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Old 10-22-2009, 11:23 PM   #111
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Default Re: Newcomer seeks advice: Ravenloft in GURPS?

Powers checks, redux

Ravenloft's Dark Powers occasionally reach out and give a mixed-blessing warping to a deserving individual. Sometimes these are people who've done bad things. Other times, they're just people who are thinking bad thoughts.

The d20 Powers check table has probabilities from one percent through 16 percent. Beyond that, the table seems to just assume that you automatically fail the powers check - 100% certainty. This seems a little unbalanced to me.

A bell curve on 3d6 requires some finessing, because each number is not a smooth increment. But it could be made to work, if you assume that a) the Powers Checks above 16% do not automatically fail, and b) people who do bad things will fail their checks more often than you might expect from DnD.

The classes of victims are no longer grouped as Evil, Neutral, Good, and PCs (family or innocents). They're reduced to Hostile, Neutral, and Friendly. The numbers below are shown in the form A/B/C, where A is for hostile victims, B is for neutral, and C is for friendly. For ease of reading, I include percentages for the numbers. Note that the A/B/C format usually is x/x+1/x+2. A single increment in a 3d6 dice roll is much more significant than the same increment in a 1d20 roll!

Crimes marked with an asterisk (*) mean they're crimes of trust - your action was wrong because the victim had some degree of trust in you. Note that this may be inapplicable to hostiles: if you owe them no duty of trust to begin with, you cannot conceptually betray them, and circumstances may well mitigate stealing from them.

Crimes marked with a carrot (^) are crimes of violence which can be mitigated by self-defense. If there is a valid and genuine self-defense concern, then reduce the relevant number by 1. This may make it impossible for you to ever fail a powers check for certain crimes against certain victims, e.g. a non-grievous battery against an attacking hostile (because you cannot roll 2 or less on 3d6).

Intent vs. outcome: Use whichever is worse. So if I intend to swing at you and break your nose (non-grievous) but end up accidentally breaking your neck (potentially grievous) then it's "Battery, potentially grievous". Likewise, if I intend to shoot you in the head and kill you but I miss and harmlessly shoot your hat off instead, that's murder for the purposes of the powers check - the Dark Powers can punish criminal intent even in the absence of criminal outcome!

Dependents: These are a separate category on their own, and they are so important that crimes against them should be handled separately by the DM. Bumping the Powers check up to 10 (a flat 50%) might be in order, or if it's thematically convenient, the DM can just award a failed powers check right there.

Crimes against people or property

Battery, non-grievous^: 3 (0.46%) / 4 (1.85%) / 5 (4.63%)
Battery, potentially grievous^: 4 / 5 / 6 (9.26%)
Betrayal, social*: 4 / 5 / 6
Betrayal, physical*: 5 / 6 / 7 (16.2%)
Murder^: 5 / 6 / 7
Torture: 6 / 7 / 8 (25.93%)
Theft*: 3 / 4 / 5

Violations against ideals

DnD Ravenloft splits these up into Tenets, Oaths, Vows, Defilement, and Desecration.

I'm going to sidestep this by lumping the "Defilement and Desecration" categories into a "DM's call" (much like when Dependents are the victims of player criminal acts, above).

DnD also splits them up into Evil, Neutral, Good, and Own Faith.

This causes problems. If you break a vow, presumably you're breaking your own vow, to your own faith. Much of the rubric seems counterintuitive (why exactly would I have a vow or oath to a Neutral faith if I'm an atheist or agnostic or subscribe to a different faith?). Therefore, I have decided I'm going to scrap the Evil/Neutral/Good categories and just subsume them under "Betrayal, Social", above. From here on in, we're going to assume these are for your own faith, philosophy, code of honor, etc.

The Tenets, Oaths, and Vows all sound like behavioral disadvantages under the GURPS system, so we'll go with those instead.

These include Code of Honor, Disciplines of Faith, Duty, and Vow disadvantages - all of these are objective (or at the very least, externalized) constraints. It can include Pacifism and Sense of Duty, which are normally just subjective internalized constraints, especially if they have been declared or otherwise form the basis of a faith relationship or similar.

The base chance of powers check failure for violation any of the above is 3. Add +1 for each full 5 points of the disadvantage. Thus, a disadvantage totalling -15 points will give you a modifier of 3 to the roll. The powers check roll is againt 3+3=6 (16.2%).

The ideals roll is generally a little less serious than the violence roll above. Religions and philosophies in Ravenloft are generally less absolute than they were outside of it - the Dark Powers are not nearly as interested in a priest's violation of a faraway god's edict than they are at how the same priest treats other parishioners here in his diocese within the Demiplane.

At some point I'm going to try to tie this in with Spirit-Assisted magic or black magic casting, which should also attract the Dark Powers' attention.

Last edited by HuManBing; 10-22-2009 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:59 AM   #112
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Default Re: Newcomer seeks advice: Ravenloft in GURPS?

It occurs to me that there is an optional level of mana which is "very low" mana. Casting gets a -10 penalty to the skill level, and costs an extra Fatigue Point (never from Energy Reserve or Powerstones) before you even make the dice roll. Magical items need a Power of 25 or more to work, and cost the user 1 FP to activate.

This could be a better way of running the "Coastal" domains than merely making them No Mana. No Mana absolutely positively quashes all spellcasting, and may be better suited for Nosos or other modern era domain. Very Low Mana makes magic so difficult it's usually better not to bother... but if a group of PCs has a caster powerful enough (or desperate enough), you could see them try to whip up a spell or two.
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Old 11-14-2009, 11:57 AM   #113
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Default Re: Newcomer seeks advice: Ravenloft in GURPS?

Originally Posted by HuManBing View Post
It occurs to me that there is an optional level of mana which is "very low" mana. Casting gets a -10 penalty to the skill level, and costs an extra Fatigue Point (never from Energy Reserve or Powerstones) before you even make the dice roll. Magical items need a Power of 25 or more to work, and cost the user 1 FP to activate.

This could be a better way of running the "Coastal" domains than merely making them No Mana. No Mana absolutely positively quashes all spellcasting, and may be better suited for Nosos or other modern era domain. Very Low Mana makes magic so difficult it's usually better not to bother... but if a group of PCs has a caster powerful enough (or desperate enough), you could see them try to whip up a spell or two.
I prefer the -10 to + 10 sliding scale Thumatology mentions to mimic Very Low Mana to Very High Mana. I find I'm much less hesitant to muck with the mana levels when I have 21 levels to play with, and it makes magic less of a "sure thing" than it otherwise is.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:45 AM   #114
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Default Re: Newcomer seeks advice: Ravenloft in GURPS?

Clerical magic:

I have bought the Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics add-on, and it has helped me immensely by laying out various sample clerical spell lists. As an acclimatization practice, I am looking at making a similar statting for the Eternal Order religion in Darkon.

The Eternal Order

Concept: The restless dead and the Gray Realms inhabitants are constantly trying to overcome the land of the living. The living can take various steps to forestall their invasion, ranging from propitiation to defiance. The religion ostensibly offers a nihilistic view of death triumphant, but presents itself as the only barrier between oblivion and the living world.

Divine Source: The religion itself is purely a tool for societal control, and is based on two essential falsehoods. First, it lionizes Azalin as a mortal ruler who has sacrificed much to protect humanity from the Gray Realm. Second, it draws its own divine power from the Xenoregnus source - a grotesque necrotic alien being of immense power shut away in Azalin's Black Vault. Xenoregnus is weaker than an actual deity, but because it is already physically inside Darkon, its followers within the domain may use their spellcasting power with no penalty. (This makes Eternal Order priests even more effective than most mages, who suffer the -5 to casting skill from the Low Mana.) Order priests outside of Darkon lose this benefit and are at -5 once more to casting spells - or even -10 if they are in an Enlightened culture area. Order displays of religious power usually involve putting down a staged undead attack, thus reaffirming the religion's power. Higher level priests know that the Order itself actually commands the undead. Only a select few know that Azalin himself is undead and none apart from Azalin know of the Xenoregnus source.

Operations: Almost solely within Darkon, as Azalin established it as a state religion.

Priesthood: Three levels of priesthood are observed. Those with few divine spellcasting powers are the Sentinels, and they serve a role similar to knights templar or paladins. The lower levels of priests have basic spellcasting powers, and are the Lightbearers. The Lightbearers are generally ignorant of the Order's true death-controlling powers - they are only given access to the spells that reaffirm the Order's deceptive facade of good. The top echelon of priests are called the Beacons and they are most obvious among the spellcasters, frequently using their divine magic in displays and rituals. The Beacons coordinate the Order's true agenda, which is populace control and a network of informants. They also work behind the scenes to stage undead incursions, and then to put them down publicly.

Faith-based Advantages: Blessed (Heroic feat variant) - Xenoregnus does not grant the visions usually associated with this advantage, but it can grant zeal and singleminded determination. Clerical Investment - only works in Darkon, but that's usually a big enough demographic to be worthwhile. Medium - the Order serves Azalin, and Azalin commands all undead in Darkon, so most spirits are willing to work with the Order. Power Investiture - max. 4 levels, because Xenoregnus is not a true god (but this is balanced by the fact that within Darkon, the priests don't have a -5 to casting). True Faith - most low-level priests will have the spells to repel undead, but they often have this advantage too; most warriors will need this advantage; higher-level priests may know enough to be skeptical and they therefore lose this advantage (note that some undead in Darkon may have an Aversion to the Order - this is completely separate).

Social Advantages: Ally. Claim to Hospitality - this rates at a 5 but only in Darkon, where the Order is widespread. Contact Group/Contact. Legal Immunity - 5 pts, where the Order member is allowed greater leeway in mostly social situations, e.g. mentioning the subject of death, questioning another's faith, etc. Legal Enforcement Powers - 5 pts for the Sentinels, which gives them the right to carry a weapon and to perform limited searches etc. Rank. Reputation - everybody in Darkon has heard of the Order and knows it's a powerful organization. Status. Tenure.

Disadvantages: Disciplines of Faith (Ritualism) - the priests are not necessarily ascetic (though they certainly can be) but they all observe rituals to cow and sway the public. Duty - the Order is powerful in Darkon but the entire power structure is geared towards efficient populace control, so a priest's work is rarely finished. Fanaticism - not mandatory, but frequently seen among the Sentinels and lower level Lightbearers (note that because the higher ups are aware that this is a false faith, a Fanatic priest rarely rises into the ranks of Beacons). Secret (up to -30) - at higher levels, priests become more and more aware of incongruities and falsehoods in the faith's structure, and must protect them or risk collapsing the faith and ending up before a lynch mob. Vow (various possibilities).

Skills: Theology and Hidden Lore (Grey Realm) are mandatory for any spellcasting priests. They are not necessary for Sentinels, unless they want to cast spells too. Other common skills include Religious Ritual, Propaganda, Psychology, and Group Performance (for Ceremonial Magic).

Spellcasting: I am applying two mechanics to the spellcasting power from GURPS Thaumatology: threshold-limited, and skill-based. The effective casting skill level for any Order priest is equal to their Theology or Hidden Lore skills, whichever is less, plus their Power Investiture level. Note that within Darkon, Order priests do not suffer a -5 to casting their spells, because all of Darkon counts as normal sanctity.

The threshold level is determined by adding the caster's effective Theology skill level, Hidden Lore skill level, and their Power Investiture level. The calamity check is 3d plus 1 for every full multiple of Power Investiture exceeded.

Required Spells: PI1: Sense Spirit or Final Rest. PI2: Turn Spirit or Turn Zombie. PI3: Repel Spirits or Repel Zombie (custom spell - deduce it from Repel Spirits). PI4: Command Spirit or Control Zombie.

Spell lists: Almost any college's low-level spells are fair game, but for specialized focus, the Order clearly has an interest in Necromantic, as well as Light/Darkness and Protection/Warning colleges too. Given that the Order itself is founded on less-than-stable theological grounds, Mind Control college access would be justified too.

  • Certain terms for "death" are off limits to mortals. Don't want to tempt fate.
  • Heroes' Wakes: Those who were particularly wealthy, loved, or active in their communities might have especially extravagant funerals conducted by the priests of the Order. These supposedly promote their souls to be spiritual "warriors" who help hold back the undead invasion. In practice, the Order does this just to earn a tidy commission on the burial. Theologically speaking, there's a certain very large number of hostile undead in the Gray Realm gone before, but if everybody from here to eternity born is faithful, then the number of Heroes' Wakes will aggregate and may eventually even outweigh the faithless dead precursors.
  • Another religious rationalization for a practice of societal control: somebody who has been publicly tortured to death will then go on to communicate its fear of the living to the other dead, thus further forestalling the invasion. (These are the "Messenger Spirits" for they bear the message to the dead that the living are defiant.) This means that the Order meets less resistance for publicly flogging a miscreant to death, because the community literally believes "better one should die and save the many".
  • In rural areas, a high birth rate of faithful serves the Order very well, as it ensures a greater flow of tithes and influence over increasing flocks. Thus, families are encouraged to have as many children as possible to bolster the ranks of the living. Family planning and any form of birth control are frowned upon, and barren individuals are made to feel deeply ashamed (and may even resort to allowing their spouse to have sex with another person or some similar arrangement just to have a child in the house).
  • The current living generation is "tainted" and will never be pious enough to resist the dead, but the coming generations may yet be saved because they are not yet living and thus death has no fear for them. The only way to ensure this is to make sure as many as possible are inducted into the priesthood, the church, and are buried in Heroes' Wakes as possible.
  • King Azalin is a powerful ally indeed, but the Grey Realm is jealous of him because he has found a way to infinitely delay his own death through magic and will never abandon his people. But even the greatest champion is just one person, and King Azalin needs his people to repay his love and protection by taking on the mantle of resistance themselves - to all pitch in with faith and their strength. Some day when the number of Heroes or Messenger Spirits on the other side outweighs the existing vengeful dead, humanity can rest in peace, knowing that the invasion will be forever forestalled by the church's practices.
  • Magic, being the means of mortals to transcend death, automatically attracts the vengeful dead's attention. One must be as strong in the ways of Magic as King Azalin himself to successfully hold them at bay. Each time Azalin weaves his magicks for the good of all people, he places himself in terrible risk of the vengeful dead, who plot and scheme to one day claim him. Be glad that such a brave heart beats with lifeblood in the kingdom! If you or anybody you know is dabbling in magic, they are in great danger and may have attracted a vengeful shade already. They should report to Azalin's police as soon as possible so the King can send help immediately.

Last edited by HuManBing; 12-22-2009 at 07:48 AM.
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Old 02-28-2021, 06:13 PM   #115
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Default Re: Newcomer seeks advice: Ravenloft in GURPS?

With the re-release of a 5th Ed. D&D Ravenloft setting (albeit with no Core setting anymore, just Islands of Terror all the way) this seemed like a good time to bump this thread with a list of GURPS resources for good Ravenloftish stuff.

GURPS Horror has been updated to 4E, and it's a superb treatment of various types of horror RPG tropes. The Afflictions alone make for great use in much of the Ravenloft's Monstrous Compendiums: e.g. the gaudivore creature that eats others' joy, horrifying window that blasts the sanity of those that try to mind-read it, and the leprous touch and paralyzing touch of mummy and ghoul enemies. Monsters that rely on a specific mental state of their victims before draining them can consider the doleovore and metuovore enhancements (for pain and fear respectively). Strahd Zombies' classic powers of severed animate limbs can now be built using the Independent Body Parts rules. Ravenloftish disadvantages include False Memories (helpful for Darkonian campaigns).

Pretty much any Ravenloftish archetype villain or mook scary character can be found here, including nosferatu, romantic vampires, succubi, zombies, ghouls, handsome strangers, mummies, unseelie spirits, demons, Godzilla-type giant threats, and Adam (Frankenstein's monster).

More generally, this book also summarizes and synthesizes GURPS Thaumatology's numerous options into a chapter on Corruption mechanics. The mob attacks mechanics (for swarms or zombie hordes) also make for a good useful middle-ground between individual combat and the GURPS Mass Combat scale.

GURPS Fantasy is more general than Gothic horror, being useful for tropes at the sword-and-sorcery level of RPGs. I also found this book has a surprisingly deft handling of deities and their relationship (points wise and power wise) with worshippers - in case anybody wants to do a Ravenloft treatment of Gwydion (a demigod-level superbeing in the Shadow Rift) or perhaps Zhakata the False God in G'henna.

Fantasy: Portal Realms is a study of the game genre that the original Ravenloft D&D 1E adventure served, and which remained a partial focus of the Ravenloft line through 2E as its "weekend in hell" occasional one-shot structure.

Magical Styles: Horror Magic uses the Thaumatology Magical Styles structure (similar to creating a "school of martial arts" or "discipline of magic" to collect together a style of related and thematically appropriate spells) to present three preset magical progression paths that reflect a setting where magic is rare, eerie, and secret. Styles include a "dark chanting cultists" style, a self-driven "pact with powers beyond your ken" style, and finally a sort of "recovered folk wisdom hedge magic" type of style.

Edit to add:

GURPS Magic: Death Spells ups the power level and introduces outright "Power Word Kill" style magic. Suitable for the BBEG, liches, and temptation scrolls for the PCs to stumble across. If other magical duels and combat are anticipated, GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells brings D&D-level "fire and forget" ranged mayhem.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 02-28-2021 at 10:14 PM.
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