This post is in response to a comment by Steel about playing GURPS Solo. How to build monsters on the fly, when you don’t know what monsters you are going to need?
I play GURPS using my SURP Solo rules. These encourage sandbox style play, with no planned adventure. The problem with sandbox play, is that you never know what is going to happen. I also normally play modern day or near future (High Tech) games, at around 150 character point builds.
What Steel wants is to bring a 500 point hero into the world and to challenge that character. Creating a 500 point monster is not fast in GURPS.
So this is my offered solution.
One of the games that has impressed me the most recently is The Lore System (Free SRD version here). The magic bit of the Lore System is the Lore Sheets. A lore sheet is a two or three sentence paragraph that anchors that piece of lore into the game world but attached to the sheet is the game mechanics that make that piece of lore work.
I want to create something that is half way between a lore sheet for GURPs and a leg brick.
So how does this work?
At some point in your solo sandbox you are going to get an idea of what sort of thing/monster/foe you are going to encounter. As soon as you get that idea of what you are facing, you can dip into your GURPs rules and grab some basic templates for creatures/foes or stats for entire creatures.
For creatures or foes that just don’t have templates or are not at your power level, then you need to get clever.
Any attack from these foes need to be a challenge. That means that the points in their attacks has to be on a par to the points in your defences. That point value is a virtually a constant, so you can jot this figure down. You now have a ballpark figure for how many points to invest into foes attack. You can split these points between raw strength but also advantages.
As you learn more about what is happening in your adventure you can jot down more ideas about who or what the foes are. I would write each idea down on a post-it(tm) note, along with a point value. Are you fighting a demon incursion over Manhattan? These foes may have winged flight, Flight Advantage, Winged Flight Limitation. You can add Sharp Teeth or Blunt Claws Advantages. Each of these individual elements have a point cost.
When you are playing, as you imagine a foe, you can grab the post-it notes that have the elements that this foe displays, and build your foe as if it was built out of these individual notes as if they are lego bricks, sticking the bits together.
That is the lego part of this plan.
The lore sheets come in by adding in the visual elements, the scales on the backs of the demons, the claws and so on. They can set a point limit for a specific class of foe. You can even attach a basic template to it to give you a starting point. Once you know the template strength, a post-it that adds +30 strength gives you a final value.
You should not really need to stop playing to build these new and unique creatures. You will end up with a set of ‘parts’ that you can mix and match as you play on. At the end of the session, you can spend the time needed to write these creatures up, balance their points and codify them ready for next session. You may find that you over spent a little here, under a little there and so on. You can fix these flaws between sessions.
GURPS is not a lightweight game. It is crunchy and detailed. That is part of its appeal. Playing GURPS Solo takes on board that crunch and detail. It cannot wave it away. Points should balance, foes should take advantage of their Advantages. The only way that I can see you can play in a completely free sandbox and still have nearly balanced foes is with this lego brick process.
I am not claiming it is perfect. The other alternative is to not play 500 point heroes, but then where is the fun in that?