Review: GURPS Fantasy

October 15, 2009 at 8:31 AM (GURPS, Roleplaying, RPG) (, , , , , , , )

This was a review originally intended for another website which I was apart of, but was never used. Posted since we really need to start getting back into posting.

The classic tale of Hellboy VS. Gandalf

The classic tale of Hellboy VS. Gandalf

William H. Stoddard has written his fair share of gaming supplements; mostly for the GURPS rule system as far as I can tell. As such, he is no stranger to a gamers desire for detail, fluid passages, and tasty helpings of artwork. He’s also the author of SJGames all-encompassing Fantasy supplement, “GURPS Fantasy”.

Fantastic Flying Machines

Fantastic Flying Machines

First and foremost, GURPS Fantasy is a toolkit, not a setting sourcebook. This distinction is a fine one, and should be understood before purchasing. As a genre toolkit, GURPS Fantasy doesn’t throw down a stock D&D style setting to work with, but instead gives you copious amounts of information to begin generating your own fantasy world.

Each of the early chapters are nicely subdivided into the important parts of a setting: The type of fantasy, the magical systems, the creatures, and even the physical (and meta-physical) world itself. You need information on the differences between High and Low fantasy? It’s here. Dark, Light, Paranormal Romance? Yup, there’s a quick section on each. Strangely, they felt it was necessary to also define “Christian Supernaturalism”. Do people actually play as John the Baptist?

One of the highlight sections happens to be “The Supernatural”. One of my gripes with the Core GURPS set happens to be the weak magic/supernatural section. GURPS Fantasy rectifies this with a 20 page collection of undead minions, magical systems including alchemy, and a creature catalog. Why it was so difficult to give even 1/4 of this information in the Core set, I will never know.

The art direction for GURPS Fantasy is competent. Don’t misunderstand, this supplement will never win awards for its “original” artwork; but it isn’t as stock and out of place as GURPS Magic’s 3D models. The drawing style is very similar to what’s found in the GURPS Basic Set, giving it at least a feeling of consistency between volumes. Thankfully it isn’t very sparse either, meaning you won’t go pages without a visual break.

Lilith as seen by GURPS Fantasy

Lilith as seen by GURPS Fantasy

However, unless you were planning on a Tolkien, Zelazny or Le Guin style fantasy world, you will feel this supplement a little lacking. While the information on every standard fantasy cliché is there, you will be hard pressed to find much that’s truly inspiring. Strangely, it’s as if Stoddard picked up “The Tough Guide to Fantasyland” by Diana Jones and mistook it as a serious guide. Every cliché, boring and insipid fantasy seed is here, which is great for new comers (both to gaming and GURPS), there is nothing which will help a game remain truly interesting.

Finally, the included sample campaign/world setting is atrocious. Once again, SJGames attempts to shoehorn another book into the “Infinite Worlds” multi-setting. Honestly, this is a Fantasy toolkit! I do *not* need to hear about “Infinity Patrol Agents” or “Quantum-#” while I’m trying to create a magical world. Why SJGames feels the need to constantly remind us that they have a GURPS setting which covers everything, I will never know.

The main issue with the sample setting (Roma Arcana) is that much like the rest of the sourcebook, it’s unoriginal. The basic premise is that Rome exists much as it did in our own past, except that magic was real and gods truly did walk the earth. Considering it cleanly lifts actual history to make the back story, I was surprised to see the world saddled with a TL2 (Tech Level 2) rating. Really? The Romans were the most advanced society outside of modern times and you couldn’t even give them TL3?

Overall, I’ve been rather harsh on the book. While this supplement suffers (greatly) from unoriginality, it’s far from a bad book. It is smoothly written and decently packaged. Additionally, it would make a perfect supplement for new gamers. For those finally venturing away from D&D but wishing to keep the fantasy setting, this book would be invaluable for the creation of a suitable world. However, there is little here for veteran gamers who need inspiration. My suggestion for veterans is to locate Stoddard’s “GURPS Steampunk” instead; it’s far more original AND has bitch’n artwork.

Rating: 6.5/10



  1. nik1979 said,

    Yeah, as a toolkit I find it not as good as GURPS: space in doing what it supposed to do. Given all the other Fantasy Wold Building Anysystem Books out there (sold in E23) it pales in comparison.

    • criticalfailuregame said,

      Heck, take a base D&D book and blammo, generic fantasy world. The price point and content of the book was just useless really. Kinda sad as its one of the major hardback ones.

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