"Go to the sign of Harvel's Axe, a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieves Quarter, in the City of Greyhawk, and look to your own wrist. If you perceive a bracelet and dangling dice, watch for the next throw in the war between Law and Chaos and be prepared to follow the compelling geas." -Signal

Saturday, October 29, 2011

GURPS - Vikings, Summon Pests

I am not sure how many GURPS books there actually are. I have  better than one hundred though there is an occasional duplicate  and I am certain I don't have them all. Most of these I may never  get a chance to use but they are still good to have. I have  written about the Russia offering earlier as well as Riverworld.  I have found the historical books to be some of the better  products in the GURP's line.

Vikings was released initially in 1991 and was written by Graeme  Davis. It is 128 pages long which seems to be right along the  lines as far as page counts for these books go. There as been at  least one other if not two other versions of the book released. I  do not have the later copies but I would expect them to be almost  the same. I prefer the cover to the older version which is the  one above to the newer one.

Even though the name of the book is Vikings it actually deals  with the entirety of the Norse world. The books is divided into  eleven different chapters. Each one takes on either an aspect of  the Norse world historically or how to utilize it in a campaign.  The art in the book is sparse and is used to accent the topic  being covered. I am not sure if this changed in later printings  but the book does not focus on the art.

Chapter One deals with the Viking world. It covers the various  aspects of the Norse society including topics along the lines of  social classes ideals and and Viking law. It also covers the  lands that would be considered part of the Viking world including  Scandinavia, Denmark and Iceland. It also covers the various  types of settlements that would have been common. One aspect of the  GURPS books I have liked are the sidebars they use. In this  chapter the one of Viking proverbs is especially nice.

The second chapter deals with characters. The chapter is a blend  of historical information and information used to create a Viking  character. The chapter discusses the real world topics of  appearance, names and economics. It also has the additional  information used for the character portion of GURPS that makes  the supplement its own. These include specific advantage and  disadvantages as well as quirks and skills. It then ends with a  sample character.

In the third chapter the topic is one that would be near and dear  to every viking, that of combat. The chapter covers the typical  types of weapons and armor that would have been part of the Norse  world. It covers both hand and ranged weapons. There is also  extensive rules provided for mass combat. I found this portion of  the chapter to be interesting and something that a DM could  utilize outside of the theme with a little effort.

Chapter Four deals with the history of the Viking world. It  starts with the of the Vikings discussing their origin. It then  covers the roles that the Vikings played throughout their history  covering the roles of raider, trader, conqueror and finally  explorer. In all the chapter covers the era from the eighth to  twelfth century.

The fifth chapter covers the Viking Campaign. It starts with  discussing some defining ideas these will be the magic and  violence levels. It next discusses the ideas of the campaign  style. These are based on a combination of the levels of violence  (two) and the level of magic (three) giving six different  options. It then discusses three specific types of campaign ideas  fleshing them out in more detail. This section includes a sidebar  on Ten Things You Thought You Knew About Vikings which is very  interesting.

In chapter six the topic of discussion is that of the Norse  deities. I personally find the Norse deities and their stories  much more interesting the those of the Greeks and Romans. The  chapter discusses that Thor, Tyr and Odin are the three major  deities and the others serve in a lesser role in the Norse  society. The chapter has some interesting information but I think  the sidebars here are just as good as the main material. The  information on the world origin and cosmos design will be of  extra help to a DM designing a campaign.

Chapter Seven deals with magic in the Norse world. This is one of  the three defining elements of the campaign mentioned earlier. The level of magic allowed will be determined by that. In the  historic campaign there will most likely be no magic. The  fantastic and mythic campaign will each allow for increasing  levels of magic. The chapter discusses how best to handle this.  It also provides information on two specific types of magic. The  two new types being introduced are shapeshifting and rune magic.  It also has material on the magic items that could possibly be  lent by the deities.

The eighth chapter is the Norse Bestiary. Much as with magic the  Norse campaign will have limited fantasy elements in the way of  creatures. Unless playing a fantastic or mythic there will not be  any races other than humans. The creatures allowed in will depend  on this as well. There are discussions on creatures that could be  allowed under each and even then it is somewhat limited. It  discusses Dwarves and Alvar (Elves) as well as Trolls and Giants.  It then deals with the supernatural creatures including Grendel.  It then finishes off discussing divine creatures, dragons and the  undead.

In chapter nine the topic of discussion will be friends and foes.  The chapter discusses the other various peoples that the Norse  would or could have dealings with in a campaign. These range from  the Saxons to Arabs to Inuits. As explorers or raiders the  ability to interact with most of the world was an option.

Chapter Ten takes a nautical theme. This was as much as anything  part of the Norse world. The chapter discusses the ships that  would be common for characters to use and be on. The next topic  discussed is ship handling and sea battles. The final portions  of the chapter deal with actual sea voyages and with river  travel. The sidebars here deal with some interesting topics that  could be used outside the genre. The rules on storms at sea seem  very much something that could be used by any DM.

In the final chapter we get some information on adventure  threads. In keeping with the different types of campaigns we are  presented with hooks for each of the three types based on magic  level. Most of these are specific to the Norse world but some  could be adapted into other campaigns with some work while some  are generic enough to adopt as is.

The book ends with a glossary, bibliography including movies and  an index. In this case the newer version might be a bit better  but that is just conjecture. The book is a good read even if it  is never going to be used but then I have always been fascinated  with the Norse world so your mileage may vary.

From the back cover:

"Loot! Pillage! Burn!"

"From the fury of the Norsemen, oh Lord, deliver us!" So prayed  the Irish monks.

To the victims of a Viking raid, the Norsemen were bearded giants  with bloody axes. But the Viking was much more. He was a skilled  navigator and a brave explorer and trader. He was a fighter to  whom honor and reputation were far more important than life. He  was a free man in an age of petty tyranny. He was a dreamer whose  songs and stories live even today. And yes, he was a bloody- handed sea rover who took what he wanted!

This book is a complete guide to the Norse world. It includes  maps, historical background, and details on society and religion.  A separate chapter discusses Norse magic and runes. The new  edition also provide templates for playing the magical races of  Viking lore as player characters, and expands the number of  campaign options available.

You can game any sort of Viking campaign, from fully realistic to  magical and cinematic. Create a historical campaign, with sea  battles, duels and bloody raids – or become a legendary berserker  for mythic adventures with Thor and Odin!

You may live, you may die. No man knows his fate. But act bravely  and the skalds will sing of your deeds forever.


Summon Pests

Level: First
Range: 6"
Duration: One Round/Level
Area of Effect: One Creature
Components: V,S,M
Casting Time: 2 Segments
Saving Throw: Special

When this spell is cast the magic user causes a large number of  small mystical creatures to appear. These will in most ways  resemble fireflies but are not living creatures.

The summoned creatures will be made to pester one creature when  summoned. These creatures will surround the target and cause them  a high level of distraction. In addition to obstructing view they  will bite and sting the target. These will cause no damage or  have no affect other than to distract.

While being distracted the target will suffer a -2 to all rolls  (except where a +2 would be worse). The target is not entitled to  a saving throw for this except when casting spells. Due to the  nature of the distraction spell casting will not be possible  unless the target makes a saving throw versus magic. A saving  throw must be made each time a spell is being cast by the target.  Fails and saves to not carry forward from round to round.

The material component of this spell will be the remains of some  pest or annoying insect. The remains will be destroyed with the  casting of the spell.

Disclaimer: The spells that you will see, for how ever long the  write ups last, were all written up or conceived of back in the  80's so the terminology may not appropriate for anything other  than 1e and depending on how well I did back then it may be  slightly off for that as well. If there is any duplication of  spells that exist now it is most likely I wrote mine first :)  Please feel free to comment on them but try not to be too hard on  me. If anyone wishes to use these in anything they print please  let me know in advance and all I ask is proper credit.


Graeme Davis said...

There are just the two editions: 1991 and 2002. The second edition has two major additions: extra monsters (more spirits and undead) that I had discovered during the interim; and an expanded treatment of humorous campaigns.
Pyramid 3/16 (February 2010) contains an artile I wrote on Viking exploration in the Atlantic, presenting a range of adventure seeds for Iceland, Greenland, Vinland, and the Northern Isles.
- Graeme Davis

The Great Khan said...

Good to know it would be worth grabbing the 2002 edition too then. I don't even play GURPS, I just thought the Vikings supplement was great.

Wymarc said...

@Graeme Thanks for taking the time to post to the review of your product. If I had known the author would read the review I might have done it a little less clinically. I hope I did not misspeak about it in any way.

Thanks for the information on the number of editions, their content and the information on Pyramid. I will have to track it down. And thanks for writing Vikings.