Sunday, January 28, 2024

Fifty Years of Adventure Gaming

Though the exact date isn't known, it was in late January 1974 that Gary Gygax and friends put copies of the original woodgrain boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons out for sale. Jon Peterson of Playing at the World has proposed that the last Sunday of January makes a suitable date to celebrate. So today, 28 January 2024, marks 50 years since the release of the first adventure (or "roleplaying" if you prefer) game, sparking a revolution that irrevocably changed the course of the culture, and of other cultures around the world as well.

Surprisingly, perhaps, certainly dismayingly, the official website maintained by Wizards of the Coast, the current caretakers of the brand, has had no mention of the event even though they have planned to take some advantage of it by releasing a new edition, or at least a new revision, later in the year. Sadly, given the events of the last year, this seems to be par for the course for an impersonal corporation that no longer has any noticeable concern for the game beyond how it can benefit its shareholders' bottom lines. Since I am writing this in advance, perhaps they have put some mention there, and if so I apologize for that portion of this statement in which I say that they have not. The rest of it stands, though, as they have done only little to redress their mismanagement of the brand over the last year and earlier.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Magical Powers for a Low-Powered GURPS Campaign

I've been working on a GURPS Fantasy campaign set in a world of my own creation. One of the characteristics of the setting is that magic is very low-key, subtle, and like in this world many people don't believe it is real. Spirits are very important to this magic system, and I am eagerly awaiting Template Toolkit: Spirits to add to it.

Books needed beyond Basic Set:

  • GURPS Fantasy-Tech 1: The Edge of Reality
  • GURPS Horror
  • GURPS Low-Tech Companion 1: Philosophers and Kings
  • GURPS Powers
  • GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements
  • GURPS Thaumatology
  • GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics

(Thamatology and Thaumatology: Urban Magics might not be included in the final campaign setup, while Fantasy might be considered more or less useful for aspects unrelated to this magic system.)

Astrology and Esoteric Medicine from GURPS Fantasy-Tech 1: The Edge of Reality.

Alchemy in this system should just be Chemistry/TL with Disciplines of Faith and possibly Erotic Art (per Technicians of the Sacred), plus an appropriate Philosophy type.

Sacred Architecture from GURPS Thaumatology: Urban Magics. Allow the results to be in regard to areas of activity, especially but not limited to the magic-related Skills listed below, rather than Spells particularly (since Spells as such do not exist in the setting). This is something I am going back and forth on, and it may or may not appear in the final campaign.

Technicians of the Sacred from GURPS Low-Tech Companion 1: Philosophers and Kings; may use Hypnotism Skill to induce a deep trance in someone else instead of relying on the trance candidate's Meditation Skill. See especially the expanded uses of the Dreaming Skill here; the GM should be generous in allowing a deep trance to have the effects of a Dreaming success.

Abilities (All other than Autotrance, Blessed, the Empathy variations, Higher Purpose, Illuminated, or Imbuement should take Magic -10%)
  • Animal Empathy [5], May take Specialized (var.) or Remote (+50%)
  • Autotrance [1]
  • Blessed (if more than one type, each Blessing after the first costs 1 point less, as all include Licensed Exorcist)
    • Blessed (Armor of Faith) [12]
    • Blessed (Divine Guidance) [10]/Very Blessed (Divine Guidance) [20]
    • Blessed (Heroic Feats: ST, DX, or HT) [10 for ST or HT, 15 for DX] (DX only increases DX-based Skills and DX rolls, not Basic Speed or other characteristics)
    • Licensed Exorcist [1]
    • True Faith [15], May take Chosen (+0%) or Turning (+65%)
  • Channeling [10], May take Aware (+50%) or Preparation Required (var.)
  • Danger Sense [15]
  • Daredevil [15]
  • Detect (Spirits) [10], (Magic) [10], or (Magicians) [10], May take Vague (-50%), Precise (+100%), or Analyzing (+100%)
    • Spirits: Any entity with a Spirit Template.
    • Magic: Any use of these listed Abilities other than Autotrance, Blessed, Higher Purpose, Illuminated, or Imbuement, or of Spirit Abilities that seem appropriate.
    • Magicians: Any entity with any of these listed Abilities other than Autotrance, Blessed, Higher Purpose, Illuminated, or Imbuement and without a Spirit Template.
  • Empathy/Sensitive [15] or [5], May take Remote (+50%)
  • Higher Purpose [5]
  • Illuminated [15]
  • Imbuement 1 (Ghostly Weapon only -80%) [2]
  • Intuition [15], May take Inspired (+100%)
  • Luck/Extraordinary Luck/Ridiculous Luck [15/30/60], May take Wishing (+100%), Active (-40%), Aspected (-20%), or Defensive (-20%)
  • Medium [10], May take Manifestation (+100%), Universal (+50%), Visual (+50%), or Preparation Required (var.)
  • Oracle [15], May take Inspired (+100%)
  • Plant Empathy [5], May take Specialized (var.) or Remote (+50%)
  • Psychometry (Hypersensory -50%) [10]
  • Racial Memory [15] or [40], May take Immersive (+50%)
  • Serendipity [15/lvl], May take Wishing (+0% or +100%)
  • Special Rapport [5], May take One-Way (+20%) or Transferable (var.)
  • Spirit Empathy [10]
  • Visualization [10], May take Blessing (+0% or +100%) or Cursing (+100%)
  • Wild Talent [20/lvl], May take Retention (+25%), Emergencies Only (-30%), or Focused (-20%)

Skills associated with magic
  • Autohypnosis¹ Will/H (Meditation-4)
  • Body Language Per/A (Detect Lies-4 or Psychology-4)
  • Detect Lies Per/H (Per-6, Body Language-4, or Psychology-4)
  • Dreaming² Will/H (Will-6)
  • Esoteric Medicine Per/H (Per-6)
  • Exorcism³ Will/H (Will-6, Religious Ritual-3, Ritual Magic-3, or Theology-3)
  • Fortune-Telling IQ/A (IQ-5, Fast-Talk-3, or Occultism-3)
  • Ghostly Weapon IQ/VH (Prerequisite: Imbuement 1; None)
  • Hidden Lore IQ/A (None)
  • Hypnotism IQ/H (None)
  • Meditation Will/H (Will-6 or Autohypnosis-4)
  • Meteorology/TL (Weather Sense) IQ/A (IQ-5)
  • Naturalist IQ/H (IQ-6 or Biology-3)
  • Observation Per/A (Per-5 or Shadowing-5)
  • Occultism IQ/A (IQ-5 or Ritual Magic (any)-4)
  • Pharmacy/TL (Herbal) IQ/H (Prerequisite: Naturalist; IQ-6, Biology-5, or Naturalist-5)
  • Philosophy IQ/H (IQ-6)
  • Poisons/TL IQ/H (IQ-6, Chemistry-5, Pharmacy-3, or Physician-3)
  • Psychology IQ/H (IQ-6 or Sociology-4)
  • Religious Ritual IQ/H (Ritual Magic (same)-6 or Theology (same)-4)
  • Ritual Magic⁴ IQ/VH (Occultism-6 or Religious Ritual (same)-6)
  • Symbol Drawing⁵ IQ/H (Occultism-6 or Ritual Magic (same)-4)
  • Theology IQ/H (IQ-6 or Religious Ritual (same)-4)
Note that a few of these skills have had their defaults adjusted slightly.

¹May be used to initiate an attempt at using the Dreaming Skill without going to sleep.

²May be used to communicate with Spirits, requiring Dreaming and IQ or Fortune Telling (Dreaming) rolls as normal to interpret the Spirit's intended meaning, and Dreaming rolls to impart a message to the Spirit. May also be used to visit a collective Dreamland as per GURPS Horror, p. 114. Make Dreaming and IQ or Fortune Telling (Dreaming) rolls as normal to interpret any communications via the Dreamland. Does this require both Dreamers to be asleep at the same time, or is the message held waiting until the second Dreamer sleeps? Up to the GM. Perhaps the first Dreamer must leave a message with a Spirit of Dreams who then awaits the second Dreamer, possibly impersonating the first Dreamer. Certainly, two-way real-time communication requires both Dreamers to be Dreaming at the same time and making successful Dreaming rolls.

³May be used as an Influence Skill with Spirits even without Spirit Empathy, treat as Intimidation. Affected by Holy status (Blessed (Any), Licensed Exorcist Perk, or True Faith) as usual.

⁴May be used in place of an IQ roll for any use of Channeling, Detect, Intuition, Medium, Oracle, Psychometry, Racial Memory, or Visualization. Requires 1 minute preparation time. May take Extra Time or Haste (p. 346).

⁵May be used to assist Autohypnosis, Dreaming, Exorcism, Hypnotism, Meditation, or Ritual Magic. May not be used to benefit raw IQ rolls or rolls from default. Requires 5 minutes preparation time. May take Extra Time or Haste (p. 346).

The GM may choose to allow modifiers from GURPS Thaumatology for Correspondences, significant times, sacrifices, and so on to apply to uses of Ritual Magic. These may be subject to the particular sort of Ritual Magic Skill involved.

Spirit Templates, generally, start with one of the Spirit Meta-Traits found in GURPS Horror, though other Spirit-related Meta-Traits may also be useful, such as those in GURPS Fantasy or the Basic Set.

Spirits should have Visualization (Blessing +0% or +100%) or Visualization (Cursing +100%), usually costing FP, if they can affect the world at all. Very rarely they may also have Telekinesis, almost never greater than ST 1, but occasionally as high as ST 3 or even more. Spirit Telekinesis should always cost FP to use. Most Spirits will only be able to observe the world and communicate with those characters with appropriate Advantages or Skills. All Spirit Templates should have Walk on Air if they don't have Flight. Possession is not uncommon, but not universal, among Spirits, and they should have Permeation (Flesh) to stay in contact with a target that does not have Channeling.

Spirits might occasionally have Afflictions, Innate Attacks, and so on, but these should always cost FP to use. They shouldn't have abilities like Mind Control or Mind Reading, outside of Possession. Perhaps a Spirit that is Possessing a target could have Mind Control (Suggestion only) that they can only use on the Possessed target. Again, this should cost FP to use.

Note that a group of Spirits with Telekinesis can combine their Basic Lifts to lift heavier objects.

Many magicians in the setting will have "stage magic" skills like Escape, Filch, Performance, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and so on in order to be able to put on a show for clients.