Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Review: GURPS Aliens Sparrials by Elizabeth McCoy


Note: I helped with this book in its early phases so I may be slightly biased.

So Elizabeth McCoy may have written a thing. The thing is, in fact, an entirely new GURPS series: Aliens. If you don't know who McCoy is (the writer not the doctor!) then you are probably not familiar with GURPS at all. She's the In Nomine line editor, one of the system architects of GURPS in general, and the genius (along with her co-author and husband, Walter Milliken) behind GURPS Illuminati University. Yeah, I'm obviously a bit of a fan boy - Beth's fantastic at what she does and I always love to review her work (especially her numerous fiction novels).

But back to the topic at hand: GURPS Aliens: Sparrials what's in it? Turns out she packed a lot of information into a mere 30 pages.

Chapter 1: Sparrial Characters
Elizabeth goes into fairly exhausting detail on the physiology, psychology, and general biology. she even gives a reason for why some sparrials like the scent of specific people without getting caught up into the crunch of such an interaction - a huge plus in my book because when you deal with even one alien race it's easy to bloat their template into unplayability (says the guy who's done this a lot). One of my favorite parts of this section is the short and sweet notes on Single-Minded. Some sparrials are born with a kind of "hyper-focus" that let then be less scatter-brained than their brethren and in my opinion when combined with their other traits make them a truly dangerous foe.

Chapter 2: The Way of the Anarch - Sparrial Culture
This chapter talks about sparrial culture - in fact, Elizabeth has an entire box on a what I consider an interesting and "must have" for any species book: how their culture/language interacts with outsiders (the "bootstrapping" box is pretty cool too and similiar logic could be applied to just about any primitive alien race). The rest of the chapter talks about the way sparrials deal with one another from jobs to children as well as their art, entertainment, and religion.

Chapter3: Gear What Has It Gots In Its Pocketses
This chapter is exactly as advertises, but also has rules for pets, livestock, and mounts. The very last few pages also contain a ready-made starship using the Spaceship system which can be crewed by an all-sparrial crew.

I give GURPS Aliens: Sparrials 4.5 out of 5 pennies. That missing 0.5 of a penny is mostly due to the fact that I wish they would have given McCoy another 30 pages to expand the concept even more as well as to include more material for other lines/settings. This is mostly a personal gripe because I'd otherwise give it a full 5/5 rating - the material is spot-on and answers just about every question a GM might have for running a sparrial character. It's worth the $8 and if it does well enough we can get more GURPs Aliens books in the future (hint hint!).


  1. If the book genuinely merits another 30 pages that would seem a pretty substantial criticism. Though there is always the possibility of Pyramid articles for outakes.

    1. It merits another 30 pages because Beth could have honestly given it another 30 and covered everything in super detail. As it stands she answers just about every question you might have on sparraial (whatever). It's that information dense.

  2. Honestly, I dunno if I could have found another 30 pages of material! I definitely wasn't scraping the bottom of the barrel (it ran long...), but overall, I think expanding it would've meant I'd have gone deeper into fantasy options (e.g., magical gear preferences, a fantasy template), or a sample character, or something. Maybe more of the eco-system...