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Old 03-07-2016, 08:58 AM   #1
Jürgen Hubert
 
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Default Revising GURPS Magic

As we all know, GURPS Magic for the 4th Edition suffered from a lack of playtest. The previous editions had some issues which were not resolved, and the new edition introduced some new problems. Still, while many love Ritual Path Magic or other magic systems now available for GURPS, I am loath to throw out the standard GURPS Magic system entirely. It is still the best-supported magic system for GURPS, with the widest range of spell effects and options. Therefore, my goal is to tweak the system, adjusting individual spells and rules as opposed to throwing everything out and starting over.

Therefore I will be going through all the chapters of GURPS Magic, in order. My comments are informed by both playing in and running campaigns with these rules - which involved players who were rather rule-savvy and prone to min-maxing. Still, I am sure that many of you have discovered different problems with the rules and developed your own fixes - so please add your own comments as I pass through the chapters.

Principles of Magic

Casting Spells (p.7-10)

A campaign I have played in involved 500+ point character, and a Magical Aptitude maximum of 20. This resulted in multiple mage characters with a minimum spell skill level of 30 (!), which in turn reduced both initial spell costs and spell maintenance by four. The latter in particular was a problem, because the first thing the mages did in the morning was to cast numerous protective or boosting spells, which caused them to leave the non-mages in the dust when it came to raw power.

A simple solution would be to just restrict Magical Aptitude, but I think there should be campaigns where taking lots of Magical Aptitude should be permissible. In other words, it should still bring a benefit, but not such a large one in order to keep the non-mage characters in play without letting them feel impotent.

Another issue that is bugging me are the “threshold” skill level - having a spell skill level of 15 is much better than one of 14, and a level of 20 is much better than one of 19, and so forth. I’d like to smoothe the curve to make this less of an issue.

Therefore I propose the following rules changes:

1. The “Alternate Magic Rituals” rule on p. 9 is not optional.

2. Higher spell skill levels do not longer automatically reduce energy cost or time required to cast. Instead, a mage can accept a penalty to the effective spell skill level:

-3 for each point of energy cost reduction
-3 for each halving of the casting time

3. The effective spell skill level is further reduced by the number and type of spell maintained. This penalty is called the “Maintenance Penalty” and calculated as follows:

-3 for each spell that requires concentration, -1 for other spells
-1 for each point of energy cost reduction of maintained spells (up to the maximum cost reduction at the time of casting). For example, reducing the maintenance cost for a spell by 2 would add -2 to the Maintenance Penalty, and it would only be possible if the caster took a penalty of -6 or more to the initial casting roll in order to reduce the energy cost.

4. If some effect “attacks” the spell (such as Dispel Magic), then the spell “resists” with the unmodified spell skill level minus the Maintenance Penalty.


These new rules permit for a bit more flexibility while forcing mages to be more choosy when maintaining spells. You can no longer as easily cast all the resistance and buff spells you know - since the Maintenance Penalty is larger, you need to prioritize. Furthermore, accepting a large penalty in order to reduce casting cost and just rolling again until you succeed (a rather boring strategy) is of limited utility if such costly spells make all your other spells less effective. Finally, Point 4 reduces bookkeeping and again encourages mages not to stretch themselves too thinly.

I don’t have a problem with the other rules in this chapter at the moment, although I will return to them at a later point when discussing individual spells.
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:14 AM   #2
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

One thing that Crakkerjakk proposed, and that has generally been adopted by the Bruno-mlangsdorf online games, is that energy reduction should by 1 FP per 5 MoS on the spell-casting roll. In general, this mimics the standard rule of energy reductions at skill-15 and skill-20, but is less predictable in play.

I've written up a revised set of rituals for my games, premised on a couple of thoughts:
* It should be possible to deploy mundane countermeasures such as binding and gagging to prevent even skilled wizards from casting spells. Under the standard ritual rules, a mage with skill-25 is not significantly impeded by being bound and gagged, even though a skill-25 knight is completely hosed.
* Non-adventuring class mages (ie, IQ 11-12, Magery 1, skills in the 10-13 range) should be able to reliably cast spells outside of the adventuring context, just like every other profession. The lack of favorable task difficulty modifiers for magic in routine contexts is a problem.

I like your maintenance penalty rules. I'm going to have to mull them over, but making it harder for mages to maintain multiple spells for free is always a good thing for niche protection and play balance.
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:29 AM   #3
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

I haven't run GRPS magic in a while, but I'm familiar with the problem of too many buff spells running freely. I've always liked the mechanism of giving a penalty for each additional effect the caster wants to run. So the first buff spell works as normal. The second one has a penalty. The third one has the penalty times two. The fourth one has the penalty times three. And so on.

Depending on how big a penalty you assess for multiple buffs running at once, you can pretty well control the number of buffs players will have going at once. And that effective skill might drop them below thresholds for other benefits of the casting (like reduced fatigue cost).

That was just another thought that might help in my opinion.

But I do have to say, I really like the idea of going over the GURPS magic rules to try to help them out. I support your effort.
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:33 AM   #4
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

I think I'm fine with Energy Reduction being based on Effective Skill instead of Base Skill. And I think buffs just having a bigger impact like Shadowrun or similar would be nice.
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:39 AM   #5
Jürgen Hubert
 
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by GodBeastX View Post
I think I'm fine with Energy Reduction being based on Effective Skill instead of Base Skill.
That might cause some frequent calculation on the order in which the spells are cast - mages would always start with the more costly spells and then proceed to the cheaper ones. This gets worse with the larger Maintenance Penalty I have established.

Quote:
And I think buffs just having a bigger impact like Shadowrun or similar would be nice.
What Buffs do you think are underpowered at the moment?
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Old 03-07-2016, 10:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post
That might cause some frequent calculation on the order in which the spells are cast - mages would always start with the more costly spells and then proceed to the cheaper ones. This gets worse with the larger Maintenance Penalty I have established.



What Buffs do you think are underpowered at the moment?
I meant impact on casting. In Shadowrun even having ONE buff going can seriously hamper a mage. GURPS is very kind to buffs in Magic which I think is a mistake.

People aren't "Locked in" for buffs. They can switch which ones are active any time and most are a 1 or 2 second cast. Make people switch. To be honest, I'm not even worried about spells being free, I'm more worried about people glowing like christmas trees constantly. I would go so far as to say you get -5 per "On" spell to casting and have to get a technique or something to buy it off if you want a mage who "Buffs" constantly so at least you can spend a bunch of points to get your favorite buffs.
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Old 03-07-2016, 12:53 PM   #7
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jürgen Hubert View Post
That might cause some frequent calculation on the order in which the spells are cast - mages would always start with the more costly spells and then proceed to the cheaper ones. This gets worse with the larger Maintenance Penalty I have established.
That is not metagaming. Rather, the characters who live in the world understand magic to such an extent that they know that that's the most efficient and safest order in which to cast a series of spells.
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Old 03-07-2016, 09:39 AM   #8
simply Nathan
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Default Re: Revising GURPS Magic

Quote:
Originally Posted by mlangsdorf View Post
One thing that Crakkerjakk proposed, and that has generally been adopted by the Bruno-mlangsdorf online games, is that energy reduction should by 1 FP per 5 MoS on the spell-casting roll. In general, this mimics the standard rule of energy reductions at skill-15 and skill-20, but is less predictable in play.
I don't like this idea because it makes high-energy spells (already dubious when energy cost is higher than 10) too risky. Energy reduction works better as an optional skill penalty to opt into than as an unreliable result of rolling.
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Old 03-07-2016, 08:32 PM   #9
Peter Knutsen
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Originally Posted by simply Nathan View Post
I don't like this idea because it makes high-energy spells (already dubious when energy cost is higher than 10) too risky. Energy reduction works better as an optional skill penalty to opt into than as an unreliable result of rolling.
That'd be my preference too. I like character-choice based casting.
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