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Tabletop Game / Discworld Roleplaying Game

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The Discworld Roleplaying Game is a GURPS sourcebook by Phil Masters based on the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett. It was originally published as GURPS Discworld in 1998 and repackaged as Discworld Role-Playing Game in 2002 to make it clearer you didn't have to have GURPS Basic Set in order to play, because the book included a copy of the minimal "GURPS Lite" rule set. A supplement, GURPS Discworld Also, was published in 2001; this updated the background information up to The Truth, included character templates, and gave four possible campaign settings not entirely taken from the novels — the Klatchian town of Al-Ybi, the New Town of Smarlhanger on the Sto Plains, the pirate haunts of the Brown Islands, and the cart-warrior regions of EcksEcksEcksEcksian outback — along with some scenarios, the longest of which were "Lost and Found" (about an expedition to the Disc's counterpart of Darkest Africa) and "Sektoberfest in NoThingfjord" (which combines Oktoberfest, Horny Vikings, and Australian backpackers).

There were also a number of articles and scenarios for the game in Pyramid magazine, one of which — "A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle" — was originally published in the short-lived UK roleplaying magazine Visions as "A Fistful of Dwarfs". (This material was subsequently made freely available on Steve Jackson Games' Web site). Then, at the end of 2016, a new edition of the sourcebook/game appeared, updating the setting information up to Snuff and integrating a set of customised rules based on GURPS 4th edition. This included revised and sometimes abbreviated versions of much of the setting and scenario material that first appeared in Discworld Also.

These books describe themselves as "officially unofficial", meaning that while they are a licensed product written in consultation with Sir Terry, he reserved the right to contradict them in the novels if he had a better idea. As such, they can be considered Word of St. Paul.note 

Elements of the first edition are mapped onto one standard set of Player Archetypes here.

Besides the tropes in the novels and games-related tropes inherited from the full GURPS system, the setting contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Context Change: The second edition reuses as much art from both volumes of the first edition as possible, but differences between the texts sometimes alter the context they appear in. For example, an illustration of a pointing figure enveloping a snail in magical energy originally appeared next to a sidebar about giving standard GURPS spells Discworldly wizard names, and appeared to illustrate the spell Mollusk Control (or The Laskallans' Complete and Authoritative Slug and Snail Manipulation Incantation). In the second edition, the same picture is used in the completely different magic system to represent the Forced Transformation spell Stacklady's Morphic Resonator.
  • Arc Welding: In the first edition's version of the adventure seed "Plumbing the Depths", mapping the Ankh-Morpork sewers was the brainchild of a lone eccentric inventor with a plan for an ox-drawn railway. In the second edition, it's all tied into the Undertaking from Making Money and subsequent A-M books.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Popular in the seaports of the Brown Islands. The favoured version makes a distinctive "kerr-chunk!" sound that some users regard as an essential feature.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Spaghetti Western style town in "A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle" is called Mallo Burro ... which is Spanish (or Genuan?) for Bad Ass.
  • Compelling Voice, which appears in the books, turns up here as a character advantage — "Voice of Command".
  • Continuity Nod: As a reference to how many times he's survived plots against him, Vetinari has the "Hard to Kill" advantage.
  • Contractual Genre Blindness: A core stock feature of Discworld stories, but formalised here in game mechanics; an optional rules allows dark lords (and barbarian heroes) to get a few points off the cost of some of their character advantages if they take appropriate character disadvantages — but if they fail to play to the disadvantages, they lose the advantages.
  • Cool Toy: The Pyramid scenario "Watch Academy VI: Hogswatchnight" features the must-have toy in Ankh-Morpork this Hogswatch, which is — of course — secretly part of a Sinister and Eldritch Plot. In the scenario as written they're quasi-intelligent furry things called Burfies, but the author recommends adapting them to whatever the Cool Toy is at the time the game is played.
  • Druidic Sickle: The game has a fairly modest list of weapons by some tabletop RPG standards, but it includes a sickle sword — which is specifically noted in the discussion of druid characters as one of their weapons of choice. This is a reference to a scene in The Light Fantastic.
  • Evil Chancellor: Invoked and parodied. The Grand Vizier of Al-Ybi is a sensible and unambitious accountant, who has reluctantly grown a Beard of Evil and practiced his sinister smile, because that's what's expected. He views the whole thing as an unnecessary distraction from balancing the budget.
  • The Expy With No Name: The Dwarf With No Name in ""A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle".
  • A Fistful of Rehashes: "A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle" (in Visions magazine and Discworld Also).
  • Glad You Thought of It: This is how the very intelligent wife of the Sultan of Al-Ybi makes suggestions to her husband. The ideas she proposes are stupid, but they contain a basic kernel that he can "adapt" into something he thought of himself.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly, one of the many tropes inherited from the novels, is represented by the "Faith Maintenance" character disadvantage.
  • Hula and Luaus: The Brown Islands, where the natives think of surfing as a religion, and have a habit of reassuring visitors they stopped sacrificing people to the volcano ages ago, in a vague manner that suggests they can't quite remember if they'd any reason to.
  • Humongous Mecha: The adventure "A Little Job For The Patrician" (in Pyramid magazine and in truncated form in the second edition of the book) features a Discworld mecha, based on a design by Leonard of Quirm, adapted by a brilliant Agatean nobleman whose narrative causality tends towards anime tropes, and powered by five trolls. The trolls even go through an Invocation as the thing assembles ("Other leg troll, put it together!"), although since they're trolls in a warm climate, it's possible they'd forget which one went where otherwise.
  • The Igor: After the setting acquired a whole caste of Igors, with unique abilities, Discworld Also added rules mechanics for them, with, for example, the "Patchwork Man" advantage encompassing their Mix-and-Match Man nature. These rules were then carried over to the second edition.
  • Inscrutable Auriental: Lacquered Tablet, the Agatean representative in Port Duck, has heard that foreigners think Agateans are inscrutable, and has decided it's a good idea.
  • Invoked Trope: The setting actually has rules for invoking a trope, based on the Theory of Narrative Causality. It also has rules for when it goes wrong; see Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Knuckle Cracking: A typically self-confident example from Archchancellor Ridcully in a piece of Flavor Text:
    “The theurgic shielding is failing, Archchancellor!” said Ponder, clutching at his hat. “We have a divine incursion!”
    “Gods?” Ridcully roared, “Gods, in here?” Then he paused, and cracked his knuckles. “Right”, he said, “we'll see about that . . .”
  • Lady of Black Magic: Seen, while being gently parodied, in the person of the primary example character, Jemzarkiza of Krull. She's a powerful sorceress with effective offensive powers who even carries a wand to focus her magic. She's also a slightly nerdy scholar who's persistently irritated by her reputation as a lady of black magic.
  • Literal-Minded is available as a character disadvantage in this game.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: This behaviour is required by the Dark Lord's Code of Honor, a disadvantage available in the game.
  • No One Sees the Boss: In "A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle", no-one sees Don Dominguino de Varozag. It's widely believed by the villagers that he's dead, and the barking mad Varozag family use "Don Dominguino orders it!" as a catchall excuse. It's suggested an adventure could climax with the PCs encountering him; live or stuffed.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Port Duck in the Brown Islands is a joint Sto Plains/Agatean settlement, full of sailors who definitely aren't pirates. Confusing things, the parts the Agatean tourists see are also full of people who really aren't pirates but insist they are, giving the tourists all the excitement of drinking in a pirate tavern without actually being in any danger. It’s a parody of the historical Port Royal, in the Caribbean, with an added dose of modern-day Hong Kong (and maybe a dash of Disneyland).
  • Oktoberfest: The game includes a scenario, "Sektoberfest in NoThingfjord", which combines the Discworld's version of Oktoberfest with Horny Vikings and Australian backpackers, among other things.
  • Parody: The original novels certainly include their share of parodies; the game may actually lean on this even harder, as it gives a clear and comprehensible basis for a lot of game ideas and jokes.
  • Perception Filter: The game calls the fairly common Discworld version of this effect Unnoticed.
  • Perpetual Tourist: The text of "Lost and Found" states that, in accordance with the Theory of Narrative Causality, the Howondaland trading post must contain at least one Ankh-Morporkian expat (possibly white-suited, maybe just booze-soaked), who can never return for some unspecified reason.
  • Pirates vs. Ninjas: The "Brown Islands" setting sets up the possibility of a pirate-ninja clash. Some Flavor Text in the second edition of the game features an angst-ridden ninja who has been assigned to infiltrate pirate society...
    The problem was, his lengthy immersion in the attitudes of his new shipmates had caused him to develop doubts about the practicality of his previous training – despite the fact that his upbringing and grasp of subtlety made him fully aware of the ludicrousness of his shipmates’ behaviour. So now, although he could both scream while hurling a throwing star and go “Yah!” while wielding a cutlass, he couldn’t quite keep a straight face while doing either. He didn’t fit in anywhere.
  • Raptor Attack: The "Lost and Found" sample scenario includes a confrontation with "High-Velocity Rapacious Monstrosities" whose inspiration is obvious — though, being derived from Discworld swamp dragons, these creatures are also fire-breathing and explosive. They are not a standard Discworld species, but, well, A Wizard Did It.
  • Royal Harem: The Al-Ybi material plays with this trope. It’s an "Arabian Nights" Days setting, so the place’s palace naturally has a harem — but the hidden truth is that the harem women are a smart, practical, highly pragmatic bunch who are secretly running the city via their influence over the sultan and their contacts in the bazaar.
  • Sacred Hospitality: As in the novels, the Klatchian and D’reg’s Codes of Honour are serious about hospitality: “If you take in a guest or are a guest, treat the hospitality as sacred for exactly 72 hours”. Conversely, the Dark Lord’s Code puts a twisted spin on this idea: “Provide visiting heroes who aren't yet scheduled for the death-trap with comfortable lodgings, submissive servants, and a change of clothes”.
  • Schizo Tech: Because the Disc features quite a lot of technological diversity, the cut-down version of the GURPS rules incorporated in the second edition of this game necessarily includes not only the parent system's mechanics for handling different Technology Levels, but also mechanisms such as the Cutting-Edge Training perk required by characters who are more advanced in specific fields than most of the society around them.
  • Scoundrel Code: Parodied in the Brown Islands material, where the pirates' formal democratic principles are complicated enough that they've been known to press-gang contract lawyers, and sometimes start arguing about a point of order in the middle of a fight.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: In fact, one of the novels mentions that this is a common foible among Discworld vampires (a joke about the Alucard trope), but the game formalises the idea in the form of the quirk-level Delusion (Spelling My Name Backwards Disguises It Perfectly).
  • Sewer Gator: A scenario about mapping Ankh-Morpork's forgotten sewers includes "albino alligators, which have wandered into the sewers from another set of narrative assumptions".
  • Shout-Out: As frequently as in the novels:
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: Rules and character features are provided to allow zombies and zombie-like beings to function as in the books — in terms of the trope definition, somewhere between Type I and Type II.
  • Spell Crafting: Rather than trying to define a fixed spell for every whimsical or specialised bit of magic-working seen in the novels, the second edition of the game has a flexible magic system designed to allow characters to cobble together magical effects as required.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: This is apparently how the Disc's nature gods feel. They get plenty of belief from superstitious farmers without having to demand worship, while druids and shamans seem to want something from them.
  • Tap on the Head: As this idea crops up occasionally in the novels, there are game rules for it.
  • This Is Reality: In keeping with the books, GMs are advised that reality should ensue sometimes. Maybe swinging on a chandelier will be a dramatic swashbuckling success, maybe it'll leave the PC dangling helplessly in front of the villain in an ironic anticlimax.
  • The Time of Myths: The novels play with this trope, making the Discworld a fantasy world with its own Time of Myths in its distant past. The game not only picks that up, but also tends to treat the early, more Sword and Sorcery-style early novels as something of a Time of Myths from the point of view of the most recent novels (which fits with the implications of Discworld stories such as The Last Hero, after all). It even features a Parody of/Shout-Out to the classic Conan the Barbarian Framing Device:
    “Know You, O Prince," he began grandly in his Llamedese accent, “that between the years when the oceans drank Leshp and its brass gongs for the fifth or possibly sixth time, and the years of the rise of the Middle Classes, there was an Age undreamed of ...”.
  • Titled After the Song: For some reason, the subsections of the Pyramid article "Call No Man Happy Until He Is Dread: Dark Lords in ''GURPS Discworld''" are Bruce Springsteen quotes: "And Remember Just Don't Smile" (from "Meeting Across the River"); "Born to Ruin" (play on "Born to Run"); "Darkness on the Edge of Town" ("Darkness on the Edge of Town"); "It's a Death Trap; It's a Suicide Rap" ("Born to Run" again).
  • Translation by Volume: This is an actual skill, called Shouting At Foreigners.
  • Vehicular Combat: EcksEcksEcksEcksian Cart Wars, a parody of Steve Jackson Games' own Car Wars.
  • Wacky Racing: EcksEcksEcksEcksian Cart Wars again, when there are actual races.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Suggested as a way of preventing players abusing the Theory of Narrative Causality, by ensuring the story isn't necessarily what they think it is.
    "A character who tries to cast himself as the Brave Peasant Lad Who Outwits The Troll may find that he's actually one of the Twenty Poor Peasants Eaten By The Troll Before The Knight Comes Along. He might even end up as the Devious Little Human Squashed By The Troll Hero. (Troll fairy-stories aren’t especially subtle)".
  • You All Meet in an Inn: In the second edition, one of the chapter-opening vignettes has the example characters meeting in Biers, where Angua is reluctantly assembling an adventuring party on behalf of the Patrician.
  • Zorro Mark: The Zorro-like character in "A Fist Full of Tunes You can Whistle" has the name Don Gaveroz de Varozag de la Lala, "El Aguila del Cubo". He keeps attempting to carve all his intitals on his opponents, but since his Code of Honor prevents him from continuing to attack someone who is clearly about to collapse from bloodloss, he seldom gets very far with it.

Alternative Title(s): GURPS Discworld