After a long trip into fiction and other casual reading, I came back to the role-playing stack with GURPS Egypt, yanked almost at random from the shelf. I think I was motivated by the desire for some crunchy history combined with some campaign frames, which tends to be the formula of the GURPS history worldbooks.
As a condensed history of ancient Egypt and summary of the culture, GURPS Egyptdoes its job. The culture section briefly covers the details of daily life in “ancient Egypt,” a period which covers about 5,000 years, so there’s got to be a lot of glossing over here, particularly for those elements of life that weren’t recorded or whose records didn’t survive.
The history section runs the span of the old, middle and new kingdoms, right into the common era and the last of the Ptolemaic pharaohs. It covers the aforementioned five thousand or more years in thirty-seven pages, which is not a task I imagine any writer would relish. As it is, the history section reads like a litany of pharaonic rules and the reasons they were deposed, with some breaks to focus on especially interesting figures — like Hatshepsut, the former pharaoh’s half-sister, who became regent on his death and took on a male aspect in matters of state.
The remainder of the book covers character types in a straight historical GURPS Egyptgame, some magical elements, supernatural creatures, the Egyptian pantheon of gods and some pages on role-playing scenarios and seeds. And this is where I was let down — maybe because I wrongfully expected more than one typically gets in a historical worldbook — in that nothing in the latter half of the book leapt out at me as especially “gameable.” Gameable meaning campaign or scenario frames that allow for the usual expectations of role-playing: a group of characters with a common tie or reason to work together, extraordinary action or storylines, and so on. Everything was just sort of enh. I thought for sure GURPS Cabal would get some kind of sidebar coverage, but no, not even that — though certainly the sidebars had some of the most interesting content, including paragraphs suggesting crossover with various other worldbooks. Just not the one I wanted, which is my own selfish desire.
While GURPS Egypt is a perfectly laudable effort in giving an overview of ancient Egypt, such as one can compress all those dynasties and thousands of years into one hundred twenty eight pages, I didn’t find anything in it that said, “Yes, this is a one-shot or campaign framework that brings it together.” So that was disappointing.