GURPS: Robin Hood
Adventures in Sherwood Forest and Beyond
by Robert M. Schroeck and Peggy Schroeck
If you poke around other parts of my website, you'll see me talk about a lot about how flexible the Robin Hood legend is. This role-playing sourcebook plays with that idea by treating Robin Hood as a concept, not just a man. It offers information on how to set an outlaw role-playing campaign in several different eras.
Dungeons and Dragons is the most famous brand of role-playing games. Using paper, pen, dice, rules and a lot of imagination, players run through made-up scenarios. GURPS is like D&D, only smarter -- in that the character you play is built with virtues, faults and quirks that you should role-play. Also, it's more conducive to thoughtful solutions than other RPGs -- perfect for adventures with that tricky and clever outlaw.
GURPS stands for Generic Universal RolePlaying System. In the development stages, it stood for Great Unnamed RolePlaying System. When it came time to give it a name, the acronym had stuck. Hence, a cumbersome name for a really good system. The Basic Set gives you rules that work in any genre (fantasy, science fiction, Old West, Swashbucklers, and so on.) Sourcebooks like GURPS: Robin Hood give you guidelines to play a particular type of adventure. But the rules are still written like suggested guidelines. There is much you have to decide upon.
As I said, GURPS: Robin Hood is divided into six different possible "campaigns".
The Legend of Robin Hood. This is the classic medieval era. The book gives some historical information, pre-made characters of all the major characters of the legend, and lots of food for thought. For example, do you want the happy, dandyish Will Scarlet, or the angry, ruthless Will Scarlet? Is Robin a nobleman or a yeoman? Will their headquarters be in a network of trees, a cave or both? You decide. This section cobbles together elements for different version of the legend. Take their basic character of Friar Tuck. His quirks include loving dogs (like in the ballad) and calling Marian "Little Flower" (like the Robin of Sherwood TV series.) There is a lot of good stuff just in this one section. And there is a room for a lot more. I think the whole book could have been devoted to the medieval Robin Hood.
The Ghost of the Moors: This section is a swashbucklers campaign set in Jacobite Scotland featuring the adventures of Sean Alastair MacDonall. MacDonall, sombre by day, becomes the high-spirited Black Ghost at night, a highway man who looks more like Zorro than Robin Hood. In this game, it is the English who take the place of the Norman villains. Scottish nationalists are the heroes. I like this setting, and it's my third favourite of the book.
Splits Arrow: This ties into GURPS' Old West sourcebook. The hero of this section is Jackson Ryder, a white man raised by Native Americans, who rides into action as Splits Arrow, head of a band of raiders fighting for Native rights. I'm not a huge fan of westerns, but this seems fun if you are.
Dark Justice: By day, he's the respected superhero Lightbolt. By night, he's the dark vigilante Librum who kills the scum of New York City. I'm a fan of comic books as well as the Robin Hood legends. This seems like a good superhero concept, but I think it isn't that Robin Hoodish other than Librum's energy powers take the form of a bow and arrow. This is the section which could most easily be dropped from the book.
Cyber-Robin: Now, this looks like a lot of fun! Set in the cyberpunk future where people plug their brains into the computer, Robyn Lincoln travels the net as Cyber-Robin electronically robbing from the rich corporations and giving to charity. Her computer image looks like Errol Flynn and many of her allies, the multi-racial Merry Men, don't know she's a woman. Her homophobic Marian would be shocked to learn the truth. Little John is a computer AI. And the sheriff is Mayumi Hato, head of security for Kironawa Corp. This section takes the concept of Robin Hood and really runs with it.
Asteroid Raider: Kevin Neiborr, captain of the Nosferatu, raids rich outer space corporations, assisted by a crew which includes an alien named PettiJohn. It seens like good Space action to me.
Issue 27 of the discontinued magazine Roleplayer features a section cut from the book set in the Dust Bowl American midwest of the 1930's. Fighting for farmers' rights, Randall Taylor is a bold and benevolent bank robber. The bank, like Robin's medieval home, is named Barnsdale.
The writers, Robert M. and Peggy Schroeck, also wrote the GURPS: Camelot sourcbeook. That book also features three main types of campaigns -- mythic, cinematic and historical. It's worth a look.
GURPS: Robin Hood really shows the variety inherent in the legend. Even if you're not into role-playing games, it's worth picking up.
Text copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2004.