REVIEW : Gurps Greece

  • Copyright (c) 1995 By Joseph Teller

    First Published in Interregnum APA #18
  • Gurps Greece is written by Jon F. Zeigler and edited by Susan Pinsonneault, and is published by Steve Jackson Games for use with the GURPS roleplaying game system. It is ISBN 1-55634-096-6 and sells for $17.95. Its been released in a standard GURPS publishing format, a 'Perfect bound' softcover book, and is 128 pages in length.

    Although I am not a regular player of GURPS (I was in its early days, before any of the supplements and world books came out, when I used to game with folks with a more 'wargaming' based background) I've found that many of the GURPS volumes live up to the 'Generic' concept that GURPS was originally founded on, so that they can be easily utilized by a Gamemaster using different game mechanics than GURPS itself.

    Gurps Greece is no exception, keeping the mechanics material fairly in the background and the real culture and world content very much in the foreground. This is a feature of the GURPS series that I cannot praise too much when it is done correctly (not all the GURPS books have this feature).

    The book is designed to cover Greece in its two important historical periods, that of the Heroic Period (which they set as 1600 BC to 1150 BC in their timeline) and the Classic Age of Greece (800 BC to 323 BC). By dividing the culture in this manner they give a fine line of demarcation between either a fantasy campaign or a realistic campaign. Though its not quite perfect by a historian's viewpoint, it's reasonable for a gamer.

    The Classic period coverage is very accurate and well done; so too are some of the suggestions for varient campaigns and mixing of the game with other Genre books under GURPS. It could have been expanded on, but then the author would have had to produce two seperate books, one for each period, which presumably was not economically possible.

    The Heroic period coverage draws from the myths and from a number of archaeological researchers over several decades. It accurately covers the sources the author found. My major complaint with the material, is that some of the sources are a bit on the older side and out of date with the current state of knowledge on the period. This is not the fault of the author. The archaeologists and historians have changed their viewpoints on the period's ruins a number of times over the past century, and may even change them again. Many of the latest publications on these changes and new discoveries are not published in the United States, and a large percentage have not even been published in English Language editions.

    For example, the Minoan Crete information presented dates back to that published and embelished on by the original excavations. Recent information has been published that the 'Palace of Knossos' was badly misinterpeted and then misrepresented by the archaeologist and was NOT a palace at all. It appears to have actually been built as a tomb, not as a ruling seat for the living, and much of the information surmised based on the contents is thus misleading. Additionally much of the cultural information about the Minoans was evidently fabricated by craftsmen under the orders of the archaeologist, while they were supposedly 'restoring' the Knossos ruins.

    Despite these problems with the historical information on the Heroic period, the presentation and usability of those sections of the book by gamers is excellent. The section on the Greek Gods could have used some additional expansion, but again, an entire book could have been done on this subject alone and obviously space was a definite consideration.

    Also a few of the representations of the Gods and Goddesses could use revision, such as that of Aphrodite, to whom they give only a single paragraph in the religions section, and Artemis, who they incorrectly assume is interchangeable with the Roman Virgin Huntress Diana. Artemis was NOT portrayed as a prudish virgin in all versions of the myths.

    One other complaint is the handling of magic. GURPS magic is a structured system of magical training and understanding, using colleges of magic and prerequisite skills. It works well in some cultures, but I do not believe that someone running GURPS Greece should, as inferred, use the standard GURPS magic system with it. The magic of Greece in the period, outside of religious rituals and the like, was not highly structured in nature, practice, or teaching. It would have been nice if they had instead devised a seperate magic system, but that seems to be something they are reluctant to do in most of the world bases in the GURPS series, so it may be against policy for them to design such.

    The book has inspired me to consider eventually running a Greek based campaign again some day (Perhaps in the alternative timeline suggested where Alexander the Great didn't die young?). I would recommend it to someone considering such a project as a good starting point.

    Thus on the overall report card I'd give Gurps Greece a solid A- grade.

    The author of GURPS Greece has read this review and offers an explanation in regards to some of the points I brought out in the above review. This reponse is now available here online;

  • Jon Zeigler's Letter of Response to Our Review




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