Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Low-Tech Companion 3: Daily Life and Economics

Cover Page
This is actually the first of the three low-tech companions which I bought. In short, this is a great supplement for anyone who wants to have a low tech campaign that deals with traders or more mundane aspects of day to day living and labor.
And as an aside, mundane doesn't mean "boring". Maoyu is a very engaging anime with next to no fighting and a plot that focuses on developing agricultural technology and bringing lasting economic prosperity to a people mired in misery, all while ending an ages long war between humanity and demon-kind. Spice And Wolf is about a capable merchant who teams up with an even more capable wolf harvest deity, and how they combine their smarts and experience to create large profits over the course of their adventures back to her original homeland.
What Daily Life and Economics brings to the table is the production, agriculture, manufacturing, and infrastructure pieces. It helps a GM answer questions like, "How many pigs can this farmer handle? How many employees do I need to hire to make 20 garments a day?" It has a great mix of background information, research, and GURPS mechanics. It does not rely too heavily on any other existing books, but does reference the main Low-Tech book occasionally, and makes references to the Basic Set more than a few times.


First off, this is not a small book. Looking at the Table of Contents, there are a lot of contents.

The first section has to do with the development of technologies for gathering food and water, taking environment into account. Domesticated Animals gives us a bit of history on important animals for people, and some stats for said animals. Heavy Equipment describes the invention of critical early machines and how they enabled economic development. Mining and Excavation discusses the extraction of metals and minerals from the earth, how to find them, and important things to keep in mind when building mines. Manufacturing is an awesome chapter that gives some good GURPS mechanics for crafting among other things, and is probably my favorite part of the book; it is also among the longest chapters in the book. Shelter and Architecture is also, again very useful in giving advice on how to put together housing, a concern that has come up numerous times in my games. Transportation gives us some civil engineering and ship building notes. Trade describes the moving and hocking of wares. And the final chapter, Occupations gives several example pay rates for many jobs and a few new professional skills for these jobs.

Food and Population

One of the most important and longest chapters in this book. It gives some mechanics for hunting and gathering, which are absolutely useful in almost any campaign, and it goes on to discuss further advances in hunting and fishing. We step into a section on the development of farming with a good mix of history and mechanical details describing, for example, how much food certain grains could typically produce in particular terrains. Similar information is given for animals in a section on herding. We then get into environment management and mechanics for rotating livestock and crops to keep the earth from going bad, and we end the section with the development of cooking and preservation methods. The pacing and material throughout the section is right on my wavelength.

Domesticated Animals

This section is very short and gives some details about a few animals. The stats are useful when combined with the yields from the previous chapter and the little call-out on butchering from earlier. Somehow, the section felt a little short, but honestly, it's hard to dive into much more granularity before splitting hairs.

Heavy Equipment

This section goes over the development of economically important equipment for all manners of trade. We start off with some construction equipment, followed by irrigation, all with important game significant details. We go into industrial sized mill powered equipment next; something I personally never thought too hard about, but it was a very interesting read, with, again, very useful metrics like pricing and tech levels and production speeds. The chapter ends with Energy Storage and Power Transmission, which admits there is not much to discuss in low tech, before going into great detail on what little there is. The material is great, but frankly, it hasn't come up for me in a campaign yet... but if I ever want to begin a serious milling business campaign, I'm now adequately prepared. Besides all that, it was an interesting read nonetheless.

Mining and Excavation

A sadly short, but tremendously useful chapter. I've always wanted to make a campaign on developing an underground mining settlement, though I think there are other supplements that cover that material. We get some content on locating important minerals, setting up the mines, and advanced techniques for keeping miners safe, much in usable GURPS mechanics.


This is the reason I bought the supplement, and it does not disappoint. We start off with some comprehensive information on the cost of raw materials and the ratios of labor cost to raw goods cost. We get mechanics on crafting fine and very fine items, and a section on inventing perks to put the process of developing these masterworks within reach of the greatest humans at these crafts. We get into some additional rules for crafting more weapons and armor and appropriate pricing. After that, we get into more focused crafting with more detailed historical information and some mechanics for smelting, metalwork, pottery, woodworking, glass-making, cloth-working, painting, and brewing. All of the information makes for a great read, and ties in well with the section on inventing crafting perks.

Shelter and Architecture

This is another useful section to me, and my surprise bonus. I got this for manufacturing, and was very happy to see this section (and the first section too.) It starts off with some nice tables on building materials and quality options for creating structures, and goes on to figuring construction times. A kind of big thing for many of the types of campaigns I run. We get a bit of civil engineering and some metrics on cost and time there as well. It all ends with a detailed example, which I appreciate. Then a section on environmental concerns, explaining what it might mean for a construction project that takes place in a jungle versus a desert. Another rock-solid section.


Transportation is critical for trade-routes and economics. We start off with a talk on infrastructure and building roads, bridges, and similar; something I've also dealt with in my campaigns. We then go into sea travel and see some civilian-type ships to complement the military-type ships from part 2. It ends with two useful bits on calculating the costs of goods based on the development of infrastructure, and a neat little "what if?" for fantasy air-travel. Honestly, this section was a bit dry to me, but definitely useful.


This deals with some of the extra concerns of trade, like porting valuables or staples; selling from or to poor or rich areas, dealing with turnover and storage costs, and ends with currency. A more technical section focusing on logistics with a little less history than others, but still enjoyable as it reminded me of the concerns of the earlier mentioned in Spice and Wolf.


Straight mechanics, and nothing but. Rules for typical jobs like requisite skills and status levels, and professional skills. It can be used to add a lot of immersive color to a campaign, but isn't really an enjoyable read like the others... not that it is really meant to be read from start to finish in leisure anyway. It feels more like an appendix than "Chapter 9".

Other Notes and Conclusion

This is the very best in the series. If you need to do anything in Low-Tech, you probably want this book. If it were life and death (and that would be a ridiculous situation) and you had to choose between Companion 1, Companion 2, or Companion 3, the answer is Companion 3, no questions asked. With the exception of the transportation chapter, this was perfect. If I gave out number ratings, this book would have gotten a perfect from me. Oh, and the pull quotes are also the best in the series. Churchill, Bo Derek, Terry Pratchett; you have culture, comedy, and history, and all of them match the material they are paired with. Short: I love this one!

Precis - Review of Low-Tech Companion 3: above and beyond, my favorite in the series.

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