Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Boil and Bubble: The Return of Magic - After the End

Guest Post by +Asta Kask aka Anders Starmark

What if magic returned? What if it never went away? How would magic interact with the post-apocalyptic world? Are magic and technology antithetical or are they capable of enhancing each other? The most important thing to figure out is probably what magic system to use – GURPS has a lot of options to choose from. GURPS Magic contains a detailed, flavorful system, but has many potentially game-wrecking spells. The most balanced approach is probably Sorcery, as the spells will be built the same way as psionics and mutations… but it may give the feeling that everything is the same. Personally I like Path Magic from GURPS Thaumatology (p. 121-165) – it is reminiscent of “classical” magic without requiring as much GM oversight as e.g. Ritual Path Magic.

As the Primary Cause
A magical breakthrough could be caused by nature spirits rising up against the soul-crushing technology… or as a last-ditch attempt to control humanity before they grow too strong for the Powers That Be To Handle. Either way, there are a number of Secondary Effects to consider – a zombie plague (GURPS After the End 2: The New World, p. 7) is always a possibility where magic is involved. Magic could animate statues and other objects, causing a Reign of Steel (or marble) scenario (The New World, p. 6). And the magic could bring back fey, turning the world into an X-Factor world (The New World, p. 7). Of course, the discovery of an entirely new way of doing things could case Things to Fall Apart (The New World, p. 6).

As a Secondary Effect
As long as the GM is willing to do the proper amount of hand-waving, any event involving large amounts of energy (e.g., Bombs Away, The New World, p. 4, or Cosmic Rays, The New World,  p. 5) or suffering (e.g. Mega-Virus, The New World, p.5 or Walkers and Shufflers, The New World, p. 7). Nature spirits behind a Mother Nature scenario (The New World, p. 5), or fey are the aliens in X-Factor (The New World, p. 7), they could bring back magic with them.

Appropriate Hazards
Magic could warp both men and animals, giving rise to Mutants (The New World, p. 18). Gangs (The New World, p. 15-17) and Paramilitaries (The New World, p. 23-24) are always a possibility, ruling the world via thaumaturgical might rather than technology (or a combination of the two!). Magic could bring strange Climate (The New World, p.12-13) or interesting new Diseases (The New World, p. 13-15). Rogue Bots (The New World, p. 25-27) in the form of re-animated statues, and Zombies (The New World, p. 27-29) could be the result of elemental or necromantic energies gone awry.

Other Information
As mentioned above, you need to discuss the relationship between magic and technology. If they are opposed to each other, consider adding the Nature Power Modifier (GURPS Powers, p. 28) to Magery or the magical powers you build. However, this can make magic almost useless in the most interesting areas (such as radioactive wastelands). Why would a magic-user even enter such areas?

If you use Path Magic, the question of magic and technology boils down to whether you allow the Path of Gadgets (Thaumatology, p. 145-148). With magic and technology opposed, you should probably not use the path – the only appropriate ritual is Gremlins, and that can be cast using the Path of Luck. With magic and technology working together, the Path of Gadgets becomes a good way to either complement or supplant a Techie in the group. The only rituals that should be banned are Fuel and Unlimited Ammo, both which negate the resource-management part of the setting. If radiation is a factor in the setting, you'll also want to devise a ritual that allows you to deal with it. Alternatively you can allow the Dose (Thaumatology, p. 148) to clear away as many Radiation Points as the margin of success (for Effect Shaping) or energy accumulated.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Hurt Locker: Shelter Building After the End

GURPS After the End 2: The New World presents several new rules for surviving in the wastelands. “Survival at the End” from Pyramid #3/90: After the End gives even more guidelines and options for survival. Today’s Hurt Locker installment is all about building shelters when you don’t have adequate gear....

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Designer's Notes: Survival at the End


"Survival at the End" was something I'd conceived pretty much on the fly. I had a tight deadline and I knew I'd need to use at least half the time I'd been allotted to let my revisors chew on it. Luckily, one of the the things I'm knowledgeable in is various hunting and survival techniques. I didn't just go and research the material from this article - I've done just about most of it at one time or another. Now, I did go back and make sure that the various descriptions and information were as academic as possible, the penalties fro performing given tasks were suitable with verified difficulty, etc. I've quite a background with various survival and primitive living tasks. Part of that is how I was raised (my grandfather was a sort of "be prepared regardless" sort of guy and later on in life I was forced to be imaginative just to survive. (I actually gardened and fished for almost 50% of my food source for the last couple of years, though not so much this year. I've been lucky.) I tried to make "Survival at the End" useful for After the End campaigns, but also for any campaign that featured survival in the wilderness.

Most of the information I presented is as useable in a TL0 campaign as it is in a TL12 campaign. The raison d'etre of the article is simply "Making do with what you got." I am confidant that I accomplished that. There was some things that I was forced to leave out for space concerns (a shelter building mini game, more perks, notes on advantages, etc.) or because it was appropriate to After the End (more detailed rules about what Reduced Consumption does when you have to buy your food or calculating Time Use). I would have also liked to put out more information on farming in general as well as more rules for gathering plants (including mushrooms). Some info on medicinal uses of various plants would also have been welcome I think. I've quite a bit of knowledge in that area as well (handed down from Nana and Papa). I was also considering a section on booby traps (like a burning tire filled with air and covered with glass and nails makes one helluva an IED. I thought about adding rules on how to create raw materials from trash (e.g., reforging car parts into steel ingots). Overall, I was pretty happy with how it turned out and hope that my fellow gamers can get some use out of it.

It took me about 14.5 hours to write, 29 hours to edit, 12 hours worth of research, and 56 hours of revision.  (The shelter building rules will be coming out this Saturday on my Patreon page for those interested.)

One outtake (I ran a VERY slim on my overflow) from the Wasteland Perks section:

Survivor’s Gut
Prerequisites: HT 11+.

You’re used to drinking water out of hoof prints and eating spoiled food. This perk comes in levels. Each level gives a +1 to rolls to resist ingested poisons, disease, sickness, etc. and gives the benefits of Reduced Consumption (p. B80). It is effectively Reduced Consumption (Cast Iron Stomach, -50%).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GURPS101: Somewhat More Super-ST

Guest Post by +Hal Batty

Bricks have a bit of problem in GURPS. They’re sometimes spending thousands of points on being able to hit, take a hit, and lift big things. At higher levels ST just doesn’t give enough for it’s cost when compared to getting other, more useful traits like Flight, Enhanced Move, increased DX, etc. So what can a budding Brick do to solve this problem?

Well, there’s Super-ST. That is to say, ST (Super-Effort, +300%) [40/level], this lets you spend 1 FP to gain access to a higher effective ST. The amount of ST gained increases exponentially as the level increases, so it gets better the more you get. So what’s the problem? Well there are a few; Super-ST isn’t worth buying at low levels, but it’s pretty crazy at higher levels, it costs FP which means you’re strong at the start of the fight, but not at the end, and of course that it’s a +300% enhancement, so any limitations added to it barely do anything to the cost. There are a few more, but I think that covers the major gripes people have.

For taking a hit, we’ve got Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction), which… is actually pretty great. It’s effectiveness scales up the more points you sink into it, it’s not too bad at the low end, or too good at the high end, and it does it’s job well. If only we could do something similar for ST...

The Solution (Maybe)
Taking a closer look at Damage Reduction, we can see that what it’s really doing is increasing your effective HP. Since Damage Reduction 10 divides incoming injury by 10, you essentially have 10x the HP, this breaks down a little in that Damage Reduction has a minimum of one point of damage, but it’s close enough. HP makes up 1/5th of the cost of ST, so a trait that multiplies effective ST in the same way Damage Reduction does for HP should cost 5x as much, or 250 points for the first level, and 125 points for each additional level.

Another pricing scheme is with Enhanced Move. By adding the Second-Nature, +150% enhancement to Enhanced Move we can make it ignore acceleration time, handling penalties, etc. and just straight-up double Basic Move. The average man has Basic Move 5, it costs 25 points to double this to 10 by just raising it, or 50 points using Enhanced Move (Second-Nature, +150%). The average man also has ST 10, it costs 100 points to double it to 20, so using the relationship above a trait that doubles ST should cost 200 points. So with this scheme our trait costs 200 points for the first level, and 100 points for each additional one.

Out of those two costs I prefer the second, it’s a little neater, and easier to divide up into HP, Lifting ST, and Striking ST. It’s worth mentioning now that there’s no Damage Reduction 1.5 because, well, dividing by 1.5 wouldn’t be very nice, but when we’re multiplying ST by 1.5 that’s no longer a problem, so we can slot in an extra level and get a nice linear cost progression. Taking all that into account we’re left with:

Enhanced ST

100 points/level

Subtract two from your level of Enhanced ST and look up the value in the Size column of the Size and Speed/Range Table (p. B550), read across to the Linear Measurement column and multiply your ST by that number. For example the first level of Enhanced ST gives 1.5x ST, whilst the sixth gives 10x ST. Note that it only becomes point efficient to buy Enhanced ST once you’ve already bought ST up to 20, it doesn’t become inefficient to buy normal ST until you reach ST 40. Enhanced Striking ST costs 50 points/level, Enhanced Lifting ST costs 30 points/level, and Enhanced HP costs 20 points/level.

Example Character: Atlas
I thought I’d throw together a character using this system, to see how well it works. So here’s Atlas, a character based loosely on the Brick template in GURPS Supers:

Atlas [1,000 points]

ST: 300 (Size*, -10%) [90] HP: 3,000 [0]               Basic Speed: 7.00 [0]
DX: 12 [40]                         Will: 14 [20]                 Basic Move: 8* [0]
IQ: 10 [0]                            Per: 10 [0]
HT: 16 [60]                         FP: 16 [0]                     SM: +1*
*Gigantism increases SM and Basic Move by 1.
Thrust: 31d                         Swing: 33d                   Basic Lift: 18,000 lbs.
Dodge: 10                            Parry: 11 (Brawling)   DR: 20 (Tough Skin)

Punch (16): 31d+31 crushing. Reach C, 1.
Kick (14): 31d+32 crushing. Reach C, 1.

Advantages [30]
High Pain Threshold [10]; Rapid Healing [5]; Very Fit [15].

Metahuman Powers [756]
  • Brick: Damage Resistance 20 (Metahuman, -10%) [90] + Enhanced HP 150* (Metahuman, -10%; Size, -10%) [96]. 186 points.
  • Strongman: Enhanced ST 15 (Metahuman, -10%; Size, -10%) [570]. 570 points.
*Bought up from Enhanced ST 10.

Disadvantages [-20]
Bad Temper (15) [-5]; Code of Honor (Hero) [-10]; Gigantism [0]; Ham-Fisted 1 [-5].

Skills [24]
Brawling (E) DX +4 [12]-16; Lifting (A) HT +1 [4]-17; Wrestling (A) DX +2 [8]-14.

Picking Over the Bones
The intention of this post isn’t to rewrite the GURPS rules for ST, just to add an option that works with them. That said, those who use it may want to treat swing damage as thrust damage based on what ST would be with an additional level of Enhanced Striking ST, and perhaps do something similar for kicking. The above system is basically an advantage that scales up the owner, it might be possible to create equivalents for things like Innate Attack or Damage Resistance, or even have an advantage that simply scales up everything.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Open Call To Players, the Revenge of the Open Call

EDIT: After getting nearly 100 applicants I'm shutting this down. I hope everyone who wanted to apply did so and thank you for all of those who did. I'll not be accepting any more applications after midnight 4/20/16.

I'm recruiting again for two online games in my Aeon universe. Like my other two games they will be interconnected at some points. There are currently two potential campaigns.

The C-Team:  Players will take the roles of AEGIS (Advanced Emergency Global Interdiction Service) operatives who are looking into strange cases all around the world (called "Paradox" cases) as well as policing the world of metahumans. Think something like Warehouse 13 meets Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with my own spin. Point value will be between 300 and 500. This is game will take place on the first and third Tuesday of every month from 6-7pm to 10-11pm (this is somewhat flexible). The game will begin mid- to end-April. I have approximately 3 slots. 

The D-Team: Players will take the roles of various people in a post-apocalyptic of the Aeon universe. After the "Swan spread her wings" the world went to crap. The landscape of the planet is radically different and terrain has been changed all around due to metahuman powers gone wild. People are struggling to survive. The environment went from unbearably hot to uncomfortably cold and the planet is now in a global ice age. There are at least two instances known where people from another time have been transported into the future (the Vikings of Vinland and the colonists of Roanoke). Various superhuman powers are still around but fairly rare (and most people exhibiting powers are shot on sight). Point value will be between 200 and 400. This is game will take place on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 1-2pm to 6-7pm (this is somewhat flexible). The game will begin mid- to end-May. I have approximately 4 slots. (Yes, this ia direct nod to my GMT friends - I figured I could try not run something you guys would be able to play.)

In all cases skill at writing comprehensive background stories and character creation are a plus. GURPS knowledge is a plus, but not required.

Note: I only run cooperative games so no backstabbing, stealing, and in general causing party strife are tolerated. I don't do ruleslawyering - I'm the GM. If I say purple is orange then that's the color (though as others who play with me can tell you I am not an autocratic GM - just the opposite).

 I tend toward the cinematic end of the fence because I find that most players enjoy that sort of thing. Game will take place on Roll20 and thus at least a mic (though I'd prefer a webcam as well - I like to see my player's faces) is required.

 In both cases I may decide to swap the games time tables - so make sure you are very clear about what times you can attend. Point values are also flexible - I'll be asking the final roster of players what they interested in.

One final note: I've still got two to three people from last time that applied who I'll be tapping first to see if they are interested in playing, but there are still plenty slots open.

 If you're interested email me.

Edit: As a note to all applicants, those who are patrons to my Patreon will have "preferential seating" at my table according to their level of patronage. This is just out of respect for all of those who value me enough to support me in some way, no matter how small.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Optional Rules for Terminally Ill

In GURPS there's a disadvantage for seemingly everything. Are you nuts? Take a Delusion! Do you take damage when exposed to green rocks from space? Take Weakness! And so on and so on, GURPS is modular enough that you can represent just about any sort of negative (or positive!) trait with a little ingenuity, even inevitable death. The Terminally Ill disadvantage (p. B158) comes in three flavors: eventually (2 years), soon (1 year), and very soon (1 month). It's also one of those disadvantages that makes the GM look very closely at your character sheet. It's a lot of points for very little actual downside. You get 50 to 100 points to spend on other things and in exchange the GM guarantees that he's going to kill your character. In the mind time...chow down on corn dogs, drink lots, and generally just do unhealthy things since you're not going to be around long enough to worry anyways.

As a game designer and GM I find Terminally Ill annoying. No, not because a player is generating a character with a expiration date, but rather because by RAW Terminally Ill has no downside until the very end. I've actually had a player who took this, Cursed, or Weirdness MAgnet because he thought it was "free" points. Well, that dog didn't hunt and after the second character he created had it on his character sheet I houseruled a few things.

Dying Later, Suffering Now
The GM should require the player explain exactly what he is dying from. This needn't be a medical explanation! He could have a curse hanging over his head that will ensure his death when his time is up. For example. he could be diagnosed wither terminal brain cancer or a Voodoo curse ensuring Shango will smite him with lightning. Once the GM knows what the player will inevitably killed by he can then use the following rules: Once per game session, roll 3d6, on a 9 or less the character suffers from a disadvantage(s) equal to one-fifth the value of Terminally Ill. For example, a Shango-cursed monster hunter has Terminally Ill (2 years), meaning that in two years game time he's going to suffer a horrible death and it will be related to electricity. The GM rolls a 8 on 3d6 and decide that for the game session he's going to have Divine Curse (Batteries discharge ten times as fast) [-5] and Reputation -2 (Voodoo practitioners) [-5] as Shango reminds him of his eventual fate.

GMs can modify this frequency if they wish: for a roll of 6 or less add +5 to the base disadvantage (but not for the purposes of determining what effects happen on a given day!), for a 12 or more add  -5 to the base cost, for a 15 or more add -10, and if it always happens at -15!

Die Fast, Leave a Pretty Corpse
30 days until you are dead not fast enough? Now you can die quicker! For having a week left to live the cost becomes -125 points, for one day the cost becomes -150 points. Despite what the Basic Set says, GMs who want to have longer durations where death is inevitable can use the following: for 5 years, this is worth -25 points, for 10 years or more this is a quirk, worth a mere point.

Chronic Pain as Noxious Effects
The Chronic Pain disadvantage represents some ailment or condition which causes you constant pain. But what if you suffer bouts of nausea or even drunkenness? This is possible, but requires a bit of math. First, note that the Severity levels of Chronic Pain map exactly to Moderate Pain, Severe Pain, and Terrible Pain. Next, if we use the value of each condition as a affliction we note that it's worth exactly 2.5 times one-tenth the value of the enhancement as a disadvantage (e.g., Moderate Pain is worth +20% as an Affliction, one-tenth of the value is 2, multiplied by 2.5 = 5). In all cases, round down. Using that same logic you can add other noxious effects instead of pain using this formula:
(Cost of Enhancement / 10) x 2.5 = Base Severity Value
You could for example suffer coughing fits (-3 to DX, -1 to IQ, and Stealth is impossible). The base cost for Chronic Pain (which I'd probably rename as "Chronic Effect") would be +20% / 10 = 2 x 2.5 = -5 points.

We can even get more bizarre by creating a disadvantage which causes you to lose one of your advantages by pricing it as a Negated Advantage (e.g., +10% per character point cost of the trait). So for example, a superhero who loses access to 50 points of superpowers has a disadvantage worth +50% / 10 = 5 x 2.5 = -12 points.

Picking Over the Bones
Overall, Terminally Ill is like Cursed - you really need GM permission to take it because it doesn't just affect you - it affects the GM too. He's the one that has to work it into campaign and more than that decide if it's going to be a worthwhile disadvantage in his campaign. If he plans on running a one-shot or a campaign where time isn't really tracked then Terminally Ill probably isn't going to be appropriate. Despite all that, Terminally Ill can be a huge opportunity for roleplaying because the character knows he's going to die in a horrible way if he doesnt met his end first while adventuring. This sort of fatalism can create a byronic hero who accepts his destiny and continues on anyways because he knows of no other way.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Carpe Blogiem: Topics Requested

Okay, so I'm looking for topics for my blog and for Patreon articles. Suggest something below in the comments box and I'll add it to the list of possible topics. Most posts are between 500 and 750 words for most subjects, I break them up into parts after that. Patreon articles start at 750 and go up. As always, I look forward to see what you folks suggest.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: Super-ST Options

One thing that has come up in my Aeon campaign is Super-ST and how it does what it does. One of my (few) house rules is that Costs Fatigue is worth more - I just use PK's version because it works better. But the discussion of why Super-ST should be discounted more because of that houserule brought up another thought: why doesn't Super-ST not increase jumping distance passively? That made me think of other things Super-ST might be able to do...

Super-ST and Jumping Distance
The optional rules for ST and Jumping (p. B352) and Super-ST interact normally when you use FP, but why only then? There is precedence in allowing your Super-ST to be used passively for Knockback, why not for Jumping using this optional rule? It makes sense from a genre point of view - super strong characters can jump, leap, etc. For example, if you have ST 20/110 then if your body weight is 2,420 lbs. or less you'd calculate your jumping distance from either your Basic Move or 30 (120 / 4 = 30), whichever is better.

Super-ST and Slamming
Technically, Super-ST doesn't increase your Hit Points thus it doesn't really help with slams...which is...weird. Think about it, you can rip a vault door from its hinges, but you can't plow through it with a slam. Thus, for my campaigns I've been toying with the idea that you can spend 1 FP and instead of using your HP, you can use your enhanced ST level. Let's just look at what a difference this makes:

Basic Set rules: A super with ST 20/110 slams moving at Basic Move 7, he does (20 x 7) /100 or 2d-2 crushing damage.
Optional proposed rule: That same super does (110 x 7) / 110 or 8d crushing damage.

The latter seems a heckuva lot more appropriate to me.

Super-ST and Resisting ST-Based Effects
Yet another weird bit - if Super-ST can be used to resist Knockback. Why can't it be used to resist Neck Snap, Snap Blade, Wrench Limb, and other, similiar contests where you can resist with your ST for only a split second? Look at it this way - that same ST 20/110 (who really needs a name at this point - I'm just gonna call him Herc) can spend 1 FP and then roll against a skill or 107 to snap someone's neck at default - even if it is a clone of Herc (who gets to resist with his ST 20 or spend 1 FP). That feels weird to me. Since Super-Effort on ST is already so overpriced, I don't see a problem with allowing those with it to resist such attacks without spending FP - the same way you can resist knockback.

Picking Over the Bones
I'm not one for mucking about with the rules unless they really ping my wonkometer - the Super-Effort rules for ST are not entirely broken, but they could be revised to play nicer with the entirety of GURPS and not just parts of it. I've read on the forums that Super-Effort on ST is just a "stop gap," but I don't really believe that. It's a well conceived idea, but the execution is tricky because of the nature of the trait itself. That said, I'm not really sure how to make it supers play nicer with the basic system other than using an entirely different system for ST itself (such as the Knowing Your Own Strength rules) and I really don't want to do that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Adversary

One of the things that shocked me the most when I was talking perspective players for Aeon was the completely lack of knowledge regarding using the rules for having a Adversary (see p. B493). Mind you, it's only a couple of paragraphs, but when I first read GURPS 4th edition this was a eye-opening passage. The thought that I could have a player who was essentially a co-GM, but not all the time was so appealing I instantly began coaching my other half in the various GURPS rules so she could fulfill the role. That was ten years ago and I haven't ever regretted the decision. So what exactly is an Adversary? the Basic Set calls it a player who occasionally takes on the roles of NPCs who play an "adversarial" role. Now, while that is quite useful if you have a player who can perform properly in his role, expanding it outward can save the GM a huge amount of time. Adversaries in my games have expanded roles (see below) and I tend to reward the player who does this with leeway for their own characters or enhanced character point awards - though this is not required.

Adversaries in my games fulfill the following roles:

  • Act as co-GM if I have a large player base and need to split the party up. I give the Adversary a general idea of what I want done and then let them have free rein.
  • Act as a specific NPC when I don't want my GM knowledge interfering or coloring decisions the NPC must make.
  • Act as a "minutes-taker" for session records-keeping.
  • Act as a sounding-board between sessions so I can figure out where I want the game to go.
  • Create NPCs, gear, etc. as needed to free me up so I can look at the big picture more

This may not seem like a lot, but after a way I can tell you that your games will improve. Having a adversary is like having an extra core on your computer's CPU - you don't know how awesome it is until you have one and then go without. Besides, training an Adversary is a lot like training a GM and if you have a good enough rapport with your Adversary you can switch between Gamemaster and Adversary roles at will.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

GURPS101: More Imbuement Skills

GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements offers one of the cleanest methods to enhance mundane attacks in a supernatural way for GURPS 4th edition. Because you can never have enough imbuement skills - here are a few more....

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