This month’s theme for the Brotherhood of Bloggers Who Blog Too Much is all about powers systems we’ve used in our games. What we used “out of the box”, what we’ve adapted to suit the campaign, and what we changed because we didn’t like it. Instead of giving you specifics for what I did dear reader I’m instead going to call out the big things I did along with the campaign I did it for as well as what systems that were a part of those campaigns.
A Thousand Tiny Gods
My current campaign features multiple rules systems I’ve modified or created to make them fit into the setting the way they need to be. This was mostly due to the nature of the campaign itself. The PCs take the role of demigods and godlings (offspring of one or two gods) who are fighting their fellow demigods and godlings to become full-fledged gods themselves every 100 years. Most of the time there are very few demigods left who have survived the Harrowing, but some do and they go on to the next to either die, survive, or become gods. Here are the systems from this campaign:
Aetheric Power: Aetheric powers are essentially the Cosmic Power from GURPS Powers (p. 00) with a few caveats. 1) their is a core ability (not unlike Divine Power) that represents the innermost power of the god. This is called “Domain Mastery” and it’s near-universal. Domain Mastery allows for various influences on tasks related to the godly domain. It’s based on a modified form of God-Like Control with costs character points on it. It can be used to improvise abilities on the fly as long as they are related to the domain. 2) there are the actual powers which are alternate abilities of Domain Mastery for things the god wants to be able to do without improvising. Powers are broken down into domains (requiring a specific Domain Mastery) and general (any one can take them).
Channeling: Channeling is effectively effect-shaping ritual path magic broken into two parts: Evocation and Invocation. First, all channeling no longer gather magical energy in the normal way. Evokers have limited magical batteries that replenish with time (and that’s it), while invokers have to meditate, sacrifice, etc. to gain energy but have no strict limit on how much they can have. Magic’s casting times are based on the total number of effects. Ley lines and places of power do allow casters to absorb/replenish energy and are highly sought after. All demigods are naturally evokers (an inborn trait for others), while invocation is something anyone can learn.
Investment: This is just straight up GURPS Divine Favor with very few changes. Ain’t broke, ain’t gonna try to fix it.
My superhero setting. Glob do I love this one. It’s a labor of love and while it was knocked back to third place for how much I love it by A Thousand Tiny Gods, it’s still in my heart. It’s effectively iron age supers who are trying to act more golden or silver age with an ultraviolence lens turned on. Humans can go splat in this setting and guns are a legit threat. I modified a lot of stuff in this one because of how I wanted to treat supers.
One other thing I did was I completely reworked how power stunting worked. I took all the systems and made them whole and made it so others could use them.
Magic/Chi: In the setting I used Sorcery for magic and what would ultimately become Chi Sorcery for the other. Both are incredibly closely related and many mages are also chi-users. I did relatively little with Sorcery as it fit my needs quite handily. Made hundreds of spells though that were in the vein of “The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak” by Doctor Strange.
Metahuman: These are the super powers of the setting. They could be anything. You could have one or more powers that were not related or you could have an entire power talent ala GURPS Powers. Another thing I did was metatextually modifier the power modifier. Essentially, the manner in which your powers manifests influence how they work from then all. Theoretically, you have no limits when your powers manifest and you put them on it. For example, a character trapped in a burning could manifest their powers to make the fire dissipate, be invulnerable to it, etc. And in that moment it locks in their powers. This results in different “power modifiers” for different metahumans. One example was the speedster Zephyr. He manifested super-speed during a shoot out and managed to mostly get out of the way but got shot once by a stray bullet. Thus his powers manifested him being a bullet magnet so even he couldn’t outrun them. These were straight up advantage-powers
Experiment: Like metahuman powers, but man-made and probably have ugly side effects. Creating powers is not well understood.
Peak Human: Normal human, but with crazy levels of skills or attributes and abundant useful advantages. Peak humans could start with attributes up to 20 without an unusual background or have the extra levels require a power modifier. They also got gobs of meta-currency and could do all kinds of things that made them competitive with those who had powers. They also were allowed more starting Wildcard skills making them even more competent.
Tech: Normal human with tech-based powers reliant on objects like ray guns, battlesuits, etc. I used metatronic generators for this and not everyone was a gadgeteer, though there were many.
Aersalus (the old version, not the one I’m going to be revamping eventually) was essentially just Dungeon Fantasy and I used that one pretty much as is except for my own races and some new classes.
Ten Thousand Jade Petals
Wu. Shah. Wuxia. Kung fu. This is another of my favorites and I really enjoyed digging into the tv shows, movies, books, manhwa, etc. to get the feel right.
Chi Powers: Chi powers were straight up Chi Sorcery, but there was no Ki Investment. You either new a “technique” or you didn’t. Martial art geniuses DID have Ki Investment however.
Magic: Magic was just Sorcery that had been reskinned and fluffed to have a more wuxia feel.
Alchemy: This was something I dusted off from the Vault and put it together – my rules for alchemy that I never got published. I made them more general and got them to do what I needed. Eventually, THOSE were published as “Fusion Alchemy” in Pyramid #4/1: Fantasy/Magic.
The Chronicles of Ceteri
My favorite child. This campaign has existed for the better part of 25 years in one form or another and I’ve rebooted it several times over the years when new rules, information, or players have come along.
Divine Gifts: In a Chronicles campaign, there are two sorts of beings who are divinely empowered. The first are called “channelers” (if empowered by a powerful spirit or spirits) or “saints” (if they are empowered by the Word of God), while the second are called “mystics.” (see below). This uses Divine Favor more or less as is – with lots of new prayers.
Mysticism: Each mystic has a patron spirit to protect, guide, offer advice, and lend their power to him. Sometimes they are a collective group of spirits (e.g., your ancestors), sometimes they are the abstract embodiment of an idea of concept (e.g., the zeitgeist of a particular era of time), or actual gods, small-G (e.g., Zeus or Thor). Mostly, they are just totem spirits – beings who embody the platonic ideal of animals, plants, places, etc. They are often quite intelligent and have agendas of their own that they expect their mystics to assist in from time to time. All mystics possess a special form of sense that allows them to detect the presence of spirits in their immediate area (p. 00). This also uses a variation of Divine Favor.
Magic: Magic is the leftover energy from the creation of the universe – the Word of God Himself. Despite this, magic itself is not “divine energy,” but residue of the process of creation itself. It’s the equivalent of waste heat from a fire that burnt to coals long ago. With the proper training (or quirk of biology), it can be accessed to do amazing things. Magic comes in two distinct “flavors.”
Extrinsic magic (called “gramarye”) is probably the most common form of magic in the Chronicles setting. It can be understand by anyone willing to learn and meet its harsh requirements. These casters (called “hedge magicians” or just “hedges”) can cast spells – even powerful spells – but they cannot do it quickly. Though they can perform magic, only sorcerers can truly master it. Sorcerers are born with a gift that allows them to cast spells quickly – what would take a hedge mage minutes to do a sorcerer can do in mere seconds. However, they too must learn magic just as a hedge does. Extrinsic Magic is a heavily modified version of ritual path magic
Intrinsic magic is magic that a character was born with, his race has, or that he has internalized somehow. It’s like breathing – it’s reflexive and it’s a part of the character’s very make up. It’s most often found in racial templates or granted by the very dent of a particular being’s physiological make up. Imbuements, chi skills, etc. are all intrinsic magics.
Psionics: Psychic abilities are innately gifted, though can be hereditary. They too rely on the user’s focus and intellect, and require training to use properly. They work the same, but the power modifiers are radically different and are more akin to how psi powers appear in urban fantasy or Victorian fiction.
Geotrinsic Phenomena: This is natural paranormal occurrences. Including ley lines, mystical alignments of the stars or other celestial bodies, mantles, the Veil, and so on. There are a variety of systems that have been compacted to work perfectly with one another.
Picking Over the Bones
Those are my big ones, I have other campaigns of course that I’ve modified or played with the rules, but these are the games I keep coming back to year after year. They are also part of my multiverse of Hylen – an inteverse where all the worlds are theoretically connected to the others. So that’s a meta-setting itself, but I’m not ready to talk about it more than that. Also one of the worlds I didn’t talk about was the world of Dream Wars/The Awakening and that’s because it’s going to get a drastic makeover as well. Just need to figure out how far I want to go with it and have the time to do so.