This is the fourth and last book in the all-too-brief GURPS Action series. I reviewed Heroes, Exploits, and Furious Fists in separate posts.

Today I cover GURPS Action 4: Specialists. This 36-page book is something a bit different for GURPS, and that something is really cool. It’s not quite “Pointless GURPS,” which I covered when Sean wrote about it in Pyramid #3/72 (Alternate Dungeons). But it’s not not-that, either.

This is an approach I love, frankly. Chunks of easy to pick out building blocks that aren’t templates per se, but make character creation fast and accessible.

Now that I’ve revealed my bias and given the game away, let’s fill in the details.

Introduction


Much like Action 1, the introduction is short but critical. The mission statement bears repeating, and since it’s included in the preview, I can just quote it selectively.

There are many situations where the speedy approach is a little too
coarse-grained:

  • When a player desires a hero more individualized than Heroes and Furious Fists allow – often one that falls between two templates – but doesn’t want to wade through the entire Basic Set or risk omitting important abilities.
  • When a player is inspired by a favorite fictional character who breaks the mold (as so many action heroes do!).
  • When a player – particularly a late joiner – wants to carve out a niche by stopping specific gaps in a team’s abilities.
  • When the GM wants a power level different from 250 points, such as in an “origins” campaign about neophyte heroes, or in a one-on-one game that pits a high-budget action star against the world.
  • When action heroes need lower-powered NPC sidekicks . . . or enemies!

In short, this book will present modules that are partway between full-on templates and “here’s the book, make a character.” As someone that kvetches repeatedly about the “wall of text” format of GURPS’ templates, this may well be a great intermediate step that gives the readability I crave with the speed that is the template’s raison d’etre.

You Gotta Start Somewhere

The chapter lays out a 6-step program to getting your hero on. Pick a basic building block, add modules and skill sets, take quirks, nudge the character into legality, optimize and “trade up,” and finally spend your remaining slush fund points.
Basic Action Template

The first thing is to start with your default Action Hero, which covers all the genre assumptions and also ensures that you have the basic tools of the trade, so to speak. The template has, for example, Luck, which is clearly critical to an Action Hero. It also contains six (really, eight, but you must choose between two options, twice) skills that must be there to be a credible hero.
The presentation is wall-of-text for Advantages, but has some wonderful categories of Disadvantages to help you pick. This, right here, is worth the price of admission. Phrases include Timid, Honorable, Obsesses, and Violent, and usually contain options from -1 to -15 points or (rarely) more.
Frankly, the Advantages section deserves the same “descriptive” treatment that disads got here. It’s just the right blend of accessibility and readability.
The Needs of the Many

This broad section gives handy advice, and in many cases, a superior Basic Action Template option, for keeping the characters suitable to the game being played. We Have Standards addresses physical requirements that might be a cut above for special ops or law enforcment. No Section 8s talks about which disadvantages are, while in the book, somewhere between not recommended and ‘no freakin’ way’ for a action heroes. This is a section on saying ‘no’ gracefully, in a genre-appropriate way, and is very welcome. The Call of Duty talks about the care and feeding of Duty and Sense of Duty, and more extreme variants. Finally, Duly Empowered takes the perks of being part of a badass organization and suggests appropriate powers and privileges. This might be things like Military Rank, Legal Enforcement Powers, or Contact Groups.
A Very Particular Set of Skills
This section gives two types of awesome to buy: Skill Sets and Power-Ups. The latter are “implausibly cinematic” options for action heroes. The first are what it says on the tin: believable training and abilities in things that happen in the real world. Most modules cost 25 points.
Skill Sets

These brief packages are narrow applications of stuff you can do. Some overlap, and you can take one more than once. You get options like Academics (a boos to IQ – so it’s not just skills) plus basic competence in Research, Writing, and Teaching. It also covers the more expected sets, such as Airborne School, Close-Quarter Battle, and Infantry Training.
As noted in the lead-in to this chapter, but worth repeating: this is not the “generic soldier” grouping. Each one of these is focused, which means you pick several. A platoon leader in military operations in Iraq might have Command, Infantry Training, Close-Quarter Battle, and Urban Assault. This leaves off a ton of things that he might also have . . . but those four packages are 100 points, which makes this 200-point hero a credible man of action in his own right. Specialized, ’tis true . . . but the name of the book isn’t ‘Generalists.’
And note that these are fully exportable to any game. Take a BAT worth zero points and you get Joe Average with Training – who’s now 100 points and no longer Joe Average, but doesn’t have action hero levels of stats. This is a broad idea (skill sets) that I’d love to see expored and exploited further.
Power-Ups

The equivalent of Skill Sets, but with cinematic oomph. Some of these are more than 25 points. They include things like Trained by a Master or Catfall. Some must be paired with Skill Sets, so it may well make sense to either flip back and forth, or start with the desired cinematic power-ups, then add required skill sets, then add optional ones. 
A couple of them are interesting – Just That Good, for example, represent 25 points of almost anything goes. Extra stats, secondary abilities, and advantages that represent a generally superior human. I could easily see larger ones, GM-defined, like Just Damn Better than You, which might be ST +2, DX +1, IQ +1, HT +1, and +0.5 to Basic Speed, +1 to Will and Perception, for 100 points.
Spit and Polish

This section is about making rules-legal characters that are also properly fleshed out.
Loveably Eccentric suggests that it’s time to pick out your quirks, and makes suggestions that are thematic in nature. By the Book instructs you to go ahead and add up all the points allocated to your abilities, and then filter. Take duplicate traits and move points to the slush fund. Take traits whose point values aren’t rules legal (22 points on a skill, for example) and either drop or add (from the slush fund) to make appropriate costs. Skill and attribute and perk limits are addressed, etc.
Trading Up

Mathematically intensive but Just A Good Idea, the selection process thus far in the book produces very skill-heavy characters. Realistic and believable? Yes, certainly. But because GURPS puts so much emphasis on attributes (everything pretty much defaults to them), it’s wise to follow the stepwise advice given in this section and shifting points around. A decision tree is provided.
Spending the Slush Fund

The final section gives advice for spending the slush fund. If you’ve done a proper job of optimization or your other selections had lots of overlap, you likely have more than the 10-point allocation you started with. It’s also possible to have overspent, in which case there’s a box for that.
Mostly, you spend points on things already on your character sheet, or that aren’t but a prior selection has given dispensation for. Finally, it walks through customization by background and history, as well as encouraging or enabling swapping out basic BAT options based on an appropriate backstory. Care must be taken to not create knowing gaps – that will impact game play – in capabilility. Always avoid the Fun Vampire.
Boxed Text
As always, GURPS books isolate certain information into boxed text. These boxes usually fit broadly into the chapter in which they appear, but are either meta-game information or somehow a bit of icing on the rules cake.
This supplement is heavy on boxed text – there’s a lot of metagame and rules theory to discuss.

Power Levels (Chapter 1)
This bit of text, perhaps a half-page in total size, gives guidance on how to use the modular building blocks when creating heroes from 125 (Sidekicks level) to 400+ points (called An Army of One, but also called “basic starting level for Monster Hunters). Very, very useful.
The Slush Fund (Chapter 1)
Explains the purpose of the 10 points that are allocated in the Basic Action Template for “the slush fund,” which is to ensure that characters can be tweaked up or down to make them rules-legal Largely, I imagine, as a result of skill point cost ladders – the point cost increments go 1-1-2-4, and then four per level from there. So if you take “two levels” of a skill, your firs two levels cost a point each, then the third is 2 more points, and after that, you plateau. This nicely simulates a real-world thing that it’s easier to learn the basics of a skill than to refine details.
And when that’s done, it allows some healty customization of the final character. A bit more of this, and a bit less of that.

NPCs

This useful box gives advice on how to use the book to create fast – dare I say it? – specialized NPCs. In fact, there’s a real case that this is where the book shines. It would shine even more as a GCA plug-in. Need a quick SWAT team? Five minutes and you’re covered.

BATs? (Chapter 1)

This short box makes an obvious suggestion – not everyone needs to start from the same Basic Action Template. Using the rules in the book to tweak the rules in the book is delightfully recursively meta. But it works, and it’s good advice. Much like Furious Fists has options like The Big Guy and The Fast Guy, extending this to The Smart Guy and The Skilled Guy would make for an outstanding meta-template to start from.
Doubling Up (Chapter 2)

This box notes when it’s appropriate and when it’s not to take options more than once.
Advantage Bonuses (Chapter 2)

Advice on how to deal with the non-trivial number of advantages that actually boost skills. Examples are given, and important “if you got bonuses from X, the choices probably didn’t also put as many points in Skill Y” caveats.
Skill Sets as Suggestions (Chapter 2)

As one might imagine, the book is generically useful as a hit list for free-form character design as well. This box presents more- and less-open options for alternate ways of looking at point packages.
New Parks (Chapter 2)

A dozen perks, some that have been seen before, as-is, but all are simplified form Power-Ups 2: Perks. They are, however, new to the Action Series.
Packages as Level-Ups (Chapter 2)

This box gives advice for spending chunks of earned experience points or as a way of starting with a template from another worked-example game (such as Monster Hunters, After the End, or Action itself; these packages aren’t appropriate for Dungeon Fantasy).
Specialist Campaigns (Chapter 3)

This is a large, half-page box that gives advice on how to use Action 4 as the basis for character building when starting a campaign. It goes through most of the common options and questions and concisely gives advice. This can include special packages (“everyone must take this Spacer skill set, or else you will die in the first session sucking vacuum”) or even advice on vetoing character concepts, abilities, or implementations that clash with the group’s expectations.
In the Hole (Chapter 3)

What to do when you overspend and your slush fund is negative. It can happen, you spendy spender you.
Generalists (Chapter 3)
This roughly half-page box talks about being a generalist, and why, in a team-based adventure, that’s not a great idea. Nonetheless, GURPS being GURPS, you get options for how to do it well. Plugging gaps and creating broad-but-shallow areas of ability – “I haven’t hacked a computer since high school!” – that allow getting some use but not overshadowing main niche are both covered. So is a Jack of All Trades advantage that can be spendy, but useful.
Compatibility (Chapter 3)
This box focuses on the metagame of character creation. The use of this book either along side of, or in synergy with, other books in the Action series. There are so pros and cons here. On the one hand, you can miss stuff if you design your guy in a vacuum. On the other, it’s crock-able, so again, the GM and players are responsible for avoiding the “my suit is more advanced than yours in every way!” issue.

Yes, I realize that this is a total crock. I mean, just look at the Iron Monger suit compared to the Mark III). Still, fun quote.

Ballistic’s Report
When I interviewed Sean a few years ago, he noted that because of the half-point quantum of spending for a 150-point GURPS character in Third Edition, it was possible (stupid an unlikely, but possible) to be forced to make 300 individual choices during character generation.
Specialists goes the other way. By parsing out the choices into one large (what BAT do you use?), and relatively speaking, a few small (a 250-point character is the BAT plus six skill/power-ups) choices, you can very rapidly define a character who does what you need it to do, fits within the overall campaign, and can be accomplished in a few moments.
I won’t lie: if there’s a Fifth Edition, or if GURPS one day really embraces the worked-example model as has been advocated here and other places in the past, I think this is the right way to go. Pointless Slaying and Looting, mentioned earlier from the Alternate Dungeons issue of Pyramid, takes that to an extreme, but either that method or Pointless (which Christopher Rice embraced in Pointless Monster Hunting, Pyr #3/83) would be a great step up in approachability for GURPS.
I could make a WEG d6 Star Wars or a 1st level D&D character in a few moments. This method gives the equivalent – though with a bit of fiddle on the tail end – for GURPS, and I love it dearly for that reason.
That the book has portability to other modern-day campaigns and is engagingly written is somewhere between icing on a very tasty design cake and a second course. This is a fantastic book, and ranks as somewhere between #2 and #1 on my list of favorite Action supplements (likely order is still Exploits, Specialists, Heroes, Furious Fists, but Action 2 and 4 are very close to each other, and then Action 1, and then Action 3).
This book was clearly inspired by Sean’s experience in his modern-day secret agents campaign. He had similar “pick from a list” options there, and the utility of the concept as something born in play and adapted to design is clear – this book just works, and it works because it was designed and forged in the fires of the players’ hands, not in some abstract theory. Nothing wrong with theory, but this player-facing design shows its mettle.
A great book, with a lot of portability. On my Pyramid rating scale, I’d go +1 or even +2 for writing style, but take a point away and leave it at +1 due to wall-of-text in the template and lack of follow through with advantages on what was done with disadvantages. It gets maximum points for inspiration and eiphany, and drop-in content is 3 or 4 out of 4 as well. It’s a 4 for any new campaign, but it has explicit, we wrote it down for you utility in an existing campaign as well. Total is 8-9 on a scale of 1-10, and the overall feel of the book is 9/10 to me.

My GURPS Aeon Campaign character was in a bit of a fix. He wasn’t really shining in his designated role of, well, Commander. That was both his name, and his mission, and frankly, his skill set.

He’s got an amazing number of points in Wildcard skills. Actually, that’s not exactly true. His breakdown for what seems like 1,250-1,300 points is something like

  • 320 points in attributes
  • 285 points in advantages
  • 335 points in powers and special abilities
  • 55 points in specific skills and techniques
  • 250 points in wildcard skills
  • His power armor suit makes up the rest

So you can see that while he is a powerful character with very good stats, they’re spread around. They are, in fact, spread around quite a bit. His overall good-to-great levels of stats contain one truly exceptional one – ST 24, boosted to ST 28 from his combat suit. The rest is a high DX 18, IQ 14, and HT 16. His Perception and Will are boosted to the campaign maximum, or near enough – they’re both 18 or 19. 

His powers include his enhanced ST, and a couple of 50-pointers. So nothing huge from a telekinesis/energy control perspective. It’s not 200 points dumped into one power, but it is a set of alternate abilities. But by and large, it’s a collection of 50-70-points-or-lower powers that give him a DR-granting force field, enhanced ST, catfall, and some attack powers – notably his kinetic blast(s), both of which are double knockback to the tune of 5d.

His wildcard skills have some overlap in places – and this is where I really missed out. 


You see, when talking to +Christopher R. Rice about why the character was not playing out “on screen” in a more satisfactory manner, the thing that really stuck is that his niche was command, but he was not being terribly effective in the role. We kept walking into terrible tactical situations, getting ambushed, and generally making like the Keystone cops. Not “Call it, Captain.” 

We swapped out his power set a bit, but also spent some points on some Pyramid-based options – particularly Foresight, from Pyr #3/53. That gave him the ability to narratively alter the environment a bit, which proved critical in S1E11, as we were able to retroactively deal with an incoming air strike. That wasn’t even unfair – we’d explicitly discussed “having to deal with the air support,” and in the moment, we were able to say “oh, sure, we’d figured out a way to fox the bomber’s targeting computers.”

Boom, done.

But the real trick was that part of The Commander’s legend was that he’d fought a powerful super – the Combustible Man – in a series of battles where The Commander and his SEAL team defeated The Combustible Man. More than once.

I just couldn’t figure out how. I mean, sure, he’s strong . . . but at ST 28 (Basic Lift about 155 lbs) he can probably lift a motorcycle over his head – like Captain America in The First Avenger. But while that’s strong, it’s not “lifting tanks” strong. His forcefield and DR will bounce a .50-caliber bullet, but not anything much more than that, and in the last few adventures, he was threatened by armor piercing explosive grenades and demon-needles, both with an armor divisor.

And the raw skill numbers deliberately topped out at mostly less than 18. 

But then we started looking hard at Wildcard skills, as I noted earlier. In particular, Stealth. And some Tactics. In combat situations, he beats down with

  • Armoury (Small Arms) – 21
  • Camouflage, Explosives, Forward Observer, Gesture, Interrogation, Hiking, and Tactics – 22
  • Parachuting – 24
  • Stealth (DX+11) – 27

Ah ha. Ah HA!

The thing about skill levels of 20+ is that you use them. They allow you to have a fighting chance of taking “instant use” or “impossible odds” penalties. At Skill-24, you can do it at a -10 and still succeed 90% of the time. 

So, how was I playing The Commander wrong? He was too much Captain America, and not enough Batman. And as they saying goes, be yourself. Unless you can be Batman.

In the last fight, S1E11, he went full Batman. He had the right amount of terrain to vanish into. He’d move from behind this HVAC unit to behind that skylight. And by and large, no one would see him. He ran rings around a dangerous foe – General Cortez – and eventually wound up taking off one of his legs in a sneak-by stealthing. One lucky goon critically succeeded on his Perception roll, saw The Commander move, and was promptly killed by rifle fire.

The key bit here is that with as many points – synergistic points – scattered in many different abilities, I lost track of what he was good at, and in this case, playing him as the from-the-front guy in terms of standing visibly in the fray.

That’s not him. He makes the plan, and leads it, but he’s the sneaky recon guy who’s providing up-to-the-minute information originating a foot from the bad guy’s pancreas. He strikes from concealment, doing 5d+14 crush or cut as needed (that’s like 9d crush, or the equivalent of a .338 Lapua in terms of piercing damage). His hand-to-hand damage with his sword is second only to his ridiculously powerful technomagical super-bullets, which seem to have a large explosive radius, an armor divisor, and no real fall-off within the explosive’s distance. Three rounds took out eight guys in formation in S1E11. At once.

Once I started playing the synergy? The Commander became a force to be reckoned with. Before that?

Not so much.

GURPS Action 3: Furious Fists brings Kung Fu fighting to the Action series, and it’s a little bit frightening, since it packs a lot of rules goodness into 23 content pages with expert timing.

Introduction


The Action books (Action 1 and Action 2 reviews from prior posts) have a tendency to pack important points into the introduction. Furious Fists follows Action 1 as having a vital mission statement easily accessible but too-easily missed. For emphasis, let me repeat it:

GURPS Action 3: Furious Fists cuts to the chase and offers rules for creating and playing martial-artist PCs with a straightforward role: Defeat bad guys in situations where guns are forbidden, too noisy, or flat-out uncool, and kick the butt of rival martial artists.

The emphasis has been added by me. These rules are not designed to make you bulletproof, and sprinting into a hail of gunfire will meet with the same level of success as it did in the Boxer Rebellion.

Ouch.


Lenses


The chapter starts with advice – use the template lenses to spread your points around non-combat skills, because your template is of the “beat people up with your feet and fists” variety. It probably begins the heavy trend of “customization notes” that mark the later worked-example books as so valuable.

Finally, a new lens, Wise Master, is available for those who want to focus on quiet strength and Will, Perception, Chi, and IQ-based goodness.

Boxed Text


The subsection on Lenses closes with a large box on Campaign Types. It gives some nudges on how to fit character types into each style of campaign, noting that police officers rarely behead people with swords, and that playing a martial artist commando still means you need to figure out how to deal with guns without getting dead. This advice – namely you can’t spin kick a bullet – is repeated frequently in the text because GURPS does not convey automatic script immunity to chop-socky fans.

Another large box gives an 8-step program to figure out the final melee damage of martial artists with complicated power-builds. This is a great example of usefully front-loading calculation once, and then simply using that number for the rest of time.

Next-to-last is a big section called “Some Bulletproof Advice,” which details how to keep martial artists alive when bullets are flying. Some alternate rules, lots of stealth (they can’t shoot you if they’re incapacitated with their triggers untouched), and the 4Ds of bullet survival in GURPS: Dodge, Drop, Duck, and . . . Dodge. Failing that: Luck.

Templates


The book offers five new templates, each with a niche that supports a certain type of play. 

The Big Guy likes to wade in and deal solid hits to his foes. With high ST and the highest HT of all the templates, he has the moxie to take it as well as dish it out. It offers five ways to customize the template that deal with how the big guy fights. From MMA to sumotori to a streeght fighter.

The Fast Guy is your archetypical martial artist, and the section starts out with a fantastic quote from the Brandon Lee/Dolph Lundgren movie Showdown in Little Tokyo. The template’s DX is sky-high, HT is adequate, and the ST is almost too low (I’d buy it up to 13 or 14 to give that 1d thrust rating).

The customization notes allow the float like a butterfly boxer, the standard technique master, and the aikido “use their strength against him” advice, plus a few more.

The Ninja is a little less dexterous, a little smarter, and slightly less hardy (lower HT) to pay for that choice. You can be an infiltration expert, a master of stealth and striking from out of combat, a modern-day electronics whiz, or the batman type that uses stealth to get close enough to engage in an unfair fight, but not an assassination.

 Finally, the template is rounded out by a very unusual “martial artist” type – the Traceur. These acrobatics and running experts are a first for most of the RPGs I’ve seen, but they are a very interesting character type. The focus here is on DX and HT, with ST an dIQ being fairly unexceptional.

The template is filled with jumping, acrobatics, climbing, and balance. Plus Running. Lots of running! The customization notes highlight variants. The Free Runner is a master of urban acrobatics, and YouTube is full of these guys. The Monkey is the vertical element to the Free Runner’s horizontal. The punk is a streetfighter with lots of acro to move around the battlefield, while the Urban Explorer seems to be able to navigate any structure, though isn’t in it for the flashy.

Finally, the weapon’s master, who at least is bringing a knife to a gunfight, if not a sword. A bit higher ST, suitably high DX (but not as high as the Fast Guy), and OK IQ and HT. Weapon Bond and Weapon Master are, of course, required.

Customization is basically by weapon type. Knives, swords (fencing and the traditional katana-wielding Bride), and sticks make up four of the five options, but there’s a fifth: the Sarge, for adding a bit of hand-to-hand beatdown to your military types.

Martial Arts Abilities


This chapter makes up about a third of the content of the book, but has, by far, the most Table-of-Contents entries, since it details all sorts of abilities that might be found in a martial artist.

In the Advantages section, each martial artsy advantage is detailed with a “how it applies to Action games” hat on. Some special mods, such as a variant of Zeroed for Ninja, provide worked-example tweaks for these modern cinematic games.

The Perks can be a lot of fun. Any book which includes “Deadly Pose” for extra-intimidating kills and dismemberment is worth a read. There are some real gems in there, too, such as a perk that exempts you from “nuisance” rolls to judge the success of “off-screen” parkour and climbing, allowing very rapid off-camera movement (the prerequisites for this are high).

The technique chapter re-introduces many of the techniques found in the Basic Set and GURPS Martial Arts, but just pre-prices allowed levels (so you won’t see Disarming (A), you just buy the level you want from a list. There are a lot of techniques listed, and some of them – notably the pakour/free-running ones – are new, I think, with this volume. Very handy for other game types.

As always, anyone can try a technique at the 0-point level (and that skill level is listed for each one). 

Martial Arts Weapons


Pretty much what it says on the tin.

Combat Rules


The last three pages of the book (well, almost the last, but p. 26 is the index) give some Action-oriented combat rules that are particular to martial artist types.

There are some tweaks here that make for good choices. An All-Out option for Acrobatic Stand. Bashing two foes’ heads together. Two more Extra Effort options. Ranged Rapid Strikes and Very Rapid Strikes.

Ballistic’s Report


As noted by the author himself, adding this much detail to an Action game can take it out of the ‘fast and light’ regime and into the ‘get pizza while Bruce Chan and Norris Van Damme figure out how many times they have to roll dice here.’ 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s a reason +Peter V. Dell’Orto, one of the authors of GURPS Martial Arts, chops down the list of available options in his Felltower Dungeon Fantasy game. Too much detail is just too much detail, and there’s no getting out of that.

If you heard that in the voice of Adlai Niska, well, that’s OK.

The gems in this book are the simple and extra combat rules at the end of the book, plus the boxed texts that really provide great advice as to how to run these campaigns with hand-to-hand character types in a world of guns.

I haven’t written about it yet, but this advice works. In actual play, first-hand experience. You can be on a foe, take him out, and disappear into the shadows. You’re Batman, and it doesn’t even strain verisimilitude if it’s done right.

This isn’t my favorite book in the Action series. The best is Action 2, which I frequently refer to as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Next-best is the yet-to-be-reviewed Action 4. Action 1 is required, but not terribly gonzo, and this fits right in there with that one – good, solid, professional advice on how to build effective characters for an Action game, paired with good, solid, professional advice on how not to get lead poisoning while doing it

In my review of Action 2, the gift that keeps on giving, I noted that there were several frameworks for thinking through things in a structured way. One was Assess, Analyze, Act, and Avoid.

I decided to apply that to the Aeon campaign, and specifically to The Commander, my 1,300-point (or so) super-soldier.

What does that look like?

  • Assess is “how do we gather data”
  • Analyze is “How do we make plans?”
  • Act is how we fight, mostly, in this context
  • Avoid let’s reframe  this into stealthy and non-stealthy transport. 

Avoid

For unsubtle, we have the VERTOL. That gives everyone in the vicinity a note that the cavalry is coming, and even a target.

For subtle: The Rat Queen can be sneaky by virtue of tiny rats. My guy can do Stealth based on SEAL! (so SEAL!-17 I think). Arc Light is notoriously non-subtle. 🙂 Eamon looks just like a guy, and Murui can probably do sneak as well being a martial artist, but not sure.

Assess

One thing that we haven’t been doing well is formal recon. Our Perception skills all seem sky-high; minimum of 18 perhaps? 

But we don’t do a great job of casing the joint, so to speak, and I think we need an SOP here. Let’s do journalism:

  • Who: What metas and what normals do we expect at the place? If we don’t know, how can we find out?
  • What: The goal of entering the building or locale. 
  • Where: Blueprints! significant other buildings or surroundings. Presence or absence of cover.
  • When: timing, not just for all of us to arrive but if we want to arrive in waves. If we need help, is it available, and how long would it take to arrive?
  • How: Subtle, non-subtle? Violence or persuasion? Who’s the notional lead, and in what circumstance? 

Analyze

What skills and skill rolls will help tip the scales here?

I have forgotten Tactics rolls more than once.

In yesterday’s example, we suspected that the building would have an occult presence, and yet we just waltzed in and let in a demon. That was a rookie mistake. 🙂

But we could have done Architecture to figure out the layout. Blueprints for entrances and exits ahead of time. Research for hidden lore, etc, before we started sprinting into the fray. 

My primary skills for the analyze phase include Ten-Hut! at a level of 16 or 18 (IQ+2 or IQ+4), which covers a bunch of nice stuff, plus SEAL! at the same level, which has Interrogation, Intimidation, and some other militarily useful abilities, including Intelligence Analysis so I can take all the recon data and incorporate it into a Tactics roll. Part and parcel of that is also Observation.

Act: The Commander

Defense: Parry-14 with his sword. Dodge is nothing special. TK block with the sword. Armor is worth about DR 20, plus another forward-facing force field (TK) for DR 40 total. This field is projectable if need be.

Offense

  •  Extra attack means I can aim and attack or attack twice with my weapons each turn, so long as I’m bringing the hurt.
  •  Assault carbine. 6d damage with standard ammo. He can both aim and attack each turn, so against the rare mundane foes at SMG distance (-7 for 30yds) he can hit vitals (-3) at about 90%; this means he can also hit legs or arms at 95%. Thus far, gunfire has mostly proved useful for telling us that our foes are immune to gunfire.
  • Uber-splody bullets: I have 68 rounds left of the gadget ammo that Arc Light made for me. I use this one shot at a time, and it’s got a big armor divisor and an even worse follow-up explosion. 6d(3) and some big number for follow-up. I took out a battle robot with this.
  • Sword. There’s somethign special about my grandfather’s sword. I can do cazy TK blocks with it, and it does a lot of damage. Does 5d+14 (2) cut, or 5d+14 cr with the sheath on if I don’t want to slice things.

All of the above are very, very lethal.

My other talents are moving things around the battlefield with 5d double knockback TK blasts. I can transfer energy from place to place, and this can be stunted such as with the earthquake. 

My martial arts skills are solid. 

Parting Shot

I’m good at killin’ folks, knocking them around, and mundane physical violence. I’m good for protecting civilians, and calling off tactical plans. I will likely never do 240 crushing damage.

My ability to recon an area would be insanely good – the go-to guy for this – if it weren’t for the Rat Queen’s ability to do all of that stuff better than I can. So I’m backup recon guy, but probably the #1 player in the “make a tactical plan” department for when we remember to make one. I describe this as “Call it, Captain” from the Avengers.

“Call it, Captain.”

Once we get into the action, my guy is often the one who does recon-by-fire. He sees a target, and fires a few normal bullets into it to see how it reacts. He usually aims for the leg, unless the hostiles (like the demons in S1E8) are obviously in the “kill on sight” category.

Beyond that, he can do lesser damage via grappling and battlefield prep and denial via TK abilities. 

Diffuse foes? Screwed from a damage perspective, but not from a dispersal one. 

His DR is good, but not great, and we keep running into things with (2) through (5) armor divisors, which means my DR 40 becomes DR 20 (not bad, about 5d+2) down to DR 8 (2d+1). So he’s protected but not immune to stuff. His defenses tend to be best when leveraging Weapon Master to parry at -2 per additional, starting at Parry-14, Parry-15 with a retreat.

With all of that, he’s not the front-line combatant here. Our “Hulk? Smash” players are the Rat Queen in Ogre mode and Arc Light, especially with our newly discovered Fastball Special, where he can deal out basically 6dx10 crushing damage, absorbing the blowback on himself 

He’s most useful in clearing the field of “normals” that might threaten his teammates somehow. He can wade through those guys – often with Zephyr the martial artist’s help – at a rate of 1-2 per turn. He’s surprisingly less useful thus far against the powered set.

Well, unless there’s killin’ to be done. Then he’s got three magazines worth of rifle ammo – the result of a one-off gizmo – that do something like 6d(3) with a follow on 10d explosion. That’s 63 points of penetration on the average (just shy of 1″ of steel) with an explosion that will almost always be internal for x3 damage, which can in fact do about 100 points on the average. So if there’s a legit target for lethal force, The Commander can provide it if there’s enough time to swap magazines, and the target sets off the explosion.

I wonder if I can get one of those nifty dual-mag carbines from Ultra-Tech . . . 

This is a continuation of my comprehensive review of the Action series. The first volume, Action 1: Heroes, was 35 pages long, and revolved around creating characters, mostly via the vehicle of providing character templates and the means for fleshing them out. But it also fleshed out the concept of Wildcard skills, as well as how to leverage the usual patrons and organizations that are frequently at the centerpiece of action-oriented stories.

Exploits is different. It’s the campaign book, which provides advice on how to both run and play in these campaigns. A hallmark of action-adventure stories – especially movies – is that they’re not always quite so concerned about getting things exactly right as they are with striking the proper mood and keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. This volume helps the GM and players achieve a similar feel.

I’ll lead with the conclusion, and then hopefully back it up: this particular volume is one of the most under-appreciated works in the GURPS pantheon. 

Cover-to-cover, the book is 50 pages long, and unlike the first volume, instead of large blocks of text or page-count given to variations on (say) character templates, the table of contents is filled with page after page of advice and rules distillations, served up in small chunks.

It’s worth a brief rundown of what’s covered before the detailed dive.

Introduction


One page. Less importantly profound than the intro from Action 1, it does present that the book is a “collection of simple rules for resolving classic action situations.” The watchword here is if it’s doable on a movie screen, possibly a movie screen with a lot of wirework and bullet time, it’s covered in the book.


Challenges, Not Headaches


Two pages. This chapter presents three subsections, each of which is designed to set the tone for skill and ability usage. The concept of Basic Abstract Difficulty – a general penalty that replaces a lot of the potentially time-consuming fiddling to get precise penalties for skill use in GURPS – is covered here. But to keep the game moving as well as focus on team-based play (think Oceans Eleven rather than James Bond) simple rules for complimentary skills and teamwork are given.


The Basics


Five pages. Roughly half advice for having an adventure ready and the subcomponents of finding (or being given) a mission, assembling gear (a very important but potentially time-consuming part of the game), deciding what is the objective, and importantly, what is not, and getting there.

Also given equal weight are a series of common things than any well-oiled tactical squad will have worked out ahead of time . . . and these pages serve as a ridiculously useful checklist of common questions for nearly any game or genre. 


Tricks of the Trade



20 pages. The largest singe chapter in the book, it contains nine section-level (in GURPS author lingo, these are B-HEADs) items, covering how to gather intelligence on the objective, how to obtain information – willingly or unwillingly – from other people through direct and indirect manipulation, planning and training, infiltration and tactical movement, including (actually, mostly dealing with) barriers to free movement.

Other sections include grabbing and carrying your prize, blowing stuff up, deceptive measures and countermeasures from false IDs to spoofing a polygraph, and of course both exiting the objective location and ensuring that you are either undetected or protected while doing so. To turn the tables, the chapter ends with what happens when the mission comes to the PCs, if they’re in charge of protecting an objective instead of violating it.


Ultra-Violence


12 pages. This one’s only two sections – one on chases and another on combat. Almost all of the detail here is to keep things fast and light. Much of it is exportable to the right non-action game.


When Things Go Wrong


Three pages. A quick summary of what it means to be wounded, dealing with the typical chemical and biological threats those pesky terrorists keep bringing to the sandbox, as well as poisons and overdoses for that typical Tuesday night. More mechanically-oriented problems are dealt with in the section on repairs. Finally, it’s a genre trope that the heroes will be captured, have the Evil Plan explained to them in stupid detail, and then escape. Rules and trope-enablers are provided.


Directing the Action


Five pages. Five rapid-fire sections to help the GM, and a not-to-be-missed box on what GURPS options, if used, will throw a bucket of cold water on the Action Hero genre expectations.

The section on Campaign Types calls out which of the specialized rules and challenges are likely (or expected) to show up in a given milieu. Typical methods for using and abusing Assistance Rolls are described in list form in another section. How to properly inflict a character with a Duty in a way that it’s not just part of the background gets a whole section that is perhaps three paragraphs long. 

This chapter also details in monster write-up format the difference between Mooks and Henchmen, and the various versions of Bosses. Oh, plus dogs and killer robots. 

Finally, a few words on what happens as the firemen and EOD guys tamp down the last smoldering embers of the PCs passage and the clean-up crews are doing their thing . . . and the local legal profession starts up to properly defend the perps against the charges that will surely be brought. Hope you make your Law (Police) roll!


Detailed Action

There’s a lot to like about this book, and to pick out every individual piece would simply take too long and honestly might spoil the need to buy the book. Nonetheless, I’ll go through and pick out particularly juicy pieces as highlights . . . but some of this stuff is worth a dedicated post, and I’ll be doing that too.

Chapter One: Challenges Not Headaches



It’s a short chapter, but it’s dedicated to a few basic principles that are good things to keep in mind:

  • Never use a specific, detailed penalty if a broad one will do
    • Corollary: Sometimes a broad one will not do
  • Breadth on the character sheet should be rewarded
  • Your teammates matter and should be leveraged for fun, profit, and violence
The chapter’s short: basically two pages. But each section has an important rule, and it’s always something that will be deeply pertinent and add to the sense of fun. 
As will be common in the entire book, skills are called out in bold to emphasize them for examples. A Find Phrase executed on a skill name may well be the best way to look for particlars here, since you will often come up with a couple well-thought-out examples of how to use that skill to resolve a broad category of conflict.
Finally, the rules called out – especially for Complimentary Skill rolls – discourage rolling for rolling’s sake (“Oh! I have these ten skills . . . I will roll them all and see if they help!”) by making a null result impossible. A roll may help, or it may hurt, but it will be one or the other. So fishing for bonuses may well backfire – this is to the good and means that you bring out complimentary skills when it’s worth it, but not constantly.
Chapter Two: The Basics

While the guts of what the chapter contains were listed above, the real meat is contained in even more examples of how to use various important Action skills to execute different parts of a typical action movie. There’s how to find a job, using licit or illicit contacts – or maybe you’re just ordered to infiltrate the Rebel Base. 

Several different ways to obtain needed gear are provided in similar vein, giving what skills are tested, and the consequences of success or failure. These are often descriptive rather than prescriptive, and oft-times might be resolved by simply saying “you get some great gear, and the Basic Abstract Difficulty of the mission is a lower penalty now.” That, of course, can go the other direction as well.
A box text calls out advice on when it’s fun to track details down to the last AA battery (rarely), and when it should be handwaved (most of the time). This book is filled with examples-in-practice of this sort of advice: calculate never, play now. In many cases these are case studies in how to avoid both analysis paralysis as well as bogging down in the minutia that led me to write the post about simplifying Guns combat: getting a penalty more or less right is both faster, more satisfying, and creates more tension than flipping through the pages of rulebooks to arrive at an answer within a few ticks of the detailed version anyway.
One thing that could have been made more explicit – though this might just be my take-away and not what Sean intended – is that some of this stuff is best done either between sessions, or at the end of a prior mission. This allows the GM to take stock of all of the team’s rolls and foibles, and get downtime to craft the next session accordingly. Unless, of course, he’s blessed with scads of time, imagination, foresight, and can just pick from one or more pre-staged adventures to run. If so, booyah, and good for her . . . but that person isn’t me (it’s the time that’s usually lacking).
The second subsection of the book contains what is simply good advice for any campaign in any system. It goes through common needs in action-adventure movies, and encourages the group to tell the GM what their standard procedure for such things is ahead of time. Things like communication (we all have cell phones!), security (we all have encrypted cell phones), and preparedness (we all wear our armor and full battle rattle to the mall, to pick up our kids from daycare, and to work). And when it’s dark? (we strap chemlights to our full battle rattle, so we can read Goodnight Moon by the pale green light). This allows the GM to assess the skills and positions of who might meet trouble first.
This is worth expanding on – and I will definitely be doing that, perhaps even before this particular review goes online. But there’s good advice here, that applies as equally to a D&D game as to an Action one.
Chapter Three: Tricks of the Trade

This chapter is more-or-less a walkthrough of what to do in a typical action-adventure movie. It divides the types of activity into “The Four A’s” of Assess, Analyze, Act, and Avoid, and then breaks those down further into the chapter’s subsections. The introduction notes that these can happen out of order, fully mixing and matching and scrambling as appropriate.

The sections not only contain specific, GURPS-oriented examples, but can be mined for universals too. In Gathering Intelligence, one of the potential take-aways is that whenever you have a team going up against some other plot or activity, the GM should have a list of key tactical facts. If all of the intel is in hand, then the mission can and should be a one-sided romp to victory . . . or at least as tipped to the players as omniscience allows. The Greeks at Thermopylae were killed to the last man, after all. Well, except for Faramir.
The point is that you want a list of stuff that all the intel gathering can find out, and ideally you want it ahead of time. Not only does it allow the GM to pre-determine the pros and cons for each piece of information, it allows her to not-so-gently move from the Assess or Analyze phase into the Act phase and keep things moving along. Analysis paralysis can easily be paired with Obsessive Assessing and drag down the entire movie. 
Beyond that, the first six or seven pages of the chapter are basically an object lesson in “if you want to accomplish X, roll against Y, perhaps as a skill test, or a Quick Contest.” Each type of task is given a terse but illustrative example of how it is used and plays out. Again: using your PDF reader’s FIND feature is key here, and there are some real gems. Dancing? Use it to rile up a crowd to distract from illicit activities. Research to turn up blueprints for target buildings. How to use Stealth followed by Hearing to get close enough to unobtrusively eavesdrop, and when and how to use a shotgun mike to make your range penalties less of a problem for you than for your asymmetrically-equipped foe.
Check out the pull from the preview showing the sections covered – each one, from Physical Searches to Dumpster Diving to Making Them Talk gets skills, examples, and modifiers – though as often as not the guideline is to simply apply BAD to the roll and avoid details.
The text moves on to planning the operation, again focusing on the skill rolls used to extract the right next step or tactical fulcrum. Again, from above: this is one of the places where the list of such key bits of intel will prove very valuable, and this Tricks of the Trade Chapter helps the GM anticipate the kinds of things that will be useful . . . and which will not. From a player-facing perspective, the character sheets are the list of the things the player’s team will try . . . so the GM can just have the go-to top skills handy and plan ahead. Easy-peasy.
Infiltration gets a section – appropriately titled Getting In, and leads with this gem: “In all cases, a hero with Danger Sense gets a secret Perception roll before being eaten by guard dogs, fried by an electric fence, etc.”

This more or less describes the light-hearted but informative tone for the entire volume – and it’s worth reading closely to find the Easter Eggs.

The pattern of “here are some key adventuring tasks, and here’s how to resolve them” continues, of course. But some key sections are worth noting . . . and stealing for other games.

  • Climbing tasks get some generous amplification and explanation 
  • Parkour – using Acrobatics and Jumping to navigate complex terrain – gets nearly a full page of options . . . and a box on falling for when you biff it.
  • Locks, Doors, and Security Systems – these get the high-level treatment you’d expect. Enough variability to cover both ‘plywood and nails’ to ‘ultra-secure blast door.’
A final call-out here in this chapter for Providing Security, which is a fairly in-depth look at what happens when it’s the PCs that are in charge of trying to prevent a team just like them from doing unto them the things that PCs usually do unto others. That can be pretty cool – think about the Helicarrier scene from the first Avengers movie. It’s basically an extended security scene from the perspective of “what do we do when security’s already been breached?”
Part of me feels bad for skirting over keeping watch, or Bomb Disposal, or Sabotage, or Setting Traps. But each one contains a simple set of advice for what skill to roll against, the consequences of success or failure, and enough variation to keep it interesting. 
Important box-text that hasn’t yet been mentioned here: an action-movie treatment of High-Tech Challenges such as computer hacking and code cracking. Advice on how to fit in with various genre staples such as blending in with cops, soldiers, or criminals. Advice on how to keep fact-finding from being an exercise in boring bonus-fishing. Tables on hardware DR and HP, including doors and gates. A note on how visual style can trump common sense in this genre. A short box on opening safe and vault locks. WMDs as plot devices rather than real threats (you are all vaporized in a nuclear explosion is not how most action movies end). A quick rundown on gadgets used to provide and break security.
This entire chapter is a giant worked example of how to apply GURPS skills to the action-adventure genre, and the experiences of the writer and playtesters in running these campaigns is on full display. An incredibly useful how-to reference manual.
Chapter Four: Ultra-Violence

This chapter is divided into two sections, Chases and Combat. Each has the same goal, which is to take what potentially could devolve into a second-by-second modifier-driven crunchfest and abstract it into something more suitable to the sliver screen: the only thing that you see is the action, and maybe some scene-chewing, and clever tactical planning.

Of the two, the Chases subsystem accomplishes the goal better, in that it splits a chase into actions of “less than a minute.” This might be a few seconds or much longer (the two cars streak down the busy road dodging traffic for two or three miles), but it excludes certain tasks that in no way could fit into the allotted time. It’s a GM’s call whether characters with extreme skill can use the time rules to execute long tasks within those turns, but to keep the focus on the chase, my feeling would be no.

Chases are divided into abstract rounds, then, and into Pursuer and Quarry. Each round, the two parties select from some pre-determined maneuvers (14 of them) such as Move (the generic try-and-catch-up maneuver), Hide, or Attack. The victory conditions are assessed in a Chase roll that accounts for the starting (and again, abstract) distance between pursuer and quarry, with the goal being to close or extend the distance, and then force the chase to end (this happens automatically if the range band of the chase extends past extreme).

Range bands? Yes. The same concept I borrowed for Zoned Mapless Combat and Quick and Dirty Guns Combat was invented for chases, and is also used in the condensed combat rules.

GURPS has so many rules for combat that it’s easy to get bogged in the details, and loving attention to combat is part of the genre – but it’s supposed to be fast-paced action.

The first section offers a section on simplified shooting. It’s in the vein of my Q&D Guns above, but a bit less so. The highest utility comes from the use of the range band table to set the overall range penalties for the fight, which tends to be the fiddly-bit that, especially at close range, can slow the game down because the penalties tend to move around a lot within the reach of a Move or Step.

The bulk of the chapter offers some mild simplifications to combat, and also enables some cinematic rules as switches to allow a bit more in the way of Awesome. They borrow liberally from the wealth of mechanics available to the GURPS GM, but put the info in easy reach – for example, there are several variants of the Martial Arts rule “Shoving People Around” that are critical for Action movies. 

There are rules – similar to or borrowed from Thieves in Dungeon Fantasy – to let those with high sneakitude get the most of their abilties to disappear and reappear from combat by blending in with shadows or striking suddenly from within them.

Cinematic combat options and Extra Effort get blown out for more ways to be cool and exhaust yourself doing so on ways that provide more heroic opportunity. And a nifty set of rules for “pulling aggro” in order to taunt people into focusing their ire on you rather than the non-combat-oriented hacker.

Chapter Five: When Things Go Wrong


This chapter is essentially a list of skill tests, with appropriate description. How to use each skill to execute typical tasks for healing, diseases, and toxins. There’s a quick section on vehicular repairs that follows the same pattern.

The vehicular repair rules are a very simple way of tracking damage and function, and also restoring it with the proper rolls. Unlike characters, who can continue to be not-dead from -HP down to -5xHP, vehicles just die at -HP, which is a good way to keep things simple. A few special-case situations that commonly call for skill rolls (“Scotty, I need more power for the shields!”) are also treated.

There’s also a half-page box on how and when to use the various metagame Luck advantages – or buying successes with character points – in genre. This includes Daredevil and Serendipity.

Finally, there are a few notes about the skills to roll for restraints and escaping them.

Chapter Six: Directing the Action


The final chapter consists on five pages that are aimed straight at the GM, rather than both the players and the GM. It also has a statement that works well here, but would be equally a home (and perhaps usefully repeated) in the book’s introduction. 

“The ultimate outcome of an action story is predictable, after all: The heroes will win, like in the movies. This is a key difference between action gaming and genres such as fantasy and horror, where challenges are often confusing, weird, and unknowable.”

The first section on Campaign types lists challenges found in Exploits that are best-fits to the campaign types listed in Action 1: Heroes (which also lists the characters best suited to tackle that campaign). It tells you what tasks are good, and what types of help or equipment might be suitable or not-so-suitable for a game (mercenaries for a secret mission are likely to be disavowed, rather than being supported by a company of Rangers if things get tight).

In the same vein as “not appropriate for a campaign style,” a half-page box gives ten rules to avoid or eliminate from Action-Adventure games. Such as Regular Contests (boring!) detailed tracking of fatigue for uses other than Extra Effort (roll that into BAD), or Fright Checks (these are bad-asses, not mooks; they don’t got time to scream). And magic, because Action-Adventure, not sword-and-sorcery . . . though if magical spells replaces or supplements guns, you have The Dresden Files, which would be a fine Action-Adventure/Mystery crossover.

Much like many parts of the book talk about skill tasks and how they face the player, the chapter also hits some details on Assistance Rolls – possible requests, the rolls required to get that effect, and the resolution of such. 

And since the primary foes in action adventure movies are either other humans or the clock, three “classes” of enemies are provided: Mooks, Henchmen, and Bosses, with brief potential write-ups for each. Given the generalities involved, these are high level, with advice such as “one to three scenario-relevant skills at level 10-15” instead of a detailed blow-by-blow for each type of potential adversary.

The book ends with utility – what can happen after the action dies down and it’s time for the wrap-up, and a long 3/4-page box on how to ensure that, unlike the typical action movie (which is usually only one or two protagonists), that every character is kept relevant to the game without dominating a campaign or even a scene to the exclusion of all others. A character can be the brightest light in the room while still not losing the rest of the party in the glare.

Ballistic’s Report

I don’t mean to short-change any particular chapter, or indeed the huge swaths of the book that are “little more” than a set of tasks, the skills needed to accomplish them, and then any skills or modifiers that are used to resist or oppose that action. That is the lion’s share of improv and lookup a GM has to do during a game, and this book has taken nearly every Action trope and done the work for you, in advance.

Between Action  1 and Action 2, you have a compact (but not that compact – the two together run 85 pages) genre distillation that gives you fast-start character templates, another “template” for putting together adventures and looking for work, a “template” in Act, Assess, Analyze, etc. for the important components of an action-adventure story, and a giant list of prefabricated tasks and modifiers for executing these. 

The only thing I could wish for, because of the need to actually find the task at hand, would be to reduce all of those tasks to a tabular format. Perhaps a list that might include:

  • Skill: the key skill being used as a primary condition
  • Task: The particular job being accomplished here. Each skill might have several tasks that might have been described, and each would get a separate line. Page reference for details.
  • Type: Skill roll, Quick Contest, Regular Contest, Reaction Roll, Effect Roll.
  • Modifiers: Either the actual modifiers or types of modifiers (apply, range, target location, and lighting penalties to the Guns roll) would work.
  • Opposed By: If there’s active resistance possible, this gives the options.

I’d leave complimentary skills out, and special effects or conditions can be handled in depth by the page reference under Tasks, though things like “Take margin of success as damage” might be worth a reference. A similar table could be created for Assistance Rolls from Chapter Six.

All in all, I still maintain that this book in particular is one of the most under-appreciated books published for GURPS, because while it makes for dense reading, there are something like a half-dozen to a dozen key simplifications and concepts that take a lot of the “what modifiers do I look for now” slog out of the game. The rest of the book represents a distilled list of a bloody ton of adventuring tasks that the Line Editor must have run across in his own long-running Action/Adventure campaign, packaged up nice and neatly for consumption – but you’ll want to be facile with using FIND for skills here in your PDF, because that’s probably the best way to turn this excellent book into a highly usable quick-reference guide.

Thursday is GURPSDay, and while writing a review of GURPS Action 2: Exploits, hopefully for this coming Sunday, I was reading through the section on Squad SOP from Chapter 2, and the point made on “Subtlety” jumped out at me. The advice it gives is “The GM should ask each player to describe his PC’s “stealth mode,” and note the relevant skills and equipment modifiers. This will prevent arguments like whether the shooter had his machine gun under a trench coat!”
This is excellent advice, and seems exportable to nearly any game, and definitely a few of them in which I’m playing. 
In fact, it seems like broadening the concept is a good idea, and as usual, Action 2 gives a lot of the right cues. 
Instead of just picking a “stealth mode,” players should specify in moderate detail their character’s choice for the C-HEADS in Chapter 2 in the case of “casual circumstance,” “subtle but ready,” and “brashly offensive.”
The Examples

The easiest way to show this is probably by example. I’ll pick on first The Commander, my superhero modeled a bit on Captain America, but he’s playing out a bit more like a combination of Jean Grey and Steve Rogers rather than how I thought he’d go. In any case, here are the examples, which can be read right out of the Table of Contents in Action 2’s preview. But I’ll lead off with everyone’s favorite concerns, weapons and armor.
Armor
  • Casual: The Commander has a super-suit that has chameleon properties. So he could conceivably be in armor all the time, perhaps excepting when he sleeps. That suit is not the highest point value part of him, but it is basically irreplaceable. He’d take it off to sleep and when in known-secure locations. Otherwise, he’s wearing it.
  • Subtle: His subtle mode is the suit redone as military fatigues in the latest pattern. It doesn’t look like armor, but it is – right down to a transparent face-shield
  • Brash: His “all-in” costume is no more protective, but it is a lot more overt. Modern samurai-looking garb worn for intimidation and recognizability. It screams ‘I’m here, and I’m in your face,” as a deliberate statement.
Weaponry
  • Casual: A concealed pistol.
  • Subtle: His pistol and his sword, which he’s rarely without. His rifle would likely be present but slung or otherwise hidden, or perhaps left behind. He might go with a telescoping baton instead of the sword, for melee.
  • Brash: Rifle, pistol, sword. This is how he spends most of his time, because the high Reputation and recognition of his face, his sword, and his method of doing things. 
Communications

  • Casual: Cell phone, like the rest of the planet. Perhaps it’s a secure one, but basically nothing special.
  • Subtle: He can use gestures and military hand signals for silence, but that isn’t exactly subtle, though it is quiet. And he needs other military guys to receive those signals. His combat suit has embedded comms, though, so subvocal communication is viable.
  • Brash: Loud voice, tactical comms.
Formations
The Cavalry (the name of the super team) has done very little thinking on this, and it shows. We usually show up in Brash mode, full battle rattle and capes flying. This is in genre, but we’ve never done subtle or casual as part of a mission. We need to think on this a lot more.

  • Casual: We have tended to arrive either by VERTOL (the opposite of subtle) or with Eamon carrying us in flight mode (less overt, but still – guys dangling in the air isn’t exactly super-normal).
  • Subtle: We have no plans or positions. The Commander has, in fact, broken out of subtle and careful in some Impulsive=like behavior in a few recent missions, pulling Leeeroy Jenkins! when things were bogging down in his mind. We need a way and a formation to enter into things. Probably the Rat Queen on point, as both recon (disasembled) and heavy hitter (she is a mighty tank) that can take a shot if the cover is blown. Then the Commander and Arc Light as the front line, with Zephyr as light cavalry in skirmish mode – in and out to test weaknesses and exploit holes. Eamon is a bit of a glass cannon due to low defenses, but he can literally lift a ship with his TK, and his gravity manipulation shape the battlefield. So he’s in the back. Yukio the Dog of NIMH is a hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle kind of puppy, and not good for subtle.
  • Brash: As above, but with Yukio in full-on “Fezzik, tear his arms off” mode. Rat Queen enters in Rat Ogre form, instead of dispersed.
Light up the Night

  • Casual: Nothing special, or perhaps a tactical flashlight dismounted from a weapon
  • Subtle: Ironically, The Commander is quite sure his suit has vision-enhancement, but is also quite sure he can’t make it work for some reason. So he’s forced to rely on his enhanced natural senses . . . which given Perception-18, are good enough that if he moves slowly, he’s as good as most people are in broad daylight when there is an overcast sky with a moon in it (-8 to Vision). So his “stealth” light source is no light source at all.
  • Brash: Not sure if Arc Light’s suit has a day-glo mode. Otherwise, senses and flashlights, or even torches and lanterns. 
Parting Shot
There are some very basic questions here that can and should be asked and answered of any adventuring party, regardless of Tech Level. How do you travel? How to you communicate? How do you go about town without attracting attention, and how well protected are you when you do so? When the lights go out, can you see? How? Can others see you by your own light?
As The Commander, I typically sport DR 21 or even DR 41 if attacked willfully and overtly from the front with a physical attack – a combination of armor and force fields give me enough juice to stop a .50 BMG. So he can go about protected, and his martial arts and telekinesis provide weapons that can’t be taken away or seen. But we have yet to think much about transport, formations, light, or comms . . . and this last time it nearly cost us.
In a Fantasy game, the questions aren’t that different, and still as useful. And they’d be useful still in Swords and Wizardry, Fate, Night’s Black Agents (!), or D&D. These are universal adventuring concerns, helpfully laid out for us by Sean in Action 2.

This is a very comprehensive review of Action 1. I had started to write one post per chapter, but even I find that annoying after a bit. So I’m combining my two prior posts with this one, which finishes up with chapters 3 and 4. The review is almost 4,500 words long . . . so buckle up.

I’m going to drop the page break here, because otherwise it’s the same as the prior post – but it does more than just repeat them, it finishes out the review and adds the summary.

Introduction

Great, so you went out and purchased GURPS Action 1: Heroes. Excellent choice. Your discernment makes you a paragon among men.

So open it up. Read the introduction. Good. Read it again.

Now read it again.

Got it? Good, because it’s that important.

No surprise for +Sean Punch, but I’m not kidding when I say that the introduction is very key to this entire series. In six tightly written paragraphs, our fearless author sets out some very important caveats for the book. They’re important enough that I’m going to deal with just this one page in a post by itself.

Ninja Nazis. We hate these guys.

  1. The book covers the style and feel of roughly a century of storytelling. The feel, plots, and archetypes derive from the pulps of the 1920s and 1930s. The visual style is pure cinema, from the 1930s through the 1950s, where good was good, bad was bad, and we hate Nazis. Finally, the high-caliber full-auto violence derives from the hard-edged 80s and 90s, when even comic books bled. Oh, and we’re borrowing the loving care for gear lavished on decades of appearances by Q. This one, not that one. 
  2. This book is around character design guidelines. They will be deep enough to allow fidelity to the genre
  3. The games will involve nonstop thrills and tension. If you have a down moment, it better because there’s a ticking bomb, or two ninjas/Nazis (or better yet, ninja Nazis!) getting ready to kick in the door. If it’s not high octane, you are expected to brush by it. The only real room for realistic but unexciting skills is to provide a moment of levity or to be used to obtain clues. But if you can make obtaining them exciting . . . do that instead.
  4. Most action/adventure movies feature a lone hero or perhaps a pair. Indiana Jones. Murtaugh and Riggs. Rambo. Riddick. Bond. However, most RPG groups are more than that – somewhere between the six in the GI Joe films, or the assault team from the first Predator movie or the Colonial Marines from Aliens. Well, before they all get killed. Fewer cast members than The Expendables. A superhero team like the Avengers would come close, but it’s not quite the right genre feel. The team from Ronin is about perfect (which it’s why it’s mentioned in the text, along with Ocean’s Eleven and Sneakers).
  5. Characters are defined by what they do, and the book will define them by niche. There will be a flavor-lens for exactly that – and those lenses will be useful – but in the words of Kuato, you are what you do. And much like a party in D&D, the game will benefit from multiple archetypes, while still supporting unique characters from the same archetype, and games where all can play the same one.
  6. The last paragraph is the most important. It states what it is not. It is not about realism. Where there’s grit, grime, and dirt, it serves as something to allow the hero(es) to rise above. PCs can get away with a lot that will get normal folks thrown in jail . . . but that’s because they’re always proved right in the end, and the opposition is truly despicable. To quote the final line in full, because it matters: “Use Action in serious games at your own risk!”
The introduction sets the tone for what follows. This book will be about high action, high adventure, and low-fidelity realism. What is awesome is what matters – though a high-action, high-competence game can be toned down to achieve the feel of Ronin. 
The rest of the book will provide templates, and how they fit various games and campaigns (Chapter 1), and actually providing the cut-down list of advantages, disadvantages, and skills that is appropriate to the genre. This is good advice, if lengthy to execute, for any campaign (to cut it down, that is), and Sean executes it for you. In Chapter 3, the background comes to life with advice on how to leverage the agencies and organizations to aid the mission. Finally, we hook up with Q for Chapter 4: Gear, which all sorts of toys.
We’ll cover each chapter in turn. 

Chapter 1 – Action Templates

OK. This chapter is the guts of the book, really. How to make Heroes by making relatively easy selections.

The contents of the chapter – what SJG Style refers to as B-HEADs, which are important subsections – shall be three, and they are as follows:

  1. Lenses
  2. Campaign Types
  3. Templates
There are also some boxes spread throughout the text. These call out important concepts (or optional rules) that don’t always fit precisely within the chapter structure.

I’m going to quibble a tetch with the order here, because I think the Campaign Types should have come first. The very first thing the GM needs to tell you is what kind of campaign you’re going to play. You may yet be able to play a Criminal lens in a Law Enforcement campaign (“OK, OK, OK . . . “), but it’ll save time if you know what’s important and what’s not.

So I’m going to skip around:

Campaign Types

A scant page-and-a-quarter, nonetheless it hits nine common campaign archetypes: cops (Lethal Weapon), crooks (Oceans Number or The Italian Job), soldiers for hire (Expendables, A-Team, Ronin), spy and counterspy (Bond, maybe Bourne), Task Force (Sword of Gideon, perhaps; GI Joe almost by definition), spies for hire (Burn Notice), vigilante justice (Taken), and War on Terror (The Unit TV show).

The real names in the book are slightly different for some of those. Point is, there are nine, they’re somewhere between very and subtly different, and the flavor will influence your selection of characters and lenses.

Which is why each campaign type lists common and uncommon roles. And perhaps more importantly, you get statements like this:

“The driver of the SWAT van or chopper might be a wheel man, and an EMT could be a medic, but NPCs often fill these roles. Few forces have full-time assassins, cleaners, or infiltrators aboard.”

So yeah, you can play character type X, but high risk of being bored. If you play character type Y, you may strain willing suspension of disbelief as you figure out how a full-time assassin works for the EPA.

Not putting this first confuses me a bit, but it’s a quibble. The lenses section (detailed next) is roughly the same size (maybe a page or page and a half) so it’s not as if either is a slog.

Lenses

Another short chapter, this one gives five detailed and six cursory “lenses” to add flavor to your character. They represent 20 points – less than 10% of a given templates value, and do not add to the point total (they’re subsumed into the template cost).

Each lens provides suggestions as to the minimum set of skills and abilities that one would possess to not overly strain credibility to lay claim to a certain background. As an example, Martin Riggs, the ex-SF sniper from the Lethal Weapon movies (Mel Gibson), is likely an Assassin (rather than a Shooter) with the Law Enforcement lens. Just enough 2-point skills to allow him to roll at IQ level (a not-awful 12) for most of the things he’s supposed to be able to do as a cop. Detective Lorna Cole (Renee Russo), to contrast, is likely an Investigator with the Law Enforcement lens, with enough points funneled into Karate to give Riggs something to sincerely admire in fighting ability. But the lens is between useful and required to make their “cop” persona viable. Things like “Duty” because they report for work each day, or Legal Enforcement Powers, because, well, cops.

The skills section thus recommends where to spend the 20 points in Background skills from each template, and the abilities section guides your choices from those listed in the template. Some of those are Disadvantages (often Duty), so may wind up being a net point gain (the Extremely Hazardous Duty that will come up very frequently for SFOD-D guys, as an example, is a heavyweight disad).
The basic choices given explicitly are Criminal, Intelligence, Law Enforcement, Military, and Security (which means counter-spy, the mirror of Intelligence). Interestingly, Law Enforcement also has its mirror in Criminal, and of course Military is its own mirror.

The lenses are a nice touch, guiding background in a useful way that adds to character without distracting from role. The guidance for non-explicit lenses, such as Academic (the scientists from Jurassic Park, or Dr Jekyll from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Martial Arts Master, or Rich Adveturer, is brief but on-point. If you want to be a rich adventurer, you’d best be rich and/or famous.
Templates
The meat of the chapter for obvious reasons, this is where you spend your points. Quite a few of them (250), but not the heavyweight for worked examples: that honor belongs to Monster Hunters.
There are 11 templates, each very competent, that define traditional roles in action movies. Each has some niche protection and some overlap: The Assassin, Demolition Man, and Shooter all do violence as their reason for existence . . . but each has their own, um, idiom.
Some are in-your-face roles that beg for screen time, while others (Wheel Man, Cleaner, Wire Rat, Hacker) can either be front-and-center (the car chase from Ronin) or in the background (the brief scene with Harve Keitel from Point of No Return). 
One thing about them: they’re very, very attribute-heavy, designed to make broadly competent characters. Consider the point investment in attributes alone: Assassin (180 pts); Cleaner (180 pts); Demolition Man (170 pts); Face Man (180 pts); Hacker (150 pts); Infiltrator (170 pts); Investigator (170 pts); Medic (160 pts); Shooter (160 pts); Wheel Man (160 pts), and Wire Rat (150 pts). Every template has at least one stat that’s 14-16, with more in the offing with optional points. 

That being said, characters still have 70-100 points of more-or-less discretionary choices as to where their particular brand of awesome lies. Optimization guidance is provided as well, selling back Basic Speed, for example. to prevent involuntary selection of levels of Speed/Move that don’t help with Dodge or add a full yard of movement. That can still happen, of course – but it will be the players’ choice.

For each template, advice is given on which of the many options presented in the typical GURPS template wall-of-text to choose to reflect a certain flavor. A criminal shooter might have brawling and intimidation and favor cheap and easily discarded weaponry, while a security-lensed shooter might be a bodyguard, with ridiculous levels of Pistol and SMG skill. Your classic military shooter has broad experience with full-auto, crew-served, artillery, and rocket launchers that civilian specialties might lack. 

That guidance – lean towards X and Y rather than P and Q – can be quite helpful and will speed the process a bit.

Obligatory Panning of Blocks of Text

I’ve noted this before – I like templates but do not like how they’re presented on the paper. The format is basically the aforementioned wall of text. This is space-efficient but hides the utility of the template, which is the rapid presentation and assimilation of 250 points worth of choices.

This is a bit tough, because the book is already in two-column format, and my personal druthers would have the choices being bulleted out even further, with more white space.

So instead of:

Advantages: Gunslinger [25] and Luck [15]. • A further 30
points chosen from among lens advantages (pp. 4-5), ST +1
to +3 [10/level], DX +1 [20], IQ +1 [20], HT +1 to +3
[10/level], Per +1 to +6 [5/level], Basic Speed +1 [20], Basic
Move +1 to +3 [5/level], Acute Vision [2/level], . .. 

you might instead get

Advantages:

  • Gunslinger [25] and Luck [15]
  • A further 30 points chosen from among lens advantages (pp. 4-5):
o   ST +1 to +3 [10/level]
o   DX +1 [20], IQ +1 [20]
o   HT +1 to +3 [10/level]
o   Per +1 to +6 [5/level]
o   Basic Speed +1 [20]
o   Basic Move +1 to +3 [5/level]
o   Acute Vision [2/level]
But without the boxes. Basically, something that uses a two- or three-column format within the main two-column format of the document to allow the eye to assimilate the vast amount of good information from the tempaltes in a more friendly way. This will increase page count (which I’m assured isn’t quite as “free” as one would think, even in electronic documents, due to the association of page count with pricing, even in electronic documents), but would, to me, represent a huge leap forward in the paper/electronic-page utility of what can be very dense blocks of text.
If you use GCA and someone makes a macro for you? Forget everything I just said because templates are the greatest thing since sliced bread in this case.
Boxed Text
There are three instances of boxed text throughout the chapter, giving some help or additional information to help make genre-appropriate heroes and their foes.
  • Action Who’s Who is a glossary of terms used for heroes and foes in the series.
  • Check Out the Big Brain deals with the fact that nearly all the templates feature the top ranks of IQ, anywhere from 11 (for the Shooter, who also has Per 12 and the option to buy more) to 15, not everyone is supposed to be Bruce Wayne, super detective. Suggesions are provided on how to play different types of “smart” that doesn’t imply multiple university degrees even for the IQ 14-16 set.
  • Quirky Good Luck talks about Luck as a mandatory advantage, swapping out Luck-like advantages for the one on the template, as well as drawing attention to two key rules from the Basic Set that will help heroes stay alive.

Chapter 2 – Action Hero Cheat Sheet

This continues my deep-dive into the GURPS Action Series. I hit the Introduction and the Templates in prior posts, and now I move on to Chapter 2, the Action Heroes’ Cheat Sheet.

This is a worked example of something that’s recommended for most campaigns. Recommended enough that SJG hosts a web application – the Trait Sorter – to allow GMs to create such custom lists. 

What’s the list? Or lists, rather? The appropriate Advantages, Disadvantages, Skills and other abilities or notes for the particular campaign. Or in this case, genre.

Advantages

Mostly, in this case Sean was weeding out magic, psionics, powers, and other supernatural or paranormal abilities that are not commonly found in pure action movies.

Of course, one of the reasons you play GURPS is so that if you suddenly want your action flick to take a turn for the bizarre, you can do it without breaking stride. But still, the bare bones of a genre treatment is what’s provided for here, and the chapter starts with a straightforward list of allowable Advanatages.

It’s not totally normal, though. It’s action movie normal. So Catfall and 3D Spatial Sense and Very Rapid Healing are all in there, because by Yoda the hero is going to be on her feet by the movie’s climax.

The book also tweaks or adjusts a few of the advantages. Two new variants of Enhanced Dodge are given (Dive for Cover and Vehicular Dodge). Extra benefits are provided for Gunslinger – and it needs them, because as presented in the Basic Set, it’s a poor choice relative to just taking +6 to skill at slightly lower cost (if there are questions on this, I can show my work upon request – it’s not hard to fathom).

You also get to variants of Higher Purpose, two more of Quick Gadgeteer, and four five-point talents specific to action-movie goodness.

Clearly laden with physical disads. Yup.

Gun Perks

A boxtext also provides four Gun Perks. As it came before both Gun Fu and Tactical Shooting, this might have been the first time these were presented, but perhaps not. They provide a nice entry into John Woo style gunplay.

Disadvantages

The supplement makes no bones about supernatural and magical disads. Paranormal is Right Out.

But it also takes a lot of the crippling physical disads and tosses them out the window, with prejudice. Most action heroes are on the “dear god I want to be that man” end of the physical fitness spectrum.

The supplement goes further than this, suggesting not just a limit of -50 points for both Disads and buying down sub-attributes, but suggests ways to play this for fun rather than pain in some cases – it uses Lecherousness as an example, but it’s easy to find others. While playing Alcoholism for kicks is no joke to some, it was used effectively in both Independence Day (Russel Casse) and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (Col. Tigh). 

This would have been good advice in the past, as I remember a game I ran where I had to fend off more than one one-legged, one-armed midget commando types. For a Black Ops game.

Skills

Obviously, skills get the same treatment. A cut-down list of skills, and where some are cut hard, such as Melee Weapon, key bits are preserved, as Axe/Mace and Broadsword, as examples.

Important specialties are pointed out for specificity, especially where “you need to have this specialty to use this typical action-movie plot staple” are concerned. 

A full page-worth is spent on Wildcard skills, which are appropriate for broadly capable characters. A template-specific Wildcard skill is given for each template in the series.

There’s also good advice on when to not use Wildcard skills. Diversity in skills for both expertise and characterization can be vital.

Chapter 3 – Pulling Rank

The third chapter is two pages long. That’s it. But it packs a lot into those two pages, and for modern games the advice is priceless.

Most – not all, but most – Action games that resolve around groups of PCs will involve organizations, which means that other than window dressing, the players may well – in fact, they should – want to leverage the capabilities of those organizations in order to achieve their goals. The higher the Rank within an organization – set by the background Lens you selected – the easier it is to get what you want.

Modifiers


The first subsection contains a generically useful set of of modifiers for rolling against the svelte Assistance Table found at the bottom of p. 24. Who’s asking, for what you’re asking, and whether it’s a valid request or certifiably insane are the basics. Positive modifiers are generally small, because it’s Rank that dominates. Negative modifiers are larger. 

Sample Assistance



The section breaks out roughly 20 types of assistance that can be requested, and notes that different lenses are more likely to be successful at asking for different things, assuming you can ask for them at all. Various types of help can include gear, information, extra personnel, cash, more gear, and legal sanction to perform certain activities. It’s a great list, and if not necessarily explicitly comprehensive and exhaustive, it’s close enough to either get what you need or provide guidance for other requests.

Results of Success


So, the request goes through, and you get what you want, right? 

Not necessarily. Success means “they’ll do the best they can,” but that’s not a guarantee that the GM’s plot has just been circumscribed. There are all sorts of ways this can go wrong. The book points to relevant sections of the Basic Set for guidance . . . and of course, the answer may be “yes,” but also “help will be there in five hours.” 

But the bomb goes off in two . . .

Chapter 4 – Gear

The gear chapter is almost as long as the templates one. Chapter 4 serves as the “stuff” version of Chapter 2, pulling as much useful rules and supplies as possible into one quick-reference chapter spanning eight pages instead of the entire book. 

There are a few places where I might quibble with the rules used, and I’ll note them. But by and large, this chapter delivers in being a summary of typical gear found in action-style stories and movies.

Tools and Gadgets


The first bit is a simplified and consolidated take on modifying gear, taking into account the advancements in game design since the Basic Set came out (basically: cost factor, but also something akin to complimentary skill rolls). These rules simplify and replace those found elsewhere. Action is meant as a condensation/genre treatment, so things here overwrite other rules in many places.

You get things that make you go boom, burglar/entry tools both cinematic and realistic, and rules for each. A good consolidation of Combat Accessories from Load-Bearing Vests to flashlights, with night-vision scopes and holsters included. 

One nitpick: I’d have done something differently for silencers (suppressors!). The game charges -1 to Bulk per -1 to Hearing. That might be a bit much. I’d probably hit Bulk with -2 for pistols (flat rate; the gun plus supressor is usually twice as big as the gun itself), but only -1 for rifles. The suppressor even for a .50-caliber rifle, is not as long as the gun! Still, “you get what you want, but have to pay for it” works fine.

The chapter goes on to list out, in one place, items from rope to lighting to surveillance gear. Basically, the authors have gone through all of the prior existing GURPS books and brought the stuff that you want up to date and put it in one place.

Armor and Clothing and Weapons (Guns)


This includes the protection and offensive categories. A standard, brief table of modern TL8 armor, with appropriate footnotes and weights and up-to-date costs is included, which should simplify the shopping trip. It does include rarely-worn items like ballistic sleeves and leggings.

The Firearms Table updates using generic weapons and common calibers the same content from the Basic Set, but hits the right tone in what’s selected. The Auto Backup Pistol, .40 is basically the Kahr Mk40 (or something like it, like the Springfield XD-S or Smith and Wesson M&P Shield). It hits the fighting calibers and movie props (that’d be the Desert Eagle, because you have to have your Agents sporting them, but come on . . . ), as well as less-than-lethal pepper spray and taser. And one grenade launcher. 

No rocket launchers so you can do Commando. Sorry. Make up for it with better tactics and more than one attacker. Heat and Ronin, remember.

Four simple types of alternate ammunition, and a listing of melee weapons rounded out for TL8 materials and costs. 

Parting Shots

Each part of this book has its strengths and take-aways. The introduction sets it up, but there are critical bits from each chapter that bear special calling out.


Chapter 1

The strongest part of this chapter is also the shortest: the Lenses and Campaign Types advice succinctly collapse sub-genre and background information into a few choices boiling down to “at the very least, do this to make your buddy cop movie look like something actually featuring buddies who are cops.”

The templates do a lot of heavy lifting for you – that’s their job. There are slightly fewer than a dozen, and much like in Dungeon Fantasy, as a GM you can enforce these or you can let them slide. If the GM wants stronger differentiation and less stat-heavy characters . . . well, you might not be playing Action anymore! 
These templates and lenses provide the core of competence and expertise and a veneer of background. The important part is that you’re the firepower, driver, or hacker of the team, and oh-by-the-way you’re all part of an Elite Fighting Force or SWAT detachment or association of criminals out to revenge yourselves on someone that double-crossed you that one time. From there, what separates this movie from Black Hawk Down is how it plays.
Chapter 2


This chapter is incredibly factual and to the point. Most of the page-count is taken with great tables of advantages, disadvantages, and skills. GMs running their own specific campaigns should take this as a how-to, and use the trait sorter to custom-create their own.

For what this is, it is worthy. A short version of the skill and trait list for a campaign will take a lot of the extended back-and-forth out of the character generation process.

The bits-and-pieces advice on specialties, wildcard and not-wildcard skills, and also tips to preserve the flavor of action-adventure movies via trait selection are likewise well taken.

This chapter is a workhorse, but no worse for it. The brilliance of the Action series does not lie here in this chapter, but it does serve as a reminder of how the trait-sorting process should be carried out.

Chapter 3


As noted, this two-page chapter is pure gold. It is one of the great examples in the Action series of priceless GM advice boiled down and presented in a fashion that is so sublimely awesome that you don’t even realize how valuable it is. I’ve owned Action 1 since it came out, and I just discovered this seven years later.


Chapter 4


The main text makes clear that chapter 4 is basically the shopping-trip version of Chapter 2, and valuable for it. While it is remotely possible that the players or GM will want to rifle through ten different books for gear and rules for gear, the chapter does a great job of making that unnecessary for most common action-movie staples.

Overall

The thing about this book is that it is the twin volume to Dungeon Fantasy 1, in a genre that should be just as accessible (it’s right now, after all), with almost uncountable inspiration available in modern popular entertainment. This could not be said, until somewhat recently, of the Fantasy genre (which of course has D&D/Pathfinder as more than sufficient inspiration, and even theft-worthy material) from the perspective of movies and TV. 

This 35-page genre condensation provides all of what you need to build and equip a team of heroes to run a modern action-adventure movie.

Action 2: Exploits will tell you how to run one.

As I mentioned a few days ago, we have a new blog in town.

Hans-Christian Vortisch, author of GURPS Tactical Shooting among many other things, is starting up his own blog. You can see the kinds of things he thinks about in my Firing Squad interview with him.

It’s called Shooting Dice – Guns and Gaming.

He’s got three posts up already, and a bunch more queued. Go over and take a look. At the moment, he’s writing up some famous fights from movies and other media in GURPS terms – he’s got one from the movie Collateral up now. He’s got a breakdown of the firearms HP Lovecraft owned, and he’s also got a review of the P7M8 pistol, much in the same pathway as I reviewed the Walther PPQ.

Given my own interests and writing, you can bet I’ll be reading him. You should too.

Let’s just leave him a nice cowboy greeting.

“Welcome to the party, pal!”

The Reloading Press is going to be a new short feature for me in 2016, based on a few comments from friends of mine in other media.

Each post will contain a cartridge and stats for GURPS – sort of. The way I’ll be doing this is to use my ballistics calculator, which will give gameable and consistent stats.

In many cases, there won’t be much difference between various versions of a bullet or cartridge. As an example, at some point I’ll compare 115gr ,124gr, and 147gr 9mm ammunition. That will, within GURPS’ resolution, likely not amount to much.

5.56x45mm Mk318 mod 0

This cartridge is the USMCs answer to the fact that the 62gr M855 (about 4 grams, and 940m/s out of a 20″ barrel) didn’t pereform that well when fired out of the usual short-barreled M4 carbine, which has a 14.5″ (370mm) barrel standard.

The ammo is built to a 2 MoA standard, which means that the maximum accuracy a weapon can get using this ammo is Acc 5 (about 1.8 MoA, close enough).

Pertinent stats for the ballistic calculator:
Continue reading “Reloading Press: 5.56x45mm Mk318 mod 0”