[Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em] GURPS Fantasy Bestiary

The Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em series charts my attempt to read all the books in my gaming library that crept in over the years and went overlooked for too long.

I’m not one for bestiaries, generally, but I got this one because I thought it might be useful as a place to find stats and critter ideas quickly for customization to my own purposes. And it’s fine for that.

But given it’s a bestiary, it’s a snooze to read. I just skimmed the opening paragraphs of each animal’s entry. There’s a mix of historically mythical and out-right invented creatures, with an emphasis on those found in folklore. Taken out of their native contexts, a lot of these critters lose their resonance. Often, I only read through an entry because I already recognized the creature and was curious to see how the author decided to present it in GURPS terms.

A couple entries seemed like they might be handy for a low fantasy world like I’m envisioning Midgard to be in Highway to Niflheim. A number of creatures in GURPS Fantasy Bestiary are marked as coming from northern Native American cultures, particularly Iroquois. That’s handy for narrowing down what would fit well in the St. Lawrence River valley.

[Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em] Dark Ages: Europe

The Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em series charts my attempt to read all the books in my gaming library that crept in over the years and went overlooked for too long.

Dark Ages: Europe came into my library for two reasons: I had fallen madly, impossibly in love with Dark Ages: Mage, a medieval World of Darkness fatsplat about the 13th century forerunners of the groups and philosophies of Mage: The Ascension, and because the FLGS, Quarterstaff Games, had an end of year sale where a lot of unpopular RPG books were going for $5 a pop.

Right off the bat, I was disappointed because I thought Dark Ages: Europe would be like the similarly-titled Dark Ages: British Isles, a catch-all grab bag of setting material spanning all the supernatural denizens of White Wolf’s Dark Medieval: vampires, mages, werewolves, faeries, inquisitors and such. Rather, Dark Ages: Europe is just about vampires. In fact, there’s an ad in the back advertising the coming publication of Dark Ages: Mage, so clearly I didn’t check hard enough when buying the book.

Once I found that out, I lost pretty all interest in reading the book. I gave it a very light skim, enough to realize there’s a ton of dense historical information in there presented in such a way as to make it more like a textbook than a banquet of mad ideas for GMs to pick and choose from when generating campaign and story arc ideas. A GM could draw inspiration from here, certainly, particularly with regard to vampires, but why bother? Surfing Wikipedia seems a lot easier and conducive to bizarre, yet occasionally inspiring tangents.

Case in point: the Cathar heresy. Dark Ages: Europe spends more time talking about how the crusades against the Albigensians affects politics and everyday life, giving only a couple paragraphs — that I spotted in an admittedly cursory glance, although I slowed down for this, because I’ve been intrigued by the Albigensians since reading David A. McIntee’s Sanctuary — to explain what the Cathars believed and why it was so repugnant to established Christianity.

That’s great for a Dark Ages: Vampire GM, where the game’s as much about politicking and influence as it is “superheroes with fangs,” but it doesn’t do me any real good, who’s more interested to know how the Albigensians and the Messianic Voices, say, interact.

In the end: skimmed it, snoozed.

Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em

Since 2002, when I first got really interested in RPGs — as opposed to the two or three times beforehand, when I was only slightly interested — I have accumulated a number of game books well out of proportion to the use they see. As these things go, I haven’t yet gotten to reading a good portion of those books. Since March or so, I’ve been making a concerted effort to remedy that.

All my unread RPG books were pulled out to the shelf edge. Once they’re read, they’re pushed back to flush with the back of the shelf, so I have a visual way to gauge how many are to go. The total number was around sixty when I began. Now, I’ve read a lot of those since March. But I still have more to go. Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em will be an ongoing series where I share my thoughts on the books.  For books I read in the past that are added in here after the fact, it’ll probably just be whatever comments I made on the RPG.net Index. They’ll be added in as time goes by and I’m moved to catch up.

Other entries will be fresh, straight out of my brain after finishing the book. Like, say, the one for Dark Ages: Europe that I write immediately after posting this.

Behind the jump, you’ll find the list as it was when I began keeping track: Continue reading