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Where We've Gone

This is the fifth review in my series on the evolution of GURPS. The first four reviews are:

Man to Man
GURPS Basic Set (1st edition)
GURPS Fantasy (1st edition)
GURPS Basic Set (2nd edition)

Preamble

GUPRS Horror was the first sourcebook published under GURPS Basic Set (2nd edition), and it was the first departure from the bill of faire typically associated with Steve Jackson Games.

Horror was an unexpected genre to be tackled so early in GURPS. At the time, there was really only a couple of horror-based RPGs even around, with the most notable being Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu. Pacesetter had also published Chill, and it had a small and loyal following.

Both games had taken completely different approaches to the genre. Call of Cthulhu dealt with the supernatural, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Chill, however, took on the feel of classic Hollywood horror films. GURPS Horror tried to do both.

The Product

GURPS Horror is a 96-page, saddle-stappled book of the standard GURPS size (8.5 by 11 inches) with a cardstock cover. It has an impressive full-color cover by Michael Whelan that captures the genre perfectly.



The interior is mostly black and white. In a GURPS first (and essentially only), it also had red used as spot color. The interior art is serviceable.

Ok, so what's actually in it?

GURPS Horror covers a surprising amount of ground in its 96 pages. Primarily written by Scott Haring, it was moved up the schedule by Scott's enthusiasm for the subject, and the fact he could write quickly and well.

The sections in the book are fairly straightforward. Getting Scared (5 pages) adds Fright Checks to GURPS. The Fright Check is a major modification to the system if a GM uses them. Basically it's a roll against one's willpower modified by Combat Reflexes and any extenuating circumstances. Similar to Sanity in Call of Cthulhu, a failed fright check could be more debilitating, though it could be bought off with character points.

Characters (7 pages) covers the typical character types that appear in most horror settings. Nothing revolutionary here, but well thought out. It also covers and modifies appropriate Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills.

Section 3, Magic (11 pages), presents an abbreviated magic system distilled from GURPS Fantasy. Some new spells (ok, two) are presented. Nothing revolutionary here, and if you have GURPS Fantasy, this section is fairly redundant.

However, section 4, Psionics (11 pages), was wholly new. This was the first presentation of Psionics in GURPS, and in fact the only complete one for quite some time. Worth the price of admission right there.

Section 5, Horror Bestiary (17 pages), likewise expanded the system. It covered all sort of monsters from literature and Hollywood with fairly simple and coherent rules. It even covered "Things Man Was Not Meant To Know". Finally, it covered "Evil People" -- "the most dangerous threat man has ever faced".

The Worlds of Horror (23 pages) covers several typical horror settings, from Victorian England to The Roaring 20s to Modern Day. Technology, locations, and personalities appropriate to the setting (both historical and fictional) are all touched upon. The Jobs rules supersede those in the Basic set, so we get a rules update here as well.

Section 7, Campaigning (8 pages), covers just that. This is the first place "The Cabal" appears in GURPS. It also has a suggested viewing and suggested reading list. Only one RPG is included (CoC, as one would expect).

Finally, section 8 provides a sample adventure for a modern day background, "The Haunting of Langley Manor." It's fairly well done, especially since it's only 11 pages.

A one-page index rounds out the book.

So is it any good?

Yes. It's an excellent overview of the genre written by someone who is well-versed with the subject. It is an essential GURPS supplement, especially if you are going to play GURPS 1st/2nd edition.

Conclusion

This book has a surprisingly loyal following even today. It's on its 4th edition. As good as the other editions have been, by some excellent writers, I've always preferred the writing of Scott Haring over the others. I just wish there was more of it. Still, 96 pages was the standard size of a GURPS supplement at the time, so getting more was not going to happen.

On top of this, it actually made me appreciate the genre! I have never been into horror, but this book made me look at it seriously and gain an appreciation for it. I'm still no expert by any means, but I'd have never touched the stuff if it weren't for this book.

I give this an 8. It's well done, it leaves the reader wanting more, and it covers the genre and even tweaks the base game for the better. It only gets dinged because it really could use at least another 32 pages. But it's as good as one can find from the time as an introduction to the genre. In short, it worked.

Thanks for reading.
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