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Old 11-07-2018, 02:07 AM   #1
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Greetings all!

TL;DR I need help creating Symbol Magic that isn't Symbol Magic.

Finally back to putting serious work into my Fantasy setting again (I'm actually writing again), and I've come up against a kink I've been anticipating for quite some time.

In the first real playtest, I made use of different variations of Ritual Path Magic for the three forms of magic present in the setting, but after several unsuccessful attempts at tweaking, I realized that making RPM work would require me to change too much of the setting itself, and so I've gone about creating the magic systems in different ways.

Two down, one to go.

The last form of magic, which I call Inscription, involves inscribing and invoking the "Signs" to create different effects. Originally inspired by the Symbol Magic found in GURPS Thaumatology, I created an twelve-character alphabet in which each Sign encompasses a verb and a noun. Now I need to go about creating a system that appropriately expresses them.

Thematically and narratively, the Signs are a primordial, fundamental way of manipulating magic. If you ask the people who make use of them, they have existed since before time began (the Mountain Sign doesn't look like a mountain, mountains look like the Mountain Sign). Inscribing them and invoking them is time-consuming and difficult, but does not require an investment of energy on behalf of the invoke; properly inscribed Signs simply cause reality to warp around them, creating the desired effect.

The reasons I have not yet attempted to use a variation of Symbol Magic directly from GURPS Thaumatology is two-fold:

1) I have a personal aversion to flexible systems that require a large amount of adjudication on behalf of the GM. Part of what makes Ritual Path Magic so great is that the creation of spells is standardized; the only adjudication necessary is what constitutes a Lesser or Greater effect.

2) The default assumption of Symbol Magic (and most systems present in Thaumatology) is that working magic requires the expenditure of FP or ER, the conversion of which into a difficulty-based system I wouldn't even begin to understand.

I'm basically just spit-balling here. This community has always been so insightful and helpful, I figured I'd just ask for ideas.

Below is a basic description of the Signs and how they're used (in the previously used RPM iteration) for context.

Quote:
The Signs
Beast Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Animal; Effect: Create (6)
The Beast Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect the minds or bodies of non-human corporeal beings. Its Effect functions exactly as the Create Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic.

Man Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Human; Effect: Dominate (5)
The Man Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect the minds or bodies of human corporeal beings. Its Effect functions as the Control Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it is not used to move or otherwise physically manipulate its targets.

Mire Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Magic; Effect: Befoul (6)
The Mire Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect magic or Mana directly, including other spells or invocations and beings of Mana. Its Effect functions as the Transform Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it is only used to infect, poison, or otherwise corrupt its targets. It may not be used to turn one thing into something else entirely.

Moon Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Fate; Effect: Alter (8)
The Moon Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect probability or predetermination. Its Effect functions as the Transform Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except where another Sign would be used instead (such as Purify or Befoul).

Mountain Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Earth; Effect: Ward (2)
The Earth Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect non-living solid matter. Its Effect functions as the Strengthen Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may only be used to provide benefits of a purely protective or defensive nature.

River Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Water; Effect: Purify (4)
The River Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect non-living liquid matter. Its Effect functions as the Restore Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may only be used to remove contamination or otherwise revert something to an original or natural state.

Star Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Time; Effect: Sense (2)
The Star Sign is included in all invocations that effect the flow of time. Although time may be sped up, slowed down or even stopped, the ability to travel backward or forward to discreet points in time remains impossible. This is discussed in more detail below. Its Effect functions as the Sense Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic.

Sun Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Fire; Effect: Amplify (3)
The Sun Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect plasmatic matter or thermal or galvanic energies (heat and electricity). Its Effect functions as the Strengthen Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except where the Mountain Sign would be used instead.

Thunder Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Light; Effect: Diminish (4)
The Thunder Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect luminous or sonic waveforms (light or sound). Its Effect functions as the Destroy Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may only be used to weaken or damage its targets directly.

Tree Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Plant; Effect: Mend (3)
The Tree Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect plant matter. Its Effect functions as the Restore Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may only be used to undo direct damage.

Void Sign (IQ/Very Hard)
Subject: Nonexistence; Effect: Obliterate (5)
The “One” of the “Eleven-and-One,” the Void Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect negative or spatial energies. Its Effect functions as the Destroy Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may not be used to lessen or weaken a target. The Void Sign may be used to inflict direct damage, no amount of which is considered a Greater Effect.

Wind Sign (IQ/Hard)
Subject: Air; Effect: Move (4)
The Wind Sign is included in all invocations that directly affect gaseous matter. Its Effect functions as the Control Effect listed in GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, except that it may only be used to directly manipulate the target, similar to telekinesis.
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Old 11-07-2018, 02:46 AM   #2
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Something that's not quite clear: for using the Signs as verb and noun, you would routinely use two signs, one as word and one as noun?

So Detect Animals would use Star Sign and Beast Sign. Is that correct?

If I've understood you correctly, I think you might do better to use Syntactic Verb-Noun magic rather than Symbol magic, using your Signs as verbs and nouns.

Do you want to construct a system where no resources (like FP) are required, but more powerful workings have larger skill penalties?
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Old 11-07-2018, 02:52 AM   #3
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Something that's not quite clear: for using the Signs as verb and noun, you would routinely use two signs, one as word and one as noun?

So Detect Animals would use Star Sign and Beast Sign. Is that correct?
That is correct. Certain effects, like Purify Water or Strengthen Fire, can be accomplished with a single Sign but most invocations require more than one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
If I've understood you correctly, I think you might do better to use Syntactic Verb-Noun magic rather than Symbol magic, using your Signs as verbs and nouns.
I was under the impression that Symbol Magic as presented in GURPS Thaumatology was largely similar to Syntactic Verb-Noun, only with the Verbs and Nouns written out instead of spoken.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Do you want to construct a system where no resources (like FP) are required, but more powerful workings have larger skill penalties?
Also correct. But I have no idea as to how to price out how difficult or time-consuming the process should be given the effects created.
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Old 11-07-2018, 11:35 PM   #4
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
was under the impression that Symbol Magic as presented in GURPS Thaumatology was largely similar to Syntactic Verb-Noun, only with the Verbs and Nouns written out instead of spoken.
Somewhat. There's a way of doing what you want in "Variations" on p. 175 of Thaumatology. Drop the FP costs, and use the Magical Scope Parameters (pp. 242-243), treating the modifiers as penalties.
Quote:
Also correct. But I have no idea as to how to price out how difficult or time-consuming the process should be given the effects created.
The Discworld RPG's magic system has quite a good (although very simple) set of modifiers that you could use for this.
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Old 11-08-2018, 12:27 AM   #5
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Somewhat. There's a way of doing what you want in "Variations" on p. 175 of Thaumatology. Drop the FP costs, and use the Magical Scope Parameters (pp. 242-243), treating the modifiers as penalties.

The Discworld RPG's magic system has quite a good (although very simple) set of modifiers that you could use for this.
I suppose it's probably also worth mentioning that the other two magic systems were created with advantages a la GURPS Powers. I would prefer to keep it similar for Inscription for the sake of simplicity and balance, if at all possible.
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Old 11-08-2018, 06:33 AM   #6
Culture20
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinumon View Post
I suppose it's probably also worth mentioning that the other two magic systems were created with advantages a la GURPS Powers. I would prefer to keep it similar for Inscription for the sake of simplicity and balance, if at all possible.
Are the Inscriptions permanent? If not, they could be aspected modular ability pools. If someone knows how to draw a particular Sign better, they just happen to have a larger aspected pool for that Sign. The next time you draw the same Sign, your previous inscription with that sign stops working. You might need two pools per sign for noun and verb, else Beast Beast for “create animal” wouldn’t work.

Hmm, twist the rules a little so that the whole inscription adds the pools of all Signs for the ability.

Last edited by Culture20; 11-08-2018 at 06:36 AM.
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Old 11-08-2018, 02:17 PM   #7
Jinumon
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default Re: [Fantasy/Thaumatology] Building a Verb/Noun Alphabet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Culture20 View Post
Are the Inscriptions permanent?
The Inscriptions can linger, and be invoked later similar to Symbol Tokens (GURPS Thaumatology, p. 174), but the effects themselves are not permanent unless done with some kind of Inscription-based Enchantment, the system for which I'll worry about tackling after I've got a base system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Culture20 View Post
If not, they could be aspected modular ability pools. If someone knows how to draw a particular Sign better, they just happen to have a larger aspected pool for that Sign. The next time you draw the same Sign, your previous inscription with that sign stops working. You might need two pools per sign for noun and verb, else Beast Beast for “create animal” wouldn’t work.

Hmm, twist the rules a little so that the whole inscription adds the pools of all Signs for the ability.
This is... a really good idea. Thank you! I've already used one form of Modular Abilities for one kind of magic (trait-limited to allow only for Advantage- and Disadvantage-based Afflictions with Malediction to represent divine blessings and curses), but I completely forgot about focus-limited ones. I'll have to dig into it a little more to get a workable model, but it's definitely somewhere to start.

Thanks everyone! This is why I love this community so much! I might be back if I run into another wall or get a working system I want to share.
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