Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: Caravan to Ein Arris

Oh my, is that some cover art?
Caravan to Ein Arris is the free adventure that a lot of people are recommended towards if they want to get a feel for what GURPS can be and how it can play out. I find it decent, if not a little railroady, but meh, it's nice to have training wheels on during your first, or among your first adventures. The adventure has a lot of different types of challenges covered and touches a lot of GURPS fundamentals, but it might not have enough guidance for players or GMs in my opinion. Let's take a deeper dive.

Overview

Somewhat spoilerish table of contents.
Probably don't want to zoom in if you
are a player looking to play this
adventure.
The PDF is 24 pages long, and has... 17 chapters. Subtracting the 4 first pages, and the ad page at the end, we have 19 pages of content. Well, the introduction here is more important than usual, so let's add that in, we have 21 pages of stuff.
I don't normally review something that has as much dependence on a story, so I feel like I need to walk on eggshells regarding content, but of the 21 pages, 2 pages are dedicated to guidance, and the 17 chapters are a series of scenarios that play out in the adventure, so it's hard to really split this into content/rules/lore/guidance. I will say I personally would have liked more lore and guidance, but that is a bit subjective.
Organization leaves something to be desired, NPC stats are littered throughout the book, where it might make more sense to put them all in one location, and some useful asides that could be more useful earlier appear somewhat late. The illustrations are pretty thematic, if not a little inconsistent in style, making it look like you have a mix of real art and some clipart here and there. There are no fun pull quotes at all though.
My biggest issue is that I feel like a bit more handholding should have taken place, but maybe 4e was too new in 2006 to tell what the common pitfalls were yet at the time.

Introduction

The first part of the introduction includes information that all players should be privy to, and a guide for what is appropriate for designing a character. I think it would have helped to have a few character templates, because at the suggested point values, 125 points of advantages and no description of how many disadvantages, budgeting can be a delicate and ginger thing especially for new players. There are a wide array of mundane, adventure, and combat proficiencies that need to be covered in this adventure, and a lot of new players probably don't have their heads wrapped around the talents and other advantages that make this easy or possible to manage.

The Adventure Proper

The adventure is pretty straightforward, with a somewhat narrow path, and yet it does offer a lot of choices in terms of how to solve the problems it presents, using professional skills, negotiation, or combat. Some people I've met online found the combat unduly difficult with the NPCs being too powerful, so if you have a player that wants to be a "warrior" make sure to compare their stats to the enemy characters and make sure they are at least as good, if not better than them. One interesting note for GMs is to look at the type of quirks the NPCs have, and notice how many of them are a bit more freeform and descriptive than the ones spoken to in the Basic Set. If you take anything away from this book, take away that problems should have multiple solutions, some things should just be too hard if the players don't have the right competencies (eg, sometimes, if no one can negotiate, you can't win a negotiation. Sometimes, if everyone is bad at fighting, fighting isn't a good idea, etc,) and that quirks should be interesting.

Other Thoughts

I prefer games with supernatural elements and cool powers so this isn't exactly up my alley, but that doesn't mean it is bad. I think the biggest let-down and missed opportunity is how little advice is given for helping new players establish a character. There is a list of skills at the beginning that are listed as important competencies, but it wouldn't have been so much of a stretch to make templates for guardsmen, laborer, merchant, animal wrangler, and burglar... Maybe I should attempt something along those lines? I guess you could use the templates in Dungeon Fantasy 15 because they happen to come to 125 points, but they are also a bit over focused on combat and survivability, that being the bread and butter of Dungeon Fantasy, so they need a little bit more soft skill balancing. I feel like trying to GM this campaign again after having almost two years of experience under my belt and seeing if I can get a more elegant experience the second time around.

4 comments:

  1. I remember reading this one years ago, but I never had a chance to run it. I recall general liking the thing. I'm in agreement with it being a bit loose for new players, but in all honesty the impression I got was that it was aimed at new GURPS GMs rather than new GURPS players - which seems a little backwards from how we think of adventure paths, really.

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  2. "but maybe 4e was too new in 2006"? The relevant year is 1986, because it was in the 1st edition boxed set and only minimally updated.

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    Replies
    1. Oh sure, but I was reviewing the 4th edition conversion. I was thinking about whether or not it was necessary to clarify.

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  3. The warriors in it are too skilled that's for sure. I'd take a them down a peg.

    Maybe you could do a dial it up to 11 article. Make it an actual DF adventure with 250 pt PCs. Put in cinematic assassins, dessert monsters and evil wizards etc

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