RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 94: Spaceships III 12 October 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a third issue on the general theme of Spaceships (the GURPS subsystem as well as the overall concept).

Since I'm running an SF campaign at the moment, I'm evaluating the articles here particularly in terms of how useful they'll be there.

So You Want to Build a Spaceship (Roger Burton West and Timothy Ponce): I first seriously noticed Timothy's work in Pyramid #3/79, when he wrote an article (basically "orbital mechanics for gamers") that I'd been mulling over for years but not quite getting to work. He was also very helpful during the playtest of Meltdown and Fallout. So when I had the idea for this article ("what if I want a spaceships game that feels like X rather than generic SF") but not enough genres to make it work, he was the obvious guy to ask for collaboration. It's probably pretty obvious which of us wrote which section, but they all got tossed back and forth and improved by the process. (I've already used this to design parts of my current game.)

Battle for the Earth (Michele Armellini) is a scenario for GURPS Mass Combat: aliens have invaded several major cities on a near-future Earth, and scrappy human forces strike back at them. It's not much to do with spaceships, but it does seem as though it should generate a number of interesting close-up scenarios as well as being a challenging, lopsided wargame. Not much direct applicability for me, though.

Blackbeard Station (Ted Brock) is a pirate haven with its own jump drive, though it's still restricted to a single star system. This needs some hefty assumptions about how trackable ships are in order to work, though I may be able to hack pieces off it for use in my current game.

Eidetic Memory: Hazard Rates (David L. Pulver) looks at what happens when space traders are deliberately seeking illegal cargoes, rather than (as the Spaceships 2 system assumes) occasionally stumbling across them. There's a full 36-entry table for illicit goods (some of which, such as psychotronics, may not exist in a given setting), three examples of full-ship charters with complications, and some suggestions about mail contracts (and adventures arising from them) for settings where the ship is the fastest means of communication. This is definitely getting used in my current game, where two of the PCs' activities are inspections of merchant ships and rendering assistance to civilians in distress.

Strange Objects in Disrepair (J. Edward Tremlett) lists three wrecked alien vessels: they're all intriguingly alien in a pleasing way, though they have potentially massive implications for the long term of the campaign. Since there are no known aliens in my current game, I won't be using these. Honest.

Random Thought Table: You Gotta Get a Gimmick (Steven Marsh) looks at starfleet-defining gimmicks (cloaking devices, TIE fighters, etc.) and considers ways in which they can be kept isolated to that power even once they're discovered: they can't be understood, they only make sense in the context of their own society, they have morally repugnant requirements for use, and so on. And of course there are suggestions as to how to get round those restrictions once the time is right. I'm not generally doing this sort of gimmick (fleets have different design philosophies but basically the same basket of available tech) but as always it's thought-provoking stuff.

So apart from the one I wrote, that's one immediately useful article, two that I can use with a bit of tweaking, one that has little to say to me and one that's not designed for this kind of use but will affect the flavour of the game. That's pretty good going, and I think that many other games involving spaceships will be able to use even more of this material. Pyramid 94 is available from Warehouse 23.

See also:
Pyramid 79: Space Atlas, edited by Steven Marsh
Disasters: Meltdown and Fallout

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