Review: GURPS Mysteries

June 15, 2009 at 9:22 AM (GURPS, Roleplaying, RPG) (, , , , , , , , )

A 4e Suppliment for Mystery Adventures and more

A 4e Suppliment for Mystery Adventures and more

If there is one thing Lisa J. Steele knows, it’s the law. She just so happens to be a defence lawyer AND the chair of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers Forensic Evidence Committee. If you ever wanted someone writing a sourcebook for a mystery setting, it certainly is someone as brilliant as her.

Lisa wrote GURPS mysteries for publication in 2005 and has had her book remain under the radar for sometime now (well, at least I think so, I don’t see it on many “must have” GURPS lists). The fact it’s not the #1 supplement from SJGames is a great shame, and hopefully you’ll see why shortly.

GURPS Mysteries, much like GURPS Fantasy and GURPS Space, is more of a setting direction supplement rather than a rules collection. There’s no convoluted new rules for dealing with witnesses, no massive roll charts, and very little chafe (unlike the “story” pages in GURPS Space *ugh*).

GURPS Mysteries presents a number of different approaches to mystery gaming. One item I particularly liked was the major point made by the author: A Mystery RP adventure is never going to be like a mystery novel. Her objective appears to be helping the GM (and players) determine the core elements of their mystery and distilling them to a point which *feels* like an Agatha Christie novel, without the frustrating (in a gaming session) level of facts to keep track of.

Making their usual appearance is the magical/fantasy mysteries, which are presented in a nice (and concise) section, complete with suggested skills for both investigators and instigators. Anyone wishing to run a Lovecraftian adventure-mystery will simply fall in love with this section.

The authors writing style is exceptionally fluid, clear, and unambiguous; likely owning to her professional experience. I very rarely found myself skipping ahead to the next section because I was bored with the subject matter (GURPS Fantasy – I’m looking at you). Additionally, they have included an absurdly detailed set of References (4 pages worth) and a wicked timeline for determining where your campaign is in terms of criminology skill.

But wait, all supplements have issues; what are they? The problems with GURPS Mysteries are quite hard to ignore to be truthful. As usual, SJGames continues to completely underachieve in the production values with lackluster art. Actually, scratch that: SJ Games ruined this supplement with Stock Photos and Public Domain art. I have never liked SJGames for their production; I’d say it’s one of the major factors holding the system back from becoming #1. GURPS Mysteries needs to be honoured with better artwork in a later release.

The overall lack of art also keeps the book under 130 pages, likely to keep it from being long enough to qualify for a hardcover printing at the time. Considering the amount of artwork in GURPS Space or Fantasy, I’m fairly sure the content in Mysteries overtakes them both. Considering that MANY gamers love to just flip through their sourcebooks (I still love flipping through my Shadowrun books), I’m baffled by the overall lack of art in the supplement.

Finally, it’s paperback or PDF.

Regardless of which system you use to play, even if you don’t plan on running an adventure with a pure mystery in it, you owe it to yourself to pick up this supplement. It’s simply the best supplement for GURPS next to GURPS Space (and a damn good one for any other system) out right now, even with the piss-poor production values. At $15 you can’t go wrong!




  1. nik1979 said,

    Yes on of the best books they have come out with, but least talked about (strangely) it even provides a good basic format for running games that is applicable for other genres.

    • criticalfailuregame said,

      Yeah, it’s a little baffling as to why this book doesn’t get put on my “must have” lists. It’s easily the best for critical thinking available (at this time). However, I imagine it would be difficult to utilize effectively.

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