Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Action 1 - Heroes

Impressive ratio of cover
art to text.
So, I've never reviewed the Action books for GURPS. Reviewing the first book in these series is always a bit tricky because the majority of the content is the templates, and I kinda think that reviewing the templates is a different thing than reviewing the books, but I kinda need to go over the templates to go over the books. In any case, this book is pretty solid and manages to do what it needs to do as well as it can do. To know what I mean, let's take a closer look.


Two tower contents
The Action series is for facilitating mostly cinematic, but mundane games in contemporary times. True to typical form, book one in the series covers the character building information, and book two covers the fundamental rules of the series. This is a 35 page book. Subtracting front matter, back matter, and the index, you have 31 pages of content split into 4 chapters. The first chapter covers templates; the second chapter is the typical freeform character building limitations; chapter three is an interesting look at the rank mechanics which is later pulled out, expanded on, and made into its own very useful book; and the final chapter covers gear.
The book is laid out about as good as one expects. There are a few rare splashes of color, but they are much appreciated and add a small appeal that is missing from the newer entirely monochromatic books. By itself, this book is good if trying to come up with some contemporary awesome, but nominally realistic characters. However, 99 times out of 100, it certainly behooves to pair this with at least the second installment of the series. Further, the equipment catalog is greatly bolstered by a copy of High-Tech which is referenced from time to time in this installment. High-Tech is not required though, and this book can be used with just The Basic Set.

Action Templates

Without actually diving into the templates (I can save the subjective content therein for a different review) this chapter has some interesting ideas that aren't seen often in other GURPS series. These characters are built on the 250/-50 budget seen also in Dungeon Fantasy, but to give the group some cohesion, there is a unique lens component, not different from the concept of lenses in GURPS proper, but used here to affect a certain type of commonality between players, such as working in a criminal organization or intelligence agency. The templates all have interesting building advice and run the gamut of bread and butter to way way way too situational but enticing. 11 templates in this basic book means that there is a good variety of teams that can be made just sticking to the templates before taking forays off the beaten path, which segues nicely into the important topics of the next chapter.

Action Heroes' Cheat Sheet

This chapter is a trimmed down listing of all the valid traits for a character. Mixed in are a handful of specialties for traits that are more genre specific and might have been included in the previous chapter. It concludes with a discussion on Wildcard skills and how to switch templates over if the GM wants to exercise those options. Everything here is really good, but I kinda wish that it included some attribute maxima and minima as well. Perhaps Sean Punch anticipated mostly short adventures as opposed to campaigns where the question of "Is IQ 30 appropriate for this character?" would not come up.

Pulling Rank

Somewhat of an oddball chapter, but a very interesting one. By default, in the Basic Set, the rank advantage is a little wishy washy and subject to GM interpretation; this chapter gives some hard mechanical benefits to the rank advantage which might give players the tool to understand what the difference between rank 1 and rank 2 will be, and GMs to know how much good stuff players should get for plunking down 20 points in rank. Between the time that this book was written and this review was written, Social Engineering - Pulling Rank was released, a more detailed treatment of the system foundations laid out here. It's definitely not necessary to enjoy the Action series, but if help with administering the rank advantage sounds good, but this book does not, it bears checking out.


All the equipment that PCs can acquire, guidelines about what books to use, and handfuls of the necessities that most Action games will include. Of interest, the equipment list and modifiers are all pretty useful outside of Action series. Most of the information is distilled from the High Tech book, but there are a few unique bits and pieces here and there like an extended list of vehicles, and having the relevant gear in one place instead of across a huge book is also helpful. The chapter isn't a complete surrogate, but it does cover most of the must-haves in a way that helps if you are trying to get a new player up to speed quickly.


By itself, among all the "Book 1s," it and Monster Hunter 1 are probably the two best, but as I said earlier, it definitely gets the greatest value if you at least pair it with Action 2. I don't run a lot of "mundane" contemporary games, but this book is good enough to make me consider it for at least a short adventure if not an entire campaign. The content is really good for a more cinematic After The End game or more grounded Monster Hunter game as well. It's a book that I liked when I first read it; then I neglected it; and when I looked it over for a review again, I still liked it.

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