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Old 06-10-2019, 12:53 PM   #1
weevis
 
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Default [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

Hi Magic/Powers lovers: I'm trying to come up with magic rules for a setting based on some source material that I like. I'm an experienced GM, but I've never tried mixing magic and power systems before. I will assuredly playtest and refine as needed, but it would be a huge help if I guessed right the first time. I wonder if anyone on the forum familiar with different ways to do magic could take a look at my planned magic mixing as a sanity check?

My world has several different systems of magic, with probably two different systems accessible to the players. I want these two systems to work well together -- even with two PCs in the same party potentially using different systems without this being unbalanced. In the source material both systems are powerful but the first system is fast but narrow and inflexible, while the second is versatile but slow and fiddly.

The first system:

The first system involves innate genetic abilities. There are only about 12 major spells/powers, although sometimes they are combined in ways that are tricky. However they can't be improvised and are fixed at birth (although you can get better at using them, you can't get any new ones). This feels to me like a restricted version of GURPS Psionic Powers, and in fact those RAW describe about 80% of the ideas in the setting. I will need to tweak a new power modifier as it isn't exactly psionic but it looks like otherwise the setting is identical to the Psionic Powers book for most of the material. Yay!

There's about 20% that isn't in there, but I figure whatever doesn't fit psionic powers as written can be statted as a custom Power, possibly also drawing on the GURPS Sorcery rules for guidance to convert spells into advantages if Powers rules alone doesn't do it for me. It doesn't seem like that will be too much work. (Let me know if that is crazy talk.)

The second system:

The second system of magic is harder to stat, probably because the author of the source material was trying to tell a story, not design a game. It is powerful, improvisational magic that reminds me quite a bit of Path/Book magic and Ritual Path Magic WITHOUT the Adept advantage. Rituals need connection, they often need consecrated space, they need time. Sacrifices are used to acquire energy. Rituals often require rare materials. It is learned via apprenticeship and there is probably no genetic component.

According to the source material, casting a powerful spell in this second system is a big pain in the butt. At one point a character in the middle of the wilderness needs to use something the setting calls "window magic" to obtain information... and there is no way around it other than to build an entire house in order to meet the ritual's definition of a "window," which requires a home. To be fair, the character builds a one-room house and they manage to roof over a ruin that they uncovered nearby -- it wasn't quite as slow as building a McMansion with a general contractor -- but still my point is that they had to build a house to do one spell.

I would be happy to use Ritual Path Magic (minus Adepts) for this, off-the-shelf, as I like it. However, in the setting there are also a handful of utility spells that the mages in this second system seem to get to do almost for free, and that doesn't fit the RPM rules I think. They seem to be able to constantly do a small set of minor defensive spells: wards, a self-hiding spell, detecting magic, consecrating spaces, and detect poison. These don't require materials, rituals, or apparently (this is not clear) energy.

(Side note: The author also put "automatically make someone fall in love with you permanently" in that trivial-to-cast list but there's no way I'm allowing that as it seems very game-breaking.)

It would be nice to use the RPM paths as written as they are elegant but I'm not sure how to incorporate this extra basket of minor stuff. This list of five things is not really coherent (to me) but if it were a path it is closest to the "protection path" in the Path and Book chapter of Thaumatology. Yet I'd like to add these if I can, as it will give the players in the second tradition more to do in combat and it will make them harder to kill. And it fits the description of the setting.

So I'm thinking of a few options to stat out the second system with the basket of defensive exceptions:
  • Use RPM and make a new path that encompasses this basket of defensive stuff, then perhaps require mages in this tradition to start with that path. This breaks the elegance of the default paths in RPM though by adding an extra one, but maybe that is OK. I'm still not sure if that will allow players to cast these regularly at little cost.
  • Use RPM and add these rituals as built into Thaumatology skill somehow, rather than requiring a separate path. Not really sure how this would work.
  • In this setting all magicians in the second path carry a particular kind of amulet. I could use RPM and in addition try to make the amulet produce this basket of leftover powers without requiring ritual or energy via the "bound spell" rules mentioned in RPM that make powers into amulets. However this sounds expensive, points-wise. But maybe that's OK because it should be.
  • Some other way I haven't thought about? Your advice welcome!

In case it is not clear I'm trying to strike a balance here between (1) this feels like the setting, (2) it is playable, (3) I don't have to write all-new rules for everything, and (4) the rules I settle on aren't an ad hoc mess of incoherent exceptions.

So: Does it feel like this will work? Does one strategy for the second system look better than another? Do you see any red flags -- things that make this world look hopelessly unbalanced? Are there rules/books/articles I missed about this? (surely yes!)

I did find some discussion of mixing PSI and RPM in the same game and it suggests that the PSI characters are going to be way more combat effective than the RPM ones, but I'd have guessed that anyway.

I really, really appreciate your help.
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Old 06-10-2019, 01:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

If you want RPM casters with a few bonus spells that are easy for them to cast, Pyramid 3/66 (p. 12-13) has an option to allow RPM casters to turn easy spells into powers, which they buy as alternate abilities to either Magery or Ritual Adept. If you can write those five minor spells up as standard GURPS advantages, then you're good to go.
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Old 06-10-2019, 02:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

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Originally Posted by Jefepato View Post
If you want RPM casters with a few bonus spells that are easy for them to cast, Pyramid 3/66 (p. 12-13) has an option
Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out! I would never find this kind of thing without the forums.
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Old 06-10-2019, 03:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

What books series are you trying to emulate exactly? I may have read it and it may help me to help you.
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Old 06-10-2019, 03:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

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Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
What books series are you trying to emulate exactly? I may have read it and it may help me to help you.
Wow thanks for the offer!

I intentionally didn't mention it because I couldn't figure out how to ask the question without writing spoilers for the books. If you read the whole nine-book series you don't discover that there are two main systems of magic at work until book seven. And you don't discover there are even more systems beyond the first two until books eight or nine.

However, if you are OK to be spoiled, it's this series. I also outlined the main features of the setting here in a post on my blog.
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Old 06-10-2019, 03:49 PM   #6
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

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Originally Posted by weevis View Post
Wow thanks for the offer!

I intentionally didn't mention it because I couldn't figure out how to ask the question without writing spoilers for the books. If you read the whole nine-book series you don't discover that there are two main systems of magic at work until book seven. And you don't discover there are even more systems beyond the first two until books eight or nine.

However, if you are OK to be spoiled, it's this series. I also outlined the main features of the setting here in a post on my blog.
Man, that is a blast from my past.

Ok. So what I'd do is first - go Effect-Shaping for the base RPM system. It jives better with psionic powers as both rely on skill to do things and both have techniques that you can buy. Second, for a handful of spells you could just base them straight off of Thaumatology and allow them to be purchased as techniques for those truly gifted with them.

That's it. That's all you need. You can find the rules for Effect-Shaping RPM in Pyramid #66 in my article "Alternative Ritual Path Magic."
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

I dont remember that series in any detail, though I know I read them as soon as I saw the titles. I look forward to your progress. Make sure your on Gaming Ballistics blog list
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

Thanks so much! I'll definitely check it out and report back.
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go Effect-Shaping for the base RPM system. It jives better with psionic powers as both rely on skill to do things and both have techniques that you can buy
This comment that you made struck me -- I admit I have been thinking about things the opposite way. I've been thinking that I want the two magic systems to be as mechanically different as possible, otherwise why bother to include two systems?

As a hypothetical example, I feel like I could possibly stat absolutely everything I want to do forever for the rest of my life using only GURPS Powers. But I'd never have to buy or read another GURPS book again, so where's the fun in that? So I thought the contrasting mechanisms would be fun and in fact finding contrasting mechanisms was my goal.

Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way and I should instead try to make the two as mechanically similar as possible, as you suggest, for ease of gameplay. As I said, I've never tried to GM a campaign with multiple magic systems.

My major concern when I thought to post was actually just how to be sure one type of magic didn't completely outclass the other. I figured it would be better if they worked differently, not a drawback. I will look at the article and think about this.
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Old 06-10-2019, 05:01 PM   #9
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by weevis View Post
This comment that you made struck me -- I admit I have been thinking about things the opposite way. I've been thinking that I want the two magic systems to be as mechanically different as possible, otherwise why bother to include two systems?

As a hypothetical example, I feel like I could possibly stat absolutely everything I want to do forever for the rest of my life using only GURPS Powers. But I'd never have to buy or read another GURPS book again, so where's the fun in that? So I thought the contrasting mechanisms would be fun and in fact finding contrasting mechanisms was my goal.

Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way and I should instead try to make the two as mechanically similar as possible, as you suggest, for ease of gameplay. As I said, I've never tried to GM a campaign with multiple magic systems.

My major concern when I thought to post was actually just how to be sure one type of magic didn't completely outclass the other. I figured it would be better if they worked differently, not a drawback. I will look at the article and think about this.
Just because something is mechanically the same as something else doesn't mean you can't make it seem like something else flavor-wise with a few slight tweaks. I did this in my Chronicles of Ceteri campaign setting with psionic powers. Each power had a seperate power modifier with different effects even though all the powers were built the same way (with advantages).

I don't see why you can't apply the same logic here. Make things as similiar as you can and then start working from that point to make the flavor-different.

As a word of warning, unless you cap skill levels for RPM it will outstrip psionics fairly quickly. That's just a feature of the system - it's supposed to get more powerful as your can harness more energy. Also, you may wish to look at DF19 - it's a worked example of Effect-Shaping Ritual Path Magic and may prove useful for the second style of powers you're trying to create.
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Old 06-10-2019, 05:48 PM   #10
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Default Re: [RPM + Psionics] Sanity check: Mixing Magic Systems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by weevis View Post
My major concern when I thought to post was actually just how to be sure one type of magic didn't completely outclass the other. I figured it would be better if they worked differently, not a drawback. I will look at the article and think about this.
I like the kitchen sink settings.
In my fantasy setting I have several Powers based systems, a Rune system, a custom variant on Book/Path + Ritual Magic + Realm, regular Magic, and RPM.
The trouble with a lot of systems is that it can be confusing for the players but that's mostly for the casters. Other players usually ignore the differences.
However certain players love having different mechanics and trying to figure out whats best in different situations.
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