Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Dungeon Fantasising III

Guest Post by (E) a.k.a Euan Hastie

So you are new to GURPS and you are planning on running a Dungeon Fantasy game?
This tells me two things, first off you will probably make a few mistakes and secondly you want to see what GURPS can do. 
I know I usually make a few mistakes when starting a new system, sometimes a lot. It is an easy thing to misread or misinterpret a rule, especially one you look up in a hurry mid game when something unexpected happens. The biggest problem with making a mistake is if that mistake becomes entrenched and you build from it. Sometime later you discover what you had wrong, but now you have made many decisions based on something incorrect.
This can leave you in a situation where you feel the need to throw away a campaign that you feel is built on a foundation that doesn’t exist. Players may feel shorted if they have spent character points on “useless” traits
So what about making your first campaign a deliberate throw away? Take the pressure off, relax, aim to have fun and don’t worry. Running a throw away has its perks, no one said you can’t use what comes out of a throw away campaign. Think about what might be easy and entertaining goals to achieve while you are learning or getting reacquainted with the system and work them into your throw away campaign.
While not an essential part of Dungeon Fantasy having a developed game world to hang your later campaigns on might be something you want to have. You could always aim to flesh out some of the history of the world. Set the calendar to a few hundred years before an arbitrary start date and let your players do the work. For the players the benefit of this is having the opportunity for their characters to become part of the history of the world.
An easy way to this is frame the campaign as a colonisation expedition for what may become the start point of a new nation, duchy or even just a city. I use the word colonisation because history books generally don’t say “monster slaying expedition”. When you have finished the campaign take the bits you like and use them as a foundation for the history. The bits you don’t like can always be lost in the mists of time.
Alternately you could have your goal as exploring an aspect of gaming you haven’t tried before. Playing the Baddies for example. As a GM this gives you a chance to work out how the Baddies function. It also gives the players an excuse to have a more disposable character than they would normally have.
This kind of thing also plays into one of the key strengths of GURPS, you can play anything. Focus on playing the disadvantages and short term thinking and you have a solid foundation for a light hearted throw away game.
As the GM, GURPS gives you the option of making the characters incredibly tough. This can allow the comedy element to take precedent over the typical drive for survival and success. For example Demons can be re-summoned, Swamp Trolls regenerate, Rock Trolls are insanely tough, goblins have excellent cowardice and so forth. In a serious long running campaign an arrow to the head could mean death, in a light hearted throw away game its a source of humour.
All the while you are doing idiotic things with strange creatures you are also exploring the range of possibilities that GURPS provides.
An easy way to have a Baddies game is to say “no Humans allowed”. Then replace “Town” the place you go to sell loot, get supplies and make trouble, with “The Dark Lords Army” the place you got to sell loot, get supplies and make trouble. Aside from that Baddies do most of the things a normal dungeon crawling party would do, they are just less picky about who they do it to.
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