Introduction to GURPS Action: Redacted


As was stated numerous times with regard to my previous run of Sea Dogs, my workload at work over the last year or two has increased uncomfortably, to the detriment of my ability to effectively run a “normal” RPG campaign. This remains the case, though maybe I’m in a bit of a very-welcome lull at the moment. But GMing is a part of me that I can’t quite turn off, and we’re a bit short on GMs at the moment. So, I needed something I could reliably manage in this hostile environment—the less “work” required, the better. I tossed around a couple of ideas for a while. But while I was on a cruise vacation at the end of October ’23—first time since before the Plague of 2020—I came up with the idea of having some terrorists attempt a takeover of a cruise ship, and loose some fully-cinematic Action PCs upon them in that enclosed environment. It’s about as simple as you can get: create some generic bad-guys, and some set-piece fights, loosely-connected with some basic plot stuff that doesn’t really matter—no need for it to “make sense.” As close to perfect as I could hope for, I think.

Campaign Overview


“Keep It simple!” Basically, it’s an ’80s/’90s action movie in a modern setting (I toyed around with making it a “period piece”). Die Hard on a Cruise Ship. I’m shooting for True Lies level of cinematicness—still kinda ridiculous, but somewhat more “grounded” than its ’80s forebears. Owing to some lessons learned last run, I’m going to make this a short one—I’m planning for six sessions, though it could easily go a little long without too much additional stress. The plan is to do around one hour of in-game time passage per session, so the whole thing will take place within six-or-so hours.

Through a combination of Discord and a Session Zero, the players and I agreed on the parameters and rules to be used (or excluded). We settled on the name, Redacted 3. The PCs would be a group of former quasi-governmental assassins now in various stages of retirement, temporarily reassembled to honor their fallen, beloved mentor, by scattering his ashes on the sea, while on an otherwise-real cruise vacation. The events of the previous “movies” (Redacted 1 and 2 don’t actually exist 😛 ) and any other of their former associations are a Noodle Incident. The bad guys are going to be typical, generic Islamic terrorists—I’m ripping off the Crimson Jihad from True Lies as if those events “actually” happened 20 years ago.


The PCs were all generated using the standard Action templates, with the usual tweaking; they come with all the included cinematic abilities that are going to make it really hard to take them down—which is fine. Restrictions were placed on the availability of Disadvantages, understandably, to make sense within the short in-game timeframe and single-location. They will each be known only by their codenames (with one exception), which are taken from ’70s/’80s/’90s cartoon villains. They will be starting with no gear whatsoever—they’re on vacation, not a mission—and wealth will be irrelevant; weapons will need to be taken from the enemy or the environment.

Rules and Experiments

  • We’ll use Tactical Combat with the usual attention to detail; that is, not 100% strictly observed—maybe 75%-85%.
  • The overall “cinematic” level I’m intending is not one I’ve had to adjudicate before, with the very-brief exception of the Knight City one-shots. I expect I will have to be reminded from time to time to let things slide.
  • Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD; from Action 2 Exploits) will be used throughout. The plan is to start at zero for the first session and increase by one-per-session—probably capped at 4 (situationally or globally—or a bit of both).
  • This campaign will make full use of Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. This won’t be the first of my campaigns to officially feature FDG, but it may be the first where it actually gets used—at least for the first engagement (given the PCs’ lack of equipment).
  • Bennies are once again making an appearance in this campaign. I’ve been pretty happy with how they’ve worked out so far.
  • Given the in-game timeframe, spending character points for advancement seems a little weird. We’re going to defer CP awards until the end of the run, but I’m planning to give out per-session Bennies instead. That said, we’ve recently “discovered” the rule on B292 regarding the “IQ roll to see whether you learned from your experience” after using a skill at default—I’ll allow the borrowing of CPs from the end of the run in these cases.
  • Another consequence of the in-game timeframe is “healing”: that is, healing probably isn’t going to happen much, so they may be stuck with injuries for the duration. This is totally in keeping with the source material, of course. But with the PCs’ abilities, and the use of Bennies, I expect this won’t be such a big deal.
  • Meta Experiment: I’m going to be allowing the wagering of Bennies, versus the “house” or between individuals—for things like “who gets injured first,” or “who gets the first crit roll,” and the like. It’s actually not a new idea for me, but this will be the first time it will see production. Whether or not the players actually do make use of it is another matter, and will tell me how viable this sort of thing might be in the future. If it goes well, it may warrant a future blog post regarding the details; if it doesn’t, I’ll probably forget it ever happened 😛
  • Meta Experiment: Achievements—I’ve got a bunch in mind, a few of which I’ll inform the players of beforehand, with the rest kept secret. The idea is to give a Benny any time someone triggers one.

In Closing (or Opening?)

If this ends up fitting my workload the way I intend, I expect a sequel or two in the future—optimistic as it is to say at this point. Worst-case: We get some interesting and/or entertaining fights in, and learn some stuff in the process. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

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