RogerBW's Blog

GURPS Fantasy: Portal Realms, William H. Stoddard 10 December 2017

This supplement for campaign design deals with portal fantasy, specifically the sort in which people from Earth find thsmselves in a fantasy world.

Disclaimer: I playtested and received an Additional Material credit in this book, and therefore did not pay for it.

The book is divided into three sections; the first, Between Two Worlds, explores the types of realm and means of travel that are included in the concept; this includes wainscots (hidden fantastic domains and societies in the real world) and enclaves (overt ditto). THe section deals with types of story (from travelogue to saving the world), and most crucially with how accessible the portals are: are they the bookends to the story (indeed, just the start of the story, with no return possible), or is there some possibility of frequent travel and even trade? Alongside this, why is someone going through: by their own choice or someone else's, or indeed by chance? Three sample realms finish off this section.

Part two deals with the characters who are going through portals, starting with defining a reference society (the baseline from which characters are measured). Various traits are discussed in the context of how they represent the kinds of thing that happen in portal fantasy stories (and whether they should be regarded as zero-point features once in fantasyland). Some templates come next, including someone who's set up to be a mage once he gets to a place where he can learn magic; the final section deals with wealth and possessions, in particular how much equipment people can take with them if they have time to prepare and do a bit of shopping.

The final part deals with practical hazards and opportunities: finding one's way in an entirely unfamiliar landscape, finding out about language, culture and law, getting into fights, and learning magic. The part ends with a brief discussion of trade.

There's no single discussion of what sort of campaigns and stories portal fantasy is particularly good at telling, which strikes me as a bit of a shame; instead, although the material is all there, it's spread out over different sections, which doesn't really suit my style of campaign-building. This is not a hugely crunchy book, but it'll be useful for the GM considering how to construct a portal fantasy campaign. I think it's unlikely to fit well into an existing game, though I'm biased; one of my least favourite bait-and-switch moments was when a long-running campaign of modern mercenaries was suddenly thrown into a fantasyland with no hope of return. GURPS Fantasy: Portal Realms is available from Warehouse 23.

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