GURPS101: Powers Negation and Mimicry

My small circle of Aeon players (well, it’s not really small anymore – there’s like 20 of them) have been providing lots for me to chew on recently. It has put me in a position where I have to really look at the rules for character traits when trying to create new superpowers. One thing I noticed while trying to create the all-pervasive power mimic was how freaking ungainly the Power Theft modifier is. That led me to looking at Neutralize. (Note: For the purposes of this discussion I will be using the write-up ofr Neutralize from GURPS Powers (p. 97), not the Basic Set.)

Neutralize as Pieces Parts:
So what does Neutralize do and how does it do it?

  • You must specify a given source of abilities you can neutralize: Psionic, Magic, Super, etc.
  • You may only neutralize powers from a given source. Your ability works on nothing else. To affect more sources buy more Neutralize powers (we’ll get into this a bit down below).
  • You must touch your victim for your abilities to work on them. This requires a Attack maneuver in Combat. 
  • If you hit you must make a Quick Contest of your Will vs. your victim’s Will. Your victim gets a bonus to resist equal to his best talent (if he has multiple power talents for a given source). 
  • If you win, your victim’s powers (all of them of a given source) are neutralized for minutes equal to your margin of victory. For abilities with persistent or gadgets that create an on-going effect this is how long their powers are negated after the on-going effect.
  • Once you strip someone’s powers away you can’t use this ability on them against until they regain their powers.
  • If a subject is neutralized by multiple attackers then only the longest duration is used. They are not additive.
  • Neutralize never affects Talent, powers from another source, or “wild” powers (those that do not have a Power Modifier).
  • Neutralize can also affect non-powers (cinematic skills, spells, etc.) normally as long as they negate the appropriate source.

Associated Penalties:

Rules as Written Neutralize Special Modifiers
Here is a list of modifiers for Neutralize and where they can be found and a description of when you might need them. Reliable (GURPS Powers, p. 109) will ensure that your ability almost always negates your target’s powers. Ranged (GURPS Basic Set, p. 00) will let you use this ability at range with the normal range penalties (p. B550).

  • Based on HT (+20% Enhancement: GURPS Basic Set, p. 102): With this enhancement you can switch the Quick Contest of Will to Will vs. HT (which might be useful for some foes). With “Based on Will or HT, +40%” you use the lower of a target’s HT or Will – which is almost always worth the investment.
  • Cosmic (+300% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 97): Lets you affect powers of any and all sources.
  • Cosmic, Irresistible Attack  (+300% Enhancement; GURPS Basic Set, p. 102): Lets you ignore even Protected Power when negating powers. It doesn’t say it, but I’d also let it negate Power Talent as well.
  • Derange (-20% Limitation; GURPS Powers, p. 97): You neutralize your target’s control over their powers, not the powers themselves.
  • Derangble (+10% Enhancement; GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 16): You fully neutralize your target’s control over their powers, not the powers themselves or just neutralize the powers.
  • Interruption (-50% Limitation; GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 16): You don’t negate powers, but a single instance of them. For example, you could force someone with Telekinesis to drop something they are levitating, but not the ability itself.
  • Ony Ability (-80% Limitation; GURPS Powers, p. 97): You  neutralize one specific ability (e.g., Telepathic Mind Probe).
  • Ony Power (-50% Limitation; GURPS Powers, p. 98): You neutralize one specific power (e.g., Telepathy).
  • Power Theft (+200% or +300% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 97): You steal your target’s powers when you negate them. This costs +200% if you keep the powers until you return them (a free action) or +300% if instead of gaining the powers you gain their point value to boost your own abilities.
  • Power Theft, Weak (+100% Enhancement; GURPS Psionic Powers, p. 16): as for Power Theft but you only neutralize and steal one ability.
  • Precise (+20% Enhancement; GURPS Powers, p. 97): You select which powers are neutralized.

New Modifiers for Neutralize
Some new modifiers I’ve posted on the forums or use in my own game:

  • Extended Power: You can affect another power source. This is only available in a campaign with three or more power sources. This costs +50% per power source. To affect all powers, by Cosmic (+300%) instead. 
  • Power Theft, Multiple Instances: You can steal multiple powers from multiple victims. THis is a leveled enhancement. Each level costs +300% and allows you to steal another set of powers. You can still only use one power set at a time (it takes a Ready action to switch power sets). If you can do this as a Free Action (allowing you to essentially use all powers whenever you want) this costs +600% per additional instance.
  • Power Theft, Strong: When you steal a power you can continue to neutralize other abilities normally. This costs +300%. If you can swap powers as a free action from a source you’ve just neutralized this costs +400% instead.
  • Power Sharing: You share the abilities you affect  you don’t neutralize them. Your target continues to have access to his abilities, but you gain access to them, too. You cannot “create” more points of abilities than already exist, though; the point value of the shared abilities can’t exceed the final, modified value of your Neutralize advantage, and you must choose what abilities those are when you affect your target. You can’t use Neutralize again until the shared powers wear off or you give them up (a free action on your turn). Power Sharing is mutually incompatible with Power Theft. (Note: this is from a Krommpost, but I included it here because it’s a helpful modifier!) +150%.
  • Power Sharing, Multiple Instances: As for “Power Theft, Multiple Instances” but for Power Sharing only.
  • Power Sharing, Strong: You share powers normally (as above), but you also get a “power pool” that you can put points into. These points add to your final total for determining how powerful an ability you can borrow. +200%.

A Saner Version of Power Theft
As it sits, if you have Neutralize with Power Theft and you neutralize a power-user with a 1,000 points in power you now have a 1,000 points to play with for several minutes. In combat that’s a lifetime. So how could you even this out a bit? Well, Kromm provides the answer in his Power Sharing enhancement.

Power Theft
When you steal powers you gain them normally, but they cannot exceed the total value of your Neutralize advantage. You also now have a power pool that allows you to increase this amount. Each point in your power pool costs one character point and increases the value of your Neutralize for the purpose of what powers you can steal. Modifiers never affect the points in the power pool – add them after. The cost remains the same. For the +300% version of Power Theft, you may only ever gain the point value of your power pool + Neutralize to add to your own abilities.

Example: Hal has “Neutralize (50) (Power Theft, +200%) [200]” allowing him to steal other powers. Since he has 50 points in his power pool he can steal up to 200 points total. He could steal Merlin’s Corrosion Attack 20d [200] without any issues, but stealing Doug’s Control Gunpowder 50 [250] would reduce him to level 40 since those extra 10 levels cost 50 points over his maximum stealable value.

Example Build: Power Mimic

Power Mimic: Neutralize Super (0) (Low Supernatural Signature, +10%; No Signature, +20%; Power Sharing, Strong, +200%) [165]. Allows you to steal a target’s powers by touching them and making a Quick Contest of Will rolls. Success means you get access their full ability up to 165 points. If the ability exceeds that value then the GM decides what you can do with your power. The target still keeps his ability when you “borrow” it.

Powering it Up:
  • For 25 points, you can affect another power source. (Extended Power 1, +50%)
  • For 150 points, you can affect all power sources. (Cosmic, +300%)
  • For 20 points, you can affect your target at range. This uses the normal Range/Speed modifiers. (Ranged, +40%)
  • For 150 points, your target’s protections against neutralization are ignore. (Cosmic, Irresistible Attack, +300%)
  • For 150 points per instance, you can borrow an additional power set (which takes a Ready maneuver to switch) (Power Sharing, Multiple Instances, +300%/instance)
  • For 2.5 points, you can get a +1 to your Will rolls to use Neutralize.
  • For 1 point per point in the power pool, you can emulate more powerful traits.
Picking Over the Bones
Like my previous in depth look at the mechanical constructions of  traits (like Healing and Clairsentience) a lot is revealed when you break down the ability. I know the “Peter Petrelli Build” is somewhat controversial, but that’s more a problem with the writers of Heroes not thinking through the implications of a given super power. But it’s possible when constructing a special modifier to do just that. Luckily, Kromm came in and delivered such a modifier to use GURPSers.

GMing Neutralize can be hard for the same reason being the combat monster on a team of non-combatants is hard: You only really do one thing well and when you do it you tend to dominate that area. So it’s tricky. “Power mimicry” has its own pitfalls as PK notes here. Alternatives are obviously Modular Abilities and/or Morph. Though really, I’m not sure how that would function. Which was why I liked the Power Sharing modifier over either of them. It feels better to have it all in a self-contained trait.

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