Sunday, March 28, 2021

Review: GURPS Realm Management

I liked it. More space
is dedicated to the title
of the book than to the
art on the cover.
Boardroom and Curia introduced metrics for objectively measuring an organization, but one shortcoming that occurred to me when looking at that book is there wasn't a lot of advice of how to bring to bear the power that an organization might provide for or against a party of PCs. It included ideas on how to administer it, but to what ends was not very well defined and required a lot of legwork from the GM to make executive calls. Realm Management, though focusing specifically on polities specifically, does a lot to address these shortcomings (and even mentions advice for leveraging the introduced mechanics in this book with the content of Boardroom and Curia.) Overall, it's an exciting long awaited book, very mechanically dense to the point where just reading it straight through is a bit of a slog, but if you, like me, were itching for some more rigorous administration mechanics, I'm sure you'll be satisfied. Below the fold is a more detailed review.


Healthy Table of Contents
As of this time, this is a $10, 52 page PDF, Subtracting front and back matter, 45 pages, one of the bigger GURPS supplements in a minute. This book is divided into two long chapters; one is devoted to objectively statting out a gameable 'realm,' the other is devoted to the in-play leveraging of this government, and all the resources it has at it's disposal. Besides these two chapters, there is a very useful three page index, and a worksheet for statting out a realm. While like most GURPS worksheets, it's not especially useful in its default form, with several fields having far too little space available, and some having too much, it is useful in that it contains in one place all the important questions you might need to answer when thinking about what makes up a realm. Throughout the book, as an example, "The Necro-Kingdom of Zarthus" is statted, a useful example because of how unconventional it is, showing how the system designers play with, bend, and break rules as appropriate to make the system serve the game, and not the other way around. This necromancer kingdom, along with a few more examples are displayed completed in the appendix with some annotations to help further parse the mechanisms behind the system. The book doesn't explicitly require other books besides the GURPS Basic Set, but a lot of metrics do leverage Mass Combat, not explicitly necessary, but might otherwise make a few of the metrics dedicated to military logistics less useful. Besides that, it does leverage a lot of the foundation built up by City Stats and Boardroom and Curia.

Building A Realm

The first chapter talks about all the bits necessary for putting together a stat block for a realm. This is extremely dense, and covers parameters such as the physical size, population density, education levels, corruption, productivity, governance, economy, and so forth. Even though a lot of laying out the stats for a given polity is based on hard usable numbers, sometimes the method by which they are ascertained does require the application of a more fuzzy wuzzy rubric. Admittedly, I think in these cases it makes the most sense, but I do feel a bit uneasy that maybe a number is chosen by looking at a description of some abstract level of an abstract value and picking what sounds best instead of using a formula; but that's the shape of the problem some times. As mentioned earlier, some of the metrics are very similar to some of the previous releases, but tuned in a way to be more mechanically useful, and a little easier to rate for the more subjective metrics. Most importantly, a few metrics are really only useful if you have and are planning to use Mass Combat. Otherwise, a large majority of this chapter is new or improved and stands on its own without reliance on other expensive supplements.

The Wheel

This is the system of actually using the stats that are put together in chapter one. "The Wheel" is a turn based system of executing government orders to take care of subjects, levy troops, complete large scale civil projects, and so forth. Turns nominally last one month and usually you can execute one action per "turn," but taking certain risks or having certain modifications ascribed to a realm can make this more or less difficult. After this maneuvers are explained, there are two tables of random calamities or boons that can occur occasionally to make running a state a little less predictable. Following this, helpful mechanics explaining how to actually improve a realm, from technological achievement, expansion and conquest. The chapter ends with some ideas about dealing with revolutionaries, coups, or similar tumultuous unrests. This chapter explains that Realm Management is meant to be a mini-game alongside the adventuring a party of PCs would normally be involved in, and not the whole enchilada innate of itself. Similar to the idea of Mass Combat not being a replacement for all adventuring of a party, Realm Management is meant to be a tool to make governing a realm useful for the PCs, have some strings to pull to utilize it to their ends, and then get out of the way as they go do other stuff, hopefully both these adventurers and the administration of the government have meaningful and interesting impacts upon each other.

Other Thoughts

This is basically something that I've been wanting for a long time, so it's hard for me to even think objectively about this book. I feel like it does a great deal to assuaging a hitherto under-addressed issue, but it also inspires a lot of new questions, and makes me look forward to authors adding on and refining an already great foundation.


  1. Is psudobot still functional?

  2. Hi, if I'm using the wheel for boardroom and curia created organization, what kind of resources you think I can use to substitute the workforce point?

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  4. Your insights are really helpful. Great post.
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  5. I found your review of GURPS Realm Management really insightful and thorough! It's fascinating how the game mechanics allow players to delve into the complexities of ruling and managing a realm.
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