Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: Pyramid #3/65 - Alternate GURPS III

It's those guys!
A bit ago, I reviewed Alternate GURPS II, but today, I will review the third in the series. The Alternate GURPS issues are usually based around changing core mechanics or playing in the corner and edge cases of the system. Let's see what we get in this issue.


Look at all those articles.
This issue, from March 2014, is just a few pages short of average at 37. We got 8 articles, the Random Thought Table, and a mini-article in the Odds and Ends feature. This is a star studded issue with lots of popular authors and contributors covering a whole gamut of options. This issue has one article that relies a bit on GURPS Powers to fully use, and the mini-article in the Odds and Ends depends on Divine Favor, but the rest don't require much beyond the Basic Set, but two complement some thoughts from Tactical Shooting and Power-Ups 4 (I reiterate, those resources aren't actually necessary, in my opinion, to get full use out of those two articles.)
The breakdown of content types in this issue, we have three that are a bit in the way of GM guidance, four that act as extensions to existing rules, and two that are alternatives to existing rules. Overall, I found the issue to be fun food for thought, but I haven't actually applied the contents of this issue, though I'm probably partially inspired by Bucket of Points from time to time. Let's dive in further.

Buckets of Points

This 5 page article, by Sean Punch goes over the idea of managing point budgets further than just giving a campaign an advantage and disadvantage limit. It goes over several potential breakdowns of points and talks about the pros and cons of splitting things up, and what might be appropriate things to consider base on campaign genre conventions. From this spawns a discussion of side effects and responses to them and what that could entail mechanically.
The idea, I think, is very intuitive, and it can be helpful in organizing characters strengths and weaknesses appropriately, but also puts a bit of a straitjacket on players if they have a design that doesn't fit inside the boundaries. I might try this as an intermediate to going completely template-less before allowing some of my players learning GURPS to build a character from the ground up.

Team Up!

This seven page article, by both Christopher R. Rice and Antoni Ten Monrós goes over new options for working together. It is something of an expansion to GURPS Powers section on the same topic. It goes over some of the mechanical benefits of combining special powers towards a particular goal, and a few avenues for which to do so. It introduces or restates several perks, advantages, and skills to facilitate such a mechanic. This leads into some asymmetric collaboration abilities where a leader can inspire his followers either in regular or mass-combat. After that, some new options for combining Powers, especially interesting are rules for combining opposite alignment abilities. Then the article ends with ways to strengthen other characters through supernatural means, some a revisit of old ideas, and some new mechanics.
The information here is really interesting, and I think I'd like to use it, but I think it takes a bit of preparation and most of them require a very deliberate character building approach to work.

Alternate Guns Specialties and Techniques

This 4 page article, by Hans-Christian Vortisch is about exploring the arbitrary division of gun skills, and looking at changing them around to make more sense. It starts with a detailed description of the current assumptions, compared to the assumptions this new system makes, making a case for this differentiation over the original in Basic Set. It  then explains the more general categories of gun specialties and goes into more detailed rules for defaulting to other guns. The article ends with some special techniques that take into consideration the new configurations.
I think this article makes total sense as someone who doesn't know anything about guns, but I haven't gotten to apply it because I do so few campaigns where guns are a lynchpin.

Eidetic Memory - Social Points

This three page feature, by David L. Pulver is almost like an extension to the Bucket of Points article from earlier, but focusing, of course, on social categories. It kinda reads on the lessons learned of the application of certain rule combinations that made players disfavor social abilities, and how the author dealt with them. I thought it was fun, but I haven't actually encountered the problem in my own games, for better or worse, to actually need to remedy it.

Natural Weapons

This three page article, by Ítalo Gomes Gonçalves, is kinda like a very detailed version of the Claws, Strikers, and Teeth advantages from Basic Set with a few of the innovations from later on in the 4th edition's lifespan. It focuses on the Natural Weapon advantage, and includes several interesting limitations and modifiers. I think I could enjoy using this if I ever needed to, but I haven't found a good application yet.

Everyman Tasks

This three page article from William H. Stoddard is simply a catalog of abilities that anyone can use from default with no penalty. It's detailed and fun, and a useful barometer for deciding if something should be considered easy or hard.

By Default

This two page article by Douglas Cole explores an alternative scheme for defaulting on skills. This alternative changes the values of investing in skills versus attributes making points in skills more valuable in relation, and making defaulting on purpose a less viable choice in character building. In the end, this fosters a type of ownership of one's niche as one's talent doesn't leak out into all other facets of broadly useful attributes like IQ and DX. Not my cup of tea, but well thought out.

A Full Complement

This two page article by Sean Punch is a bit of an expansion on the concept of Complementary Rolls, a mechanic whereby training in closely related "background" skills can help more "adventure relevant" skills, or allow players to help each other when only one can act at a time for whatever reason. The article explains the mechanic for those not familiar with it, and gives a slew of new rules and enhancements that can be applied to the system. I especially like the rules about complementary contests.

Random Thought Table - This One Goes to 11

This 2 page feature by Steven Marsh is a fun idea of playing with averages and what would happen if a game didn't require dice. The idea is mostly good I think, but I feel like it has a few little bugs. I might want to try it some time to see if these bugs are just a knee-jerk on my part, or if they are real. It probably works best for certain types of campaigns.

Divine Favor for the Masses

This is a half page feature in the Odds and Ends section that includes rules for very low levels of the Divine Favor advantage, and a stronger summon monster for the strong characters in Monster Hunter. Seems like a really really sharp edge case for the former, and as for the latter, I don't play games at that power level often, but the stats are inspiring!

Other Thoughts

All around, each of the articles are interesting, but I do like Alternate GURPS II better. I wish I could review Alternate GURPS, but I don't have GURPS Spaceships, so I don't think I can give the entire thing a proper shake. I can't specifically recommend this issue to anyone because of the broadness of the material, but if a good number of these articles strike your fancy, it might be a good buy.


  1. Somehow missed this one! The guns skill changeup is my overall favorite, as it ends up being more points efficient and generally more sensible. I sort-of did something similar with Polearm/Spear/Staff a bit back, as well, though it doesn't have nearly as much polish as this.

    1. Yeah, it's kind of a mundane thing, but it makes a lot of sense to me, and it is really well written. Kinda cool when you can eke out something new in plain sight like that.


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