Thursday, November 28, 2013

GURPS 101: Magical Legalese



For campaigns where magic is common, GMs may wish to adopt a “Spell Legality Class” or SLC for various spells, colleges, or types of magic. The GM will have to decide exactly what is what in his campaign, but the following might work for most campaigns:

Control Rating Examples for Magical Societies

CR0 – Anarchy. There are no laws regarding magic. Mages can do whatever they want, learn whatever spells they want (if they can find a teacher or spellbook), and so on.

CR1 – Very free. There are very a small number of laws concerning magic. Mages have some restrictions – mostly in SMDs (Spells of Massive Destruction) and “dark” magical spells (necromancy, plant blight, etc.). Only access to SLC0 magic is controlled. Magical taxes may take the form of voluntary labor on civil projects using magic (bridge building, crop blessing, and etc.) or the creation of magic devices (items, potions, etc.) for the common good.

CR2 – Free. Magical laws exist, but most of them are to the benefit of the individual. Magical taxes exist (as above) and are mandatory, but are light. Access to spells of SLC0 and SLC1 are controlled.

CR3 – Moderate. There are many laws relating to magic; many for the benefit of the individual. Mandatory magical taxes are moderate and fair (as above). Access to spells of SLC0 through SLC2 are restricted.

CR4 – Controlled. Many laws exist (most of them for the convenience of the state). Magical communications are limited (especially telepathy and crystal ball “networks”); privates uses of magical communication may be restricted as are all but the simplest of magical items. Magical taxation is often heavy and sometimes unfair. For example, mages could be required to serve the government for a specified period (e.g., 5 years of service) or a part of a “special” reserve. Access to spells of SLC0 through SLC3 are tightly controlled.

CR5 – Repressive. There are many laws and regulations, which are strictly enforced. Taxation is heavy and often unfair. There is strict regulation of communication, divination, and other methods of magical contact. All magical goods are controlled; you can’t buy anything without the right clearance, proper paperwork, and so on.

CR6 – Total control. Magical laws are so vast they fill libraries and so complex that they require their class/caste of scholar to interpret. Mages exist only to serve the state. Free mages are anathema. Many offenses carry either enslavement or the death penalty. Magical taxation creates its own social class and being born with any magic is often considered a curse rather than a blessing. Magical censorship is common (thought police, “anti-magic” cops, etc.) and private ownership of magical items is strictly forbidden. All magical servicers and goods are restricted, and the government might even withhold necessities (magical healing, purified water, etc.)

Spell Legality Class Examples for Magical Societies



SLC0 – Banned. Spells that cause damage on a massive scale; spells that kill instantly; “black” necromancy spells; time travel spells.

SLC1 – Military. Spells that can create a unbeatable defense (e.g., Utter Dome); spells that cause “instant” death; spells that have no use other than military or espionage application (e.g., Permanent Possession); or dimension shifting spells; spells that summon demons, undead, and other actively hostile entities; spells that enslave or permanently control others.

SLC2 – Restricted. True divination spells (i.e., ones that can see the future); Mass communication spells; Teleportation, gates, and most “movement” magic; Spells that weaken structures or buildings (e.g., Weaken); Spells that induce or create addictive effects (e.g., Ecstasy); Spells that modify or create beings (e.g., Spellgraft or Golem); Spells that summon elementals or similar beings; Spells that provide invisibility or similar concealment; spells that temporarily control minds.

SLC3 – Licensed. Most damage-dealing and lethal spells, most personal communication spells; spells that allow fast modes of travel (e.g., Flight or Cloud-Walking); Healing spells that are better than what the campaign’s TL could provide via first aid; Spells that conceal (e.g., Blur). Many enchantment spells; spells that allow you to see the past; spells that let you commune with the dead; spells that permanently change the landscape (e.g. Alter Terrain or Move Terrain).

SLC4 – Open. Spells that stun or are otherwise nonlethal; Healing spells that restore what the campaign’s TL could provide via first aid; spells that can fix or restore inanimate objects; most utilitarian or protective spells (e.g., Create Fire or Resist Cold)

SLCs could also logically be applied to magical advantages at the GMs discretion. For example, Magery 0 could be SLC4, anyone could have it; Magery 1 or 2 could be SLC3, you’d need a license; Magery 3 could be SLC2, if you’re that talented you’re probably going to be forced into a military or police force; Magery 4 could be SLC1 (or even SLC0!), those with this much talent disappear into a black bag and are never seen from again…

The same could also be said for magic items, alchemical potions, and other permanent forms of magic. Most would just follow the rules above. For example, a Potion of Invisibility would be SLC2.

Keep in mind that different magical systems might need fine-tuning. For example, in games that feature ritual path magic all Greater Effects might be SLC2, limiting truly mighty magic to those with the proper clearance…or those who just don’t care about obeying the law. For a example of Magical Legality Class and Control Ratings in a medieval setting, see the box Magic Licit and Illicit in GURPS Locations: Worminghall (p. 32).


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Triple Threat: Wolpertinger


The wolpertinger takes the form of a small mammal (rabbits and squirrels are typical) with additional morphological features from other animals such as wings, antlers (or other forms of horns), tails, or fangs. Wolpertinger are for the most part harmless; they live in woodlands and eat plants (though legends persist of a carnivorous variety that eats only meat...). While they can bite or even claw at any attackers, they have a special means of defending themselves. When threatened, a wolpertinger will turn around and balance itself on its front paws. It will then use specialized muscles in its sphincter to defecate a binary compound of its own feces and a special liquid that ignites when exposed to air. This burning mixture clings to the target’s skin continuing to burn until it’s scraped off – though the smell lingers for a lot longer than that. Finally, if they are able to they prefer to use one of their tunnels (wolpertinger have huge underground warrens) to escape. If further threatened they can open up a tunnel to another world to escape their pursuers. The typical description of a wolpertinger is that of a horned rabbit or winged squirrel, but many other variations are possible. Many adventurers and travelers refer to wolpertingers as "hoppy shit machines."


For Any Game…
ST: 4               HP: 4                          Speed: 6.00
DX: 14            Will: 10                      Move: 10/15
IQ: 4               Per: 12                        Weight: 7 lbs.
HT: 10            FP: 10                         SM: -3
Dodge: 11       Parry: N/A                 DR: 0

Bite (14): 1d-7 crushing. Reach C.
Claw (14): 1d-3 crushing. Reach C.
“Breath” Weapon* (14): 1 point of burning damage with a cyclic effect (six 10-second cycles). Range 5/10; no range penalties. In addition to the damage, the target must make an immediate HT roll or begin retching (p. B429) for 5 seconds times their margin of failure. Treat any bonuses to Smell rolls as a penalty instead; those with No Sense of Smell/Taste are immune to this effect. The target also suffers from the Bad Smell disadvantage until he cleans himself up (this takes at least an hour and requires lots of soap, new clothing, disinfectant, etc.); this effect occurs regardless of any penetrating damage. The wolpertinger must have his back facing his target to use this attack and spend 1 FP.

Traits:  Appearance (Beautiful/Handsome; Impressive); Blunt Claws; Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Dodge 2; Fur; Jumper (World; Costs Fatigue, 2 FP; Emergencies Only; Faster Concentration 5; Improved; Reliable 10; Special Portal, through own dug tunnels; Tunnel); Night Vision 6; Parabolic Hearing 2; Peripheral Vision; Pitiable; Quadruped; Restricted Diet (Herbivore); Super Jump 1 (27yard combat jump)†; Tunneling (Move 5); Ultrahearing; Weak Bite; Wild Animal.
Skills:  Innate Attack (Breath)-14; Jumping-14; Stealth-14; Survival (Woodlands)-12; Swimming-10.
Notes: One race despite looking like different animals. Rumors persist of a more powerful intelligent version of the wolpertinger, sometimes referred to as the Jackalope. Jackalope’s use the above stats with the following modifications: IQ 10, Will 16, Per 16, and Striker (Horns). If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror, (p. 139) wolpertinger have a modifier of +3.
* The wolpertinger does not suffer penalties for attacking targets behind them for this specific attack.
† This is for a combat jump; outside of combat double this value.


For Dungeon Fantasy
ST: 6               HP: 6                          Speed: 6.00
DX: 14            Will: 10                      Move: 10/15
IQ: 4               Per: 12                        Weight: 7 lbs.
HT: 10            FP: 10                         SM: -3
Dodge: 11       Parry: N/A                 DR: 0

Bite (14): 1d-6 crushing. Reach C.
Claw (14): 1d-2 crushing. Reach C.
“Breath” Weapon* (14): 1 point of burning damage with a cyclic effect (six 10-second cycles). Range 5/10; no range penalties. In addition to the damage, the target must make an immediate HT roll or begin retching (p. B429) for 5 seconds times their margin of failure. Treat any bonuses to Smell rolls as a penalty instead; those with No Sense of Smell/Taste are immune to this effect.  The target also suffers from the Bad Smell disadvantage until he cleans himself up (this takes at least an hour and requires lots of soap, new clothing, disinfectant, etc.); this effect occurs regardless of any penetrating damage. The wolpertinger must have his back facing his target to use this attack and spend 1 FP.
Traits:  Appearance (Beautiful/Handsome; Impressive); Blunt Claws; Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Dodge 2; Fur; Jumper (World; Costs Fatigue, 2 FP; Emergencies Only; Faster Concentration 5; Improved; Reliable 10; Special Portal, through own dug tunnels; Tunnel); Night Vision 6; Parabolic Hearing 2; Peripheral Vision; Pitiable; Quadruped; Restricted Diet (Herbivore); Super Jump 1 (27yard combat jump)†; Tunneling (Move 5); Ultrahearing; Weak Bite; Wild Animal.
Skills:  Innate Attack (Breath)-14; Jumping-14; Stealth-14; Survival (Woodlands)-12; Swimming-10.
Classification: Dire Animal.
Notes: One race despite looking like different animals. Rumors persist of a more powerful intelligent version of the wolpertinger, sometimes referred to as the Jackalope. Jackalope’s use the above stats with the following modifications: IQ 10, Will 16, Per 16, and Striker (Horns),
* The wolpertinger does not suffer penalties for attacking targets behind them for this specific attack.
† This is for a combat jump; outside of combat double this value.


For Monster Hunters
ST: 6               HP: 8                          Speed: 6.00
DX: 14            Will: 10                      Move: 10/15
IQ: 4               Per: 12                        Weight: 7 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12                         SM: -3
Dodge: 11      Parry: 10 (Brawling)    DR: 0

Fright Check: +3

Bite (14): 1d crushing. Reach C.
Claw (14): 1d-3 crushing. Reach C.
“Breath” Weapon* (14): 1 point of burning damage with a cyclic effect (six 10-second cycles). Range 5/10; no range penalties. In addition to the damage, the target must make an immediate HT roll or begin retching (p. B429) for 5 seconds times their margin of failure. Treat any bonuses to Smell rolls as a penalty instead; those with No Sense of Smell/Taste are immune to this effect.  The target also suffers from the Bad Smell disadvantage until he cleans himself up (this takes at least an hour and requires lots of soap, new clothing, disinfectant, etc.); this effect occurs regardless of any penetrating damage. The wolpertinger must have his back facing his target to use this attack and spend 1 FP.

Traits:  Appearance (Beautiful/Handsome; Impressive); Blunt Claws; Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Dodge 2; Fur; Jumper (World; Costs Fatigue, 2 FP; Emergencies Only; Faster Concentration 5; Improved; Reliable 10; Special Portal, through own dug tunnels; Tunnel); Night Vision 6; Parabolic Hearing 2; Peripheral Vision; Pitiable; Quadruped; Restricted Diet (Herbivore); Striking ST+9 (Bite only); Super Jump 1 (27yard combat jump)†; Tunneling (Move 5); Ultrahearing; Wild Animal.
Skills:  Brawling-14; Innate Attack (Breath)-14; Jumping-14; Stealth-14; Survival (Woodlands)-12; Swimming-10.
Notes: One race despite looking like different animals. Rumors persist of a more powerful intelligent version of the wolpertinger, sometimes referred to as the Jackalope. Jackalope’s use the above stats with the following modifications: IQ 10, Will 16, Per 16, and Striker (Horns). Use the skills listed under Cryptids in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16); they’re a form of magical mutant. One champion should be able to handle a dozen wolpertinger.
* The wolpertinger does not suffer penalties for attacking targets behind them for this specific attack.
† This is for a combat jump; outside of combat double this value.

Monday, November 18, 2013

GURPS 101: Remedial Ritual Path Magic Part I



Since its release, Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic has proven to be the hot-ticket (446 copies since October 3rd, 2013, with a rating of 4.6/5) of 2013. That’s a lot for GURPS. Which, since you are reading my blog about that game system, I assume you know that. I’m no PK, but I do arguably know the ritual path magic system better than just about anybody that isn’t PK. So I’m going to give GMs a few quick tips for wizardly archetypes using RPM. Most of these work regardless of point level.

The Defender: This guy is all about defense. He’s reactive, not proactive. Unfortunately, the number of defensive effects are scattered over several Paths; he'll probably need to pick one particular shtick and specialize in it: Path of Body (for enhancing living beings), Path of Chance (for those lucky breaks), Path of Energy or Matter (for conjuring barriers or “hardening” air), Path of Magic (for taking down other casters spells), and Path of Mind (for defending against mental effects). A variation is the “warder” – the guy who specializes in creating barriers to keep out supernatural forces. He needs Higher Purpose (Warding) and Path of Magic, Mind, Spirit, and Undead. Defender casters might consider a Higher Purpose for their specialty (Barriers, Conjuring (material), and so on). Defender magic is one of the archetypes that actually works better as charms or conditional spells.

The Gatemaker: This bloke is all about ripping a new spacehole in the Time/Space continuum. Because teleportation with RPM is impossible, gates become the logical “magical” means of rapid movement. The Gatemaker only needs Path of Crossroads, but he needs it high, breaking barriers into other dimensions is a tough business. Higher Purpose (Gates) is a must-have, as is Ritual Adept (Path of Crossroads only, -40%) and maybe Detect (Spatial Anomalies; Magic, -10%) [9]. Optionally, GMs may allow Gatemakers to purchase Warp with the Tunnel enhancement to represent an internalized ritual.

The Illusionist: Misdirection. Legerdemain. Chicanery. These are not Changeling bunks. These are the meat and drink of the illusionist. He’s a tricky bastard. Decide on either Path of Energy (for “hologram” style illusions) or Path of Mind (for mind-f*cking someone). Both ways have their merits, good Illusionists can do both. Illusions or Deception are both valid Higher Purpose specialties. Ritual Adept (Illusions only, -30%) is a good buy. Artist (Illusion) suits the artiste casters and aid when creating realistic looking illusion. Illusionists need a lot of mundane skills to be really excellent at what they do, at minimum Body Language, Detect Lies, Psychology (or Sociology), Fast-Talk, Filch, Sleight of Hand, and Pickpocket. High Manual Dexterity is also a valid buy. GMs might even allow illusionists to have Artist (Illusion) as their core-skill instead of Thaumatology if they take optional specialties for their Path skills. For example, Path of Energy (Illusion) and Path of Mind (Deception).

The Master of Elements: Your domain is the classical four elements. There is overlap with this and the Weather-Worker in the fact that the you can also manipulate the elements, but probably not as well. The Master of Elements need Path of Energy and Matter (for manipulating the elements), and Path of Spirits and Crossroads (for summoning elementals to do their bidding). No one Higher Purpose suits the Master of Elements, but variations on a particular element (Aeromancy, Pyromancy, Terramancy, Hydromancy, and Elemental Summoning) are valid specialties. Like the Necromancer, the Master of Elements should probably purchase Allies for elemental beings. The Summonable (or Conjured) and Minion enhancements are common.

The Metamage: Your spell is my spell, and my spell is mine too. The metamage loves to take other casters hard work and make it his own. He’s also the “Know You Don’t” mage. He’s a Blue Deck embodied in a single character. Path of Magic needs to be at a decent level. Higher Purpose (Dispelling) or (Warding) are excellent choices. High levels of Thaumatology are also common, as is any Hidden Lore that covers magical secrets or the like. He’s also the master of conditional spells so should probably have at least 1 point in other Path skills.

The Necromancer: He sleeps with voodoo dolls and won’t give up the search for the ghosts in the halls. He doesn’t need friends. He makes them. With those obedient little zombies or skeletons that do his bidding. He might even make his own girlfriends (EEwwwww), but I ain’t going there. Necromancers need Path of Undead, plain and simple. As much as they can possibly get. Ritual Mastery for a few attack spells is de rigueur for the fantasy necromancer. Higher Purpose (Animating Undead) is a good choice for “Horde Master” necromancers. Ritual Adept (Path of Undead only, -40%) is a good choice for such a specialist. GMs should allow necromancers to buy Allies (Zombie Horde); see Zombies (p. 27-28) – make sure you add the Magic limitation. Actually creating undead (any undead) is a Greater Create Undead. To create multiple undead with a single spell add Area of Effect. Whatever you animate takes on the standard template of the setting (zombies, skeletons, etc.); to change this use Altered Traits and bundle them into the spell. GMs may allow necromancers to create undead that do not have specific Duration, and instead use Conditional Termination (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 18). “Only until laid to rest or turned using True Faith” is worth 18 energy as a Duration

The Spellslinger: He conjures bears, TKs chairs, and blows up the neighbor’s dog. That’s right. This fella is all combat all the time. To put it bluntly: he blows shit up. That’s right, this guy is like a 12 year old playing Call of Duty on his Play Station. He exists only to pwn the bad guys with teh magicz. Or not. Whatever the reason, he’s a bad mofo with some powerful mojo. Put as many points as you can into Path of Energy and/or Path of Matter. Optionally, specialize in a particular form of matter or energy. For example, a caster specializing in cold could have Path of Energy (Cold) and Path of Matter (Ice). Buy Ritual Mastery for all your signature combat spells. Ritual Adept is a must. Buy as much Magery as you can or purchase Energy Reserve (Mana Reserve; Path of Energy or Matter, -50%), both would probably be around (-40%). If you’re specializing, you also are going to want to grab Higher Purpose (whatever you’re specializing in; Cryo- or Pyromancy, for example). Consider Magic Resistance (Improved, +150%; Switchable, +100%) for 7/level; it’s expensive, but worth it when you meet another Spellslinger. GMs may consider allowing an Average technique to buy off the penalty to cast a particular ritual quickly (up to Path skill+10; negating the penalty for casting a blocking spell). This never results in a net gain. It only cancels penalties to “fast cast.”

The Technomancer: It’s technology. It’s magic. It’s technology. It’s magic. GAWDDAMNIT IT’S INDISTINGUISHABLE?! Technomages can be a blast to play. Especially when you buy High TL and take into account Visualizing The World (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 8). Path of Body (for “bioenhancement”), Path of Energy (obvious), Path of Matter (ditto), and Path of Magic (creating a melding of magic and tech). Technomancy is probably a valid Higher Purpose. Consider also switching the core-skill from Thaumatology to Computer Hacking or Physics for a real technomancy "feel." Ritual Mastery is a good choice for any technomancer. Like the Defender, technomancy works best as conditional spells. For instance, charms (one-use gadgets) and potions (advanced drugs and chemicals), and enchanted items (RAY-GUN!) are perfect fits. GMs may also wish to allow technomancers to purchase Gadgeteer with the Magic limitation (an extension of his magical gifts). If his High TL advantage is only for “theoretical knowledge” good enough for getting a bonus for Visualizing the World, then this is a -20% limitation. GMs may even require an Unusual Background to gain such bonuses.

The Weather Witch: This guy controls the weather. He can call down lightning, drench an area with rain, or cause a blizzard. He’s got two options: he can dump as many points as he can in Path of Chance, optionally specializing in Weather-Working to make it cheaper. Alternatively, he could take Path of Energy (for moving around air or calling lightning) and Path of Matter (for creating snow, hail, and other forms of precipitation). The first way makes for a very specialized character, while the latter lets the character do other things as well (like throw fireballs and conjure swords from thin air). Both have their merits. Characters should buy Higher Purpose (Weather Witchery), Magery (Ritual Path) or Ritual Adept with “Accessibility, Weather-Working only” (-50%), Stabilizing Skill (Meteorology or Weather Sense for Weather-Working effects), Meteorology or Weather Sense as high as they can, and maybe Energy Reserve (Mana Reserve, Weather-Working spells only, -60%). That’s cheaper than one Path (which is -50%), but is still pretty broad, thus -60%. Appropriate disadvantages include Meteoromania (an analogue to Pyromania), Compulsive Weather-Working (don’t like the weather outside? CHANGE IT. Like it? DO IT ANY WAYS), Supernatural Features (Weird Weather Magnet) [-10] (the weather is always strange around you? It snows in July, dust storms on Christmas, etc.).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Practical (Ritual Path) Magic



The new Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic has been out for a bit. Since its release there has been a flurry of activity on the Steve Jackson Games Forums regarding it. As PK's officially unofficial deputy on ritual path magic, I've made it my job to answer as many of these questions as fast as I possibly can, so he doesn't have to. In some cases, this had led to mistakes (which I've owned up to) and in most others, satisfied gamers.  All that said, there have been some grumblings about various topics I'd like to go ahead and put to bed if I can.
  • "RPM's enchantment system sucks!" - As a gamer that actively dislikes using character points for gear, I should like this a lot less than I do. It's not that I dislike it, or that I'm indifferent. I think it fits ritual path magic. That said, I'd like a system that's defined more as gear than gadgetry. To that end I've posted a stopgap to use my Metatronic Generators article as a back end enchantment system for RPM. I can tell those reading this, that I am working on a Pyramid article that expands on how to create ritual path magic items. No idea when it'll be out there for public use or even if it will.
  • "Why can't I replicate spells from Magic?!" - Quite honestly? Some of those spells are unbalanced, wonky, worded poorly, or some combination of the above. Raekai has created an excellent conversion of Magic to ritual path magic and is in the process of switching it over from the system presented in Monster Hunters 1 to the expanded version in Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic.
  • "I don't want RPM to be subject to GM approval! I want the rules to say what it does exactly. Perfectly. No GMs!" - This one baffles the hell out of me. I've thought about it a lot, and I've come to two conclusions. One, if (and that is a big if) this were possible; the book for RPM would be thicker than the American DSM. It would have to cover (or try to cover) every possibility available in the real world and multiple genres. I fully believe if that had been the case it probably wouldn't have sold as well as it did, despite the gamers' desire for it. And two, 99% of most players and GMs game to have fun. They don't want to game out real life....because let's face it, for most of us, real life is...real life. When I role-play I want to be a swashbuckling hero who faces down the ROUSs in the fire swamp, not the guy who dies of sepsis two days later thanks to giant rat bites and infected burns.  Despite the lone voice(s) in the wilderness who assert otherwise, I have found, and continue to find, that most gamers want fun - not simulation. They want to work with their GMs to achieve that fun, not against them. Deep down, at its heart, RPM is a symbolic representation of that want. Each spell in ritual path magic is a deal between the GM and the player. It is in essence, a rules zero system, trying to make it something it's not is going to have unintended consequences. Games cannot exist within a vacuum
  • "Why are Lesser and Greater effects so vague?" - They are supposed to be. They are subject to GM approval. The GM decides what is and isn't a Greater effect. That said, as a GM, I ask myself the following three questions when adjudicating a spell:
  1. How difficult is the task? Could a normal person accomplish it easily? If it so, then mark it as a “No.” If it’s hard, mark it as a “Yes.”
  2. Could anyone do it given equipment and a reasonable amount of time? 
  3. Would it violate the natural laws of the setting?
    If you answered “Yes” to all three, then it is probably a Greater effect; if you answered “No” to all three, then it is probably a Lesser effect. If you answered “Yes” to one or two questions, then it’s iffy. It might be a Greater effect, if might be a Lesser effect. When I’ve answered “Yes” twice, I err on the side of caution and charge for a Greater effect, when I answer “Yes” only once, I usually call it a Lesser effect and go on with the game.
  • “I can create thousands of tons of crude oil for decades!” – Yes. Yes, you can. If the GM lets you. He’s fully within his rights to make you take a crafting penalty roll for your character to visualize how much oil that actually is. It’s like trying to visualize a million dollars in cash. You know it exists, but I bet you don’t know what those bills look like when stacked together, or how thick the stack is, or what it smells like, and so on. Visualizing big numbers is a problem that humans have in general. We know those numbers exist, but unless we have a visual aid, it’s difficult to figure out what is what. So yes. You can create a ritual that will break the GMs world, congrats – you’re a douche bag and just ruined everyone else’s fun. Most people like this don’t last long in a particular gaming group, because at their core, they are greedy attention-seekers that demand the spotlight all the time and when they don’t get it, they take the GMs campaign hostage. Don’t play with those guys. Just remember that because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Wheaton’s law works perfectly when designing rituals: Don’t Be a Dick. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t design a “Vampire Blaster” spell for the GMs campaign about Vampires, but don’t try to design a “ALL VAMPIRE’S EVERYWHERE DIE” spell. Or at least make it a plot point. World-shaking spells should be a goal to strive for, not a game sessions’ worth of die rolls.
  • "The only way to do spells is the RAW way!” – Nope. Sorry. Go read the box on p. 49 of Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic. Now read it again. Now print out a copy and sleep with that page so you may harvest knowledge by osmosis. Now read it again. Now cuddle that page you printed out and say supporting, nurturing things to it while you spoon it. Tell it you love it, and you'll always be there for it. Finally, read it again and then rip up the page you printed out into small shredded chunks and eat them so it stays with you forever. Mourn your printed friend, but know that he is with you always. There. Is. No. Right. Way. If the GM says, “Fireballs ain’t possible,” then guess what? Fireballs ain’t possible. When I post on the forums, I post as an interpreter of Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, most of my answers are derived from over a thousand hours of (active) GMing experience with the system and almost 3 years of reading it over and over and over (and over and over) and asking questions over and over and over (and probably one more over). I’ve thought of and tried just about every variation you could dream up, and I’m going to dispense that advice. No need to travel down the same road if that road is a dead end or leads to a cliff face. Some stuff just isn’t going to work. That isn’t to say I’ve thought of everything, I still get surprised and come across wondrously fresh ideas for RPM.
  • “I don’t want my players making up rituals!” – Okay, this is easy-peasy, don’t let them. You make up every ritual that’s possible in the setting. Everything that can possibly be done with ritual path magic and then say, “These are the rituals you can choose from, creating new rituals requires Inventing rolls.” When you do this, nothing else about RPM changes. The spellcasting process is exactly the same except that the players must pick from the rituals you’ve made. Additionally, for the above example, do not add a limitation to Magery. Casters who can create new rituals on the fly have an Unusual Background. That’s it. See? Easy.

So there it is, the most common gripes I’ve seen to date. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little read and gained some form of insight from my ramblings. And if I've offended you...well, sorry 'bout that too.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Night-Dimmed Day - Part II - Game Session 7




July 3rd 2000, Monday
2:10 pm
Undisclosed Island in Michigan Lake

It takes the eggheads another couple of hours to finish the necessary mathematical equations to get the XDG to spit out the final location of the last crystal shard. Once that’s done the Dead Men make their way back to the R&D floor, gear up, and head to the Saucer. The location is arctic this time, and the team has to wait to resuit up in cold-weather gear.

July 3rd 2000, Monday
2:30 pm (time is frozen)
The Mountains of Madness

Once on the other side they are greeted by a snowy expanse in front of them and a sheer cliff with no end in sight behind them. With no other way but forward, the Dead Men began to head up the mountain. Alex, realizing how cold it is (just at -60º F), casts a spell to inure his teammates to the cold, though he finds that he is strangely unaffected. After nearly an hour trudging through the snow, the Dead Men come across a monk in a bright orange robe standing out in the cold. After speaking with Alex, a lamasery and long set of stone stairs appear that the Dead Men must climb. Once at the top they are brought inside the thick stonewalls of structure. Inside, the Grand Master greets them, gives Jon the last piece of the skull and then asks to speak with Angel alone. The remaining Dead Men file out and find things to do while they discuss secret matters.
                Outside, Hachiko, Alex, and Jon encountering a novice monk who is crying silently in a corner. When they ask the boy what’s wrong he tells them that his pregnant dog, Amala, has left the walls, and that he fears she may have her puppies out there. Hachiko, who loves dogs and is an animal telepath, agrees to help them. Since they already found the remaining skull fragment, Hachiko gets Jon to use his seeking ability to find the dog, which he readily does. After nearly an hour, they find Amala in a crevasse that they must cross a treacherously narrow pass to get to. Though it takes them sometimes,  both Jon and Hachiko get in, while Alex shores up the walkway by creating a path of crenulated ice to walk across. Once inside, they notice Amala has already begun to give birth, but her first pup is a breach. Hachiko approaches the dog and when he tries to use his telepathic ability on her discovers that she is not quite canine, but is, in fact, part foo lion. He asks her if she can help and then proceeds to turn the child and delivers the firstborn’s six brothers and sisters. The last of the litter is a runt, and despite all of Hachiko’s efforts doesn’t want to breathe. Handing it off to Jon, the grief-stricken  pair try desperately to get the little fella to breathe and then Jon begins to sing. First, Hang On Sloopy (changing the lyrics to “Snoopy” instead) and then “Gypsy, Joe, and Me.” Accepting that he would be forced to pay for what he’d done later, Jon used his “karmabending” ability to create a destiny for the dog when there shouldn’t have been one. The three then head back to the lamasery, the little dogs wrapped in blankets and carried in hastily emptied backpacks. Once back, the little boy introduces himself as Kuraines, the leader of the monks. Alex guesses (rightly) that helping him had been a test and Kuraines (who Angel had figured out was the actual Grandmaster) tells her that her Guardian (Jon) has a pure heart. When the others ask what that means, she shrugs and says, “I’m the Avatar, whatever that means.” The Dead Men then head back to the gateway and then back to Undisclosed.

July 3rd 2000, Monday
2:30 pm
Undisclosed Island in Michigan Lake

Within an hour after the Dead Men return, the crystal skull is whole once more and the XDG is used to close the tears that had been getting wider since it had been turned on nearly three days ago. Afterwards, the Dead Men are rounded up by Colonel Islington, who imprisons them in a cell as he assumes command. Angel realizes he’s going to try to use the XDG as a weapon hatches a plan with the others to blow Undisclosed right to Hell. Ten minutes after, they get the Russian to simply rip the wall apart and moments later there is a hole big enough for them to get there. They then free both Jessie and Director Halusko, who'd been separate rooms. The Dead Men make their way to the XDG, disabling any guards along the way (without killing them!) and take the crystal skull while Director Halusko starts the self-destruct. The rest of the team either rescue their family members or loved ones (Hachiko, Sergei, and Noah), get their gear (Jon and Alex loot nearly the entire R&D floor – while also disabling the Halon system), or causes distractions (Angel, the Russian, and the others). Colonel Islington and his loyalists are forced to flee (taking all the choppers), while the rest are forced onto the dedicated ferry. The team barely make it out alive and end up taking Colt’s truck and running it off the pier (Dukes of Hazzard style) and onto the ferry. Seconds later the base begins to explode while the boat heads to the nearest port in Chicago.

July 3rd 2000, Monday
3:30 pm
Calamut Harbor, Chicago, IL, 60633

Once in the harbor they are again greeted by Col. Islington, who has convinced some of the soldiers that everyone on the boat must be quarantined due to a dangerous pathogen. Before Angel can react, Jessie stops her and looks at Jon. Who crosses over from the ferry to the pier and right up to Col. Islington who dares him to do something: Jon breaks his jaw with a single punch. A new figure appears and asks Islington what’s going on and then sends him to the makeshift infirmary and looks at the others. He begins listing off the names of the Dead Men and gets them to follow him. After in the command tent, the basset hound looking, red-haired man introduces himself as General Beardsley of the U.S. Marines and asks them for a full situation report. After he gets it (in the form of a telepathic download thanks to Angel) he informs them that he’s supposed to put the city under martial law, but doesn’t have the manpower to do it (thanks to a carnivorous fungus at Naval Base Great Lakes and “missing” members of his men). Jon introduces the possibility of using a local criminal, Same MacHeath, who has access to lots of trained men to fill in the holes in their ranks. The General gives Angel authorization to parley with this criminal as well as an amnesty agreement. The Dead Men then take off to regroup at Angel and Jon’s home, the Ramova Theater before heading out to find Same.

July 3rd 2000, Monday
4:00 pm
3518 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL, 60661

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Triple Threat: Mountain Oni


Mountain Oni are corporeal demons who wear tiger skins and wield Tetsubos. They’re very strong.


For Any Game…
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 10
IQ: 10             Per: 13            Weight: 1,000 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 10       Parry: 11        DR:  4 (Tough Skin; 2 of this is from a Tiger's Pelt)

Bite (16): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1.
Claw (16): 2d+1 cutting; Reach C, 1.
Horns (16): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Tetsubo (18): 2d+4 crushing or 3d+12 crushing; Reach 1-3.

Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Alternate Form (Human; Cosmetic); Bloodlust (12); Bully (12); Callous; Combat Reflexes; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Unliving); Terrain Adaptation (Mountain); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weapon Bond (Tetsubo).
Skills:  Brawling-16; Climbing-14; Two-Handed Axe/Mace-16; Wrestling-14.
Notes: None. Carries a Fine Balanced Weighted Tetsubo for a SM +1 creature. If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror, (p. 139) Mountain Oni have a modifier of -2.


For Dungeon Fantasy…
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 10
IQ: 10             Per: 13            Weight: 1,000 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 10       Parry: 11        DR: 6 (Tough Skin; 2 of this is from a Tiger's Pelt)

Bite (16): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1.
Claw (16): 2d+1 cutting; Reach C, 1.
Horns (16): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Tetsubo (18): 2d+4 crushing or 3d+12 crushing; Reach 1-3.

Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Alternate Form (Human; Cosmetic); Bloodlust (12); Bully (12); Callous; Combat Reflexes; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Unliving); Terrain Adaptation (Mountain); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weapon Bond (Tetsubo).
Skills:  Brawling-16; Climbing-14; Two-Handed Axe/Mace-16; Wrestling-14.
Classification: Demon.
Notes: None. Carries a Fine Balanced Weighted Tetsubo for a SM +1 creature.


For Monster Hunters…
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 14            Will: 13           Move: 10
IQ: 10             Per: 13            Weight: 1,000 lbs.
HT: 14            FP: 12             SM: +1
Dodge: 10       Parry: 11        DR: 9 (Tough Skin; 2 of this is from a Tiger's Pelt)

Fright Check: -2.

Bite (18): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1.
Claw (18): 2d+1 cutting; Reach C, 1.
Furious Blow (14): 2d+8 crushing or 3d+24 crushing; Reach 1-3. Made as an Deceptive All-Out Attack (Strong) with Mighty Blows (-3 to defend against). Costs 1 FP.
Horns (18): 2d+1 impaling; Reach C, 1. Treat as a weapon (Striker), not as a body part.
Tetsubo (14): 2d+4 crushing or 3d+12 crushing; Reach 1-3. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-3 to defend against).


Traits: Appearance (Monstrous); Alternate Form (Human; Cosmetic); Bloodlust (12); Bully (12); Callous; Combat Reflexes; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Focused Fury; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood)); Social Stigma (Monster); Terrain Adaptation (Mountain); Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute); Weapon Bond (Tetsubo).
Skills:  Brawling-18; Climbing-14; Two-Handed Axe/Mace-18; Wrestling-16.
Notes: None. Carries a Fine Balanced Weighted Tetsubo for a SM +1 creature. Roll 1d-2 times on the Demonic Variety table (Monster Hunters 3, p. 19). Use the skills listed under Demonic in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). Two oni is a fair fight for one champion.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Frakking Unusual Backgrounds, how do they work?!



No. Seriously. How do they work? There have been numerous threads about the subject, and it came up again recently. So I'm going to give my take on it.

Unusual Background is a highly customizable, variable trait. It's highly customizable because it's not meant for players, it's meant for GMs. When a GM designs his campaign setting he decides ahead of time what he is and isn't going to allow. These design decisions shape what traits are going to be permitted in his game. Sometimes though, a player wants to do something that isn't necessarily against the design the GM was going for, but rather something the GM didn't think of or consider. Alternatively, maybe it's something he did consider, but dismissed as not being relevant. In such a case a GM could, and should, charge an Unusual Background to the player wanting to do whatever odd thing the GM did not consider

Another thing to consider Unusual Background as, is a scale of "power." If certain traits (Innate Attack dice, Damage Resistance, Attributes over a limit, etc.) are "impossible," then the GM ought to allow an Unusual Background at least one "level" up.

But this isn't the only time when an Unusual Background should be considered. Sometimes, the best examples of an Unusual Background, are when they are not even seen. Consider a supers campaign where all the player characters are supers, but superpowers themselves are actually rare throughout the game world. The GM is effectively giving his player's Unusual Background (Super) for free. He's including it in the starting point budge for his players, but isn't even mentioning it. It's just a fact of the campaign. All player characters are super-powered.  But what if a player doesn't want super powers? What if he wants to be more like The Punisher than Spider-Man? In such situations, you can go on and say, "Sure, buy really high skill and attribute levels and ignore the exotic traits." And that's an okay approach! There is nothing wrong with that, but what I like to do is to figure out what Unusual Background would need to be paid in such a campaign and then retro the points back to the player who wants to play the normal guy. He gets extra points to spend on things like Luck and Daredevil (the advantage, not the blind guy with the whoop'um sticks) to keep him alive while tussling with super powered foes. He should also get to break some of the rules. If Luck or Extraordinary Luck are the only levels of that trait allowed, normal-guy should be able to buy Ridiculous Luck. He's not especially lucky. He's just really skilled.

More radically, Unusual Background can serve as a sort of meta "blind ante" trait. If you're running a game where you're not willing to have but so many of a specific type of character around, then the player who puts the most points in his Unusual Background trait is the one that gets to play that character. For example, if a GM is running a Middle-Earth campaign, everyone is probably going to want to play an Elf or Wizard or Lost King or something. In such a game, the GM may decide that no one is playing the Lost King, and one player can play an Elf and a Wizard. All the players who want to play either archetype "ante up" by writing the most points they are willing to spend to play either archetype on a sheet of paper and handing it over to the GM. Whoever wins gets to create the character they want, but keep in mind that doing so does remove character points that could be spent on making a really cool character of a less covetous archetype - say, a mere hobbit. Who'd want to play a hobbit? ;-)

Keep in mind that the GM can just say "No" or "Yes" or even "Yes, but..." and ignore every bit of this, but if the GM is not willing to work with his player's reasonable requests he probably won't have many players very soon. Offering the players Unusual Backgrounds for Unusual Characters isn't just about GM Fiat, it's about cooperation on both ends. You can't have a GM without players, and you can't have players without a GM - well; you can, but those guys are a pretty sad and lonely lot*. I feel for them

So the next time you're setting at your GMs table, and he says, "No. No ninja's in my pirate campaign!" ask him "If I pay an Unusual Background to come from Singapore and had some Far East training can I have some ninja powers?" Most GMs will work with you. They want you to have as much fun as they do.

* I'm not talking about gamers without steady groups, I'm talking about those odd ducks who don't want to game with a GM because they don't trust GMs. this is something I've seen popping up more and more lately and I have to wonder why this trend is on the rise. Are abusive GMs really that prevalent? But that's the topic of another post.

Carpe Blogiem: I've Moved Platforms



Yep. I've left WordPress in the dust. I've had a love hate relationship with that blogging platform since the day I started using it. My good friend Troy was using it and I thought "Hey, guy knows his business!" Problem was, he was way better at HTML coding than I was so I had to use the terrible text editor. I'll keep it up for a few days, but after that, it'll be shut down and this will become my main blog. So far, I'm liking it much better than I ever did WordPress. I hope all of you who follow me here will switch over to my new platform, if not, that's okay too. I've cross-posted this over on WordPress as well.