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Old 09-28-2020, 12:26 PM   #1
SolemnGolem
 
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Default What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

I've got GURPS Thaumatology, GURPS Magic, most of the Vol. 3 Pyramids, and all of the Magic/Thaum spinoff supplement books for GURPS 4th Edition.

My scenario: The PCs are going to free a dark godling from its slumber and they have to defeat it. They could do this by sealing it away and dropping its Cradle into the Void, or they could try to fight it.

The godling is not intended to be omnipotent - it's intended to be around as tough a fight as a large dragon. Theologically, it is strongly associated with undeath, void, destruction, creation (especially deceptive creation such as illusions) and mind control (especially rage, fear, disgust).

I'd rather not go through the standard Magic system (spells-as-skills), since I'd prefer for a godling to have a very flexible and powerful spellcasting ability. The spellcasting should be rather akin to the godling warping and rearranging its own proximal reality.

Of the remaining systems, I can see four faintly-related systems giving flexibility: Syntactic Magic (from Thaumatology) for Verb/Noun costs, Realm Magic (ibid) for conceptual divisions of existence, Ritual Path Magic (which seems like a worked version of Syntactic), and finally Dungeon Fantasy's Incantation Magic (which seems like an action version of RPM, exchanging the time commitment instead for a cumulative skill penalty).

I'd like to showcase a godling who could wield magic with extreme flexibility (albeit in a limited number of theological associated realms) for one combat, after which the godling will be destroyed or sealed away.

Which system would be best for this? I'm leaning towards:
  • Realm Magic is likely to be too much work to be worthwhile, since one of the first steps for the GM is to conceptually define all the possible realms and then back-deduce the costs of spellcasting depending on fraction of total, and also adjusted for level of potency. For just one single combat, the frontloaded design work isn't really economical.
  • Syntactic Magic seems more on point with what I need, but the version in Thaumatology is more of a toolkit for design than an actual worked example itself.
  • Ritual Path Magic stylistically emphasizes slow spellcasting, with various roleplaying bonuses given for investigative work and equipment preparation.
  • Incantation Magic does away with the slow speed, and focuses on a cumulative penalty which can be counteracted by high skill levels and also by taking longer.

I'm thinking that I could give the godling arbitrarily high levels of skill in the Incantation framework, which could balance out almost any spell effect desired, and then use the Incantation Verb/Noun definitions to suit whatever combat need arises. The godling would still have an Energy Reserve and would still have to spend it during spellcasting, but this is more a means of keeping track of ultimate power exhaustion in the encounter, than a means of limiting what it's capable of actually doing per spellcasting.

Any thoughts? Has anybody actually gamed with the four systems and could they offer any insights as to how they play?
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Old 09-28-2020, 12:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

Ritual Path Magic is the most high-powered system out there. Give the godling all the Ritual Adept things and go nuts.

Or you could just go with the most flexible system of all - GM fiat. "Yeah, he does this. No, you don't know how he did it."
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Old 09-28-2020, 01:17 PM   #3
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

Just define the powers the god can use without worrying about point costs or magic systems. It’s a god with powers the PCs can’t mimic, so the details on how it does what it does are irrelevant to the game.
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Old 09-28-2020, 01:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

FWIW, I make my living selling you (or trying to sell you!) GURPS stuff . . . and I'm with the people recommending that you go with "gods just do stuff, no need to justify how to the players." The moment you stick a rules system on what gods, even minor ones, can do, these things happen:
  • You change your story to suit the rules. That means you're no longer telling the story that you planned to tell. No matter how "open-ended" your chosen system ends up being, it's the work of someone who isn't you, and will have biases, tells, quirks, and foibles. That means it will do things a certain way ("within the range of what these tables allow," "within the constraints of the powers system," "within the limits of this author's imagination," etc.), and that might not be your way.

  • You make it possible to "game" the divine. Thanks to the system's inevitable "fingerprint" (see above), the players will eventually deduce which rules you're using and realize that the gods have to operate within their limits, however generous. Then a certain kind of player will try to abuse that system, if only to escape divine retribution or make their gods-given powers more powerful for the points.

  • You paint a target on the gods. Gods with point totals, or at least parameters, fuel an arms race as a certain kind of player goes beyond simply trying to "game" the divine and actively seeks to have their PC ascend to godhood, outdo a god, or even kill a god. That suits far fewer types of stories and campaigns than it doesn't suit.
As the GM, you're the campaign's ultimate god in some sense, and you should be able to do what you want without having to explain how or why. Yes, of course you owe your players common courtesy, even-handedness in your take on the rules, and the campaign they signed up for. You shouldn't throw your weight around in those regards. But neither should you be bullied by players into explaining what gods do – how high a level, how many dice, how good a roll, etc. You don't owe that to anybody!
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Old 09-28-2020, 03:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

Well, if he's only a big and bad as a large dragon, he's unlikely to be an bona fide God, just a little spirit shaped a bit like a Diety.



I've used RPM quite a bit, and I've used Realm magic a fair amount. My take-aways:
  • RPM has a strong fingerprint, in the form of how long it takes to cast, the way charms work, and the ability of most mages to achieve most effects. If you want the diety to be powerful but take a while between big castings, RPM isn't a bad strategy.
  • RPM gains power more quickly than some other systems for the same amount of points when in the 600 point range, but this is an NPC, so its not a big deal, but it is something to be aware of.
  • Setting up realm magic prices is only as complicated as you make it. When working with concepts the size of a Gurps: Magic college, I usually just eyeball the cost at 30 and call it good. This is an NPC, so you don't even need to worry about that point cost, though you can certainly keep an eye on it. Your Godling has undeath, destruction/void, creation/illusion and mind control. It might have a few others at low levels as well. Vary the levels of each realm, and you've got it set up. You can also wing the level costs, like saying that mind control only for dark emotions is only 2 out of 5 levels: one for detect, one for dark emotions, one for all emotions, one for actual mind control, and one for the god-like power. (if he doesn't have detection, that's a single level)
  • Realm magic that uses the Energy costs in the book is expensive in terms of FP. You'll want a Large energy reserve, and even those can run out extremely quickly. ER regeneration may be appropriate.
  • I actually usually run Realm magic with alternate casting cost, paid in some weird metaphysical currency that can be gathered from the world (I've actually used electricity before). I get the best results with that.
  • You can also run Realm magic with "Disregarding Energy Costs" from pages 194 and 195. Unless you intentionally want to limit the diety via ER, you can just use this.
  • A lot of parameters on Realm magic are customizable. Casting time is just a touch slow, but even at its slowest its faster than RPM... its just slow enough for a melee fighter to notice what's happening and actually do something.
Just talking about my experience with the systems.
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Old 09-28-2020, 05:35 PM   #6
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

A minor deity with IQ 20 [200], Magery 12 (RPM) [125], Modular Ability 1 (Cosmic Powers; Trait-Limited, Ritual Mastery Perk Only, -50%) [5], Modular Abilities 24 (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Magical Skills Only, -20%) [102], Path Adept [40], Path of Magic (VH) IQ+4 [24]-24, and Thaumatology (VH) IQ+4 [24]-24 is a phenomenal magician. With the investment of 520 CP, they are capable of performing most single Path rituals (or Path of Magic plus another Path) at an effective skill of 26 (they can also create potions with an effective skill of 26). They have an energy reserve of 36 mana points and can support 36 conditional rituals.
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Old 09-28-2020, 05:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

Thanks for the speedy responses and the admonitions against statting up omnipotent beings. I fully understand Rule Zero and all the standard waivers of GM liability therein. I still wish to proceed with this stress test of the gaming system (edit: especially since official GURPS publications have already statted up god-level beings before - see The Sad Lost God and "The Annihilator").

The godling's backstory actually fits Kromm's admonitions rather well ("watch out or mere mortals could level up to godhood!"). In-story, it's a false god, created by unwitting wishful thinking by a group of worshippers fooled into following a constructed religion. So it pretty much appeared out of thin air, gained power from prayers, and now exists as a grotesque stillborn godling (what D&D might call an Atropal). As EricTheRed correctly puts it, this boss monster is only around the power level of a big dragon in combat - it has traits that make it a deity (but only in the sense that it derives power from others' wishful thinking, and can grant these back to worshippers occasionally as Advantages).

The PCs must be able to feasibly kill it, either by picking up certain backstoried artifacts to counter it, or through brute force. My current build for it (sans spellcasting) is around 1,000 CP total, which is comparable to some of the Third Edition GURPS Monsters stuff, so hardly ineffable power levels, though challenging.

On magic systems

Crunchwise, it looks like RPM's system is hard coded to expect time expenditure (in addition to an expense of ER/FP and skill penalties for rush casting) - the flavor being of an occultist in their circle gathering background mana while the fangs pace around them.

Realm magic, by contrast, has the level 6 which by itself seems like it would suggest a demigod-like level of power. This seems like it would be an ER-intensive spellcasting system, but potentially quite quick. So if the demigod has excess ER to burn, it could do so and cast many powerful spells back to back (tailored as the situation requires).

Then once it runs out of ER, it would have to rest and wait for its faithful's collective prayers to regenerate it again. So, canny PCs could cause the godling to exhaust its ER in spells to which they are immune (perhaps due to artifacts carried) and then they can dispose of it while its magical resources are empty.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 11-01-2020 at 09:44 AM.
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Old 10-09-2020, 01:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

An attempt at a worked example. Apologies for a few repeated elements, since I'd rather collect most salient info in one post.

Exldirs is a demigod-level being, and can warp reality to some degree to accommodate its wishes. This is limited by its energy (I've arbitrarily set its ER at 300 - and the way that it recharges its ER is so slow as to be irrelevant in a combat engagement) and also by its specialization in Realms of magic that it controls. (GURPS Thaumatology p. 188).

Theologically, it is strongly associated with undeath, void, destruction, creation (especially deceptive creation such as illusions) and mind control (especially rage, fear, disgust).

Realm magic definitions:

All Realms use level 6 as a cosmic transcendent level of power. Each Realm is worth a total of 60 points for all 6 levels, meaning that each separate level is worth 10 points.

Exldirs, as a demigod of a false religion created from the destruction of a former religion, has the following realms in its portfolio:
  • Necromancy/Undeath realm: Level 3 - Command and Simple Creation. Exldirs is undead itself, but is not a "god of undeath" per se. In D&D, an atropal can create wight undead creatures in its radius of necromantic power.
  • Destruction/Void realm: Level 4 - Authority. Exldirs is a manifestation of a twisted form of godhood, produced by an Angel of Decay. Corruption and destruction attend it wherever it asserts its authority.
  • Creation/Illusion realm: Level 3 - Command and Simple Creation. Exldirs is itself the product of a lie, a "false creation" godling from a false religion. This gives it innate familiarity (though not authority) over illusions, deceit, lies, and misdirections.
  • Emotions realm: Level 2 - Control and Diversion. Exldirs can only create negative feelings, mostly of rage, fear, and disgust. It is still emotionally a rather young creature, so it has a very basic array of feelings - but it can exert them across most targets.

Exldirs has each required Realm casting skill at effective skill level 22.

Sample Castings:

Instill Fear - afflicts a living target with the results of a Fright Check Table

This allows Exldirs to scare off living enemies in a supernatural way, quite beyond the obvious combat threat it poses.

Energy Cost: 4 = 2x2 (double the level of Realm Magic - Emotion)
Range: up to 100 yards at -6 (starting from -0 at within 2 yards)
Duration: instantaneous at -0.
Casting time: 4 seconds at -0, but can be quickened to 1 second at -6.
Resisted by target's Will, modified by Exldirs' own margin of success.
Distance variant: Exldirs' base skill in Realm Magic (Dark Emotions) is 22, so with a full 4 second casting time (-0), Exldirs can frighten a target at 100 yards, it would roll against effective skill 22 -6 = 16 for a 98% chance of success.

Close combat variant: In the haste of combat, Exldirs could frighten a more immediate target at 10 yards (-3 for range) and quartered casting time for 1 second (-6) at casting level 13 at around 84% chance of success.

The target may attempt a Will roll to negate, modified by Exldirs' margin of success. Failure means that the target rolls on the Fright Check Table (B360). Exldirs gets a -1 to the skill roll per size modifier above +0 held by the target.

Rebuke Undead - similar to Instill Fear, but requires the additional Realm of Death

This allows Exldirs to afflict undead with a supernatural dread. It is more expensive than doing the same to the living, since this requires two Realms to work (Emotion and Death)

Energy Cost: 8 = 2x3 (double level of Realm Magic - Death) plus 2 (Realm Magic - Emotion)
Range: up to 100 yards
Duration: instantaneous
Casting time: 5 seconds (Death/3 plus 2), can be quickened to 1 second at -9.
Resisted by target's Will, modified by Exldir's margin of success.
Distance variant: 100 yards, 5 seconds casting time, effective skill: 22 -6 (distance) -1 (two Realms) = 15 Close combat variant: 10 yards, 2 seconds casting time, effective skill: 22 -3 (distance) -1 (two Realms) -6 (halved and rounded up, twice) = 12

Target can resist with Will, modified by Exldirs' margin of success, with failure meaning a roll on the Fright Check Table. Targets with immunity to mind control are immune to this magic.

Instill Madness

This allows Exldirs to break the minds of living enemies with unnatural destruction of mental and emotional functions, as opposed to merely giving them a negative emotion of Fear (above). Exldirs usually creates a murderous berserker rage in enemies, causing them to attack any nearby combat target indiscriminately.

Energy Cost: 10 = 2x4 (double level of Realm Magic - Destruction) + 2 (level of Realm Magic - Emotion)
Range: up to 100 yards at -6, but more typically at 10 yards (-3)
Duration: 1 minute at -1
Casting time: normally 6 seconds (4 levels of Realm-Destruction plus 2), can reduce to 2 seconds at total -6.
Resisted by target's Will, modified by Exldirs' own margin of success.
Unlike Fear, which is a direct Emotion Realm spell, Madness requires both Emotion and Destruction. The combination of two Realms thus imposes a -1 modifier.

Close combat variant: Two Realms (-1), 1 minute's duration (-1), 10 yards' range (-3), quartered casting time at 2 seconds (-6), effective casting skill at 11. Exldirs may instead opt to use the full six second casting time to bring the total modifiers to -5 instead, casting at effective skill 17.

The target may attempt a Will roll to negate, modified by Exldirs' margin of success. Failure means that the living target enters an insane bloodrage, attacking any targets - friend or foe.

Raise Blightlurch - create minor undead servitors from corpses.

In D&D, Atropal Scions create wights (somewhat ill-defined corporeal undead) in their vicinity. GURPS doesn't have wights per se, but we can approximate something close enough by making them Zombies with an Affliction (reduce FP by 1D, with -1 to IQ, DX, and HT). Current working name is "Blightlurch", but can be renamed if better names than "wight" exist.

Energy Cost: 9 = 2x3 (Death) +3 (False Creation/Illusion)
Range: Touch -0
Duration: 1 day (-3)
Casting time: normally 5 seconds (3 levels of Realm-Death plus 2), can reduce to 2 sec at -6.
Resistance: None, as target is generally a corpse already.

Exldirs floats over the corpse and its close presence or touch raises the corpse as a Blightlurch. If in combat, Exldirs usually rushes the magic at 2 seconds' duration. Effective skill is 22 minus touch distance (-0), two Realms (-1), 2 sec rush (-6), duration 1 day (-3) = 12.

This uses the domain of Death and False Creation/Illusion to animate a corpse as a Blightlurch. Stats are the same as a human Zombie, with the addition of a Blight Draining attack (1D FP per hit, as well as temporary -1 to IQ/DX/HT).

Entropic Shield - fizzle incoming attacks and spells, at great ER cost

Exldirs can engage the entropic power of destruction to intercept incoming matter or spells of which it is aware, rendering most of them potentially ineffective. (This means it usually cannot fizzle attacks coming from behind it, since it isn't aware of them.)

Energy Cost: 2x4 = 8 (double Destruction Realm), then doubled again because damage type is Corrosion (to destroy nonliving incoming matter like bolts, arrows, spells, thrown spears) = 16
Range: Touch (-0)
Duration: Instantaneous (-0)
Casting time: normally 6 seconds (4 levels of Realm-Destruction plus 2), can reduce to instantaneous (as a Blocking Spell) at -12.
Resistance: None, as Exldirs is destroying something incoming at touch range.

Close shield of nullity: Exldirs destroys objects coming in to touch range. This can also work with incoming missile spells - can treat the energy cost of the spell as its HP. It costs Exldirs 16 ER to do 1D corrosion damage to incoming objects or spells. This effectively a Cosmic level Block at effective skill 10 (22 -12 due to casting time). Presumably Exldirs could also use it to corrode and destroy any polearms or other material impediments that adventurers are trying to put in its way.

Advance shield of nullity: Exldirs can also conceivably "detonate" incoming spells and missiles at a distance, if the area of effect of such make them unsafe to destroy at touch distance. To cast this same defense at 2 yards, Exldirs rolls at an effective skill 9 if cast instantaneously, or 12 if cast with 1 second's warning. Energy cost is as above - 16 per 1D corrosion damage.
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Old 11-01-2020, 10:08 AM   #9
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

An errant question, regarding Realm Magic spell costs.

The usual calculation says the ER or FP cost is double the highest realm level concerned.

Question: is that "double the actual Realm level possessed by the caster"? Or is that "double the Realm level required by this spell"?

If the caster knows a Realm at level 4 (really powerful changes to reality) but only wants to cast a piddling small spell related to that realm at level 1... is the caster still required to pay 2 x 4 ER, or can he pay 2 x 1 ER to represent the spell's more modest ambitions?
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Old 11-01-2020, 10:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: What's the best GURPS thaumatology system for a minor godlike boss being?

It is double the level of the highest Realm required for the effect plus the sum of the other Realms. You should also remember the time required though, which is highest Realm required + 2 seconds, so it is awfully slow. If you are using syntactic magic though, why are using Realm Magic instead of Verb/Noun Magic?
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