Action 2: Exploits is written for action-oriented campaigns of larger-than-life heroes that must rescue the hostages, disarm the bomb, infiltrate the cabal, or pull off the heist of the century. When the clock is ticking, the adventurers are under fire, or the evil villain has an unexpected trick up her sleeve, the game needs to keep up with the pace of the action.
The first volume in the Action series (Heroes) covered PCs that are suited to high-action games; this book focuses on the situations those PCs face and how the GM can run the game to create the high-intensity, edge-of-your-seat experience that characterizes the action genre.
This supplement weighs in at 50 pages and is available from Steve Jackson Games for $9.99. It is divided into six chapters, each of which addresses a different aspect of the action genre.
Challenges, Not Headaches
Although this chapter is only two pages long, it introduces several useful rules. Basic Abstract Difficulty is a twist on task difficulty modifiers that allows the GM to modify the difficulty of different phases of an adventure in order to speed up play and create a crescendo of challenges. Complimentary skills are ways for characters to use their skills to assist in more complicated tasks. Finally, the teamwork rules explain how to handle situations when the team as a whole needs to perform a task (like sneaking around) if only some of the PCs have the relevant skill.
This chapter explains how to find an adventure, acquire gear, move to the destination, and interact as a squad. There are enough details to jump-start a GM’s creative juices, and the scenarios translate well to other genres of games.
There’s a really helpful sidebar on page 10 with a list of go-to skills that can be catch-all skills in action games. Players and GMs would do well to include these skills on character sheets and templates.
Tricks of the Trade
In this chapter, action plots are deconstructed into four main phases: Assessing the situation, Analyzing the information, Acting on a plan, and Avoiding, escaping, or cleaning up afterwards. For each phase, this chapter gives lots of examples of challenges and relevant skills.
Whether your characters are going undercover, bashing down a door, falsifying records, or shopping for security technology, this chapter will be useful for plot ideas. There are some stats and equipment lists, but the focus is on genre tropes rather than crunch.
Action stories are full of fights and chases, and this chapter provides a ton of rules for gaming these situations. The rules for combat are focused on fast-and-furious play, cinematic heroics, and tough guy talk. On the other hand, the chase rules are extremely detailed—a GM could run a chase scene as a form of tactical combat with all the options this chapter introduces.
Although both sets of rules are written from the perspective of action stories, the mechanics translate well to other genres. If you want to game out a star cruiser chasing a smuggler’s ship, a Western standoff, or an army unit holding the line against a horde of zombies, there’s something in these rules that can be useful.
When Things Go Wrong
Sometimes it’s fun to play through what happens when the heroes don’t make it through unscathed. This chapter gives cinematic rules for post-combat medical care and repair jobs, once the heroes have made it out alive. If they didn’t make it, then the rules for capture can be helpful for keeping the adventure going.
Directing the Action
The final chapter is a GM’s guide to action style campaigns. There are ten examples of genre tropes with references to the rules the GM can use in order to tell that kind of story. There’s a sidebar with a list of rules to not use in order to maintain a fast-paced feel to the campaign. Finally, there are suggestions for how characters can assist each other and how to make sure specialist PCs have something to do.
Action 2: Exploits is one of my most-used supplements. Some of the rules, like complimentary skills, are so useful that they should be considered for inclusion in a future version of the Basic Set. The techniques for running a fast-paced game are helpful in almost any genre—especially for gamers looking to run a simpler version of GURPS.
In addition, this volume is a great reference for action genre tropes, and the encounters suggested in Exploits can be used by GMs of all genres for inspiration. Even GMs who want to run a rules-heavy game can use the example situations—they will just want to bring more rules into the campaign.
Exploits does not have many stat blocks or crunch, but this is an intentional decision in line with the kinds of games this supplement is written to facilitate. The most crunch-heavy part of the book is the chase rules, and these capture the feel of an action chase so well that they don’t feel out of place despite the obvious differences in degree of simulation.
Overall, Exploits is a great value. The cross-genre appeal of the rules, as well as the detailed examples of action genre tropes, makes this supplement handy for anyone who wants to game out high-adrenaline situations.
This volume is particularly useful for making GURPS an easier game to run and play. The mechanics for complimentary skills, abstracting difficulty, and teamwork are helpful for speeding up play, and the advice on what skills to include and what optional rules to ignore is useful for getting the game going in the first place.