Friday, July 25, 2014

Assembly Required: Development Step Four - Inspirational Sources


Now that you are armed with your campaign's foundation, parameters, and power level, it's time to go to the next step: Inspirational Sources. The quickest way to get a player to understand what your campaign is about is to give them a comparison to a reference that they'll understand. The more references you can give, the better. Sometimes you'll end up having to add a qualifier "It's like X, but without Y or Z." Other times you can just use it wholesale "It's like X." This sounds simple at first, right? Every gamer I know does this "Hey, I'm running this game that's like X, but it's more all about Y in X, want to play?" Sometimes, that's enough to get the juices flowing for a player, sometimes they need more. I personally like to saturate my players in fiction, movies, TV shows, or whatever pop culture references I think are valid so that they know the exact feel I'm going for. This usually involves a list of some kind, annotated, separated, and with valid links if sent via email or shared digitally. Of course, if you did your foundation session right, you've probably already got a small list given to your by your players. That's just a byproduct of your players and yourself describing the kind of campaign you want to run/play. Though it's probably best to start small and work your way out from there, I tend to just pile it on (which may not work for you). What's more, start with the mediums that you know your players will view/read first. If no one reads comic books, don't both putting down any comic books - at least not to start. Once you have a good list, sort it out in the following way:
  • Highly Influential/Must Watch or View
  • Moderately Influential/Suggested Watching or Viewing
  • Slightly Influential/Watch or View with Time Permitting
From there, break it down further, like a bibliography:

Comic/RPG/Nonfiction/Fiction Sources
  • Author Last Name, Author First Name. Title* (Publisher, Year). Pertinent snippet
Cartoon/TV Show/Movie/Mini-Series Sources
  • Movie Title* (Director Name, Year). Pertinent snippet
  • TV Show Title* (Years Running). Pertinent snippet
Video Games
  • Game Title* (Creator, Year). Pertinent snippet
Now I know this sounds like a lot of work - and it is - but only one or two hours worth, and trust me, in the long run you're going to be grateful you did it. Every time you feel like your inspiration for the campaign is waning go back to the list. When you want to work up a new story arc, but you don't know what to do, go back to the list. When a player is creating a new character - direct them to the list. The Inspiration Sources list becomes more than just "Look at this for what I'm trying to do." It allows you to convey concepts in game time: "It's like X, from that movie Y where they are trying to do Z." It allows you and your players to build a shared sense of disbelief before the campaign even begins. It gives you some whole cloth to pattern your own on. In effect, it becomes a indispensable resource when you're trying to research, explain, or otherwise improvise something for your campaign.
* Use a hyperlink if sending via email so your players don't have to look it up - Wikipedia is probably best for this purpose.


The Worked Example: Inspirational Sources List for Something, Something Kill Monsters Urban Fantasy Secret Magic
The following is the book list that both I and my players came up with for our new campaign, there are entries for movies, films, and such, but this should get you going on what we decided we wanted:

Inspirational Sources, Books

Highly Influential
  • Briggs, Patricia. The Mercedes Thompson series. (Ace, 2006). Features a secret world with werewolves, vampires, witches, and other things. Draws heavily on Native American folklore.
  • Butcher, Jim. The Dresden Files (Roc Books, 2000-present). One man can't really make a difference right? Wrong. Dresden pushes himself to the brink to protect innocents. Considered the epitome of a "paranormal detective."
  • Gaimen, Neil. Neverwhere (BBC Books, 1996). Has multiple "secret world" elements, including a hidden world underneath the streets of London and a meddling angel.
  • Harrison, Kim. The Hollows Series (HarperCollins, 2004-present). Though it's not a world with hidden supernatural elements, the cosmology (how the demon world and the real world interact) is absolutely fascinating. Not to mention the depth of the background that makes the characters live.
  • Lackey, Mercedes. Elves on the Road universe (Multiple publishers, 1992-present). Written with many other authors. Depicts a "secret magic" universe with all manner of creatures including dragons, fae, and witches.
  • McGuire, Seanan. October Daye series. (DAW, 2009). Another amazingly in-depth world with all manner of faerie and centered on a part-fae "troubleshooter" (the eponymous heroine) who works for the local  nobility.

Moderately Influential
  • Correia, Larry. Monster Hunter International Series. (Infinity Publishing, Baen Books, 2007-present). This series is all about hunting monsters and getting paid for it. Though it does feature one of the biggest Mary Sues in history - it's also kind of the point. This is a "secret world" universe, even though the government does know about the existence of the supernatural.
  • Correia, Larry. The Grimnoir Chronicles. (Baen Books, 2011-2013). Set in the 1920's this pulpy series features magic, samurai, and all manner of "powers-based" magic-users.
  • King, Stephen. The Shining. (Doubleday, 1997). Featuring a haunted house, a psychic kid, and ghosts that can drive people mad. Also spawned two films (I prefer the 1997 miniseries) and a sequel (Doctor Sleep, Scribner, 2013).

Slightly Influential
  • Hearne,Kevin. Iron Druid Chronicles. (Del Rey, 2011). Has a 2,000 year old druid mucking about with fae and Celtic gods. Though it has some of the same problems as the MHI series, it still proves to be a fun read.
  • Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. Chapel Hollow/Families series. (Avon Books, 1993). Features a unique magic system and uses the idea of magical "bloodlines."
  • Goodman, Susan. Dark is Rising Sequence. (Random House, 1984). Though it's a "children's series" the depictions of cosmic forces and "old ones" (keepers of mystical lore) are very cool.
  • Steakley, John. Vampire$. (Roc Books, 1990). Another series about monster hunters working in secret and getting paid for it. Though it spawned a movie starring James Woods (1998's John Carpenter's Vampires), the book is much better.
  • Stross, Charles. The Laundry Files. (Penguin Group, 2004). A secret magic universe that proves math is evil and programmers really do save the world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Designer's Notes: Mind and Body


Pyramid069-final_1000A new Pyramid is out today, and I'm in it (woo-hoo!). Writing Mind and Body was actually fairly easy. I'm a fan of psionic powers and especially PK's GURPS Psionic Powers (which I playtested), so writing this up was easy. In fact...I already had it written out (along with a style for every power listed in Psionic Powers) for a campaign I'd been hired to design - a science fiction (semi-)space opera - think Dune + Cthulhu with elements from the Forver War. My client is a damn fine fellow and when he commissioned me one of the things, he was adamant about was me using anything I created for him in future submissions to SJ Games. So...that's what I did. Originally, Mind and Body had eight styles, but the word count was ludacris. So I had to remove some. I picked my favorite of the eight (The Way of the Cerulean Blade) and then two other styles that I felt were useful for players and GMs alike and then fit them in the word count that I'd allotted myself. I decided that since I had a style that was both offensive and defensive, I needed a style that was extremely aggressive (Ishin-Denshin) and one that was extremely defensive (Third-Eye Fighting). I then added in a bunch of new traits, some new gear, and a couple of new powers. Now, when I write something, I do my best to squeeze in as much fluff and crunch as I can. I like stashing all sorts of tidbits all over the place, that why you catch new stuff when you read it again. I also like giving my readers as much bang for their buck as I can. Maybe I'll be able to do a follow-up article detailing some more styles or even a book - I'd love to do a small PDF in the form of GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles, except replace magic for psionic powers. So enough rambling, here are a few psi-techniques I ended up having to leave out:




Ignition
Hard
Default: Pyrokinesis-7.

When determining if the target catches fire (Making Things Burn, B443), you treat the flammability class of the subject as two steps higher than it actually is. For an additional -6 penalty (which can be bought off normally) you can treat it as three steps higher. Furthermore, in games that use uber-techniques (GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 75), the GM may allow a psi to accept an additional -21 penalty to treat it as four steps higher! This effectively allows you to set anything on fire - even non-flammable substances like asbestos or stone.

Statistics: This adds Incendiary 2 (+20%) and Cosmic, Higher Incendiary Levels (+50%). For an additional -6 penalty this increases it to Incendiary 3 (+30%) and Cosmic, Higher Incendiary Levels (+100%). The uber-technique version adds Incendiary 4 (+40%) and Cosmic, Higher Incendiary Levels (+300%).


Mindscaping
Hard
Default: Omniscan-7

This technique allows you to mentally "ping" an area of up to 8 yards from your current location to build up a mental map of the area. This gives you a +4 bonus to any skill for keeping track of who is in the area (e.g., Tactics). This doesn't tell you what's physically in the area, just if any minds are there. It does track movement (which lasts for a minute like all psi-techniques). This halves your Telscan level for all purposes. For every 5 points by which you make your (modified) skill roll, you can double this radius, cumulatively.

Statistics: Adds Area Effect, 8 yards (+150%) plus Emanation (-20%) and halved for halving its penalty. Since this technique builds on an already established psi-technique (Omniscan) it defaults from that - not the Telescan skill.


ESPanopticon
Hard
Default: Awareness-8.
Prerequisite: Awareness 10+

You can temporarily refine your ability so that you can see in 360°. This works identical to the 360° Vision advantage (p. B33). For an additional -6 (which can be bought off normally) you don't need our eyes to see anything - it operates period and allows you to sense anything you could normally sense with your Vision. Additionally, you can see around corners, in vents, and similar obstacles by "bending" your psi-granted sight. Like other psi-techniques, this lasts for one minute and may be extended normally.

Statistics: This uses the Abilities at Default rule (GURPS Powers, p. 173) and exchanges Scanning Sense for  360° Vision and the Periscope perk.


Sneaky Strike
Hard
Default: TK Grab-1

When wielding an object with your TK Grab, if you catch your target by surprise (including ambushes, blows from behind, etc.) your TK Grab's damage is considered to be twice what it normally is. If your target gets an Active Defense for any reason, you use your normal level instead.

Statistics: This is a little tricky, I first determined what the approximate percentage of ST was for damage (Striking ST), basic lift (Lifting ST), and mass (HP). Since Striking ST is 5/level then the Telekinesis (Striking Only) is probably worth about 2.5 points, I applied the "Assassination" limitation from GURPS Action 3 (p. 14) which made Telekinesis (Striking Only) for surprise attacks only worth about 1 point. Thus for surprise attacks only you can temporarily double your TK Grab if wielding a weapon and attacking someone. Since a Psi-Technique is always at least a -1 penalty and 2 FP, that's the base cost I used.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GURPS101: There Is No "I" In Team




As I am sure you are aware of, I'm currently playing in +Douglas Cole's Alien Menace campaign. So far, it's been a blast. But after our first mission was completed I asked about how others felt about the Teamwork perk and Doug said (and I'm paraphrasing) "Yeah, every character who completed the mission gets that for free, let's move on." At first, I didn't think about it other than "Okay, cool. I got a extra point for stuff." But over the last few weeks it's sort of trickled down in my head...what a wonderful idea. Again, if you've read my blog before you know I'm a very Rule Zero sort of GM and I'm all about inter-party cooperation. My players rarely chaff at buying group- or team-related advantages. In fact, most of the time they set aside a budget for such traits and buy them when they get enough points stored. That's all well and good, but what about another way? Why make your players pay for something you want them to have anyways? There are a few options. This post assumes you have familiarity with the article "Team Up!" that was written by Y. T. and Antoni Ten Munros as it explores concepts and ideas that were either expanded or created there.


Completely Free
Figure out what traits you want your players to have, then give those traits to them. Yes, Bob, it's that simple (and obvious). That said, you could also set up a time table and hand them out in increments. For example, if you want all player characters to end up with the Teamwork perk for their adventuring party you could say that on their 5th game session everyone gets it for free - as long as they have actually been work as a team. GMs could even use a variation of the Training Montage rules to justify a sudden synergy between


It's a Fire Sale and Everything Must Go
As above, but instead of giving the traits for free, offer a discount instead. This could be any multiplier the GM is comfortable with, but x1/5 cost is probably the "sweet spot" - enough of a discount that even point-stingy players are willing to toss out a few XP for the greater good.


"Mission Accomplished"
If the GM goes either of the above routes he's going to want to decide how often he gives out team-traits. If he gives too many the players won't appreciate what they are given, if he gives too few they'll lose interest. Unfortunately, the only guideline I can give here is to use the number of times you play. If you only meet once a month, then a new trait every other mission might be appropriate, if you play every week then once ever six or seven sessions is probably appropriate. Conversely, it might be appropriate to use "dramatic stops" for a measurement. For example, if you run your campaign as a series of related story arcs then before each new story arc might be appropriate if the PCs actively trained and worked together during down or maybe every other story arc if not. 


Team Points
One interesting possibility is to riff off the Named Possession perk. Said perk basically ensures that a magical item you own increases in power as you do. Essentially, the more character points you earn, the more energy you can spend on new magical enchantments and the like. Using this model, a given team or group that operates well together might earn character points independently of its members. The GM should decide how many points are awarded, but the more a group works together during a adventure the higher the number of points should be awarded. Additionally, the various members might wish to contribute any amount of their own unspent character points and can do this at any point the GM deems appropriate or between game sessions. This model would require the Teamwork perk. From then on the GM should award the group itself "team points" which can be spent just like character points, but with the following caveats:


  • Spent points can be used to buy transient benefits (e.g., Influencing Success Rolls) for any team member
  • Spent points can buy permanent traits like the Coordinated Action Technique (GURPS Powers, p. 165-166) or Coordinated Action advantage (Pyramid #3/65: Alternate GURPS III, p. 9), and so on. Once bought, all characters on the team add the trait to their character sheets. This costs the normal number of points for the trait to be purchased and requires that it be purchased once per team member.


Example: The Buckleswashers is a small band of adventurers composed mostly of halflings except for a single gnome. They've all acquired the Teamwork (Buckleswashers) perk and the GM is using the optional rules for Team Points. After many sessions the Buckleswashers have managed to save up 80 team points. They decide to purchase Coordinated Action 1 [12] and Esprit de Corps 1 [1], since their are six members this will cost 78 team points, leaving 2 team points left in reserve.


Picking Over the Bones
When it comes down to it, players working together both in-character and out-of-character is a good thing and something the GM should encourage. That said, working together might not be appropriate for all campaigns, especially ones that encourage paranoia and politics. GMs should talk to their players about what they want to do and how they feel about team play if he is unsure of what their expectations are. He should also actively discourage a "player versus player" mentality unless that's the sort of game he's trying to run!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Triple Threat - Brownie




Brownie
Brownies are the servants of Faerie, everything from cooks to valets to housekeepers. Like leprechauns, they are compelled to perform a specific task, in this case domestic chores. Unlike leprechauns, they like what they do and they do it well. Though they aren’t suited for combat, but they can fight well enough and are vicious if cornered in their homes or the homes they keep. They look like humans with large bulbous noses about the size of a small child. Some varieties can become small enough to hide in walls - for those add Shrinking 7. This template can also be used for the Scottish gruagach, the English hob, the Scandinavian tomte, the Russian domovoi, and the German heinzelm√§nnchen.

Any Game Setting...
ST: 8              HP: 12            Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 12           Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 12            Weight: 80 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 16             SM: -2
Dodge: 9         Parry: 9          DR: 1

Punch (10): 1d-3 crushing; Reach C.
Spit Shine/Grimy Curse (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will): Success means that a target and everything he is wearing and carrying or a area of up to two yards becomes incredibly clean – just as if he had Shtick (Sartorial Integrity) (see Power-Ups 2: Perks, p. 14). This also repairs the subject’s clothing and equipment, restoring 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. Furthermore, this aura of “cleanliness” lasts for hours equal to the brownie’s margin of success. Optionally, the brownie can do the opposite, making an area dirty, clothing tattered, and so on and causing worn objects to lose 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. This is essentially a quirk, "Dirty."
Improvised Weapon (7): Based on Damage 1d-3/1d-2. If using either improvised kitchenware or farming implements use 1d/2d instead and raise skill to 10! Common implements are: Frying Pan swung for 2d-1 crushing or used to block as a light shield (DB 1 and Block of 7); Carving Knife either swung for 2d-3 cutting or thrust for 1d-1 impaling, can Parry at 7; Fork thrust for 1d-2 impaling damage; or a broomstick swung for 2d crushing or thrust for 1d crushing.

Traits:  Alternate Form (Human; Cosmetic; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only); Animal Empathy (Domestic animals only); Bad Temper (12; Accessibility, only those who are messy, lazy, or cruel); Brownie Racial Talent 3*; Can Be Turned Using True Name Cannot Kick; Compulsive Cleaning (6);  Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Divine Curse (If asked something three times they must make sure it’s true/comes to pass); Divine Curse (Keep to the letter of any promise); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Hidebound; Huge Weapons 2 (SM); Improvised Weapons (Kitchenware and Farming Implements);  Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only; Switchable); Jumper (Spirit; Costs Fatigue, 5 FP; Limited Access, Underhill; Special Movement, must be able to walk; Special Portal, any reflective surface; Tunnel (Takes Extra Time 5)); Lifting ST+6; Likes honey and cream; Magery 0; Odious Personal Habit (Capricious); Plant Empathy (Domestic plants only); Revulsion (Iron); Silence 4; Speak With Animals (Domestic animals only); Speak With Plants (Domestic plants only); Stubbornness; Temperature Tolerance 6; Unaging; Unusual Biochemistry; Vulnerability (Iron x2); Warp (Accessibility, Only places you could walk/climb to, given time; Based on Will, Own Roll; Range Limit, 100 yards).
Skills:  Animal Handling (any three)-14; Area Knowledge (Home property)-14; Axe/Mace-10; Cooking-14; Farming-14; Gardening-14; Housekeeping-18; Stealth -18; Veterinary-14; One of Carpentry, Leatherworking, Masonry, or appropriate Professional Skill at 14.
Notes: Effectively provides a +1 bonus on all domestic chores (which is cumulative if there are multiple brownies on a property – up to a +4 bonus) for one specific household. If the occupants are lazy – then it gives a penalty instead! If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror, (p. 139) Brownies have a modifier of +3.
* This talent covers the following skills: Animal Handling, Carpentry, Cooking, Farming, Gardening, Housekeeping, Leatherworking, Masonry, Professional Skill (any domestic related), Stealth, and Veterinary. Instead of a reaction bonus it gives +1/level to all default rolls made in their chosen home to keep it clean, safe, and in good repair – from Carpentry to secure a loose floorboard to Axe/Mace to swing a skillet at a housebreaker.
† Use the rules for True Faith.


For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 8              HP: 12            Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 12           Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 12            Weight: 80 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 16             SM: -2
Dodge: 9         Parry: 9          DR: 1

Punch (10): 1d-3 crushing; Reach C.
Spit Shine/Grimy Curse (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will): Success means that a target and everything he is wearing and carrying or a area of up to two yards becomes incredibly clean – just as if he had Shtick (Sartorial Integrity) (see Power-Ups 2: Perks, p. 14). This also repairs the subject’s clothing and equipment, restoring 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. Furthermore, this aura of “cleanliness” lasts for hours equal to the brownie’s margin of success. Optionally, the brownie can do the opposite, making an area dirty, clothing tattered, and so on and causing worn objects to lose 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. This is essentially a quirk, "Dirty."
Improvised Weapon (7): Based on Damage 1d-3/1d-2. If using either improvised kitchenware or farming implements use 1d/2d instead and raise skill to 10! Common implements are: Frying Pan swung for 2d-1 crushing or used to block as a light shield (DB 1 and Block of 7); Carving Knife either swung for 2d-3 cutting or thrust for 1d-1 impaling, can Parry at 7; Fork thrust for 1d-2 impaling damage; or a broomstick swung for 2d crushing or thrust for 1d crushing.

Traits: Animal Empathy (Domestic animals only); Bad Temper (12; Accessibility, only those who are messy, lazy, or cruel); Brownie Racial Talent 3*; Can Be Turned Using True Name;  Cannot Kick; Compulsive Cleaning (6);  Divine Curse (Can be bound using True Name); Divine Curse (If asked something three times they must make sure it’s true/comes to pass); Divine Curse (Keep to the letter of any promise); Dread (Iron); Dread (Uttering their True Name aloud); Hidebound; Huge Weapons 2 (SM); Improvised Weapons (Kitchenware and Farming Implements);  Invisibility (Can Carry Objects, None; Glamour, Will-5; Substantial Only; Switchable); Lifting ST+6; Likes honey and cream; Magery 0; Odious Personal Habit (Capricious); Plant Empathy (Domestic plants only); Revulsion (Iron); Silence 4; Speak With Animals (Domestic animals only); Speak With Plants (Domestic plants only); Stubbornness; Temperature Tolerance 6; Unaging; Unusual Biochemistry; Vulnerability (Iron x2); Warp (Accessibility, Only places you could walk/climb to, given timeBased on Will, Own Roll; Range Limit, 10yards).
Skills:  Animal Handling (any three)-14; Area Knowledge (Home property)-14; Axe/Mace-10; Cooking-14; Farming-14; Gardening-14; Housekeeping-18; Stealth -18; Veterinary-14; One of Carpentry, Leatherworking, Masonry, or appropriate Professional Skill at 14.
Class: Faerie
Notes: Effectively provides a +1 bonus on all domestic chores (which is cumulative if there are multiple brownies on a property – up to a +4 bonus) for one specific household. If the occupants are lazy – then it gives a penalty instead! If delvers can convince a brownie to work for them (usually with LOTS of honey and cream) it will reduce the amount of money required per week in town by 20%. Additional brownies increase this reduction by 10%. Purchase such servants as Allies with a special limitation "Accessibility, Town only, -50%"
* This talent covers the following skills: Animal Handling, Carpentry, Cooking, Farming, Gardening, Housekeeping, Leatherworking, Masonry, Professional Skill (any domestic related), Stealth, and Veterinary. Instead of a reaction bonus it gives +1/level to all default rolls made in their chosen home to keep it clean, safe, and in good repair – from Carpentry to secure a loose floorboard to Axe/Mace to swing a skillet at a housebreaker.
† Use the rules for True Faith.


For Monster Hunters...
ST: 8              HP: 12            Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 12           Move: 6
IQ: 10             Per: 12            Weight: 80 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 16             SM: -2
Dodge: 9         Parry: 9          DR: 0

Fright Check: +3

Punch (10): 1d-3 crushing; Reach C.
Spit Shine/Grimy Curse (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will): Success means that a target and everything he is wearing and carrying or a area of up to two yards becomes incredibly clean – just as if he had Shtick (Sartorial Integrity) (see Power-Ups 2: Perks, p. 14). This also repairs the subject’s clothing and equipment, restoring 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. Furthermore, this aura of “cleanliness” lasts for hours equal to the brownie’s margin of success. Optionally, the brownie can do the opposite, making an area dirty, clothing tattered, and so on and causing worn objects to lose 1 HP per point of margin of success, up to 10 HP. This is essentially a quirk, "Dirty."
Improvised Weapon (7): Based on Damage 1d-3/1d-2. If using either improvised kitchenware or farming implements use 1d/2d instead and raise skill to 10! Common implements are: Frying Pan swung for 2d-1 crushing or used to block as a light shield (DB 1 and Block of 7); Carving Knife either swung for 2d-3 cutting or thrust for 1d-1 impaling, can Parry at 7; Fork thrust for 1d-2 impaling damage; or a broomstick swung for 2d crushing or thrust for 1d crushing.

Traits:  Acute Hearing 3; Animal Empathy (Domestic animals only); Bad Temper (12; Accessibility, only those who are messy, lazy, or cruel); Brownie Racial Talent 3*; Cannot Kick; Compulsive Cleaning (6); Dread (Iron; Can be trapped only; Insensitive); Extended Hearing (Low); Huge Weapons 2 (SM); Improvised Weapons (Kitchenware and Farming Implements); Injury Tolerance (Diffuse; Not against iron attacks); Invisibility (Glamour, Will-4; Reduced Time 1; Switchable); Jumper (Spirit; Costs Fatigue, 2 FP; Limited Access, Faerie; Special Movement, Must be able to walk; Special Portal, Any reflective surface; Tunnel, Takes Extra Time 5); Language (Tuath; Native); Lifting ST+6; Magery 0; Plant Empathy (Domestic plants only); Silence 4; Speak With Animals (Domestic animals only); Speak With Plants (Domestic plants only); Stubbornness; Temperature Tolerance 6; Ultrahearing; Warp (Accessibility, Only places you could walk/climb to, given time; Based on Will, Own Roll; Range Limit, 100 yards).
Skills:  Animal Handling (any three)-14; Area Knowledge (Home property)-14; Axe/Mace-10; Cooking-14; Farming-14; Gardening-14; Housekeeping-18; Stealth-18; Veterinary-14; One of Carpentry, Leatherworking, Masonry, or appropriate Professional Skill at 14.

Notes: Effectively provides a +1 bonus on all domestic chores (which is cumulative if there are multiple brownies on a property – up to a +4 bonus) for one specific household. If the occupants are lazy – then it gives a penalty instead! Affected by Path of Spirit. Use the skills listed under Free-Willed Spirits in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). A half dozen brownies is a fair fight for one or two champions.
* This talent covers the following skills: Animal Handling, Carpentry, Cooking, Farming, Gardening, Housekeeping, Leatherworking, Masonry, Professional Skill (any domestic related), Stealth, and Veterinary. Instead of a reaction bonus it gives +1/level to all default rolls made in their chosen home to keep it clean, safe, and in good repair – from Carpentry to secure a loose floorboard to Axe/Mace to swing a skillet at a housebreaker.
† Use the rules for True Faith.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Cthulhu Mythos Spells, Part I




I'm a fan of the Mythos (which you probably know), thanks to Chaosium's license, even though the Mythos is up for grabs to be used (most of H.P.'s stories are public domain) - it's not for RPGs. Since I tend to use them (or a variation of them) in my games I figured I'd share a few Ritual Path Magic versions of Mythos spells.

If yo'd like to read more, head on over to my Patreon and become a patron yourself!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

GURPS101: Personal Greater and Lesser Effects




One of the more interesting mechanics of Ritual Path Magic is the "Lesser vs. Greater" effect. Basically, if it's a "realistic" magical effect then it's probably a Lesser effect - otherwise it's a Greater effect. Now, what is and isn't a Greater effect depends on the campaign...but what if it were dependent on the caster, not the campaign?


The Basics of Personal Effects
First, the GM needs to determine what the "basic" Greater and Lesser effects are for his campaign and note any changes from the basic assumptions of GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, if any. Next, determine what is different for your character (ignore anything that's the same). For example, if Margaret is "baseline" on all Greater/Lesser effects divides except that she really excels at manipulating minds and is terrible manipulating energy then you'd notate the last two - and nothing else.


I Give, You Take
The guidelines for what is and isn't a Greater effect are carefully thought out, playtested, and created with balance in mind. Jiggering with them could easily cause unwanted effects if not done right, so no matter what the GM has the final say on what works and what doesn't. The process is simple enough, decide what Greater effect becomes a Lesser effect for you, and decide what Lesser effect becomes a Greater one. Since all Paths are about equal, then exchanging Greater/Lesser effects is balanced. This exchange can be in as much detail as the player likes and the GM can handle. For example, in our previous example Margaret the Enchantress cannot manipulate energy easily, but manipulating sapient minds is easy. This could be as simple as "All Path of Energy effects are considered Greater effects, while all Path of Mind effects are considered Lesser effects." or as specific as "Control Mind effects that target sapient minds to influence the emotion love are Lesser effects, while Control Chance effects to increase the odds of a love-related event are Greater effects."


The Example: Albertus the Elementalist
Albertus is a Old World-style elementalist. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water are his to command. But this knowledge comes at a price. He has no control over the undead or the minds of living creatures. The GM decides that Albertus' player can swap all Greater effects for Lesser effects for Path of Energy and Path of Matter. In exchange, all effects from Path of Undead and Path of Mind are automatically Greater effects. The other Paths remain untouched, including Path of Spirit which allows him to summon elemental beings.


Picking Over the Bones
It's not quite as complicated as it seems, but it does require some thought in case you have a player who decides to try and game the system. After all, when you make tossing around Fireballs cheap the first tool any player is going to pull out of his toolbox is...tossing around Fireballs. Really, a GM should require a player to come up with a specific theme (which doesn't need to be a "classical" one - like a druid or witch), but he should have something. Alternatively, the GM could require a perk to be purchased to use these rules (Rules Option (Personal Ritual Path Magic Effects)) or even require a Unusual Background for those with unusual aptitudes or magical make-ups.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Triple Threat - Cruciati Demon



Note: the following creature came from a nightmare I had. Thought I'd share.

Cruciati Demon
Cruciati demons are tall humanoid (about 6’ is average) beings that have deep black skin with blood-colored splotches all over there body. Numerous chains hang from their flesh, embedded in skin and bone with hooks or piercings. From the chains are razorblades, meat hooks, and other unpleasant sharp objects. The torturers of Hell, cruciati, delight in causing pain in others (which isn’t always physical pain). Moreover, their very gaze or touch can cause a searing agony so deep that it affects the very soul. Rarely are they seen outside of Hell, but when they are they are almost never found along – liking to travel in groups of 3 to 6 (called a “despair”). Their Long Spines advantage represent the fact that they have numerous sharp implements embedded in their body and those that grapple them can be injured by them.


Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 15            Will: 17           Move: 7
IQ: 12             Per: 15            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 6

Bite (17): 2d cutting. Reach C.
Dolorous Gaze/Touch (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will-5): Failure results in the target being in agony (p. B428) for as long as the cruciati concentrates or touches the target, and for another 1d x (margin of failure) seconds afterward. This affects even beings that have High Pain Threshold or are otherwise resistant to physical pain!
Flesh Chain (17): 3d+5 cutting, impaling, or crushing. Reach 1-5. Parried at -4, blocked at -2, and may entangle or disarm if parried. Otherwise treat as a kusari (p. B406). This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Flesh Chain Grapple (15): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 17. This assumes the use of only a single chain, using two increases ST to 22, three gives ST 24, and four gives ST 26. Each additional arm beyond the first gives a +2 bonus to skill. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Punch (17): 2d cutting. Reach C. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Rend (17): Once a target has been grappled by two or more Flesh Chains, the cruciati can attempt to pull the target in opposite directions. This requires a skill roll against the higher of the target’s ST or HT, success inflicts a number of points of crushing damage equal to the demon’s margin. Additionally, treat this attack as a cutting attack for the purposes of seeing if a limb or extremity is dismembered.

Traits: Accessory (Torturer’s Kit); Affected by Magnetism; Appearance (Monstrous); Bloodlust (6); Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Clinging (Move 5); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Extra Arm 4 (Extra-Flexible, Long, SM 5);  Extra Attack 2 (Chain attacks only); High Manual Dexterity 4; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain (Cosmic); Indomitable; Injury Reduction (Damage Reduction 2; Cutting or Impaling damage only); Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents; Accessibility, Prevents direct harm of truly good folk only, -50%); Sadism (6); Social Stigma (Demon); Spines (Long; 1d impaling, Reach C); Teeth (Sharp); Unaging; Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute).
Skills: Brawling-17; Innate Attack (Gaze)-15; Interrogation-18; Intimidation-17; Kusari-17; Physiology-14; Wrestling-17.
Notes: If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror, (p. 139) Cruciati have a modifier of -3.


For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 15            Will: 17           Move: 7
IQ: 12             Per: 15            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 3

Bite (17): 2d cutting. Reach C.
Dolorous Gaze/Touch (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will-5): Failure results in the target being in agony (p. B428) for as long as the cruciati concentrates or touches the target, and for another 1d x (margin of failure) seconds afterward. This affects even beings that have High Pain Threshold or are otherwise resistant to physical pain!
Flesh Chain (17): 3d+5 cutting, impaling, or crushing. Reach 1-5. Parried at -4, blocked at -2, and may entangle or disarm if parried. Otherwise treat as a kusari (p. B406). This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Flesh Chain Grapple (15): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 17. This assumes the use of only a single chain, using two increases ST to 22, three gives ST 24, and four gives ST 26. Each additional arm beyond the first gives a +2 bonus to skill. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Punch (17): 2d cutting. Reach C. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability.
Rend (17): Once a target has been grappled by two or more Flesh Chains, the cruciati can attempt to pull the target in opposite directions. This requires a skill roll against the higher of the target’s ST or HT, success inflicts a number of points of crushing damage equal to the demon’s margin. Additionally, treat this attack as a cutting attack for the purposes of seeing if a limb or extremity is dismembered.

Traits: Accessory (Torturer’s Kit); Affected by Magnetism; Appearance (Monstrous); Bloodlust (6); Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Clinging (Move 5); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Extra Arm 4 (Extra-Flexible, Long, SM 5);  Extra Attack 2 (Chain attacks only); High Manual Dexterity 4; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain (Cosmic); Indomitable; Injury Reduction (Damage Reduction 2; Cutting or Impaling damage only); Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents; Accessibility, Prevents direct harm of truly good folk only, -50%); Sadism (6); Social Stigma (Demon); Spines (Long; 1d impaling, Reach C); Teeth (Sharp); Unaging; Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute).
Skills: Brawling-17; Innate Attack (Gaze)-15; Interrogation-18; Intimidation-17; Kusari-17; Physiology-14; Wrestling-17.
Class: Demon.
Notes: Unwilling to Negotiate. Truly Evil. Some have enchanted chains or ones made of meteoric iron (GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, p. 27), worth $1,400. Enchanted chains' cost are determined by the GM.


For Monster Hunters...
ST: 20             HP: 20            Speed: 7.00
DX: 15            Will: 17           Move: 7
IQ: 12             Per: 15            Weight: 200 lbs.
HT: 12            FP: 12             SM: 0
Dodge: 11       Parry: 12        DR: 12 (Hardened 1)

Fright Check: -3

Bite (15): 2d cutting. Reach C. (-2 to Active Defenses).
Dolorous Gaze/Touch (Resisted by the lower of HT or Will-5): Failure results in the target being in agony (p. B428) for as long as the cruciati concentrates or touches the target, and for another 1d x (margin of failure) seconds afterward. This affects even beings that have High Pain Threshold or are otherwise resistant to physical pain!
Flesh Chain (15): 3d+5(2) cutting, impaling, or crushing. Reach 1-5. Parried at -4, blocked at -2, and may entangle or disarm if parried. Otherwise treat as a kusari (p. B406). This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability. (-2 to Active Defenses).
Flesh Chain Grapple (15): No damage, but on further turns can squeeze (Choke or Strangle, p. B370) as ST 17. This assumes the use of only a single chain, using two increases ST to 22, three gives ST 24, and four gives ST 26. Each additional arm beyond the first gives a +2 bonus to skill. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability. (-1 to Active Defenses).
Punch (15): 2d cutting. Reach C. This attack counts as a touch for its Dolorous Touch ability. (-2 to Active Defenses).
Rend (17): Once a target has been grappled by two or more Flesh Chains, the cruciati can attempt to pull the target in opposite directions. This requires a skill roll against the higher of the target’s ST or HT, success inflicts a number of points of crushing damage equal to the demon’s margin. Additionally, treat this attack as a cutting attack for the purposes of seeing if a limb or extremity is dismembered.

Traits: Accessory (Torturer’s Kit); Affected by Magnetism; Appearance (Monstrous); Bloodlust (6); Cannot Float; Claws (Sharp); Clinging (Move 5); Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Dread (Holy Ground); Dread (Religious Symbols; Cannot Be Trapped); Extra Arm 4 (Extra-Flexible, Long, SM 5);  Extra Attack 2 (Chain attacks only); High Manual Dexterity 4; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain (Cosmic); Indomitable; Injury Reduction (Damage Reduction 2; Cutting or Impaling damage only); Injury Tolerance (Homogenous; No Blood); Intolerance (Religious or holy people and places); Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents; Accessibility, Prevents direct harm of truly good folk only, -50%); Sadism (6); Social Stigma (Demon); Spines (Long; 1d impaling, Reach C); Teeth (Sharp); Unaging; Weakness (Holy attacks; 1d per minute).
Skills: Brawling-19; Innate Attack (Gaze)-17; Interrogation-20; Intimidation-19; Kusari-19; Physiology-14; Wrestling-19.
Notes: Affected by Path of Spirit. Turned Using True Faith. Use the skills listed under Demons in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). One Cruciati is a fair fight for one or two champions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Designer's Notes: How Very Tempting

Pyramid_3_67_tools_of_the_trade_villains_thumb1000Writing "How Very Tempting" was among my easier articles - about 27 hours (most of that spent revising - I wrote the whole thing in about 3 hours) total. I knew what I wanted and I went for it. I'd been fooling around with a system for some time in my own campaigns (which this one was based off of), but I'd never full on codified it. There was usually no need - my PCs never were dumb enough to strike a Faustian bargain they couldn't get out of. So when I saw the Tools of the Trade entry for "Villians" I was like "Self, you could totally write up that article about souls now. So go do it." So I did. Oh, one thing I tend to do before I write is to put together a bunch of titles for boxes and the like that I'll use that revolve around the theme. A few I didn't use: "Damned Man Walking," "Giving Up the Ghost, For a Price," "Dealing in Unreal Estate," "Pimp My Hide," "Visiting an Afterlife Renegotiation Agent," and "Soul Proprietor."


Under the Hood: Damnation
The Damnation disadvantage wasn't exactly created from whole cloth, in fact it's based upon Black Penalty/Spiritual Distortion with a few things added in. Each level of Damnation is built as:

  • Susceptible (all supernatural abilities of a specific entity) [-1/level].
  • Spiritual Distortion [-3/level].
  • One level of Reputation (those who can see auras; all the time) [3.3/level] at levels 1, 3, 6, and 9 and flattening the cost to about [-1/level]. "New people" reacting badly is essentially a feature (it's a smaller subgroup of those who can read auras).

The Hellbound enhancement is basically a leveled quirk "Obtain new disadvantages when I damn my soul further." The Tainted enhancement turns the Reputation into "all people" and after flattening the cost results in Damnation increasing the cost by -1/level. The Free-Willed limitation removes the Susceptible part of Damnation. Virtuous Cloak removes Reputation as a part of Damnation.


Being a Broker of Souls
Actually being able to sell or buy souls is a Unusual Background (Soul Broker) for 10 points - but you're still going to need the various abilities to fulfill your bargains to your sellers. A (small) suggested list (expanded from GURPS Powers) might include:

  • Dictating Events: Super Luck 1 (Wishing, +100%; Uses Soul Points, x1/5 pts) [40/level]. Higher levels allow you to do this more often (as suggested on p. 80 of GURPS Powers).
  • Creating Objects: Probably the easiest route would be to buy Snatcher (Creation, +100%; Large Items, +50%; More Weight, 100 lbs., +40%; Permanent, +300%; Uses Soul Points, x1/5 pts) [95]. An alternate might be Create (All Matter; Transformation, +50%) [120/level] with the feature "Uses Soul Points instead of Character Points to stabilize matter."
  • Granting Traits: Affliction (Extended Duration, Permanent, Irreversible, +300%; Malediction 1, +100%; Variable Enhancement (Accessibility, Advantages or Negated Disadvantages only, -30%), +7,000%; Costs Soul Points, x1/5 pts) [148]. This allows the character to bestow up to 100 points of advantages or remove up to 100 points of disadvantages for the measly cost of one soul point...

Those are just the "broad strokes" other entities might have Warp, Jumper (Time or World), other forms of magic (powered by soul point bought reserves), and so on. So a "minor wishing" power might cost a PC 265 points and allow him to dictate the result of any die roll in his presence, create up to 100 lbs. of any matter, and grant up to 100 points of advantages (or remove up to -100 points of disadvantages. GMs may wish to wrap this all in a single meta-trait "Soul Broker" might therefore cost 275 character points.


Using it with GURPS Monster Hunters
The Lonely Child example provides a good idea on what might be possible for someone desperate enough to sell their soul, but a few other examples might be:

  • Information: Perhaps a Crusader or Witch has access to their soul points and use them to bargain away for knowledge to eldritch beings. For example, Contact Group (Loa; Skill-21; 12 or less; Supernatural Means; Very Reliable; Costs Soul Points) for 20 points might allow the access of any knowledge...at a price.
  • Resurrection: Since Extra Life is explicitly allowed in Monster Hunters, this might not seem like much of a switch...but getting back in the game with all your abilities intact and unspent character points could be a huge win for your side - until you really die.
  • Raw Power: Since each soul point translates to 25 FP or Mana Reserve witches and other supernatural power users using up your soul might be well worth it...
  • Reincarnation: If the GM allows, it may be possible to spend your soul points on acquiring a Inhuman racial template - even if you normally are another template entirely. Since the value multiplier for a Monster Hunters game is x2 a sufficiently "valuable" soul might be able to use both unspent character points and soul points to pay for such a thing...or acquire new disadvantages to make up the difference.


Unused Example: The Lonely Child
Oliver Rusk grew up hard on the streets. Abandoned at the tender age of five by drug-addicted parents, he quickly learned to fend for himself. But this harsh survival made him bitter and distrustful. One dark night, Oliver got into fight with a fellow street person over a blanket he had discovered. When Oliver lost he got so mad he wished the thief would get hurt...and then air conditioning unit from one of the apartments above fell on him. Watching the human scream in pain and agony, Oliver knew this was only the beginning. Channeling all his rage and anger, he mastered his newfound magical abilities. Eventually, he was found by another witch and taken in. Oliver’s new master, Fagin was kind at first, but soon showed his true colors. He forced Oliver and all the other magically gifted children in his care to act as living magical batteries to fuel his own rituals. One night while sneaking into the locked room where Fagin kept his grimoires, Oliver discovered a ritual to summon a demon. Gathering the required materials together, he left to summon the demon in the nearby garage. When it appeared, it was not as Oliver had been expecting, and took the shape of a ragged little girl calling herself Nancy. She spoke with Oliver and soon the two became fast friends. Over the course of a few days, she taught Oliver new rituals and eventually helped him to overthrow Fagin who ran away into the night. That was when she made the offer: Oliver could make their “friendship” permanent and she could stay with him all the time. It would only be a little piece of soul, and even then, did he really use his soul? Oliver agreed, and performed the ritual summoning Nancy into the real world. Oliver’s bitter nature began to take over and more and more he blamed the adults of the city for what had happened to him. With Nancy’s help, Oliver cast a ritual to encapsulate his hometown in an impenetrable bubble. Then, Oliver started to summon small quick rat-like demons he called “Artful Dodgers,” whom he set on the adult population. 
In this Monster Hunters game, Oliver Rusk is a magician (Monster Hunters 4, p. 11) specializing in Path of Chance and Spirit. He agreed to a flexible contract with no preset time limit as long as he summoned Nancy into the real world. While he has few “good” disadvantages (Sense of Duty (Friends)), one “bad” one (Bad Temper), the GM decided that his age and raw power (he has the Ritual Adept advantage) would be deciding factors. He had a total of 350 soul points. This calculated as 25 (the base) + 5 (his purity level) - 5 (his impurity level) x 14 (since most Monster Hunters games start at 400 points, this increases the Value by +2; also, Oliver is a child and has the possibility for great power, so the GM increases the value by a further +4; additionally, though Oliver doesn’t know he was born the seventh son of the seventh son he is, so the GM increases it by a further +7).
With Nancy’s tutelage, Oliver quickly becomes a full-fledged witch (Monster Hunters 1, p. 20), this costs 200 soul points. Oliver also gains 40 points worth of assorted abilities chosen from the gifted template’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son customization notes (Monster Hunters 4, p. 9), for 40 soul points. He spends a further 40 points on purchasing a Comfortable wealth level and Independent Income 5; he’s tired of living on the streets! This cost 40 soul points. This leaves Oliver with 70 soul points left. Since that’s equal to 20% of his starting soul point total, Oliver has Damnation 8 (Naamah aka “Nancy”). Since Oliver willingly works with her he doesn’t have a Duty toward her, and in fact in his eyes she falls under his Sense of Duty (Friends) disadvantage!


Unused Example: The Wizardly Dunce
Lurtz has wanted to study magic his entire life. Unfortunately, he was never been with the gift (e.g., Magery 0). After being turned away as a candidate for the Star Winds School, he goes to a crossroad and waits for a demon to appear. Lurtz isn’t exactly an innocent, but nor does he have any truly “bad” traits. The GM (playing the crossroads demon) rolls against Lurtz’s nonexistent Law (Esoteric Contract) skill, getting a margin of eight (in favor of the demon). Since Lurtz started out with 25 soul points, this reduces his total to 15 soul points, just enough to buy Magery 1... Lurtz will be able.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: My Thoughts on the Social Implications on Ritual Path Magic



Ritual Path Magic is the new kid on the block as far as popular magic systems go. It's got a lot going for it: flexibility, self-consistency, ease of use, well you get the idea - I'm a fan. But I'm also a advocate. For every person who says "No, this doesn't work because I can transmute the ocean into a sea of oil" I counter with "If your GM lets you." Seriously, concerned epic magic folks - it's that easy. If the GM says you can...then he gets to deal with the headache. But you don't get to say something is broken because you use extreme outlier cases all the while ignoring Rule Zero. Nope. You just...don't. The same can be said for those who decry it's place of birth, that is a "secret powers campaign." Yes. Ritual Path Magic was made to emulate the various systems found in urban fantasy/secret world fiction - but it wasn't made just for that. My good friend PK has said it numerous times, but it hasn't stuck. You can use RPM in whatever style campaign you like and like all powers you must think of what the consequences of such a system might be and how it might affect the world you're making. There is no hidden extra step here, any responsible GM is going to put the same thought in adding magic as he would psionics or super powers. That's just part and parcel of building a campaign. Sparked by this thread, I put down a few more of my thoughts on the subject.


Charming Additions
As it stands, charms, potions, and other conditional spells occupy a spell slot for the caster. In a open magic setting this doesn't make sense...at all. How can you sell charms if they still tied to the caster? I created a workaround for this in Pyramid #3/56: Prehistory. Basically, once created a caster could decide whether to bind the charm to himself or have it "caster-neutral." If it's caster-neutral it stays potent for a number of days equal to (Thaumatology skill + Magery level)x2. This means a typical caster (Skill 12, Magery 0) can create a charm that lasts for 24 days unclaimed. After that the magic dissipates and the caster wasted his time. To bind a given charm to yourself you just make a Thaumatology roll. Success means it now occupies one of your conditional spell slots, failure lets you try again at -2, critical failure quirks the charm even if it didn't have one. Potions already have a similar rule in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic (p. 30).


Forever Young
If magic is available to anyone one of the first things (other than the fermenting of spirits) that casters are going to do is figure a way to keep themselves perpetually young. In most cases this is just going to be a Greater Control Body effect using the Healing Die column and reading each point of healing as 1 month of age removed. So spells that remove a year of age on average will need 3d+2 (+10 energy), and you're going to need Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (+3 energy) for a total base of 18 or 54 energy after the Greater Effects multiplier. Lets also assume that since age is essentially a feature in GURPS 4th edition that like lost HP its restoration is permanent. If someone casts a youth spell on you it sticks. This means that spell will cost $686 at TL3 (enough to feed a family for a month!) or $2,548 at TL8 (ditto!). That may not seem like a lot of money for adventurers - but when in the last month have you spent $2,600 bucks on anything? Of course, you still have to make aging rolls - what if you don't want to? Well that's just "Altered Traits, Unaging" for +15 energy plus a Duration of a year (+22 energy) and Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (+3 energy) for a base of 45 energy and 135 after the Greater Effects multiplier. That is a substantial amount to not age for a year. This brings the cost to $1,820 for TL3 and $6,760 for TL8 - all so you don't age for one year. Again, all of this assumes a skill 12 caster with Magery 0 and no other bonuses (grimoires, places of power, etc.). The local iuventumancer is going to be better at it then the local hedge witch.


Immortal...Kind Of
Using a similar logic as above the next thing someone is going to figure out is how to be immune to sickness, poison, and other ailments. This too is a straightforward application - "Altered Traits, Immunity to Metabolic Hazards" though it would require a Greater Transform Body effect to pull off as well as a duration and the caster better put in a ton of extra energy otherwise any ole cunning man/wise woman will be able to disable it with a single magical dispel. It might also involve some form of Regeneration and Regrowth as well, but that's for the GM to decide. Consider as a optional rule that if a character is constantly under the effect of a specific spell with Altered Traits that he might be allowed to purchase said trait with unspent character points as the Magical power modifier. This lets you ignore headaches like the one described above. Essentially, the spell has been cast so often on you it's become a part of your "magical make-up."


The Fruit and Fat of the Land
It stands to reason that another application for magic is going to be straight up domestic - agriculture and husbandry. Imagine if you could ensure a bumper crop every harvest? Or that you could without a doubt double your herd every year be making sure all your cows became pregnant? Other than food being more abundant, it would also do something kind of funky to the haute-cuisine landscape - rare foods would become much easier to get (imagine if you could cultivate white truffles easily - they normally sell at $10,000 or more per pound!), as would other hard to create substances (some forms of cheese, whiskey, scotch, etc.). This might lead to something along the lines of a "organic movement" within the setting - "magic free food" might become a titanic industry catering to those who can afford it.


Human Mating Rituals - Now With Magic
As true as "Find something to ferment" and "Live forever," so is "Find something to enhance my sex life" is. Seriously, we put more money into aphrodisiacs and "male enhancement" than we do cancer research - why? Because sex sells. And it would be the same in a world where magic exists. "Male Enhancement" rituals would be fairly cheap probably only requiring a Lesser Strengthen Body effect and maybe "Bestows a Bonus" for whatever category your dirty mind can come up with. You could even create potions to help you find your perfect mate or ensure that a potential partner has no genetic anomalies you don't want your offspring to have. Consider also perfect birth control - and not just preventing pregnancy but making sure you can get pregnant. Taking it a step further and you could even see "designer babies" altered in the womb to be whatever the parents wanted.


Law Enforcement & Warfare
Sigh. As true as sex and liquor - we humans like to find new ways to dominate and destroy one another. It's just in our genetic code. With magic at least I'd like to think that we'd find more non-violent methods than what we use now. Sleeping bombs for crowd control, stunning spells, even spells to imprison someone in their own mind and put them into stasis. Or, if you're feeling really dark...spells to altered the mind so those with criminal tendencies find another way...however forced. "Surgical Strikes" are going to get a helluva lot better - especially if you have access to something of the target. Fire-and-forget death curses might become the norm, replacing bunker busters and Reaper UAVs. Surveillance would become even scarier in modern campaigns, not only do they have access to technological surveillance, but they might gain access to remote viewers or scryers with near perfect ability to locate any subject at any time. Imagine the NSA if they had access to clairvoyants from the Stargate program. No information would ever be safe. David Pulver's Technomancer has some excellent ideas regarding how magic might be introduced into the military and law enforcement agencies (I'm particularly fond of the 101st Spellborne).


Picking Over the Bones
Over all the changes brought to a campaign by introducing wonky powers are going to be at the GM's mercy. If he decides that youth potions require rare ingredients to make (and can only be made as potions) then that's it. This means that a GM is going to have to put some kind of thought into his campaign world unless it's meant to be something silly like Dungeon Fantasy or such details are meant to be glossed over like in Monster Hunters.