Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Designer's Notes: Expanded Psychokinesis

My second published article was a bloody mess. It's STILL full of mistakes, messed up grammar, and spelling errors. I take it out and look at it when I'm feeling that my work is "good enough" so that I go back to my current work and step up the game. The ideas are still solid to this day (in my opinion), but I could have just done so much more. Sigh. Regrets. Lots of them there. I learned a lot writing this one. I asked both Steven and PK for some pointers on how to write better - and they gave them. Steven helped me shore up a lot of grammar problems I was having - issues I'd work on later with Beth. Considering it was my second piece of non-poetry publication it wasn't overall bad. I just wish I'd done better. Overall it took me about 50 hours to write, 19 to edit (see why?!), and about 5 hours of revision. Just about everything I wrote was published and PK had to tweak some of my builds. When I asked him for a more elaborate breakdown of why he changed the things he did he sent this this HUGE email with what was changed and why. I still reference that email sometimes when I'm unclear on some rules issue. That said, I won't leave you with no crunch whatsoever! You know I won't do you like that (or cut you down to size). Two things I suggested during the GURPS Psi-Tech playtest were related to my TK rules and ultimately weren't used by David because he just didn't have the room.




Telekinetically Buoyant Textile (TL^)
A new form of PK-Sensitive Material, Telekinetically Buoyant Textile or TBT is a miracle substance that is typically used in the creation of backpacks, load-bearing vests, etc. But can also be used for clothing, or any other mostly fabric piece of gear. When determining your encumbrance level you may subtract your TK’s Basic Lift/10 from the weight of the object before applying it against your total encumbrance, up to the total weight of the object itself. If the object is a container (such as a backpack) you may subtract up to the objects weight plus the weight of all objects carried within it, or on it. For example, if you have a small backpack made of TBS and a TK BL of 20, you may subtract up to 2 lbs. from the total weight of all items carried in the backpack and the backpack itself. This is a passive effect and requires no concentration to use. You may only gain this benefit if you are in direct contact with most of the object, i.e. wearing it; its properties are otherwise inert. In addition to the cost of the equipment price is $500 per pound of the object weight plus the maximum amount of weight it can carry (if a container). LC 4.


Sonokinetic Sound Baffler (TL^)
A Sound Baffler resembles a small cylinder that is belted mounted. The device produces a small area around the wearer that muffles sound. It does this by psychokinetically “buffering” sound waves. It has three modes, the first makes anything in the same hex as the device harder to hear, thus imposing a -2 penalty on any hearing based rolls to detect it. The second gives you 2 levels of the Silence advantage. Third the Sound Baffler can be used to create a more active sound damper, giving you DR 2 against sound-based attacks, such as ultra-tech screamers, other Sonokinesis abilities, etc. Finally there are five power settings, with each level after the first adding an additional -2 penalty, 2 levels of Silence, or 2 DR but increasing the power drain by a like amount. The first level does drain a negligible amount of power from the batteries. Optionally a Sound Baffler may be integrated fully into a suit of armor, Battlesuit, or even a suit of clothing. If integrated this is the base cost with an additional cost of $100 and 0.01 per pound of armor, Battlesuit, or clothing weight. The Sound Baffler’s four B cells can maintain the first level indefinitely, the second for 4 minutes, the third for 3 minutes, and so on. $10,000, 2 lbs. 4xB/4 min. (see above). LC 3.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

GURPS101: It Ain't Heavy, It's my Shield


I'm not sure where I got the idea (I'd attribute it if I could), but someone asked why shields didn't have a minimum ST requirement like other handheld weapons did. That's actually a really good question. From a game design perspective I understand why it's been done the way it's done in GURPS. Think about it, having a minimum ST statistic to worry about for a shield is going to lead gamers to wonder why their armor doesn't have one too. Armor and shields count against encumbrance which incur other penalties. But what if shields did have a minimum ST to wield?


The Basics
Assume that each shield has a Minimum ST based on the table (see below). If your ST is less than the required Minimum ST you suffer a -1 to Shield skill per point by which the Minimum ST exceeds your ST. So if you have a 10 ST and you try to use a Medium Shield (Minimum ST 11) you'd suffer a -1 to rolls to use it. If your Minimum ST is twice the needed ST you gain a +1 to rolls to use Fast-Draw (Shield), if you have three times the needed ST you get a +1 to rolls to Block with it. Treat cloaks as a Buckler.

Shield Weight     Minimum ST
Less than 2.5 lbs.              5
Less than 5 lbs.                 6
Less than 7.5 lbs.              8
Less than 10 lbs.              10
Less than 15 lbs.              11
Less than 20 lbs.              12
Less than 25 lbs.              13
Less than 30 lbs.              14
Less than 35 lbs.              15
Less than 40 lbs.             16
+5 lbs.                             +1


Fast-Draw (Shield)
Readying a shield or cloak takes a number of Ready maneuvers equal to its Defense Bonus. With Fast-Draw (Shield) you can shave off a number of Ready maneuvers equal to 1/3 your margin on the skill roll. On a 0 or less, the shield is readied as a free action. There is no penalty if the shield or cloak is worn over either shoulder (+1 on a hook or sling) or -2 if it's anywhere else. Optionally, if you have an applicable Fast-Draw and a weapon in hand you can attempt to sheathe it as your draw the shield for a -6 to the roll. This requires you make two Fast-Draw rolls at the usual penalties. Quick-Sheathe (Shield) becomes a valid perk when using these optional rules!


Picking Over the Bones
The numbers are pulled from GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2, but with a 2.5 multiplier since your not really wielding the thing. It also means that if you want a Medium Shield you need a ST of 11, and a Legionnaire is going to need a ST of 13. Those implications might not make it suitable for most games. On the other hand, you could extend such a rule to worn armor, but I'm not sure how to account for the ST of the bearer in such a situation. What would you do? How would you change it for your games? Would you even bother using such rules? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Designer's Notes: It's Pure Chemistry!

Sjg37-2628
My first published article...man, that brings back memories (good and bad). I'd originally pitched an article to Steven for Epic Magic, but a bunch of life issues happened and made that impossible. It was in that crucible that some of my writing habits were formed (write it on my own time being the chief among those) and my "authorial voice" finally stabilized. Still, I made a lot of mistakes in that article (and it's follow-up - which STILL haven't been fixed). You can quite literally see how my writing style evolved in leaps in bounds by starting with "It's Pure Chemistry!" and the first few articles. In fact, I stopped writing an entire year to get my act together. It's no secret I have a love of alchemy - and not just in RPGs either. I have a genuinely fond interest of the subject and have made a bit of a amateur study of alchemy through the ages. One day maybe I'll write "GURPS Alchemy."

So when I decided to write an article about alchemy I knew exactly what I wanted to do. One thing I wanted to try and do was create a flexible system where the GM could design his own potions and by and large have an universal means to create new elixirs. That failed utterly and I had to discard the system I'd written entirely. Instead I decided that if I couldn't make new potions from scratch I'd do the next best thing and make it so the existing ones could be "hacked." I think I more or less succeeded there.

Total writing time was a whopping 174 hours, total editing time was 302 hours, and total revision time was a mere 40 hours. A lot of that time was spent hand-wringing and rewriting, something I've since learned NOT to do - at least if I want something that can be submitted. This article was also the one where I learned that maybe I should keep excised parts...but only after it had been submitted. A lot of the ideas I had for crafting new elixirs eventually made there way into my article "Bottled Magic."

Some things that I didn't cover, but wanted to:
  • A potion crafting system that would allow new GMs to create elixirs for their campaign.
  • Rules for "internalist alchemists" - characters who could absorb elixirs to use till later.
  • A template for "magicologists" - characters who are essentially mage-chemists.
  • New spells: "essential elixir" and "duplicate elixir" among them.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Triple Threat: Burrowing Scorpion


This giant scorpion has a body nearly six feet long, with a tail that’s equally long and tipped with a deadly stinger. Its pincers can cut a man in half if given enough time. Larger specimens are not unknown. It’s most dangerous feature is its poison which can turn anything it touches into stone, slowly petrifying them over the course of several minutes. Said poison is actually similiar to the silk of its arachnid cousins, but hardens when in contact with blood rather than air. Burrowing scorpions prefer warm climates like those found in jungles or deserts, but could theoretically be found anywhere.


Any Campaign Setting…
ST: 12             HP: 14             Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 10           Move: 6
IQ: 4               Per: 11            Weight: 250 lbs.
HT: 13            FP: 13             SM: 0
Dodge: 9         Parry: 10        DR: 2

Ambush (-): Roll the scorpion’s Stealth (at +4 if it’s had time to pick a spot and blend in within the last 10 minutes) vs. its target’s Perception. Success means it has gone unnoticed by its target and its first attack gains a +3 to hit, +1 to damage, and allows no active defense!
Pincers (14): 1d cutting. Reach C, 1. Any hit counts as a grapple, even if it doesn’t penetrate DR. This allows the scorpion to clinch – roll damage each turn as a free action! The scorpion can do this to at most two targets!
Stinger (14): 1d+1 impaling + follow‑up 1d‑3 corrosion (18 ten-second cycles). This does not reduce DR in any way. Once the subject takes at least 2/3 HP from this damage he acquires the Numb (p. B146) disadvantage. At 1/2 HP he becomes unable to move (treat this as if he were paralyzed, p. B428) as he turns to stone! The scorpion can attack specific body parts such as a hand or arm, in which case the effects described above. Stone to Flesh (p. B246) reverses all of these effects normally. Reach C-2.

Traits: 360° Vision; Chameleon 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Clinging (Move 3); Cold-Blooded (65º); Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Eight Legs); Horizontal; Infravision; Immunity to Petrification; No Fine Manipulators; Silence 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Striking ST+2 (Stinger only); Super Jump 1 (9‑yard jump); Tunneling (Move 3); Vibration Sense (Air); Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-14; Jumping‑14; Stealth‑16; Survival (Underground)-12; Wrestling-14.
Notes: If the GM is using Intrinsic Fright Check GURPS Horror (p. 139), burrowing scorpions have a modifier of -3.


For Dungeon Fantasy…
ST: 12             HP: 14             Speed: 6.00
DX: 12            Will: 10           Move: 6
IQ: 4               Per: 11            Weight: 250 lbs.
HT: 13            FP: 13             SM: 0
Dodge: 9         Parry: 10        DR: 2

Ambush (-): Roll the scorpion’s Stealth (at +4 if it’s had time to pick a spot and blend in within the last 10 minutes) vs. its target’s Perception. Success means it has gone unnoticed by its target and its first attack gains a +3 to hit, +1 to damage, and allows no active defense!
Pincers (14): 1d cutting. Reach C, 1. Any hit counts as a grapple, even if it doesn’t penetrate DR. This allows the scorpion to clinch – roll damage each turn as a free action! The scorpion can do this to at most two targets!
Stinger (14): 1d+1 impaling + follow‑up 1d‑3 corrosion (18 ten-second cycles). This does not reduce DR in any way. Once the subject takes at least 2/3 HP from this damage he acquires the Numb (p. B146) disadvantage. At 1/2 HP he becomes unable to move (treat this as if he were paralyzed, p. B428) as he turns to stone! The scorpion can attack specific body parts such as a hand or arm, in which case the effects described above. Stone to Flesh (p. B246) reverses all of these effects normally. Reach C-2.

Traits: 360° Vision; Chameleon 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Clinging (Move 3); Cold-Blooded (65º); Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Eight Legs); Horizontal; Infravision; Immunity to Petrification; No Fine Manipulators; Silence 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Striking ST+2 (Stinger only); Super Jump 1 (9‑yard jump); Tunneling (Move 3); Vibration Sense (Air); Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-14; Jumping‑14; Stealth‑16; Survival (Underground)-12; Wrestling-14.
Class: Dire Animal.
Combat Effectiveness Rating: 118 (OR 106 and PR 14).
Notes: The poison can be harvested from the stinger (multiply the corrosion damage by four to determine the amount of damage inflicted with a single dose).


For Monster Hunters…
ST: 12             HP: 14             Speed: 6.00
DX: 14            Will: 10           Move: 6
IQ: 4               Per: 11            Weight: 250 lbs.
HT: 13            FP: 13             SM: 0
Dodge: 9         Parry: 10        DR: 2

Fright Check: -2

Ambush (-): Roll the scorpion’s Stealth (at +4 if it’s had time to pick a spot and blend in within the last 10 minutes) vs. its target’s Perception. Success means it has gone unnoticed by its target and its first attack gains a +3 to hit, +1 to damage, and allows no active defense!
Pincers (16): 1d cutting. Reach C, 1. Any hit counts as a grapple, even if it doesn’t penetrate DR. This allows the scorpion to clinch – roll damage each turn as a free action! The scorpion can do this to at most two targets!
Stinger (16): 1d+1 impaling + follow‑up 1d‑3 corrosion (18 ten-second cycles). This does not reduce DR in any way. Once the subject takes at least 2/3 HP from this damage he acquires the Numb (p. B146) disadvantage. At 1/2 HP he becomes unable to move (treat this as if he were paralyzed, p. B428) as he turns to stone! The scorpion can attack specific body parts such as a hand or arm, in which case the effects described above. Stone to Flesh (p. B246) reverses all of these effects normally. Reach C-2.

Traits: 360° Vision; Chameleon 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Clinging (Move 3); Cold-Blooded (65º); Combat Reflexes; Extra Legs (Eight Legs); Horizontal; Infravision; Injury Tolerance (Unliving); Immunity to Petrification; No Fine Manipulators; Silence 2 (Onset, 10 minutes); Striking ST+2 (Stinger only); Super Jump 1 (9‑yard jump); Tunneling (Move 3); Vibration Sense (Air); Wild Animal.
Skills: Brawling-16; Jumping‑16; Stealth‑16; Survival (Underground)-14; Wrestling-16.
Notes: Use the skills listed under Cryptids in the Know Thy Enemy box in GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions (p. 16). Two to three scorpions are a fair fight for one champion.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Hurt Locker: The Shroud of Turin


Even in campaigns that don’t allow methods to resurrect the dead, the very thought of bringing the dead back to life is a compelling hook. Mythology has many places, things, or people that bring back the dead to life, but one of the most interesting is the so-called Shroud of Turin. Supposedly the burial shroud of the Nazarene (Jesus of Nazareth), it was imbued with miraculous powers after the Resurrection. From healing the sick to actually raising the dead, it has been attributed with many supernatural abilities.
          Physically, the Shroud of Turin is a length of cloth that appears to bear the image of a man who has been crucified...

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Designer's Notes: The Gryndel Menace

Pyramid080-rvw6_1000
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with complete rule sets in my head. I'm talking down to the last perk. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night screaming because my eyes were just eaten by a monster and now I need to write it up in GURPS or describe it for later. It then heads to the to the Nightmare file to be used later. The gryndel never made it that far. I dreamed about it for nearly a week. I was not feeling well at the time and even with the headache I had I got up, wrote the article, and then had a good night's sleep for the first time in a month. When I woke up I began to polish it some, but put it away. A few months later I dragged it out and made it shiny and chrome before sending it off to my reviewers. Overall, it took maybe 7 hours to write, 45 hours to edit, and about 50 hours to revise. There was a bit more revision after it had been accepted, but that was negligible.

One thing I left out that I had wanted to include, but neither had room nor time was the gryndel as a alien race for GURPS Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology. For GURPS Monster Hunters, add Injury Tolerance (Unliving) to adults and juveniles. 20 or more spawnlings per champion is probably a fair fight, while five to seven juveniles per champion is fair. Two to three adults per champion is a fair fight. If the GM allows, the following Gryndel Hybrid template can be available for inhumans.


Gryndel-Hybrid
200 points
You're a gryndel-hybrid. You might have been (or still are!) obsessed with gryndel flesh and blood or maybe you were changed against your will. While you may still look human (or not!), you're radically altered and are something...more. Faster, stronger, tougher, you can take on any of the Enemy toe to toe.

Attribute Modifiers: ST+4 [40]; DX+2 [40]; HT+2 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Basic Speed +1.00 [20]; Basic Move +1 [5]; Per+1 [5].
Advantages: Acute Hearing 2 [4]; Acute Smell 2 [4]; Combat Reflexes; Damage Resistance 3 (Limited, Acidic Attacks, -80%) [3]; Damage Resistance 1 [5]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Resistant to Metabolic Hazards (+3) [10]; Injury Tolerance (Unbreakable  Bones) [10]; Parabolic Hearing 1 [4]; Regeneration (Slow) [10]. • 50 points worth of advantages listed on p. 9 of Pyramid #3/80: Horrific Threats or the Gryndel meta-trait (Pyramid #3/80: Horrific Threats, p. 7).
Disadvantages: Increased Consumption 1 [-10]; Overconfidence (12) [-5]. • -35 points worth of the disadvantages listed on p. 9 of Pyramid #3/80: Horrific Threats as well as reduced Appearance, Odious Personal Habits, Social Stigma (Monster), or any disadvantages listed in the Gryndel meta-trait (Pyramid #3/80: Horrific Threats, p. 7).
Features: Can purchase other gryndel traits with character points in play; Sterile.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Dungeon Fantasy CER-based Treasure


When I wrote "It's a Threat!" for Pyramid #3/77: Combat one of the things I had in mind was to have a lengthy box explaining how you can turn the CER of a monster into a way to determine what treasure it might have on it. I talked about it a bit here, but didn't really get into the "nitty-gritty" of it. First, determine the CER of the encounter normally. Next, multiply the CER by a fixed ratio:

Nuisance: x0.25.
Fodder: x0.50.
Worthy: x1.
Boss: x5.
Epic: x20.

Next, multiply the modified CER value by $5 (or 0.005% of starting wealth if the TL is different). rounded up. Use this value to determine the minimum value of any treasure found. This does not include any equipment they had on them and used against the player characters.

For example, a small horde of goblins have a total CER of 121 and are considered a Fodder-level encounter to the player characters. The GM should make sure the goblins have at least $608 worth of valuable objects: 121 (CER) x 0.5 (Encounter level modifier) x $5. Optionally, instead of determining what was found by GM fiat, use GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 8: Treasure Tables. Record the value of each item rolled until the total sum is equal to (or greater if the last roll is an item of larger value than the remaining sum) the total value determined by the CER of the encounter.


Picking Over the Bones
I really wish I had included something like this in my article (along with a dozen other things), but word count was just too tight. A clever man could even create an old "treasure table" like AD&D had (you know of what I speak. the A, Z, and R-type treasures) based on CER levels. But that would be a bigger project than I'd like to undertake at the moment. How do you determine treasure in your Dungeon Fantasy campaigns? Any rhyme or reason to it or just what feels right?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

GURPS101: Air Spells for Sorcery


 Jason “PK” Levine came up with this clever magic system in Pyramid #3/63: Infinite Worlds II. It garnered some attention when it came out, but hasn’t really seen much then. I think it comes as close as you possibly can to a working powers-based magic system that doesn’t feel like comic-book supers magic. It’s ranked as my number two favorite magic system. It’s got a couple of downsides though, mainly the fact that there are so few examples of spells. The GM basically has to do a lot of the work and I think that puts some folks off. To help ease that burden a bit here are a couple of spells for the Air College...

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Carpe Blogiem: Character Creation Oddness


It's been a while since I talked about my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, Sicatra. So far, it's going quite well for "Act II," though some health issues and bad timing having made it difficult to get together as often as I'd like. First, a little background because this campaign is very unlike most Dungeon Fantasy games. First, for this particular campaign (but not the setting) I used the approach from "Pointless Looting and Slaying." This was intentional, I had THREE new players who had never played GURPS 4th edition and I wanted to take it easy on them. I created a custom creation booklet - like I always do - using Kromm's article as a basis. The premise was pretty simple: everyone would play the earthbound avatar of a deity they would create. They'd fill out a bunch of "fluffy"details (again, another way to let my new players participate more and get used to the game) about their deity: types of worship, dogma, their portfolio, etc. From there we'd detail their character's game stats.

I offered power levels from "semi-divine beings/hero deities" (the lowest ranked deities with maybe one small aspect of realty under their control) all the way up to "primary deities" (the highest ranked deities with maybe one aspect of realty under their control). All active divine abilities would be powered by "ethera points" (the campaigns' version of experience points which were an analog) and I created a "domain mastery" ability that was essentially Control! (a wildcard version of Control). When my players started making their characters nearly all of them choose secondary-level or tertiary-level deities (the most common in the game world). It was kind of mind-boggling. I offered these people unlimited power and they...didn't choose it. Now, I sort of expected this from my regular group, but the choices of my three new players both surprised me and only cemented my decision on adding them to my group. I ended up with 1 Primary, 4 Secondary, and 3 Tertiary deities. Everyone filled out their deity dossiers, we created their characters, and I ran the opening session. It was as close to perfect as you can get on a shake down session for a new campaign. I'm looking forward to the rest of the campaign.