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Old 09-11-2020, 09:17 PM   #11
Pursuivant
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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Originally Posted by StevenH View Post
The Hair Growth spell can be used to enchant an item for a relatively cheap cost (100 energy). It causes hair to grow a million times faster, resulting in hair that grows 0.2 inches/second (nails too, but let's ignore that for the moment), or, after 8 hours, 480 feet long (and weighing 70lbs). Nice little prank to pull on someone while they are sleeping!

Anyone have any other thoughts on the societal effects of such an item?
Hair Growth is one of those GURPS 3E spells that got ported over to 4E with very little revision. Critics of the GURPS 3E Magic system pointed out this exploit but it wasn't fixed.

Since the spell is essentially a "color" spell with few fully-described game mechanical effects it gets overlooked by both players and GMs. It's fast and cheap to cast, and, as you pointed out, magic items based on the spell are very cheap to enchant. The prerequisite chain isn't bad either.

Game mechanical effects, with an indulgent GM (Not RAW):

a) Blind, distract, or trip foes (mentioned in RAW, but no game mechanics).

b) Make it difficult or impossible to wear certain types of clothing or tight-fitting equipment (e.g., grow out a foe's beard to break the seal on his gas mask).

c) Make friends by curing baldness or bad haircuts.

d) Make enemies by turning people into Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy.

e) Good as a potential disguise. (If the bad guys are looking for a bald, clean-shaven man then they might not suspect someone who looks like a hippie.)

f) Mend torn fingernails.

g) Possibly mess with opponents' ability to wear gloves or similar items or to grasp items when their nails grow out to the length of a Chinese emperor's.

h) Torture foes by growing their hair and fingernails out and then tear them out at the roots. Repeat as desired.

i) Make heaps of money in the wig, rope, or wool trades.

Economic benefits if cast on a human:

a) Instant recovery of hair loss.

b) Hair for wigs becomes incredibly cheap. (People with naturally great hair, or hair of unusual color, might make a living being hair donors.)

c) Human hair actually makes very good rope. There are stories of women in besieged towns donating their hair to make skeins for ballistas or catapults. As you point out, a 480' single strand of hair is far longer than any plant-based material which potentially makes it even more valuable.

If the GM allows the spell to be cast on animals it becomes utterly ridiculous.

In combat, growing out an opponent's horse's hair might make it fall or panic.

Forget sheep you can shear every 8 seconds (with a combination of Hair Growth and Haircut). Instead, make real money by using the spell on angora goats or rabbits, beavers (high quality felt for hats), vicuna, eider ducks, or critters whose hair or feathers are valuable magical ingredients.

If the GM rules that the spell affects any part of a living being which is made from keratin, raise unicorns or rhinos for their horns, pangolins (or dragons!) for their scales, or silkworms for their cocoons. Grow out silkworm cocoon silk by a factor of 1 million and you've got the world's longest fiber. Grow spider silk from spider egg sacs into long fibers suitable for making very tough, light garments which are potentially bulletproof.

Depending on the campaign, the GM might embrace some or all of these ideas with the understanding that wool, silk, and other natural fibers are now dirt cheap. (Add the M&B college spells Clean and Reshape to quickly process and weave raw fiber into cloth. Add a permanent variant of Dye to quickly dye lots of fabric.)

Sure, the first Body Control mage to think of using Hair Growth on a captive phoenix in order to harvest bales of magical fireproof feathers will make serious bank, but after a while phoenix feather suits will just become the magic version of Nomex fabric - still useful but not unreasonably expensive.

GM's who don't like this idea should use the rules for Create Object to determine how long magically-grown hair lasts. Alternately, they can just rule that grown-out hair vanishes as soon as it is removed from the subject's body.

Another option is to rule that cost to cast the spell is based on the potential economic value of the material being grown. Multiply casting cost by some multiple of dollar value of the created material.

Last edited by Pursuivant; 09-11-2020 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 09-12-2020, 01:30 PM   #12
StevenH
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

Awesome. Lots of cool stuff to think about. I have a few notes (I am mainly thinking in terms of the world I am using, although they may be general as well).



And I will probably have to do this kind of analysis for all of the "cheap" magic items, as a good worldbuilder should. :-)




Quote:
Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
Hair Growth is one of those GURPS 3E spells that got ported over to 4E with very little revision. Critics of the GURPS 3E Magic system pointed out this exploit but it wasn't fixed.

Since the spell is essentially a "color" spell with few fully-described game mechanical effects it gets overlooked by both players and GMs. It's fast and cheap to cast, and, as you pointed out, magic items based on the spell are very cheap to enchant. The prerequisite chain isn't bad either.

Game mechanical effects, with an indulgent GM (Not RAW):

a) Blind, distract, or trip foes (mentioned in RAW, but no game mechanics).

b) Make it difficult or impossible to wear certain types of clothing or tight-fitting equipment (e.g., grow out a foe's beard to break the seal on his gas mask).

The spell is resisted by a HT roll. but still could be useful. Also, being a Regular spell, there is a distance penalty for casting. The item really isn’t useful here, as it takes an hour to start to affect the subject.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
c) Make friends by curing baldness or bad haircuts.
Well, yeah; this is basically the point of the spell, or the item. Basically, take them to the barber or salon, where they will likely have a Hair Hat to use. Then take 2 hours of your time to sit with the hat on your head, wait for the hair to stop growing, and then get it cut. Making a bad haircut shorter will take less time and not require the Hair Hat.



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d) Make enemies by turning people into Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy.
Not really a problem; the hair is no more permanent than “regular” hair. It can be trimmed as required, and unless the Hair Hat is cursed and can’t be taken off, it’s not a problem.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
e) Good as a potential disguise. (If the bad guys are looking for a bald, clean-shaven man then they might not suspect someone who looks like a hippie.)
True. And a good idea. Especially if many barbershops and salons have one, and they would.


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f) Mend torn fingernails.
Good idea, and salons will likely have one. Note that it’s not a quick fix; there is a one hour delay before the item starts working, and a one hour period of time where there is hair and nail growth. So there will then be some time required to trim the hair and nails. The Haircut spell requires a mage to cast, and there aren’t very many of those.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
g) Possibly mess with opponents' ability to wear gloves or similar items or to grasp items when their nails grow out to the length of a Chinese emperor's.
The spell could do this, but the item has a one hour delay, so it’s not useful in this way.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
h) Torture foes by growing their hair and fingernails out and then tear them out at the roots. Repeat as desired.
Yep. But the wearer gets a resistance roll, which could help for a while until they fail one.


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i) Make heaps of money in the wig, rope, or wool trades.
Not really. These items are common, and thus the disruption to the economy happened long ago, and the economy has adjusted to this new normal. Wigs, rope, and woolen items are less expensive, since the material costs are very low. The effort to create those items haven’t gotten any easier, labor costs and manufacturing time are unchanged.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
Economic benefits if cast on a human:

a) Instant recovery of hair loss.
Per the spell description, this will last a month before the hairs all fall out again.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
b) Hair for wigs becomes incredibly cheap. (People with naturally great hair, or hair of unusual color, might make a living being hair donors.)
Yes.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
c) Human hair actually makes very good rope. There are stories of women in besieged towns donating their hair to make skeins for ballistas or catapults. As you point out, a 480' single strand of hair is far longer than any plant-based material which potentially makes it even more valuable.
Yes. Human hair was used for the torsion springs in catapults.


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If the GM allows the spell to be cast on animals it becomes utterly ridiculous.
There is no reason that it wouldn’t work on animals, assuming you can get the Hair Hat to fit on them. The spell works on them just fine (albeit with a resistance roll).


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In combat, growing out an opponent's horse's hair might make it fall or panic.
Good idea; and the horse may have a lower HT than the rider, making it a more likely target.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
Forget sheep you can shear every 8 seconds (with a combination of Hair Growth and Haircut). Instead, make real money by using the spell on angora goats or rabbits, beavers (high quality felt for hats), vicuna, eider ducks, or critters whose hair or feathers are valuable magical ingredients.
All good ideas. But again, the money made will be low, because the economy has adjusted. All of those resources are very inexpensive, but the labor to turn them into useful things has remained the same. The CF for “luxury” materials has decreased.


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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
If the GM rules that the spell affects any part of a living being which is made from keratin, raise unicorns or rhinos for their horns, pangolins (or dragons!) for their scales, or silkworms for their cocoons. Grow out silkworm cocoon silk by a factor of 1 million and you've got the world's longest fiber. Grow spider silk from spider egg sacs into long fibers suitable for making very tough, light garments which are potentially bulletproof.
Silk (silkworm or spider) isn’t just keratin, so if this were to become a thing, it would be a spell/enchantment variant. So silk prices will remain “normal”. Pangolin scales might be useful. Makes a heavy DR 3 armor though; people would be better just wearing heavy gambeson. Harvesting critters for alchemy/enchantment components will be a thing, though.


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Depending on the campaign, the GM might embrace some or all of these ideas with the understanding that wool, silk, and other natural fibers are now dirt cheap. (Add the M&B college spells Clean and Reshape to quickly process and weave raw fiber into cloth. Add a permanent variant of Dye to quickly dye lots of fabric.)
Reshape doesn’t work that way. There isn’t any standard spell that will weave fibers into cloth. Shape Plant won’t do it either. Even Shape Earth (for asbestos fibers) won’t spin them into thread or weave those threads into cloth. Clean will be used, though, and a Clean Item is pretty cheap to make, too. So a fiber comb enchanted with Clean would be a very common item owned by people who produce these cheap fibers.


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Sure, the first Body Control mage to think of using Hair Growth on a captive phoenix in order to harvest bales of magical fireproof feathers will make serious bank, but after a while phoenix feather suits will just become the magic version of Nomex fabric - still useful but not unreasonably expensive.
True. See the notes above about the “adjusted economy”.
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Old 09-12-2020, 03:38 PM   #13
Anders
 
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Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

I don't think the spell works on keratin, it works on hair. Otherwise you could grow out someone's fingernails or skin just as well as hair. You're thinking too scientifically and not magically enough.
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Old 09-12-2020, 03:47 PM   #14
Ejidoth
 
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Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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I don't think the spell works on keratin, it works on hair. Otherwise you could grow out someone's fingernails or skin just as well as hair. You're thinking too scientifically and not magically enough.
Look again. The sixth word of the Hair Growth spell description is "nails".
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Old 09-12-2020, 03:53 PM   #15
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Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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Look again. The sixth word of the Hair Growth spell description is "nails".
Well then. I withdraw my objection.
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Old 09-12-2020, 04:43 PM   #16
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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I also read about human hair being used as some sort of armor, but I couldn't find any details except to find a note saying that executioners hated their "clients" having long hair as it interfered with their blade. And I couldn't find any info on what kind of cloth could be made with such a fiber; I suspect it might be very useful.
I suspect it wouldn't be any different from normal cloth armor (which can be made from wool). If human hair is particularly good, however, or if you harvest your hair from someone with particularly good hair for this purpose, you may be able to treat it similarly to Leather of Quality (LT105), getting a +1 DR relative to normal.

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b) Make it difficult or impossible to wear certain types of clothing or tight-fitting equipment (e.g., grow out a foe's beard to break the seal on his gas mask).
Perhaps more importantly, this would apply to gauntlets and most footwear (but not sandals), as the fingernails and toenails would cause issues there. You did mention this for gloves, but really I think the impact on footwear would be more problematic.

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In combat, growing out an opponent's horse's hair might make it fall or panic.
Don't forget, hooves are also keratin. Horses apparently need their hooves trimmed every 6 weeks or so, which with the stated 1,000,000x speed from Hair Growth, means every 3-4 seconds. This is probably even more pronounced for shoed warhorses, as the growth causes the shoe to become loose or even fall off entirely; I strongly suspect this would make a horse trip and fall (likely breaking a leg in the process) in rather short order. Of course, that is another use for the spell - mass generation of hooves, which can be processed into glue, armor, or even food (typically a soup made from boiling them, from what I understand).

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Good idea, and salons will likely have one. Note that it’s not a quick fix; there is a one hour delay before the item starts working, and a one hour period of time where there is hair and nail growth. So there will then be some time required to trim the hair and nails. The Haircut spell requires a mage to cast, and there aren’t very many of those.
I suspect the nails would be allowed to reach some length, clipped off, allowed to do so again, and so forth, while the spell was in play, to avoid any issues from curling and the like (I also wonder if, with the high speed of growth, the nails wouldn't actually have time to curl, and would basically just grow straight, potentially snapping off - painfully, perhaps - if they got too long). There may also be a way to halt the process early (obviously some sort of disenchantment would work, but such items are probably a bit too expensive, even if specialized to only work against a single spell - in this case, Hair Growth), which may avoid excessive growth.

Something similar to the effects of Hair Growth in combat can be seen, oddly enough in the Animorphs book, The Andalite Chronicles. Near the end of that, an andalite (think centaur with a bladed tail) and a human get into a fight with some other enemies inside a time vortex that causes them to age rapidly. The andalite trips and falls, and has to trim his hooves (and the human's nails and hair) to keep going, and there's an interesting bit where the human ends up killing an enemy she's grappling with when her nails grow into it (another enemy - they're roughly the size of small dogs IIRC, and can fly - gets tangled in her growing hair, and she beats it to death with a baseball bat).
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Old 09-14-2020, 05:59 PM   #17
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Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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Something similar to the effects of Hair Growth in combat can be seen, oddly enough in the Animorphs book, The Andalite Chronicles. Near the end of that, an andalite (think centaur with a bladed tail) and a human get into a fight with some other enemies inside a time vortex that causes them to age rapidly. The andalite trips and falls, and has to trim his hooves (and the human's nails and hair) to keep going, and there's an interesting bit where the human ends up killing an enemy she's grappling with when her nails grow into it (another enemy - they're roughly the size of small dogs IIRC, and can fly - gets tangled in her growing hair, and she beats it to death with a baseball bat).
The nail growth aspect does have some grim implications on its use. Your example is a clever use of a side effect; very clever.

I had been toying with the idea of having the effect of the spell affect feathers, but on second thought, I don't think I will. The configuration of feathers is much more complex than hair or nails, and the magic might not be able to replicate it. Although a variant could be developed that would focus on feathers, with the thaumic formulae written/designed/derived/programmed in such a way as to guide the magic appropriately.

I have this image in my head of a mage casting Hair Growth on a duck (thinking he can make a wagon-load of down) and ending up with a featherless but hairy duck because the magic didn't know what the structure of "feathers" was, and sort of "did its best" to approximate.
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Old 09-14-2020, 06:45 PM   #18
Varyon
 
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Default Re: Hair Growth magic item considerations

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The nail growth aspect does have some grim implications on its use. Your example is a clever use of a side effect; very clever.
To be fair, as the book was written from Elfangor's (the andalite) perspective, we don't know if Loren (the human) skewered the thing on purpose, or if it just sort of happened. The former is, of course, entirely possible - the kids in Animorphs can be outright vicious when needed, although the earlier books do downplay this a bit - but there's no way to tell. The entangled-in-hair bit was obviously an accident, but of course beating it to death was not.

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I had been toying with the idea of having the effect of the spell affect feathers, but on second thought, I don't think I will.
That's probably a good call.

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I have this image in my head of a mage casting Hair Growth on a duck (thinking he can make a wagon-load of down) and ending up with a featherless but hairy duck because the magic didn't know what the structure of "feathers" was, and sort of "did its best" to approximate.
That sounds hilarious. I wonder what duck hair would go for? I'd have it visually resemble platypus hair, for obvious reasons.
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