Designer’s Notes: Cursed Thou Art


I’ve been thinking about coming up with guidelines for some of the fluffier disadvantages for a while now. And this article was the culmination on the one I felt needed it the most: Divine Curse. Divine Curse is one of those traits that is the equivalent of a multi-tool in the GM’s toolbox. It can be used for damn near any and everything. It does need some guidelines given how comprehensive it can be and how much word count the Basic Set gave it. “Cursed Thou Art” will hopefully remedy that. It is, essentially, a entire article on how to construct (or deconstruct) Divine Curse for any genre or game you can imagine. Overall I wrote it in under 3 days (31 hours total), revised it in 3 days (14.5 hours total), and polished it up in a single day (2 hours total). I ended up having to remove a lot of content because I just didn’t have the space for it – which sucked, but it happens. The editing was surprisingly easier than the writing because I tried to cover everything that I could think of. I went through every 4th edition GURPS book I own (which is to say all of them) and tried to make sure that my article jived with what was already in print – which I think it does. Here are some outtakes (including new Divine Curses). Page references without a listed book point to a page from Pyramid #3/78: Unleash Your Soul.

Outtake: Attribute Penalties
In all cases, having a blanket attribute penalty is not a good idea. Instead, buy down an attribute to whatever the desired level is as a “side effect” of the curse. Situational penalties to attributes, on the other hand, are de rigueur for curses. Applying limitations directly to disadvantages rarely yields fair results, as GURPS Power-Ups 8: Limitations (p. 6) notes. The easiest way is to take the lowered attribute at full value and then take an increase that counters it, then apply any limitations to that trait. For example, ST -2 [-20] would be ST +2 [20]. So if the penalty only applies in combat, instead of ST -2 (Accessibility, Combat only, -40%) [-12], it’s more fair to take ST -2 [-20] + No ST +2 (Accessibility, Combat only, -40%) [12], for a net -8 points. This does take more work on the part of the GM – but it producers more balanced results. The GM may also wish to decide what limitations are applied to the “counter” trait, subtract those from -100%, and treat the result as a special limitation for that disadvantage. In our previous example, this could be written as “ST -2 (Only in combat, -40%) [-8].” GMs may also wish to use Limited DXand Limited IQ (pp. 00-00) from Blessed Be.

Outtake: Box – Breaking the Curse
Divine Curses can usually be removed with the GM’s permission and are bought off in whatever manner is appropriate for the campaign. Spells like Remove Curse (GURPS Magic, p. 126) might do the trick for games using the standard magic system. A more generalized approach might be to use modified Neutralize (GURPS Powers, p. 97). Instead of it affecting a specific power source, it affects a particular type of curse (e.g., a Divine Curse stemming from a supernatural affliction). If it can affect all curse types, add Cosmic (+300%), if the victim has multiple curses, Precise (+20%) allows you to selectively remove one of them. All other options aren’t valid. If this is permanent, add another +300%, otherwise the victim can spend character points to buy off the disadvantage immediately. GMs may wish to generalize Neutralize for other circumstances as well. For example, Neutralize (Wards), might represent an innate ability to ignore magical force fields, supernatural bindings, or divine seals.

Outtake: Quirks

Divine Curses could have any number of quirks “baked in,” but a couple of appropriate choices from both the Basic Set and GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks are listed below.

Alcohol Intolerance and Horrible Hangovers (p. B165) can represent a curse by a vengeful deity of wine or alcohol. See Dionysus’ Torment (p. 28) for an example.
Cannot Float (p. B165) is often included in curses foretelling death by drowning or at sea.
Congenial (p. B164) is appropriate to curses that compel characters to be alone or seek solitude, as part of such curses is the longing to be with others again.
Damned (GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks, p. 34) represents the fact that no matter what virtuous acts a character performs during his life he’s going to end up going to Hell, Gehenna, or whatever plane of punishment is appropriate for the campaign setting.
Distractible and Dreamer (p. B164) are perfect for curses that causes misfortune on specific types of tasks.
Distinctive Features (p. B165), like Unnatural Features (p. B22) can have its bonus to identify you be made specific to a group of people.
Incompetence (p. B164) ­– often more than one – can represent a skill or task that is “taboo” for the cursed one to perform. If a character gains a Divine Curse in play that makes it impossible for him to use a skill he has points in, he doesn’t lose those points immediately, instead he treats all of his rolls as if they were defaulted, but at an extra -4. If he loses the curse later on, he gains access to his previous skill level.
Neutered or Sexless (p. B165) can be a curse bestowed by a vengeful ex-spouse or angry goddess of love ­– you still have all your “parts,” but they don’t work. And never will.
Personality Change (p. B164) and Appearance Change (GURPS Power-Ups 6: Quirks, p. 10) suit curses that show a character’s “inner nature.”

Outtake: Various Curses
I ended up having to remove a lot of curses due to wordcount issues, but like I always do, I write it and then I slim it. Here are a few Divine Curses that either didn’t “pop” enough for me to fit them in or I felt were superfluous.

Suggested Types: Commandment, Cosmic Law, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.

Maybe you angered an entire race or people and they marked you somehow or maybe your people and theirs have been killing each other for so long they don’t remember why they’re doing it anymore, they just do it. Whatever the reason, whenever you encounter a member of your acrimonious race they immediately attack you first and worst. Should it matter, treat this as a Disastrous reaction roll. This value of this disadvantage depends on exactly what dislikes you.
     Value Description
     -5      50% or lessof the starting campaign point total.
     -10    100% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -20    150% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -30    200% or less of the starting campaign point total.
     -40    300% or moreof the starting campaign point total.
This is further modified by how commonly encountered the group is:
     Multiplier    Description
     x1                Nearly everyone in your game world.
     x2/3             Everyone except a large class of people or a very large class of people.
     x1/2             A large class of people.
     x1/3             A small class of people.
     x1/5             A very small class of people.
This assumes that the group attacksthem on sight or otherwise actively hinders them in a dangerous way. If this is not the case, use one of the following:
     Multiplier    Intent
     x1                Hunter: Seeks to harm or otherwise dangerously hamper the character.
     x3/4             Nemesis: Roll 3d, on a 9 or less treat as Rival, otherwise treat as Hunter.
     x1/2             Rival: Seeks to annoy and inconvenience, but not kill or cause lasting harm.
     x1/4             Watcher:Seeks to stalk or spy on you.
Finally, tally everything up. For example, if you are an angel and demons attack you first and worst on sight (Hunter, x1), are equal in point value (-10 points), but are somewhat rare in the material world (Large class, x1/2), then this would be worth -5 points.
Designer’s Notes: This is Enemy as a Divine Curse, p. 27.
Interesting Life
-15 points
Suggested Types: Destiny, Misfortune, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.
Once someone said “May you live in interesting times,” since then you have. You really wish it would stop, but that wouldn’t be interesting. So you continue on as you do. “Interesting times” can be mean anything the GM wants it to, but it usually means the character is directly involved in events that might happen to someone else once or twice in their life, except it’s always happening to them. He always walks into the convenience store just as it’s being robbed. He finds himself involved in a criminal plot to steal millions because

Designer’s Notes: This Weirdness Magnet [-15] retooled to be more cinematic than outright weird. The cost remains the same and can represent some of the logic used in action movies to explain why the protagonist is so often in the “wrong place, right time.”

Shadow of the Self
-10 points
Suggested Types: Destiny, Self-Imposed, Supernatural Affliction, or Weird Science.
The character’s shadow matches their “innermost self.” For example, if a character with this Divine Curse also had Sadism and Overconfidence, then his shadow might look like a demon or “classic torturer.” Whatever the effects, those who notice your shadow get the benefits of Empathy when using one of your disadvantages against you (this stacks with Empathy if you already have that trait). This also gives you a -2 to reaction rolls when people notice your shadow self and your real self don’t match up. As a side effect, characters with the ability to change their shape can be recognized by their shadow, which appears to be who they are in their normal form.
Designer’s Notes: This is Supernatural Features (Animated Shadow) [-10] with the bonus to deduce what you are traded in for giving others a bonus for skills covered under Empathy (p. B51).
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