Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Owl Totem

So Owl is a totem in the GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits book.
A player is considering taking Owl in a Supers campaign I am running and doing some additional research I came across this clip.
The memory map helps reflect their rep for intelligence and insight but also makes a case for adding Edietic Memory to their options,

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ceteri-B Team Henry Joins the Team 1/27/2020

So we had our first session with my character this Monday, this is my recap and description. These posts are meant to share some of the experiences possible in GURPS that IMO no other RPG system can fully provide. This is a game session notes from one players perspective - for more details see the gamemasters recaps.


Henry H. Norris is a young (very young! at 19) private investigator working for a small firm called the TIP Agency which handles a variety of cases. Hes an orphan from  the Lorna Road Massacre (in game event) who upon maturity inherited and lives in his grandmothers small house. He earns a surprising amount of money working for TIP. Hes a capable athlete and placed 18th in the Boston Marathon last year.

Henry is allowed a lot of autonomy in his work for TIP despite his young age because he has a strong track record of good instincts, taking care of himself, and the ability to get the job done. In fact this reputation is extended to the Boston PD where he is often referred to as "Deadeye"for his uncanny ability to spot things and as an expert shot with a gun.
Referenced Traits: Acute Vision 2, Charisma +1, Clear Sight (Supernatural vision metatrait), Detective! -13, Extra Attack (Multistrike), Guns! -15, Patron "Mountain" Mike (Owner of TIP Agency, so his boss is a Patron), Reputation +1 (local police), Very Fit, Wealth.

Session Date Aug 2001

Sitting in his sedan Henry was staking out his clients house when the wife (whom he was hired to follow for suspicion of cheating on her husband) pulled out a knife and appeared to be ready to stab her husband in the back. Not exactly good for business!
As he thought quickly about whether to shoot through the window or if he had time to run into the house and stop her, two men ran into the house (breaking down the door with a fire axe!).

That decided the issue and he sprinted to the house. Drawing his pistol as he ran he came upon an unexpected sight in the living room. One of the intruders was wrestling the wife while the other watched and his client was freaking out. As soon as he could he drew his gun, told Mrs. Kudrow (the wife) to drop the knife and the intruders not to move. The one watching threateningly snapped and extended his stick (some kind of baton), the two on the ground ignored him, and poor Mr. Kudrow was still freaking out and actually asked Henry "Are you the one shes cheating with?".
The whole thing seemed to be escalating in a very bad way...

Aiming at the heads of both the intruders (Using Targeted Attack, Extra Attack and Enhanced Tracking 2) he again ordered them to stand down and Mr. Kudrow to step away from them and towards him where he could be protected. The one on the ground appeared to be trying to pull a ring off Mrs. Kudrow's finger which appeared somehow wrong giving him pause. 

The guy on the ground pulled the ring off and Mrs. Kudrow changed her demeanor immediately, becoming confused and frantic rather than aggressive. She was let go and ran to her husband and they seemed to reconcile. The intruders seemed all too casual, not standing down, and one even asked her about her coin collection!
They mostly ignored Henry, possibly reasonable since he hadn't shot them yet, though infuriating (luckily he has no bad temper disadvantage) and started talking about cursed objects and such. Mr. Kudrow seemed happy to accept that, and though skeptical Henry asked Mr. Kudrow if he wanted the police called in or not. He said no, stiffed some cash in Henry's hand (and getting between him and the intruders), they offered to replace the door. Henry escorted them outside and questioned them further. After a brief explanation Amos (the one with the baton) suggested they go somewhere to talk instead of on the lawn. Henry agreed.

Henry followed them in his car to a pub, they went around to a back entrance and once inside, well things changed. There appeared to be all manner of supernatural creatures inside all peacefully eating and drinking. Having read and studied a bit about the Occult, but especially owing to his own instinctive supernatural abilities Henry seemed to take this surprisingly in stride. Still skeptical, but getting less so by the minute they talked at a table (elf waitress? pixie camping at the table?) while Henry closely looked them and the place over but could see no hidden cameras or special effects features and no one appeared to be wearing disguises (he can see really really well), at one point even praying for guidance. The Voice that sometimes talk to him in his head said he was in the right place. Henry then offered to join them and they accepted.
After a surprisingly good meal, and exchange of business cards, Henry decided to digest it and clear his head by running a few miles before heading home.


That night Henry had a dream of a little girl and a doll that seemed evil and looked right at him, causing him to wake up. In the morning after reviewing it he decided it was an old clients daughter.
In the morning he checked on the client and all seemed well for the moment but he should talk about this with these cursed object hunters. Also he needs to check on Mr. and Mrs. Kudrow and make sure not only is everything good with them but that there are no bad feelings with his client.

Mechanics or Understanding the Game

If your unfamiliar with GURPS the above narrative should still be mostly understandable, but some of the terminology might not. Consider how easy the above is to do in the game systems your used to and please read on.
GURPS uses hit locations (though for simplicity you can just call everything a torso hit) and anyone can try to attack any location they can see. Some body parts are harder to hit than others - in this case the head and inflict a skill penalty to succeed. 
  • Targeted Attack is a technique or limited skill to reduce that penalty, 
  • Aiming is an action where you take a little time to get a bonus to hit (for ranged attacks like bows and guns) instead of immediately shooting.
  • Extra Attack is an advantage letting you make an extra attack, in this case one was used to aim so he could have still shot with the other normal attack.
  • Enhanced Tracking is an advantage that lets you aim or keep an eye on multiple things at once.
All those are really handy for your cinematic gunfighter!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Power Frameworks in GURPS

GURPS has a lot of advantages and things like enhancements and limitations to customize them to suit just about any need. However they can get very expensive, especially buying lots of them. To address this it uses what I call power frameworks (GURPS has no overarching term) which provide ways to have or use multiple related abilities with fewer points. This article describes them for the reader in one place.
First a Power is defined (GURPS Powers, p. 7) as A “power” is an exotic or supernatural gift that you can direct in different ways to produce a number of related effects. Further it goes on to say that it must have a source (Magic, psi, mutant, etc) which is the origin or where it comes from and a focus (fire, water, matter manipulation) which is what it manipulates or controls or the concept it revolves around. This is the special effect or narrative description of a power which also has a mechanical description (how you build it in GURPS) which consists of Abilities, Power Modifier, and Power Talent.

Power frameworks are simply a mechanical way to group related abilities so that they are cheaper because they are related, much as skill defaults can be used to buy related skills more cheaply.

  • The Power Modifier (PM) is the basic starting point in that all the powers have it and can be countered in the same manner (such as with the Static advantage).
  • Alternative Abilities introduced in GURPS Basic as Alternative Attack and later expanded upon in GURPS Powers and Power-Ups 8: Limitations allows you to buy other abilities of the same power at 1/5 cost. To get the discount they have to be no more expensive than the primary ability, they are all neutralized together, only one is available at any specific time - usually takes a Ready maneuver to swap them around. It gets a little fancier, read Power-ups 8 for more options. GURPS Powers: Divine Favor, GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits, and GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery are all worked examples of this framework.
  • Wildcard Powers (GURPS Supers, p. 41) allow you to have a variable secondary ability while using the ability modified this way. Your paying *4 cost for the privilege of having two abilities at once. This may not seem like a good deal at first since you could buy 4 powers for the same price but for broad powers with many options and uses it can be an effective and simple tool.
    • Originally Posted by whswhs (SJG Forums)

      And that's how wildcard powers should be used, too. They open the door to freeform improvisation, but you have to tie them to a use of the underlying power. But that freeform style of play is meant to be there. If that's not what you want—if you want to spell out what you can and can't do—you shouldn't take a wildcard power in the first place.
    • I think the above quote is a real good case for when these are at their best.
  • Modular Abilities is an advantage that costs a premium in order that the player can swap various related abilities around. Its written up as an advantage but in practice its really a power framework. GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery combines this with alternative abilities to increase point efficiency.
  • Power Stunts (GURPS Powers, pp. 170-178) is another way to handle multiple abilities of the same power. There are a lot of options here and the utility of this section really escaped me until I read GURPS Psionic Powers which is pretty much built around this section of GURPS Powers. Using Abilities at Default takes a specific ability and swap it for another one with a successful HT/Will or skill roll and paying 3 FP and you can have a variety of abilities for very little cost. Even putting a lot of points into a skill to easily make the rolls (which can have up to -10 in penalties) or Techniques for specific swaps (as done in GURPS Psionic Powers) this can still be cheaper than alternative abilities, though that FP cost can hurt - especially in combat. This section also includes Temporary Enhancements which instead of swapping out one ability for another increases its power or adds enhancements by making a similar roll as Using Abilities at Default but only costs 2 FP. Finally Extra Effort (Powers, pp. which allows boosting the level of a power (capped at +100% - but see Godlike Extra Effort)) by making a roll at a penalty of -1 per +5% and paying 1 FP. GURPS Psionic Powers is the best and most detailed worked example of this type of framework, though GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Magic and GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits also touch on it.
  • GURPS Power-ups 1: Imbuements could be considered another framework. You have a core power costing 10, 20, or 40 points and skills to do various things. If you really look at it its uses something like Power Stunts to enhance mundane weapon or skill use but uses a VH skill for each basic ability with penalties to add enhancements and costs 1 FP.  A key difference here is that you can have multiple abilities at the same time. In this sense its more like GURPS Magic.
    • The exact math never quite made perfects sense to me, I think mostly because with no core ability bought with points it uses a lot of author judgement. Christopher Rice attempts to explain it here in GURPS 101: Designing New Imbuements.
    • In questioning him he replied "I suppose I should have been more specific - you only need a single level. So Deafening Display is Obscure Hearing 1 [2] compared to the "average" cost of damage of 7. So 2/7 = 0.28... or around 30%" So the example of Deafening Display requires Imbue 1 since its a 30% effect.  Much clearer to me.


Taken together GURPS has quite a few ways to build effective powers based characters, each with their own trade-offs. The primary differences being between point cost, FP cost, time to swap, and skill rolls that may be required.
Another Supers game that I played called Champions (2nd edition I think) had three specific power frameworks. Variable Power Pools (Modular Abilities), Multipowers (Alternative abilities) and Elemental Controls (no match in GURPS, though Wildcard Powers is the most similar).
In my personal opinion GURPS Fourth Edition is not only the best incarnation of GURPS it makes the best powers based gaming which is great for Supers campaigns. I have played Villains & Vigilantes, Champions, Marvel Super Heroes, Heroes Unlimited, and read a few others. Champions is my second favorite and a little simpler to play and build characters with but it felt a little shallow to me and I could not build everything from the comics in it which I can do with GURPS.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Review of GURPS Disasters: Hurricanes

The GURPS Disasters series are an unusual type of book, part adventure seed and part setting seed.
GURPS Disasters: Hurricanes is the second in this series and focuses on Hurricanes (duh). It is written by an environmental scientist and covers what a hurricane is and its effects, during and after the storm.

Chapter 1 Storm Front

6 pages
Covers the terminology and what defines a hurricane vs. say a tropical storm. This is the basic information, including some historical examples of the effects of a hurricane and what the dangers are. Its good reading, and some surprising tidbits - especially on flooding I was not expecting.

Chapter 2 Riding Out The Storm

5 pages
This chapter gets into the crunch and game mechanics of the effects on a city of a hurricane, It includes discussion of various skills and advantages, as well as equipment that can aid survival and rescue efforts. This is the controversial chapter over on the forums, for two main ideas.

It introduces a new skill Search and Rescue (Per) Hard which has several specialties (Cave, Combat, K-9, Maritime, Mountain, and Urban), Many felt this should be a use of another skill and can lead to skill bloat. Upon reading it however I personally am ok with it. Its similar to an Expert Skill which is already a Hard skill,though this defaults to Per and they usually have no default. It overlaps some with Observation and Survival (both Average) but adds specific knowledge and training in equipment and techniques. The specialties give a short synopsis of equipment and modifiers.
Additionally there are some Perks and Techniques here that fit the life of a seasoned rescuer, or even the survivalist type who has to deal with them too often!

The other thing that got a lot of chatter was the damage table. Some people feel the effects on high winds such as -1 to DX rolls at 13 to 31 MPH; -2 to DX, -1 IQ/ST/Skills,and Move/2 up to 54 MPH, etc. Its in the free preview.  Some think thats harsh but think about being out unprotected in high winds, much less rain and it seems fair.  Despite the chart using Wind Speed in that column it IS talking about storms so I expect its made to include rain.
The building damage starts at 55 MPH for each continuous minute of wind, this may be high but again includes rain and often flying debris. And buildings have a lot of HP and if not built to code suffer very badly in these conditions.  As noted in the notes shingles can be torn off at that speed, plus you may have weight on the roof from water and debris but boarded up windows should be ok till it gets more severe. At 73+ MPH is where it gets really nasty but I have seen devastation from 60 MPH storms so I'm not one to quibble or dispute this.

Chapter 3 Adventures and Campaigns

The final chapter gives some nice adventure and campaign ideas.


Well written, useful mostly for severe storms and few campaigns are built around a hurricane. However there is great material here for a team that does disaster relief and rescue, an adventure to break things up from the routine, or even ideas for directed weather events.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

One With the Land

The idea of a lands ruler being tied to the land so that the health of each are connected is an old one. GURPS Fantasy first proposed this as a variation of Special Rapport "The Kings Two Bodies". Freelance Christopher Rice took that a few steps further in this blog entry. this effort is great for the local druid or protector, though the area is too small to reflect a typical ruler.
Another version called Divine Monarch [30] is in Blessed Be, Pyramid #3/78 Unleash Your Soul.

Attuned to the Land
40 points
You have the ability to sense the health and status of a territory you claim and assume responsibility for. You can also exorcise spirits from the area or those in it. The process takes a week and requires travel and observation of the entire land. Optionally ritually prepared materials from various areas can be brought to the new ruler, common in large kingdoms with local rulers who may have the same ability. Once the attunement has taken hold the ruler has the benefits of Special Rapport (p. B88) with everyone and everything in the area that considers themselves a resident. So it does not cover strangers or visitors, though the user would know by the lack of feeling they were not local. This is generally a collective perception, taking a penalty equal to the area on the Size and Speed/Range Table (p. B550) as per the Area Perception modifier, though this can be focused to smaller areas or individuals as desired.
Statistics: Licensed Exorcist [1] + Special Rapport (Area Perception, +300%; Cosmic, Universal Truth, +100%; One Way, +20%; Onset, 1 week, -40%; Reliable +10, +50%; Transferable, +250%) [39]. 40 points.
Note: Using it to sense the collective whole has precedent in published material. Letting it focus down to smaller areas is a trivial extension of that, though focusing on individuals is perhaps a bit too much a stretch for some. On the other hand we are talking about +400% in Cosmic for this ability, so there is that. If the reader prefers those modifiers could be dropped and various the Empathy advantages added as alternates as focus changes.

Area Perception is from GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits for clairsentience and Detects.
One Way and Transferable are from GURPS Powers (p. 77-78).
Cosmic, Universal Truth is from Blessed Be, Pyramid #3/78 Unleash Your Soul and is pretty similar to the True Sight enhancement in Powers.

Additional abilities are often associated with this and if they only affect or work within the area they can be purchased as alternative abilities, though this temporarily blinds the normal supernatural sensitivity. These abilities often include: Absolute Direction, Clairsentience, Common Sense, Energy Reserve (Slow Recharge, 1 day), Enhanced Move, Hard to Kill, Healing, Higher Purpose, Intuition, Luck, Oracle, Precognition, Psychometry, Regeneration, Serendipity, Speak With Animals, Speak With Plants, Telesend, and Terrain Adaptation.

The decline in US Manufacturing

@gop @TheDemocrats @BrandNew535 @justicedems @JoeBiden @BernieSanders @USAutoCouncil
In the 80's 25% of US jobs involved manufacturing, now its 10%. Republicans blame immigrants and regulation saying worker safety, pollution control, and wages are to blame so subsidize companies through tax cuts and they can then afford to higher American workers, even as they give those manufacturers 50% tax breaks to open plants overseas.

@realDonaldTrump @BernieSanders and others, including most labor unions blame trade agreements like NAFTA, TPP, and others where corporations were in charge of setting the trade policy through lobbyists and buying politicians. Trump hit @HillaryClinton hard on this in 2016
@JoeBiden not only voted like Clinton, he whip counted for it and in recent debates still says they were good deals. He will be hit hard on this if he wins the nomination. But the other candidates and #MSM ignore this because they supported it too. Except for @BernieSanders who was one of the very few who predicted the effect to employees and not only them but all Americans and was willing to take the unpopular stand.

That is Senator Sanders in a nutshell! Always looking forward and wiling to take a stand for America rather than bend with the political winds or be bought by corporations. Only one candidate in the 2020 Presidential election has a proven track record of putting Americans first, ahead of his wallet and political self interest. I do not agree with all his decisions, nor perfectly align with his ideology but hes the only one I trust to govern with integrity. That matters!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Totem Powers - Imbuements

I have looked at Imbuements but never played them, though that is about to change. I will be playing a Mystic in one game and have been playing a powers based shaman in another for awhile now. Shadow Speaker relies on Afflictions, Totem-Bearer with Horse and Raven, and tokens for Bear, Dove, and Turtle. This gives him a decent mix of abilities which I have used to fine tune a few things.
However, I have been looking at ways to improve the buffing role and with the thought going into the Mystic of Horus I have some ideas on Imbuements to go along with GURPS Powers: Totem and Nature Spirits.

So here are some ideas on what Imbuements fit specific totems. This list is drawn from GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements and several Pyramid issues. Remember whats appropriate is up to the setting and the GMs interpretation, some are pretty obvious, while others are more of a stretch. So these are just some ideas.

  • All: Dancing Weapon, Ghostly Weapon, Healthful Armor, Nullifying Armor (Spirit), Returning Weapon, Spiritual Defense, Supreme Control, 
  • Most Birds: Aerial Operation, Arching Shot, Far Shot, Guided Weapon, Homing Weapon, Stabilizing Shot.
  • Baselisk: Acid Weapon, Corrosive Strike,
  • Bear: Crushing Attack, Forceful Blow.
  • Beaver: Aquatic Operation,
  • Cougar/Puma: Agile Operation,
  • Coyote: Arching Shot,
  • Deer: Agile Operation,  Hasten Vehicle, 
  • Dolphin: Aquatic Operation, Crushing Attack, Ramming Vehicle,
  • Dove: Dazzling Display,
  • Eagle:  Impaling Strike,
  • Electric Eel: Electric Weapon, Fulminating Strike,
  • Elemental (Air): Imbue 1 – Deafening Display, Supreme Control, Thunderous Defense. Imbue 2 – Arching Shot, Far Shot, Guided Weapon, Returning Weapon. Imbue 3 – Electric Weapon, Insulated Armor.
  • Elemental (Earth): Imbue 1 – Crushing Strike, Lighten Armor, Reinforce Weapon. Imbue 2 – Reinforce Armor, Shattershot. Imbue 3 – Blunting Armor, Impenetrable Armor, Padded Armor, Penetrating Strike.
  • Elemental (Fire): Imbue 1 – Ghostly Weapon, Spiritual Defense. Imbue 2 –Annihilating Weapon, Burning Strike, Blinding Defense, Dazzling Display. Imbue 3 –
  • Fireproof Armor, Incendiary Weapon.
  • Elemental (Water): Imbue 1 – Rigid Armor, Stealthy Attack, Subtle Defense, Underwater Strike, Imbue 2 – Fatiguing Strike. Imbue 3 – Binding Shot, Chilling Strike, Impaling Strike, Restorative Armor.
  • Elephant: Animate Vehicle, Armored Vehicle, Crushing Attack, Forceful Blow, Lighten Armor, Ramming Vehicle,
  • Hippopotamus: Armored Vehicle, Ramming Vehicle,
  • Horse: Agile Operation, Animate Vehicle, Efficient Vehicle, Hardy Vehicle, Hasten Vehicle, Tireless Mount,
  • Hummingbird: Agile Operation,
  • Marten: Bank Shot, Clinging Vehicle, Impaling Strike,
  • Mole: Stealthy Attack, Underground Operation,
  • Octopus/Squid: Telescoping Blow.
  • Otter: Aquatic Operation,
  • Owl: Stealthy Attack,
  • Peacock: Deafening Display,
  • Porcupine: Vengeful Defense,
  • Raven:
  • Snake: Drugged Weapon, Envenomed Weapon, Sudden Death, Toxic Strike.
  • Songbird:
  • Spider: Binding Shot, Envenomed Weapon, Sudden Death, Toxic Strike, Vampiric Weapon,
  • Turtle: Armored Vehicle, Dancing Shield, Impenetrable Armor, Widen Shield.
  • Wolf: Crippling Blow,
  • Unicorn:

Working List (Not every published Imbuement is included and several arent used in the lists above)

·        Acid Weapon, Aerial Operation, Agile Operation, All-Terrain Operation, Alluring Vehicle, Animate Vehicle, Annihilating Weapon, Aquatic Operation, Arching Shot, Armored Vehicle, Bank Shot, Binding Shot, Blinding Defense, Blunting Armor, Burning Strike, Chameleon Vehicle, Chilling Strike, Clinging Vehicle, Conic Blast, Continuing Attack, Corrosive Strike, Crippling Blow, Crushing Attack, Cutting Strike, Dancing Shield, Dancing Weapon, Dazzling Display, Deafening Display, Drugged Weapon, Efficient Vehicle, Electric Weapon, Energizing Defense, Envenomed Weapon, Expand Armor, Far Shot, Fatiguing Strike, Fireproof Armor, Forceful Blow, Fulminating Strike, Ghostly Weapon, Guided Weapon, Hardy Vehicle, Hasten Vehicle, Healthful Armor, Homing Weapon, Impaling Strike, Impenetrable Armor, Incendiary Weapon, Insulated Armor, Lighten Armor, Multi-Shot, Multistrike, Nullifying Armor (Spirit), Padded Armor, Penetrating Strike, Phantom Hold, Phasing Vehicle, Piercing Strike, Project Blow, Ramming Vehicle, Reinforce Armor, Reinforce Weapon, Resilient Armor, Restorative Armor, Returning Weapon, Rigid Armor, Self-Repairing Vehicle, Shattering Shot, Shockwave,  Sovereign Armor, Spiritual Defense, Stabilizing Shot, Stable Vehicle, Stalwart Vehicle, Stealthy Attack, Strike of Negation, Stupefying Blow, Subtle Defense, Sudden Death, Superior Life Support, Supreme Control, Telescoping Blow, Thunderous Defense, Tireless Mount, Toxic Strike, Transform Vehicle, Traumatic Blow, Underground Operation, Vacuum Operation, Vampiric Weapon, Vengeful Defense, Widen Shield, Withering Strike