Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: GURPS Locations: St. George's Cathedral

Getting my biases out of the way - I'm a credited playtester, and I have known Michele Armellini online for a bunch of years now.

Written by Michele Armellini
Published by Steve Jackson Games
32-page PDF (2.0 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1415
Price $7.99

Preview of the PDF

The GURPS Locations series presents a single location suitable for grab-and-go gaming. They're fully worked examples, with enough details and plot hooks and color - coupled to game detail - that you can just drop them in and use them without a lot of prep. Think of the old "Citybook" series, except it's a single large location instead of a collection of smaller ones.

This one is the (fictional) St. George's Cathedral, a medieval cathedral suitable for an Yrth-based game, any game set in a medieval Europe (with or without magic - but especially with), or in a suitable ripped-off-from-Christianity religion in a fantasy game. It even works in a modern setting - with plenty of notes to tell you what's different once the filled walls now house heating vents and the locks are modern.

The Cathedral is mostly finished, although not quite. Lightning damage has set it back a bit. And politics - church and local and regional - hold it back further. You end up with a colorful location that's not static, and has a lot of easy-to-grab handles to get some use out of it. The nice thing is, most of those hooks are really player-dependent. If you just need some details on a local cathedral for someone's Remove Curse to get done in or a marriage to be performed in, fine. But if you want to offer some difficulties getting things done, and people to get involved with - it's in there as well.

Pretty much, if you need a church with some politics wrapped up into it, this is a pretty good place to start.

The upside to it being a-historical is that it's nicely balanced for game. Interesting stuff abounds, and you can modify as needed without worrying about throwing off the verisimilitude/suspension of disbelief of a player that has been to the historical church you went and changed. But it's not static nor tied down by real history although it's got all the trappings in enough detail that it helped me parse a novel's church references (oh, that's what matins are . . . )

Maps: The key bit for any location is the maps. There are two sets of maps. One is complete, and labeled, for the GM. Another set is equally well-labeled, but lacks some features (and some maps) - letting them act as handouts (and guides) for the PCs without giving away anything. No "we check for secret doors over by this mostly-erased "S" mark. I have a hunch about that spot . . . " kind of stuff here.

You could easily use this for the basis of a wrecked church, too, but it's best as a ready-made and ready-labeled cathedral map with game stats.

Game Stats: This supplement does a good job on game stats. If it can be broken into, attacked, or just broken, the text notes the HP and DR. Walls, doors, etc. The information is both inline in the text and is pulled out into a box for easy reference. Same with stats for locks.

How is it for non-GURPS GMs? As good as it gets for GURPS books. Since game stats are also explained in real terms (the roof beams are 6" wood) and game terms (DR 6, HP 26) it's easy to convert it to any other system. Well, any other system that lets you convert real terms to game terms. The book isn't so crunch-heavy that it's useless to people playing another system. It's really fluff (setting detail, character detail, descriptions) with enough crunch to make it immediately useful without looking in some other book.

Overall: I liked this book a lot. Admittedly, I got my copy as a comp copy for contributing during the draft stage, so I didn't have to buy it. I'm not generally one to buy anything unless I immediately need it for a game. But having read this, I feel like I want to use it. Maybe the city in my Dungeon Fantasy game has a mostly-finished cathedral . . . in case I ever want to expand play past the dungeon. If not, I have some handy names and personalities for my priests. It's that interesting, and that ready to go. Good enough to draw you in without being so unique that you'd need to have placed it before you started playing to avoid disrupting the setting. In short, it's an ideal drop-in.

Basically, if you need a cathedral but don't want to read up on a historical one and detail out a set of occupants and problems yourself, just get this. It's $8 for many hours worth of research you don't have to do, and for potentially hours of fun and useful game detail. Recommended.


  1. Not having to buy it would, oddly enough, make you more likely to pan it. If you had bought it you would feel a need to justify the purchase...


    1. Thanks for the review. I had considered purchasing it, but it sounds like I have a very similar product already in my library, although, it doesn't have the GURPS stats.


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