Boil and Bubble: Personal Greater and Lesser Effects

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Any concern about a situation like your Elementalist being one where he trades something he'll never want to to use for something he'll use all the time? The old "the disadvantage isn't really disadvantageous" situation?

  2. Some.But here's the thing, the GM is supposed to make it HURT when you have a disadvantage. Not being able to control the dead or the minds of the living should crop up at least as often as standard anti-magic countermeasures. You can't go through life young, power-drunk, and chucking fireballs at everything.

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