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It was supposed to be a simple session.  But then, Collin, Shari, Sue, Mike, William and Eric.

I haven’t run GURPS for over 25 years.  Maybe closer to 30.  I played the original games from the Fantasy Trip in High School.  Might have also been middle school.  You know, the original…


and I also played the original Man to Man


I also played and ran some of the original third edition while I was in college.  Long story, short, I haven’t run GURPS in a very long time.  Probably since 1992 or 1993.  I have played a few games in the last few years, so the ideas are not completely rusty and full of cobwebs.

That being said, I volunteered to change up the weekly Saturday game to include goblins.  Now Goblins aren’t big damn heroes.  They are little damn scardeycats.

In most GURPS builds, you take a standard character and add modifiecations.

From Wikipedia:

Character points[edit]
A character in GURPS is built with character points. For a beginning character in an average power game, the 4th edition suggests 100–150 points to modify attribute stats, select advantages and disadvantages, and purchase levels in skills. Normal NPCs are built on 25–50 points. Full-fledged heroes usually have 150–250 points, while superheroes are commonly built with 400–800 points.[14] The highest point value recorded for a character in a GURPS sourcebook is 10,452 for the Harvester (p. 88) in GURPS Monsters.[15]

In principle, a Game Master can balance the power of foes to the abilities of the player characters by comparing their relative point values.

So normally, you come up with a character concept, and begin with a clean slate of absolutely average attribute values (10) for Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Health.  Everything in GURPS is based on d6 rolls, and when you make a basic roll like a test of strength, you roll 3d6, add the pips up on the dice and if you meet, or are under the target number, you succeed.  Anytime you roll a 3 or 4, it is an automatic success, if you roll a 17 or 18, it is a a failure.  There are other rules that add your skills, attributes, advantages and disadvantages which allow you to modify the rolls.  In general, the game follows a standard bell curve, which allows for more interesting results than a standard d20 game.

Screen shot 2010-12-31 at 20.59.17

The math guy in me likes the concept of a bell curve, instead of a standard d20 game.  If you have average scores (10) and you roll, you have about a 38 chance of being successful.  By, spending build points, you can increase that from 10 to 11, and have a 50% chance.  Spending more build points, you can increase from 11 to 12, and increase the chance to 74%, and so on.

The catch is that you only have so many build points.  You want to consider how the build points can be managed, and what disadvantages you are going to take to increase the build points to create the character.  You also can purchase skills and abilities and advantages to flesh out the character.

When you take disadvantages, you take on minor or possibly major disadvantages that will create interest in the character, but also give you extra build points.  There is a long list of disadvantages.  You could only have one hand, giving you 15 extra build points.  You could have one eye (also 15 extra build points), You could be lazy, lecherous, manic depressive, have greed or gluttony.  you get the idea.  In general, you are limited to about 1/3 of your total build points in the points of disadvantages you can take.  For instance, if you have a character with 150 build points, you can only take 50 points of disadvantages max.

So you ask, why would you want to take disadvantages?  Well, it is a role playing game, not a role playing game.  Games like GURPS, Deadlands, Savage Worlds are more focused on the role playing.  The dice aren’t as important… well, building a killing machine for a murder hobo band like in Pathfinder or D&D isn’t the goal for GURPS.  You can do it in GURPS, Deadlands and Savage Worlds.  But the intent is to allow the player the flexibility to create a custom character that allows them to role play that character.  You engineer a character for what the backstory is that you want to play.  In D&D and Pathfinder, you engineer a character by selecting the boons that make them more powerful as they get more levels.

In D&D and Pathfinder, you pick a class, and follow that class as it becomes more powerful.  In some cases, you can cross over and become a barbarian/rogue/cleric/ranger, and play that to your hearts content, within the confines of the rule set.

In games like GURPS, Savage Worlds and even BRP / Call of Cthulhu, you are more free to develop the definition of your character based on the specific attributes, free of the class structure that is in other games.  This is good, and it is bad.  It allows for a lot of freedom in character development, but it also allows the player to create a Swiss Army Knife character, one who does everything, but nothing well.  It is not good, it is not bad, it just requires that the player create a character concept, then use the rules to flesh out that character.

So, if you have a standard character with all 10 in stats:

ST 10

DX 10

IQ 10

HT 10

You can use 20 points to raise any of these basic stats by one point, or you can gain 20 points to lower any of the stats by 1 point.  So if you wanted to create a super dexterous person that wasn’t really smart or strong, you could change up the stats as follows:

ST 8

DX 13

IQ 9

HT 10

The total of the four basic stats still adds up to 40, and you haven’t spent any of your points nor taken any disadvantages.  The odds of doing something that involves a strength base trait go way down, to less than 16% on the 3d6 roll.  But, your odds of prevailing on a dexterity based trait go way up, to about 74%.  This may be important if you are going to be a lockpick thief.

It should be noted that the strength also translates into other characteristics, such as fatigue points, and how much lift capacity you have.  Everything in life involves trade offs.  GURPS captures this well.

Now, you can also spend points to improve stats.  it costs 20 points per digit increase.  If you increase stats, then you have fewer points to purchase advantages and skills.  Once again, there is the trade off thing.

So, if you want to be a lockpick thief, and you have a high dexterity, you also need some level of skills in lockpicking, along with tools.  The default for lockpicking is that you need to take your IQ, and subtract 5 from it.  So if you have average IQ, you can always try to pick a lock, but with an average IQ (10), you would pick the lock at 10-5 or 5 if you have no lockpicking skill.  In other words, you would roll 3d6, and try to get a 5 or less.  There are other modifiers, such as if you are working in the dark, by touch, you would reduce by another 5.  Equipment modifiers also are considered.  If you have improved equipment, you may reduce the target number by another 2 or 5, but if you have specifically good equipment, you may increase the target number by 2, 3 etc.  You would also modify it by looking at the tech level and adjusting it as appropriate.  For example, if we were in 2017 looking at Star Trek tech level, lockpicking would be harder. If in 2017 tech level we were looking at bronze age tech, it may be significantly easier.

So, lets say you want to be a lock pick thief.  You would purchase the lockpicking skill in character creation.  It is an “average” skill, so you would take the skill, and then use points to change your attribute level.  Taking the skill is immaterial.  You need to spend points in competency to get to the point where you can use it.

Yes, this sounds like a lot of fidgety math.  Go to page 354, look up table… ooh, I add 2.  Then go to page 153, look up table, ugh, I subtract 4… go to page 187, look up table, Yay, I get to add one…

After a while, the players get into the swing of things.  I think that Steve Jackson Games specifically created the system to insure that every player needed to purchase a bevy of books to be able to play the game.

Being the gamemaster is a little harder than the players.  The game master needs to pull all of this out for the wide variety of scenarios, opponents and situations… well, out of thin air.  I am familiar enough with the rules and concepts, that I guestimate much of what the NPC and other opposing rolls are going to be.  The goal isn’t to kill the players, well, maybe some of the players who you don’t want to come back…  But the goal is to keep the game rolling along, and make it at least feel like the players are being treated fairly.  If I spend all of my time flipping through books at the table, the players get bored. For me, the story and experience is more important than the rules.  As such, I have always kind of winged it in games, to keep the story going.  This makes rules lawyers angry.  I call it “rules light”.  I expect the players to know their characters, and know the rules for their characters, and I try to orchestrate the rest of the world to be as smoothly as possible.

So what does all of this have to do with goblins in GURPS.  Not much, I just wanted to lay out some of the rules concepts for GURPS.  This also helps me cement the basics of how things stitch together.  Writing stuff down helps me remember.

If you think that GURPS rules are complicated, you should take a look at NTCIP 1202 traffic signal coordination.

The Day Plan calls the Action Plan.  The Action Plan calls the Coordination Plan.  The Coordination Plan calls the following alternate tables:

  • Phase time
  • Phase options
  • CIC plan
  • Detection plan

The coordination plan references the specific cycle, offset, sequence and split table used in the coordination plan.

The Action plan also calls the

  • Specific coordination transition mode
    • (shortway, longway or dwell values),
    • special functions are active,
    • specific phases are not allowed to undergo shortway transition
    • omitted overlaps
    • and so on and so on and so on.

The split table assigns the

  • Phase time
  • Coordinated phase (only 1 per plan)
  • Specific operation of the phase
    • Min recall
    • Max recall
    • Pedestrian recall
    • Non (use global parameters)
    • Omit
    • etc

GURPS has nothing on the National Transportation Communications standards.  And NTCIP 1202 only covers  the traffic signal operations, not center to center communications.

NTCIP compared to the GURPS books… meh.


Above is my personal collection of GURPS books.  I love the game system.  I can stop any time.  I really can.  Really.  By the way, this doesn’t include the couple of books that I have coming from Amazon…  And then there are the new Print On Demand GURPS books that I haven’t bought yet, Martial Arts, Powers, Rogues and Warriors.  heh heh heh..  I don’t have a problem.  No I don’t.

The Spiral bound book is my original 3rd Edition book I bought way back when.  It ended up falling apart, so I had a copy shop place a clear cover on front and back, and cut off the original binding, and spiral bind it.

But then, I digress, again. I don’t remember who made the connection of how long it takes for the party to get ready and my general random ramblings on the blog, but there is apparently a correlation.

So anyhow, the players got together and worked through their goblin builds.  Goblins are defined in GURPS.  They are covered in the Banestorm book, along with their own Goblin book and the 3rd Edition GURPS Fantasy books.  They are also covered in the 3rd Edition Fantasy Folk book.  The builds are all pretty much the same.

Here is a screen capture from the Banestorm 4th Edition book:


This is pretty consistent with the information in the Fantasy Folk book.  For the player’s benefit, here is the text from Fantasy Folk.


Goblins have green skin, pointed ears and sharp, white teeth. Many Goblins of both sexes are completely hairless. When a Goblin does have hair, it’s dark, wiry and grows only on the very top of the head. Their heads are extremely elongated, with high foreheads and pointed chins. The rest of their bodies are quite Human, though their nails are long, sharp and clawlike. They stand about 5.5 feet tall (height is normal for their ST, weight is 10 pounds less; Hobgoblins have normal height and weight for their ST), and wear clothing according to local fashion.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Goblins have ST .2 (.15 points), DX +1 (10 points) and IQ +1 (10 points).  They have the advantage Night Vision (10 points) and the disadvantage Impulsiveness (-10 points).

It costs 5 points to play a Goblin.


Hobgoblins are large (6 to 7 feet), primitive relatives of the Goblins. They are somewhat hairier than their smaller relations, with a hulking body and a brutish cast to their features. They have ST +1 (10 points), DX +1 (10 points) and IQ -2 (-15 points). They have the advantage Night Vision (10 points) and the disadvantages Bad Temper (-10 points), Poverty (Dead Broke) (-25 points) and Stubbornness (-5 points).

It costs -25 points to play a Hobgoblin.


Magic is the Goblins’ first love. More than half the race has some degree of magical talent. There are few mighty Goblin wizards, but they produce a formidable number of hedge.wizards and dabblers.

Goblins revere powerful mages, and follow them if permitted. Many great wizards keep a Goblin or two about their towers to serve as lifelong apprentices and general help. Goblins also have a weakness for magical paraphernalia, and many an otherwise law.abiding Goblin has succumbed to temptation and pocketed an object of power that he had no business touching, making a world of trouble for himself and others.

Goblins also love to bargain. They’re honest merchants, after their own fashion. Goblin traders don’t actually lie, but they don’t always tell the whole truth.  They seldom violate a contract, but the other party is well advised to consider all the possible ramifications of every word of the agreement before he signs.

Goblins are, by nature, tricksters. It is a great coup for a Goblin to best his opponent in a battle of wits. Falsehood and theft are considered the easy way out. Subtlety and misdirection are proper tools to the Goblin mind. There is no honor in swindling the poor, the stupid or the naive (though there are always unscrupulous Goblins who will stoop to do so) — but to get the better of the great, the wise or the powerful in a “fair” deal, that is the true Goblin way. Anyone who can beat a Goblin in a deal will earn his respect and that of other Goblins as well; a trader will always tell a good story, even if it’s on himself. But the Goblins will redouble their efforts to out.deal someone they respect!

Many Goblins are gypsies, wandering constantly wherever their fancy leads.  Others choose the life of caravan merchants or mariners — they have a home that they return to every so often, but most of their lives are spent between somewhere and somewhere else. Still others settle down for a few years, until the wanderlust hits them, then pull up stakes and head for new scenery. But many Goblins are as settled as the most homebound of Halflings.

Goblins aren’t a naturally combative race. When they do bear arms they prefer bows and slings, or polearms (to keep their enemy at a distance). For day to day use, however, the Goblins rely on light armor and weapons that can be conveniently carried. Though they can be courageous at need, the preferred Goblin method for dealing with a threat is simply to run away. Goblin war bands prefer to fight as skirmishers or guerrillas.

The original Goblin language still survives, though it is only in common use among the gypsies. Goblins use both traditional names and names borrowed from other languages. Traditional Goblin names use explosive consonant sounds like P, B, J, T and CH, and have long vowel sounds — Baajikiil, Jitotii, Toov’tekki. Most Goblins use only one name. There are no “male” and “female” names among Goblins, so a Goblin in a Human city might name her daughter John or Edward after an admired local figure.

Goblins have a very sophisticated sense of irony. Their wit is sometimes subtle enough that non.Goblins don’t even notice it. Although they have little artistic tradition of their own, a few Goblins have become well.known through their mastery of another culture’s art. Many Goblins are clever, even inspired, craftsmen and inventors. An ornate or complex mechanical curiosity is nearly as fascinating to a Goblin as a magic item.

The Goblin voice is rough and their songs are ugly to other ears. Some Goblins (particularly gypsies) become good instrumentalists and dancers. Goblins take their religion from the other races around them. Even their earliest.known faith was a somewhat less sanguinary version of the Orcish religion.


The first civilized race to meet the Goblins was the Dwarves. At the time the Goblins were engaged in a fierce war with an Orc nation — neither side could remember a time when the Goblins and the Orcs hadn’t been fighting.

The Goblins and Dwarves joined forces, and soon wiped out the Orcish forces. Less than a century later the Goblins were forever banned from living in Dwarven lands. The Dwarves claim that the reason for the ban has been “forgotten” (though the ban has never been lifted). This almost certainly means that the Dwarves were swindled, or otherwise tricked or embarrassed, by their newfound allies. The Goblins have countless improbable legends about what this great trick might have been. Before their exile, however, the Goblins learned about Humans and Elves, and headed for those lands.

Goblins will eat almost anything. Though not particularly fond of it, they have a very high tolerance for carrion (some sages have suggested that the Goblins and the Ghouls are somehow related). Normally, however, they conform to whatever dietary customs are practiced locally.

They are polygamous. Usually one male will have one to four wives, but custom also allows one wife to have several husbands, if all parties agree to such a relationship. Goblin births are usually twins or triplets; female births outnumber males by more than two to one. A female can give birth yearly. Though the race is prolific, the dangers of the road control the Goblin population. Young Goblins grow fast, reaching majority at age 15. They begin to age at 45.

The Hobgoblins are hulking, primitive versions of the Goblin race. They completely lack the subtlety and wit of their smaller kin. Some Hobgoblins still live in the wild, in small and desperate bands, but many of them live among the Goblins.  The Goblins provide the Hobs with security and guidance, and the Hobs provide the Goblins with willing labor and formidable physical protection. The two races cannot interbreed.

Hobgoblins have a problem with the concept of property. They understand money — it can be used to buy food, drink and entertainment. But they just don’t get the concept of deferred gratification. A Hobgoblin will spend a fortune in a few days on trinkets and delicacies. Within a week everything he purchases will be eaten, lost or destroyed. Most Hobgoblins only own a single primitive weapon and a few rags or furs to keep them warm.

Many Hobgoblins serve Goblins, Humans, and even sometimes Dwarves as
guards and laborers. Their masters provide them with the necessities of life and,
occasionally, a few small coins to play with. Uncontrolled, wild Hobgoblins are generally savage, ruthless and brutal (though not as cruel as the Orcs), and should be avoided.


Precedence and status among the Goblins is determined entirely by merit, gauged by the individual’s success at deals, usually (but not always) measured by his wealth.  The most accomplished individual is proclaimed the leader of the Goblin band or community by the people. When the community can’t reach a consensus, the dissidents simply take their chosen leader and head in another direction.  Alternatively, a would.be leader will attempt to prove his qualifications by opposing and arguing with the current boss at every opportunity. This is a dangerous course, and it usually only works if the challenger really is more competent than the boss.

Goblin society can be divided into three rough classes — trading Goblins, town Goblins and gypsy Goblins. The traders go singly or in groups, by caravan, ship or on foot. They reach every corner of the globe.

The town Goblins may live in settlements of their own, or in cities of another race; almost every large Human town has a Goblin quarter. The most respected town Goblins are the caravan merchants or mariners. Such folk are seldom at home, but they do often maintain a single home their entire life. These are the most competent and prosperous Goblin.folk. Even town and gypsy bosses will defer to a trader when one is present. Skillful craftsmen also earn respect, especially if they hammer out good deals when they sell their wares! The rest of the town Goblins are mostly simple workers and tradesmen.

The gypsy Goblins have adopted the culture of the Human nomads. Like Human gypsies, they are a flamboyant people, moving from place to place in brightly.colored wagons. They make their living as coopers, peddlers and entertainers, supplemented by petty thievery. A savvy village will welcome a few town Goblins among them, as the town Goblins will consider it a challenge to prevent their gypsy kin from robbing their neighbors blind. Both sets of Goblins will enjoy the contest of wits, and the locals will find their losses sharply curtailed when the gypsies come to town.

Though most Goblins are not evil, there are many who make their living as professional criminals. Most are simple thieves or swindlers, but professional spies and assassins are not unknown. Goblins are very credulous when it comes to religion, and they can easily be seduced into dark cults.

Goblins are not as pugnacious as men or Orcs, but they can fight bravely at need. Their intelligence and dexterity makes them dangerous foes as light infantry (especially skirmishers). Their impulsiveness can interfere with discipline. On the other hand, the morale of a Goblin unit will always improve if their leader has a magic item! Goblins will often be found as quartermasters or staff officers in Human or mixed armies.

Goblin seafarers are also common. There are many Goblin trading ships, as well as a few Goblin pirates.


Goblins predominantly live among humanity, adopting most of their fashions, customs and tongues from that source. Generally they are accepted, and judged on their individual merits, though they are sometimes outlawed in provincial rural villages, or in the more militantly conservative nations.

The Goblins’ relationship with the Dwarves is bizarre. The Dwarves consider the Goblins flighty, and they know that the Goblin fascination with magic and gadgetry makes them potential thieves. They also know that the Goblins are sharp dealers. But the Dwarves, mercantile yet stay.at.home, would be cutting their own throats if they did not trade with the roving Goblins! Thus, a Dwarf (at least, a Dwarf with goods to sell) will welcome a Goblin trader, but will not trust him nearly as far as he could throw him. The Goblins, of course, respect the Dwarves’ craftsmanship and magic, and this respect makes them all the more eager to swindle the Dwarves at every opportunity. The Dwarves will occasionally allow a Hobgoblin or two to work in their mines.

Elves confuse Goblins. They are too wise to be easily swindled, and too otherworldly to be interesting or amusing. Elven magic is usually too low key to amuse the Goblins for long. Transactions between the two races are usually minor, cordial and as brief as possible. For their part, the Elves find the Goblins amusing. Halflings and Goblins get along splendidly, since Halflings enjoy dickering almost as much as the Goblins. Oddly, though the two peoples trade together often, they seldom settle in the same area.

They generally ignore the sylvan races, since these folk have little need of trade — but occasionally a Faun will purchase a knickknack from a passing Goblin peddler, or a caravan will drop off a load of iron to be turned into shoes and weapons for Centaurs. Goblin mariners often know and trade with the seafolk.

The feud between the Goblins and the Orcs is ancient, but in recent centuries the Goblins have preferred to stay where Humans are, which usually means a place where Orcs aren’t.

Not all of this really translates well for this particular campaign.  This particular campaign involves players playing goblins trying to explore their world. The world actually is the spaceship Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha.  Now the players know what the scenario is (metagaming), but the characters don’t.  The players are a group of goblins living in one of the levels of the ship, 300 years after the cataclysm in a pretty much medieval (tech level 3) world.  In the medieval world, most people never got more than about 2 miles from their home during their life.  So between the cataclysm that turned their ancestors from humans to goblins, the fact that as goblins they try to hide from non goblins and the 300 years with no written communications, the goblins are pretty much unknowing about what is outside of their small world.  For now.

Following is the intro to Metamorphosis Alpha.  From a metagaming perspective, the players know this.  The characters don’t.


Mankind’s urge to explore and expand its frontiers finally caused another push into the vastness of space – first interplanetary, then interstellar. By the 23rd Century a great migration wave was spreading from Old Terra to the hundreds of inhabitable worlds that had been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy. During the next hundred years colonization ships of all types and descriptions went out to the stars, bearing seedling colonies seeking a better life. Many found their new homes – for better or for worse – but for one reason or another scores of these starships never reached their destination. This game is based on just such an event, the fate of a colony ship that became lost…

The starship Warden was created from the designs used in the United Western Starship Cartel program, and it was laid down in the Trans-Plutonian Spaceyards in 2277. The design was the most ambitious ever attempted, the blueprints calling for an oval spheroid of tremendous size using a new metal alloy of tensile strength previously unknown. The ship was an incredible 50 miles in length, with a width of 25 miles, and a height of eight and one half miles. Additional levels above and below the central one brought the total number of decks to 17. Warden required 11 years to complete, and it did not leave the Sol System until 2290 because of the effort required to outfit the starship. The vessel contained complete Terran environments, and the colonists were not rigidly screened for the expedition, for it was held that Warden’s accommodations would place few physical or psychological stresses upon
colonist or crewman.

A description of the starship’s levels, as well as some of the equipment typically found on each, follows. The vessel was basically given over to large, open areas, with a simple system of electronic locks used to insure that colonists did not stray into command or possibly harmful areas. With its cargo of the flora and fauna of Earth, 1½ million colonists, and 50,000 crew members, the wonder of the Interstellar Colonization Age set forth to found a new world many light years from its old home.


Some one-third of the way to the planetary destination that had been selected for Warden stretched the very fringe of a cloud of space radiation. This cloud had been charted and analyzed, so that Warden’s captain was aware that he was to plot a course to avoid any possible danger. Somehow the vessel came too close to the radiation, and the cloud contained disaster. The energy given off at the fringes of this celestial hazard was foreign to all previously known radiation types. It passed through every one of the ship’s protection systems and defense screens. The effects on the ship itself were startling. The worst hit were the colonists aboard, and most of the human beings exposed to the radiation simply turned to piles of calcium with no advance symptoms. Hard hit also were the flora and fauna that underwent mutation if they even survived at all. Even some of the vessel’s systems were affected, and unstable, radioactive areas were caused from the cloud’s radiation. The humans who survived the initial exposure discovered too late that life forms in their natural  setting – such as the ecologically prepared forest areas and the like – seemed to have the greatest resistance to the effects of the radiation. A few of the crew and colonists then took to living in the huge parks of Warden. A handful remained who tried to restore sanity and order to the starship. They failed.

Life became a struggle merely to survive for those humans that were left. In this struggle all knowledge of the ship’s mission or even, in fact, that the humans were on a ship was lost.  Ship’s systems were maintained in a minimum operative state by the vessel’s main computer and the robots that were operating at the time of the cloud’s entrance into the starship. Later generations of humans lost all sense of identity, with the ship regressing into a state of savagery. Life quickly stabilized (as life has a habit of doing) with new life forms created from exposure to the unknown radiation. The humans settled into a tribal way of life and those few that traveled and came back told of areas where the animals walked like men and plants were able to talk and move. The vessel traveled on past its assigned planet with its safety systems preventing the ship’s destruction by crashing into a planet or burning up in the sun. It is only a matter of time until even those almost perfect systems fail and the  starship dies. Until that time, life continues to flourish and the Warden travels on, much changed from what it once was.


The players of the game are put into this situation as humans, mutated humanoids, or intelligent monsters. What they do and how they survive the dangers of the ship makes for an interesting situation for all participants alike. The travels up and down through the starship are only accomplished by using bits and pieces of ancient knowledge the players are able to gather from the referee and their starting point. Travelling throughout the ship forces the players to gain technological devices and information just to survive on a day-to-day basis. They can also make use of the secretions and liquids produced by the mutated plants and creatures of the forest levels.

Now, I played Metamorphosis Alpha in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  I also played the TSR 2nd edition of MA, which tried really hard to capture some of the wonky MA stuff.  But Gamma World was not as much fun as the over the top MA stuff.  MA was a lot of fun.  Gamma World tried to apply Gary Gygax’s ego to the MA stuff.  Now readers of this blog know that I have a love – hate relationship with anything that Gary Gygax did.  I appreciate his genius in creating an industry.  Yes, other companies were doing similar things, but Gary took TSR and made it accessible.  When I was a kid living in a town of 12,000 people, I could get TSR stuff at normal stores.  We didn’t have a “game” store in my hometown until I was a senior in high school  My brother and I would talk our parents into going to Seattle to get miniatures, paints, games, RPG books etc.  We went to a game store in the Ballard Area called American Eagles.  There were probably others, but American Eagles was the place to go.

In Mount Vernon, I could get TSR games at Hallmark, Payless Drugs, and if I remember right, also at Sears.  They may have had TSR games at the local bookstore, but I don’t remember that.  I bought D&D books, D&D modules, Star Frontiers, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Gama World and other games at Hallmark.  I went there because the owner of the Hallmark was the mother of a girl I liked, and I kept hoping that if the girl saw me buying the cool TSR stuff at her mother’s store, she might want to talk with me.  Hey, I know it is kind of stupid, but I was 11, well 11 through 15, and I never figured out that I could have just gone up to her at school and said “hi”.  My adolescent brain couldn’t figure out why I kept buying cool TSR games and supplements from her mom, and she didn’t think to even notice my existence.  Was I a normal game playing teenager, who didn’t know his way around the complex interpersonal interactions of middle and high school?  Yes.

Anyhow, I love MA.  Well, I love the concept of MA. The storyline is amazing.  The actual game mechanics are meh.  It was one of the first RPG games to come out, and James Ward had a phenomenal idea for the setting, just the mechanics are not great.  Now, at the time, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, most game mechanics were challenging at best.

This is where the love / hate relationship with Gary Gygax comes in.  Everything at TSR needed his blessing.  And he put his influence on everything.  They tried new game mechanics, like in Indiana Jones, Star Frontiers (one of the best TSR games EVER!), Conan and others.  But the systems were clunky at best.  Also, Gary decided that only specific products could ever be included in the D&D realm.  OK, it was his intellectual property, but do we really need to point out on miniatures that you always needed to use specific paints, brushes and adhesives?


But this isn’t about Gary Gygax.  This is about taking the MA world and running goblins in the GURPS system.

So the players finished out their characters.  I gave each of them a specific quirk.  At first, the quirk was a personality quirk, which eventually would morph into some form of magic or psi talent… if their character lived long enough.  This is after all, the MA world where mutations exist.  Maybe these characters will be able to control these mutations.

What was interesting is when I took the players aside,  to explain their quirk, they each wanted to tell me about what their character was, and how they are going to play it, before I told them what their quirk was.  Now, in the words of Collin, “I got this”.  I have been playing with these people for a while, so I kind of figured out what sort of characters they play…  Every player seemed to think that their quirk was pretty good.  For example:

  • Collin believes that he controls fire
  • Shari is convinced that she has telekinesis
  • William is convinced he can communicate with animals
  • Mike believes that he controls metal, and is able to magnetically attach spoons to his skin
  • Sue is convinced that her dreams are visions that will come true
  • Eric is convinced that he can bolster his own energy by sucking the live energy out of others.

The goblins live in a small underground village of Gargun.

At the beginning of the adventure…  The goblin village looked something like this:


The goblins need to find food, and maintain their village / lodge.  Now just because they need to do this, doesn’t mean that they did do that.  Not this group of players

The tribe’s name is “Foulspawn”, and they are in a forest that is alongside a path that leads between two human villages, Morgath and Khuzdun.  At least that is what the goblins call them.  There are additional goblins residing in the two human villages, living inside a dwarf hole complex in the village wells.  Those goblins come out at night and pillage the village.  Always careful to not be noticed.

That was supposed to be key.  “careful not to be noticed”. Oh well.  That wasn’t in the party’s desires.

The goblins have lived by this trail, midway between the two human villages, and have cleared out a clearing where the human travelers will stop and spend the night.  The goblins would normally have gone out to steal useful things from the travelers.

But that is only what I thought the players should do.

So for a way to ease the players into GURPS, I set up a few easy things for them to work on.  First, the goblin queen wants the players to get some more wood to help hold up the roof of dirt.  Seems simple enough, right.


Not this group.


Not at all.

The group goes out to gather some wood, and decides to cut down a small tree.  It has a 1-inch diameter base, so it is only about 5 ft tall.  That doesn’t get them much that they can use.  They then cut down a large tree, one that is about 8-inches in diameter.  This tree is massive.  It falls down, blocking the trail.

What to do?  What to do?

I will let you guess who decides to light it on fire.  Yes, you guessed it.  Collin.  As the fallen tree starts to burn the rest of the party looks around for something to goblin.

Now, normally, I would say “the party looks for something to do”, but “…something to goblin” makes more sense.  At least for this group.

While the tree is on fire, a strange looking creature ambles into the clearing and attacks Shari.  It is an animated mushroom that walks on many little feet and has a face.  Eric wants the feet.  William wants to vanquish it.  Mike wants to go crazy-ninja on it.  Shari wants to get away from it (at first).  It hurts a lot.  Sue and Collin are mesmerized by the tree that is on fire.

The fire is spreading, burning down much of the land around the lodge entrance.  The land included many bushes and trees that effectively hid the entrance to the lodge.  Now all of the cover and concealment is burning down.  Does this bother the goblins.  Apparently not.

Four goblins end up attacking the walking mushroom.  It hurts several of the goblins, including biting William on the arm.  William’s arm tingles.  Then Mike ninja jumps on it, attempting to grapple on it.  William has a moment of clarity and makes pig sounds.  William figures that all mushrooms are mortally afraid of pigs.  William rolls a 4, a critical success.  The mushroom thing bolts out of the clearing while Mike is grappling it.  Mike rolls off and watches the mushroom monster run away.


While all of this was going on, Sue and Collin were fascinated by the fire on the tree.  I kind of figured it looked something like this:

Shari tries eating a chunk of cut off mushroom.  She doesn’t get sick, but it is pretty bland and woody.  Several of the goblins try first aid on William.  They give him back health points, but his arm still tingles.

The forest is on fire.  The tree that was lit on fire has caught the trees, bushes, grass all on fire.  The cave entrance is no longer hidden.

What to do?  What to do.  Definitely don’t tell the queen about this.  Now the goblin queen is pretty much immobile.  She lives in her lair, and relies on the other goblins to provide for her needs, so she can focus on creating eggs.  So the goblins don’t have a good explanation for why the queen smells smoke, but the smoke has made her hungry.  She wants chickens.  Live chickens.

Mike doesn’t know what a chicken is.  No one is willing to tell him.  So the crew goes off to a nearby farm to get some vittles for the goblin queen.

It takes a while, but in the end, they find a farm.  It is near dusk, and the farmer and his family are inside eating soup.  William doesn’t like soup.  The farm includes a farmhouse (with the human farmers in it), along with some sown crops, a barn with a small fenced area outside, a chicken coop (which also includes ducks and geese, and an obelisk.  The obelisk glows.

A lot of discussion happens.  In the end, Eric walks over to the barn to get some sacks.  He notices two goats in the fenced in area.  He goes towards barn, and one of the goats attempts to head butt him.  The goat misses, horribly.  Eric decides he needs a goat.  Mike look over and sees the four legged chickens that Eric is playing with.  Eric goes into the barn and sees (gasp) evil horses.  Eric makes his fright roll, and is able to go into the barn and get rope.  He finds a 100-ft length of rope, and brings it out and ties it to the boy goat. He now has a goat on a 100-ft long rope.  Mike wants the other goat, and talks Eric into cutting off a 3-ft length so he can lasso the girl goat.  They walk over to where the rest of the party is trying to figure out how to take the entire chicken coop with them.

They have a plan.  It may not be a great plan, but it is a goblin plan.

The party is able to successfully pick up the entire chicken coop, and transport it along with the two goats back to the goblin lair.

They bring the chickens, ducks and geese into the queen, who promptly consumes all of them.

Now, the goblins realize that they need to camouflage the entrance to the lair again. They decide to take the chicken coop, and place it in front of the entrance, and cut a hole from the lair into the coop, and use the coop as the new camouflaged entrance.

Like I said, they have a plan.  It was a goblin plan.

They use an ax to cut  the passageway.  It was a really poor quality cut.

And we left it at that for this week.

More next week.