Game Mastery or ‘How I learned to love the story’

I like GURPS. Buy the abilities your character should have. Get points back for foibles of personality. Skills are relative to ability, but it’s not impossible to be a savant(or a klutz). Everything has been scienced out beforehand by boring dudes doing a whole ton of math; just roll 3d6 and you’ll be fine.

Solid system. Easy system. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll have fun with it from day 1.

The very first game I ever ran in GURPS was, to put it lightly, a train wreck of misunderstood rules and ‘throw things at the players until something sticks’ gameplay. I took one look at the 600 pages of the basic set and said “oh man, I so got this!” But I didn’t. I did not got this, not one bit.

For starters, I let the players build anything. Any advantage was fair game. By my reasoning, the setting needed to accommodate the players, so when they gave me a gunslinger with major delusions, a sniper mage with ETS, and a (not obviously) super mundane low powered spy, I was all for it! Sidebar advice be damned, I was gonna get this to work!

So, brimming with enthusiasm, I crafted the game world around this motley crew. They would be recruits of an angel, his mission being the safeguarding of the multiverse, and they being his emissaries in their world. In media res I pulled them from their homes to a card table on an infinite plane of nothingness. There, he dealt them tarot cards, describing his mission and their subsequent responsibilities. The trio would need to go galavanting about their world securing ancient artifacts of great power: a sword that can cut anything, wings that can travel anywhere, and a helm that could armor against any foe. He then dropped them off in their reality, and disappeared into the night.

The world I dropped them into was one of our mutual creation. Nova Europa was a land of pulp action adventure! But also noir intrigue, post apocalypse survival, exotic exploration giant Mecha Kaiju battles, and of course, big damn evil Nazis. It was a madhouse. Alternate Earth timeline crossed with MAGIC plus alternate dimensions (including timeline infinite worlds) alongside videogame mashups, comic book supers, and a New Roman Empire headed by the big Jesus Christ (second coming) himself. There were zombies and werewolves and sky pirates and psionic communists and green lantern style samurai and the list went on and on and on and on…

Somehow, it was playable. Barely.

Often, the guys would just be led about by their noses. I was just shouting and rolling dice and they were shouting too, dodging bullets and getting the drop on the bad guys.

Every week was a lesson in “what made THAT happen?”. I quickly learned that ETS always let the gun wizard shoot. Always. He never failed. I learned that skills should have caps, thanks to him only ever spending points on Guns(rifle), Haste, and Major Healing. I learned that Gunslinger and other big ticket Advantages can really overshadow the game, certainly when the spy was a near-non-combatant. I also learned that dropping a mission on PCs that have no personal stakes in their completion can lead to tiresome slogs. Players will ask “where are we again? Why am I here? Who’s this asshole? Oh! We’re being shot at, those must be the bad guys then!” And that can be a very bad thing. Sometimes okay, but just never rewarding, in and of itself.

At one point, they were on a dungeon crawl; they had tracked Baron Von Something or another to his hideout in the Scandinavian mountains. There, in his volcanic mine, his minions had built his Teleporting Titanium Dirigible. The party had secured weapons and explosives, and were on his trail to stop an eldritch ritual to awaken the Dark Gods of the Elder Eye! The group crept along a dark hall, kicked in a door to the barracks and then!

They uccumbed to several rounds of targeted machine gun fire.

They were ambushed. Took heavy losses. The spy got random hit location table’d right in the brain pan. It was bad.

That night, we ended on a sour note, but I assured them it wasn’t necessarily on a TPK. They returned the next week to Germanazi demon infested wünder medicines, the spy got possessed by a demon, and things went on.

To this day, I know the setting was a trainwreck. The PCs were overpowered. The plot was garbage plebian trash. But, in the end, we had fun. Because we all loved the story.

We loved coming together each week, and seeing what utter bullshit we could get up to again. That group shot Nazis, saved the girl, got betrayed by the girl, shot the girl, shot Jesus, hell, they shot God at one point I think. And they had fun doing it.

Not because GURPS is balanced. Not because it’s fairly weighted. Not because it’s inherently superior.

It’s fun because there’s a good story in there, and went in to find it, together.


About KentonBlack

I'm an avid gamer, computer troubleshooter, and all around dashing fellow. I blog After Action Reports on my gaming, running as the GM for several GURPS 4e games
This entry was posted in #GURPS, #novaeuropa, Blurb and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Game Mastery or ‘How I learned to love the story’

  1. Pingback: GURPSday Cross Post: Story, Flavor, and One-Shots - Just Roll 3d6

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