Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Power-Ups 4 - Enhancements

The hand is powered up
with enhancements.
Enhancements are a fundamental building block of the GURPS advantage system. They make advantages slightly better in slightly different ways and are about half of the customization tool we have to get the exact look-and-feel we want from them. This book, though not incredibly novel, and by today might be a smidgen out of date, is still a pretty good resource and more than just a catalog of enhancements. Let's take a look at what's inside.


Table of contents
This is a 25 page supplement with a 3 page pre-amble, and a 3 page summary table, and a 1 page index, giving us 18 pages of substance. It is split into two chapters, the first 8 page chapter covers the substance of enhancements and goes over existing ones, and the second 10 page chapter is a list of brand new enhancements. The book is mostly data or content, with a bit of rules at the beginning, with a teeny bit of guidance, and almost zero in terms of fluff.
The really nice thing about this book is that enhancements include a really helpful rating, a scale that shows how closely one should watch the use of an enhancement for world shaking abuse potential. This shows up wherever any enhancements are listed.
That said, the way the list of enhancements is broken up between the two chapters seems a bit odd to me. I think making the first chapter the mechanical information, and the second chapter the data might have worked a bit better. the pull-quotes are amusing, but the art seems a bit anachronistic, having wildly different styles from page to page.
Overall, this is a really good resource if you enjoyed GURPS Powers, and you want a supplement that contains all your enhancements in one place. A lot of it is repeated, but it is really convenient and the oversight ratings are neat, even if I don't 100% agree with them with my limited experience. If on the other hand, you didn't read Powers, I think that, even though this book doesn't require it, you should be making that a priority over this smaller supplement.

Enhancing Your Game

The first chapter speaks to the mechanics of what exactly an enhancement is: the little extra charge in character points one can associate with an advantage to give it extra or enhanced functionality. Then it introduces a pretty straightforward idea of meta-enhancements which are similar to meta-traits, and gives some examples of their earlier usage. It then has a special section dedicated to cosmic enhancements, those that are in a league of their own because they grant game changing abilities, but at a heavy price. They are kind of a catch-all for novel enhancements that haven't been codified anywhere, and which no one knows a fair value. The chapter ends with a conversation on modifying physical or weapon attacks, something of a bit of a problem because of how flexible they can turn out to be, so the advice is really helpful.
I think the chapter does a good job of tackling some of the more weird but common edge cases with discrete examples for discrete problems, but I would have liked a bit more conversation to abstract holistic solutions to problems. That is, to borrow a turn of phrase, this chapter gives a man a bunch of really cool fish, but when all those fish are gone, it doesn't really feel like he is any better at fishing.

New Enhancements

This is the star attraction of course, the actual enhancements for which you would buy a book called Enhancements to get your hands on them. I think the title is a bit misleading because a lot of these enhancements aren't strictly new, but the text for even classic standbys seems further expounded upon in helpful ways. Subjectively, some of the new enhancements are pretty good, and some are a bit of a meh, but that's typical. If I couldn't decide which enhancements I liked, and which ones I could live without, I wouldn't be able to play GURPS. The organization of the chapter is also a little weird; the list is broken down into sub-sections depending on themes for the enhancements, and in each theme, they are in alphabetical order. I think it's a matter of preference, but I'd have like them to just be in one alphabetical list, though I can see how this listing can help pare it down for newer readers and make casual perusal of the list more intuitive. It's just my use case is usually flipping through it to find a specifically mentioned enhancement. C'est la vie!

Other Thoughts and Closing

I really like the Enhancement Table appendix at the back of the book. The book seems small enough that I could think it not exactly necessary, but I think it totally adds a value.
I stated my opinion before: This is a helpful reference for someone already deeply entrenched in the ability building systems for GURPS, either for superhero powers, or some magic system like Divine Favor. If you don't have all the fundamental power books, I'd definitely recommend getting them before this one, but if you have them already, and need help sifting through them now, this is a nice tool for that purpose.

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