Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: City Stats

It is what it is!
So recently I bought a few more GURPS books, as you can tell from the influx of reviews, and City Stats was among them. It is a small book, and it surprised me pleasantly at how useful it was, but I still feel like it could have done more. It does give some useful metrics for defining cities, but in my opinion, it doesn't give enough guidance on appropriate ways to define these metrics. In a turn of phrase, it is not enough of a good thing, I think: a good start, but it needs more to be completely useful.


L Shaped Table of Contents.
City Stats is a short supplement that aims to help quantify cities in a way that makes them easier to interact with in a game. Abstraction is a critical thing in RPGs; a character sheet is just an abstraction of a character, bunches of numbers and words saying what my imaginary friend is good at and bad at and the like. And cities are a thing that characters often interact with, so abstracting them is a good idea. The book spends 6 pages describing the metrics, 2 pages giving examples of interaction with cities, and 7 pages consisting of 4 examples of the City Stats in practice. Let's take a closer look.

Statistics For Cities

This is the mechanical meat of the beast. We look at several of the metrics that might be of use to an adventurer, and what those metrics might mean. We get a stat block that basically breaks a city down to:
Me! Me! I know the answer!
  • Population
  • Physical and Magical Environment
  • Culture and Economy and
  • Political Environment
The mechanical effects of the metrics are explained pretty well, and the flow of information is not at all confusing. The entire book is very straightforward, but to use it to its fullest extent, you will probably need GURPS Basic Set - Campaigns handy, as it refers to a lot of information there as a backbone... but if you don't have that book, and you are thinking of picking up City Stats, I strongly urge you to get the book that is considered 1/2 of the basic manual before looking at expansions. Some of the questions this book helps you answer are how is sanitation and what does that mean to your health; what effect does literacy have on your surroundings? What kinda military force could this city sustain?
But the real deal is this book, as it describes itself in the introduction is more like a kind of litmus test. It is about making you cognizant of the things to keep in mind when building a city, like the types of tech levels, and industries, and wealth levels, and how that might color a city. The book itself says this isn't a construction kit for building a city and something like that would need to be a lot bigger, but I kinda wish it did have a construction set, and I wouldn't have minded paying for something bigger.

Cities as Settings

This very short chapter gives you a rundown of some important patterns for interactions between parties of adventurers and cities, and the types of things to keep in mind when the interaction occurs. How difficult is it to find something useful in a huge city? A huge poor city? A huge poor city where your language is in the minority? What information do your players probably need to know first when they come to a new city? What part of that information is self-evident and what requires rooting and deep investigation. Content-wise, this is a pretty soft chapter, but it is surprisingly helpful, and not entirely devoid of mechanics.

Examples of Cities

Exactly what the label on the tin says, you have four examples of cities. This is a demonstration of how one would put together the stats breakout of a city, and the kind of helpful flavor information that makes a city come to life. It does a good job of mixing fiction and non-fiction; historical and contemporary to give an idea of how the system might interact in different situations where different assumptions take precedence. I feel like I learned something here about world building.


This book is so almost what I want! It reads as the introduction to a resource I really want! But it is so short. It is very cheap though, considering it's length. This resource feels more like something that would help an intermediate GM that is already pretty good at world building, but is just missing that special touch to take things to 100%. For someone stuck on square one, this might not be enough. I'd buy a sequel if it came out. The word that describes how I feel escapes me. "Piqued" might be a good word. It's good, but I wish there was more.


  1. I have little to say about this particular post, but I wanted to mention that I'm very happy to see the wave of GURPS reviews you and other bloggers are putting up these days. Not only is there an interesting range of opinion, it's nice to see the books, particularly older ones, considered not just as individual works, but where they fit in the context of GURPS as a whole.

    (Oh, and there's an article in Pyramid #54 about managing cities, building on City Stats. It's not a construction set, but it does allow players to work through the process of attempting to alter and develop polities.)

    1. I feel like Boardroom and Curia kinda fills some of the gaps as well. But I might need to check out 54 soon then as well. My current targets are the alt GURPS issues, and the Dungeon Fantasy issues, and just got 3/84 perspectives because I was curious about Chris's Character -> Mass Combat element conversion rules.


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