I make some GURPS content from time to time, and it takes me a long time to make it. So, since it takes me a long time to do that, I thought I'd start a blog so that my GURPS stuff would exist for all eternity. I plan on posting assets, conversations about complicated rules, session recaps, etc. I dunno if this will be useful to anyone, or only useful to myself, but here we go.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Review: Low Tech Companion 2: Weapons and Warriors
So, for my previous article, I reviewed Low-Tech Companion 1, and now I'll review Low-Tech Companion 2. From the subtitle, it is obvious that this supplement covers military technology, and it comes in 4 parts. This book is more up my alley than the first one, and now I'll dive into the why and how.
Table of contents
So, as always, I like to start off a book review with the table of contents; it kinda gives a gravity of how much of the book is dedicated to which and what parts so you can get an idea of how much it helps you. Part one is a purely informational description of the evolution of military technology from prehistoric times into the colonial ages. Part two has a nearly pure mechanical approach to statting out and customizing weapons and armor. Part three covers fortifications in a mix of informational and mechanical terms. The final part covers mobility technologies in a way that is also heavily based off of GURPS mechanics with some swathes of historical information thrown in for good measure. The book can be very easily used independently of the main Low-Tech book, but it is also more geared towards GURPS concepts than the previous companion, making it more useful specifically for the GURPS GM, as opposed to the almost system agnostic first companion.
Each section is roughly given equal treatment in terms of length, with the heavily mechanical second chapter getting a bit more than the other three. Let's look at these sections in depth now.
Historical Evolution of Combat Gear
This section, first and foremost is an overview of the history of military technology as it pertains specifically to GURPS. The language is mostly system agnostic, but it homes in on concepts that people who play GURPS in the low tech levels would already be familiar with. The information is interesting and sometimes a mechanical piece is interspersed here or there; there is a described technique for some crazy chariot stunt fighting and a few described skill bonuses for gradually improving military technology. The surprise that I liked was a bit of an alternate history prompt asking what might happen if artillery developed from some lost technologies.
Weapons and Armor
This is the reason to buy this companion, in my opinion. This section includes many customization options one can apply towards weapons to nudge a stat here or there and an associated cost factor as well. You can add or removeheads or blades, change the handles as you like, rebalance for throwing, add chains and spikes, as well as many others. There is a call-out for detailed design of *less dangerous* training versions of weapons as well. It goes into advice on designing cool, but unrealistic weapons to mimic popular weapons from fantasy novels, movies, anime, etc. There is a detailed multiple page section on customizing the standard pedestrian shields from low-tech and the basic set with extra options for sharpening edges or adding disarming catches, or even operating it without hands. The section continues with a very helpful guide on scaling equipment for fantasy races that might be much larger or smaller than typical humans. It ends with a multiple page guide and reference on mechanics for handling damage to weapons and equipment. Overall, probably one of my favorite sections in all of the low-tech companions.
This section has a nice blend of pure information and mechanics. It describes typical building techniques for defensive structures and battlefield fixtures. Each technology and technique has a good historical explanation of its application followed by a few lines explaining its efficacy in GURPS terms. There is an interesting side-bar discussing the types of guards and animals a fortification might make use of with some rules to apply to a GURPS game. The whole section ends with some extraordinarily expensive but powerful and historically accurate artillery examples. They are mostly more of a curiosity than a useful weapon, but the history included on them is a good read, and the stats can be used as a baseline for other ideas.
This has a nice mixture of hard mechanics and information again much like the Fortifications chapter. It explains the evolution of transportation technology and the effects on exhaustion and fatigue to the common soldier in GURPS mechanics. Low-Tech land travel doesn't change much past the horse-drawn wagon, but Naval technology comes a long way. We get a nice detailed description of naval weapons and applications that are readily applicable to any low-tech naval campaign. There is a small section on rules for statting out and costing out siege towers which I thought was pretty interesting, and we are blessed with a table of several ships with unique mechanics to give them each a suitably unique feel.
As I mentioned earlier, the balance of mechanics and information hits a sweet spot for me that Low-Tech Companion1 does not. I immediately recommend this book for anyone who wants more sophisticated weapon customization or wants to run a low-tech military campaign on a personal level. It is an enjoyable and useful book all the way through. On a weird note, there are references to Low-Tech Companion 3. Were those added after 3 came out? Were they always planning a sequel? Dunno! Totally solid book. Also, this is my first GURPSday article for the new GURPSday script being administered by +Douglas Cole , so I'm gonna add a bit of a summary blurb at the end for the script to pick up.
Precis - A review of the very useful Low Tech Companion 2.