Jackson, Steve, and William A. Barton. GURPS Space: Roleplaying in the Worlds of Tomorrow. Austin, TX : Steve Jackson Games, 1993

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Review copyright 1993, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

This review originally appeared in Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop Newsletter

This is not just a roleplaying game, this is a roleplaying system for playing any science fiction universe, which is designed to work equally well with campaigns developed from a published novel or set in a universe created by the players. (GURPS stands for Generic Universal Role-Playing System, and this volume frequently refers to rules in the Basic Set, particularly for methods of generating character stats and other figures). However it can also serve as an excellent sourcebook for a person involved in science fiction worldbuilding. It contains chapters on the technology that is likely to appear in starfaring worlds, ranging from kinds of starships and weapons to medical technology, and even the various miscellaneous items that a character is likely to own or use in the course of an adventure/story. Throughout all of this there is a strong recognition of the fact that technology continues to advance and devices improve over time, so a culture that is more advanced will have different kinds of technology than a less advanced one. Then there are chapters on creating systems and worlds and the various kinds of government practiced by the people living there. And finally there are chapters on creating species and individual characters. And here is where being familiar with a role-playing system can help in plotting and characterization. Many of us had to get over a tendency to create super-characters who could do anything they wanted, or technology that always solved our characters' problems. As soon as things got rough, our characters just showed up with a new skill or pulled a device out of their pockets and got out of their jams. And of course there was always the problem of inconsistent characters or setting. If that is a serious problem, it may help to actually sit down with the rules and tables in this book and create character sheets for the characters in the story, so one can refer to a written summary of the character's major points while writing. Some writers even go so far as rolling dice and checking tables for combat to help get realistic fight scenes, although most of them reserve the right to veto anything that's totally out of line with the overall plot of the story (such as the protagonist getting killed or severely injured). After a few times using these methods, it should become automatic to give characters a balance of strengths and weaknesses and write combat scenes in which the main characters don't just go in and trounce the bad guys without even having to sweat, so one can dispense with most of the formal paperwork. Still, this book is too good of a general reference tool to just put aside when the role-playing aspects are no longer essential.

Copyright 1993, 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

For permission to quote or reprint, contact Leigh Kimmel

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