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Old 04-20-2010, 03:38 AM   #1
desorto
 
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Default Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

I wonder if the themes offered in some recent and upcoming issues aren't overly narrow. Take, for example, the numerous magic-centric issues recently released or the upcoming clerics issue. While it may be that most fantasy worlds might likely include wizards and holy men, I think it might be a good idea to take some of the playstyles, moods, and subgenres mentioned in various core books and expand on those a bit. After all, the number of people who are really into to playing magic users is certainly smaller than the number of people who regularly play Banestorm campaigns. I loved the Horror and Spies issue, because it provided some great ideas on how to get new use out of some of the old books I had just lying around.

Let's take Supers as an example, since I like to do quirky things with the genre. I think a Supers-themed issue that included a noir adventure for masked avengers, a scenario in which low level supers (say 200-300 points) had to step up and fill the void left by the disappearance of numerous legendary heroes, and a few supporting NPCs and organizations to fit into a Supers campaign might do better than an issue dedicated exclusively to, for example, super soldiers or mutants. Of course, I tend to favor low-end supers, and I don't see nearly enough stuff on them to suit my taste. Even some things in this vein will prove too narrow, I suppose. I can't imagine ultraviolent slapstick having broad appeal (even though I happen to love it dearly).

As another example, consider the appeal of an issue on an elite superspy organization in Banestorm that is charged with locating and either training or eliminating psis as threats to the current balance of power or as potential harbingers of the apocalypse. I think a lot more people might be drawn to an issue like that for the new possibilities it would provide to spice up a gameworld with which they are familiar rather than simply adding increased granularity to spellcasting or attempting to present a whole new world in the limited space of a single magazine issue.

I'm only speaking for myself here, but I know that I am most looking forward to issues on the wishlist that are tied to familiar old worldbooks (e.g. Cyberpunk and Banestorm). That isn't to say that I wouldn't want the clerics issue or the various magical issues, but they honestly don't excite me as much as something that offers up a new take on the familiar. That sort of thing is far more useful as a GM, since there's room for everyone in the group to get a few shiny new toys to play with, not just the spellslinger.

Last edited by desorto; 04-20-2010 at 04:34 AM.
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Old 04-20-2010, 10:44 AM   #2
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

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Originally Posted by desorto View Post
After all, the number of people who are really into to playing magic users is certainly smaller than the number of people who regularly play Banestorm campaigns.
I think your assumption here is unsupported by evidence. We know that fantasy, in general, is the most popular RPG genre, and I SJ Games, I believe, has stated that it represents a plurality, if not a majority, of what their customers are playing. However, Banestorm is only one specific fantasy campaign. It was reasonably popular, but not spectacularly so. I would not be surprised at all to learn that Banestorm players made up only something like 10% of GURPS players. In that case, it's quite possible that "players of magical characters" outnumber, even greatly outnumber, Banestorm players, and that trying to sell to Banestorm players is a worse plan than making generic magic articles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by desorto
I'm only speaking for myself here, but I know that I am most looking forward to issues on the wishlist that are tied to familiar old worldbooks (e.g. Cyberpunk and Banestorm). That isn't to say that I wouldn't want the clerics issue or the various magical issues, but they honestly don't excite me as much as something that offers up a new take on the familiar. That sort of thing is far more useful as a GM, since there's room for everyone in the group to get a few shiny new toys to play with, not just the spellslinger.
The problem is, most GURPS players are not playing in "familiar" settings. GURPS is a toolkit, and as such, attracts more worldbuilder GMs than other games. As a result, most GURPS campaigns are set in a world of the GM's own devising, rather than one of the standard campaign settings. In those cases, generic items or rules variants are better, because they can be incorporated into a variety of homebrewed campaigns, whereas material for a specific setting, even a new take on it, is really only useful for the minority of people who use that specific setting.

In short, GURPS is not D&D. We can't assume that the majority, or even a plurality, of people are using the "default settings", the way WoTC can assume people are playing Forgotten Realms or Eberron.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:39 AM   #3
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

@Kelly Pedersen

Fair enough.

Honestly, Banestorm was a terrible example, and I ought to have said fantasy gaming in general, at least in the opening. And please, keep in mind that I do like Pyramid a great deal, since I recently re-subscribed. I think there is something worth $7.00-$8.00 an issue in almost all of the ones I've seen since the relaunch. On the other hand, a mix of sample adventures, interesting background color, and quirky tweaks to add a new twist to genre books are certainly the ones that I am likely to get more mileage out of. The Horror & Spies issue is an excellent example of the combination of new uses for old tools (to shamelessly steal your toolkit metaphor) and fun flavor to spice up the same old thing.

Anyway, thanks for reading and setting me straight :)
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

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Honestly, Banestorm was a terrible example, and I ought to have said fantasy gaming in general, at least in the opening.
Fair enough! :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by desorto
On the other hand, a mix of sample adventures, interesting background color, and quirky tweaks to add a new twist to genre books are certainly the ones that I am likely to get more mileage out of.
I sympathize with what you're saying, but my personal suspicion is that you probably won't see much more of these than what we've already got. Again, this ties back to GURPS' generic nature. Simply put, adventures for GURS are very hard to write, and unlikely to be super-popular. Quite a number of authors have indicated that they find it difficult to create adventures for GURPS campaigns, given the wide range of possible character types and settings. Take fantasy, for example. D&D gets away with publishing "fantasy adventures" because it actually encompasses only a very narrow range of fantasy, defined as "a fantasy setting where all the characters are fairly combat capable, and we know the level of supernatural power and activity quite accurately".
To do the same sort of thing in GURPS, an author must balance against a much wider range of abilities (a combat challenge can range from grossly overpowered against characters with no combat skills to a complete pushover for characters focused on combat, and it's easy to have both characters in one party), and the author must prepare for a wider range of magic power, as well (a setting where GURPS Magic with all the spells, 50 point Powerstones, and Magery 6 are the standard is radically different from one where Path/Book Magic is the default system).
Even when an author creates an adventure sufficently generic to be broadly useful, it still is less likely to be generally accepted by the readership. Even a generic adventure will need tweaking to fit any particular campaign setting, and work to lead the campaign towards it. And GURPS GMs seem to be more likely to prefer creating their own adventures anyway, probably as a result of the greater number of worldbuilding GMs in the first place.

Interesting background color has the same set of problems as adventures, really. How do you make it generic enough to fit into most campaigns without stripping out everything that makes it interesting.

Genre twists have the issue that they're almost impossible to fit into an ongoing campaign. Even a good one, that makes GMs sit up and say "Ooh! I want to run [i]that[i]!" have to contend with the inevitable "but I'm already running this" follow-up.

Of course, I'm not saying that any of these things make inherrently bad articles. I'm saying that I don't think the reason we don't tend to see them is due to excessively narrow themes.
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Old 04-21-2010, 07:54 AM   #5
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

I think these Kelly Pedersen's posts here contain good arguments and they would be good to be remembered by people usually protesting here and there by GURPS's lack of official ready-to-play adventures.

Things as "The Tower of Octavius" are, OTOH, doable and pretty easily turned into a sort of "playable module", but with a strong enough generic or loose approach for tailoring it towards a plethora of campaigns.
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

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Things as "The Tower of Octavius" are, OTOH, doable and pretty easily turned into a sort of "playable module", but with a strong enough generic or loose approach for tailoring it towards a plethora of campaigns.
Oh, definitely. I'm not saying it's impossible to write adventures for GURPS, just that it's more difficult than for more focused games, which is why we see fewer of them.
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:43 AM   #7
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

Personally, I seek out and buy adventures. I am not a world-building GM and would like something focused that I could get friends together for a one-shot. Just saying that not all of these generalities apply to the whole market.

On the other hand, it might be difficult to nail down the rules being used for a GURPS-specific adventure. It might be longer than the adventure itself unless you limit it to one book. Non-system-specific adventures would reach a broader audience but would require more work from the GM.

In general, I don't play fantasy, but if you put a complete fantasy adventure and setting in front of me I might give it a shot.

-Grant
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:59 AM   #8
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

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Originally Posted by longhorn View Post
Personally, I seek out and buy adventures. I am not a world-building GM and would like something focused that I could get friends together for a one-shot. Just saying that not all of these generalities apply to the whole market.
Oh, certainly nothing applies to the entire market, but that's part of the problem.

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In general, I don't play fantasy,
How are you on modern-day? Looking over Pyramid's recent run, it looks like Pyramid is where the adventures are, but they're all set in something vaguely resembling the modern era. There's one in #5 (horror/spies), two in #8 (cliffhangers), one in #14 (martial arts).
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Old 04-21-2010, 11:14 AM   #9
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

I so badly want to run Metro of Madness. I have a sporadic game of Mutant City Blues, probably there.

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Old 04-21-2010, 03:51 PM   #10
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Default Re: Some reflections on themes in Pyramid.

*beth has the very silly idea of having a lottery/voting scheme; GMs sketch out their homebrew campaign, and every now and then (once a year?), there's an issue that includes an adventure at least theoretically suitable for that homebrew....*

(Could be done as a random lottery, or have people vote for the top X most interesting, or have SMarsh throw darts and pick some to put on the wish-list.)

(It is, I should note, a VERY SILLY idea, proposed only in the vague hope that I'm hopped into a timeline where it'd be useful. O:> )
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