Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Required Reading for Game?

I was thinking about required reading for games. You know, lists of fiction, books, background, etc.


I'm not a big fan of required background reading. This is probably because I don't like to do it. I prefer to learn background in play. Start with an elevator pitch, then have it all pick up as you go.

This is why my game started with a simple background, the PCs all knowing each other, a mission ("find and clear the evil shrine"), and handed out rumors to fill it in.

My game does have some fictional inspirations. There are novels and short stories which, if you read them, will reveal some of the origin of parts of the game. They'll show you some of the themes in the game. But they aren't really required. It doesn't matter if you've read them.

All of that said, we've played for 77 sessions. Some background has come up, and it's important to play to know it.

Generally I recommend players read:

- at least the past few sessions of play. All would be better, but it's not necessary. Reading none will hamper you as you try to keep up.

- read the accumulated rumors list.

- read the history posts (this one, and the one linked in it).

- it's helpful to read the whole "spreading rumors in town" post and attitude post and the PC Tips.

And that's about it for background. It was less when we started, but hey, 77 sessions.


I do like it when my players actually familiarize themselves with the rules. I don't really require people to learn the rules beyond the basics. It's helpful when they do.

- the abbreviated combat rules in Basic Set: Characters.

- the rules for Deceptive Attack and Rapid Strikes in Basic Set: Campaigns.

- your template.

- the first half of DF2. It's actually very player-centric, and you need to know what the game assumes you can and will do.

- the text of the advantages and skills you have, again, in Basic Set. If you took it, read it.

- Building a Better PC

- if you're running a spellcaster, you need to read the rules for spellcasting.

- If you're going to run a "support" character, you need to read this post.

- It's helpful if you know the Power-Ups available to your specific template (and which ones aren't, like the ones off your template, even if you've got a lens).

It's actually not that much. For most of my players, it's a couple of sections of Basic Set, a few posts, your specific traits, and half of DF2. You can get away with reading almost none of these, but you'll be hampered. You won't take advantage of everything you're capable of with your skills and advantages.

It's more than I hoped it would be, but that's cut down to the bare bones of what you need to read to be current and ready.


  1. I have zero required reading for my game. If my players don't know a rule, I'll explain it to them. If they don't know part of the background but their characters do, I'll explain it to them. This is hard on the GM, but easy on the players. It also doesn't scale well to large groups -- if you have 6 players, you have less time to explain things.

    I do ask first-time GURPS players to play a simpler character so they don't have to learn as many things at once. If it's your first time, you should have fewer things on your character sheet to think about. (Techniques, spells, powers, disads, whatever.) I have a general preference for lower-point games with small disad limits, just to limit the number of rules that people have to think about.

    1. You're right, numbers really do matter. With the 6 regulars we have right now, plus occasional drop-ins (most of whom aren't terribly GURPS-fluent), it would be impractical to have no rules or background knowledge required.

      Part of it is campaign style, too. I started to write something about that but it's getting post-length . . .

  2. I would greatly prefer my players to know the rules, but as a general thing exactly 1 of my GURPS players has ever bothered.

    I guess it's the Yang to my old D&D group's Yin, where they read into the rules so much several of them could pretty much pre-empt most stock monsters I put at them.

    As for fiction and what not...well, in theory the world's player-centric background. Realistically, this never really happens with people I've tried to induct in a long time. It usually ends up meaning I have to ammend characters that run at 90 degrees to the settings fluff, or amend said setting to fit them in - neither are great.

    Thanks for "Building a Better PC"; I could probably use a look at that.

    1. You're welcome.

      I've had experience with the right angles to the game types. "We're running a gritty historical pirates game." "I'm a time-travelling catgirl ninja!" Okay, not that bad, but close. I'll take some oddness (our actual pirate game had a few guys with odd backgrounds, but possibly ones) but I usually veto outright the game-breakers. Generally the person either wants something game-mechanically useful, or they just like turning the game on its head. I'll probe the former and find something that fits. I'll veto the second.

    2. That's a good way to go about doing it. I've had the "I found this homebrew thing online I really want to run" types before, but the ones I've had were reasonable enough to want to work it in. Last real bad offender I remember wanted to run a Sorcerer class - which was fine - so I gave him the alterations to it notes and how they fit into the setting and I got a 2 or 3 page essay on his dragon blood linage in return - which is not how Sorcerers were in this setting. Didn't even use the changed up mechanics, either. Fortunately that game didn't go anywhere, so it turned into a non-issue.

      I've only done a low volume of games so the number of troubles has been pretty reduced, doubly so since I'm selective in who I recruit for just about anything I do.


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