Carpe Blogiem: A New Chronicle Part I

My GURPS campaign has ended, long-live my GURPS campaign! Aeon came to a final close about 6-8 weeks ago. I answered some questions and left more questions unanswered. That’s usually a good way to leave things I’ve found. So what’s next? Returning to a previous campaign is what’s next. I’ve talked about my urban fantasy campaign on my blog before. The last time I ran it, it was just for a few weeks and then real life intervened. Moreover, it was for a single group (my face to face gaming group). This time, I’ve decided to learn from the mistakes of Aeon and use the lessons from gamemastering that campaign for the new one. I learned my limit last time – I can barely keep up with about 15-17 people and three games. Any more than that and it starts to wear on me too much. Which sucks because in my hey-day I could run a game with 24 people and I was fine. Also, I ran it in the snow, uphill, without oxygen. And I liked it. I also wanted to fully flesh out and use the “Faction-Based Combat System” I’d created as an analogue to GURPS Boardrooms and Curia. So I planned on using organizations quite a bit.

“The Chronicles of Ceteri” is kind of a classic take on the urban fantasy/secret world genre/trope. Monsters are real and so are the people who fight them. Magic is real. There is a whole secret history of the world. When creating the campaign – really when creating any campaign where myths and monsters are real and varied – I settled on a cornerstone: the Abrahamic God and the Judeo-Christian mythology were real. Now, that’s a big risk. Why? Because if you don’t do it right you’re going to make someone angry. That’s just the breaks when it comes to using real-world religions. Owing to my background I feel that I can avoid the risks (offending others) and go straight for the rewards (drawing on the massive amount of literature available). Once I had the cornerstone down everything else fell right into place.

There are four major forms of supernatural powers and phenomena.

Divine Gifts: these uses the rules for GURPS Powers: Divine Favor and are either from powerful spirits (like Thor or Zeus) or from the big man himself/Heaven. Users of the former are called “channelers” (they “channel” spiritual power), users of the second are rarer and are called “saints.”

Magic: This comes in two flavors. “Extrinsic” magic uses a customized effect-shaping ritual path magic framework – one I’m particularly proud of because I managed to fit the game mechanics into the campaign world and vice versa. Everything works the way it does both above – and below. “Intrinsic” magic refers racial powers, advantages, rpm “knacks,” imbuements, chi skills, and so on.

Psychic Powers: This uses the rules for GURPS Psionic Powers but I changed how the various power modifiers work (each power modifier has a unique effect – like Astral Projection powers attract astral beings who are curious how a living being can project their mind). I also ditched powers I straight up didn’t want in the campaign – like Teleportation and Cyberpsi. If it didn’t fit how I viewed psi powers working (kind of like some victorian ideas of psi), I chucked it. This resulted in psi being having a very spooky/real world feel.

Geotrinsic Phenomena: I had to coin the term for this, but this basically refers to places of power, ley lines, astrological occulations, the rules for Safe as Houses, the Mask of Humanity, power of the human soul, etc. It all ties together in a rather awesome way.

Every sort of monster you can think of exists including a few that are unique or synthesized. For example, the “Forsaken” are three races (vampires, werewolves, and succubi) who are all descended from fallen angels. This gives them a shared history and similiar abilities – but make them all unique in their own way.

I’ll likely talk about the setting itself a lot more in the days to come and I plan to continue my Assembly Required series and finish that up with this campaign.

Optional Rules Being Used
It should be noted that as a GM, I may occasionally turn the realism level “up” or “down” to better suit the current mood of the campaign or to heighten drama. For example, in most instances the optional rules for Bleeding (p. B420) are not used, but if a player has been injured and is still facing danger they may be used to better simulate the peril they are still in. But here are the major ones.

GURPS Basic Set

  • Limited Enhancements (p. B111).
  • Malfunctions (p. B279).
  • Modifying Dice + Adds (p. B269).
  • Modifying Skills (p. B101).

GURPS Low-Tech

  • Armor Hit Locations (p. 100).

GURPS Martial Arts

  • Limiting Multiple Dodges (pp. 123). Note: This has been slightly tweaked: Those with Enhanced Time Sense, Trained by a Master, Weapon Master, or an appropriate Wildcard skill take a -1 penalty per two subsequent dodges after the first (e.g., -0 for the first, -1 for the second and third, -2 for the fourth and the fifth, and so on). Those with any two of the four take no penalty and may dodge as many times as they wish!
  • Multiple Blocks (pp. 123). Note: This is only available to those with Trained by a Master, Weapon Master, or an appropriate Wildcard skill.
  • Pain in Close Combat (pp. 119).

GURPS Monster Hunters 2: The Mission
Just about most of the optional rules from this book are in effect.

GURPS Social Engineering

  • Expanded Influence Rolls (p. 36).

Pyramid Magazine

  • Broken Blade (Pyramid #3/77: Combat), by Douglas Cole (pp. 24-28).
  • Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (Pyramid #3/44) by Roger Burton West (pp. 18-23).
  • How Very Tempting  (Pyramid #3/67: Tools of the Trade: Villains) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 14-19).
  • Mad as Bones (Pyramid #3/103: Setbacks) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 4-8).
  • On Target (Pyramid #3/87: Low-Tech III), by Douglas Cole (pp. 4-8).
  • Safe as Houses (Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 4-10).
  • The Mask of Humanity (Pyramid #3/97: Strange Powers) by Christopher R. Rice (pp. 13-20).
House Rules Being Used
I use my standard list of house rules for this campaign (which I really need to put up somewhere at some point). Essentially, I modify how wealth works, a few tweaks on character creation (mostly bonus CP to build your character the more fluffy information you give me). And my rules for character advancement (basically, you don’t upgrade your character till I give the say – about every 4-6 sessions – and you can’t increase stuff more than a level.)

Rules Made for this Campaign
*exhales* Too many. I literally wrote about 60,000 words just for paranormal powers. The rules for Mad as Bones came from this campaign as did every single article I’m using except for Team Up!. I created a bunch of rules that were both in-game and out-game in nature. For example, the “Laws of Magic” represent game mechanical things and how magic works in the game world itself. A example:

The Law of KnowledgeAxiom: Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est “Knowledge itself is power.”
Précis: To understand a thing is to have power over it.
Explanation: Magic is at its core using the understanding of people, places, and things to accrue supernatural power of them. Thus, the more you understand the more power you possess. Complete knowledge of a thing lets you control it.
Game Mechanics: Spells have many ways to gain bonuses to the caster’s skill rolls. The bonus gained from things like high-quality materia essentia, extra time, ley lines, etc. cannot exceed half the caster’s base Path skill or half his Thaumatology skill, whichever is lower. For example, if you knew Path of Energy at 12 and Thaumatology at 14, you could not get a bonus higher than +6 to your rolls. Note, this is not your effective skill, this maximal bonus is before taking into account any penalties. Continuing our example, if you took a -5 to your roll to reduce the time to cast, then final effective skill would be 12 (Base skill) + 6 (bonuses gained) – 5 (penalty for time) = final skill of 13.
         This law also represents the ritualistic substitutions of Skill Over Will (p. 00).

I also completely rehauled how astrological modifiers, locational modifiers, etc. work. It’s now a system of bonuses that are easy to adjudicate in play and require a ritual magic roll.

As I said previously, I heavily modified Effect-Shaping Ritual Path Magic and I’m continuing to modify it to better suit the campaign setting.

One thing I came up with is the idea of “Bloodlines” and “Supernatural Ancestry.” A characters lineage is important in this campaign. If you have a paranatural lineage you might be able to acquire certain powers. I’m sure you are asking “What’s the difference in the two?” The first (a bloodline) means you are descended from a specific person (mythological figure, hero, etc.) and you get access to special abilities based on that. Lesser scions get access to a select number of powers and are not direct descendants, while Greater scions get access to all of them and are direct descendents. Those with a special ancestry have a non-human ancestor (e.g., a sidhe or a dragon) and that gives them access to certain capabilities

There are other systems and rules as well, but those are pretty much the big ones.

Picking Over the Bones
Overall, I’m pleased with the character concepts I’ve seen. The next step is going to involve getting all the info from my massive campaign bible (it’s over 98,000 words currently) and my head into a player accessible private wiki. Luckily, I’ve got folks who are happy to help with that. One of the things I didn’t do so well with Aeon was keeping the Wiki current. That’s something I’m going to make sure I do this time. Once all the PCs have made it out of the prequel season – and some might not – this isn’t like the superhero campaign where you can come back easily. If you don’t buy an extra life at the beginning of the game or during down time and you die – that’s it.

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  1. Hello !

    I'm very thankful to you for having taken of your time to put all this into written form ^^.

    What wiki do you use ? And are there other "tools" that you use to help your game, be it for preparation or during play ?

    Good luck and have rewarding moments with this campaign !

  2. Thanks! I use a server-side mediawiki one of my players set up. I like using Scappple to organize my thoughts for the game and of course Word to get everything down. Once I have all that together I start transferring it to the wiki. I use Roll20 with a lot of rollable tables and such to make things easier during play.

  3. That's good ! I'll definitely get myself a mind-mapping application (online or offline), and I'll dig into Roll20 and other virtual tabletop applications to get something that I can reuse to help the games ^^.

    Thanks for the tips !

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