Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: GURPS Planet of Adventure

I recently re-read Jack Vance's excellent Planet of Adventure series. So I decided to take a look at the equally excellent sourcebook for it, GURPS Planet of Adventure

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

By James L. Cambias
Published 2003 by Steve Jackson Games
128 pages

GURPS Planet of Adventure is a sourcebook for adventures based on Tschai, the world of Jack Vance's four-book Tschai series of the same name. The book is for 3rd edition GURPS, but folks conversant in GURPS can easily use its material for 4th edition if you don't mind point costs being different.

Like all of the various GURPS sourcebooks for fictional worlds, this one is quite thorough. It covers all of the peoples and places of Tschai mentioned in the books, even those mentioned more in passing (night-hounds, the Xars, the details of Dugbo magic). It includes stats for all of the major characters and a few who mainly show up as opposition (like Otwile the fighter, for example).

The sheer amount of useful tools in this book is impressive. Sequin node generation rules and table for sessions set in the Carabas. Common price items and job pay. Vehicles stats for Dirdir air-cars and airships. Stats for Dirdirmen claws, knife-foils, stings, hand catapults, sandblasts, Chasch blasters, and more. A glossary (useful as a companion when reading the books, too.) A pre-made adventure that feels quite Vancian. The Planet of Adventure designer's notes have a cool random adventure generator, as well.

Interestingly, the book uses Wanek and Wanekmen instead of Wankh and Wankhmen. Why? Because Jack Vance requested the change. I wonder why, after so many years. I guess the inherent jokes in Adam Reith vs. a bunch of Wankhs eventually wore him down.

The illustrations are quite good - they match the descriptions in the books but also expand on them where the text doesn't provide a complete picture. Some of them - like the Pnume in their hats and coats - really play up the oddness. Others, like the Wanek, are actually kind of creepy. Overall they work well.

Overall the book is very good. It does some from undershooting on skills and abilities, though. For example, Adam Reith has Fencing-12 for 1 point. This is the same Adam Reith who wins several sword duels and has a fencing instructor offer him a job at his academy. Seems a bit low - I'd have gone a bit higher. The alternative is to make everyone he fights worse, but I've found that doesn't work for players - it's more heroic to be a master warrior with 15-20 and beat foes with 12-15 than to be in the 12-14 range and beat people in the 8-10 range. So expect the best ass-kickers of the world to have 14s and 15s in their best skills and stats in the 11-13 range. I'm not sure why this is the case, but it's pretty persistent. Only GURPS Conan ever really felt to me like it was describing the sheer awesomeness displayed by the character in the books.

Still, this book really captures the look, feel, and enjoyment of the books in a well-constructed sourcebook. If you can find it, recommended.


  1. I am both a GURPS player and a Jack Vance fan. I have no idea how I ended up not owning this book. I suspect it was published at a time when I had little time, money, or access to gaming stores, but that still doesn't explain why I didn't look for it later.

    1. Huh. On the other hand, I hadn't read any Vance, and playtested it purely based on the reading of the contents and the rules. So when I finally read Planet of Adventure, it was with a profound sense of deja vue.


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