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Old 12-10-2019, 09:03 PM   #1
Moneval
 
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Default Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

Hi Everyone. I'm planning on running a campaign soon using a magic-as-powers system to depict a type of magic in a setting I've been working on for years. Without getting too into the weeds, this type of magic requires a wielder to be study and practice both to become attuned to the energies of creation, and to hone their skills in manipulating those energies. Critically though, anyone with sufficient will and dedication can learn these abilities, instead of them being inherent to an individual.

I've been pouring over Psionic Powers and Sorcery, including the excellent articles in Pyramid 3/105, Super Sorcery and Ki Sorcery, and I think my answer lies somewhere in between the two. I could, however, still use some guidance.

I like the skill checks and techniques featured in Psionic Powers, and if I use Sorcery as a framework (which seems like it'll be the way I go), I'll probably add these features.
From Sorcery, I like Sorcerous Empowerment as a measure (for my purposes) of how "attuned" to Creation one has become, while sorcery talent can represent inherent sensitivity. Super Sorcery gives great rules for alternative rituals and extra effort, and Ki Sorcery introduces at least one "passive" sorcery effect.

What I'd like to be able to add to all of this is a mechanism for separate "disciplines" or "schools" within the system which feel like martial arts or magical styles. A way to set up a rock-paper-scissors dynamic between these styles would be a plus.
I'm also curious what the best way to add "passive" abilities to such a system would be. While Ki sorcery sets up a good framework for a passive "Detect" effect, I'm curious if Danger Sense, or Precognition could be similarly added as sorcery effects, or if it would be best to buy them as separate advantages with a relevant power modifier.

In general I guess I'm hoping to get a feel for people's experience with magic-as-powers, especially Psionics or Sorcery. How does it scale? What works well for a 200-point starting power level? How can I achieve a suitable blend of mystic tradition and studied discipline?

So far I've only run Basic Magic and Path/Book, so I'm still new to magic as powers and appreciate any insight you can give me.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-10-2019, 10:46 PM   #2
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

I think Powers as magic is pretty balanced with different varieties.
It scales pretty well but in a linear fashion, magic systems can escalate faster.
Right now there are a few different Powers systems.
Sorcery, Divine Favor, and Totem-Bearer all have a core ability and stuff is improvises from that core.
However Sorcery and Divine Favor give a flexible core compared to Totem-Bearer or Chinese Elemental Magic.
Psionic Powers and Totem-Bearer offers no flexible core and rely on power stunts to get that flexibility (which is also allowed with Divine Favor and Sorcery).
Chinese Elemental Magic has no real core and no flexibility built in, so its more like Cinematic skills as powers. But you could easily add that flexibility and build it more like Psionic Powers.
That gives you an example of a Styles system, jut as Psionic Powers does really.

If you want substantially different flavors I recommend that option. Dont start with a core flexible power (especially using Modular Abilities which offers its easy flex plan) but instead go with a core power that reflects what your looking for.
Obscure for a darkness style, Telekinesis for a manipulation power, etc.
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Old 12-10-2019, 11:33 PM   #3
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

I would honestly go with RPM over Powers as Magic. Many of the possible rituals give their targets abilities, so it allows for a lot of flexibility. It also tends to feel a lot more like magic than a lot of the Powers as Magic situations. It also fits the description of your setting better than Powers as Magic.

For example, take a 500 CP Archmage. With IQ 20, Magery 10, Ritual Adept, Alchemy-20, Thaumotology-20 and nine Paths-20, you end up with someone very much like Dr. Strange for 433 CP. With 30 conditional spells and 30 potions (assuming the optional rule about potions taking their own slots), the archmage can have a wide variety of tricks up their sleeves.
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Old 12-12-2019, 11:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

You've mentioned a lot of books, but you haven't mentioned reading over the ruleset that drives them all. You will want to understand the following parts of the powers book:
  • Alternative Abilities, page 11. This makes magic as powers priced competitively with other magic systems. It also gets used in a learned spells of sorcery, the learned prayers of divine favor, and a number of other power systems.
  • The stunts section, pages 170-174. Using abilities from default and temporary enhancements turn a single power into an entire system. These rules underlie a lot of the psi techniques.
  • The "Using Abilities With Skills" section, 161-163, which drives the other half of techniques and skills in psionic powers.

Quote:
I'm also curious what the best way to add "passive" abilities to such a system would be. While Ki sorcery sets up a good framework for a passive "Detect" effect, I'm curious if Danger Sense, or Precognition could be similarly added as sorcery effects, or if it would be best to buy them as separate advantages with a relevant power modifier.
It depends if they're always on or not. If you want the abilities to be always on, add them as separate advantages with the power modifier. If you want them to "Take up space" in your power budget, buy them the way the chi sorcery does "Detect".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
What I'd like to be able to add to all of this is a mechanism for separate "disciplines" or "schools" within the system which feel like martial arts or magical styles. A way to set up a rock-paper-scissors dynamic between these styles would be a plus.
Could you tell us more about these? How much overlap do they have in their effects? Are the trappings of how they are invoked different? How easy/effective is it for people to learn more than one style? Is it all actually one power, or do the schools have deep differences?

If you want a rock-paper-scissors effect, you could have magic from the school of rock be utterly ineffective against magic from school of paper, and justify it as part of the "exotic countermeasures" -5% in the school of rock's power modifier.

You could also make it so the school of paper requires drawing arcane symbols in the air, taking 1 second to perform, while the school of scissors requires destroying symbolic ingredients. Add those requirements into the power modifier of the appropriate schools.

Quote:
In general I guess I'm hoping to get a feel for people's experience with magic-as-powers, especially Psionics or Sorcery. How does it scale? What works well for a 200-point starting power level? How can I achieve a suitable blend of mystic tradition and studied discipline?
magic as powers is probably the nicest-scaling magic system in Gurps. I do find you need 50 points or more in your power to really get going, but it stays relatively well-behaved for large point values. The big restriction is that powers favors doing a few things many times. There are ways to soften that, but generally powers is about laying down two dozen fireballs in a single combat, OR reading the mind of every enemy you come across, OR being constantly invisible. But not all at the same times, and getting the exact ability you need for the situation can be hard to impossible. But its quick and high powered at the things you specialize in.

Another poster mentioned RPM. RPM is a great magic system, but it has some limitations.
  • It scales oddly. At low to mid point values (up to 200 points), spells are flexible but low powered and take an exceptionally long time to cast. its "Mid Level" is around 300 to 400 points, where spells still take a long time to cast, but mages can do a lot of different things, and prepare for situations quickly. At its high levels it gets absurd, because the energy you can accumulate rises with the square of skill and the potential effects exponentially with energy accumulated.
  • The casting times are inflexible. You either trigger a prepared spell, take 5 seconds per energy gathering attempt, or 5 minutes per energy gathering attempt. This may or may not fit your vision of how magic works in your world.
  • It heavily favors generalist mages over specialist mages. You can sort of do specialist mages, but by default every mage can attempt every ritual. With the right equipment and place of power, they might be able to succeed, too.
  • Messy spell failures are part of its balancing mechanism. If your core concept doesn't include that, its difficult to figure out how to compensate.

If your desired effect fits RPM, use it. If not, you should look around for something that fits your setting better. Though I'd be remiss if I didn't say that for some settings I use RPM with powers for combat spells wizards use again and again (like Dresden Files).
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Old 12-12-2019, 05:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

With the default cap, I have found that RPM rewards specialists over generalists. For example, if you have an IQ 12 character with Magery 8 and Ritual Adept (total 145 CP), you can take Thaumotology-20 and, as an example, Alchemy-20 and Path of Body-20 for an additional 112 CP. While you get a '12' in every other Path, you will need to spend an additional 32 CP per Path to get the other Paths comparable to your Path of Body. Of course, you have the ability to prepare 28 conditional charms and/or 28 conditiinal elixirs, plus whatever ongoing spells you have modifying yourself, so your ~300 CP character will be quite powerful.

For example, let us say that you wanted to gain a +3 to ST, DX, and HT for a year. That would be Lesser Strengthen Body effect worth 123 energy, plus 24 for weight and duration, for a total of 147. With a skill of '20', you can gather the energy in an average of 18 rolls (assuming that you want to use your stored energy and do not want to go below an effective skill of '15' for gathering), which is around 90 turns. A minute and half to get 120 CP worth of abilities for a year is not a bad trade.

Last edited by AlexanderHowl; 12-12-2019 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 12-13-2019, 07:40 PM   #6
Moneval
 
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
You've mentioned a lot of books, but you haven't mentioned reading over the ruleset that drives them all. You will want to understand the following parts of the powers book:
  • Alternative Abilities, page 11. This makes magic as powers priced competitively with other magic systems. It also gets used in a learned spells of sorcery, the learned prayers of divine favor, and a number of other power systems.
  • The stunts section, pages 170-174. Using abilities from default and temporary enhancements turn a single power into an entire system. These rules underlie a lot of the psi techniques.
  • The "Using Abilities With Skills" section, 161-163, which drives the other half of techniques and skills in psionic powers.
Thanks for the reading list! I've been diving into Powers here and there, but I've been having trouble figuring out which sections to pay extra attention to.

The "styles" I mentioned are still kind of in the air in regards to whether or not they're used. I was envisioning kind of martial arts-like, but it's still fuzzy.

I should have mentioned in my first post, the system I'm trying to build here is one of several types of "quick magic" in that it doesn't typically require lengthy rituals or trappings, being powered solely by connections to creation. It's sort of what I'm offering up for people who want a combat caster, though I'm forbidding overtly offensive spells such as fireball, lightning bolt, etc.
I guess for this system I want study and practice to be important, but I want it to retain a mystic feel. Sorta Force-ish if I had to compare to a well known system.
It's still kind of in the concept phase from a setting standpoint. For a little more context, this is a Space Fantasy setting taking place across a galaxy, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to dabble in other systems given how many cultures and traditions would be present.

There are two other systems at play here, one of which does use RPM, though I'm using that system for my "scientific magic" in the setting. Basically the premise on that is that long ago a forerunner culture determined that magic is just another part of existence, like matter or energy, and began to study commonalities in magic traditions to determine the "rules" and use those to exploit it. RPM seemed like it would work for that kind of approach. Cabal has been highly instructive here as well.
Although, I did see the Alternate RPM article in Pyramid 3/66 include a Ritual Powers section. Does anyone have any experience running that variant? It seems like it might accomplish a lot of what I want from the magic as powers system.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:23 AM   #7
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moneval View Post
Thanks for the reading list! I've been diving into Powers here and there, but I've been having trouble figuring out which sections to pay extra attention to.
Yeah, its hard to read it as carefully after you go through pages and pages of example powers. Someone had to point out those sections to me as well.

Quote:
The "styles" I mentioned are still kind of in the air in regards to whether or not they're used. I was envisioning kind of martial arts-like, but it's still fuzzy.

I should have mentioned in my first post, the system I'm trying to build here is one of several types of "quick magic" in that it doesn't typically require lengthy rituals or trappings, being powered solely by connections to creation. It's sort of what I'm offering up for people who want a combat caster, though I'm forbidding overtly offensive spells such as fireball, lightning bolt, etc.
I guess for this system I want study and practice to be important, but I want it to retain a mystic feel. Sorta Force-ish if I had to compare to a well known system.
You could have some sort of base requirement like being "in touch with" or "balanced" to a specific primal power that provides raw magic. This requires mystical activity to maintain. For example, they might have to meditate on their power source every morning to maintain their connection. Or draw a ritual shape on the ground and go through a series of exercises. And certain foods or stimulants may help the process along or delay it. This is part of your power modifier.

That just gets you the energy though. Then you need to study and practice the techniques for channeling it into something useful. If you want a martial arts feel, require the magic to use full sweeping body motions, and occasionally formless shouts (this is a limitation built into a power modifier).

Different schools could have different power sources, or they could simply have different exercises to access the same power source.

Quote:
Although, I did see the Alternate RPM article in Pyramid 3/66 include a Ritual Powers section. Does anyone have any experience running that variant? It seems like it might accomplish a lot of what I want from the magic as powers system.
Its just a fancy expression of the rules in alternate abilities, plus some additional restrictions. Additional restrictions are great, and a fully fleshed out power is brought alive by them, but I can't say this is my favorite set of them.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:51 AM   #8
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Default Re: Help With Designing a Magic as Powers System

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Yeah, its hard to read it as carefully after you go through pages and pages of example powers. Someone had to point out those sections to me as well.
I thought I understood it, but it really came "alive" to me when I read GURPS Psionic Powers and then reread that whole section on Power Stunts. Before that it was like "Interesting, I'll keep it in mind when running a game". That section is really the crux of several Magic as Powers systems, official and home brew.
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