Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: Pyramid #3/33 - Low Tech

Get it, or don't.
I'm not your father.
Low-Tech is the realm where I run most of my games, so this is a useful issue for me. Among other things, it includes the famous Deadly Spring article, and some good expansions to Low-Tech Companion 3. Whether or not this issue is valuable to you specifically though might depend on what elements of a game really matter to you, so let's take a closer look at the issue.


Table of Contents
This is a typical 40 page issue. We have 5 articles, the Random Thought Table, and Odds and Ends. There's no particular theme pulling all the articles together (besides that they all deal with low-tech society) so it is a bit challenging to summarize in a sentence. One note though; it's interesting that most articles include a bibliography side by side. A fixture I haven't seen much in later issues of Pyramid, but I kinda wish I did. I think it might stem from the material of later issues, and the type of issues I usually prefer not exactly lending itself to that kind of research that these articles do, but all the same, seeing them would be neat if such a thing were available.
Also, of note, The Deadly Spring, as mentioned earlier, an article on designing bows using realistic attributes to derive GURPS stats is somewhat mathematically involved, so the issue includes an xls Excel 2003 document with some formulas to automatically do a lot of the math for you if you can find the rest of the attributes, which is kinda neat. Also kinda neat: Excel 2003 documents work in my copy of Excel 2017.

The Deadly Spring

This 12 page article by Douglas Cole, in short, is a guide on deriving GURPS stats from real world attributes of bows. The core of the article is several formulas that take the materials, their shape, their size, and their strength and spit out a line item for GURPS stats. The math can look complex, but the earlier mentioned spreadsheet can help with that. The article guides through two slightly different sets of assumptions; those that produce bows and arrows that are slightly more realistic (and weaker than typical Bows in GURPS) and slightly more cinematic (more in line with the power curve adopted by GURPS.) If you can't be bothered to stat them out yourself, the article includes several different arrows and bows as a demonstration at the end.
I've yet to specifically need this article, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

At Play in the Fields

This 7 page article by Matt Riggsby is a something of a small expansion of the farming rules provided in Low-Tech Companion 3. It helps by filling in some mechanical blanks if one so desired to run a game on managing an agricultural business. The additional detail is really good, and while it's more data than mechanics, there is enough here to learn how to extrapolate details for maybe more exotic fantasy produce or such. Useful, straightforward, and a genuinely interesting read.

Medieval Prisons

The Eidetic Memory feature, by David L. Pulver, goes over prisons in fine detail. Woefully short, the three page article goes over the fixtures, staffing, amenities and customs of an ancient prison, useful information as several adventures will take a pit stop there, somewhere somehow, either as prisoners, guards, aiding an escape, or otherwise. Not a lot of hard mechanics, but there is an amusing table of typical prison expenses that could make for a more punishing experience in some more realistic games.

A Killing Breath

A 4 page, extremely detailed article on blowpipes, by Thomas Weigel. It goes over several historical applications of blowguns, includes a table of 6 blowgun types, has 6 different modifications that can be applied to them, 9 different types of ammunition, 3 new perks, and 3 martial arts style. Some of the abilities and enhancements really help give blowpipes an extra helpful oomph that they need. I usually don't play in the type of games where they would be useful (coincidentally, I am about to run one where it might be ok) but the enhancements here almost bring blowpipes up to acceptable levels for combat heavy games. Worth reading if you ever want to try a road less travelled.

Roman Technology

A seven page article by Kenneth Peters that explores low-tech mechanics in an ancient Roman world. This article is a good mix of background information and gameable metrics. It makes references to, and differentiates between both historically appropriate images of Rome, and anachronistic ones more readily seen in popular culture, offering examples of implementations of a particular fact or popular myth side by side for those that want to do some detailed world building. Notable are the rare low-tech vehicles in the article, 5 TL2 land vehicles, and 4 TL2 boats or ships. A good resource for developing an ancient empire.

Low-Tech, High Fun!

The Random Thought Table feature. The two page editorial by Steven Marsh gives some soft exploration on the attributes of a low-tech game and how to exploit that for the best. The article is split into discussing Low-tech as limiting, evocative, and continuous, and why those attributes are good, and how to leverage them for good. Fun, but, as expected, of the Random Thought Table, very fluffy.


The Odds and Ends ends with some musings on the Anachronistic Skill perk, and you have a Murphy's Rules comic. There is an intangible quality about this issue that makes it hard to nail down. Each part is pretty good, not a particular one is mediocre or meh, but at the same time, they are a bit more niche and directed, for better or for worse. Interestingly, this means I've never leveraged any of these articles (though came somewhat close to using The Deadly Spring and At Play in the Fields.) Whether or not it is worth your money depends then on two things: first off, if any of these topics sound immediately useful to you, then I assure you the content is great. If not, this still might be a good impulse buy if you are just looking for an interesting rapid fire potpourri of neat information and mechanics that are all well researched to pass a few hours of idle reading time.

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