Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 07-07-2017, 07:09 PM   #1
Moneval
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Default Questions magic in a fantasy world

Hello all!

Long time since I last posted on these forums (grad school), but I'm glad to be back and working on a setting that I plan to run with GURPS. Since I last visited, I ran a short lived, but very fun GURPS Morrowind campaign. My group really seemed to enjoy the system and so now that I have time again, I'm building a new campaign setting to use with GURPS.

Now, I had originally intended to have a whole slew of magic systems available in this setting, but as I design further, I'm thinking simpler is better. What I've decided on so far is two different ways to use magic: Evoking and Rituals.

Evoking is more immediate in nature, allowing the user to basically use abilities not unlike psionics, or The Force from Star Wars. I intend to use threshold limits on any abilities stemming from evoking (all powers will have the "costs Fatigue" limitation, changed to "Costs Threshold"). For this system, I am using magic as powers, but in order for a character to use these powers they need either a 5 or 10 (haven't decided) Unusual Background called Aether Sensitive (or similar). I may also allow a Pact with a spirit as a source of this.

Rituals will use Path/Book magic from Thaumatology, with several "magical traditions" similar to voodoo, kabbalah, etc. I'm picturing the kind of spellcasting you get out of shows like Penny Dreadful, Supernatural, etc. (slow, methodical, somewhat subtle). I am still designing the individual traditions and will likely not be done with that until my cultures are more fleshed out.

RPM might make an appearance as a secret form of magic, used by a very few scholars who study the mechanics of magic.

So, as I go about this, I had a few questions, and thought I'd look here if anyone could please provide input(sorry if these have been asked before, my searches turned up nothing):

1) As mentioned, Evoking requires an Unusual Background. If an entire race is naturally able to use Evoking, would I build the UB into the template, or does it become a 0-point feature at that point?

2) When designing magical traditions using Path/Book, how many paths would be a good rule of thumb for each tradition to have access to?

3) I had considered using RPM for my ritual based magic, but it seemed almost too universal/open-ended and thus difficult to divide into unique feeling traditions. Does anyone have any experience with trying to achieve this result with RPM? I would be leaning towards using the Effect-Shaping variant.

Bonus Question: Inspired by the many excellent blogs on this site, I've considered starting a blog to document the process of creating this world. Does anyone have a good recommendation for a fairly simple to use blog service?

Thank you in advance for any feedback!
Moneval is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2017, 07:57 PM   #2
dfinlay
 
dfinlay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
1) As mentioned, Evoking requires an Unusual Background. If an entire race is naturally able to use Evoking, would I build the UB into the template, or does it become a 0-point feature at that point?
Definitely charge them for it in the template. It's a GURPS 4e principle that a character built with a racial template should cost the same as a character who just bought everything on it (though the latter may not be allowed in some campaigns for some races).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
2) When designing magical traditions using Path/Book, how many paths would be a good rule of thumb for each tradition to have access to?
This really depends on the feel you want. You could go for one or two per tradition if you want each tradition would be fairly narrow in what it can do and for versatile spellcasters to have to pick up multiple traditions. You could go with 6+ if you want each tradition to basically be its own magic system able to do a wide range of things and for mages to generally just stick to one tradition. 3-5 would probably give a middle ground between these.
dfinlay is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2017, 08:40 PM   #3
Anthony
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berkeley, CA
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by dfinlay View Post
Definitely charge them for it in the template. It's a GURPS 4e principle that a character built with a racial template should cost the same as a character who just bought everything on it (though the latter may not be allowed in some campaigns for some races).
Exception: if the human with that ability would gain some benefit that the nonhuman would not (e.g. everyone knows that Xs can cast spells, so they take countermeasures, while a human who casts spells will surprise people so they don't).
__________________
My GURPS site and Blog.
Anthony is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2017, 08:50 PM   #4
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

[QUOTE=Moneval;21089822) When designing magical traditions using Path/Book, how many paths would be a good rule of thumb for each tradition to have access to?
![/QUOTE]

When Phil Masters did Age of Gold he had 3 different types of P/B and most of them covered about 3 Paths I think. He used traditional European Witchcraft, eastern Element-based and a sort of Aleister Crowley/Golden Dawn thing.

Getting Age of Gold to look at these worked example might help you. I find it to be a very cool little supplement.

You sound like you might be aiming for one tradition per culture. You might want to organize into "books" of Rituals that each culture used rather than broad "Paths". This would cut down on everyone taking Path of Health to get Succor (beloved of PCs who risk getting wounded all the time) and a few other really basic Rituals without losing some level of customization.
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2017, 11:04 PM   #5
Emerald Cat
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
Evoking is more immediate in nature, allowing the user to basically use abilities not unlike psionics, or The Force from Star Wars. I intend to use threshold limits on any abilities stemming from evoking (all powers will have the "costs Fatigue" limitation, changed to "Costs Threshold"). For this system, I am using magic as powers, but in order for a character to use these powers they need either a 5 or 10 (haven't decided) Unusual Background called Aether Sensitive (or similar). I may also allow a Pact with a spirit as a source of this.
You could use Thaumatology: Sorcery to model Evoking out of the box. Sorcerers cast spells quickly, but don't have much flexibility. Since Sorcery is a magic as powers system, you can easily turn any Power writeups into spells.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
2) When designing magical traditions using Path/Book, how many paths would be a good rule of thumb for each tradition to have access to?
I'd go with 3 to 5 paths per tradition. Fewer than 3, and you might as well use the tradition's core skill for everything. Each tradition effectively becomes its own magic system if there are 6 or more paths per tradition

I agree that Books unique to each tradition would be the right way to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
3) I had considered using RPM for my ritual based magic, but it seemed almost too universal/open-ended and thus difficult to divide into unique feeling traditions. Does anyone have any experience with trying to achieve this result with RPM? I would be leaning towards using the Effect-Shaping variant.
My advice would be to choose paths using the Syntactic magic advice from Thaumatology. Each tradition focusing on one path would make them feel unique. You may want to eliminate the default to the core skill if you go this route.

Have you checked out the Incantation Magic variant of RPM? All of the path skills in that system are distinct enough to be their own tradition.
Emerald Cat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-08-2017, 07:59 AM   #6
Anaraxes
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
Exception: if the human with that ability would gain some benefit that the nonhuman would not (e.g. everyone knows that Xs can cast spells, so they take countermeasures, while a human who casts spells will surprise people so they don't).
This is in fact the only reason that "Unusual Background" would appear. An entire race common in the setting that can cast spells could hardly be considered "unusual"!

UB is not a catch-all advantage meant for adjusting prices for balancing purposes. It's specifically meant to cover the "soft" advantages a character would have because their abilities are unexpected and can't and won't easily be countered. If next to no one in the setting has ever heard of magic and they have no defenses or concept ways to deal with magicians (as with secret magic in a modern-dal real-world setting), UB might be appropriate.

If you just think magic is really powerful and ought to cost more, then just change the prices for your magical advantages. For most systems, a simple flat surcharge, regardless of level of magical skill, flexibility, or power, isn't often the most appropriate pricing anyway. In a magic-as-powers system, for instance, you might be better off just removing the usual "countermeasures" discount that's part of the Power Modifier than just charging 10 points.

UB also is not a cost for simple in-setting rarity. It's irrelevant what proportion of the population has magical potential, for instance. That never on its own qualifies for a UB charge. Heroes are rare and unusual people by definition. UB isn't for attempting to have the rules enforce demographic outcomes by stacking player choices against the rare heroes. Your adventuring parties aren't going to reflect the demographic statistics of the world anyway. If there are mages in the party, you'll need to find some other way to give the feeling that magic is rare -- no matter what you charged that PC, it's still in the party and using magic all the time. It's only when the rarity itself turns into an extra advantage -- banks don't have enchantments defending their vaults, the cops laugh and think you're a nutcase if you suggest magic might have been used, and no one but the perp can even cast spells -- does simple low frequency become UB.

(In 3e, UB was also used a charge for breaking the rules in character creation -- having several "native" languages for "free", even though characters only got one native language. This interpretation isn't used in 4e at all; you just pay for the languages, and the backstory about your merchant family upbringing or whatever is just fluff text. Going all Kvothe on your backstory to claim lots of free advantages doesn't in 4e mean you didn't pay for them and thus need a correcting factor. You just pay for them.)
Anaraxes is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 07-08-2017, 09:05 AM   #7
Moneval
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
When Phil Masters did Age of Gold he had 3 different types of P/B and most of them covered about 3 Paths I think. He used traditional European Witchcraft, eastern Element-based and a sort of Aleister Crowley/Golden Dawn thing.

Getting Age of Gold to look at these worked example might help you. I find it to be a very cool little supplement.

You sound like you might be aiming for one tradition per culture. You might want to organize into "books" of Rituals that each culture used rather than broad "Paths". This would cut down on everyone taking Path of Health to get Succor (beloved of PCs who risk getting wounded all the time) and a few other really basic Rituals without losing some level of customization.
So it sounds like 3 or 4 paths might be good. Although, I hadn't considered creating "books" for the various traditions. That seems like a good way to keep some control over what's available. If I go that route, would it still be possible to have Books in a traditional sense (Book of the Names of the Dead and the like).

I think I will pick up Age of Gold. Sounds interesting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emerald Cat View Post
You could use Thaumatology: Sorcery to model Evoking out of the box. Sorcerers cast spells quickly, but don't have much flexibility. Since Sorcery is a magic as powers system, you can easily turn any Power writeups into spells.



I'd go with 3 to 5 paths per tradition. Fewer than 3, and you might as well use the tradition's core skill for everything. Each tradition effectively becomes its own magic system if there are 6 or more paths per tradition

I agree that Books unique to each tradition would be the right way to go.



My advice would be to choose paths using the Syntactic magic advice from Thaumatology. Each tradition focusing on one path would make them feel unique. You may want to eliminate the default to the core skill if you go this route.

Have you checked out the Incantation Magic variant of RPM? All of the path skills in that system are distinct enough to be their own tradition.
I did consider Sorcery. How is it different than say, using the Psionics system as magic?

I haven't looked into Incantation Magic, though I'm intrigued. How does it differ from core RPM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
This is in fact the only reason that "Unusual Background" would appear. An entire race common in the setting that can cast spells could hardly be considered "unusual"!

UB is not a catch-all advantage meant for adjusting prices for balancing purposes. It's specifically meant to cover the "soft" advantages a character would have because their abilities are unexpected and can't and won't easily be countered. If next to no one in the setting has ever heard of magic and they have no defenses or concept ways to deal with magicians (as with secret magic in a modern-dal real-world setting), UB might be appropriate.

If you just think magic is really powerful and ought to cost more, then just change the prices for your magical advantages. For most systems, a simple flat surcharge, regardless of level of magical skill, flexibility, or power, isn't often the most appropriate pricing anyway. In a magic-as-powers system, for instance, you might be better off just removing the usual "countermeasures" discount that's part of the Power Modifier than just charging 10 points.

UB also is not a cost for simple in-setting rarity. It's irrelevant what proportion of the population has magical potential, for instance. That never on its own qualifies for a UB charge. Heroes are rare and unusual people by definition. UB isn't for attempting to have the rules enforce demographic outcomes by stacking player choices against the rare heroes. Your adventuring parties aren't going to reflect the demographic statistics of the world anyway. If there are mages in the party, you'll need to find some other way to give the feeling that magic is rare -- no matter what you charged that PC, it's still in the party and using magic all the time. It's only when the rarity itself turns into an extra advantage -- banks don't have enchantments defending their vaults, the cops laugh and think you're a nutcase if you suggest magic might have been used, and no one but the perp can even cast spells -- does simple low frequency become UB.

(In 3e, UB was also used a charge for breaking the rules in character creation -- having several "native" languages for "free", even though characters only got one native language. This interpretation isn't used in 4e at all; you just pay for the languages, and the backstory about your merchant family upbringing or whatever is just fluff text. Going all Kvothe on your backstory to claim lots of free advantages doesn't in 4e mean you didn't pay for them and thus need a correcting factor. You just pay for them.)
That makes sense. I wasn't 100% sold on having a race of sensitives anyway. I do want to keep Evoking kind of rare. So without a sensitive race, and with maybe 3% of the global population sensitive, should it be a UB then, or just remove the countermeasure limitation? When is UB appropriate? I want to make sure I'm fair to the players.

Thanks again everyone!
Moneval is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-08-2017, 09:13 AM   #8
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
If I go that route, would it still be possible to have Books in a traditional sense (Book of the Names of the Dead and the like).
Sure, you're just arranging for one dominant "Book" per culture (and it doesn't have to be a literal book). As many obscure Books as you like can be added to that.
__________________
Fred Brackin
Fred Brackin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-08-2017, 10:01 AM   #9
Emerald Cat
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Default Re: Questions magic in a fantasy world

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
I did consider Sorcery. How is it different than say, using the Psionics system as magic?

I haven't looked into Incantation Magic, though I'm intrigued. How does it differ from core RPM?
There are two main differences between the Psionics and Sorcery systems.

Firstly, Sorcerers buy their spells as alternative abilities to their Sorcerous Empowerment advantage whereas Psis buy each advantage separately for full price. The 1/5th cost of spells bought as alternative abilities helps to make Sorcery competitive with skills based magic points wise. Granted, that may or may not be what you want.

Secondly, Psionics uses the Skills for Powers rules whereas Sorcery does not. Psis need to keep track of their skills, advantages, and techniques in play. Sorcerers only need to keep track of their spells. This makes Sorcery far easier for players to use in play.

Keep in mind that Path/Book magic is a book keeping heavy skills + techniques + preparation based magic system. I'd go with Sorcery over Psionic Powers so that players who hate book keeping can have supernatural powers in your setting.

Incantation Magic is Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic. The main differences between IM to RPM is that IM is effect shaping, does away with physical charms, uses Path Skills more appropriate to a Low Tech setting, uses Magery as a bonus to skill rather than a cap for skill, and limits characters to benefiting from only two buff spells at once.
Emerald Cat is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:04 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.