RPGs That Time Forgot... GURPS Dinosaurs

Tag line: ...and Other Prehistoric Creatures
Makers: Steve Jackson Games for GURPS, 1996.

What is it?
Though essentially a bestiary of prehistoric animals from the Paleozoic to the Pleistocene, it also includes a new edition of GURPS Ice Age (role-playing in the time of cavemen).

Neat stuff
-As a fan of prehistoric animals of all sorts, not just dinosaurs, I was real happy to see the ancient (and very weird) mammal, the first sea creatures and giant insects, and the pre-dinosaurian reptiles (a personal favorite: the Dimetrodon). Sure, dinosaurs are the draw, but the rest of them are cool too! And since there are multiple eras represented, a map of the Earth at each of those times is included.
-In addition to animal stats, each section also features discussions of interest to role-players: Playing a paleontologists. Playing as DINOSAURS. Cold versus warm blood (and why GMs should keep dinosaurs hot). Random hit locations on saurian bodies. And more.

Bad stuff
-The flipside of featuring more than just dinosaurs is that pages given over to the thunder lizards is relatively small. Of GURPS Dinosaurs' 128 pages, they only get 41. Shame.
-One thing that could have padded out their presence is illustrations. Sadly, all creatures represented aren't shown, leaving you to scour books and the Internet to get a real sense of what some of these looked like. I mean, we all know what a T.Rex and a triceratops look like, but what about teleosaurus, eusmilus and pinacosaurus? I'd have been happy with a simple, black silhouette.

Can't decide
-GURPS Dinosaurs reprints almost everything in GURPS Ice Age. Is that good or bad? Well, it's probably better than keeping Ice Age in print without the Dinosaur attractions. I love my GURPS Ice Age, but I'm probably not representative of most gamers and their tastes. And while the information has been updated insofar as the Compendium, etc. goes, they've also lost a couple things in the translation. One is the art Donna Barr, which I loved, and the other is a pretty good adventure called Wolf Pack on Bear River.

"Dinosaurs would be very dangerous to time travelers, mad scientists, or any other humans they encountered." (I only fit one of those criteria, thank goodness.)

How I've used it
Since dinosaurs are a major part of most role-playing games I run, I've of course perused this volume looking for stats to use or convert. I've also used the Ice Age material to run a pretty interesting game. Well, I used this book for its more up-to-date character generation info, and basically used the original GURPS Ice Age for everything else, including adapting its adventure for my own purposes. Players were, I think, pretty surprised at how fun playing cavemen was, especially when they realized they couldn't count higher than the number of fingers on a hand (after 5 came "many") and really got into the mindset of these simpler humans.

In conclusion
For all this prehistoric, I of course recommend GURPS Dinosaurs. The information is well researched (with the stamp of approval from the Dinosaur Society and an introduction by noted paleontologist Jack Horner) and the variety of beasts is pretty wide. Plus, it contains Ice Age, the GURPS book you don't yet think you need but really do. A great sourcebook for low tech games, hidden valley scenarios, and any dinosaur-related activity that could use a little more oomph. Give the usual 6 dinosaurs (T.Rex, Diplodocus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor and Pterodactyl) a little break and bring on a few surprises!

Stroll of the Day
Walking with... Ankylosaurus
Speaking of surprises, here's one we don't see that often and yet is completely recognizable. What kind of creature needs armored eyelids? The kind of beats up on Tyrannosaurus Rex with its tail. That kind.


F. Douglas Wall said...

I own this book and I love it dearly. Haven't gotten the chance to use it much, though.

davor said...

Good to see you giving a heap of love to other prehistoric beasties. I love dinosaurs a ton, but they tend to hog the spotlight. Liking Dimetrodon is like appreciating the drummer.

Siskoid said...

Then the prehistoric mammals (and I mean earlier than the Sabertooth and Mammoth) are the bassist.


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