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Old 07-20-2017, 12:59 PM   #1
PK
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Default Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic


A fighter? How cute.
<floods arena with lightning>
Next challenger, please!
Aravore, Gladiator Mage
In many settings, magic is an invisible, mysterious force -- something that underpins reality but never steps to the forefront -- which mages learn to manipulate to achieve subtle changes to reality.

This isn't about that kind of magic.

When you're ready to pull off some over-the-top rituals . . . when you're ready to dive headfirst into the cosmic pool of forbidden knowledge . . . when you're ready to kick butt and take names, you're ready for Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic.
  • Comic-book wizards have a style and flair all their own, and while GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery gives you the power levels that you need to pull that off, only Super-Sorcery! goes a step beyond that to truly emulate the flexibility and unique trappings of four-color wizards.

  • Speaking of Sorcery, have you ever wondered if it could emulate the cinematic skills and abilities of GURPS Martial Arts? Chi Sorcery shows that the answer is "Yes!" by turning Breaking Blow, Pressure Secrets, and all of your other favorite chambara skills into advantage-based abilities.

  • Any necromancer worth their salt can bind the spirit or raise the corpse of a normal mortal, but when a god dies, only Theo-Necromancy will do. This month's Eidetic Memory presents concepts, rules, and a ton of adventure seeds for those who can't let that which is dead lie.

  • With the right cookbook, an enterprising potion-brewer may be able to accomplish Gourmet Alchemy. This Modular-Ability-based framework uses Afflictions and Innate Attacks to produce potions with a wide variety of effects -- perfect for your crew of fantasy heroes.

  • In fiction, fights between the main hero and villain can vary dramatically in difficulty, and Lights! Camera! Action! explains why. This Appendix Z provides rules for meta-magical access to the goodies in GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys, affecting where and when main characters are truly "powered up."

  • And we broke the mystic bonds imprisoning this month's Random Thought Table, which offers new ways to make acquiring magical power feel truly cinematic and special.

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Old 07-20-2017, 01:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

BTW, if anyone spots any errors or inconsistencies, blame me before blaming the authors. I made some last-minute revisions across several articles for better compatibility with the core rules.
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Old 07-20-2017, 03:50 PM   #3
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Fitting theo-necromancy into a Discworld RPG campaign is left as an exercise. Shouldn't actually be too hard.
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Old 07-20-2017, 07:27 PM   #4
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Some designer's notes for my article.
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Old 07-21-2017, 05:20 AM   #5
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Chi Sorcery is beautiful and the time-limited attribute rolls make me so happy. It also looks like a good basis for emulating something like Incantation Magic from DF as powers. But, for something like that, I have a question. Can you increase the time for the time-limited attribute rolls? If I take Immediate Preparation Required, 10 minutes, -45%, does that make the time-limited attribute roll from -10 for 10 minutes to -0 for 320 minutes? Or do I prepare for a minute and then use the time-limited roll? Because I'd like to make the time-limited roll work with longer prep time.
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Old 07-21-2017, 07:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

There's a lot of interesting ideas in this issue, and I'll post some reactions in a bit. On my initial read, there are some things that are not clear:

1) On page 4, I can't figure out the math for the extra effort example. Professor Arcana spends 5 extra FP (which I assume is five extra levels, since it says on top of the normal cost and the +1 FP for extra effort). If there is a penalty of -4 per extra level, shouldn't the final roll be at -20 instead of -12?

2) For Chi Sorcery, I'm curious why there is a time delay for improvisation (page 13, one min per 25 points full cost). That makes most the improvisation useless in a combat context. Considering that most of the abilities are either combat enhancements or would provide substantial bonuses in combat situations, the time delay seems to neuter the value of improvisation.

3) I was thrown for a loop by Lights! Camera! Magic!'s idea that both Magical Hero and Mundane Hero are zero point traits. Mundane Hero makes sense, but Magical Hero seems like a straightforward violation of the "no modifiers can reduce an advantage below -80% cost" rule, and it's not clear why that's worth violating. Essentially, Magical Hero is buying impulse buys with a limitation that they can't be used directly against mundane heroes (an accessibility limitation, which I would put in the -50% range depending on how frequent Magical Heroes are and how generous the GM is in interpreting indirect effects), and an additional magical power modifier of -10% or whatever. Why did it become a 0 point trait?

4) In terms of lore, the mechanics for Lights! Camera! Magic! seem backwards. The suggestion that the climatic fight is a consequence of heroes normally being able to get the effect they want and now having to grit it out without their magical aid makes sense if the archenemy in the climax cannot be affected by impulse buys (and vice versa: the archenemy can't affect the heroes). But, the archenemy is usually a Magical Hero: it would be bizarre for there to be Magical Heroes and then suddenly the final antagonist is a Mundane Hero. So that implies that the impulse buys should work against Mundane Heroes/Villains (everyone in the runup to the final conflict) but they shouldn't work in the final battle (against another Magical Hero/Villain). That's the exact opposite of the mechanics described in the article. Am I missing something?
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Old 07-21-2017, 07:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by philosophyguy View Post
3) I was thrown for a loop by Lights! Camera! Magic!'s idea that both Magical Hero and Mundane Hero are zero point traits. Mundane Hero makes sense, but Magical Hero seems like a straightforward violation of the "no modifiers can reduce an advantage below -80% cost" rule, and it's not clear why that's worth violating. Essentially, Magical Hero is buying impulse buys with a limitation that they can't be used directly against mundane heroes (an accessibility limitation, which I would put in the -50% range depending on how frequent Magical Heroes are and how generous the GM is in interpreting indirect effects), and an additional magical power modifier of -10% or whatever. Why did it become a 0 point trait?
"The ability to use Impulse Buys" is in itself a 0-point trait in this case, as a campaign switch (in the same way it would be in a campaign that just used those options as a baseline). Because L!C!M! assumes you're structuring the campaign this way, nobody is using 'Rules Exemption: Can spend CP on Impulse Buys [1]' - every hero either can or can't.

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Originally Posted by philosophyguy View Post
4) In terms of lore, the mechanics for Lights! Camera! Magic! seem backwards. The suggestion that the climatic fight is a consequence of heroes normally being able to get the effect they want and now having to grit it out without their magical aid makes sense if the archenemy in the climax cannot be affected by impulse buys (and vice versa: the archenemy can't affect the heroes). But, the archenemy is usually a Magical Hero: it would be bizarre for there to be Magical Heroes and then suddenly the final antagonist is a Mundane Hero. So that implies that the impulse buys should work against Mundane Heroes/Villains (everyone in the runup to the final conflict) but they shouldn't work in the final battle (against another Magical Hero/Villain). That's the exact opposite of the mechanics described in the article. Am I missing something?
The idea is that the climactic fight occurs in a no-mana zone. Since nobody is (usually) a spellcaster in an action film, the lack of mana isn't noticeable... except to those people (including the Big Bad) who are used to spending their CP to make combat easier. Those guys are suddenly having a hard time, thus getting the gritty 'suddenly the fight against the Big Bad is hard!' feeling.

I'm honestly not sure how this would play out in a long-term campaign or if I can envision shoehorning it into an existing game, but it's an interesting idea.
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Old 07-21-2017, 10:23 AM   #8
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harald387 View Post
The idea is that the climactic fight occurs in a no-mana zone. Since nobody is (usually) a spellcaster in an action film, the lack of mana isn't noticeable... except to those people (including the Big Bad) who are used to spending their CP to make combat easier. Those guys are suddenly having a hard time, thus getting the gritty 'suddenly the fight against the Big Bad is hard!' feeling.
If the goal is to say "impulse buys can't be used in a no-mana area", that's just slapping a Magic, -10% limitation on the impulse buys. But that seems to be distinct from "impulse buys can't be used against other Magical Heroes". It's easy to imagine Magical Villians that would want to operate in mana-rich areas to fuel their abilities, and just as easy to imagine Mundane Villains that rig up an anti-mana field so they can compete with Magical Heroes. In other words, mana zones and magical/mundane heroes are orthogonal.

I guess that's a long way of saying that, if the goal is making impulse buys magically dependent, then the article really confuses the issue unnecessarily. If the goal is the show how this ability to magically buy success suddenly doesn't work in the climatic battle, then I still think my criticism of the mechanic as being backwards stands.
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Old 07-21-2017, 11:13 AM   #9
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

First, general reactions - I'm very glad to get an article in this issue, because it's in very good company! Chi Sorcery is a great framework for powered martial arts. If I was running a game with them, it would be going in, no question. And with just a little tweaking, it would be excellent for doing a more elemental-themed set of martial arts powers too - Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, or Naruto, both seem like they'd be naturals for this.

Theo-Necromancy is just a cool concept, and as usual, David Pulver delivers some excellent discussions on it and provides some cool adventure hooks.

Gourmet Alchemy is a nifty idea, and I'm glad to see the framework for using Modular Abilities for magic effects being expanded again - the various modifiers to build the Elixers in here seem like they will be easy to tweak for other types of material magic as well.

I haven't read the Random Thought Table yet, but it's always good, so I expect this one will be too. :-)

The Appendix Z is a neat concept. I'm not sure I'd implement it in a game I ran - its central conceit seems to depend a bit too heavily on the final fight in an action adventure being one-on-one, and with a specific hero and villain combo, both of which are kind of hard to arrange in an RPG. But still, definitely an interesting idea!

I wanted to thank PK for the rules tweaks he did on Super-Sorcery! He definitely improved things as far as I'm concerned, and caught a rather significant screw-up on my part that made the template a lot better. (For some reason, I had internalized the notion that Sorcerous Empowerment was actually 20 points per level, rather than 20 points for level 1, and 10 thereafter, which meant the Super-Sorcerer template ended up with several more levels of Sorcerous Empowerment than I originally gave it.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by philosophyguy View Post

1) On page 4, I can't figure out the math for the extra effort example. Professor Arcana spends 5 extra FP (which I assume is five extra levels, since it says on top of the normal cost and the +1 FP for extra effort). If there is a penalty of -4 per extra level, shouldn't the final roll be at -20 instead of -12?
Where you're going wrong is assuming that 5 FP equals five levels. The rule for extra effort in the Sorcery book is that you roll at a -4 penalty for each level you want to add, and spend 1 FP no matter how many levels you're adding. What this rule does is let you multiply the number of levels you add by spending more FP. So Professor Arcane is rolling at -12, which would normally add 3 levels. But by spending the extra 5 FP, she multiplies that by 5, and thus adds 15 levels instead. Does that make sense?
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Old 07-21-2017, 11:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
Where you're going wrong is assuming that 5 FP equals five levels. The rule for extra effort in the Sorcery book is that you roll at a -4 penalty for each level you want to add, and spend 1 FP no matter how many levels you're adding. What this rule does is let you multiply the number of levels you add by spending more FP. So Professor Arcane is rolling at -12, which would normally add 3 levels. But by spending the extra 5 FP, she multiplies that by 5, and thus adds 15 levels instead. Does that make sense?
I don't have Sorcery open in front of me, so I'm still pretty lost. Is the math supposed to be 1 FP for extra effort + 3 levels of extra effort at 1.5 FP each = 5 FP? I assume the fractional FP cost is wrong but I can't make the math work otherwise.

I also assume that reading is wrong because the article says, "On top of Sunbolt’s normal cost and the +1 FP from using extra effort, she decides to spend 5 FP, with -12 to the roll." So, the 1 FP for extra effort is accounted for, and there is still 5 FP for 3 levels of extra effort = 1.67 FP per level - again a weird fractional value that seems wrong.

…After about 10 minutes of re-reading this section and Sorcery, I figured it out. I needed a sentence earlier in the article's example saying Arcana wanted to raise the level of the spell by 15, which she accomplished by taking the skill penalty for 3 levels (of -12) and 5 extra FP. Without that sentence to frame the numbers, I was assuming that -12 was related to the 5 extra FP, instead of seeing them both as variables that Arcana was choosing to manipulate independently.

As a note to the editor: I feel like this is a good example of where GURPS' editing can be improved. The way you worded the example was very concise word-wise, and it had all the information I needed to figure it out, but it was so compact that it was hard for me as a reader to follow the train of thought. As a player, I will be thinking: I want to do X. I have Y ability, and I my choices are A, B, and C. This example instead implied X at the very end, described Y, and listed A, B, and C without any elaboration or context. That made it really hard to parse, even though technically the answer was there all along.

Last edited by philosophyguy; 07-21-2017 at 11:39 AM. Reason: Note to editor
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