I was talking to a friend of mine recently about the subject of “apotropes” (mythology and superstition is a common theme in our talks) and he told me something I did not know about in either subject. Names themselves can be apotropes to ward off spirits. Seriously, as much as I’ve studied and researched folk magic, I’ve never come across this. But it makes a ton of sense, if you name a child something that’s unpalatable to a spirit you make it much less likely they’ll take it from you. This in turn gave me another idea: what if certain people were themselves warded by thresholds? For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about this post requires the use of my Safe as Houses article. You might also get some mileage out of my designer’s notes for that article.
Thresholds as Names or Words
In worlds that use them, some names or spoken words act as a threshold. For names, this creates a permanent barrier around the one being the moniker equal to half his Will modified by the following: -2 to -1 for corrupted or partial names; 0 for common names; +1 to +2 for secret or especially holy names. This means that touching the named person results in the supernatural being or force interacting with the temporary threshold. Thresholds of 15 extend this effect out to two yards; at level 20 this becomes four yards, 25 is eight yards, and so on.
For words spoken aloud, simply do the same thing using the Will of the speaker; alternatively, use a Will-based Theology, Philosophy, etc. or similiar skills when reciting scripture instead of Will.
Thresholds as People
In some mythologies, paranormal beings cannot touch (or have a hard time doing so) certain people. Usually, such people are holy men or the truly innocent or pious – but not always. In such cases, use half the Will of the person with a bonus equal to 1/5 the absolute value of points he’s he has in holy or religious traits (round down). For example, a Will 14 monk with 4-points in Religious Ritual and Theology, Disciplines of Faith (Monasticism), and Blessed would have a threshold of 12.
This means that touching the holy person results in the supernatural being or force interacting with the temporary threshold. Thresholds of 15 extend this effect out to two yards; at level 20 this becomes four yards, 25 is eight yards, and so on.
Picking Over the Bones
Like all things GURPS, you can combine multiple approaches. When doing so, use the best value and add in 1/5 of all others (round down). For example, the home of a particularly devout man might have a threshold of 14 and the man himself might have a 7. When he’s in his home it’s treated as having a threshold of 15 thanks to his mere presence.