me.

Andy: All hail GURPS Vehicles.

David: [laughs].

Sean: I know where they might be, but there are spiders up there, so I’m not getting them out. But they’re up there.

Andy: Few books made me feel more powerful when I held them in than GURPS Vehicles. This makes me dangerous.

David: You can kill spiders with them, it’s not quite as good as umm those Hero games books which are rated for ballistic damage resistance, but…

Andy: [laughs].

David: Those things are hardbacks.

Christopher: Speaking of other game books, David didn’t you write the Sorcerous Crusade for Mage: The Ascension.

David: Nope.

Andy: I edited that!

David: Nope.

Andy: I co-edited it.

Christopher: I must be thinking of Phil Masters.

David: Phil Masters you are thinking of probably.

Christopher: Embarrassing.

David: Not really, it was a good book.

James: A Fantastic book.

Andy: Thank you.

David: I’ve never actually been published by White Wolf . . .I was published by White Wolf Magazine once.

Douglas: [laughs] That actually ties into a question that I think we started to touch on, but will certainly come back around to. So okay, I’m a perspective writer and I want to do something on . . . grappling, or bows and arrows, or like evil clowns with bows and arrows who grapple.


[All laugh but Christopher, who is not amused.]

Sean: Christopher [holds up hands witch-like].

Douglas: Yeah I know, that can get really ugly. So I want to write for Steve Jackson Games, either that or Pyramid specifically, or I want to write a book. How do I approach the matter. How do I get that done.

David: Wait for the theme to come round?

Douglas: [laughs].

Steven: To back up a little bit…

Douglas: If I’m a new author, how do I break into this. For some reason, one has a penchant that they really want to enter the role-playing game business because they’re tired of eating or something. So how do they get started.

David: Do you mean enter the actual business, or just enter to Pyramid. Pyramid is easy.

Douglas: Let’s say you want to establish yourself as a writer, for gaming articles . . . or books.

Andy: Steven could use the money, so a bribe isn’t out of the question . . .

Steven: It’s funny because when I met my wife we were both at a convention in New Jersey and we were both on a…

Douglas: That’s two strikes against you: Convention and New Jersey.

Andy: [laughs].

Steven: Yes. Well. And we were posting a panel about how to break into the gaming industry. The only folks who showed up were already in the gaming industry, so we changed it to how to break out of the gaming industry.

[all laugh]

David: Should have gone there.

Steven: Almost anyone that wants to write for Steve Jackson Games, primarily GURPS at this point, but there is always the possibility of other projects in the future. I…


Douglas: Robert Kelk would love to see an In Nomine article. Anywhere.

Steven: …[laughs] No.

Douglas: [laughs].

Steven: I’ve toyed with it. No. It’s a can of worms that I’d need to be filling my oats before I toss that line out.But, anyone interested in writing for e23, I strongly in no uncertain terms suggest they write for Pyramid first. The reason being is that the stakes behind a 3,000 word article are significantly lower than a 25,000 word manuscript.I can be much more forgiving and coaching, and adaptive for someone who’s trying to learn the ropes with Pyramid. And a lot of our folks have gotten starts. I wish Matt were here, because he’s one of the folks that I’m like [mimes tears] “I’ve seen him grow up.” He kind of was in Pyramid and one of our better writers there and is now releasing all these cool supplements on his own, and he still writes for us for some reason.

But, the biggest piece of advice I have is understand your market, understand what you are writing toward. In this case . . . read a bunch of Pyramid. Get a feel for what a Pyramid article looks like and sounds like. I’ll get in articles from folks that are 4,000 words without any kind of break, it’s just like a 4,000 word essay.

[snickers from panel]

Steven: Does this look like anything that has ever appeared in our publication? And I’ll get other folks that send a 300 word “You might have spaceships show up and attack some geese.”

[more laughs]

Steven: And I’m like, that’s way to short. So have a idea of what…when your article is done you should be able to squint and look at it and say “Yes, I could see how this could appear in the pages of a magazine.”

Douglas: What’s the shortest article you’re willing to publish?

Steven: During the HTML era, I started up a feature called “Appendix Z:” which has morphed into in the new series into anything that will fit on one page. And that’s gonna be 500 to 800 words there. Generally speaking, the shortest that a article is going to be that’s likely cover its topic reasonably well is gonna be 1,500 to 2,200 words.

David: I’m assuming about 850 words per page, is that accurate at the moment?

Steven: Yes.

Douglas: What are the best and worst parts for writing for Pyramid?

James: Getting the email saying “its in.” My God, does that feel so good.

David: Money is nice.

Christopher: Money is nice.

Andy: Money? money rocks.

David: Seriously, I think that Steven is very good to work with. He’s a very good communicator as an editor. Also the rapid pace of publication that in most instances you get relative…you don’t have to wait as long as you would with a non-magazine project or even a e23 project. I’d say the worst thing is that there is not too much consumer feedback in most cases.

Christopher: No there is not [shakes head].

David: It’s a pity we don’t have a letter column or something [laughs wheezing].

Steven: I had one.

David: …I treasure the occasional feedback I get on the GURPS forum. It would be nice if people who liked the articles . . . or hated the articles . . . would post and tell everybody.

Sean: This is a general issue with electronic publishing actually.

David: Well yeah.

Sean: We encourage people to speak up about our stuff, but absent the physical gathering at a store or whatever, it’s a little harder, sometimes, for us to get feedback from people.

David: Yeah, sometimes the most feedback seems to come from the crunch-heavy articles. I worry a little bit about the more fluffy articles that I’ve done. Or the adventures. Because I haven’t go much or any comment on them.

James: There doesn’t seem to be a culture of critique in the forums that I remember being in the second iteration of Pyramid. Someone whose name I can’t remember, but every time we got an issue and he would always go into the forums and go “Okay, here is what was out this week. Here’s what I liked. Here’s what I didn’t like. Here’s what I would use. Here is what I wouldn’t use.” Everybody looked forward to those and where is that wonderful person? Why can’t…

Sean: Kenneth Peters still does that. Kenneth bullets the big long list and talks about it in detail.

David: Yay Kenneth.

James: Where the heck can I find that. Where can we find that.

Sean: Forums. Forums.

David: Once and a while. But not for the last couple of issues I think.

Douglas: I did one where I (obviously in the Gunplay issue) where I did whole posts on every single article in it. Including the book ends that Steven wrote in the beginning and the end. But that took well over a week to do. And I was like “Oh, I’ll do that more often!” and I looked at my real life and I was like “No I’m not.”

David: I’d rather write the article.

Douglas: Yeah.

Andy: That’s true.

Douglas: I’m going to throw something down and see how people react to it. I think the hardest part for new authors, and maybe the worst part, is writing to the GURPS Style Guide.

James: Oh yeah.

Andy: Yeah. [makes shuddering noises].

Sean: [laughs] My fault mostly.

David: At least its not as bad as the original GURPS where you had to, for second edition or something ,where you had to insert little codes like little <i>’s and code everything in manually.

Sean: That was truly awful yes.

David: [laughs].

Sean: Yeah, ah, the thing with the Style Guide, to be fair, is my responsibility in the sense that I keep the Style Guide, I didn’t develop it. It’s something that has been handed down from torturer to apprentice.

David: From generation to generation.

Sean: Yeah, from generations of torturers and inquisitors have handed it down amongst themselves. Its sort of like our secret manual on how to make people bleed and hurt. But…

James: [laughs]

Sean: …as a publisher we do have to have standards and one of the things that’s a secret of all games writing. Not just for Pyramid, but I’m going to use Pyramid as a example here, is that it is fundamentally technical writing. You’re writing material that completes a product or expands a product. And describes how to do something that you want to do. It ultimately technical in character, it’s creative sometimes, sure, and sometimes it’s pure fiction, and sometimes its non-fiction, it’s research, but it’s technical first and foremost. And technical writing always requires a freaking manual unfortunately. It’s just . . .

David: Yeah.. [garbled audio].

Sean: I thought maybe it wouldn’t, but I checked. I checked and as far as I can tell, and I talked with my editor friends and they’re kind of like Sergeants in the army, they all know each other. And they’re like yeah everyone has one of those, end of discussion.

David: Including the military actually.

Sean: Theirs is very scary, I’ve dealt with it.

Christopher: Would it make me a freak if I said I actually like the Style Guide and kind of read it when I have nothing else to do.

[All but Christopher]: Yes.

Andy: Without qualification.

Sean: I appreciate that someone likes that work.

David: It’s a good Style Guide and it’s well written, it’s just overwhelming in its size. I wonder if we could have a possibility of having a “dumbed down” Style Guide for Pyramid on the off-chance that it requires less or slightly less rigor than a e23 supplement.

Christopher: That’s not a bad idea.

Steven: It really doesn’t. I mean one of the non-secrets about Pyramid. And I say non-secret because we’ve been trying to convince people, but no one seems willing to believe us . . . But there is very little difference between what goes on with what goes on with a issue of Pyramid than what goes on with any other e23 supplement. So, the formatting is the same, the same software, the same production artist (Nikki Vrtis)…

Andy: [laughs]

Steven: Does everything there. So, if it were dumbed down at all, it would just fall to us to bring it back up to the standards of everything else we publish.

Andy: But…

Steven: Umm, and part of the point of Pyramid is kind of trial by fire to learn our Style Guide and…

David: Yeah, there you go.

Steven: There are actually two unrelated issues. One of which is easier to address than the others and I considered it.But there is the GURPS Style Guide, which is the monolithic, gargantuan, if you’re making a template in the format of such and such equipment guide here’s what needs to be in there.Then there’s the actual Microsoft Word WYSIWYG guide, which is this is how you do a A-HEAD, a B-HEAD, a C-HEAD, and this is how there should be half-lines between text and a table if there’s no header

The GURPS guide, there is not too much that can be done about that because, if youre writing for GURPS it has to follow what’s gone before. But the formatting guide I’ve had some contributors bounce back and forth saying “This isn’t quite working right.” And then I’ll just send them a previous article that’s actually in the lay out format saying this is what your article should look like. It’s like a light bulb goes off and they understand “Oh, when there is this block that is in the C-HEAD format, that’s literally a C-HEAD.”

Andy: The other thing…

Douglas: For those of you who have actually, for the ten people that log into my blog, I started the blog and I use the Pyramid Style Guide for practice, so I actually use all the C-HEADs and D-HEADs and all that stuff just because it makes it easier for me to eventually submit a article for Steven to uhh accept, reject, or otherwise mock. It makes it easier to get practice for the GURPS Style Guide if I use it all the time.

David: I started writing adventures for my own campaigns that way.

Christopher: That’s just what I was about to say, I create a setting bible for every game I run and its between 50 to 100 pages. I got one right now that’s 300 pages and it’s all in Steve Jackson’s Style Guide. Just so that I’m like, it’s internalized.

David: You’re ready.

Andy: It hurts real good for the editor in me when I start applying all those heads and I feel pretty pleased with the results, but I…if you’re using it as for referencing for new people who come in to use this as a springboard for e23, for me, and remember, those of us on the panel, we’ve all been at this for a while. I go in there, I kid you not, iin mortal fear of missing some portion of the editing, that I’m going to leave out one of those little half-page breaks. Somebody’s going to write back and say “You worthless slack-jawed so and so, you forgot this that and the other” and then I will be “Oh God!” I despair of ever actually making it to anything on e23, because I think if this is the structure that they require to get onto Pyramid, most of what I put in there. If I start entering a lot of GURPS statistics, really what I’m doing is making more work for Jason [“PK”] Levine, so it cows me,  even this late in the game.

Steven: Well, I…frankly, I don’t think that’s necessarily inappropriate. I mean obviously I am…

Andy: Ah, so you want me to live in fear.

[snickers from the panel]

Steven: I’m a established writer, I have a dozen and at least a half dozen credits from other game companies and other projects under my belt, and yeah there is a certain amount of I really don’t want to put my head into the Lion’s Den of GURPS Fandom and say “Here’s my GURPS slingshot rules, have at!”

[all laugh]

Steven: I think that fear is probably a healthy thing if you’re not willing to jump in both feet, I’ve been kind of dabbling as the Pyramid volume three has gone here’s a quirk there and what do y’all think. Here’s a little powers type format thing and I’ve slowly been gaining my feet there. But yeah, it’s pretty daunting.

Douglas: I think if you really want to get the experience of it, you need to write rules for slingshots and don’t think “How a 30 lb. ST 900 character would use that slingshot to shoot a cat. Who would then turn around and bite you in the face and eat your head.”

Andy: If you do, Hans-Christian Vortisch will tell you what you did wrong.

James: [laughs].

Douglas: I haven’t found Hans to be too picky with anything other than firearms. There are a few other people…

Andy: I wasn’t aware he dealt with anything but firearms.

Douglas: No…that true. I had a great time lead playtesting Tactical Shooting, so I don’t have anything ahh, anyone who the guy’s in Jane’s [Information Group] go to and say “Wow, he knows all kinds of stuff that we don’t.” Is someone that I you know happily call one of my circle of friends. It’s a funny story if you don’t know that . . . but he has

Andy: [laughs].

Sean: It’s true actually.

Douglas: He has this list of what country, what organization, whether it’s military, police, or whatever; ordered and uses what firearms. And Jane’s editor was like “Wow, this guy knows more about this stuff than anyone on the planet.” And I think they may have even been a job offer involved. It was actually a pretty cool to way to segue from role-playing writing into international superstardom, at least if you’re a Jane’s fan.

Andy: Yeah there were some people I dealt with back when I was a errata coordinator, there was this one guy who would, and I’m not kidding, this guy would take something we had written at the inception of GURPS. He could take something the size of a gum wrapper and he’ll tell you something you missed. I always wondered why we didn’t put this guy to work as the editor on the book, he knows more about it than we do. [chuckles] But it never got to that point, but he called you on everything.

James: Those who can…

Steven: Can I talk a bit about the editing process or, cause it touches on…

Douglas: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Steven: I’m not an ogre, either the tank or the giant monster. I don’t enjoy crushing people just for the sake of crushing people and I’ve never rejected a article that was otherwise acceptable, but was missing that half line in front of a table or what not.

[all laugh]

Steven: The closest I’ll do is say “Look, that article was good material, it read like the kind of thing that appears in Pyramid, but was formatted incorrectly, so here is what I literally poured into our InDesign software and I’m sending this Microsoft word file back to you and get a feel for what this looks like and how I changed things and do a document compare and that will hopefully help you.One of the greatest frustrations I have as a editor is there have been articles that have been 85% of the way toward what we would run. Just not quite enough where I can hammer it into shape, but not so bad that there is nothing here I can do and just politely reject and say “thank you,try again.”There have been many submissions where I have written a 1,000 words of critique saying “Here’s how you should rework this paragraph, follow this method for the rest of the document, here’s what you did wrong with this section, here’s how you can take it in a different direction, and if you make these nine changes then I can publish this in Pyramid.”

And I’ll never hear from them again.

I gave you a checklist! I gave you a do these things and send it back and I’ll send you money. And nothing.

Douglas: I think its funny, I think it was Joseph Campbell used to say that the highest praise he could give was a check. Only form of rejection was a “no.” Anything else that he spent his time on was constructive criticism that should be followed up on, because that would make you a writer one day.

Sean: That’s something that I found very hard to explain to writers. This concept that rejections look like, they’re very short, they basically say “you’re rejected.” Anything better than that and you’re already beating the percentages at that point.Neither Steven nor myself are allowed to invoice hours to critique something we don’t plan to buy. That’s not how it works, so if you get back a long critique, it just means this is great material, but can you make it easier for us to edit, because (and this is the rude part) because it’s cheaper for you as a writer to edit your own work, than pay us by the hour to edit it. This is fundamentally true.

Douglas: I think that the feedback that you gave me for Technical Grappling was almost as long as the original manuscript itself.

Andy: [laughs].

Douglas: Me being me, it grew to much much much much longer. That is the one thing that even on a concept that I flirted with, and Christopher and I are flirting with again, from years and years ago for an adventure. And now that Matt’s here we’re going to ask him about adventures since he’s the man for it.The thing is, you get a lot of feedback from the Steve Jackson Games people and it’s all constructive, even some of the previous Pyramid guys who have come and gone have been very helpful, all the way through.They want different things, and Steven is no different. He has a particular thing he’s trying to do and it’s broad, but its Steven Marsh’s thing. But if you get the feedback, acting on it is important.

Question for everybody: Steven, Sean, and whatever – have you ever thought of having a kind of like gathering of people like ourselves. If you have a article that’s 85% of the way email one of these people and they’ll happily help you offline with formatting.

Christopher: [makes noises while raising hand] Ooo!  Ooo! Ooo!

Douglas: We have a volunteer on the left.

Christopher: Antoni Ten Monrós, he and I have actually talked about creating a …

Douglas: A twelve-step program?

[all laugh]

Christopher: Yes, actually for Pyramid  . . . because there are a lot of people who want to write, but they don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve taken like three people under my wing personally, trying to get them to get their work up to Pyramid snuff so we can have more authors.Even though, you know, it’s personally bad for me, its better for the magazine because there are more people…

Sean: And ultimately, that’s good for you.

Christopher: I think that if we can have a group of people, say ten or fifteen people just willing to put in, you know two or three hours in a email showing somebody how they need to do something or if they have a question. Just something like that, a Pyramid Author Help Group. Something like that…

Sean: In the sad old days we called them writer circles…

Christopher: I mean it would just help. A lot. There are a lot of people out there with great ideas, but they don’t know how to get them on to paper properly formatted.

Douglas: What do you think, Steven?

Steven: Speaking as myself, not as Steve Jackson Games, etc. etc. I can see the value in that, but I think that anything like that has to be unofficial and can’t us [Staff Personnel].For one thing there is not the hours or ability to invoice that. But more importantly, the more our stamp of approval is on grooming writers in any capacity that isn’t directly getting articles to us. I think the greater the danger is, something can go wrong and someone could say “Oh, a article that’s similar to one I had that I sent to you for critique got published and now I’m all upset.”So I would…I can’t see a place for that in an official capacity, but on the forums I certainly know of and understand that some groups that I trust their review process more than their review/playtest kind of process. Hans’ group for example.

Sean: We do actually have a private forum for e23 writers. People who’ve written a lot of Pyramid are welcome to ask me to put them on that group. I’ve got admin powers, I’ll add you. One of the things that goes on in that group is very frequently is people will ask for input from peers on really pre-, very much pre-alpha/alpha stuff.And we had no problem with that at all, we enable it by allowing that forum to exist so they can discuss things. But we’re not responsible for it. If you post your cool article on geese and Hans says: “Ha ha! I like to shoot geese with my shotgun, it’s my article now, boy.” You’re kind of hosed, and we can’t do anything about that.But if you trust these other people, and I like to think you trust these people because everyone we have working with us is very good, very trustworthy. You could certainly go there and throw your stuff out, and if you’re not sure about your formatting there is probably going to be someone there who knows a bit more about it and is willing to say something.

And if you’re not on that e23 writer’s forum, you let me know and I can add you. Everyone I’m speaking to right here, I’m looking at all of the names and anybody who is watching this podcast and has written, say, a dozen articles or more, we welcome. You’re a writer, that’s what it exists for, is for writers, but you have to be a writer. But you have to be someone who has written a sufficient quantity of material, we would say it’s basically book length, a dozen articles or PDFs or something. That’s all I’ll ask.

Steven: So..so Kromm has confirmed the existence of the Illuminati by revealing the existence of the super secret forum…

[all laugh]

Steven: …in its shadow.

Sean: It’s not very secret, because everyone who goes on our forums can see it exists by looking to see who is browsing what group. [laughs] So it’s not really a secret realm, the software makes it visible.

Andy: [garbled audio].

David: I bet we could find it.

Steven: Umm, Kromm I always thought that we reserved that for folks who were official e23 authors, then we at least had the power of a contract in our files in case things go really off the rails there. Is that..?

Sean: Mmm, people who write for Pyramid are bound by its agreement, actually. Its agreement is pretty simple so I’m good with that.And besides the point, I think for… this isn’t Steven and I having a policy discussion. This is actually a honest statement I make to the world: If we want people to take Pyramid seriously as a GURPS supplement for e23, then treating people who spend a lot of time making Pyramid a great thing as writers for e23 is… is merely logical and fair.But the reason I’m putting a length stricture on is not because I’m trying to be a jerk, we do get some very short articles from people who never show up again. There is a very big difference between a short article by any of you guys, you guys have written…I don’t know, boatloads of stuff, I…I…I can’t even calculate how much stuff and I’m looking at the faces in front of me and I’m saying this is most of what’s in Pyramid lately.

So, yeah, I’m comfortable with that as GURPS, and since it’s my responsibility as a administrator don’t worry, Steven, if someone comes with a axe it’ll be my neck.

Douglas: But then, Sean, will turn into a zombie and come after the rest of us.

James: [makes zombie noises and face].

Steven: This is World War Zed.

Douglas: Yes.

David: Since you are in Canada, you are sort of out of the range of some people.

Douglas: So one fairly common observ– somewhere between a observation and complaint depending on the tone it was given — one of the things that is hard about GURPS is writing adventures or adventures seeds or anything like that. Is there a good place in Pyramid for that sort of thing and how does that work?That’s not just for Sean and Steven, it’s a great opportunity for Matt Riggsby.

Sean: I nominate Matt, yeah

Douglas: I’m totally signaling him out, because uh…

Christopher: Speech!

Douglas: So how do you feel about Adventures in Pyramid, Matt? Peanut butter and jelly? Oil and Water? Ducks and shotguns?

Andy: [snorts a laugh]

Matt Riggsby (Pyramid and e23 author): Pyramid is a good place for short adventures simply because it’s something that comes out very quickly relative to full GURPS books.  And there is always a few pages to put something in.So you can get out a quick and simple idea, but that does restrict you to the core of a adventure, the idea of a adventure. So you can set out a plot or a extended adventure scene with some stats or something like that.But it won’t give you the full detailed I need to run something in 10 minutes and I have no time to think about it. Gives me something that gives me all the stats right now. That you don’t have in Pyramid.

Douglas: Has anybody ever…so Matt has actually written an adventure for Dungeon Fantasy, Mirror of the Fire Demon. Um, what other adventuring content shows up overtly or kind of subtly in the pages of Pyramid.

David: I’ve done a couple of adventures recently. I did for the mega-dungeon, the dungeon article, the Dungeon Fantasy II issue. I did a sample, what I called a “super dungeon.” With a hex map and fully statted out NPCs, plot, and so on. And it was fairly lengthy, but it did fit in Pyramid. And I also did one for the Prehistoric issue, another dungeon adventure. Again, fully statted out. The main thing is they do take a fair bit of space so you have to make sure that Steven has that space in the issue.

Matt: A number of things that I have done have been somewhere between an extended adventure seed and a location, so there will be a map of a place and a sketchy idea of what can happen there. Rather than a full list of expected events or complete matrix of relationships and ways to navigate those, so it’s adventure-ish without necessarily being a full adventure.

Sean: Yeah, I think that’s what we’ve got to encourage people to produce for Pyramid. The thing is that it’s a generic game (A); and as Matt’s pointed out, it’s a short space (B).So you take those two things and cross them together that really limits what you can put in there, and I would say that primarily what you want to offer people is some tools that can be lifted out of that adventure and used in any campaign or any adventure. As well as the adventure content itself.If you spend a little bit of time on good quality tools like maps, and I really love Matt’s maps, they’re beautiful. Or NPCs that are very generic, or a little rules add on – Christopher likes those.

You get these together and you get them in there and people can use them regardless, and that’s great because then if they’re even in a totally different genre in some cases they make use of it. And it reduces the actual adventure per say to relatively short text that’s fluff and seeds of adventure that don’t force stats on people and you still get the best of both worlds there.

You get a little fluff, a little crunch, which is we’ve said is a great combination, a 110% of an article, right there. Then you make sure the fluff stands on its own without the stats so those who aren’t using GURPS or are aren’t using the same genre or tech level can use that idea. And you get the tools, the maps, the stats, whatever, you make them relatively stand alone so people that aren’t using your fluff can use those. And I think that’s a sure sale right there as a Pyramid adventure.

That’s distinct from a full length e23 adventure, that is a separate discussion and a different adventure. But that right there is what I would like to see.

James: Yeah, I’ve done a couple generic adventures for the magazine over the years and I’ve found if you’re being generic, and just giving, like, “Here’s this character, here’s the things he can do, in generic terms;” you can pretty much easily port that over to any gaming system you care to and just fill it in and you don’t have this huge block stat. That takes down on your total word count, but on the other hand, as poor Steven will probably admit that I’m a bit naughty and try, and I’m trying to get things down to 5K and keeping them there. And then I wake up and suddenly have this beast on my hands. I think I’ve caused you heart attacks, if so I apologize profusely.But yeah I kind of prefer the free-form ability to do something generic and have it be: “Here’s the idea, here’s what’s gonna happen, here’s what you want to do, go crazy and make it your own.” As opposed to doing block-stat, block-stat, block-stat, and then going “Did I do that right… or did I cause work for somebody else.”

David: [laughs]… yeah. You can do a very short adventure, I don’t know if Steven would like to see too many of them. But for the Conspiracies issue I did “Dreaming Penguins” or whatever I called it. It was a very short adventure conspiracy about amateur press role-playing and politics. I think that got only about two pages, but I made it completely statless just with an adventure plot line and a description of the characters involved,  and pretty much nothing else. And I think that’s about the most you could, the idea was to do a complete adventure, but it was pretty much stat-free and crunch-free, Kromm. It fit in two pages or so.

Douglas: How do you think you balance the fact that you know, if you do, I think people would like adventures. At least for me at 40 some odd years old, you know I like adventures and seeds and what not because it helps me save time. But on the flipside if you have everything drilled down it’s like useable only from the campaign on which it was pulled. On the other end, you say “Well, you have this group and it’s gonna conflict with this group and they’re gonna fight or argue or do something.” And it’s like this totally – and there are really only three stories ever. Which people will come back and say, that’s no good. You’ve just told me, yeah you need development and a denouement and stuff that’s entirely generic and therefore not useful. Where is the blend that you want to strike there?

David: Another thing which I was thinking of, which sort of relates to that. And I don’t know whether this is the sort of magazine one wants to do. But I know a lot of people read game supplements – at least people I know – just because they like reading them as entertainment. And even if they actually have no plan to use the things. Probably about four or five of the people in my gaming group are like that, they would buy dozens of games, but they never actually play them. So I think another thing you have to have in a article is that it has to read as something, unless it’s a crunch heavy article, that is something that’s fun to read.

Andy: I do try for that, but I’ve only written one adventure article per say, that I can think of. There may be one I’m forgetting, but mine hasn’t actually seen the light of day yet and there may be a reason for that. But we’ll see come the Alternate Worlds issue.

Christopher: I haven’t actually written an adventure yet for Pyramid, but I like to do is shove little niggly-bits, as I call them, everywhere. I like to hide rules in text and just make my article as information dense as I possibly can.

Andy: I, too, like calling them niggly-bits, and we are kindred spirits.

Christopher: Apparently.

Andy: Yeah. My article only had three fully statted characters, so there really wasn’t a whole lot else to draw off the word count. The rest of it was an adventure.

Steven: As a editor, one of the first things I notice is that adventures have traditionally been the kiss of death as far as long-tail sales go. If too much of a issue is taken up by a adventure or there are too many adventures in a issue sales just go [makes noises like falling plane while miming a downward motion, then makes exploding noises].And I think its because folks make their own adventures, I think they’re looking for toolkits, they’re looking for things that can be plugged into their own campaigns.So, I think that for Pyramid at least, what I strongly encourage in most cases, is if you have this cool adventure where the heroes need to break into this bad guy’s secret lab and steal the plans for this thing and the villains got “such and such is gonna happen,” and there is this doomsday scenario and stuff . . .

Why not just present the lab?  Just keep that and forgot about any plot or tuck it into a side bar or the like. Once you start trying to flesh it out into a full adventure, a really tight cool 3,000 word evil lab turns into this 6,000 word “Well if the heroes try and bribe the guard with candy, then the guards say…”

So you know, a lot of space gets taken up by things that just aren’t going to be useful to most campaigns. Especially because when people say they want adventures what they want is adventures specific to their homebrew campaign that can be plugged in with no additional work. And in a system like GURPS, outside of Dungeon Fantasy, it’s somewhere between hard to impossible.

Andy: I think a lot of the stuff that I put into my article, mine was set in the modern day even though it’s a time travel article. So not quite modern day, but fairly modern, so I think most people who read it are going to have some idea of what I’m talking about.So when I presented challenges, I did exactly that. I said: Here are some things that can go wrong, here are some things that can go right, here are the kinds of challenges you might expect in such-and-such a setting. But I didn’t give a laundry list or a flow chart, because I didn’t think it was necessary.

Christopher: Flow charts make the baby Jesus cry.

James: [laughs].

Andy: And yet so many board games could use them.

David: Speaking of graphics and flow charts and things like that. I wonder if Steven could go into a bit more detail about what you’d like to see in terms of maps and so on as submitted by authors. How much, what quality do you like? Do you like a rough sketch or do you need something wonderfully presented done with digital graphics or what?

Steven: As I much mentioned earlier, Pyramid is a e23 supplement. It follows the same process as any other GURPS project for the most part, with a few things that are different or streamlined. So it’s really a question about . . . artwork. [takes a dramatic swig of his beer]

[all laugh]

Andy: Let me brace myself for the onslaught. Here we go.

Douglas: This is like the Pyramid Panel drinking game, if anyone says the word “adventure” or “artwork” you gotta take a shot.

[all laugh again]

David: Do you get paid for submitting a map, for example?

Steven: Oh yeah, absolutely.Yes, generally, maps or other illustrations need to fall into two categories. Either things that we can drop in as-is or nearly such, or things that we can recreate here. Which is primarily my skills or Nikki Vrtis’ skills, which are much more on the illustrator side not on the art side.If you need a hex map with dots that show that this guy can go this way, because that’s what this maneuver is? Great because we can totally do that here. If you need a 3D cartographic representation of the dungeon with its sublevels, nope, can’t do that.

So…we strongly encourage folks to figure out how to work their material so it doesn’t need a map. Figure out how to generate material or  illustration material that we can use as is. Or hope it’s simple enough that we can recreate that as need be.

Andy: How does that…

David: I was thinking of, what I was thinking of specifically, the comment just a little bit earlier regarding adventures. Submit the laboratory not the adventure.So if you wanted to do an evil laboratory what would you as the editor like to see from the writer submitting a laboratory? Would you prefer it as a key with no map at all? Or a little sketch map? Or do you want the writer to go into great detail and whip up or master something in Photoshop or whatever.

Steven: I hate to cop out but . . . it depends. I have a full Campaign Cartographer suite and I’ve even done some map-work in the magazine. I think the most recent one was I did a Appendix Z about a fun house firefight or whatever, where the heroes were chasing around whatever in a hall of mirrors.But I generally only do maps about every couple of years so whenever it comes to me to make a map in CC I’m having to reteach myself from square one again. So it’s nothing I relish doing or encourage folks to do.I mean if it’s like… David you had in the first Transhuman Space article I think, something, it was fairly straightforward map to a home or something.

David: Yeah. A basic home.

Steven: A box with a couple lines and a thing that indicated a door. We could do that here. That was pretty straightforward, took half a hour with the tools we have here.But, if it has to have the attractive tables on there or the location of this or that, or the doted line to indicate paths it gets beyond our abilities pretty quick.

Douglas: I guess I would probably say, and that Steve Jackson Games staff would hopefully agree: Ask. “Hey I’d like include a map, and I’d like to use Doug’s Pretty Good Program™  – which may or may not be actually be licensed.” That seems like a two second email which can be resolved fairly fast.

Steven: Yes. I totally encourage folks who are going to have issues like that to send them to me first.You know I swear despite the fact that some articles get caught, but otherwise get punted down till I can find a issue. I don’t relish making people write stuff that we can’t publish. I really don’t like to do that. Something that can be sorted out in a really quick query letter “Hey I want to do a 10,000 word adventure that includes such-and-such and includes Zorro is that a problem?” And I’m like, “Zorro might be a problem…”

David: Yeah, that actually segues into a question I wanted to ask you about. Which is what is the status of Cthulhu and doing Cthulhu mythos these days.”

James: Ohh, ho ho…

Steven: I would look to the Steve Jackson Games – the rest of the product lines and see what they are comfortable doing. So references to Cthulhu are pretty acceptable at this point. Most other stuff I really don’t like to deal in, or maybe just a nod here and there. There’s this thing that is similar to this . . . whatever.And even things that are in the public domain can be challenging because all it takes really is for someone to say: “Hey we want you to hire a lawyer to make sure you can do this.” And we’ve got a bunch of paperwork to deal with there that is frankly just not worth the trouble.

Christopher: Original artwork, uh, I have a couple of artists in my group and every once and I while I’ve considered submitting original artwork.

Steven: [shakes head emphatically “no”].

Christopher: No?

Douglas: Bad idea.

Steven: The artwork one is real simple. We don’t have approval process for artwork. It’s a can of worms that we have a challenge resolving with the rest of the e23 line.So just no, absolutely no hope for it.

Douglas: If I could ahh…I think some of these things, the maps and graphics are interesting, especially for already established [authors] that “I’m so good at this not only can I write a article, but I can include my own graphics.”I wanted to ask a quick question, looking at the best and worst in “What’s Hot” issues of Pyramid.If I could summarize the top ten: Alternate Rules for GURPS, anything having to do with Fantasy and Low-Tech, and expansions on genre’s that are deep and complicated. I was somewhat surprised to find Transhuman Space, number #3/15 as very well regarded. Lots of sales. And Transhuman Space is one of these things I find fascinating and utterly untouchable because I have no idea how to approach it.

Andy: [Laughs].

Douglas: Thaumatology. Urban Fantasy and Cyberpunk are other areas that are very broad genres, that might not be easily skimmed off if I’m going to run a adventure like that. You think that is sort of the key to success? Enabling people to bite into the apple?

Andy: You asking Steven or us?

Douglas: I’m asking anybody, you guys…so what do you think? Is that the kind of thing you like to write? Do you like to read?

David: I’ve had a theory for a while now that one of the issues is that GURPS doesn’t really have that many established world settings, that people can accept as a consensus. Such as… it has Dungeon Fantasy, but there is no consensus Science Fiction setting. There is a consensus modern world. There is a consensus Transhuman Space setting. So unless there were… and there is of course a consensus low-tech fantasy that people accept from Dungeons and Dragons. But because there isn’t a consensus for things like cyberpunk, or space, or alternate earths, except Infinite Worlds which is infinite, it makes it hard to find lots of people who would be interested in one of those particular issues.

Andy: I think part of it is the atmosphere of trying to recreate some things. People are hungry for certain things because they can’t come up with them on their own. I’m not good at writing for say, Vampire the Masquerade. Paranoia is a tough idea to come up with. Everyone loves it, but coming up with satire is not a walk in the park, so some things are so atmospheric or so specific with their elements that it can be hard to put out.So I think if you got someone who can go into a setting like Transhuman Space and come up with a setting for it or come up with a adventure idea for that kind of setting than that person’s writing is a gold nugget right there.

Sean: I think there is also an audience for that. You have to consider the percentage of people who are going to be interested in picking up the issue. Which in turn is going to influence how often Steven is going to want a issue that is themed on a world. That in turn dictates the demand for that kind of writing.We’re not completely without our mercenary leanings. We do look at what sells well and those things do get more attention in future things.And my experience with the rest of GURPS and I think that is mirrored well in Pyramid is that the rest of GURPS…the things that people seem to really want is expansions of rules, good, solid treatments of genre and/or subject matter.

When I say subject matter as separate from genre, I mean things like Hans’ guns. Guns. Guns. Guns. Or martial arts, something that doesn’t necessarily have to be rules heavy. It could be completely exploratory, completely fluff writing, if it’s well done. Well researched and brings facts to the table that would require the average gamer to spend hours going over to get.

But that sort of stuff, generally speaking is more popular and to make a world popular, to sell copies of world material. You don’t just need what David was talking about, you don’t just need a consensus for it, just a lot of people who are interested in playing.

You also need a bunch of writers who are actually interested in writing that world. And one of the interesting things that can happen and I’ve experienced this in my 18 years with Steven Jackson Games. You could have a setting that writers are interested in writing for, but nobody is buying. And you could have a setting that has very much captured the imagination of gamers, but no writer is particularly interested in expanding upon.

That’s a tricky bridge for us to cross, a tricky tricky puzzle. So you usually the other stuff I’m talking about: genre-treatment, subject-matter, and crunchy rules expansions are safe low-hanging fruit. Much much easier. If were to go to a new writer and say wanna write something for Pyramid, that’s the stuff I’d offer the writer.

Established writers, sure, world stuff. If David wants to write Transhuman Space stuff, duh! but if some random guy says “I like Transhuman Space and I want to write for it.” “Have you read the books?” “No! but it sounds pretty cool.” We get that . . . that’s the problem.

David: What I’m thinking of is specifically that suppose you want to write about a thing that is crunch-heavy science fiction that is cyberpunk or something. But it’s a bit tricky to do that because in the real world you can look up a bunch of real world stuff, research a bunch of guns or cars or medical devices or whatever and turn them into a Pyramid article. And everyone knows what you’re talking about because it’s real world, historical.But if you’re doing, with the absent of any sort of boundaries for something like science fiction or fantasy, unless you’re working within Dungeon Fantasy, it makes it a lot harder to come up with crunch because it makes a good chance that your crunch won’t be usable either.

Steven: Actually, from my perspective, I’ve had the opposite effect. It is much easier to assemble a issue and ask people to contribute if its not based on the real world. Probably the biggest reason is because there are people wanting to pounce on you for saying “Oh no, the weight of the such-and-such Howitzer 287 is actually 2.8 pounds, not 1.9 and you’re completely wrong and this issue sucks and no one should buy it. But no one is gonna say I think the wingspan of a dragon you just made up is really 12 meters not 10 meters, it just doesn’t make sense.

Douglas: Those people are all on the GURPS forums, so we can self-select that out.

Andy: Place is lousy with them.But that also goes back to what I said earlier. Even if you just take something like fantasy. What new is there to say about fantasy? You can only do so many guns statistics before they all blend or you just say: “It’s like that but weighs a gram lighter.”So it does seem to me like some of those things he mentioned that are so popular are also that there is no low hanging fruit left there. You go in there to do . . . a lot of what you want to use in a GURPS adventure has already been touched on. And it..it..I stand in awe of those who find new things to discuss, in some of those… in some of those heavily tilled fields like Martial Arts. I agree that the research at this point seems more important than actually coming up with the rules for it…

Douglas: [sneezes].

Andy: the rules cover a lot of situations. Bless you.

Douglas: Thank you.

David: I agree with that to some extent. You look at something like Low-Tech or Martial Arts or whatever or I suppose even some of the books I’ve been involved with. And you see a 200-page plus numerous Pyramid articles which have already been written all filled with crunch. And you think it would be so much easier to just write a adventure or something with this stuff, because all the fighting styles and historical material and fantasy historical things already exist.

Sean: Yeah there is a lot of that. I mean the thing too is to understand that is there is the difference between what writers would like to write from a purely creative perspective and what apparently customers want to buy. And one of the things that was touched on earlier, the gram lighter is exactly what I’m thinking of. You know to me a 9mm pistol is a 9mm pistol, I know Hans is gonna hunt me down here…

[All laugh]

Sean: …and waste me. But that’s how it is. I’ve shot some 9mm shells, seen lots of them, and I think “Yah, it’s a pistol.” But there are people who come on our forums and write me private emails or write Hans private emails saying “what are the stats for this model such and such which was released last year and is a gram lighter and holds one more round in the magazine?”And you could answer “change the weight to 1.01 or 2.01 and add one more to shots.””Okay, but when are you going to publish that so it’ll be official and my GM will let me have it?”

And like it or not that really exists in GURPS fandom in a big way, not a small way, that’s a major “we want official word on iteration 117 on something that’s been iterated 116 times.”

David: That’s exactly what I would like to do. With something like science fiction material is to be able to fill articles with that kind of crunch and things because its very hard to because we don’t have a background where we can make up all this stuff.

Douglas: One of the criticisms of Ultra-Tech a little bit is that it’s too broad and too generic. Gee if you could take some of this awesome generic stuff and say “But in this kind of setting here’s your list.”For me as a prospective game master that saves me time, I can say here’s the list and whether it’s “official,” or just easy. It just works out. I think that’s why people are hungry for the nine-hundred gun list of every weapon that existed in WWII, is because it says I don’t have to filter, I don’t have to spend time, I have the book, I can look it up. It’s not only interesting and well researched, but it’s a time saver.

David: So sure, but which settings would you and would other people like to see for stuff like Ultra-Tech Guns. Which settings were you specifically thinking or where you thinking settings in general terms like “Cyberpunk Guns” ‘cause to me that’s basically TL9 guns. [JT laughs]. Or did you have something more specific, like sub-genres or something?

Steven: Can I just say that, kind of related to this, David you had one of my favorite articles of this sort in the past couple of years when…I think it was for the Gunplay issue, you came up with a fictional gun company and just traced its development through the ages. You showed when they came out with material starting in TL 4, and then TL5 to the modern day and just…and by presenting it that way it sidestepped the issue entirely for me. No one is gonna complain that Made-Up Co. wasn’t presented correctly ’cause he made it up.

David: Yeah.

Steven: It gave me an option as a player; I could immediately see that this could be dropped in into any campaign. Suddenly, if you need a evil gun manufacturer you don’t need to worry about drawing out a real-world one or getting into material you are not comfortable with. It’s a open book.So, related to that I would encourage you to if you got a hankering for that to make up whatever your parameters are and write within that. So you just start out in the initial paragraph and say: “This material is assuming a TL9 world…

David: Okay.

Steven: …it can be suitable with TL 10 if you tweak X, Y, and Z, but otherwise . . .” And just make it up just like you did for that article.

David: I’d be happy to do something like that. Yeah. I’d be happy to do something like that. That was to some extant born of my Hans-Envy, that particular article. When I realized I couldn’t match his research, so I just made it up.

[all laugh]

Steven: The secret to that article is to do it like Dungeon Fantasy. Which is to just to drop little bits of flavor in that are evocative, but not constraining…

[all agree]

Steven: So if you say, this is the firearm that was made famous in the 1933 Kabossskoff Stand Off. Oh my gosh, the Kabossskoff Stand Off. What was that? You know . . . who cares.

David: See yeah, you’d be happy to see something like that for a Ultra-Tech article or so.

Steven: Yeah. Absolutely.

David: That’s good to know.

Douglas: Yeah based on conversations from . . . the Forums are a  self-selecting group, but I think that the…I think that there are a couple things that people seem to want. Details. They are going to want stuff that feels like popular culture. If you’re going to do super heroes, you don’t say “well, here’s a generic super-hero setting.” Lets build off something like Avengers. A billion dollar franchise and making so you can play that using your system of choice which is hopefully GURPS. On the flipside the superheroes issue is apparently the worst thing ever. So it’s hard to tell.

David: Yeah could you go into more detail….

Andy: I had nothing to do with that…

David: …about that. Because I was looking through, prior to this and I noticed there had only been one issue. Was there only one super hero issue?

Douglas: Looks like Superheroes was the only issue rated on less than four and was fairly heavily voted on . . . and people seemed to hate it.

David: I was wondering if there was any feedback to why that was? Because I would have thought super heroes would fit well into an episodic sort of thing. It’s like a super hero characters could be dropped into any super hero campaign. Is it. Do you think no one is using . . . that people still aren’t using superheroes in GURPS.

Steven: There are a few things going on. First off, that issue was the second issue or third issue, I can’t remember if it was Post Apocalypse.

Sean: Issue two, I got it here.

Steven: Anyways it was one of the earliest that we did, so you know, it’s like what they say about bands, you got twenty years to come up with your first album and one year to come up with your second one.So we had a half year to come up with issue one and get that looking like we wanted too and then a month and a half for the second issue. So there was a lot of trying to find out feet very quickly into what Pyramid was trying to be.I think that, my gut tells me, and I’ve done no particular research. But most of the tool that one would want for superheroes exists in GURPS already. There are lots of powers, there are power-like things that are in other type things. Like the Weird Science issue was tangentially related to that.

And most folks, first of all, I’m not sure how big the supers audience is, as far as being a self sustaining thing in GURPS nowadays. I mean in the main line GURPS ever since 3rd and 4th editions there have been just the main Supers book.

But it’s hard to add that new crunch that folks are going to find interesting so then you are relying on the strength of whatever supers you add. And once you do that, are you designing for a 300 point supers campaign, a 500 point, a 10,000 point and it gets really hard to get something within the banner of supers that is going to satisfy supers gamers.

Kromm might have more insight here, but…

Sean: Well the only insight I really have is that, what in the past what an awful lot of focus on supers writing has been, and I took a quick look at that issue while we were chatting here and I know what’s in the books in front of and behind me here.A lot of focus has been on specific heroes and villains’ character sheets and fundamentally they suffer from a problem that all characters suffer from: they’ll work in the context for which they were designed and in any other context, be it different point level, different tech level, different assumptions about the available skills or powers and they’re not gonna work.Supers is really sensitive to what abilities are available or allowed. And if you focus on that direction you’re never gonna sell much because it’s only gonna work for a small subset of people running campaigns with those characters that are precisely compatible vs. a treatment, a micro scaled down version, you say, take PKs Divine Favor book, or you take his Psionic Powers book and they are treatments of Powers in great detail.

You say, okay, if you took a power, a specific power, and give it four to six pages treatment in Pyramid, you give it Power skills, Power perks, framework, a few modifiers, and a description how it might fit into various settings. Here’s how it interacts with fantasy magic, here’s how it interacts with TL6 WWII guns, here’s how it interacts with futuristic psychotronics, David’s book Psi-Tech, and so on.

Then that would be salable, but I would argue you wouldn’t need a Supers issue to put that in. You could put it in the Psionics issue if it’s about psi, you could put it into the Weird Powers issue if it’s about weird powers. It doesn’t have to be supers.

The popular stuff in GURPS is really just treatments of the actual powers and abilities, not treatment of supers as a comic book genre with capes and guys with specific names in a specific setting.

We had some limited success with International Supers Team setting, but truth be told it wasn’t successful enough that we could move that up to the front of the queue for 4th edition and we still think that someday we might do some stuff related to it. But we can’t justify the amount of energy that goes to it, because the setting is very particular set of tastes.

This is the issue that all settings have. David makes a very good point; you need a consensus setting for a awful lot of stuff. Supers is, I would argue, the only genre where you more strongly need a consensus setting than futuristic sci-fi.

Futuristic sci-fi is number two after supers, supers is number one, because supers is really just a wildcard. You could have anything and do anything. Oh, okay, could we narrow that down just a little bit. That’s the problem there.

At least with science fiction you’ve got a range of Tech Levels as a base of expectations for fiction. For supers you don’t even have that. Because when you say supers to me, I think indie comic books. I don’t read Marvel or DC stuff. I don’t know anything about that.

Other people think of Golden Age. I didn’t like the Golden Age, I actually preferred the Iron Age with all the blood and violence so… [throws up hands]. What’s your genre. You pick it. That’s where supers is.

And since I’m yakking I’ll add one other thing, if you guys, a group of you guys, a group of two or three or four, or all you guys and some other people who write for Pyramid, if all of you guys banded together and conspired and created a little consensus setting and each wrote your little piece of it, and sent us the articles and said “Hey would you be interested in this?”

And if we got enough of them and filled a issue I think Steven and I would at least have the conversation. I’m not making you a promise, but if Steven said this theme could sell? This theme being a consensus setting for some genre that’s never got one, Pyramid-length, by known writers. Steven and I would at least discuss it, we very well may send you a standard rejection notice. Let’s face it that could happen, you have to face that, but I’m saying that. And the reason I’m saying that in this podcast that is lots of people could look at later. If there is enough demand then Steven and I will have enough reason to take seriously, won’t we?

Christopher: I just have to say something real quick, Sean, have you been reading my hard drive? I have a Pyramid article on exactly a supers treatment like Psionics Powers.

Douglas: [makes interested dog noise].

Sean: No. I didn’t read your hard drive, not specifically. Tachyonic TV from the future maybe beamed it into my head, but that happens a lot with me.

[all laugh]

Douglas: You know ah, this is the second gauntlet you’ve thrown down in one of these podcasts, Sean. I’m going to have to include you in more of these, because you always inspire the next one.

Sean: Im trying to see Steven’s face to see if he’s shaking his head in despair or taking a bemused look or what, but he’s got some scary video artifacts going on. It’s actually frightening.Douglas: I thought he was giving everyone the steely eyed glared of “Why don’t you please shut up.”

[all laugh]

Douglas: Okay, well, we’ve been chatting for about a hour and half. Anybody have anything they’re dying to say about Pyramid, writing, GURPS, or anything in general. Not anything in general, but something gaming related.

Steven: I have to say I’ve never been on television before.

Andy: No I’m afraid…

Matt: There is no time.

David: Yeah, I don’t, how about favorite theme issues for Pyramid which have only been done once or twice?

Douglas: Excellent. What themes do we want to see?

David: How ‘bout a beasts theme issue?

Andy: Beeps?

David: Beasts. Animals. No monsters.

Andy: Ahh.

David: Beasts.

Sean: As the line editor of the line who has yet to get a Bestiary out I fully approve of this. This would be a wonderful way for you to get some creatures out there for people and would establish Pyramid as being a real honest to God GURPS supplement. Hey where are the bears? Didn’t you see Pyramid #3/72 Bears And Things That They Eat? You suck. You have to go get it now.

Douglas: What I want to see in the bears issue is who writes up the football team.

Sean: Better that than large men in leather on motorcycles. That could happen too.

David: A sports issue would probably sell really badly, but would be interesting.

Andy: Alphabetically they would be under “D” for “Da Bears.”

[all laugh]

James: I was always hoping for another supers issue, but I guess now we know that won’t happen.

David: I’d still like to have a supers issue too. What about splatterpunk? Blood.

Andy: If it were up to me every issue would be about time travel.

Christopher: I’d like to see one on alchemy, but that’s just me.

Douglas: Says the potion master.

David: That’d be interesting.

Christopher: I’ve made a amateur study of alchemy throughout the ages, different cultures, it’s interesting stuff.

James: We haven’t really had anything on ancient lost civilizations…

Steven: On thing I’ve wanted to do as a issue, as just kind of, in my mind is going to some of our more established folks and say: “Submit me something that you know will never be able to fit into another theme, surprise me!”And then I look at the things like All-Star Jam and I go[puts hand on forehand] “Maybe not…”

[all laughs]

Andy: Yeah but you’re the editor, right?

Matt: I’ve already put my Iron Chef rules somewhere else on the web.

Steven: Yeah?

David: What about some of things which have been on the regular e23 wish list, but haven’t received any usable submissions for yet. Like I’m just looking at the list, like Disasters or Furries or Sports.

Sean: My opinion as the line editor if we’re not seeing bites for things on the wish list we’ve had for upwards in some cases, nine years, then it’s not taking food out of any writer’s mouth to say “Article length treatments we might buy.” I really don’t think that’s a problem.

Andy: Are those pieces…has that been updated? And that’s probably not a question for the…but I haven’t actually looked at the e23 wish list in forever. It didn’t seem to change much when I did look at it.

Sean: It was last updated July 12 [,2013].

Andy: So there might be something new!

David: What I was just thinking for instance, while I don’t think I have much interest in writing a elves or dwarves supplement. If there was a Pyramid Elves and Dwarves issue for example, or a Orcs and Goblins issue or something; two or three races closely related, I could certainly come up with something for it.

Andy: Yeah, the elves would be easy to do, because like every other role-playing supplement we’d have to start with “Not much is known about the elves…”

[all laugh]

David: You could come up with something wide enough to cover elf punk, elf magic items, elven…elf characters, elf martial arts, elven and,…

Sean: Douglas could give us more elven bows…

David: Yeah.

Douglas: It’s on my list of things I might want to write, but would take forever and the research would be painful and you know I would really probably cause Steven to insane would be to do it. The archery book and I write it all up in the Deadly Spring and then what’s the history, how they’re made. And say okay, if you want to use the standard rules here’s the stats, listed ST 5 through 20 for the Ancient Elvish Mongol Bow of Doom™ or something.

David: Looking down the wish list, what about an agencies issue?

Douglas: That would be…an awful lot of fun. Especially if it were thematic rather than specific.

[bunch of panelist talk all at once]

Christopher: I would just like a book on agencies, in general. How…like how to create them, what their resources are, how they’re…

Andy: That’s one of the ones I shy away from. I’ll do the CIA as a agency book for e23 I would get crushed under foot into Andy-pudding by Hans-Christian and his friends…

David: But probably not for Pyramid. Plus you could pick something really obscure or you could make up something up, like CIA in 2020.

Andy: That’s true.

Douglas: I think that’s where if you’re very specific, like in Sean’s game, he probably uses the CIA so he might find a book, but it would have to have things you couldn’t just look up at CIA dot gov. To have a type of agency, or series of agencies, if you want to have an intelligence agency it has to do these things and have these resources. If you want to have the extermination agency, whether its bugs or people or people with bugs you need to have these resources…

Andy: People who are bugs…

Douglas: Bug People. Bug Hunt. There needs to be a Bug Hunt supplement somewhere…

David: Or a Bug Hunt Pyramid issue…


Andy: Were getting dangerously close to doing Steven’s job for him for free and I don’t like that…

[all laughs]

James: [garbled audio]

Sean: Steven and I do have discussions whether a certain theme would work. Steven has occasionally sent me emails saying “Look, I got people interested in this, this, and this. Do you think this theme would work.”It’s not like it’s set in stone, with just what’s on our wish list are gonna exist so nothing else can exist. But, there is some behind the scenes dickering, because essentially, GURPS is basically: Steven, myself, Nikki, and PK – Jason. That’s it. We’re the GURPS people and Nikki is mainly focused on lay stuff out so it’ll look awesome.So we can’t suck too many brains from her. Which leaves the three of us here, Steven likes to punt on rules and stuff to myself and PK because it’s our job. We like to punt on approvals on magazine article lengths because that’s his job. So it gets pretty narrow, pretty quickly. This is who you’re dealing with, you got half the people you’ll ever deal with right here talking to you. And if you could precipitate something into a vacuum if there is enough interest. WE just can’t promise anything. We are not in the position to promise anything.

Andy: That goes back to the idea that, talking about the how long have you waited for a article to see print. It can be hard enough to write to the wish list, if we’re doing something that doesn’t seem to be on the wish list, boy talk about your SWAG. That…that ahh, you’re taking your literary life in your hands there, spending a few days or a week or two writing something that you’re not sure will ever see the light of day. ..

Sean: That’s why I suggested you conspire…you conspire.

Andy: Conspire…

Steven: Two things. First off, when it comes time for me to update the wish list we have a dedicated Pyramid forum and look to see what suggested issues there have been. And if I see “I really wanna see Evil Space Monkeys…” and there is “Heck, yeah, evil space monkeys would totally rock!” And there are four people who think that’s a cool idea, then Evil Space Monkeys is probably going to be on the next wish list as long as I can convince how I can wrap that issue around the rest of the Pyramid infrastructure.The other thing I would caution against is some articles or like if you’re going down the e23 wish list is not a good thing to try and base Pyramid themes on simply because….Pyramid articles are not collaborative, I don’t pass them around between the authors and say “Make sure this all follows the same format,” or “Make sure this follows the same thing.”So if you look at something like the Banestorm issue, which was one I quite like, but there is two depictions of cities there that are a bit different from each other that if this were a true Banestorm Cities supplement would be much more strict in its format. So something like Agencies, I would shy away from because I would picture getting four different agencies in totally whacked out different formats.

Andy: That makes sense.

Christopher: Makes a lot of sense.

Andy: Yeah, but I mean…are you saying this is what your experience is? Cause if you got only, say you got only 3,000 words or whatever to write it in, there might not be room for any type of stability in the structure format.

Steven: Not sure I got the question, I’m sorry.

Andy: I’m just saying there is less room to…to waver from some very basic principles if you’re writing to a 3 or 6,000, somewhere in there thousand word article. They’re all going to have to touch on some things that are the same, like the number of personnel or the locations like…I see what you’re saying, it’s a bit of a risk, but I don’t know it’s any bigger a risk than you take with the shotgun submissions you might already get. And if we’re all conspiring to do it. It sounds it might work out better.I haven’t looked . . . I remember Agencies being on the list, I don’t remember if it came with any basic outline.

Christopher: That was just what I was just gonna suggest. What is Steven or Kromm or somebody came up with a mini-Style Guide for the Pyramid issue, that way it would seem more cohesive.

David: Or just say: “Please do it on the format of p. 79 of GURPS Whatever.” An existing book, that way you don’t have to bother doing anything.

Christopher: That works, yeah.

Andy: If you’re saying the Agencies we could also have one of us write up a suggested outline and if they like that, and if they’re considering the article itself then they might also sit down and consider the outline and say “Yeah we like what you got here, but Andy’s suggestions on the number of coffee breaks…I don’t know what he’s been smoking.” So…

David: Yeah, sure, but again I am sure there are zillions of GURPS books which use a specific agency format for that book. And one of them is probably good for Pyramid.

Andy: Hmmm.

Christopher: Hmmm.

Sean: Something else to consider is that, one of the things that we can consider and accept or reject a proposed theme on the basis of whether we like what we see put together. Steven is hesitant to see Agencies because there is a theme that might be tricky, because the Agencies may be different. You’re saying that we could adapt a format, but point of fact there is no agency format that I know of in any GURPS book at this point. So we would actually be up the creek on that.But. But there is a possibility that if there is only one agency in the whole Agency’s issue, and then there is a article on generating agencies, and have some combat systems for agencies doing intelligence combat, and uhh, say a article on agent templates for the future and the past. A agent for Dungeon Fantasy. Another agent for another genre, say Monster Hunters, that doesn’t really have a per se agent in it. And if that came across the desk then that’s a different…

David: That was more what I was thinking…

Steven: And to be honest, that’s the kind of thing I like to see as both editor and as a fan. Because if I’m not necessarily looking for real world agencies to plug into a 2012 set campaign, then an issue of nothing but those is likely to be of absolutely no interest to me. Whereas if there is one agency, and some templates, and some new martial arts, well okay, I’m not using the agency as written, but these martial arts as written I can give to my TL9 mooks and they’ll be great for that. And I can file off the serial numbers for this secret lab and suddenly there is a TL9 secret lab for my campaign.So really, I’m always looking at articles with a eye towards what…how can this be repurposed by fans. And sometimes it can’t be, I just accept that. Not all articles have to serve all masters, but if it’s something that can be ported in. And that’s one the reason why I like, Christopher, your material, because I can immediately see this is useful to someone gaming in a TL4 Fantasy as well a TL8 “Now” Monster Hunters campaign.

Andy: Christopher always was your favorite…

Douglas: So I think you can…

Christopher: Aww, I love ya Andy, love ya, man!

Douglas: We’re coming up to the end, we’ve spent about two hours chatting. I thank you guys all for your time, I’m going to go from left to right on the screen and just ask … What’s your favorite article or issue that springs to mind since Pyramid Three came out. I’ll start with Andy.

Andy: The favorite one I’ve written or read?

Douglas: Oh just pick something off the top of your head.

Andy: Ahhh…[exhales], boy…umm, I like the article I wrote about gems. In fact I think it was my first free form article for Pyramid once we…once I stopped doing the reviews. I did a article about gems and various types and their uses.That was when I began to see just how creative freedom you could get with some of these articles. I read through it and I kept thinking: Gems like anything else could be..they could be different magics could be based on different types of gems, the colors could be important, the creation of the gems … So I went looking for information about how gems were created and how the Earth’s crust created them or it..it…was hard to not keep adding stuff to the article. That I think ended up being my favorite. Maybe it was just the freshness of that first article that helped.

Douglas: Excellent. Christopher what do you think?

Christopher: Can you repeat the question please., you broke up for a minute.

Douglas: Sure. I was asking the panel what your favorite article either that you’ve written or read. What is your favorite bit of Pyramid that you want to close out this discussion with?

Christopher: Favorite that I’ve written, I guess I’m going to have to say the Safe as Houses article that I recently wrote up. That came out of a five minute email with Steven and I gave him three options and he was like “I like this one.” And I had literally come up with it on the spot.

[panel snickers]

Christopher: ..and then I spent seven days researching and I learned more writing that than I had in a long long time [shakes head]. My favorite article that someone else has written? I gotta say it’s the X-Terminators article from Horror & Spies was just amazing. That actually restarted a campaign I was running at the time and I used that like… a lot. I’ve printed out a copy of that particular issue of Pyramid and I’ve had to do it twice now, I’ve used it that much.

Douglas: Cool. David?

David: I don’t really have any strong favorites, I enjoy all of them. I like the Alternate GURPS issues. They were good fun. But really I like … I don’t have any signal favorites. I generally think Pyramid has been really strong and I find something good in every issue.

Douglas: James?

James: Well..umm in spite of the fact that it was the…now that I’m learning apparently the worst received issue, I really enjoyed writing the one on Soviet superheroes. I had a lot of research for that and I really enjoyed it and people seemed to like it, but you know. I think uh, probably the [hums to self]. Was it World-Hopping? I think it probably a cross between Transhuman Space…

[Technical Difficulties for James]

David: I think people are randomly muting…

Douglas: We’ve lost James.

James: Can you hear me now?

Douglas: Yes I can.

James: Probably a cross between the World-Hopping and the most recent Transhuman Space would be my most interested, the ones I was most interested in reading and enjoy.

Douglas: Matt?

Matt: My favorite all-time Pyramid article is actually Sierra [Dawn Stoneberg] Holt’s brilliant article on personalities of trees derived from their biology back in Volume Two [The Omniscient Eye: Do Good-Looking Trees Have Great Personalities?]. Limited myself to Volume Three, I think the Netrunning Rules in the Cyberpunk article…the Cyberpunk issue, derived from the chase rules in Action 2.I think GURPS Action 2 is the most unsung brilliant GURPS book of the 4th edition and that article really shows how useful and adaptable the rules in that book could be. And it was really nice seeing those used for something completely different from how they were intended, but being absolutely perfectly suited for what they were for.

Douglas: You want to answer that as a fan?

Sean: First, I gotta thank Christopher for saying nice things about X-Terminators and thank Matt for saying nice things about Action 2.If you want to get me to talk about a article someone else wrote, I’m not gonna pick favorites as a editor who works for the company that would be too evil. And I do have favorites.But the ones I have had most fun working on I’ll tell you, it’s sort of a tie for me, but I had a lot of fun working on the Deathball article with Peter Dell’Orto in Issue #3/3, because stupid futuristic sports where people do insane violence for no obvious reason is a personal secret guilty pleasure of mine. I actually watch Blood of Heroes about once a year for this reason alone.

It’s a tie. I’m gonna cheat and do the tie thing. The other one I had a lot of fun working on was the Demolisher article and the reason I had fun with it was then Matt came along with a totally different take of the same idea [laughs] and I had no idea and he had no idea. And it was just this perfect, “oh yes, people blowing things up in fantasy.” Someone needed to do it and we both thought it needed doing. That just made my day to think we were thinking alike. It was just…sort of a retroactive, yeah that was the most fun.

Matt: Steven played that one very close to the chest.

Sean: [laughs] He didn’t tell me. He didn’t tell you. He conspires over there. There’s my two cents and half plus a quarter and a nickel and a dime.

Douglas: Steven?

Steven: I apologize if I touch on ones others have. But for me the favorite issue, the one that kind of captured the spirit of what we’ve been doing with Pyramid the last few years was the Social Engineering issue. Which built off of Bill Stoddard’s excellent book with a excellent article by Bill, but also with a adventure which I believe holds the record for one of the longest sitting in the slush pile (that was Matt Riggsby there) and I can’t remember who else contributed there, but it had that perfect blend of supporting things and adding-to, and just really showing what is different about Pyramid, and why it is part of the GURPS family. My favorite article I’ve written, I had one for the Pyramid #3/32 Fears of Days Past where I did the Typewriters of Terror.

[laughs from the panel]

Steven: … which was an adventure that freaked out my wife when she read it for me, so I take that as a compliment. It has that kind of flavor that I felt folks could drop into a lot of different campaigns ranging from 1890s up through to modern-day and beyond really. I loved writing that one. I think fondly of that one.

Douglas: Excellent. I wanted to thank everyone…

Sean: Wait! You can’t weasel out of it.

Christopher: Yeah, I was about to say…

Douglas: Oh, me? I will admit that my favorite article that I’ve written is probably . . . I really like the Last Gasp. Adding the Action Points and really just sticking it to people who spend fatigue points was a awful lot of fun. And I will say that my favorite feedback that I’ve ever gotten was by Jeffro Johnson’s review on the Deadly Spring when he said it was going to be “the most infamous Pyramid article of all time.” I still use that in my sig file . . . I have that in there, I love it . . .

[all laughs]

Douglas: …and I will never remove it even though I got Technical Grappling out there I will never take away that line in favor of anything else. It’s awesome. And it’s true [laughs] it hits that sweet spot. I think one of my favorite ones that I’ve read recently, I think were, y’know and I guess I’m going to cop out a little bit and say, obviously I contributed to them, but I love the Alternate GURPS stuff. It’s my favorite thing to write about . . . and if you look at the things I’ve written you see why so it’s no surprise.I just love how the authors can take a system that is so broad and so deep and still find new things to do with it that provide emergent behavior from the rules.

It’s simply delicious. Social Engineering is a great example, where you have a very deep set of rules that covers a area that’s usually hand waved away. “Oh yeah, it’s what the players do, or the characters do, or I just roll my fast talk skill and whatever.”

And there is so much more to be had there and those are probably my favorite bits.

And plus you know anything having to do with guns or explosions is kind of in my sweet spot as well, so I gotta give those a thumbs up.

Well I want to thank everybody for joining us, having seven people plus me that are established authors plus this all dedicate two hours of their time to this on a Saturday night either says something about you or something about me…

Andy: [laughs].

Douglas:…I’m not sure what it says. But I’m gonna assume it’s a good thing. I want to give everyone, Steven and Sean, as Sean alluded to is one of the driving forces behind e23 and GURPS. This is three hours of Sean’s time we’ve taken on podcasts so I want to thank you for that.Thought I suppose the hair loss [Steven and Sean comb fingers through hair] and stuff from editing my work is probably a larger toll than the 3 hours given here.But in general, as a farewell, I really inflicted a lot of pain on Steven with the Deadly Spring. The note that I had a recursion error in my article and that it was wrong two days before deadline was probably his favorite part of that one… [laughs].

Enough about that and I want to thank you all for you time and we’ll see what can do about turning this into something watchable (and that’s on me) and into something readable, which is thankfully on Christopher which has volunteered to transcribe this for us.

Andy: Well thank you having me along, it was flattering to be invited and a lot of fun to do, and for the record I gave up entanglements of a romantic nature with three really hot women on a Saturday night just to be here.

James: Wow.

Christopher: Riiiggghhhtttt.

Andy: That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

[all laugh]

We picked up in the middle of combat, facing what looked to be one frost wight (the second died real quick in the first moment of the restarted game), and two “Scary Black Things,” which had proved to be very robust to damage, presumably very high DR.

Shiba goes after the frost wraith, and severs its good arm.

Cadmus is still buffed from his Righteous Fury (ST 19, DX 17, IQ 12, HT 18) and launches a complicated two-blow attack, one on each Scary Black Thing. He hits both in the neck for 13(2) and 18(2) damage, and both SBTs are alive, angry, but less alive than they were before getting Shrivener to the neck.

The moonflower comes up behind us, finally, still on fire from our initial assault. But he’s close enough to grapple Staver.

GM: t’s main mouth yawns wide and descends over the top of Staver from behind result:  «succeeded by 7 »  Staver, you are grappled and inside it’s mouth.
Shiba: Well, crap.

By “grappled” he means “swallowed,” and he also suffers 4 corrosive acid damage as well as 6 piercing “ow, spiky bits in it’s mouth” damage.

Shiba hears a heavy thud from somewhere to the northwest, and Thumvar is surprised from behind by a blow that no one, not even his friends, see coming.

GM: Something heavy but somewhat… giving slams into your side, Thumvar. You don’t know, something just hit you in the side out of the blue. Your right flank. It does 9 cr, and Thumvar is forced to make a HT check.

Something tickles his nose, and he sneezes.  

Thumvar has DR 14 or so, so nothing penetrates.

Now Staver’s turn. He loses the Contest of ST to break free by more than 40. Yow.

The SBTs change posture to kneeling, which is as as far as they get. Staver recalls he has a Salamander Amulate, and has DR 11 or so. Next turn, will open a vial of alchemist’s fire inside the plant.

Thumvar turns to strike SBT2, but sees . . . something.

THere’s nothing…. solid there. But
there’s a faint tracery of something with three trunklike legs in
a tripod configuration and two arms, with a wide cap where a
normal thing’s head might be.

Completely see-through, but you can
see the edges of it.

Thumvar throws one of his patented Dual-Weapon Attacks, at -6 for transparency, and spends a Knight! point to hit with the sword.  The outline does not respond to his attack, but something heavy yet soft deflects the blow out of the way. We’re being attacked by some sort of ambulatory mushroom. Must be trippin’.

“Stanniy-kun! The Caterpillar Grasps
the High Leaf!” A golden nimbus envelops Hayai, extending several
feet past the tip of the blade, as Shiba performs surgery on the
Moonflower to release Staver. Telescoping attack result:
by 7 »
and cut Staver’s prison result:
by 0 » DA-8/-4 for 15
cu damage.


And I will spend Knight! destiny
points like water to make sure that attack hits

The plant fails to twist out of the way. The blade bites deep through the distended plant skin, skips off some sort of armor inside, and Staver comes tumbling out.
Staver rolls Scout!, and sticks the landing. Ta-dah!
Cadmus strikes twice hard at the beast before him, once at the neck and once at his remaining uncrippled leg, but is parried both times. 
The Moonflower slides forward, upset at losing a meal, and pieces of the root structure lash out, trying to entangle Shiba and Staver.

So, two roots try to encircle Staver result:
by 4 »
and result:
by 7 » and two more snake towards Shiba result:
by 1 » and result:
by 7 »
Shiba retreats and ripostes, and dodges, succeeding by lots. Staver critically succeeds on an acrobatics/Scout! roll, bouncing around like a tree elf. She dodges both handily as well.
Staver beats feet (hooves) to the edge of the grease, where she spins, stumbles, regains her balance (scout! point), and looses two flaming arrows at the SBT2. Both SBT1 and the Moonflower continue to suffer from the effects of alchemist’s fire, SBT1 looking at 2(5) and 2(5), while the moonflower is staring at 6(5) twice as well. She also crits with one of the arrows, and both hit. The first arrow hits solidly, and causes the SBT2 to fall over, but alas, not stunned.
SBT1 attacks Cadmus four times with his limbs from the flank, and while Cadmus blocks one, and dodges two more, one gets through for 14 cut, which puts 3 injury past his DR 12. 3 corrosive damage also splatters on his armor, and smokes. Further, SBT2 swipes at him prone, but Cadmus critically succeeds on the first parry (which also had a -3 to Riposte baked in), and also parry the second. He loses his balance, not able to take any action and a further -2 to defenses until his next turn. 
Thumvar steps to the plate, and fires off a Dual-Weapon attack. Both hit, but his dice hate him, and he only does 11(2) and 13(2) cut. Even so, the first blow bites into it’s carapace, and the second blow with the razor sharp edge of your shield severs it’s upper torso from the rest of it’s body.
It shudders and is still.
Cadmus moves away from the Moonflower, and attacks the Scary Black Thing with a blow to the torso and the neck. Spending his only two Holy Warrior! points to turn two narrow misses into two narrow hits (due to the -3 shock penalty from last turn). The 12(2) cut to the neck removes the head of the Scary Black Thing. We are now down to one Frost Wight and Audrey Too.
The Moonflower emits another flashbulb burst. This was the reason Cadmus put his +6 into HT and not DX, and he succeeds. Shiba spends a destiny point to be able to see, as does Thumvar. Staver is blinded.
It grapples at Shiba, and misses. And something heavy and squishy slams into Staver’s legs, for 7 cr each. Plus two HT-2 rolls. Fungus critter. Staver takes mild injury, and fails one of the HT rolls.

GM: Staver, in the hex to the south of you the outline of some sort of mushroom has appeared, prone. Also, you feel a sudden burn along every inch of exposed skin. It feels like something tiny and cold is trying to burrow into you. Moderate Pain: Pain: You have a penalty to all DX, IQ, skill, and self-control rolls. This is -2 for Moderate Pain, -4 for Severe Pain, and -6 for Terrible Pain. High Pain Threshold halves these penalties; Low Pain Threshold doubles them.

Staver has received initiative. GM: Your turn. 

Staver is annoyed:

Staver: Draw two alchemists fire arrows, fire
them directly into mushroom guy’s HEX, aiming to hit myself with
splash damage along with him. I will BURN this crud off. +4 to hit
his hex, -10 for dazzled, -2 for pain = -8?
Staver: I bet I’m more heat resistant than it
She nails the hex for 2(5) and 5(5) burning damage, the ‘shroom fails to dodge, and suddenly she has no trouble seeing it as it bursts into flame.

Note: alchemist’s fire is nasty stuff. 1d (5) burning for 30 seconds. 

Thumvar throws two blows at the Moonflower, both of which are parried. The moonflower continues to burn/smolder a bit, and Shiba keeps slashing at the Moonflower. He hits, and the GM notes we’re basically about to kill all the baddies, and shall we end the fight here?

We agree. 

The lower level, previously filled with the clash of arms, cries of battle, and crackle of flame, quiet once more.
We heal up a bit, but small white growths are appearing from below Staver’s skin. Peering at them, they look suspiciously like the arctic adapted mushrooms from the other room.

Oooo. This will not end well.

Staver: Now, I’m going to get out my knife,
and experimentally dig one out.
Staver: Since I have HP back. ANd nobody here
has surgery, but at least I have a good DX 😛
Shiba: “That does not look good. Perhaps
Mother Mvashti-sana can treat them?”
GM: You manage to pry one off with minimal
pain. Kind of like a blackhead.
Shiba: Keeps an eye out for attackers while
Staver mutiliates himself.

Cadmus wanders over to the glowing thing, makes an IQ roll, and I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of arcane control panel, pulsing steadily with some sort of black-tinged light.
Cadmus wonders if it’s evil, and in doing so, invokes Smite. Cadmus gets a funny look on his face and fingers his holy symbol.
The panel explodes, doing 17 burn explosive damage, throwing Cadmus back two hexes, and injuring him through the armor. 

Cadmus: Pretty sure that control panel was powered by evil. 

And now it’s a smoking hole in the ice.
Fortunately, there’s another one on the other side of the central shaft. Cadmus does not try to Smite this one.

Cadmus wanders around the tower, looking a bit dazed, and studiously avoidng control panelish things

GM: I won’t make you fiddle with it and guess the function of stuff. With an hour to mess around, you figure out that you can manipulate the panel to produce a shimmering hexagonal floor in hte central chamber that waits for about 10 seconds, shoots upwards to what looks like the next floor, and then disappears after another several seconds at the upper level.

Cadmus and Thumvar decide to test the elevator ride.

GM: Okay, so Thumvar works the levers, tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth, and then Thumvar and Cadmus run onto the shimmering floor. It shoots upward.

GM: The acceleration on this thing is pretty intense. You travel about 30 yards in about three seconds.

GM: The wind buffets you mightily on the way up, and the floor slides to a sudden stop. You are in the next section up of the hexagonal tower. Most of it is open, but there are walls sectioning off the northern quadrant of this level. Also, oddly the ice looks damaged here. The floor and walls have deep grooves, and large holes in them, though they don’t penetrate to the outside of the tower.

Staver: Claw marks. Drag marks of dead dragon.

GM: Both of you know you want to get off the floor pretty quickly.

 We wander around, and discover what can only be evidence that a rhemorraz lives here. What is that? A gigantic centipede full of volcanic fire. Eats mammoths, melts steel. Very very fast.

We really need to get off this level.

GM: So, wormeated floor and walls. Room to the north with door and mysterious panel. Other panel near the shaft.

GM: Whatchoo gonna do?

 Shiba fiddles with yet another control panel, and determines how to open the giant door. He “pushes the button,” and then . . .

There’s a delicate chime, and six traingular sections of the door seperate cleanly and withdraw into the sides of the hexagonal door. It’s a room full of crystals. All pulsing slowly. Importantly, they seem to be valuable crystals. Also, everything is coated in a thin layer of dust, and the air smells stale. There are a couple of magical ones, and a few mundane ones. The room looks like the panels you’ve been messing with, but floor to ceiling.And there is some sort of pattern to the flashes that are rippling through the crystals. You’re pretty sure this entire room is some sort of functional device, but you’re not sure what kind.

Cadmus asks if he should invoke Smite in here. Sarcastically.

We end there.

Successfully got two hours of raw video last night with +Steven Marsh , +Sean Punch , +David Pulver , J. Edward Tremlett, +Andy Vetromile, +Christopher Rice , and +Matt Riggsby for my Pyramid Panel interview for Gaming Ballistic. Did a bunch of editing last night, and the first draft is ready to be processed and transcribed.

Hangouts on Air worked just like I hoped it would, capturing all the video streams, showing the participants in the lower part of the screen, and allowing me to control who was in the main screen. We had some rough audio/video here and there, but not awful. Hopefully it’ll appear on my blog in a week or two!

It’s going to be a big file, over 800MB of video. This time, I know better and will make audio-only and (hopefully) text available at the same time, so those who want to watch can watch, listeners can listen, and readers can read.
Stay tuned. Hopefully this one will be as popular as my first, or more so: The interview with GURPS Line Editor Sean Punch (Video here, audio here, and text transcript here). 

+Peter V. Dell’Orto asked me to run him through a fight with Technical Grappling, and we spent a while on Friday night going through one.

You can read Peter’s take on this match up over at Dungeon Fantastic.

Actually, we spent nearly an hour yakkin’ it up, since he’s a great guy to talk to and we have a very large number of overlapping hobbies. Anyway . . .

So, we ran through a fight between  João Dias and a nameless mook with ST 13, DX 11, Knife-12, and Brawling-12. 

Dias won, of course  . . . but that knife was really annoying. A few armed parries caused some damage to Dias, and I walked away with some great take-aways that I’ll probably expand upon later.

  • Like I say in the book, you need to exploit Posture and Position . . . and position is the new thing. Everyone more or less knows about posture – it’s right there in the Basic Set, but the options for Position are new, and should be minded. You really, really want to work into your foe’s side and rear arcs where possible.
  • Rule Zero matters. Always. When Peter rolled our thug over on to his face after throwing him down, technically, his grounded arm wasn’t grappled, right? Yeah, bullcrap. It’s pinned on the ground, and couldn’t be used to break free, and I ruled accordingly. Be sensible. If a grappler accepts the -6 penalty to acquire the foe’s rear arc in an interesting way, reward it.
  • We didn’t even use the weight advantage rules, but when we considered the impact, it meant that the move Dias used to control our thug would have been devastatingly effective, and validated the choice to remove the “Pin” from grappling in GURPS. It’s just not needed.
  • Peter’s ultimate choice was to grapple the thug’s knife arm (for 5 CP), and then follow up by more-or-less kneeling on his neck with the other leg (a 4 CP grapple with one leg). Combined with rolling him over, keeping him prone, and the (notional) weight advantage, this pinned him very effectively
  • The rules for referred control reinforcing through multiple holds work great once you get through the calculation. I need to work on a better description for that, and can think of a neat way to implement a little helper in Excel that will streamline this immensely. It can be done in your head, but why would you?
  • If you have different grappling skills (say, Wrestling and Judo) you will have different Trained ST with each, based on your relative skill level with each. So choose carefully what you’ll do. Control Points, once earned, are generic, so using (say) a superior Trained ST with Wrestling to gain CP and then using Judo to do a throw, spending those CP, and following up with Wrestling for a Takedown or (perhaps surprisingly) an Arm Lock is pretty key.
  • Dias stacked up a dominating positional and control point advantage over the thug. He was “pinned,” but he could still eke out an attempt to break free using an All-Out Telegraphic Attack for +8 to skill. That’s the go-to option when you’re trapped under something skillfull, strong, and/or heavy. In effect, you’ll likely be crit-fishing for a “multiplies CP by X” result . . . and again, this is likely correct.

The Most Important Point

Lastly: the most important points you will spend when creating a ground fighter who is interested in takedowns, throws, and lockouts is going to be buying off the Ground Fighting penalties for posture. The -4 to attacks, -3 to defenses you take by being prone is absolutely crippling at moderate point totals, and buying it off to where you are minimally impacted (even going so far as to buy Technique Mastery to totally buy off all penalties) is really crucial.

The relative disparity in “knows Ground Fighting” and “doesn’t know Ground Fighting” is really dominating in fights that go to the ground – this is true in realty as well. It’s not that a guy can’t get stuff done on the ground: He can. But he’ll have to make extensive use of All-Out Attack (Determined) and/or Telegraphic Attack to do it.

Parting Shot

Still quite pleased with the emergent behavior coming out of the rules, and Technical Grappling is a good addition to GURPS. (Everyone go buy it! I want to do more for SJG, and nothing says “let him write more” than good sales.). There are a few places where we can make it even easier, and I’ll get right on that.

We ended last game with the weather finally clearing enough for us to head north to the Frozen Tower (probably of Doom!).  We are starting to – perhaps – approach the pole when a strange blue glow is seen on the horizon. It dominates the dark sky like the Luxor.

It’s cold. Damn cold. -100F/-73C cold.

The shaft of light emanates from a hexagonal tower, some 100m tall, whose top crackles with blue energy, a raging storm swirling above the light.

GM: The winds are SCREAMING here. This is the windiest wind that a wind ever did wind.

A shattered causeway leads from the shore of the frozen lake to a hexagonal entrace on ther northern face of the tower. It begs us (metaphorically) to venture on . . . and die.

Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Nope:

Everyone makes out skeletons of various creatures (including humanoids) slowly moving aimlessly in the lake around the tower.

Cadmus wonders out loud if this place feels quite as evil as the last black basalt thing we encountered, and he can feel the nasty emanating from the lake from the low hill you guys are scouting from.

Yep. Evil. Damn evil.

We also decide that this is in fact the Creepy Black Tower by the Lake, but not the Nameless Spires, which are at the north pole and well, “spires,” not “spire with vertical maglite.”

Cadmus prays for guidance, but receives none.

Cadmus: “Pharasma ignored me. So either we’re doing the right thing, or too stupid to keep living and she’ll see us Real Soon.”

Thumvar: “Or you at least.”

Cadmus: “Fair point.”

Shiba bats an eye at this weird foreign pagan reassurance, but only an eye. “Care to wager on that, Cadmus-sempai?”

Cadmus: “Absolutely. 100 silver says we make it halfway up and then encounter some Unspeakable terror, which is just a warm-up for the challenge we face extinguishing that light source.”

Jaded pros, we are.

We decide sneakitude is the best course, and start up the causeway. The Big Clunky Warriors make their rolls by 3 and 5. The Mystic Knight by 1, and the Scout is embarrassed by only making her roll by 3.

GM: You manage to sneak across the cracked and ruined causeway all the way up to the hexagonal portal leading into the black tower. Peeking inside, you see windblown snow in all the corners of the roughly trapezoidal chamber inside. Identical hexagonal openings exit the room to the right, left, and straight ahead. A strong wind blows from the portal ahead of you, but overall the wind is mercifully damped compared to outside.

Accidentally, a few wights are revealed by a vision layer error:

Cadmus: Oh, look. The Wight Stuff.

GM: It’s about 10 yards up and featureless.

GM: Wight? What wight?

Thumvar: or Thumvar on the left, Shiba on the right since that is how we are now?

Cadmus: Huh. Coulda sworn I saw the Wight

Thumvar: several

Cadmus: Well, they’ll be a Wight to Remember, then

GM: You do see some sort of crystaline structure poking out of the snow drift to the left and ahead.

Cadmus: Remember, we don’t talk about Wight Club

Looking around the area, the door to the left opens on a room dotted in pale white mushrooms sticking out of drifts of windblown snow, while a very large (and probably carnivorous) plant dominates the corner of the right-hand room. It’s about 7 yards tall, bulbous protusions that glow with gentle white light along it’s main stalk.

Feed me, Seymour. Wonderful.

It’s root system sprawls across most of the room. It’s maw is currently pointing up towards the cieling, and it’s gently twisting back and forth as if it’s dancing to some music only it can hear.

GM: Staver, you recognize the mushrooms in the other room as some weird arctic variant of a fairly common northern mushroom.

Staver: Does it eat people or spew toxic spores?

GM: You’re not sure what they’re feeding off of, really, and the normal ones are brown, not white, but you’re pretty sure they’re descended from that.

Cadmus responds to Shiba’s suggestion of killing the plant from a distance with “I have five vials of alchemist’s fire.” He likes that plan. He likes the part where Staver suggests using his alchemist’s fire arrows even better.

Staver takes some time to study the plant, and tells us more bad news:

GM: You are pretty sure that’s an exotic plant normally found in jungles far to the south. Known as a “Moonflower” They can emit bursts of blinding light, are moderately mobile on their root structure, and like to swallow SM0 things whole. It is very weird to find one that is a) white, and b) thriving (apparently) in the arctic.

Cadmus: While I have never heard of an undead carnivorous plant, I feel we have found one. Deduction, not divination.

Naturally, our conversation is loud enough that the plant hears us. Sigh.

GM: The moonflower pauses in it’s strange dance, and the head turns towards the door all you guys are standing in.

Shiba reacts as he should, dropping his bodkin arrow, replacing it with a cutting arrow, and Aims at the Moonflower. Staver launches two flaming arrows at the Moonflower, and scores two hits, both of which suffer from the conversion to 1/2 damage for homogeneous creatures, but also both set it on fire.

As the warriors move up to cover the archers, the Moonflower slithers forward a bit . . . and emits a blinding flash of light. One of the light-emitting bulbous things on the stalk is now dark, and we find ourselves facing a HT-5 roll to see. We all fail, three spend bonus points to not be blind, but we rapidly realize that’s four more to go. Thumvar can do that; the rest of us can’t. And HT-5 is a lot. Staver, of course, didn’t have to roll at all, having actually looked purposefully away from the flashbulbs of doom after he loosed his arrows.

GM:Looking behind you, you see withered corpses sit up out of some of the snow drifts in the room you’re in. Two angular black things covered in chitinous armor plate with two legs and four arms ending in heavy claws step through the portal back outside. And you see a faint disturbance in the air in between you guys and the open portal to the room with all the mushrooms.

Just awesome.

GM: Oh, the scary black things seem to be dripping a black slime from every part of them, which sizzles when it hits the ground inside the tower. Thought that might be information you’d like to have.

Even better. It’s like he’s trying to kill us or something.

Staver Fast-Draws two flaming arrows, and shoots both at a scary black thing, which try and fail to dodge out of the way. 10 (2) imp and 6 (2) imp plus 3 and 4 burning . . . the first arrow sinks through an armor plate and burst into flame like a flaming arrow should, the second is much less effective, but still penetrates.

They start towards the group, moving awkwardly on all six limbs and leaving a small trail of hissing black slime behind them.

The two Scary Black Things move towards us at Move 4, which isn’t too scary for now. Could change. Maybe they’re holding back. That would suck.

Thumvar shifts around to protect our flank, tosses his sword in the air like a boss, Fast-Draws an axe and chucks it at a Scary Black Thing, and catches the sword. He hits for 11 cut with the silver-coated hatchet . . . which “just barely” lodges in his armored plates.


Shiba casts a large Grease spell to create a bit of a denied zone around us, keeping the inner three hexes open so we can have footing.

The frost wights (GM: Like normal wights, but waaayyyy cooler!) advance at a sprint (Move 7) right through the greased zone, and one of them is in our inner circle darn quick. The other crit fails his balance roll and falls flat on his back, stunned (unusual for undead).

Cadmus steps into the middle of the circle of undead, and casts Smite. Unfortunately, Staver, a part-Infernal, takes the highest damage. Coudla sworn that he was less affected than that . . . but also the Smite is strangely muted, as the Evil Temple gives the beasties DR 5. OK, Shrivener is on the menu tonight.

Staver puts himself out, and the Bad Guys (SBTs) try and advance on us through the Grease. They both fall over.

Thumvar Rapid Strikes with his broadsword, but it’s parried by the Frost Wight despite the -2 Deceptive Attack; he’s not that good, but he got lucky. Shiba regains his vision, and strikes twice at the wight, the second strike biting deep (14 cut).

The wights go before Cadmus, and one closes to the Grease circle. The wight Shiba hit returns the favor with two quick blows, while the fallen wight critically fails his roll to get up, slams his head into the ground with a loud CRACK!, and his head rolls away from his body. First “own goal” of any game I’ve ever played. Shiba easily blocks and parries the two blows directed at him. He shouts “legacies of a more civilized age!” and golden ideograms flow down the sword, turning it into an annihilating weapon. The wight loses his arm about mid-forearm. Which is quite traditional, as we all know.

The third Frost Wight also crit-fails his DX check as he goes across the grease, and falls and hurts himself.

Cadmus, a bit tired of all the other guys doing the cool stuff, invokes Righteous Fury, receiving a +5 boost to ST, +4 to DX, and +6 to HT. Yow. He is, for the next 3d seconds, a 530-point character. He needs (!) to get at the Scary Black Things, as he now does 4d+1(2) cut with his axe.

Staver fast-draws two bodkins into SBT2, crits the F-D roll, and crits again on the first arrow shot, merely hits the second. SBT’s right leg is crippled. SBT has two legs and four arms, so this is a good thing.

Thumvar’s up, and is forced to spend a destiny point to turn a miss into a hit, and one-armed Wight Skywalker does not dodge. He takes 15 (2) cut, and crumples to the ground, unmoving.

This frees Shiba to advance on SBT2, with telegraphed rapid strikes for 8 cut and 14 cut, which fails to damage it (!).

Frost Wight 4 leaps at Shiba, crossing the greased spell area to claw at him, and Shiba blocks successfully.

Cadmus moves through his friends, striking at FW4 on his way to hit SBT1. He carves a large chunk out of the frost wraith as he passes, and due to the slippery surface and overall position on SBT1, nails him too. 15(2) cut on FW1, and 12(2) cut on SBT1, but I suspect the Scary Black Things have DR15-20, which probably means “not much of a wound!”

Nope: Your axe sinks deep into it’s armored plates. Black slime oozes out around the wound with a muted sizzle that echoes with faint screams.

The Moonflower closes in.

We started late, so we ended there . . . 

A great session by +Nathan Joy , +Mark Langsdorf , +Syndaryl , and +Theodore Briggs