What’s Crunchy About The Land of the True Game

In comparison to my other campaign, The Deeps of Lyrae, the Land of the True Game is a very different animal to GM. I thought I’d go over the potential crunch of it at a high level before diving in.

As is true for all posts I’ll make about the Land of the True Game, there will be spoilers as this stuff is all intended for the GM.

Comparing the Two Campaigns

OK here I go: The Deeps of Lyrae is a Traveller variant and there is already so much material available for Traveller! As a GM I really only have to worry about converting some of the older stuff to GURPS. Then I add my own creations and come up with a storyline–but these are really just applications of GURPS rules that are typically straightforward.

As you might have noticed, as a GM I like to overprepare. So I did a ton of prep work for the Deeps of Lyrae but I didn’t have to do it. In comparison, the Land of the True Game has sparked a few speculative discussions on GURPS message boards over the decades, but that’s it. There isn’t really any roleplaying material out there that I can find except the novels themselves.

For instance, to get character templates for Deeps of Lyrae, I basically just used what I found in the back of GURPS Space right out of the box. (Those templates are great, BTW. Buy the book just for that.)

In contrast, the Land of the True Game is a setting that I am extrapolating from a series of novels. They’re novels that pose very interesting ideas for roleplayers. But it isn’t clear how any of the systems work, and they tend to work differently than the usual way these things work (e.g., there’s something like magic that is powered by heat — fire up the war ovens!).

The Land of the True Game also makes kind of a perfect storm for GURPS because it seems like they have everything. That means I hope to grow as a GM by exploring systems that I don’t usually spend a lot of time with in my normal sci-fi haunts.

To prove my point, this setting has the following things that, if implemented as systems of rules in GURPS, provide a LOT of opportunity for crunch. In the book How to Be a GURPS GM, it emphasizes that GURPS is a “Tool Kit.” The GM decides what tools to use. But a crazy thing about this setting is that there might be more tools in play at the same time than I’ve ever tried before.

The Potential Crunch

The Land of the True Game has these features for possible crunch:

  • it’s a sci-fi/fantasy setting that has advanced technology (nuclear weapons! trains!), but the TL is mostly TL 3. Yet it ranges up to TL 11!
  • it also has multiple systems that are like magic but operate quite differently:
  • it has something I’d compare to psionic powers, called “talents” (I can read your mind!)
  • yet it also has something similar to spell-casting, called “wize-art” or wizardry (I can brew a love potion!)
  • lest you think I am done, it also also has some deities and nature spirits
  • in fact, it turns out the planet itself is sentient (did I say spoilers would be in this?)
  • it has alien flora and fauna, not to mention a geography that is at times pretty strange
  • oh and there’s a whole system of “herbary” based on alien plants, in case you need a new system of rules and there aren’t enough systems of rules you can imagine from this bullet list here
  • it has sentient, intelligent aliens (and animals too but now that we are this far down the list, xenobiology is practically boring)
  • oh oh oh and it has monsters that are real
  • dinosaurs — no joke and I’m not exaggerating to make this list longer: they aren’t the same creatures as the monsters

You don’t get to have that many systems of rules in play during the same game very often. At least I don’t.

The Social Side of Things

The social side of things is arguably just as complicated. Even if you don’t consider the social stuff to be crunch, GURPS happily has rules for all of this, so this list of social things could be seen as even more potential crunch.

  • The world is has an extremely elaborate caste system and aristocracy, with 1,000 ranks (!). It also has slavery.
  • It has a rigid code of honor and a system of heraldry that takes years of schooling to learn.
  • Depending on how you count them, there are three or four separate human societies that all operate differently
  • plus we’ve got at least two alien societies that don’t usually mix with the humans
  • the setting has a lot of secrets that, if you learn them, change how you think about the world and how it world works
  • The place is absolutely chock-full of powerful organizations that work sort of like cults + governments. Many of them are secret and they each work differently.
  • as you might have guessed from the appearance of monsters in the above list, if this setting is played as the novels are written it could actually be classified as horror (one of the Goodreads reviews said that it should be classified as horror, while another said that it is impossible to classify this series)
  • And there are castles! Did I mention there are castles?
  • It isn’t a huge part of the setting but there are in fact a few dungeons. If you want, you can take it there.
  • And this isn’t social but I am putting it on this list so that it near the dungeons and the castles: there are dragons, but not in the way that you might think — some people can turn into them

The True Game

And of course the most meta thing of all might be the best thing:

Society is organized around a game (the true game) — and that game is a lot like an RPG.

That means you play GURPS in this setting you’re playing a game that’s about people who are playing a game. I feel like the world is inspired by the act of playing Dungeons & Dragons. (Not the content, but the act of playing, if that makes sense. The main character in the first three novels essentially goes around trying out different character classes for hundreds of pages.)

No, It Is Not GURPS Infinite Worlds

Now some RPG settings could have all this going on because they had a time-travel/multi-dimensional schtick where you could journey to anywhere or anywhen. That’s not the idea here. All of the True Game features listed on this post are reasonably coherent and the whole setting is on one uncanny planet.

No Need to Read the Books

My goal is that at the end of this you will be able to read the blog posts in this category and be able to GM a game in the setting without too much extra work. It’s going to help if you’ve read the first three books but it might not be necessary. The rest of the series is almost certainly not necessary (there are nine books and I think the first three are the best).

I’m going to have to fill in a lot of gaps myself, as the novels don’t really say how anything works. There are a lot of hints. But there are also contradictions.

I’m sure I’ll make lots of mistakes but I hope it will be fun!

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