GURPS Low-Tech Capsule Review by Jason Morningstar on 08/07/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
GURPS Low-Tech presents primitive technology in a gamer-friendly format. Lots of cool bits to add depth and interest to a fantasy or historical game.
Product: GURPS Low-Tech
Author: William H. Stoddard et al
Company/Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Page count: 128
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Jason Morningstar on 08/07/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Historical Horror Gothic Asian/Far East Generic
In the interest of full disclosure, I participated in the playtest of GURPS Low-Tech and contributed some material to the manuscript.GURPS Low-Tech finishes off a set of generic "tech" supplements from Steve Jackson Games, designed to give gamers an exhaustive set of cool gadgets and other hardware -- from the mundane to the deadly -- for any time period. Low-Tech finishes where High-Tech starts -- at the birth of gunpowder, the cusp of GURPS tech level 4. It covers the vast swath of human development from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages, with interesting detours along the way.
The book spent over a year in playtest, and the results are a methodically fact-checked, well-researched book. The three pages of densely-packed bibliography read like a primer in anthropology and the growth of civilization, with an emphasis on the crunchy bits of interest to gamers, particularly vehicles, weapons, and armor.
Luckily, Low-Tech covers a lot of mundane ground as well, giving useful information on topics like irrigation, mining and smelting, and medicine at various primitive tech levels. Want to know how many people a fish wheel can feed? It's in there, and the numbers are based on reality. If you like history, the book is actually fun to read, with little tidbits on why stirrups are useful or how vikings navigated in fog. I found that these can easily develop into adventure seeds or background color in a fantasy or generally low-tech setting.
The contents are easily adaptable to any rules system, although there is a page of GURPS-specific weapon customization rules, and a few new GURPS skills introduced. This book was an ambitious project, and certainly can't please everybody. I would have liked to see more information on agriculture and "social technologies", instead of additional hardware. There are two solid pages of tables detailing various ships and watercraft which I, personally, have no use for, but might send primitive gear-heads into throes of ecstasy.
The book is well laid out and easy to read. It has a detailed index and table of contents, something I always appreciate. I would reccommend GURPS Low-Tech to any GM running a generic fantasy campaign -- the information presented will make your game a lot richer. For anyone running a historical game set before the renaissance, this is an essential purchase.