Friday, April 20, 2018

Designers Notes: Names Have Power

Personal Stuff

Names Have Power is my fourth published article for Pyramid, but is actually the first one of those to be written. I wrote it for issue #3/66 The Laws of Magic and was disappointed it did not make it in, but it was up against some strong competition.
I wrote it with the help of fellow authors in a now defunct writers group and thought it was good.
Looking back at it some 4 years later and with more experience plus Steven Marshes notes, it left a lot to be desired. Especially in organization, as I tried to cover as much as I could in as short a space as possible.
We left a Powers as Magic section on the cutting room floor as the editor found it too confusing, partly because I tried to explain an entirely new magic system in 212 words!
As much as I like that system I would have gone with Sorcery had it been published when I sent in this article. Since other constructions for magic as powers were left in those systems could still see benefits from this article.
Also cut out and moved around was some stuff on Syntactic or Symbol magic.
My goal in writing this article was to give the GM and players options to add True Names to a campaign, regardless of the magic systems in use.  This article achieves that and I am proud to have written it.  In fact, though I am happy and proud of every article published so far, this one was more personal than the rest. After 4 years seeing it in print makes me very happy indeed.

What the Article is About

True Names are an important concept in several magic traditions and fiction, from Egyptian lore (which inspired the Path of Ren for Ritual Path Magic) to various Symbol and Rune systems and perhaps most notably the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin.
GURPS Thaumatology has some information on the topic, but I was happy and proud to be able to expand on it. I hope the readers find this article worthwhile.
What is in it?

  • Researching True Names using the Invention rules and other methods.
  • GURPS Magic spells and related notes.
  • Optional rules for Ritual Path Magic, including a new Path.
  • Modifiers for Magic as Powers.
  • Some ideas on Symbol Magic
  • A discussion on various Traits, including some new ones,
  • Some fluffy flavor text that is meant to explain and inspire the use of Names as power.


Review of Pyramid 3/114 Mind Over Magic

So here is my review of this issue

The Incanters Grimoire

Written by Christoper Rice (Who made the Incanter class and system) this is mostly a Grimoire of spells for that system.  It also converts a lot of Ritual Path Magic spells into Incanter spells which is an efficient use of space.  The new spells are a good mix of spell types, and some are pretty creative.  Since spell design rules are already pretty solid this is not my favorite article.  However there are some nice variations and suggestions for new crunch in various boxes.
Pre-written spell lists? meh  New Crunch? Yay!

Names Have Power

My article so I'm biased, hence no review.  Talks about True Names and how to use them with a variety of GURPS magic systems.

Eidetic Memory: Glass Magic and the Specularii

As I started to read it I was disappointed that the spells were basically elemental.  However David Pulver redeemed himself (personal taste) with the second half of the article.  The Specularii is a magical style and includes most of the expected spells related to glass I would like to see.  In lore glass and mirrors have strong divination and gate related connections and this style does well at making a versatile utility class.

Artifacts of Evil

Paul Stefko creates 7 rather interesting items using Ritual Path Magic.
The second section Dealing With Evil Artifacts is a nice bonus that gives a table listing modelers for making indestructible artifacts.

The Carnie

What if the Joker was a Bard? Ever heard of the Circus of Crime?
Sean Punch creates a nice spin on the classic Bard for Dungeon Fantasy and this is easily the most inspiring and fun article to me in this issue. These guys are really odd and while not right for every campaign but can add a nice change when they are.  They are a mix of Bard and Thief in play but the perspective change strikes me as a lot of fun.
I am now inspired to create carnival troupes for my setting.

Random Thought Table: Zero-Sum Game

Some interesting ideas here as usual.  I especially like the variation on Trademark.

Overall a very pleasant and highly useful issue, with some really fun ideas as well.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Gravers, a Chalice World race

Gravers

60 points

Living among dwarves gravers are welcome associates, though they bear keeping an eye on!
Gravers are natural diggers and climbers and able to easily get to places dwarves find difficult, which combined with their acute sense of smell makes them great at finding and rescuing trapped miners. They also make good merchants, especially with magical assistance to speak.

Attribute Modifiers: ST-2 [-20]; DX+1 [20]; HT+1 [10].
Secondary Characteristic: Modifiers: HP+4 [8]; SM -1.
Advantages: Discriminatory Smell (Emotion Sense, +50%) [23]; Double-Jointed [15]; Fangs [2]; High Manual Dexterity 2 [10]; Night Vision 5 [5]; Sensitive Touch [10]; Sharp Claws [5]; Slippery 2 [4]; Subsonic Hearing [5]; Temperature Tolerance 2 (Cold) [2].
Perks: Fur [1].
Disadvantages: Cannot Speak, Mitigator (Nose ring) [-9]; Increased Consumption 1 [-10]; Kleptomania (12) [-15]; Semi-Upright [-5].
Quirks: Honest [-1]; Nosy [-1]; Proud [-1]; Wanderlust [-1].
Feature:
Racial Skills: Climbing (A) DX-1 [1]-11; Detect Lies (H) Per+1
[1]-11*; Wrestling (A) DX-1 [1]-10.
Optional Traits: Catfall; High Manual Dexterity, Honesty; Vibration Sense (Whiskers).
Common Equipment: They use magical jewelry as ear piercings and sometimes collars or anklets. However worn items easily slip off without magic such as the Hex spell.

Physiology

Gravers are stocky and muscular, with short legs ending in 5 (retractable) crampon like toes ideal for climbing.
It has a broad and rounded head and resembles a small bear.
Adults grow to 42 inches in length with a tail about 10 inches long and weigh up to 55 lbs. They are semi-upright so can go from about 18 inches at the shoulder when walking to over 3 feet when standing.
They have thick oily fur that is great at repelling water and keeps it from freezing in snow. They also have very loose fitting skin and extraordinary flexibility that makes them hard to grapple and able to turn fully around in tunnels no bigger than they are.

Psychology

Gravers are extremely curious and fond of shiny things. They love to explore and often hire on as scouts to explore the area around dwarven settlements to provide early warning against threats, especially in their younger years. They are also natural jewelers and craftsman specializing in fine detail work. Their acute smell makes them great at spotting liars and they tend to be honest themselves and these traits empower them as merchants. They are acquisitive and consider anything not nailed down or watched carefully to be fair game, especially if its shiny or sparkles! However if caught they will happily return it if its politely pointed out.

Culture

Gravers get along well with each other and almost everyone, though many find the kleptomania hard to deal with.  However their reputation for honesty and quality craftsmanship make them popular merchants. Due to their inability to wear armor they tend to shy away from adventuring roles, though when they do they tend to be martial artists, scouts and thieves with a few mages here and there.

Magic

Magic is very common among gravers, though typically its a variant of Imbuement (Runic) with their own specialized symbol system.  A few learn the full Sigil/Rune system of the Dwarves and fewer still learn other systems.

Known Skills

Enhancement Skills: Annihilating Weapon; Continuing Attack; Crippling Blow; Drugged Weapon; Electric Weapon; Forceful Blow; Ghostly Weapon; Incendiary Weapon; Penetrating Strike; Project Blow; Shockwave; Stupefying Blow; Sudden Death; Supreme Control; Telescoping Weapon; Traumatic Blow.
Transformation Skills: Burning Strike; Chilling Strike; Corrosive Strike; Dazzling Display; Deafening Display; Fatiguing Strike; Impaling Strike; Strike of Negation.

Martial Arts

Gravers favor a grappling and pushing style, mixed with effective use of fang and claw for more serious combat. Many disputes are resolved in a formal match where both fight semi-upright on their haunches and try to shove the other outside a small circle. They feel it looks more 'civilized', though recognize its impracticality in life or death combat where they fight in the more horizontal fashion. they will fight dwarves this way (who also have a similar style).
When in deadly combat they tend to fight in a more crude and even animalistic fashion, using teeth and claws and bringing their opponent to the ground as quickly as possible.Ground Fighting is not needed from a horizontal position, except if they are on their backs.
Going into close combat is often a deadly advantage where they can use their natural weapons and most humanoids have to resort to daggers or knives.

Skills: Brawlng; Games (Sumo); Sumo Wrestling; Wrestling
Techniques: Attack From Above (Brawling); Breakfall; Choke or Strangle; Choke Hold; Deadly Pounce (Pyramid 3/111); Feint (Sumo Wrestling); Ground Fighting; Head Lock (Teeth); Neck Snap (Teeth); Rake; Sweep (Sumo Wrestling); Targeted Attack (Brawling Bite/Neck); Trip (Sumo Wrestling).
Cinematic Skills: Breaking Blow; Immovable Stance; Kiai; Lizard Climb; Power Blow; Push; Sensitivity.
Perks: Special Exercises (HP can exceed ST by 100%)

Optional Traits

Secondary Characteristics: Improved HP
Advantages: Fearlessness; Fit or Very Fit; Hard to Subdue; High Pain Threshold; Perfect Balance; Recovery; Vibration Sense.
Disadvantages: Fat or Very Fat; Gluttony.
Skills: Acrobatics; Climbing; Intimidation.
Techniques:

Designers Notes

Gravers are meant to replace gnomes in the Chalice World setting. I wanted something dexterous, good underground, likes jewelry and would compliment my dwarves well. I based them off ferrets (upgraded to wolverine size) with a touch from Sparrials.

Review of Caverntown

Caverntown is the latest GURPS supplement and one of the best settings to come out in a long time.
The site of an epic battle, its a cavern bathed in sunlight and blessed by at least 2 gods.
The book was written for the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line but includes notes for using it with the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game which is a standalone GURPS game focused on Dungeon Fantasy.
The line classifies thing this way (my interpretation)..

  • Adventures: Pretty much a one shot, these are things like dungeons or raids on ancient temples.After the PCs have completed it there is little to do and they are off to the next one. But they can save the GM significant time in creating their own adventures.
  • Encounters: Multiple use drop in locations where the PCs may have reasons to keep coming back to.
  • Settings: Richly detailed settings which the PCs can call home or extraordinary places to visit.
Caverntown is the latter.
Its a 49 page book (PDF) for $10 that describes a city at the edge of a megadungeon and gives adventure hooks for numerous nearby dungeons.
  • Chapter 1 goes over the history and description of the city. This includes where and how to fit it into your world, or make it the home base for one. Its a human city but with about as many dwarves and gnomes and is rather cosmopolitan in nature.
  • Chapter 2 describes the government, temples and guilds who are the powers that keep things running.
  • Chapter 3 describes how adventures can interact with the town, from finding quests to staying out of (or getting into) trouble.
  • Chapter 4 goes over the buying and selling of goods and services and includes lots of material that will be useful for any DF type town that deals heavily with adventures.
Not only is this a fun and interesting setting with LOTS of possibility its also very adaptable to any DF town with rules, charts and guidelines to make the GMs job easier.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review of the weekly blogs.

This weeks Gaming Ballistic Blog Update is out and reading the things I came across these.
If you blog about GURPS consider submitting yours to the lst.  If you like to read about GURPS its a good weekly summary to catch up with.

Motivational Lenses
Really nifty list to help flesh out your character and why they do what they do.

Mooks Darknet game.
Session 0 where they spend time making characters and deciding the type of game it will be.

The rest had some good stuff too, those were just my personal favs this week.
Honorable mentions are the Sorcery spells from Generic Universal Eggplant and from Ostary's Tactics we have ideas on making the thief more party friendly

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Four Primary Attributes of GURPS

Some threads on the Steve Jackson Forums inspired this post.
GURPS has 4 Primary Attributes and some secondary ones calculated from those.  Other games typically have more, usually in the 6 to 10 range from my experience,
Some people think 4 is too few, others just enough.
So lets take a look.

IQ

This is the overall mental ability score and includes Will, PER and a LOT of skills are based on it.
An optional rule is to make Per(perception) and Will default to 10, because some concepts require a smart individual who is not very observant or strong willed.  And vice versa, animals are often very observant but not very smart,for example. Another item is Social skills being based off IQ.
GURPS already supports buying these scores up or down but  lowering Will and Per as you raise IQ arguably makes IQ to cheap for all the skills it raises.
  • IQ [20]
  • Per [5]
  • Will [5]
  • Charisma [5]  Not considered an actual attribute but adds to many social skills.

DX

This is the skill of coordination, agility and fine manipulation.
Basic Speed and Move are in part calculated off this attribute as well.
Some people like to break it up, and especially separate Move or Initiative from it but overall my impression is most people are ok with this one.
  • DX [20]
  • Basic Speed (HT+DX)/4 [5 per +-0.25 to Basic Speed]
  • Basic Move = Basic Speed (dropping fractions) [5]

ST

This is most useful in low tech campaigns where you use muscle powered weapons but it also dictates how much you can carry and is used for base HP. Not many skills are based off it, so its cheaper.
  • ST [10
  • HP [2] Hit Points are pretty cheap but not dying is a typically popular goal of players.

HT

A few skills are based off HT, mostly the kind that rely on good endurance such as Hiking, Running, Swimming, etc.  Also one like Sex Appeal where being in good shape is a string asset. FP or Fatigue points are directly derived from HT since they represent endurance.
  • HT [10]
  • FP [3]
  • Basic Speed (HT+DX)/4 [5 per +-0.25 to Basic Speed]
  • Basic Move = Basic Speed (dropping fractions) [5]

Summary

While I understand the IQ is too cheap argument, I do not fully agree with it. Drop Per and Will what you have is 10 points to raise a lot of skills.  That makes it a very powerful Talent (normally a 10 point Talent would raise 7 to 12 skills) I think this is ok, as more than 12 skills are not likely to be core and really useful to a character in most games.
A big exception to that is Spells as skills (the default magic system) but they have their own 10 point 'super talent' anyhow in Magery.
Certainly DX skills are more valuable to most charecters as that covers nearly all the combat skills.

High attributes can create a problem with super high skills but thee are ways to deal with this as well.
  • Stat Normalization: This is the optional rule of limiting stats to "realistic" levels.
  • Rule of 20 (p. B173) limits defaults to 20 so superhuman attributes wont help defaults, meaning you need to put at last a point into it to benefit fully.
  • Idea: Super Attribute is a +25%  (GURPS Supers, p. 23) enhancement applied to attributes above 20 to let them exceed the Rule of 20. What if you applied that and changed the rule so that score above 20 (or set lower for more gritty settings) does not apply to skills?  In other words IQ 30 counts as IQ 20 for skills unless extra levels are purchased with the Super Attribute enhancement?
  • Idea: What if skills (or maybe just a set of skills, such as Social Skills) were based off 10 but gained a Trained ST type bonus (Introduced in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling) instead of being directly based off an attribute?
Overall I am happy with the GURPS key 4 Attributes as too many other games suffer from so called "dump stats", this keeps it simple but with different ways to tweak towards an infinite variety of character types. Between attributes, advantages, disadvantages, skills and talents  the player has an incredible range of affordable choices.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Early Primaries.
Texas voter turnout is up almost across the board.
Especially democratic turnouts so far which is awesome.
https://ballotpedia.org/Democratic_Party_primaries_in_Texas,_2018#Early_voting_in_Texas_primaries.2C_2018

It is looking like a lot of people are riled up. Your not likely to see this for incumbents, people voting more than normal is a strong indicator they want a change.