Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Hurt Locker: How to Build a Hand of Glory




Note: In this post I'll be reiterating a post I made on the Steve Jackson Games Forums (I'm putting it out there for my subscribers and a wider audience in general). It makes use of the rules for Metatronic Generators.

The Hand of Glory is a powerful occult artifact. Made from a dismembered human hand that has five (sometimes one) tallow candles incorporated into it. The candles are made of rendered human fat from the hanged man and the wicks are spun of his hair. Typically the finger bones are moved to make way for the candles (which have their own uses). From what I've read there are two varieties. The first (I'll call a "Lesser Hand of Glory"), is the hand, often the left or "sinister" hand, of a hanged man. When the candle(s) are ignited the surrounding area is lit up so that the holder (only) can see in the dark, through obfuscations (fog, mist, etc.), and magical concealment or illusions. While the act of it's obtainment is thoroughly disgusting, some witch hunters were reported to use it help them find their prey. The second type (what I'll call a "Greater Hand of Glory") was much like the Lesser version, but was the hand of a hanged thief. It had all the properties of a lesser hand, but was also said to be able to unlock any door it came across, open any window, and so on. Basically, secure barriers were not an issue. Sometimes this is construed as the bearer being able to walk through walls! A common variation for the Greater Hand is that the hand came from a murderer and a thief (and was made specifically from the hand wielding the weapon that killed someone). This evil settled into the dismembered hand and allowed it to animate and serve its master. Yet another variation, is the hand of a witch or warlock - which could do all of the above, but it could also summon demons and perform the magic it knew in life for the bearer. One common theme to all versions is that of a the candle(s) being unable to be snuffed out by anyone except the bearer, though milk was said to drown the evil flame or a devoutly religious person could extinguish by licking his thumb and forefinger, invoking the name of God and snuffing the flame that way. In some tales this burns the religious person badly enough to burn their fingers and it becomes a kind of test. In some versions, every time the candle is snuffed the person takes 1 HP of Injury to the hand (which manifests as severe burns). In Metatronic Generator terms (costs are assumed for a TL8 campaign):

Lesser Hand of Glory
The hand of a hanged man that can emit a light only the bearer can see. This gives the user the equivalent of Dark Vision with the Color Vision enhancement. It can also always the wielder to ignore up to -10 in vision penalties due to obscurement (e.g., bad weather), though this never results in a bonus to Vision rolls. Finally, it allows the user to see through all forms of supernatural deception - regardless of source. It would work equally well on a witch's spell to conceal her true form as it would on a faerie's glamour. It must be held to gain it's benefits. It’s self-powered, but requires the user to expend a single FP per activation (which lasts for one hour of use) and make a Occultism+5 roll (at default if necessary). Mini, $294,000, 1.4 lbs. Self-Powered. LC0.

Statistics: Acute Vision 10 (Accessibility, Only to negate Vision penalties, -40%; Accessibility, Only while See Invisible is Active, -10%; Apparatus, +0%; Magical, -10%) [4] + Dark Vision (Accessibility, Only while See Invisible is Active, -10%; Apparatus, +0%; Color Vision, +20%; Magical, -10%; Temporary Disadvantage, One Hand, -15%; Terminal Condition, Milk or Snuffing of candle(s) by a religious person, -10%) [19] + Illumination [1] + See Invisible (Supernatural Deception; Apparatus, +0%; Costs Fatigue, 1 FP/hour, -0%; Magical, -10%; Reliable 5, +25%; True Sight, +50%) [25]. (49 points total)


Greater Hand of Glory
As a Lesser Hand of Glory, but made from the hand of a hanged thief. It allows the bearer to open anylocked or secured window, door, vault, etc. within 10 yards of him (the lock itself cannot weigh more than 1,000 lbs). This requires a IQ roll or a roll against Lockpicking (whichever is better). Mini, $2,214,000, 1.4 lbs. Self-Powered. LC0.

Statistics: As for a Lesser Hand of Glory plus Control Locks 10 (Accessibility, Only while See Invisible is Active, -10%; Apparatus, +0%; Collective, +100%; Extended Duration, x3000, +100%; Magical, -10%; Persistent, +40%) [320]. (369 points total)


Variation: Permeating Hand
If the bearer gets through barriers by walking through them, use Permeation (Everything) (Accessibility, Only while See Invisible is Active, -10%; Apparatus, +0%; Can Carry Objects, Heavy, +100%; Magical, -10%) [144], which brings the cost to $864,049 (including the cost of the abilities of the Lesser Hand).


Variation: Animated Hand or Spellcasting Hand
If the hand can animate or cast spells, add Ally (Hand of Glory; Built on 25% of points; Constantly; Minion, +50%) [6] or Ally (Dead Warlock or Witch) with a Constant Appearance and the Minion enhancement and built on whatever point total is appropriate.

ST: 3              HP: 9             Speed: 7.00
DX: 11            Will: 12           Move: 7
IQ: 6               Per: 12            Weight: 1.4 lbs.
HT: 11            FP: N/A          SM: -6
Dodge: 11       Parry: 10        DR: 1

Claw (13): 1d-5 cutting. Reach C.
Crawling Hand (14): Treat this as a grappling attack against the neck as the hand tries to crawl up its target's body (p. B370
Strangle (14): After the hand has grappled its target, it roll against its skill vs. its target's skill. On the Hands next turn, and each thereafter, roll 14 vs. the higher of your foe’s ST or HT. If you win, your foe takes crushing damage equal to your margin of victory. Rigid DR protects normally. A Carotid choke inflicts FP damage, a tracheal choke inflicts crushing HP damage. 

Traits: Appearance (Horrific); Constriction Attack; Dark Vision (Color Vision); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink Doesn’t Sleep; High Pain Threshold; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Indomitable; Injury Tolerance (Unliving, No Blood; No Eyes; No Head; No Neck; No Vitals); Unfazeable.
Skills: Brawling-14; Stealth-14; Wrestling-14.
Notes: Undead creature.


Variation: Sleeping Curse
If the hand can also put those around it into a deep slumber, use Affliction (Will; Accessibility, Only while See Invisible is Active, -10%; Apparatus, +0%; Area of Effect, 16 yards, +200%; Emanation, -20%; Extended Duration, 100×, +80%; Magic, -10%; Malediction 1, +100%; No Signature, +20%; Unconsciousness, +200%) [66]. This will increase the cost by $396,000.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Assembly Required: Development Step Five - Player Character Concepts


If campaign prep is 60% of the campaign, then player character prep is the other 40%. As I've stated before, these blog posts are not about a quick game with your friends or at the FLGS. They are a careful, thought-out  methodology that is meant to produce campaign settings that will last you more than a single campaign. During your Foundation session, your players have probably spit-balled one or two ideas for characters at you. You may have listed them. You may have not. You may have decided then and there that you loved their concept and "nailed it down." You may have shot it down. Regardless, that was the opening dialogue between you (the GM) and the player. Now, some GMs will tell you that you don't need to get this involved with your players for their character concepts, much less their character creation. To them, I say "bah." I've run lots of off-the-cuff  games but there has always been some form of give and take between myself and my players. Mostly, it's been using these exact same methods I'm blogging about, but in a quickened pace. GMs who are not involved in their player's character creation are GMs, who are inviting surprises and dissonance. I ask each player to come up with at least two concepts that they'd like to create. This is just in case I or the other players find one of them unpalatable. What's that you say? Why get the other players involved? BECAUSE I HATE OCTOBER SURPRISES. You probably should too if you're not an adversarial GM (if you are...you're probably not going to get much help here - I'm sorry; I don't support that play style unless  explicitly called for by the game, e.g., Paranoia). What do I mean by an October Surprise here? Player character traits that could interact in...volatile ways. For example, one player wants to take Loner* (12), and another wants to take Chummy - both players are not going to be happy. For the most part, I rarely have this issue because I have great players who are interested in telling the story. It's also usually worth your time as a GM to spell out specifically what traits (attribute levels, skills, disadvantages, etc.) are inappropriate or off limits. There is even a trait-sorter - but it lacks a lot of the new traits to be found in further GURPS supplements. If you can discuss what sort of characters each player would be interested in with all players present, great, if not you can always use emails or video chat. The point of getting together to discuss these things is not just so you can screen unwanted character concepts for all parties, but so you can get an idea of what the players want. What challenges they want to face. What situations they want to find themselves in. What things they want to be able to do. Once you know these things you can fold them into  the campaign itself. This way you are "baking" the player expectations right into the cake. No need to add extra icing or candles.



The Worked Example: Something, Something Kill Monsters Urban Fantasy Secret Magic
After the long discussion that I and my players had during our Foundation session, everyone had a very clear, very concise character concept and what kinds of goals (I'll discuss this later) they hoped to achieve.  Since we're using variable power levels and creating backstories with Central Casting: Heroes Now! these levels are going to be mutable. So I ended up with:
  • C., brings another highly unusual concept to the table. He wants to play a man out of time. Someone from the 11th century who was a Knight Templar dragged forth into the modern age by magic. A warrior and monster hunter from his own time he knows tricks of the trade that modern hunters don't. He also decides that he was cursed by a witch who was his wife (he didn't know that fact when he married her) and seeks to "bring it to an end." Liking the concept quite a bit I decide that his wife is going to be the main villain of the first couple of story arcs. Hell hath no and all that.
  • C.J., my brother, brings another interesting concept to the table. He wants to be a sort of "magical goonba" (no, not the Mario goonba - the mafia kind). His character is a leg-breaker for a powerful family of sorcerers. The bastard offspring of the head of the house he has no social standing there, but is feared none the less. He decides he wants to use a Louisville Slugger as his "wand" and asks for some sort of magical relic starting out that relates to his family. 
  • L.A., besides being my co-GM/Adversary**, has decided she wants to player a highly unusual character. Drawing some inspiration from one of her wiki-walks she wants to play a demon with a soul (aka a "risen demon" - a common theme in Hindu mythology, but not so much Christian), a "cursed innocent" who was meant to bring justice and God's righteous fury to the Earth. But the other side got to her first and nearly claimed her. Stuck somewhere in the middle, she seeks to find balance within herself and make sure the monsters don't get anyone else. She also wants some magical abilities - but mostly necromancy since her character can talk to ghosts. To help her, she has a bound ghost as her familiar.
  • Troythulu wants to play a doctor with a military background who saw something (some sort of Persian or Bedouin demon or the like) in the first Gulf War that nearly drove him mad. He also doesn't want to start out with any active supernatural skills or abilities. Part of his concept is that he learns about the other world during play. He also decides that he doesn't want to have to buy Illuminated during the game and will set aside points for that during character creation.
So there I go, a ton of hooks the players want me to use along with dozens of good ideas on expanding and creating the campaign - and nearly all of them crowdsourced from the players themselves.
* I rarely if ever let players take this trait in my campaigns, and I do so for pure metagame reasons: Loner PCs are simply not conducive to troupe play. When I do allow it, it's modified with some form of limited, taken as a quirk, or rarely unmodified - but your character concept better be stellar.
** GURPS's version of the co-GM is the Adversary - I recommend you groom a player for the role who wants it; they are highly useful to GMs, who like to "split" players. See GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns p. B493 for more information on Adversaries.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Designer's Notes: Metatronic Generators


Sjg37-2646This is one of my favorite articles (so far) that I've written. I felt a little iffy about it first just because I was more or less taking a idea another author had wrote and expanding it out of proportion of the original scope. But I did it anyways because like everything I write - I'm not sure if it's any good (that's why I rely on reviewers). It took me a little over 90 hours to finish and I wrote WAY more than I ever needed too because the muse hit me with a brick (as she often does). The original article had a system for battle suits (part of which made it in the issue as an Appendix Z), variant batteries (including a magical one), and a huge box about using metatronic generators with Ritual Path magic. I had to cut most of it, though I really wish I had left in the box about Power Batteries. It was small and could have easily stayed in. Oh well, Hindsight, 20/20, all that. Battle suits became its own article, but here are a few odds and ends that didn't make it in.


Generators as Power Batteries
Though it’s not stated in the article, buying a Energy Reserve as a generator is possible and costs the normal amount. They’re typically rings, amulets, or other small concealable objects that are placed next to the caster’s skin. For example, Power Lad's power resides almost entirely in his Power Ring, which allows him to store energy to use his abilities. Without it he cannot access any of his powers. He buys this as a Tiny Generator that has Energy Reserve (Super) (Apparatus, +0%) as its base ability.


Variant Technological Battery
If magical energy can be harnessed and used to perform feats other than magical, a new form of battery might be in order:

Magitek Battery (TL^)
A magitek battery is similar to a mundane battery or power cell, except that it can be recharged using magical energy. This doesn’t require any particular spell or ability, instead determine the mage’s “magical ST” by adding his Magery to his IQ. A full charge requires the mage to concentrate constantly for 3,600 seconds x (batteryweight/”magical” Basic Lift). A Magitek battery costs twice as much as a normal battery or power cell of the same size. "Respooling" this energy into FP is possible, but not very efficient - magitek batteries yield FP equal to their weight x 3 to power spells, rituals, etc. LC4.


Various Modifiers
I left out a few new modifiers that were added after all others were calculated. While useful, I just didn't have room.

Limited/Loyal: The device is loyal to a particular person or has a code to use and cannot be used by anyone other than the authorized user. This may be switched by the current authorized user. +1 CF. If it cannot be switched to a new user use the following table to determine it's limitation:
  • Only for a specific nation, religion, or race: Add a CF of -0.2
  • Only for a specific type of creature, or folk of a certain city: Add a CF of -0.4
  • Only for all members of one specific family: Add a CF of -0.6
  • Only for one specific person: Add a CF of -0.8
Self-Healing: The device can heal itself, maybe it's bioorganic or magically self-sustaining. Whatever the case the device heals 1 HP of damage per day without repair. This adds a +0.25 CF to the final cost. If the device must meet with certain requirements that are difficult to arrange or time consuming, than halve the final modifier. Examples include environmental needs (it has to be left in sunshine) or specific elements (needs to be plugged into house current). Higher levels are possible with the GM's permission. If it heals at 1 HP per 12 hours then the CF is +0.5, if it's 1 HP per hour then it's +1 CF, 1 HP per minute is +4 CF, and 1 HP per second is +19 CF.

Reduced Battery: The device is a power hog, reduce operating duration or shots by half. -0.2 CF. Higher levels may be possible if the GM allows. For one-quarter duration or shots add -0.4 CF, one-eight, -0.6 CF, and so on. Minimum operating duration is 1 second or 1 shot.

Resilient: The device is particular rugged, double both DR and HP. This costs +1 CF. GMs may allow higher levels, each level increasing the DR and HP by a further multiple. Triple DR and HP costs x3, Quadruple costs +4 CF, and so on. Halve this if it only doubles the DR or HP of the object.

Rugged: The device is particularly rugged. All generators start with a HT of 12, but each level of this modifer increases this by +1 and costs +0.5 CF.

Unique: The device is a one of kind (just like the gadget modifier on p. B117) and if broken or stolen cannot be reproduced. -1 CF.


New Size: Diminutive 
Diminutive generators ar SM-10, weight 0.0015 lbs., require 1 AA cell per week, have a LC of 3, Bulk -0, and a negligible ST requirement. Cost is $4,500 x point cost and require either TL10 or higher technology or that they be self-powered.

Interpolated Values
What if you don't want a SM-6 Mini generator? What if you want a SM-7? This is possible with the current system, simply add the stats of the two devices together and then average them (rounding up) and use the best battery requirement For example, a SM-7 Mini generator would cost $3,250 per point, need 2xAA/24 hours, weigh 0.17 lbs., be LC 3, have a Bulk of -2, and a ST of 2.


Generators as Ritual Path Magic Items
I don't usually pull straight from the forums to post on my blog, but this one has gotten enough mileage that I think it might be useful to have elsewhere. As we all know, Ritual Path magic has its own enchantment and magic item system...but some folks don't like how to spend points for gear. Now usually, I am one of them. I don't think you should pay points for gear unless it is a super unique unreproducible object. If it isn't one of those...you should be able to buy it if it's available in the campaign setting. That's just how I feel. I run my games that way, I write that way, I give advice that way. That said, I do like the magic item system for Ritual Path magic - it makes sense and I've used it before with much success. Sometimes I like to change things up, I've got something like 22 different variations of a magical item system for RPM - about half of them work okay and maybe a quarter of them work well enough that one day they might see the light of day in a Pyramid article or supplement. One of them that worked fine was "Magic Items as Metatronic Generators" which I released on the forums. Anyways, I've included some improvements I've made from my own games. Hope you get some use out of them. You'll need both GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic and Pyramid #3/46: Weird Science to get full use out of this post.

The Basics
  • Instead of using Electronics Operation (Metatronics) use Thaumatology instead. GMs may allow Path skill rolls instead if that makes sense. For example, a Wand of Fireballs might require a Path of Energy roll instead of Thaumatology.
  • Treat Critical failures as a botch on a spell and make a HT roll.
  • Use the Extra Effort rules normally, but make a Will-Based Thaumatology roll.
  • Ritual Path magic generators can be cumulative with the wearers abilities but only for Magical Tools (see GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 33).
  • Ritual Path magic generators use Magical as a standard power modifier.
  • Do not use the modifiers under Enchanted Limitations (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 33), the item’s “gadget” modifiers are already taken into account using the Power Table.
  • Unprotected objects use the regular costs (and anyone can use them), but protected objects require incense, special oils, etc equal to one hundredth the final cost of the generator and the expenditure of character points equal to (one quarter the Final Cost divided Campaign Starting Wealth). So a TL 8 Ritual Path magic generator that cost $80,000 would require $4,000 in special materials to bind it to your aura and the permanent expenditure of 1 character point. No one but you could use it and it would occupy one of your Conditional Spell Slots.

Designing and Building
Most Ritual Path magic generators are going to be apparatuses, for magical staves, swords, and the like, go through the regular design process.

Using the Generator
This is pretty much the same. For “power rings” and the like, use the Innate Attack skill to hit instead of Thaumatology.

Powering a Generator
  • Energy may be accumulated to pay a generator’s FP cost using the following formula: 5 x normal FP cost. This uses the Path of Magic (exactly as if you were filling your mana reserve). For example, a generator that costs 1 FP to use, can instead be powered by 5 points of accumulated energy.
  • Capacitors buy Energy Reserve (Mana Reserve) at 3 points per level. If a given generator can only use a capacitor, use the rules for the built in ER. If a generator must use accumulated energy, add “Accessibility, FP costs must be accumulated normally, -5%.”
  • Self-Powered generators accumulate energy over time, assume a Path of Magic skill of 15 and roll each turn. This is exactly as if you were filling a mana reserve. For a Path of Magic skill of 20, quadruple, not double the final cost of the item. Alternatively, the item may recover 1 point of energy per 10 minutes as a feature (though it still costs double as a self-powered item).
  • It isn’t suggested that battery costs be used, but if the GM wants too he’ll need to figure out how much FP is in each battery type and shape. See magitek batteries above for a example.
Generator Examples
  • Tiny generators: rings, circlets, etc.
  • Mini generators: wands, daggers, etc.
  • Small generators: staves, rods, etc.
  • Portable generators: armor, swords, etc.
  • Semi-Portable generators: cloaks, robes, etc.
  • Large generators: vehicles, golem horses, etc.

Ritual Path Magic Generator "Magic Item" Examples

Amulet of N’thr’ki (A Bound Spell) 
This device grants the wearer a powerful necromantic aura that drains 1d-2 points of HP from all targets within two yards if they fail to win a Quick Contest of Will with the wearer. The wearer heals the same number of HP (regardless of how much he actually drained. Activating the device requires a Path of Undead roll instead of Thaumatology due to its insidious necromantic nature. Mini, $690,000, 0.3 lbs. Self-Powered. LC1. 

Statistics: Leech 1d-2 (minimum of 1 point) (Accelerated Healing, +25%; Area Effect, 2 yards, +50%; Aura, +80%; Magical, -10%; Malediction 1, +100%; Melee Compatible, reach C, +10%) [115].


Staff of the Magi (A Magical Tool) 
This staff makes turns the bearer into a powerful caster! It grants the following abilities in addition to be used as a Fine Balanced Styled (+3) quarterstaff.
  • Absorbs the first 10 points of damage from magical attacks and reduces Armor Divisors by one step. Additionally, every point of damage this stops heals 1 point of the staff’s mana reserve or your mana reserve. You can even hold onto excessive magical energy that exceeds your reseve, with excess points “bleeding away” at one point per second.
  • Gives Energy Reserve 30 (Mana Reserve).
  • Improves Magery (Ritual Path) by five levels.
  • Bestows Magic Resistance 5 (Improved).
  • Gives Ritual Adept (if the caster didn’t already have it, if he did it adds four additional levels of Magery (Ritual Path) instead!).
  • Retributive Strike: If a caster is desperate, he can sacrifice the staff, destroying it permanently in the process. This magical strike does 23d burning explosive damage to everything but the caster in a 16-yard radius and has a Armor Divisor (2). This burning damage treats the flammability class (Making Things Burn, p. B433) of all subjects as four steps lower than it actually is!
It has a Path of Magic skill of 20 for determining recharge times to its Energy Reserve. Small, $2,810,144, 5 lbs. Self-Powered. LC2.

Statistics: Damage Resistance 10 (Absorption, Heals Mana Reserve*, +80%), Force Field, +20%, Hardened 1, +20%; Limited, Magic, -20%) [50] + Energy Reserve 30 (Mana Reserve) [90] + Magery 5 (Ritual Path) [50] + Magic Resistance 5 (Improved, +150%; Magical, -10%) [24] + Ritual Adept (Magical, -10%) [40] or Magery 4 (Ritual Path) [9†] + Retributive Strike [18‡].
* This heals the ER of the staff first and then your own mana reserve instead of HP or FP, and can “overcharge” your mana reserve if it is full, with a point over your normal Mana Reserve “melting” away every second.
† This is a alternate ability of Ritual Adept.
‡ Burning Attack 23d (Area Effect, 16 yards, +200%; Armor Divisor /2, +50%; Backlash, Instant Destruction, -300% Cosmic, Higher levels of Incendiary, +300%; Incendiary 4, +40%; Magical, -10%) [18]. This is both a One-Use Ability and a Alternate Ability of Energy Reserve, resulting in a 1/25th of a discount.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Triple Threat - Gullinbursti




Note: Gullinbursti is a creature of Norse myth, this is my take on it.

"Sindri laid a pigskin in the hearth and bade Brokkr blow, and did not cease work until he took out of the hearth that which he had laid therein. But when he went out of the smithy, while the other dwarf was blowing, straightway a fly settled upon his hand and stung: yet he blew on as before, until the smith took the work out of the hearth; and it was a boar, with mane and bristles of gold. ... Then Brokkr brought forward his gifts: ... to Freyr he gave the boar, saying that it could run through air and water better than any horse, and it could never become so dark with night or gloom of the Murky Regions that there should not be sufficient light where he went, such was the glow from its mane and bristles." - Skáldskaparmál, Translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur


Gullinbursti
This large boar (12’ long and 3’ wide) has a hide made out of enchanted gold, bejeweled eyes, and is made entirely of clockwork (which is powered by a bound spirit). It was made by the dvergr Brokkr and Eitri due to a bet between them and Loki and eventually given to the god Freyr. Gullinbursti is not intelligent as such lacking a human mind – though he is sapient and smart enough. He is rarely set loose on Midgard, but when he is, it’s always with a purpose set by the gods. Gullinbursti cannot be killed and when he dies the spirit that animates him returns to Asgard and reforms its corporeal body over the course of several days. In campaigns with modern firearms Gullinbursti is immune to most small arms - including assault rifles (7d or less). For campaigns without such weapons, reduce DR to 24 (handheld weapons rarely exceed 4d). For other campaigns, find the largest easiest portable weapon and multiply its dice of damage by 6 to get Gullinbursti's DR.


Any Campaign Setting...
ST: 30             HP: 40            Speed: 8.00
DX: 14            Will: 14           Move: 16  
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 800 lbs.
HT: 18            FP: N/A          SM: +2
Dodge: 12       Parry: 13        DR: 42 (Hardened 1)

Fright Check: -3

Bristles (10):1d impaling. Roll once per turn against each foe in your hex, as a free action. Roll at a -2 if your attacker is attacking you from below. Anyone who grapple or slams you are automatically hit, those who slam you take maximum damage
Flash of Brilliance (20): 10-yard-wide by 30-yard-long cone of pure light does 6dx2(3) burning. This can only be used every 1d seconds in areas with a Darkness penalty of -2 or less, or 1dx5 seconds with a Darkness penalty or -3 to -8, or not at all in areas with -9 or more! Treat the flammability class (Making Things Burn, p. B433) of the subject as one step higher than it actually is.
Golden Hide (20): Anyone who can see Gullinbursti must succeed a Quick Contest of their Perception vs. Gullinbursti’s skill or suffer a -5 on all Vision rolls for hours equal to their margin of failure. Critical failure or failure by 5 or more renders the target Blind instead!
Gore (16):  3d+6 cutting or impaling. Reach C-3. If this gets through DR, subject must make a HT roll (at -1 per 2 points of penetrating damage) or temporarily acquire the Hemophilia disadvantage (p. B138) for (20-HT) hours, minimum 1. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend against).
Kick (14): 3d+6 crushing.
Slam (16): 7d+19 crushing. Made as an All-Out Attack (Strong) and Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend against).

Traits: Appearance (Very Handsome; Impressive); Automaton; Bad Temper (9); Berserk (9) (Battle-Rage); Cannot Float; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell (Profiling; Emotion Sense (16-yards)); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Duty (To Norse gods); Enhanced Move 3.5 (Ground; Accessibility, Only to offset lost Move in a slam); Extra Attack 2 (Multi-Strike); Focused Fury; Horizontal; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain; Immunity to Telepathy (Cosmic);  Indomitable (Cosmic); Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2; Homogenous, No Blood, No Neck); Long Spines (1d impaling; Reach C); No Fine Manipulators; Noisy 2; Pressure Support 3; Quadruped; Ramming Speed; Regeneration (Very Fast); Supernatural Durability (Blessed weaponry or golden weaponry or any weapon made by a dvergr); Temperature Tolerance 20; Unfazeable (Cosmic); Unkillable 3; Vacuum Support; Walk on Air; Walk on Liquid;
Skills:  Brawling-20; Tracking-20.
Classification: Construct and Servitor of Good.

Notes: Cannot be truly killed, if killed the spirit that animates the boar goes back to Asgard where it forms another body which takes 1d days. It does not seek vengeance for its death unless ordered to by one of the Aesir or Vanir. Its golden hide is weighs 40 lbs. and requires either a Mechanic (Clockwork) or Professional Skill (Butcher) roll to remove without ruining it. Failure results in a loss of 5% x margin of failure in weight as the gold flakes off and disintegrates. Success means the hide was removed properly and can be melted down for its weight in gold or kept as is (treat the value of such a golden hide as twenty times what it’s value as pure gold would otherwise be). Critical success increases the value by 20% as the butcher removes all the gold from the clockwork frame. Critical failure destroys the hide completely causing it to disintegrate! Golden weapons forged from one of these hides reduce Gullinbursti’s DR to 2; those forged by a dvergr also ignore its Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction)! If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check from GURPS Horror (p. 139), Gullinbursti has a modifier of -3. Use the skills listed under Free-Willed Spirits or Rogue Witches in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). Gullinbursti is a tough boss creature and will challenge a entire team of champions.


For Dungeon Fantasy...
ST: 30             HP: 40            Speed: 8.00
DX: 14            Will: 14           Move: 16  
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 800 lbs.
HT: 18            FP: N/A          SM: +2
Dodge: 12       Parry: 13        DR: 24 (Hardened 1)

Bristles (10):1d impaling. Roll once per turn against each foe in your hex, as a free action. Roll at a -2 if your attacker is attacking you from below. Anyone who grapple or slams you are automatically hit, those who slam you take maximum damage
Flash of Brilliance (20): 10-yard-wide by 30-yard-long cone of pure light does 6d(2) burning. This can only be used every 1d seconds in areas with a Darkness penalty of -2 or less, or 1dx5 seconds with a Darkness penalty or -3 to -8, or not at all in areas with -9 or more! Treat the flammability class (Making Things Burn, p. B433) of the subject as one step higher than it actually is.
Golden Hide (20): Anyone who can see Gullinbursti must succeed a Quick Contest of their Perception vs. Gullinbursti’s skill or suffer a -5 on all Vision rolls for hours equal to their margin of failure. Critical failure or failure by 5 or more renders the target Blind instead!
Gore (16):  3d+6 cutting or impaling. Reach C-3. If this gets through DR, subject must make a HT roll (at -1 per 2 points of penetrating damage) or temporarily acquire the Hemophilia disadvantage (p. B138) for (20-HT) hours, minimum 1. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend against).
Kick (14): 3d+6 crushing.
Slam (16): 7d+19 crushing. Made as an All-Out Attack (Strong) and Deceptive Attack (-2 to defend against).

Traits: Appearance (Very Handsome; Impressive); Automaton; Bad Temper (9); Berserk (9) (Battle-Rage); Cannot Float; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell (Profiling; Emotion Sense (16-yards)); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Duty (To gods); Enhanced Move 3.5 (Ground; Accessibility, Only to offset lost Move in a slam); Extra Attack 2 (Multi-Strike); Focused Fury; Horizontal; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain; Immunity to Telepathy (Cosmic);  Indomitable (Cosmic); Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 2; Homogenous, No Blood, No Neck); Long Spines (1d impaling; Reach C); No Fine Manipulators; Noisy 2; Pressure Support 3; Quadruped; Ramming Speed; Regeneration (Very Fast); Supernatural Durability (Blessed weaponry or golden weaponry or any weapon wielded or made by a cleric of a Artificer god); Temperature Tolerance 20; Unfazeable (Cosmic); Unkillable 3; Vacuum Support; Walk on Air; Walk on Liquid;
Skills:  Brawling-20; Tracking-20.
Class: Construct and Servitor of Good.

Notes: Cannot be truly killed, if killed the spirit that animates the boar goes back to Asgard where it forms another body which takes 1d days. It does not seek vengeance for its death unless ordered to by one of the Aesir or Vanir. Its golden hide is weighs 40 lbs. and requires either a Mechanic (Clockwork) or Professional Skill (Butcher) roll to remove without ruining it. Failure results in a loss of 5% x margin of failure in weight as the gold flakes off and disintegrates. Success means the hide was removed properly and can be melted down for its weight in gold or kept as is (treat the value of such a golden hide as twenty times what it’s value as pure gold would otherwise be). Critical success increases the value by 20% as the butcher removes all the gold from the clockwork frame. Critical failure destroys the hide completely causing it to disintegrate! Golden weapons forged from one of these hides reduce Gullinbursti’s DR to 2; those forged by a dvergr also ignore its Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction)!


For Monster Hunters...
ST: 40             HP: 50            Speed: 9.00
DX: 16            Will: 14           Move: 16  
IQ: 8               Per: 18            Weight: 800 lbs.
HT: 18            FP: N/A          SM: +2
Dodge: 13       Parry: 15        DR: 42 (Hardened 1)

Fright Check: -3

Bristles (10):1d impaling. Roll once per turn against each foe in your hex, as a free action. Roll at a -2 if your attacker is attacking you from below. Anyone who grapple or slams you are automatically hit, those who slam you take maximum damage
Flash of Brilliance (20): 10-yard-wide by 30-yard-long cone of pure light does 6dx3(5) burning. This can only be used every 1d seconds in areas with a Darkness penalty of -2 or less, or 1dx5 seconds with a Darkness penalty or -3 to -8, or not at all in areas with -9 or more! Treat the flammability class (Making Things Burn, p. B433) of the subject as one step higher than it actually is.
Golden Hide (20): Anyone who can see Gullinbursti must succeed a Quick Contest of their Perception vs. Gullinbursti’s skill or suffer a -5 on all Vision rolls for hours equal to their margin of failure. Critical failure or failure by 5 or more renders the target Blind instead!
Gore (16):  4d+9 cutting or impaling. Reach C-3. If this gets through DR, subject must make a HT roll (at -1 per 2 points of penetrating damage) or temporarily acquire the Hemophilia disadvantage (p. B138) for (20-HT) hours, minimum 1. Made as a Deceptive Attack (-4 to defend against).
Kick (14): 4d+9 crushing.
Slam (16): 8d+30 crushing. Made as an All-Out Attack (Strong) and Deceptive Attack (-4 to defend against).

Traits: Appearance (Very Handsome; Impressive); Automaton; Bad Temper (9); Berserk (9) (Battle-Rage); Cannot Float; Combat Reflexes; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell (Profiling; Emotion Sense (16-yards)); Doesn’t Breathe; Doesn’t Eat or Drink; Doesn’t Sleep; Duty (To Norse gods); Enhanced Move 3.5 (Ground; Accessibility, Only to offset lost Move in a slam); Extra Attack 2 (Multi-Strike); Focused Fury; Horizontal; Immunity to Metabolic Hazards; Immunity to Pain; Immunity to Telepathy (Cosmic);  Indomitable (Cosmic); Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction 4; Homogenous, No Blood, No Neck); Long Spines (1d impaling; Reach C); No Fine Manipulators; Noisy 2; Pressure Support 3; Quadruped; Ramming Speed; Regeneration (Very Fast); Supernatural Durability (Blessed weaponry or golden weaponry or any weapon made by a dvergr); Temperature Tolerance 20; Unfazeable (Cosmic); Unkillable 3; Vacuum Support; Walk on Air; Walk on Liquid;
Skills:  Brawling-24; Tracking-24.

Notes: Affected by Path of Matter and Path of Spirit. Cannot be truly killed, if killed the spirit that animates the boar goes back to Asgard where it forms another body which takes 1d days. It does not seek vengeance for its death unless ordered to by one of the Aesir or Vanir. Its golden hide is weighs 40 lbs. and requires either a Mechanic (Clockwork) or Professional Skill (Butcher) roll to remove without ruining it. Failure results in a loss of 5% x margin of failure in weight as the gold flakes off and disintegrates. Success means the hide was removed properly and can be melted down for its weight in gold or kept as is (treat the value of such a golden hide as twenty times what it’s value as pure gold would otherwise be). Critical success increases the value by 20% as the butcher removes all the gold from the clockwork frame. Critical failure destroys the hide completely causing it to disintegrate! Golden weapons forged from one of these hides reduce Gullinbursti’s DR to 2; those forged by a dvergr also ignore its Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction)! Use the skills listed under Free-Willed Spirits or Rogue Witches in the Know Thy Enemy box in Monster Hunters 1 (p. 16). Gullinbursti is a tough boss creature and will challenge a entire team of champions.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Metagame Traits or Impulse Buys?




"It's all in the reflexes!" Maybe, most likely on your character sheet it's "all in Ridiculous Luck." GURPS has quite a few "metagaming" character traits that allow you (the player) the ability to influence a character's outcomes. Call it Player Agency, "being the star," or whatever - having these traits allow you to change the narrative so that it's more advantageous to your character. Like, +Douglas Cole, I often find inspiration for my blog by scouring the forums and finding something interesting. In this case, Anders started a thread "Luck or Impulse Points" asking which he should use for a low-powered campaign he's starting. I won't lie, I'm a bit biased, when GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys came out I quite literally whooped and jumped for joy. One of the things I always liked about GURPS 4th edition (and other "action point" game systems like Shadowrun) was the "Influencing Success Rolls" rule from GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns. My players just ate that rule up whole, they loved it. I even came up with a base system for "Karma" that allowed players to expend "karma points" to do the same things that you could with unspent character points - it mirrored GURPS Power-Ups 5 quite a bit in that way. I've since revised it to work with with the existing cannon and I might get it published or release it here one day. Anyways, as a GM, what should you use for your campaign? Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses.


Metagame Traits
GURPS has several metagame traits and they all do different things depending on which one you purchase.

Advantages
Luck allows you to reroll a die roll to try and get a better one. Serendipity let's you influence the narrative by having something "good" happen to your character. Daredevil let's you take insane risks and possibly profit by them. Destiny ensures your character has a "good" ending. Visualization gives you a bonus to die rolls for a particular action. Super Luck is nothing less than direct manipulation of reality.

Disadvantages
Unluckiness causes one bad thing to happen to you every game session. Cursed means the GM can hose you maliciously whenever he likes because...well...you're cursed. Destiny ensures your character has a "bad" ending. Weirdness Magnet gets a bad rap as "easy points," but really...it isn't, not if the GM is doing his job right. But that's a whole other can of worms we're not going to get into.

Strengths of Metagame Traits

  • They're self-contained, basically what's on the label is what's in the jar.
  • They're in the Basic Set and need no additional book.
  • They allow specialization of specific feats. If you want lots of rerolls, buy Luck. If you want deus ex machina, buy Serendipity, and so on.
  • They allow for "bad luck" in the form of disadvantages like Unluckiness.
  • Some traits have a "Wishing" enhancement allowing you to affect others with your gifts, though this tends to cause them to turn into more character-oriented "luck powers" than keeping them as a metagame trait.

Weaknesses of Metagame Traits

  • They're limited in what they can do. 
  • They're expensive/cheap for what they do.


Impulse Points
Impulse points are discussed briefly on p. 18 of GURPS Power-Ups 5 under Other Kinds of Points. Basically, they function as unspent character points, but recharge from session to session. The GM can either give a out certain amount for "free" or have players buy them. The cost is 5/level if they refresh at a rate of 1 point/session or 10/level if they refresh fully every session. Like character points you can spend them on anything from Impulse Buys (except new traits) and allow you to do a large number of things. If the GM likes, he can also allow different kinds of Impulse Points in the form of "Destiny Points," "Wildcard Points," and so on (see p. 18 of Impulse Buys). This might confuse things however.

Strengths of Impulse Points

  • They're flexible.
  • They're a single trait (they don't clutter a character sheet up).
  • They work like unspent character points so you don't need to learn separate rules for different traits.

Weaknesses of Impulse Points




  • They require a lot of work on the part of the GM because he's going to have to figure out which Impulsive Feats he's allowing - and which ones he is not.
  • There are no disadvantageous version of Impulse Points. You can buy down or choose not to buy Impulse Points, but there is no version of Unluckiness in the system

Picking Over the Bones
I personally think that if you're going to allow Impulse Points you should disallow all other metagame traits. THis makes it easier on you as a GM and your players. In the past I've used "Disadvantageous Impulses" by creating a disadvantage that's worth the same amount as Impulse Points to fill the one gap I think there is in the system. Such a trait is used for your antagonists and should affect you more than your allies and are functionally identically to those gained from a Disadvantageous Destiny (see p. 5 of Impulse Buys). Heck, you can have both positive and negative Impulse Points because while they do the same thing, they do it differently. You could for instance have "Impulse Points (2 positive, 1 negative) [10]" meaning you get two Impulse points to spend on things...but your GM gets 1 to spend against you. Another thing I've done in the past is to allow multipliers depending on how deep in the plot the players are. If they are ultimately supposed to defeat the undefeatable fortress then making each Impulse Points count as two or giving them two extra at the beginning of the session is going to ensure that happens. On the flip side, if something is supposed to be difficult you can out and out disallow Impulse Point spending or make them count as a fraction of what they are ("Sorry, but for this session each Impulse Point counts as only a half a point.") - just make sure you do such things as evenly as possible. Overall, I'd use Impulse Points because of their flexibility and I've completely disallowed metagame traits in my campaigns except as "probability manipulation," it works better I think.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Cthulhu Mythos Spells, Part II



So here are some more Ritual Path Magic Mythos-flavored spells - enjoy.

More Mythos Spells
Here are a couple more Mythos spells for use in other campaigns, see here for more information on designing Mythos spells.

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

GURPS101: How to build a Technopath




By the RAW, the way you create technopath in GURPS is by taking some powers from Machine Telepathy (see GURPS Powers, p. 130) or Cyberpsi (see GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 30) - but what if you want more? Inspired by this recent thread (the second one to pop up in as many months) I weighed in I decided to talk about it here.


What Is Technopathy?
The Superpower wiki (a awesome site - I use it a lot for my supers games) defines it as  "[A] User can manipulate technology and technological constructs, computers, robots, hardware and other devices that can be termed as "technology". Manifested as a special form of electrical/telekinetic manipulation, a special form of "morphing" which allows physical interaction with machines, or even a psychic ability that allows mental interface with computer data." That's as precise a description as I've ever seen. Technopathy is the love child of telekinesis, telepathy, and ESP with a dash of electricity control thrown in. Users typically have the ability to diagnose and fix any broken piece of technology (often without touching it!) and can bond to it with their mind. It often involves the animation and powering of said technology as well, making a technopath a walking bastion of civilization.


Technopathy, In GURPS Terms

Technopathy
Sources: Divine, Magic, Psionic, Super, or Technological.
Focus: Technology and machines

This is the power to control, communicate, repair, or enhance technology - any man made device that is at least TL1. It shares some similarities with Machine Telepathy, but is less focused on Digital Minds and more focused on technology itself. It might be a gift from artificer gods or firebringers (Divine), technomancy (Magic), a variation of Cyberpsi (Psionics), or direct control over machines and technology itself (Super). It only affects machines - never living beings.

Technopathy Talent
5 points/level
Technopathy Abilities
Control (Technology), with Vital Manipulation; Detect, for technology, specific machine types, etc.; Gadgeteer; Gizmos; Healing, with Mechanical only (+0%); High TL; Invisibility, with Machines Only;  Leech, with Mechanical only (+0%); Medium (Digital); Mind Control, with Cybernetic Only; Mind Probe, with Cybernetic Only; Mind Reading, with Cybernetic Only; Mindlink, with Cybernetic Only; Possession, with "Accessibility, Machines only (-10%); Psychometry, with Accessibility, Machines only (-10%); Protected Power; Resistant, to any technological threat (e.g., plutonium 101, nanomachines, etc.); Special Rapport, with Transferable, Digital Mind; and Telekinesis, with Animation.
         Afflictions and Innate Attacks are permitted, but must have Accessibility, Only on Electrical (-20%) or Accessibility, Machines Only (-10%). GMs may optionally allow Talents like Artificer to have the Technopathy power modifier - but with a caveat. Power Talent never adds to rolls for the skills it covers, it just gives a cost break.

Power Modifier: Technopathy. The advantage belongs to the Technopathy power. This modifier is usually Divine (-10%), Magic (-10%), Psionic (-10%), Super (-10%), or Technological (-20%).


New Modifiers

Affliction
p. B35
The following new modifier is available for Afflictions used on machines.

Malfunction: You can temporarily increase the Malfunction number of a piece of equipment by 1. If it doesn't normally have a Malfunction, treat it as having a 19. For firearms and other weapons this has the usual results; for equipment that normally lacks a Malfunction statistic any roll of the dice that indicates a malfunction means it breaks down and requires a minor repair (p. B00) - a roll of three or more over it's Malfunction number means it requires a major repair instead! This costs ±10% per +1 Malfunction or +50% if you can increase or decrease the Malfunction number when you use your advantage. Write this as either Affliction 1 (Malfunction, -1, +10%) or Affliction Malfunction, ±1, +50%).

Control, Create
see GURPS Powers p. 90,92
As a highly optional category for Control, GMs may allow players to take "Control (Technology)" as either a Very Common (25/level) or God-like (30/level) form of Control. Along with the Vital Manipulation enhancement (see Pyramid #3/49: World-Hopping), this allows a character to manipulate technology like any other solid. Create (Machines) is at least as broad a category as Create (Inorganic) and requires a link to a appropriate speciality for Control.

Healing
p. B59
The GM may allow "Inanimate Only" as a +0% modifier if you can only repair inanimate objects - or +100% if you can also cure animate ones.


New Power Modifier

Technological
-20%
Your power makes use of the tangential energy that surrounds civilization and its trappings (e.g., technology). This energy exists even in a lone hamlet in the middle of nowhere, but nature and the wild interfere with it, acting as a  mundane insulator against your power (-10%). You’re at -1 to use your abilities in a large town or urbanized area such as suburbia, -3 in a small town, -5 in a hamlet, and -10 in a place where only the ruins of a city are choked with vines and nature.
Wildness and nature also impairs your power, it's essentially a mundane countermeasure (-10%). This bestows a penalty equal to the campaign's TL minus the TL of the least advanced manufactured item you're carrying, wearing, or riding on or in. This can never give a bonus. An ability that requires no die roll loses 10% of its effectiveness (bonus to reactions or skills, DR, etc.) per -1 instead. If the penalties total -10 or worse, you’re powerless.


Picking Over the Bones
Technopathic characters are not going to be cheaply created. They're the equivalent of a teke, telepath, and precog all rolled into one - they just focus on a specific thing: technology. The cheapest build would probably be a few levels of Technopathy Talent, a appropriate Talent like Artificer or Circuit Sense, five or so levels of TK with Animation, at least one Gizmo, and/or Gadgeteer. Powerful Technopaths are going to buy as much Control (Technology) as they can afford and maybe a linked Create (Machines). High-powered technopaths can do damn near anything given enough time and with the right gear.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Carpe Blogiem: 10th Anniversary of GURPS 4th Edition



Today, is a special day for us GURPSers, today is the tenth birthday of GURPS, the previous edition was printed in 1988, and the first and second in 1986. That's some heady stuff right there for a gamer, especially considering that other game systems (*cough* Dungeons and Dragons *cough*) have been through six editions since then - most of them while GURPS 4th edition was just starting off. But I'm not here to complain about other game systems and their longevity - I'm here to talk about GURPS. Its universal engine is often said to be able to do anything you can imagine - and really, it can. It does some things better than others (cinematic action vs. supers for example) and does have a few wrinkles...but as a whole the system just works and it does so damn near flawlessly. Previous editions of GURPS were touted for their authenticity on subjects and smoothness of play (which is more or less true), but 4th edition GURPS is a rare bird in the gaming community. It's a true tool kit, it's the erector set of the imagination. If you can visualize it, chances are that the GURPS engine can deliver on it (with a little work). So on this day of days, this high holy day for nerds I offer what I consider the highlights (both good and bad) of the system I love.



The Good
Where it shines.


  • "GURPS is genre-universal" And damned if it isn't. Want to run a space cowboy game with giant organic mechs and evil sentient stars? Fine. No problem. Want to run a gritty game of survivors during the Zombie Apocalypse? Yup. How about a nice game of thermonuclear war? Well...it'd be short, but yeah, you could do that. The point here is this: GURPS can take everything you want to do with a campaign and then give you the tools to run it like how you envisioned. The only other thing on the market that does this is FATE (which I'd argue is the other side of the coin that GURPS is printed on).
  • "GURPS is well-researched" Oh, yes. GURPS tends to attract people who are into history, math, etc. because it's a game that appeals to their sensibilities. Ditto for the writers. GURPS authors (excluding Y. T.) tend to be highly intelligent with lots of life experience and degrees behind their names. One of our authors is so well-known for his knowledge of firearms and military gear that fucking Jane's has come to him on more than one occasion for his opinion. Another does copy-editing for bloody science papers. Yet another is a freaking professor of military history. The line editor is a particle physicist for gawdsake. I could go on. The point I'm trying to make here is not that "only smart people play GURPS" - that's a elitist attitude and can go fuck itself, but this: you're getting real world knowledge condensed down into a gameable format. Want to roleplay the War of the Roses? Okay. Want to be a special operator doing missions in 'Nam? Okay. Hell, I've used GURPS books (usually GURPS Classics) as primers for topics I want to study later on - something that works quite well.
  • "It does anything from realistic action to over-the-top pulp!" And it does. It's all about the dials the GM wants to toggle on or off. It does take a bit getting used to to figure out what needs to be "on" and what needs to be "off," but all game systems have a learning curve. If you are a avid world-builder, writer, or other creative person GURPS is where you want to build your sandbox. You can create anything, do anything, run anything - sometimes this overwhelms folks "Where do I start?" but GURPS is making inroads on fixing that.
  • "GURPS is front-loaded" When I say "front-loaded" here what do I mean? ?Well, it's simply this, GURPS characters take so long to create (between two and three hours for most characters) because once the game begins updating your character takes maybe ten minutes. Because all the math is done for you and all you have to do is roll 3d6 and apply modifiers. Look at it like this: you're investing your time up front because when you start playing you're going to get more game time in. Hell, you can update a character in the middle of gameplay and it's not going to slow anything down.

The Bad
Maybe it's a system architecture failure or a misconception or whatever - these tend to shoot down any attempts to run a GURPS game (in my experience).

  • "Base Magic is Broken!" The base magic system is, well, kind of...broken. It never really got a update to 4th edition in the way that it should've. Several books have coming out offering different systems, but the first system new gamers are going to come in contact with is the basic magic system and it might turn them off. Why is it broken? Well, some spells allow you to do things you simply cannot do in GURPS any other way. That said, it can still work just fine as long as you can ignore some of the un-GURPS of certain spells. A revised version of GURPS Magic would go a long way to fixing this, but that's a pipe dream at best.
  • "Math is hardGURPS has this reputation for being some sort of math-intensive-make-your-calculus-teacher-proud-torture-exercise. It's not. If you can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and use percentages that's about all the math any player will need to use. The GM is going to need to know how to do cube roots or google them (i.e., ³√x). I can tell you as a long time GURPS play no one does them by hand - it's easier to use a calculator, excel, etc. Given that many 3rd edition GURPS books were heavily math intensive and you've got a persistent (and incorrect) meme that just will not fucking die already.
  • "GURPS is deadly!" Yes. It is. But there are rules you can "toggle" that makes it less so. Basic GURPS is what I like to call "semi-realistic," that is if you get shot in real life you don't tend to shake it off and go on. Getting shot hurts and you're probably going to be incapacitated. Again, the GM can say "Cinematic rules are in effect" and suddenly being shot still hurts, but you can move on and keep the plot moving at a pace like the movies tend to portray.

The Ugly
Things that are missing or where GURPS performs...barely adequately.

  • "GURPS can't do supers!" Well, it can, but there are real holes that have been spackled over as best they could be and folks have moved on. A complaint I've often seen is Super ST - is it the most elegant solution? No. But it's what we got and Bill Stoddard did the best he could with what he had. I personally think there needs to be some sort of "supers rules" set put together (like cinematic or realistic rules). That is create a campaign framework that relies not on a game mechanical effect, but on simple GM fiat. Invulnerability is the second most seen gripe I've noticed - GURPS doesn't do absolutes and too me, that's a feature, not a bug.
  • "GURPS Ultra-Tech is a mess" This isn't untrue, it and GURPS Bio-Tech are completely unlike the latter tech-catalogues and that's too be expected - they came first! Do we need revised editions? Maybe, but the books more or less work and can be used as is. There are rumors of a ton of unimplemented errata that would probably solve a lot of issues. And given the fact that subject matter is controversial (as in, people have differing views about what might come first, technology-wise) and you have a recipe for oddness. The authors did a brilliant job with what they had I thought, but it needed to be laid out in a different way, much like how GURPS Low-Tech had "Companion" books so should GURPS Ultra-Tech get a companion series.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gamemaster's Guidepost: I'm On the Hunt and After You...




I read about this over on +Douglas Cole's blog and it got me thinking:

Over on Google+ and the RPG Stack Exchange, +Jeff Demers was asking for help on how to set up a encounter where the players were being hunted. I've done this scenario so much in my twenty odd years of GMing I can do it in my sleep. I like to break it down into a series of steps:

0) Before you even think about doing something like this you need to know that your players will be into it. Some players don't like being hounded, suborned, etc. and they will make it impossible for you to pull off any kind of situation like this.
1) Plan out the entire "hunters hunted" scenario from start to finish. It doesn't need to be detailed and can literally be a note on a napkin reading something like "Wake up in middle of a maze > Get hunted by maze creatures > Finds magic ring to unlock the final door of maze > Ambush! > Next to final encounter > Final encounter/door way out > Home free!" You might want to be more detailed then that (and again you might not!), just make sure you got something down.
2) Figure out the pace. How many game sessions is this supposed to cover? One? Two? Three? You can stretch it out or even turn it into a entire adventure if you know what you're doing. Regardless of how long it'll take you need to keep the action intense or the players will get bored "Yay, we made it through the Blue door with the blue keycard, now we need the red keycard for the red door. Damn it, Christopher - stop planning your dungeons by playing Doom 3D!" Do keep in mind that if you intend to do a "hunted adventure" that you need to give your players some time to recoup, eat, etc.unless the entire point is to run them ragged.
3) Hit the clock. No, seriously, tell your players out of game their players have only X amount of time or something bad happens then do it in game. I like to occasionally run what I call "Bauer Time" where the total number of hours in game equals the total number of hours outside of the game (e.g., you spend 4 hours gaming and 4 hours total pass in the game world). I find it really focuses your players and keeps them sharp.
4) Be novel. Don't just set up encounter after encounter with whatever hellhound you got on their tail. Throw in problems they can't foresee ("I didn't know going into the mines would involve dealing with a swamp kraken!") or play on their disadvantages ("I don't care if Hell itself is chasing me, I'm not leaving that woman half dead on the side of the road. We'll just have to get caught.").
5) Give the bad guys the same considerations: put them on a timeline, put obstacles in their way, etc. You don't need to tell the players this, but for a chase scene to play out organically things must happen that the players cannot possibly know about in game.
6) Stick to the point. The point of such an adventure when you get down to it is to race against time - not against your pursuers. They're a secondary effect of whatever cause is forcing you to flee them. Maybe they are stronger than you. Maybe they have more numbers. Maybe you have a message to deliver on foot or a war will break out for a measly want of a nail. Whatever the reason, know what drives both parties.
7) When it's the end...that's it. Don't keep extending the chase. When it's done for good or bad it's done and the players have to live with the outcome. They may be grumpy about it - but they'll respect you if you stick to it. You can't win them all and sometimes the players need to remember that.