RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 79: Space Atlas, edited by Steven Marsh 13 June 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. "Space Atlas" covers places to take a campaign… in space.

Disclaimer: I received assistance credit for one of the articles in this issue and therefore did not pay for it.

I'm not running a spacegoing campaign at the moment, but I've done it before and I'll probably do it again. So my applicability score is more "am I likely to use this in the sort of game I run" than "can I drop it into a game I'm running right now".

Ostara (David L. Pulver) is a lost colony that's recently been rediscovered; it's suffering from a psychic plague and internecine warfare (which overlap rather too much for comfort). High quality, and high applicability: it's good for plenty of adventures, there's no easy way to solve its problems, and I can drop it into a spacefaring campaign without too much difficulty.

The Vanishing Sun (Christopher R. Rice) is a solar system that moves randomly around the galaxy, and from which ships can't escape. That's a bit of a red flag for me: whenever a setting says that you can't do a thing which is normally standard, I want to find ways to do it, and other players tend to feel the same, so I suspect a campaign set here would end up being about getting away even if it's an interesting system to explore. There's a Big Dumb Object in the grand tradition, but less about the rest of the society than I'd really like. Medium quality, medium applicability because of that whole "can't get away" thing; there's no easy way to fix that, because for the rest of the setup to work this has to be an isolated system. (Designer's Notes here.)

The SkipTime Hub of the OceanWe (J. Edward Tremlett) has enigmatic aliens offering glipses of the future, or rather "which of these two options will bring the better short-term results". The enigma is well-drawn, starting with the docking structure and the arbitrary rules regarding who's allowed to visit. But there's also the blighting effect of the ability: if you can always pick the better option, why should you try to work it out? And this is affecting the aliens too… High quality, medium applicability. This is such a huge thing that a campaign really needs to be about it rather than having it as just one element. (There's some extended material on the aliens here.)

Halfway to Anywhere (Timothy Ponce) is an article I wish I'd written: realistic orbital mechanics for gamers. (I still think there might be a book in this somewhere.) Pity I have no players who'd be up for such nitpicking detail; mostly people just want to know "how long does it take to get from A to B, and can we do it in this spaceship". High quality, high applicability even if it's just for me as GM running calculations behind the scenes.

Homeward Unbound (Steven Marsh) describes an archway on an alien world, which provides a one-way instantaneous teleport to Earth. It's restricted enough not to be a huge game-changer, but still interesting. High quality, low applicability; it needs a campaign where alien super-tech is a common thing, or like the SkipTime Hub it'll tend to take over.

Random Thought Table: Awe's Right With the World (Steven Marsh) looks at sense of wonder, and how other planets can feed into that in the context of role-playing. One can't simply run a special effects sequence in descriptive prose and expect players to go "wow, we're in space", so new worlds have to have some other significance than the visual: increased scope, higher stakes, and so on. As usual with Random Thought Tables, there's little direct gaming applicability, but it's good inspiring stuff.

Pyramid 79 is available from Warehouse 23.

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