RPGs That Time Forgot... GURPS Mars

Tag line: Mission to Mars!
Makers: Steve Jackson Games, 2002

What is it?
Packed with both hard science and mystical legend, this is the ultimate sourcebook on the Red Planet. In addition, it details four settings - Domed Mars (very hard SF), Terraformed Mars (a farther-future campaign), Superscience Mars (War of the Worlds/Mars Attacks), and Dying Mars (Barsoom).

Neat stuff
-Four campaign setting for the price of one. Obviously, Superscience is the most gameable, but as usual, GURPS is good at showing how, in this case, Mars can be integrated into many kinds of campaigns. Though each setting is only given some 20 or so pages, each still gets sections on skill, advantages and archetypes specific to them, as well a couple of plot hooks.
-The hard science is extensive and will help reality-minded GMs create a Mars that is in line with what is known of the Red Planet.
-Genetically engineered humans in the Terraformed Mars campaign may come from the "Carter" series.
-Ski Olympus Mons? Ski Olympus Mons.
-Stats for a Martian Tripod AND Air Boats.

Bad stuff
-There's a big, but stupid layout mistake that really bugs me. The chapter splash page art for Superscience Mars and Dying Mars have been inverted. I keep flipping to the wrong one.
-Gamers interested in long-term gaming in one of the four proposed settings may be disappointed that there's so few pages devoted to each. The least gameable setting is probably Domed Mars, which his basically a hard SF, near-future NASA mission, but it's ironically the most detailed because the "Mars in Reality" chapter can be applied to it. Gamers who want to explore the other settings may have to invest in other books (Space 1889 for Dying Mars, for example, or GURPS Atomic Horror for Superscience).
-The discussion of Mars in fiction and factoid (Fortean/tabloid Mars) is interesting, but not always relevant to gaming. Lyrics to a parody song called Three Little Men From Mars Are We, for example.

"Of course, on Mars there's no risk of a Hindenberg-style fire, and the Mars Blimp has found a role exploring regions impassable to crawlers."

How I've used it
In my GURPS Shiftworld campaign, we would make the universe "hiccup" every so often and turn the characters over to a new setting/GURPS sourcebook. I used Mars fairly early on in large part because it featured more than one related settings (I would later use GURPS Atlantis the same way). The primary setting used was Domed Mars, which fit well with the frontier settings the players were already navigating in other genres, and a mission took them through the harsh landscape of Mars. The reason I wanted the multiple settings was to create, for the first time, a hiccuping problem which would switch the world over to one of the other three for a second (did I just see a saucer in the sky?), culminating in a strange climax that had the world change every round, forcing players to plan for the rotation of Marses. I don't think it was anyone's favorite, in large part because Domed Mars doesn't really have the fantastic opportunities for action other settings do, but it was a necessary step in my unveiling of the mysteries of the universal shifts.

In conclusion
With Mars fever upon us, GURPS Mars makes an interesting exploration of all things Mars, just to read, or to actually game in. Today's gamers may have the added benefit of clear pictures of the Mars surface to make Domed Mars more immersive, or to inspire the science fiction imagery of the other three settings. Yes, the setting information is short, but for do-it-yourselfers, there's just enough to carry on with it and still capture each flavor.


Doctor Mii said...

Mars. Very à propos, Siskoid. ^_^

Siskoid said...

About a week late... I haven't been able to keep up with the news. Note how there's no Olympics material (well, never like the Summer Games much).


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