RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 95: Overland Adventures 27 November 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's wilderness adventures and travel in a fantasy, or at least low-tech, setting.

The Emerald Hell (Timothy Ponce) is a microsupplement for putting the jungle environment into a game: definitions, travel modes and hazards, finding one's way, spotting things one needs to notice, fighting, disease, weather, etc. Local humans, and significant animals, are mentioned only in passing. This is clearly mostly for low-tech settings, though if I ever do that pulp exploration game I've been threatening for a while it'll certainly be useful there. File next to my own GURPS Fathom Five as a detailed look at a specific environment.

Low-Tech Transportation (Christopher R. Rice) sets costs and speeds for transporting goods by foot, pack animal, cart, boat and ship. It considers the effects of climate, but not of other hazards; in other words it's the basic information you need for setting up a merchant caravan in safe country and making sure the goods it carries are sensible ones, but you'll need to do a fair bit more to wrap an adventure round it. Since costs are broken down in detail (so much for food, so much for water) player character magicians can work out how much they can save by repeated spellcasting.

Eidetic Memory: Monster Caravan (David L. Pulver) flips the usual approach: the monsters are travelling from A to B, and the player characters attack them on the road. The specific example given here is a wagon train run by orcs gathering tribute from local chiefs and bringing it back to the overall boss, and various ways a band of heroes might come across it.

The Village Green (Jon Black) defines a low-tech village, listing the standard features, who lives there, how specific sorts of village may differ from the template, and how they can be brought into adventurous games – as well as helpful notes on how village life changes with advancing technology and communication.

Random Thought Table: Keeping Reins on the Wilds (Steven Marsh) considers how to set boundaries on a wilderness area to keep the adventurers more or less on the right track: a known target location, artificial "point of interest" markers, or actual boundaries.

There's nothing in here that really leaps out and grabs me or makes me want to run a campaign in it; I'll probably get most use out of The Emerald Hell. Pyramid 95 is available from Warehouse 23.


  1. Posted by Shimmin at 09:16pm on 10 January 2017

    This looks like an interesting sort of supplement overall, though as you say not one that shakes you by the collar and screams "use me!"

    It does look like it might tie in well with my attempts to knock together an overland travel system, so if I do try to run something along those lines I'll probably pick it up to scavenge for parts. It feels like perhaps just what you might need for that sandbox travelogue idea you already have, rather than the core of a campaign by itself. Just now my limited funds, limited GMing and excess of unread RPG material are probably a reason to hold off.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:49am on 12 January 2017

    The odd thing is that apart from The Emerald Hell there's not a lot here about individuals picking their way across the wilderness: it's more about the people and monsters they'll meet en route or when they stop for the night.

    (When this came up on the wishlist, I failed to spot the "fantasy" theme at first, and my immediate thought was to pitch an article about the history and uses of the Land Rover.)

  3. Posted by Shimmin at 10:57pm on 12 January 2017

    Ah, I see your point. It does seem a bit of a shame they've burned Overland Adventures on what mostly seems to be not about travel.

    I wonder whether you could viably run a campaign that was primarily just a big travelogue? I can't decide if it'd be interestingly demanding, or people would just get tired of dealing with the everyday difficulties.

    Try it the other way - pitch a Land Rover supplement with a set of accompanying scenarios based on those factual hooks?

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 11:41pm on 12 January 2017

    One of my back-burner campaign ideas takes the basic form "you must visit a bunch of ancient ruins around the world, and do Mystical Stuff there before the bad guys do"; it's primarily a travelogue, with the possibility of branching out into various dirty tricks. But I haven't decided what tech level to run it at - just before or just after the advent of the aeroplane seem like the most promising possibilities.

    I didn't get very far with the Land Rover notes, but one day…

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