Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PC Tips for my GURPS DF Game (inspired by the OSR Primer)

I really enjoyed reading Matthew J. Finch's “A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming." So much so, I thought the player tips in it would make an excellent model for a tip sheet for my own Dungeon Fantasy game.

So I went ahead and made my own version of those tips.

I have this printed out and posted on the front of my GM's screen when I run my Dungeon Fantasy campaign:

Tips for Players

1) Have a plan. Establish an object, have rendezvous points if you have to run. Establish safe points when possible. Avoid spending time and energy on things that don’t complete your goal - usually getting treasure. Remember that in most cases traps, tricks, and monsters are just a resource drain, so avoid ones you don’t need to deal with.

2) Scout ahead. When you do, use Stealth, use magic and night vision to avoid using tell-tale light sources, and be quiet.

3) Don’t assume you can beat any monster you can encounter. Game balance is for rewards, not challenges.

4) Don’t ask “What do the rules allow me to do?” Instead ask “What can I do in this situation?” and let the GM rule on the results. You might be surprised at what you accomplish.

5) Ask lots of questions about what you see. Look up. Ask about unusual stonework. Test floors before stepping. Use all of your senses.

6) Protect the mages and clerics and other squishies.

7) Hire some help. Long polearms can attack over friendies with no penalty, so hire some guys with polearms and put them behind the strong fighters! Hire light fighters for the flanks, torch bearers to carry light, and flunkies to carry the treasure.

8) Consult NPCs. Ask sages, veteran adventurers, and local notables about the dungeon, monsters, and history. Expect to pay for it, but they’ll have knowledge you don’t that can result in more treasure, more easily won.

9) Don’t be stingy. No one ever died because they tossed too many torches into corners, brought too much holy water, iron spikes, or alchemist’s fire, or spent too much money on hirelings and sages.

Based on an excerpt from “A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming” by Matthew J. Finch and Mythmere Games, 2008)

That has been up on the front of my GM screen at least since just before session 8 of my game. You can see it there when they were really alert to things above, and to checking the floor. If the GM says right before the session, you should check the ceiling, what are you going to do, ignore that?

The tips are more specific to my style of gaming, which I've said before is the worst of old school and new school (you're punished for your mistakes as a player, like old school, and limited by your character's abilities and flaws, like new school.) Plus, as you can see, I had to change some things are clearly D&D-related and not related to all other old-style fantasy gaming rules - mages aren't much of a nuke in GURPS, and in my games you're powerful enough that hired cannon fodder isn't going to be a threat later. Telling my players to view the entire game area as the battlefield is a waste of breath - they do that naturally and normally. They map a lot, and put a lot of effort into it. But some things do need to be said - look to the situation, not the rules, to determine what to do. My players can be bad about this, but so can I - when you've got a hammer in your hand, you tend to use it, not start thinking of what else you can do besides start hammering. The reminder has helped, where they've done odd things that fit the situation without knowing if "the rules" supported it or not (generally, they do, but that's not the point.)

So in a way, this tells the players not only what's useful to do, but what I as the GM am expecting from them. I'm telling them I expect scouting. I'm going to use unbalanced encounters. I'll have sages and hirelings out there. I'm giving them a short set of "how I run my game" and "how you'll benefit from acting."

I've been meaning to post these for a while. I hope they're useful to people running similar games to mine, or inspire your own set of player tips that summarize what's important in the games you are running.

Related posts:

Old School - style or rules?

Building a Better PC


  1. I agree with #3 because there are plenty of monsters that can not be defeated through combat in my dungeons. If the PCs are very powerful they might be able to fight against a demon lord and survive but they stand no chance against Cthulhu and the like. Their best options aee to try to shunt him back into the dimension he came from using ancient spells or objects of power.

    1. In my game at least, #3 is including any method of beating monsters. Some you really need to avoid, or run from, until you're well and capable of dealing with them. You can't assume you can safely remove them as a threat with or without combat.


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