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Tag Archives: GURPS Discworld

[Discworld] …And A Thousand Elephants!

Well, more or less at least.
Remember all the posts I had, oh, years ago, regarding modding some variant of D&D for a Discworld game? Huh, looking over them there were A LOT. I even statted out Death.

The reason being, I have had GURPS Discworld since the 90s and never felt any inclination to play a game with it. Somehow it always felt like, you know, the writers of that book had kind of missed the point. Not that I knew the point better. My idea for a Discworld RPG was one which emulated the sword and sorcery high fantasy parody of the early books, maybe with some stuff from the later ones. For some reason the world that was described in Mort, and Guards Guards seemed to be so big and interesting as a fantasy setting. Much more interesting than the Forgotten Realms for sure. And so I was on and off working on a D&D variant set on the Discworld.

Well, I just finished that one yesterday. Or at least I finished a very first draft. It’s about 60 pages long, and should technically work. No, I haven’t tried it out yet. But at one point, maybe even this coming weekend, my players might experience the joy of eating Dibbler’s products, well, second hand.In fact, now that I am finally finished with the draft I will have to think about some scenario to throw at them. Hmm.But anyway, here a short description:I used my Harnic game system as the base, the one I was talking about lately. Which means it is Labyrinth Lord at it’s core, with an extended LotFP skill system. I replaced the old Saving Throws with the D20 categories (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will). I changed negative AC into positive.I used spells taken from Gorgonmilk’s Vancian Magic Supplement (because at least in early books magic seems to be very Vancian on the Discworld), supplemented with a few spells from the books, the GURPS Discworld book, and the Discworld MUD. Not all of the latter ones really work, but some of the names are great.I created a troll and a zombie class (which I might publish here soon), the latter mostly because my players asked for it and really, there are a lot of zombie protagonists in the books. I use the LotFP Specialist, but remade him into a Guildsman. I nerfed the cleric but decided to give some additional powers to get over the lack of flavor this class normally has.I am using a Death and Dismemberment table. Mostly as a Wound table actually, where some of the wounds are instantly fatal (except for zombies). I already noticed that my players will have to get used to it, especially because there won’t be much healing magic (the cleric being nerfed somewhat). Oh, and there are ideas like the Shields Shall Be Splintered! rule that actually will help a bit there.Ok, lets see how this will actually play.

Discworld Roleplaying Bibliography

The Discworld Companion

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Discworld Companion:

Pretty much an encyclopedia about everything Discworld. These books are indispensible and actually seem to be more complete than the roleplaying books mentioned below. In addition to entries about pretty much anything mentioned in the books they also have small but nice maps for different places (including a map of Lancre much better suited for roleplaying than the one in the tourist guide below), and some random information not mentioned in the books… yet.

Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Companion Updated.Gollancz 1997. ISBN 0-575-60030-6
Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The New Discworld Companion. Gollancz 2003. ISBN 0-575-07555-4.

The Streets of Ankh-Morpork

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Maps:

Starting with The Streets of Ankh-Morpork Pratchett and Briggs published a few rather beautiful maps that are just perfect for roleplaying. Especially the Ankh-Morpork map might be essential to any game set in the city. The tourist guide to Lancre… well not so much, but still better than Death’s Domain, which I didn’t even include here.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, Corgi 1993, ISBN 0-552-14161-5
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Mapp, Corgi 1995, ISBN 0-552-14324-3
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, A Tourist Guide to Lancre, Corgi 1998, ISBN 0-552-14608-0

GURPS Discworld

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GURPS Discworld:

I am not too much of a fan of these books as one might have noticed, nevertheless I think I should include them here. The books show some really nice ideas in some parts, and are at least helpful. My copy of the first book had the GURPS Lite rules as an appendix in the back, but according to my infos “The Discworld Role-Playing Game” actually has them interspersed in between the text, which gives the whole thing a much more complete feeling. Still, it’s GURPS, and in my opinion that system lives off it’s sourcebooks, and not it’s rules.

Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld, Steve Jackson Games 1998
Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld Also, Steve Jackson Games 2001, ISBN: 1-55634-447-3
Phil Masters, Discworld Role-Playing Game, Steve Jackson Games 2002, ISBN 1-55634-687-5.

Roleplaying on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

GURPS Discworld

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GURPS Discworld

I bought GURPS Discworld when it came out with the full intention of playing it. My group consisted of at least 3 other Pratchett fans back then, so I would have had a wonderful audience. The problem was… well…
It was not a bad book. Has SJG ever produced a really bad book for that line? And how could one go wrong with something like Discworld? The novels were pretty muche made of roleplaying satire from the start!

In his review of Discworld Also Robert A. Rodger put it like that:

“This is where GURPS Discworld disappointed me. It continued the Discworld as parody mode, and supplied guidelines and suggestions for GMs to run humorous games adventuring across the Disc.

Which is not what the bulk of the Discworld novels are about. The plots are not funny; Prattchett‘s voice and writing is. The characters aren’t absurd parodies; they echo archetypes but evolve into full characters. And the stories aren’t about adventures; they’re about people protecting their homes, their families and their virtues.”

Needless to say the book was read carefully and with interest and then ended up on the shelf collecting dust.
The book wasn’t bad, just… wrong. The whole thing seemed woefully uninspired. Short descriptions of Discworld locations and a few halfway decent adventure ideas were weighted against the overly complicated GURPS character generation, unnecessary details about the novels (like synopseses for all of them), and a very forced attempt to create a “funny” atmosphere in the game. If I noticed one thing gamemastering it’s that one cannot force “fun” on the players if they don’t want to have it. It’s a bad sign if something like Discworld manages to produce a book as lackluster as this.

It’s one of the few times when I really regretted buying a game supplement, and that’s coming from someone who owns multiple Forgotten Realms products.*

Discworld as a setting

But that still left me with the idea of setting a game on Discworld. It just would fit so well, y’know?

The first few novels are pretty much 100% D&D fare. With thieves’ and assassins’ guilds in the faux-medieval metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, with weird forgotten temples, druids and barbarians, dwarves and trolls, wizards and witches, and just a pinch of Lovecraft lurking in the background.
The whole of Discworld is a wonderful pastiche/satire on the typical early D&D/fantasy novel setting of the time.

I maintain that it should be easy to actually do some roleplaying there, and that the problem with GURPS Discworld was that it was overthinking it. What was the inspiration for Discworld in the first place? Pretty much D&D, wasn’t it? Terry was a D&D player, he played the game, read the White Dwarf, created his own worlds along this game. It wasn’t GURPS guys in his age group were playing in early 80s Britain (because GURPS did not exist yet), it was beautiful, make-up-your-own-and-mix-with-whatever-you-got D&D.

Coming attractions

So let’s do that. How can we play Discworld with just Basic D&D, or in my case Labyrinth Lord, rules?
I will post some of my ideas in the coming days.

Some basic ground rules so no confusion will arise: This will be roughly OD&D. I have the Labyrinth Lord rules and prefer them for a game (them being pretty much OD&D with a clearer structure), but I have also both the three basic AD&D books and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion, and will use them for additional rules.

I think that OD&D races-as-classes fits the setting better than the AD&D race-and-class method, although some of the later novels have interesting combinations of character concepts. The AEC mix and match method might be advisable if someone really wants to play a dwarfish fighter/thief. Personally I’d prefer a character with a clearcut class in this setting though.

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*I always hoped it would get better with the next book, but it never did. Never have I seen such a shallow and futile campaign setting…