Friday, August 23, 2013

Designer's Notes: Safe As Houses


Sjg37-2658

“What do you mean you mean you couldn’t get in?” demanded Count Orlok, his eyes burning crimson in the dark.
            “We’re sorry, master! We tried,” cried one of the two of the master vampire’s minions.
            “Did you try to trick him into letting you in?” Orlok asked, his arms crossed.
            “We did! Hutch said we were from the electrical company. We even had the uniforms. But he wouldn’t invite us in.”
            “And when I asked if Fred could at least check the outside, he just shrugged.” Said the minion known as Hutch.
            “Did you try to hypnotize him at least?” the Count said gritting his teeth. He knew his minions were incompetent, but this was ridiculous.
            “Well…I’m not too good at it, I’m still new, but Fred tried. He tried real hard!” Hutch looked down at his feet like a school boy being scolded by his teacher.
            “Let me get this straight, you, my undead minions, with all your power, cannot get into the house of a country hick?” the Count uncrossed his arms, his hands balled into fists as he barely controlled his temper.
            “I even looked for a welcome mat or a “Come on In!” sign, but nothing. We couldn’t even get on the porch. The Threshold was that strong!” whined Hutch.
            “Must I do everything myself?!” raged the Count. “Fine. You two are going to come along and I’ll show you how it’s done.”
            His minions nodded stupidly at him.
            “Yeah, the Master will get it done,” said Fred.
            “He sure will, Fred.” said Hutch.
            Behind them Count Orlok began to shift his shape, turning into a creature who resembled something from a chiroptophobe’s nightmare. It was still man-sized, but blended the features of human and bat.
            “Go ahead and change you idiots!” hissed the bat-thing. It took them several minutes, but eventually both Fred and Hutch resembled their master. The three undead then took wing, flying in the dark skies to their destination.
            Orlok landed just outside of the road leading to the offending home. He’d buried a stash of valuable artifacts there over fifty years ago after a fight with a fellow master vampire. He’d been so wounded that he’d forgotten exactly where he’d been where he buried them. When he eventually found the spot again, it had been occupied by some beer-swilling redneck. Taking the time to change back to his normal form he waited while the accompanying buffoons changed as well. As the three walked up the road, the Count felt something strange. The building’s Threshold was thick, he could feel it several yards away from the dwelling itself. The house was a simple two-story cabin style house, with a polished wooden exterior. The porch was made of the same wood and as the Count got closer her knew why his minions couldn’t step on the porch. Not only was the Threshold resilient, but they used hawthorn on every outside surface they could! A wooden stake could paralyze a vampire, but a hawthorn stake could kill! Before the Count could even step on the porch to test it’s power against his own the door opened.
“Was expectin you.” said a voice from the door, followed by a loud belch. Looking up the count could see a man dressed in ragged jeans, boots, and a shirt that held the life-changing philosophy of “I’m in shape. Round is a shape.” He didn’t wear a hat, but he had "hat hair."
“Let me in.” said Count Orlok, his eyes glowing in the dark as he threw the full force of his will against the figure in the doorway. He watched as the man’s eyes glazed over and inwardly shouted with success. Then the redneck started laughing at him.
“Oh shit, I’m just jawin ‘round. You thought that’d work? Naw. Now look, you done sent your boys here earlier and I didn’t ‘preciate that a’tall. It made my Maddy downright grumpy. And when Momma’s ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.”
“Wha…how did you.” the Count said confused. He’d completely ignored his telepathic commands.
“Bubba Horace Roy might be retired from the monster huntin’ business, but you try that again and I’ll put my shitkicker so far up your rear you’ll be tasting leather for a week.” Bubba said, taking another sip of his Bud. “No look, I know you want that sack of doodads I found, but this land has been in my family since before we were the good ole U S of A. This cabin stands on the same ground my great-great-great-great-great…lots of greats grandfather built his cabin. Anything on it, belongs to my family.”
“Those are my rightful property!” hissed the Count. He tried to take a step forward, but the building’s Threshold pushed him back easily.
“They were you’re property, but since you put them on my property they belong to me now. I’ll be sending them along to the Venatori later on.” Bubba said, reaching by the doorway he pulled a shotgun into view. “Ain’t nothing you can do. So you should get. If ya don’t, I’mma have to shoot you. And you don’t wanna get hit by the Bubba ‘Spress. I heard it hurts like hell to one of you blood sucking carpetbaggers. Got holy water, silver, garlic oil, and hawthorn shavings in there. I shot one of you fuckers in the head once and the head just ‘sploded all over the damn place like a watermelon at a Gallagher show. Ruined my favorite hat too.”
Without the amulet of Arradine he’d never be able to defeat his rival, Nessuno. “I’d be willing to buy it from you?” the Count said. He knew he’d never be able to get in the cabin. It’s Threshold was just too powerful, and with good reason. The hick had said his family had been on the same land for generations. That gave a place power.
“Naw. Maddy done said I can’t make bargains with no eldritch creatures and I think that rightly includes you.” Bubba said, almost sad. “You better go for the missus comes out here and lobs a fireball at 'cha. I married myself a voodoo queen from old N'awlins so she knows her stuff. Damn rogue Roux-Ga-Roux tried to eat her. So I had to put a stop to that. It was love at first beheading. Welp. Y'all don’t come back now. Y’hear?” Bubba said, slamming the door shut in the Count’s face.
Behind him, he could see both Fred and Hutch quietly looking in any direction other than where he was.
“Let’s go.” The Count said through gritted teeth.
The following material was either left over, cut, or I didn’t have enough word count to do justice in my Safe As Houses Pyramid article. Since I doubt I’ll revisit the material a second time I thought I’d post it on my blog for my fellow GURPSers.

New Advantage



Resistant


See p. B80

The following pertains to Thresholds:
Threshold Energy: Being Resistant to Threshold Energy is an Occasional occurrence in most campaigns that feature widespread supernatural powers, in others, if allowed at all, it is considered Rare. The bonus adds to all rolls resist a Threshold (Pyramid #3/58, p. 6). GMs should probably restrict it to powerful supernatural beings like Archangels, Master Vampires, Demon Lords, and the like.


Crossing a Threshold (as a Reaction Roll):


One of the things that came up during the Safe As Houses review/playtest was changing the mechanics for crossing a Threshold to a reaction roll. I really liked the idea (all credit goes to Douglas Cole for the idea!), but in the end it changed too much and I just had to toss it in my scrap bin. This mechanic was barely tested so gamers beware!

The Rules


If a creature with any sort of power (anything with a mystical, magical, divine, or otherwise otherworldly Power Modifier) or that is inhuman crosses a Threshold, make a Reaction Roll, modified using the Historical Acts and Recent Acts tables. Based on the strength of the reaction, consult the results below. The "better" the reaction, the more strongly the Threshold interdicts otherworldly energy - but note that mundane muscle, bone, and evil intent are not usually stopped. If a creatures ST or Will are reduced to zero they cannot cross the Threshold!

Threshold Results


The reaction roll provides guidance as follows:

Disastrous: The Threshold does not exist, for all intents and purposes.

Very Bad: Otherworldly beings crossing the Threshold make a Will roll. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -1 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used).

Bad: Otherwordly beings may only cross the Threshold by rolling vs. Will at a -2 penalty. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -2 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used). They also suffer a -1 penalty to ST rolls.

Poor: Otherwordly beings may only cross the Threshold by rolling vs. Will at a -5 penalty. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -4 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used). They also suffer a -2 penalty to ST rolls and a -1 penalty to DX rolls.

Neutral: Otherwordly beings may only cross the Threshold by rolling vs. Will at a -10 penalty. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -6 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used). They also suffer a -3 penalty to ST rolls and a -2 penalty to DX rolls.

Good: Otherwordly beings may only cross the Threshold by rolling vs. Will at a -15 penalty. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -8 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used). They also suffer a -4 penalty to ST rolls and a -2 penalty to DX rolls.

Very Good: Otherwordly beings may only cross the Threshold by rolling vs. Will at a -20 penalty. If successful, they may act at full capability; on a failure they may still act, but at -10 to Magery, Power Investiture, or similar abilities (if this reduces Magery/Power Investiture to a level  no longer sufficient to cast a spell, it cannot be used). They also suffer a -5 penalty to ST rolls and a -3 penalty to DX rolls.

Excellent: Otherworldy beings cannot cross the Threshold!


Sacred Hospitality (Inverse Thresholds)


One topic that I wanted to explore, but didn’t have space for was “sacred hospitality.” In many cultures, guests and hosts are expected to act a certain way towards one another. Typically, this involves treating them as if they were a member of their family or ally (and all that that entails). The Threshold rules could be pressed into service, serving as a temporary magical oath. Use the standard rules for Thresholds with the caveat that they only function if both parties observe the rules of hospitality (whatever they are – this is setting dependent). Failure to abide by the rules requires a roll against the Threshold with the usual results. These effects persist until the rule-breaker ceases his actions.
GMs might even want to create a completely new list of Threshold Modifiers based on the past actions of the person granting the hospitality.


Specific Power Examples When Using Thresholds


As I noted on p. 7 of #3/58 Pyramid: Urban Fantasy II, characters with supernatural powers can use the energy of a Threshold to bolster their own abilities. Usually, this can only be used for the protection, maintenance, or occupation (i.e., living in there) of the dwelling. GMs could allow otherwise in their games, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It would essentially turn every home in the setting into its own place of power. Though if that was the intended result, all speed ahead! Also, remember that characters cannot tap into another’s Threshold without the occupants express permission. If he attempts to he must make an immediate roll against the Threshold with the usual effects. The following are specific examples of using various supernatural abilities in conjunction with Threshold Energy:

Psionics (Basic Set)


When using most sensory or communication psychic abilities (Clairvoyance, Detect, Telecommunication (Telesend), etc.) the GM should allow the psi to treat the dwelling as if it were his own body. This would give him the abilities to see what is inside the house and outside of it. It wouldn’t give him any extra senses. For defensive or utility abilities (DR with Force Field, Telekinesis, etc.) the GM might allow the ability to be used anywhere the Threshold extends regardless of range. He might want to restrict leveled abilities to the Threshold’s rating to prevent outright abuse. For example, DR 5 (Force Field, +20%, Psychokinesis, -10%) could extend over the entirety of a dwelling, protecting all of its occupants and the house, even though it has neither Area Effect or Affect Others.

Since it keeps in line with most fiction, using an ability in this way requires an Extra Effort roll with a modifier equal to (TR - 10), though the effects persist for 1 hour afterward. GMs could alternatively allow the effects to persist for (Margin of Success - 1) hours. If this number is zero, the effects last for one minute only.

Psionics (Psionic Powers)


For the most part use the guidelines above with the following examples from Psionic Powers. All page references are from that book. Levels of all psionic abilities are restricted to the dwelling’s Threshold rating. All uses of such abilities with a Threshold require a Extra Effort roll (p. 8) and last for one hour.

  • Anti-Psi: Para-Invisibility (p. 23) can be used to obscure a dwelling from psionic powers. Psionic Shield (p. 24) and Psychic Armor (p. 25) can provide the dwelling and its occupants with defenses against psionic abilities. Screaming (p. 25) can be emitted from the Threshold itself making it near impossible to use psionic abilities against those within it! True Sight (p. 26) can be “lent” using the Shared Sight psi technique to all within the dwelling as long as they stay within the boundaries of the Threshold.


  • Astral Projection: Astral Armor (p. 26) gives the dwelling and all occupants DR vs. astral attacks. Astral Sight (p. 27) functions as True Sight (see above). Astral Swords (p. 27) that strike a supernatural being causes an immediate roll against the Threshold at a bonus equal to 10-Astral Sword Level (minimum of 0), with the usual results. Unlike most other abilities, Astral Projection powers are not limited by Threshold rating since Threshold energy and the astral plane are intertwined.


  • Ergokinesis: EK Shield (p. 33) can be used to give the dwelling and all occupants DR vs. energy attacks. Hologram and Photorefraction (p. 35-36) can be used to mask or hide the building or occupants.


  • ESP: Awareness, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, (p. 39 & 40) can be used throughout the confines of the Threshold, regardless of the abilities actual range. Visions (specific dwelling) is a valid specialty of the Visions (Aspected) power and activates whenever anyone tries to cross the Threshold in addition to its other effects. Psidar (p. 41) can tell a psi the approximate strength of a Threshold and if it has an “attached” intelligence (e.g., a genius loci spirit). True Sight functions as per the Anti-Psi ability. Psis with Exorcism and Spirit Communication can attempt to repair a damaged Threshold (see This House Is Clean (#3/58 Pyramid: Urban Fantasy II, p. 9)


  • Probability Manipulation: Weather Control (p. 45) can use the dwelling as a “focal point.” This allows that ability to be treated as if it were (Threshold Rating/ 3) levels higher than it actually is.


  • Psychic Healing: Cure (p. 46) can use the Cure Affliction psi technique to remove temporary Threshold penalties. Treat each temporary penalty as an affliction worth +100%. If the GM allows, permanent penalties might be removed as well, but are treated as a +1000% per point. A Threshold cannot be raised above 10 + (“positive” modifiers). Cure with the Xeno-Healing psi technique can be used to heal damaged parts of the physical dwelling the Threshold protects. Disease Shield and Life Extension (pp. 48) can be used on all occupants within the Threshold at once. They can also be used on the physical dwelling itself, preventing termites, mold, etc.


  • Psychic Vampirism: Most of these abilities are offensive in nature and are not covered. GMs who want to use them in his game should come up with guidelines on his own.


  • Psychokinesis: In combination with some form of ESP, TK Grab (p. 54) can be used to pick up anything in the dwelling (or the dwelling itself!) as long as he could normally lift it. PK Shield (p. 56) can be used to give the dwelling and all occupants DR vs. physical attacks. Temperature Tolerance can affect the dwelling and its occupants. If the dwelling is moved from its permanent location, reduce the Threshold by one permanently.


  • Telepathy: Telesend (p. 60) can use the Broadcast technique within the bounds of the Threshold regardless of level. Aspect (p. 61) allows the psi to make Influence rolls using the dwelling itself! This only affects onlookers or those within the dwelling. Sensory Control (p. 62) is the ultimate in redecoration allowing the psi to make the dwelling, its contents, and occupants look like anything he chooses. Instill Fear (p. 64) allows the psi to create the “Creepy House Down The Lane” vibe. Mind Clouding and Mind Shield (p. 66) can be used exactly like Para-Invisibility and Psychic Shield. If the GM allows, a telepath might develop a Special Rapport or Mindlink with his home allowing him to sense if its broken into, if its damage or being damaged (e.g., on fire), and so on.


  • Teleportation: Autoteleport (p. 68) and Exoteleport (p. 69) can be used to move things or people through the boundaries of the Threshold without actually being there.

Finally, any psi can tap into the Threshold drawing energy off of it to give themselves a temporary boost, but this is dangerous as it depletes the Threshold itself. Each -1 in Temporary Modifiers to the Threshold gives the psi the equivalent of 5 FP to spend on psi techniques, Extra Effort, etc. This requires an Extra Effort roll all by itself and any FP gained cannot be used to reduce this penalty.

Magic (Ritual Path Magic)


Rituals can be “channeled” through or “built” on a Threshold. The most common type being a Warding. Warding rituals that are “built” onto a dwelling’s natural defenses (e.g., its Threshold) are much stronger than they otherwise would be. The Ward uses the average of the casters (Path skill + Threshold Rating) as its Path skill to resist intruders (if better). If the caster takes extra time to accumulate energy to cast the Warding (read seconds as hours and hours as days) he can add a further bonus of (Threshold Rating / 5).
Casters can also siphon energy from Thresholds (see above), but substitute a Path of Magic roll instead of using Extra Effort and can  draw 25 energy per -1 in Temporary Modifiers. They can also “heal” a Threshold, removing -1 in temporary penalty per 1d Healing die. This is a Lesser Restore Magic Effect. The GM may also allow a caster to remove permanent penalties at -1 per 5d Healing die. This is always a Greater Restore Magic Effect. Penalties gained by siphoning energy from the Threshold cannot be restored this way!

Other examples are possible, but those are best left up to the imagination of the GM. For instance, Natural Thresholds (#3/58 Pyramid: Urban Fantasy II, p. 6) might be the strict domain of those using powers with the Nature Power Modifier (Powers, p. 28).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Reveiw: Head Buckets & Hashtags by Marcy Peska

Another of Peska's books - though this one is unusual. She speaks about her life in Juneau, Alaska, but in 140 characters or less. I would have thought harvesting a book from a Twitter stream wholesale might have been a bit lazy, but instead the character limit makes it feel like a conversation. I could actually see this becoming a template for other Twitter users for a variety of topics if given the chance. At $0.99 it's an interesting buy.

I give Head Buckets & Hashtags a 3 out of 5 pennies. It's not great - but it IS interesting and well put together.

Book Reveiw: Magic All Around by Marcy Peska

Magic All Around starts off pretty slow, but rapidly picks up. Without giving too much away it starts off with a Vivian Marshall who’s just lost her house and has cynophobia (fear of dogs). When her surrogate mother finds her a place to stay one of the rental requirements is she takes in a dog from her land lord. Set in Juneau, Alaska (also the home of the author), the author makes the city as much a character as any of the other dramatis personæ. From there…things get strange and we have family secrets, shapeshifters, and witches! Oh, my! It’s a pretty decent read overall and the only thing that really put me off was the formatting of the book itself.

 

I give Magic All Around 4 out of 5 pennies.