Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Adversary

One of the things that shocked me the most when I was talking perspective players for Aeon was the completely lack of knowledge regarding using the rules for having a Adversary (see p. B493). Mind you, it's only a couple of paragraphs, but when I first read GURPS 4th edition this was a eye-opening passage. The thought that I could have a player who was essentially a co-GM, but not all the time was so appealing I instantly began coaching my other half in the various GURPS rules so she could fulfill the role. That was ten years ago and I haven't ever regretted the decision. So what exactly is an Adversary? the Basic Set calls it a player who occasionally takes on the roles of NPCs who play an "adversarial" role. Now, while that is quite useful if you have a player who can perform properly in his role, expanding it outward can save the GM a huge amount of time. Adversaries in my games have expanded roles (see below) and I tend to reward the player who does this with leeway for their own characters or enhanced character point awards - though this is not required.

Adversaries in my games fulfill the following roles:

  • Act as co-GM if I have a large player base and need to split the party up. I give the Adversary a general idea of what I want done and then let them have free rein.
  • Act as a specific NPC when I don't want my GM knowledge interfering or coloring decisions the NPC must make.
  • Act as a "minutes-taker" for session records-keeping.
  • Act as a sounding-board between sessions so I can figure out where I want the game to go.
  • Create NPCs, gear, etc. as needed to free me up so I can look at the big picture more

This may not seem like a lot, but after a way I can tell you that your games will improve. Having a adversary is like having an extra core on your computer's CPU - you don't know how awesome it is until you have one and then go without. Besides, training an Adversary is a lot like training a GM and if you have a good enough rapport with your Adversary you can switch between Gamemaster and Adversary roles at will.


  1. I'm specifically hearing angels sing at "Act as a specific NPC when I don't want my GM knowledge interfering or coloring decisions the NPC must make."
    That's hard for me and I suppose hard for every GM; you can't actually know what you might be allowing to color your thinking until you see what someone else thinks.

    1. Yeah, pretty much. It's supremely useful if you can get a good adversary triained up.

  2. I've used an adversary in the past, but not as a co-GM. More as a remote "tell me what this NPC does" kind of helper: