GURPS101: A Whole New World (of Dungeon Fantasy)

Guest Post by Scott “Rocketman” Rochat

“Where’s Dungeon Master when you need him?”
“Forget Dungeon Master, we need a SWAT team!”

— Presto and Eric, in “Servant of Evil” from Dungeons & Dragons

The crossworld visitor is a common sight in fantasy fiction. Whether it’s Dorothy arriving in Oz, Lucy coming to Narnia, or Thomas Covenant trying to decide whether the Land is a delusion, we know we’re in for quite the journey – not least because the reader and the character are discovering the world together.

This is not unknown in dungeon fantasy! Those who grew up in the 1980s may remember the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon where an amusement park ride sent six kids into fantastic adventure; similarly, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series begins with an RPG group that suddenly finds itself inside the bodies of its characters. The result can be to make a traditional background fresh again, by seeing it through the eyes of a newcomer. (Those of a comedic bent may also find plenty of opportunities to lampoon the traditions and habits of the dungeon!)

In GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, naturally, this calls for a lens.

Outworlder (50 points):
You are a stranger from another world, thrown into the body of a hero.

Attributes: No change
Secondary Characteristics: No change
Advantages: Intuition [15], High-Tech +5TL or “magical item” bought as a Gadget[25]*
Disadvantages: Obsession [-10]
Quirks: Uses “modern” expressions [-1]
Skills: 12 points of “modern” skills, taken at GM’s permission. NOTE: If wildcard skills are permitted, the High Tech/Signature Gear option may be replaced with Lore!-IQ and a suitable Perk.

Note that this is not a complete write-up of the character’s “modern” self! In a typical Dungeon Fantasy world, many abilities will be irrelevant, from Driving to Cultural Familiarity. (Even modern languages are likely not to matter unless more than one character takes this lens; most “crossworld” fiction and games instill knowledge of the local speech.) The breakdown is as follows:

Obsession – This is the heart of the character. Most crossworlders want nothing more than to return home – or say they do – and most of their adventures will at least nominally reflect this.

Intuition – Unlike someone inside the world, many contemporary people – and especially gamers — will “know the tropes” of a Dungeon Fantasy environment. At times, this will allow them to guess uncannily well about the next thing to do!

Hidden Lore – This skill is for someone who was explicitly a gamer before coming to the world and has read enough gamebooks and supplements to know several of the world’s “secrets.”

High TL – This alternative to Lore is only allowed if the PC has chosen TL skills and the GM wants the PC to potentially change his or her world. If High TL isn’t going to make a difference, it shouldn’t cost points.

Gadget – For those who are supposed to have less or no knowledge of their world, the gift of a suitable magic item is not only traditional, but can aid survival! (“Fear not, ranger … barbarian … magician … thief …”) If not already known, the story behind the item may be the subject of a quest all its own.

Quirk – Even when speaking the local tongue, many crossworlders seem to keep their old idioms and expressions as a characterization tool.

“Modern” skills and High TL – This must be done with the GM’s permission, since this can be the most disruptive part of the template – the GM doesn’t have to allow any abilities that will break his world unless that’s what he wants! As an example, Lou Riccetti of Guardians of the Flame brings an undergraduate’s knowledge of civil engineering to a fantasy world and uses it to become the core of a revolution against slavery. (A GM who really doesn’t want to permit this can put the points into more “acceptable” areas, particularly gear or Allies.)

Note that the lens does put the Dungeon Fantasy environment at risk of becoming a straight “fantasy” campaign. For those willing to roll with the effects, though, it may be the “something different” that the dungeon-delvers need.

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  1. A friend GMed his homebrew which had skill levels. This was 1982, and I had not heard of such thing. He allowed PCs from other worlds but high tech, such as guns, wouldn't work. I created a couple of PCs anyway. My favorite was a French Foreign Legionnaire paratrooper, and ex-German Captain, fresh from Dien Bien Phu.

    Ah memories…

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