Monday, November 28, 2022

Review of GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold

 This is a small setting supplement. Set in 1930s earth it is described as a showcase for some rules in GURPS Thaumatology - specifically Book/Path magic.

I am not a fan of the title as it really is a setting and I think those looking for a setting could easily overlook it. And those looking for a new magic system will be disappointed as its mostly a showcase for a system in GURPS Thaumatology. It has some nice tweeks but no new rituals or rules. I think the reason for the title was that you need GURPS Thaumatology to use it. Besides Book/Path it uses Spirit Assisted magic, Alchemy, and includes pulp type supers with magic as the primary origin.

The emphasis is on alchemy but Book/Path magic is treated well and both are important to what is mostly a secret magic setting. This us a classic pulp genre setting, it can be played locally or with world travel to exotic locations. GURPS Mysteries, GURPS Places of Mystery, and GURPS Cliffhangers would all be great companions to GMs of this setting.

I really found this a fun read and a good pulp setting.

Monday, November 21, 2022


 GURPS Magic has its own book, is core to the Dungeon Fantasy line and is supported with numerous Pyramid articles and individual supplements including GURPS  Magic Death Spells and GURPS Magic Plant Spells that expand on the colleges and GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles that gives example magical styles to help wizards be more unique. A magic as  skills system that is the original GURPS magic system.  It is strong at low to medium levels, though scales poorly at very high point levels as it becomes overwhelming in power.

This forum post lists various sources of many GURPS Magic spells and my more detailed review and analysis is here
Generic Universal Eggplant's Magic Index (New spells authored by him)

Ritual Path Magic

A powerful and flexible system that can do almost anything given enough time and ability. It is built from a mix of Path and Book Magic and Realm magic with a few other things blended in. It requires a pretty steep buy in but scales dramatically.  At low level supers it becomes epic in power and scope so should be limited or banned for those settings. However it is very effective at Action, Dungeon Fantasy or Monster Hunter levels so is a great mid level system. Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic converts it to Effect Shaping and has worked examples suitable for the DF genre.

Magic as Powers

Powers Based Magic

These systems are well balanced and creating new spells is pretty easy as you take an existing advantage and apply modifiers.  It can be math heavy but its simple multiplication and division. Different books approach the idea from different angles, often relying on a core power that gets tweaked for various effects. There are a lot of worked examples in each sub line and everything in this section provides numerous prebuilt powers.

Book/Path Magic

Book/Path Magic is a system that first appeared in GURPS Third Edition. It appeared in GURPS Spirits, GURPS Voodoo, GURPS Castle Falkinstein, and possibly others. In Fourth Edition it was updated and published in GURPS Thaumatology.

It forms the basis of the GURPS Settings: GURPS Thaumatology: Alchemical Baroque and GURPS Thaumatology Age of Gold

The system has two major methods of working, Effect Shaping and Energy Accumulation and variations have been posted in some Pyramid articles as well as fan blogs.

As described it is based on spirit magic but it can be used in other ways.

Naruto is an anime that has shinobi who use various forms of "Ninjitsu" that can be replicated using Book/Path magic.

The Valdemar setting by Mercedes Lackey uses ley lines and is probably best modeled in GURPS using Book/Path Magic with the Energy Accumulation method.

Imperial Magic from Steve Brusts Vlad Taltos series could be modeled using Book/Path with the Effect Shaping version, its Witchcraft would likely use the Energy Accumulation model.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Allies and Contacts

Allies, Contacts, and Patrons are a useful part of GURPS, representing a significant social advantage often ignored by other game systems. Below is a partial cost summary and breakdown, for full details you need to read GURPS Basic: Characters.


Contacts are rated by their effective skill level in a specific skill. Wildcard Contacts make this an entire skill group, typically by profession - Business, military, police, etc. 
A Contact will answer a question or do something for the character as long as it is at least two of nonhazardous, inexpensive (or mostly paid for), or quick.
Contact -12 [1] Contact Group -12 [5]
Contact -15 [2] Contact Group -15 [10]
Contact -18 [3] Contact Group -18 [15]
Contact -21 [4] Contact Group -21 [20]
The number after Contact reflects effective skill (Contact -12 means skill 12).
It is important to note that this is effective skill and comes not just from points in a skill but access to lands, libraries, workshops, even assistants. So high skill levels are not unreasonable or cinematic.

Ally and Ally Group

Allies are based on a relevant percentage of the character. This means they are more efficient and powerful the more points the character is based on. They also are willing to take risks and go adventuring! Whereas Contacts are asked one task per session with additional tasks acquiring a cumulative penalty. Players will typically choose Allies over Contacts.
Allies 25% [1] Ally Group 6-10 [6]   Ally Group 11-20 [8]
Allies 50% [2] Ally Group 6-10 [12]   Ally Group 11-20 [16]
Allies 75% [3] Ally Group 6-10 [18]   Ally Group 11-20 [24]
Allies 100% [5] Ally Group 6-10 [30] Ally Group 11-20 [40]

So Contact -12 and Ally 25% cost the same and are pretty equivalent in most campaigns.
Contact -15 and Ally 50% cost the same, also likely equivalant in most campaigns though highly cinematic and especially supers campaigns the Ally is going to have higher skills than 15.
Contact -18 and Ally 75% cost the same. At this level the Contact likely has a superior skill level in the main skill even in a four color campaign. The Ally will however usually have more breadth and a full character sheet.

Which is Better?

.Ally seems better, you get to ask for help as often as you like and they are willing to take great risks for you.
However the part people often overlook is that the Contacts skill represents facilities and resources not on a character sheet. That Forensics-12 skill represents a lab worker in a forensics lab, while Forensics -18 or -21 likely represents a supervisor or manager who van assign people to get the analysis done.
The Ally doesn't come with a lab so one has to be provided for by him or the player character.
And if it was a Contact Group that likely means most of the labs team are willing to work for you and you can get several projects worked on at once or ask for follow-ups without having to wait.

Contacts can also do field work or research, Streetwise to ask around for you. Batman, Daredevil, and other crime fighters have Streetwise but also Contacts with Streetwise. So why buy a Contact for a skill you already have? Because if they do the offscreen legwork it saves game time (meaning GMs should encourage Contacts, even as free point awards) and lets the pc do something perhaps more interesting. Especially helpful for groups of players so they are not sitting around while the PC runs around busting bad guys chops or something and saves the GMs creativity for other tasks.
Contact (Administration -12) could work at the DMV or police station and maybe run a plate for the private investigator. This probably counts as hazardous as they risk losing their job if caught.

If that Contact worked at city hall they could likely pull city records instead.

What About Patrons?

Patrons represent very powerful individuals or organizations, even governments. They wont go on adventures with you but may send along some guys for a mission. They also can provide money and equipment or other resources. GURPS Boardroom and Curia is a great resource for Patrons.

Getting Fancy

GURPS Social Engineering: Keeping in Contact goes into more details on Contacts.
GURPS Boardroom and Curia as mentioned covers Patrons and Tomorrows Ride's is an example Patron that furnishes action heroes fancy cars.
Modular Abilities allows multiple Contacts, so purchasing Contacts as alternative abilities seem reasonable and is suggested in a few places. The main limit is a failed appearance roll disables the whole thing - including any alternate Contacts!
Patrons provide what is reasonable from the organization in question. Take Contact or Contact Group as an alternative ability for people within that organization. This represents a bigger investment but offers alternate and specific ways to get assistance from that organization.
Ally Groups could represent reinforcements or a combat team
GURPS Powers: Divine Favor deals with having God as your Patron.
GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank is another way of handling Patron and Ranks.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Nightmare Fuel

 This is the final day to pledge this project! It is fully funded and based on prior experience the art and writing quality will be great. Many of these monsters can be used in other GURPS games, beyond just the DFRPG Gaming Ballistic has the license for. In fact the VTT tokens and art cards can be used for other game systems! Either make up your own or apply them to a similar monster in your system of choice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Authors Notes

 I just sent in the final draft of Template Toolkits: Spirits!

This has been a long road filled with delays. I lost about a month to computer problems, another two to getting real sick (including brief hospital stay and almost dying), and more time due to depression and writers block. But its now awaiting its turn in line for Kromm to work his editing magic.

I asked some friends to help on the final edit pass and got a lot of good feedback from Kage2020 that probably saved my editor a lot of headaches (apparently I overuse exclamation points<g>) and massaged it looking for last minute changes over the past week or so.

I am really proud of this one though. I do not know what will make the final draft as I went over word count, my editor said that was fine but I expect some trimming. Fingers crossed all the cool stuff stays in and any garbage does not.

The core mission was to help GMs and players build spirits in a consistent and expeditious manner. Additional goals were to explain certain traits that seem to bring up questions on the forums, help the GM figure out ways to better use spirits in the campaign, and provide enough utility that a lot of people will want to buy it. I feel I hit all those and there is enough meat in the traits section and an appendix that even players will want GURPS Template Toolkit: Spirits.