Thursday, August 27, 2015

Designer's Notes: The Hunter's Reliquary

I've actually had this article cooking for quite a while (early September 2013), it was one of those that could just never have a home found for it. I shopped it around and eventually it made it's way into Pyramid #3/82: Magical Creations. The writing was actually fairly easy and I'd knocked it out in 30 hours. I knew what I wanted to do and I had the concept down pat. Revisions were also really fast and done in 23 hours. No, what killed me was editing. I have no idea why but editing this thing was INTENSELY difficult and time-consuming (nearly 110 hours total). Some stuff I could suss out, other stuff I needed Beth's help with and I spent almost 2 weeks fixing some prevalent errors I've long since conquered (that happens with my older work). Overall, I like what happened and how it turned out, but there were many, many, nights where I just wanted to can the entire thing and be done with it. Glad I didn't.

Because of how this was made I didn't have much extra material left over. That said, I hate leaving folks with something crunchy. So here's how I priced Focusers: For just a skill bonus the base cost is equal to 2.5 x Average Starting Wealth. For an Adept Focusers cost is 12.5 x Average Starting Wealth. For a Dual Focuser the cost is 20 x Average Starting Wealth. I originally derived these values using the Typical Monthly Pay per TL and then "smoothed" the cost. For those who want such numbers Skill Focusers are 20 x Typical Monthly Pay, Adept Focusers are x 100, and Dual Focusers are x 150. I then used the following numbers to narrow it down:

All Rituals: -0%
Broad Tradition: -15%
Typical Tradition: -20%
Narrow Tradition: -25%
Specific Path/Effect: -30%
Ritual Mastery: -60%
One Ritual: -80%

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sicatra - The Bloodied and the Banal - Game Session 5



Adventuring Party
Autora (PC – Versitile Avatar – Goddess of Abundance, Agriculture, Alcohol, Bees, Family, Good weather, Hearth, and Midwives)
Ghermukhannu (PC – Agile Avatar – God of Guile, Journeys, Monkeys, Mischief, and Travelers)
Imir (PC – Brainy Avatar – Goddess of Time, Fate, Space, Portals, Rebirth & Beginnings, and Starlight)
Johren (PC – Brawny Avatar – God of Defense and Protection, Exploration and adventurers, Weather, Thunder and Lightning, and Physical strength)
Sulio (PC – Versatile Avatar – God of Illusions, Mirages, Personas, Chameleons, and Performance Art)
Tierian (PC – Brawny Avatar – God Of Earth And Stone, Architecture, Engineering And Construction, Gems and Jewelry, Mountains, Mining, and Precious Metals)

Eternity (NPC – Brawny Avatar – Semidivine being who is the physical embodiment of starlight)
Gram (NPC – Brainy Avatar – Semidivine being who determines where the dead go in the afterlife)
Jortha (PC – Versatile Avatar – Goddess of Naval Warfare, Oceans and Seas, Sailors, Storms, Watercraft, and Wind)
Malakai rue Mors (NPC – Versatile Archetype – Godsbane and Bonecarver)

The Story So Far…

The PCs begin training Malakai in all manner of combat and battle. They also themselves learn how to actually sail the ship without Altehr'un’s help and have settled into a routine: find the location of the keys to the windgate, travel there stopping for supplies as needed, and activate the key. Ever since the battle at the Well of Souls Valley the PCs have toned down their use of their godly powers making it difficult to impossible to be found by Zyttarin’s forces.


Weather: 18º F; 16 mph winds from the north; heavy snow
Ninth Month, 4th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

The PCs land at the site of the third key - a giant glacial cave. Upon entry into the cave the ghost of a skraelingar warrior appears and informs them that in order to access the key they’ll first have to pass three trails: a physical one, a mental one, and a spiritual one. The first trial - taken on by Johren - involves killing the cave’s guardian a giant bear. Johren instead subdues the bear and they become friends after exchanging belly scratches and nuzzles.

The second trial is a game of lujin (a type of board game utilizing tiles that plays like a cross between chess and a modern collectable card game), which Imir handily wins in seconds. The third trial is one of sacrifice and the Monkey King realizes he’s the least important of the group offers himself up. Autora holds the knife, but before she can slit the god’s throat the key appears and the knife disappears. It had been a test of willingness and not actual sacrifice. As they leave, the ghostly guardian disappears and the cave seals itself. Since the next key is only a few days away, the PCs make a rush toward it.


Weather: 14º F; 16 mph winds from the north; heavy snow
Ninth Month, 7th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

The fourth key is hidden in the hearth of a forgotten giant stronghold. Underneath the broken chimney is a series of hidden tunnels created for the express purpose of hidden the key. Autora speaks to the spirit of the hearth and it tells her its secrets allowing the PCs to bypass the guardians in the crypt (lindworms) and go right to the key. Leaving the sad place behind, Autora takes a stone from the hearth and transports its lonely spirit to the Windrunner’s main fireplace. Heading to the next location, they hope they can find the island before the world plummets into an eternal ice age.


Weather: 14º F; 16 mph winds from the north; heavy snow
Ninth Month, 8th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

Saturday, August 22, 2015

GURPS101: Dungeon Fantasy Holy Warriors of Justice and Retribution


An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Revenge is best served cold. Justice will be served. Our language is littered with phrases like this. But what’s the difference between justice and revenge? Who cares! This! Is! Dungeon! Fantasy! Whether It’s a noose or bringing ‘em back alive you get your man and he gets what’s coming to him. After all, you have the backing of a god (or goddess!). Originally designed for my Sicatra campaign, I thought I’d share...

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!

Note: the link to the actual content for patrons is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

GURPS101: Ritual Path Magic Sacrifices


There were a couple of interesting topics recently on the forums about Ritual Path magic and sacrifices for energy. Some were about how much energy you could give or how much you could gather from a stadium of people or my personal favorite: summoning a demon and then forcing it to give you energy or be sacrificed.

First, a quick preface: Rule #3 of Stacking Spells very specifically says "Spells cannot make anyone better at using magic." This is an incredibly important rule for an open-ended system like Ritual Path Magic. Ignoring this rule leads to a magical system that feeds on itself for greater and greater power. What's more is that it doesn't just apply to things like "Altered Traits, Magery" or "Altered Traits, Energy Reserve (Magical)," but for any spell where the effects of the spell further assist the mage in some way. There are exceptions to this - like adding Bestows a Penalty to a spell to make it harder to resist - but they are few and far between.


Better Living Through Sacrificial Summoning
If you (or anyone else) "summon" another being from outside your reality using magic (regardless of whether or not it's Ritual Path magic or not) you cannot then get that being to help power a spell through anything but non-coercive sacrifice. This leads to feedback issues where you can summon a demon (or whatever) on the cheap, drain them of energy, and then caster a larger spell thanks to said energy. Now, if the GM wants to ignore this for his campaign, it might not break anything, but it sets off all my warning lights and my munchkin radar. For a better alternative, where you actually get more energy then what you could get from just bullying a imp see Assisting Spirits (GURPS Thaumatology, p. 90).


Mass Magic is Mathamagic
Yes, by the rules you can tap an entire stadium of people to give you energy for your spells. But there are a few considerations (of which I pointed out before).

  • It hurts - even if it's FP you're sacrificing. -1 per FP or HP spent (up to -4). In real world terms it's like getting a knife to the gut or suffering a wound that requires stitches. Keep in mind that magic won't restore HP or FP lost this way. You remember that little pain scale they use at ERs and Hospitals? 1 is "you stubbed your toe" and 10 is "OMG I IZ DYIN"? That one? I'd call each -1 in Shock Penalties about 3.3 on that scale - so evne if you find folks who are willing to fund your Gate to Mars - they're going to suffer the worst pain they've ever felt for at least a second to do it. If the campaign world is even remotely sane, finding volunteers for that on a regular bases is going to be difficult at best.
  • They have to know what they are doing and what it entails. So you can't say "Just trust me" and tap their FP/HP. They have to know what's going on. You can use coercion or blackmail to make someone willing however.
  • Tapping into a source takes one second for Adepts and 1 minute for non-adepts (who can use the adept times, though this requires a skill roll at -5)


Do What I Say Mage or the Familiar Gets It
How do you decide when coercion kicks in if using magic? I've always used an extremely simple rule: if you are directly using magic to force someone to do something he wouldn't otherwise do (e.g. jedi mind tricks) then you cannot force them to give you energy to power a spell. If you are indirectly using magic to force them to give you energy (e.g., using Path of Matter to telekinetically threaten the target with a knife) then you're good to go.


Piecemail Sacrifice and Healing
One thing I never thought about until it was brought up in a thread was how Voluntary Sacrifice intersected with magical healing. Even with only one sacrifice per donor per spell it doesn't stop the mage from healing the donor and making the sacrifice moot. It skims insanely close to Rule 3 again. I've always kept track of such things in my most of my campaigns so I didn't really realize what a shock my answer to this question was going to cause. Since then I've decided I'll use the following rule for further campaigns where appropriate:

Since HP and FP granted by magical spells cannot be sacrificed for energy for magical rituals it stands to reason that inherent HP or FP restored by magic shouldn’t be able to be sacrificed either. This is realistic, but causes a headache for the GM. Therefore as a general rule, a given character may only sacrifice up to one multiple of his HP or FP if he’s received any sort of magical healing in the last 24 hours.

Picking Over the Bones
So I've droned on about RPM (I haven't done that in a bit!) and laid down what I consider the proper interpretations of the rules, but I wonder how others have played with RPM and sacrifices. How you any other rules you've used? What about sacrificing money or time? Anything you've done in your games to alter how the rules work?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sicatra - The Bloodied and the Banal - Game Session 4



Adventuring Party
Autora (PC – Versitile Avatar – Goddess of Abundance, Agriculture, Alcohol, Bees, Family, Good weather, Hearth, and Midwives)
Ghermukhannu (PC – Agile Avatar – God of Guile, Journeys, Monkeys, Mischief, and Travelers)
Imir (PC – Brainy Avatar – Goddess of Time, Fate, Space, Portals, Rebirth & Beginnings, and Starlight)
Johren (PC – Brawny Avatar – God of Defense and Protection, Exploration and adventurers, Weather, Thunder and Lightning, and Physical strength)
Sulio (PC – Versatile Avatar – God of Illusions, Mirages, Personas, Chameleons, and Performance Art)
Tierian (PC – Brawny Avatar – God Of Earth And Stone, Architecture, Engineering And Construction, Gems and Jewelry, Mountains, Mining, and Precious Metals)

Eternity (NPC – Brawny Avatar – Semidivine being who is the physical embodiment of starlight)
Gram (NPC – Brainy Avatar – Semidivine being who determines where the dead go in the afterlife)
Jortha (PC – Versatile Avatar – Goddess of Naval Warfare, Oceans and Seas, Sailors, Storms, Watercraft, and Wind)
Malakai rue Mors (NPC – Versatile Archetype – Godsbane and Bonecarver)



Weather: 21º F; 4 mph winds from the east; heavy snow
Eighth Month, 12th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia


The PCs venture into the necropolis, leaving behind Sulio and Autora at the Windrunner. While inside the walls of the necropolis, Malakai grows angry at its state of disrepair and for a moment, Imir sees the Judge behind his mortal eyes. Tierian and Imir use their collective capabilities to bring the necropolis back to pristine condition. Johren and Tierian then use their great strength to force open the doors (the counterweight had long been broken). Once inside it was a matter of accessing the hidden area where the gate key was located, activating it, and heading back to the ship.

Back on board, they realize that Jortha is missing – and that’s when Luhr (the god of madness) appears with Rezina (goddess of poison and disease), Yentrus (goddess of famine and hunger), and Ocmos (god of forgetfulness, loss, and false memories). He’s taken Jortha hostage and beaten her half to death in the process. Luhr gives them the option to trade Malakai for her, but Jortha tells them not to and then a massive battle breaks out that lasts over an hour and culiminates with Yentrus being killed by Malakai and Ocmos being killed by Ghermukhannu. Luhr and Rezina flee the battle and the others do not pursue them.

Taking a couple days the gods create a hidden paradise and put out a call to their worshippers. Tierian builds the mountains high and fills them with riches. Autora makes the soil fertile. Imir rapidly ages the trees in the area, making them tall and huge. Sulio creates a mystical “forbidding” making it impossible for rogue deities or their worshippers from entering the valley. Ghermukhannu makes the valley impossible to find except by the invited or those who’ve already been there. Johren creates a group of spirits to watch over those within the valley. They then leave the city and its new inhabitants and head to the next key’s location.

Weather: 11º F; 16 mph winds from the east; heavy snow
Eighth Month, 19th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Carpe Blogiem: When Is a Dungeon Fantasy Campaign No Longer A Dungeon Fantasy Campaign?, Part I


Oddly enough, running Dungeon Fantasy demos are my local game store and my hacked-together version have given me a bit of insight into the series like nothing else ever has. At first, Sicatra was just supposed to be a straight-up Dungeon Fantasy campaign with all the normal rules and races and the beer and pretzel approach. This is what my players requested and this is what we did...for a while. About five sessions in (sometime around when I began to throw notes together for the world), one of my players remarked that they wanted to create their own deity for the campaign world. Being as I'm just fine with players helping me with world-creation work I let them go at it. I think that was the beginning of the ending of Sicatra as a "typical" Dungeon Fantasy campaign.

Soon I was being asked more and more questions about the world itself rather than what place could be looted next. It set off a chain reaction that culminated last week into a several hours-long serious discussion on worldbuilding and how the players wanted to approach the campaign. It was not what I was going for. It wasn't even close really. But there is one thing I've learned in 20+ years of being a gamemaster: You give the players what they want. I suppose I would have been a bit upset if I had put more thought into the campaign and the players signed up for that and then wanted to change it. But that wasn't the case. Instead, they weren't asking for changes of any particular concept, but more of what they'd already seen.

This led to a conversation with my friend, Scott "Rocketman" Rochat about the evolution of a campaign. It boiled down into what I'm going to call Rochat's Law: "The longer a beer and pretzels campaign progresses, the more likely it is that it is no longer a beer and pretzels campaign." Sometimes it only takes a few instances (in my case), sometimes it takes longer. Basically, the longer you run campaigns in a particular setting, however ill- or vaguely defined, the more likely it is that you unintentionally build up the world so that it is more than it started as. Now, for some campaigns this is an accepted byproduct of playing - and a commonly wanted one as well. Unchanging campaign settings eventually become quite boring. But for intentionally "simplistic" games...this could become a burden.

So when is a Dungeon Fantasy campaign no longer a Dungeon Fantasy campaign? As written, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is intentionally tongue-in-cheek, it's "silly" in that it doesn't take itself seriously. It's a place where dwarves and elves hate one another because of "ancient grudges." Where Heaven and Hell are taken to extremes. A place where finding a magical sword only requires you venture into some moldy dungeon. Really, it's "All about that loot, about that loot (no shiny pebbles!)" Strangely enough, most Dungeon Fantasy campaigns I've seen run are not run this way. People run them like they used to play their old Dungeons and Dragons games. They took a system that they loved, but wasn't really meant to do all the things they wanted to do (e.g. social interaction, politics, etc.) and made it do what they wanted. Doing this in GURPS is so much easier than it ever was in the various iterations of Dungeons and Dragons. You essentially just put the items you want in and bam! You're good to go.

What boggles me the most is those that play Dungeon Fantasy as their focus campaign setting (not as an introductory tool or for one-shots) tend to do the exact same thing: they use Dungeon Fantasy as more a framework, rather than "playing it straight."

Next Part: I talk about the sort of changes I'd do to make Dungeon Fantasy more "General Fantasy."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sicatra - The Bloodied and the Banal - Game Session 3



Adventuring Party
Autora (PC – Versitile Avatar – Goddess of Abundance, Agriculture, Alcohol, Bees, Family, Good weather, Hearth, and Midwives)
Ghermukhannu (PC – Agile Avatar – God of Guile, Journeys, Monkeys, Mischief, and Travelers)
Imir (PC – Brainy Avatar – Goddess of Time, Fate, Space, Portals, Rebirth & Beginnings, and Starlight)
Johren (PC – Brawny Avatar – God of Defense and Protection, Exploration and adventurers, Weather, Thunder and Lightning, and Physical strength)
Sulio (PC – Versatile Avatar – God of Illusions, Mirages, Personas, Chameleons, and Performance Art)
Tierian (PC – Brawny Avatar – God Of Earth And Stone, Architecture, Engineering And Construction, Gems and Jewelry, Mountains, Mining, and Precious Metals)

Eternity (NPC – Brawny Avatar – Semidivine being who is the physical embodiment of starlight)
Gram (NPC – Brainy Avatar – Semidivine being who determines where the dead go in the afterlife)
Jortha (PC – Versatile Avatar – Goddess of Naval Warfare, Oceans and Seas, Sailors, Storms, Watercraft, and Wind)
Malakai rue Mors (NPC – Versatile Archetype – Godsbane and Bonecarver)


The Story Thus Far for Autora and Tierian…
Autora and Tierian fell from the 10,000 Heavens only a few days before finding their way to Madin. Having encountered a small group of Zytarrin’s servitors (semidivine beings who were his servitors and messengers before he went rogue). Barely escaping with their lives they realized that they were being tracked by the use of their godly powers. Making their way to a small town inhabited by nothing but children and begin to take care of them as they plot their next move…


Weather: 24º F; 12 mph winds from the east; foggy
Eighth Month, 11th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

Since the second key to activate the Windgate to Oggdriu lies in the sprawling necropolis of Sulinkhudus (the last remaining cared-for memorial site from soldiers who fought in the Giant’s Rebellion) the PCs have stopped at the town of Madin long enough hto resupply and enter into the necropolis. But before they can do this, Autora and Tierian met them at the outskirts of town to face down what they think are other rogue deities. Once they get close enough they realize that their allies have arrived. Unfortunately, both Autora and Tierian were tricked by the town’s inhabitants who have been secretly worshipping Zytarrin. More than that, the bloodthirsty deity has found a way to tap into the power of a soul – something that no god should ever do. The last 36 inhabitants of Madin became soulless, cannibalistic monsters.

After a short (very) one-sided fight, the PCs devise a solution to the problem: they’ll just create new souls for the children. Tierian forges several crystals to contain the artificial constructs and the other gods imbue it with a portion of their power as Sulio forges a “personality overlay” of the children’s original selves. Finally, Autora “births” the souls into the world and Imir weaves them into the Tapestry of Fate. Since the head is the seat of the soul, the children are restrained as the crystalline gems are placed into their third eye to bind them to their new bodies. By the time the sky darkens all children have been “re-ensouled” and changed their fates forever.


Weather: 38º F; 19 mph winds from the east; light snow
Eighth Month, 11th Day, 802 of the Fifth Age
Madin, Veneficia

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Words of Creation


Logos (sometimes referred to as “power words” or “prime words”) are the literal words of Creation itself. Logos are the selfsame words that were spoke in the making of the universe. Despite having such a divine provenance they can be learned by mortal men and women who have sufficient strength of will....

...if you'd like to read more, consider becoming a patron!