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Old 12-18-2012, 04:54 AM   #11
Prince Charon
 
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Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

* Magic in these worlds, including our Earth, once that starts happening, is fairly similar to the Path/Book system presented in GURPS Thaumatology and the narrower Ritual Path system from GURPS Monster Hunters (although priestly folk on Fantasy Earth might use the 'prayers and miracles' system presented in GURPS Powers: Divine Favor, if their gods are powerful enough), or in some cases, a version of the Symbol Magic systems from GURPS Magic and again, GURPS Thaumatology. The powers behind that magic, however, whether divine or arcane, are psi powers, and these define the limits of what can be done - though if you're creative, you can still do a hell of a lot. Without going into multiple pages of detail, very few magic-users can cast a spell by just muttering and gesturing for a few seconds, or pointing and saying the name of the spell in some obscure language - and most of those who can, are only able to do it for a few spells they know very well. Instead, they spend a few minutes to a few hours (depending on the skill of the caster, the complexity of the spell, various environmental conditions, and whether they're summoning an existing spirit, or generating a new one) chanting, gesturing, and possibly singing or dancing, in a ritual circle or similar space prepared with various symbols, and then either the magic starts to happen, or the mage take up a charm that the ritual has loaded the magic into - these temporary magic items last for days to weeks, and are generally broken when activated.

Generally, the magic is Effect Shaping, but some specific styles may use Energy Accumulating, instead. In the latter case, the 'energy' is lots of minor thoughtforms.

The act of casting a spell most often involves creating or summoning a thoughtform (see link in the tl;dr section below) - a sort of psychic computer program running on the medium of the collective unconscious (the astral plane, if you ask most mystics). Generating a new thoughtform tends to take longer than summoning one, unless you need to negotiate with the one you summoned (OK, technically, you're generating a thoughtform even when you summon another, but all that one has to do is get a spirit's attention, which is why it only takes a few minutes or less to make). Most newly created thoughtforms, especially those made for specific, limited tasks, tend to be very lacking in willpower, and in many cases, fade from existence fairly quickly (those created to get another spirit's attention tend to be absorbed by that spirit, increasing its power by a miniscule amount, which encourages it to at least pop by and talk). 'Free' thoughtforms, those that did not fade away for various reasons, are spirits, and the most powerful spirits are called gods. Most of them were generated unconsciously by groups of people, but a few were created by sorcerers, and grew beyond their origins. Permanent or multi-use magic items are fetishes (no, not the sexual kind): objects which have a thoughtform bound to them, whether formed by the caster, or summoned and trapped, willingly or otherwise. Spontaneously created spells are possible with the right stimulation (such as Haversham's Enhancer, or the comet that came to Clockpunk Earth), but tend to be very limited, quirky, or both. Intentionally designing spells is much like writing a computer program, in a very eccentric language, in your head. Meditation is often involved. Thoughtforms are capable of transitioning the 'quasi-wormholes' connecting the various Earths, but their arrivals produce only a very weak particle spray, difficult to detect with 2012 instruments - unless a whole bunch arrive at once, of course.

Thoughtforms sustain themselves, at least in part, by absorbing psychic energy directed at them, usually focused through various emotions. By itself, this doesn't harm the person being fed on - you're already emitting the energy, whether they eat it or not. Different thoughtforms often prefer different 'flavors' of emotion, and this affects their appearance and behavior - a spirit that feeds on lust tends to be attractive in some way, and acts friendly and/or seductive, those who feed on fear tend to look frightening, and act creepy or hostile to various degrees, and so forth. This is also how spirits can be harmed: those too strongly adapted to one or two emotions are often 'poisoned' by others, and nearly all spirits can be 'injured' by the desire to do harm to that spirit, especially when directed by a reasonably strong will, at mle ranges (not that where you see/sense the spirit is it's true location - it's in the collective unconscious, which means it's in your head, just like it's in everyone elses' - but disembodied spirits are much harder to hurt, if they don't notice you're trying to hurt them, and spirits generally pay the most attention to the location they appear to be in, whether in the real world, a dream, the astral plane, or even in a virtual world on the computer, for those that can get there). The easiest way to focus such an attack is to attack the spirit's apparent 'body' with a mle weapon or unarmed attack, while strongly willing it to 'Be Injured' or 'Die'. Mle weapons are useful for this purpose because the wielder's spirit (ki, prana, aura, whatever) tends to extend over the weapon, when one is sufficiently skilled with it. This doesn't really apply to ranged weapons, or rather, it doesn't apply well to projectiles, once they're no-longer in contact with the user (though you can extend the range a bit by attaching a wire, thread, or similar, if you practice enough with the modified projectile). Of course, you can turn a projectile into a charm or fetish with the property of 'harms spirits', but this works best with larger objects like arrows or throwing knives - it's hard to convince a powerful damage spirit to cram itself into something as puny as a bullet (no matter how fast it goes), especially as damage (and resistance to it) is dependent on the relative willpowers of the inflicting and receiving spirits. It's much easier to harm spirits which are 'permanently' anchored, willingly or not, to physical objects (fetishes, in other words, but not charms), as they will generally be injured by damage to their host items, and may be killed by the item's destruction, or banished to the depths of the collective unconscious (the Inner Astral Plane, as mystics call it), for some time (depends on lots of factors, but is generally measured in years, decades, or centuries, due to the trauma of being 'killed').

Some spirits who prefer specific emotions will merge, temporarily or permanently, with thoughtform-copies of some fictional or real being, in order to better evoke their preferred emotion. The spirit thus becomes, for example, 'Bugs Bunny, if he were a laughter spirit' (not much change, there), or 'a dementor, if it were a fear and/or misery spirit' (which again, isn't much of a change - in fact, it makes more sense in this context than dementors eating happiness), or 'a clumsy little puppy, if it were a d'aawww(g) spirit' (no, I'm not going to give you examples of who/what a lust spirit might merge with - you've already got a dozen ideas in your head, you don't need any help from me). Some of the friendlier spirits will also merge with minor elementals or other nature spirits, so that some specific person they 'like' will find them more useful, and wish to keep them around. Yes, for some types of spirits and 'donors', this can get various types and levels of creepy (and not just with lust spirits, either) - they're not human, and even when merged with a ghost or other fairly human-like thoughtform, don't quite think like humans do. The humans that contract with them don't usually have that excuse, but with many spirits, it's better than letting them run wild.

The spirits' ability to effect the physical world requires them to convert physical energies for their own use, and has nothing to do with how they sustain themselves as spirits. The most common energy source seems to be heat, which explains why magic items and materials are often cool to the touch, and haunted houses frequently have unexplained cold spots - the fact that this appears to violate thermodynamics doesn't bother the spirits, at all. The strongest energy source is quite unknown, although it might be a form of what OTL scientists currently call 'dark energy'. This is the apparent source of the extra energy from Clp-Earth's springmetal, and the enhanced fuels on Dp-Earth and Stp-Earth.

Continued in next post. Sorry this is taking so long.
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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/29/2018: The Eyes Have It, by maximara, has been posted.
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Old 12-18-2012, 04:55 AM   #12
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That which is called 'Magery', 'magical aptitude', or 'the magegift' is not precisely an inborn talent. True, some are born with it to some degree, but you can also say that everyone is born with it, to some degree. Useful levels of this power, when not inborn, may be induced by spirits or spells, learned through study and meditation, developed due to exposure to psychic energy as a defensive measure, or even just suddenly appear for no readily apparent reason. At its core, magery is the ability to at least semi-consciously generate thoughtforms, and control, manipulate, or otherwise interact with them.

Was thinking of calling it 'Thoughtform Talent' instead of 'Magery', as suggested in the Steampunk section. Ten points per level, bonus to spellcasting. Might have a related advantage allowing the sensing abilities Magery 0 confers. The usual -5 penalty for Path/Book casting without Magery can be removed by a 1-point Perk (name needed; Active Thoughtform Generation?), which is contained within the first level of Thoughtform Talent (don't take both). It's a perk not because it's not useful or powerful, but because it's that easy to develop, in this setting... well, depending on the world. Might cost more on some Earths, or be free on others, but the logic is that everyone unconsciously generates minor thoughtforms when concentrating or emoting, so doing it controllably shouldn't be too hard.

Advanced magical styles (and there are a lot of them, mostly on Fantasy Earth) often have lots of spells, divided into specialties called Paths (or schools, or colleges, or chapters, spheres, pillars, et cetra) - in-depth study of these makes the spells within them easier to cast, but is not absolutely necessary. Many newer or less developed magical styles, such as those on Steampunk Earth and Clockpunk Earth, have few enough spells not to need such specialization, grouping the whole list in a single Book (which need not be a physical book - it's just a name to distinguish it from Paths). Path styles often grow out of Book styles, either by magic-users inventing enough new spells that specialization becomes useful or necessary, or because someone learned several Book styles, and integrated them into one compound style (which can be quite difficult, if the base styles were especially different from each other). Weird Sciences are nearly always personal Book styles. Alchemy varies between something very much like standard GURPS alchemy (mixing magical substances together and feeling them interact, on top of normal chemistry methods of monitoring) where magical materials are common, or various Book or Path styles, where they are rarely or never found in nature.

Most of the styles of magic on Clockpunk Earth, and nearly all on Steampunk Earth, are Book styles - indeed, many found on Steampunk Earth are very personal and informal, more or less unique to each spellcaster (though quite often based on extant styles that previously did little or nothing), and those that aren't, started out that way, before being taught to others. Having a few more generations to work on them, the styles on Clockpunk Earth are more fully developed, being more often taught and learned, than invented piece by piece from the ground up. Steampunk Earth has only a handful of fairly new Path styles, and Clockpunk Earth has barely more than a dozen. Dieselpunk Earth has a wide range of book styles, and a fair number of Path styles, while Fantasy Earth almost has more extant Path styles than Book styles. OTL Earth has a minor advantage in terms of creating new Path styles, in that thanks to games and a few fantasy novels, we already have the idea of magical styles being divided into specializations.

The 'prayers and miracles' system from Divine Favor is pretty much exactly that: a sufficiently blessed individual prays to the god(dess) that blessed him/her, and generally gets some appropriate form of miracle (as long as they haven't been abusing their position, anyway, and get a good reaction roll from their deity). You can learn specific prayers to mostly insure getting a fairly specific miracle, but in general, it's not that complicated. Generally, most gods will only grant consistent blessings and powers (as opposed to one-shot 'Well, I don't want you to die right now' deus ex machina) to those who have a great strength and sincerity of belief. How available this system is seems to vary from dimension to dimension: the gods on Stp-Earth and OTL-Earth, once awakened, rarely grant this blessing, rarely grant miracles to those who are so blessed, and even when they do, tend to go for minor miracles like accelerated healing or guards falling asleep, over anything showy. The power is more common on Clp-Earth and Dp-Earth, but even there, not nearly so common nor powerful as on Fa-Earth. It's difficult to describe an upper limit to this power, but generally, anything (other than not-too-strange weather) that covers a few square miles is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and anything much bigger is a legendary cataclysm that will be remembered for thousands of years (e.g. the Ten Plagues of Egypt). Large-scale miracles tend to be aimed more toward 'helping the faithful survive', or 'punishing great impiety (in the deity's own followers)', rather than 'wiping out the unbelievers', though (because the latter gets you into inter-deity conflicts, and no-one wants a 'hot' War In Heaven - well, no-one with any sense). This style is the easiest for beginning casters to perform very difficult feats like instant healing or conjuring food out of apparently nothing, because the gods have the processing power to manipulate large numbers of atoms and molecules in complex patterns (such as teleporting in all the material needed to turn one fish sandwich into a dozen fish sandwiches, and them building those atoms into the required shapes by copying the existing fish sandwich), and they're the ones doing all the work.

Use the normal Reaction Roll requirements on Fa-Earth, make all reaction roll requirements one level higher on Clp-Earth (except for 'Golem', which is one step easier, requiring only a Good reaction, on Clp-Earth - well, it is for Jews, anyway) and Dp-Earth, and make the requirements two steps higher on Stp-Earth and OTL-Earth.

Gods are mysterious, and no-one has any clear, established facts as to how powerful they are, whether some are more powerful than others, nor whether there are any gods who are more than 'just' massively powerful thoughtforms. No-one knows where spirits end and gods begin, either, though a total lack of miracles being granted is usually taken as an indicator, accurately or not. When a miracle is granted, the Presence of the deity is sometimes felt by anyone in the area, and more so by those who are the subject of the miracle, the one who called for it, or are psychically sensitive. Such Presences vary from god to god: for example, being healed by a war god so that you can go back into the fight feels totally different from being healed by a mother goddess because she loves all the 'children' (even when they're adults of a different faith), even ignoring the difference in rituals each priesthood uses. The Presence may be a simple feeling (calm strength, lust, being hugged, a desire for battle, et cetra), or might be accompanied by brief sensory hallucinations (the scent of blood or of roses, the sound of drums or a heavenly choir, a vision of the god(dess), and so forth). Different people tend to feel the Presense in different ways, depending not only on how sensitive they are, but how they feel about that deity, and how that deity feels about them. Likewise, the effect tends to differ somewhat between deities; again using healing as an example, war deities often leave scars, mother goddesses usually don't, and gods or goddesses of love and beauty only leave 'attractive' scars.

Continued next post.
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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/29/2018: The Eyes Have It, by maximara, has been posted.
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Old 12-18-2012, 04:56 AM   #13
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Symbol magic (such as this Rune Magic thread, or the aforementioned GURPS versions) is most often used to amplify Path/Book rituals, although it can be used effectively on its own. Each copy of a specific rune or other mystical symbol, even one just drawn in the air with a finger or wand, is connected to the spirit of that symbol, to varying degrees. Thus, every Eiwaz rune is connected to the spirit of 'the Rune Eiwaz', every Page of Swords card is connected to the spirit called 'the Page of Swords', and so forth. Some symbols have temporary or permanent thoughtforms bound to them, greatly increasing that connection (to the point that spellcasting with charm or fetish-runes takes at most seconds, instead of minutes). There generally aren't all that many Symbol styles, although each of the four new Earths has working Futhark and Ogham styles, and both Steampunk and Dieselpunk Earths have Tarot styles (Tarot cards weren't of much interest to mystics before the 18th century in OTL, and thus neither Fantasy nor Clockpunk Earth would use them). Symbol wizards are rather more common, mainly among adventurers, but they tend to use well-known symbols (and becoming well-known takes time), as otherwise the spirits of those symbols don't have enough power to be useful.

Having fetish or charm tokens (as opposed to a fetish or charm bearing several symbols for a specific effect) is equivalent to having True Symbol Tokens in the usual Symbol magic system, save that the cost is in additional skill penalties, rather than fatigue (and the fact that charm tokens only work once each). Without them, casting is done as with Path/Book magic (i.e., you either need the right amount of time (generally ten minutes per symbol), the proper ritual space, and some fitting material components, or you need levels of Path/Book Adept) but with the skill rolls for Symbol magic.

Magical materials are those which naturally have thoughtforms anchored to them (generally due to long belief, or for some organic materials, the life form it came from being psychic), allowing various effects without the need to cast a spell. These thought forms subdivide when the material does, and merge when properly brought together, allowing new effects. Natural magical materials are rare to non-existent on Steampunk Earth, Clockpunk Earth, and our Earth, somewhat uncommon on Dieselpunk Earth, and very common on Fantasy Earth (a fair amount of various magical materials, as well as plants and animals, from both Middle Earth and Abier-Toril can be found on the latter). Some materials, such as silver and iron, are not magical themselves, but affect spirits and other magical creatures and people, due to the legends about those spirits.

Psi powers: astral projection, ergokinesis (like psychokinesis, but manipulating the electromagnetic force (light, magnetism, electricity), and possibly other types of energy), extrasensory perception, meta-psi (ability to disrupt, enhance, or otherwise modifiy other psi powers; includes standard GURPS anti-psi power, if you're wondering), probability alteration, psychic healing (which is very rarely instantaneous, just faster than normal to varying degrees - although you can fake instant healing by psychokinetically holding the wound(s) together as a semi-superior substitute for stitches or staples, and then using telepathy to quiet the pain, and still use psychic healing to make the wound heal faster), psychic vampirism, psychokinesis, telepathy, and teleportation (which seems to involves warping space, and manipulating wormholes - bags of holding exist on Fantasy Earth, though they aren't terribly common). If you have access to a copy of GURPS Psionic Powers, biokinesis and psychometabolism fall under psychic healing (and any of those names might be used, depending on who's speaking), animal telepathy falls under telepathy, and dream control is a mix of telepathy and astral projection.

If you can plausibly explain something using the above psi powers, chances are, you can do it, although it may be massively impractical. In theory, for example, you could warp space enough to make a prince appear to have the size and shape of a frog, but then you'd have to correct for his mass, strength, reflexes being all wrong, human dietary needs, respiration, pigmentation... Really, the amount of math, skill, information, precision, and concentration involved would be beyond most spirits, and even some gods would find it difficult, despite their greater processing power. Much less difficult (though still not 'easy') to pop the prince's real body into suspended animation, possibly in a pocket dimension made from the neck of a wormhole (note that there are always two entrances), and then either make him possess an existing frog (whether through pure telepathy, or forced astral projection + telepathy), or stick his astral body into an ectoplasmic shell in the form of a frog.

Since I'm sure someone will ask: sticking one warped space into another warped space just means making more work for the thoughtforms maintaining the warps, and if they can't or won't do the work, they'll either not allow the warped spaces together, or they'll collapse the spaces and dump whatever they contained out... or they may do some other thing, like attack you for making them work too hard. Better check with the spirits before you try something like that. Sticking one wormhole through another wormhole just relocates the mouth or mouths of the wormhole. Likewise for sticking a wormhole into a warped space. Sticking a warped space into a wormhole is pretty much like sticking a warped space into another warped space, though. Interestingly, wormholes tend not to cross into other dimensions, unless both mouths are anchored to or contained within the same structure. If you try, then either the structure that only one mouth is connected to will pass into the other dimension, but find it's wormhole-mouth absent, or if the mouth is more tightly bound, the structure it's bound to will fail to cross into the other dimension. Also, the farther apart the mouths of a wormhole are when you start stabilizing it, the harder it is to make it stable and transitionable, though once it is, distance is no longer a factor.

Time travel does not appear to be possible (other than by visiting another dimension, which may be how the young Kal'El met the Legion, if he did at all), but you can fake it by astrally projecting into humanity's memory of the past (or predictions of the future), possibly sticking your real body into a space warp or pocket dimension as described above ('Well, aren't you going to say that it's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? Everybody else does.'). Nothing you do will actually change the past, but large efforts (nuking Rome in 450 BCE, for example) may cause confusion for a while, or even severe trauma, in some people - the latter, mostly in relatively recent changes, which could result in people currently alive having contradictory memories (like, say, remembering you died, when you clearly didn't). Physical changes to the present aren't going to happen just by altering the memory of the past. In most cases, all you'll do is cause increased activity on alternate history discussion boards.

Continued next post.
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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/29/2018: The Eyes Have It, by maximara, has been posted.
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Old 12-18-2012, 04:56 AM   #14
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FTL drives based on space warps are possible, but don't expect them to happen soon - well, relatively: if by 'soon', you mean 'within the next ten-to-twenty years, probably,' then sure, it should occur soon. Before the end of 2013, not likely at all, but sort of cheap interplanetary travel that takes days or weeks instead of months or years is quite plausible, with or without warping space-time. Wormhole-based FTL should happen sooner, but it will be a matter of attaching one mouth of a stable wormhole to a space probe, and sending it off to wherever you want to go. This is fine if you want to go to Mars, but if you want to visit Alpha Centauri, it's probably best to wait for warp-based FTL to be developed.

The creation of magic items is, in some ways, a matter of creativity for all worlds. Attempting to create a fetish while bored, frustrated, or just generally not in a creative mood, will tend to result in a weak fetish, or no fetish at all. Crafting one while in a creative mood, OTOH, tends to make quality control, and mass production, difficult (unique or rare quirks, differing bugs and features, and so forth). On the bright side, 'weak' does not equal 'useless': a fetish that does the same thing as the base object, only better, is to some degree a 'weak' fetish. Making a car significantly more fuel-efficient, a computer smarter, a sword sharper, and so forth, is fairly easy to do even when quite bored (particularly making a computer smarter). Making a car fly, a computer project holograms, or a sword sing show-tunes is not. Further, magic is not handwavium, and does not take care of such things as life support issues with no input from the caster: sure, you can turn a Reliant Robin into a space shuttle eventually, or even make one out of duck tape and cardboard boxes, but if you forget some vital survival factor, you die! For most magic-item-makers, it's much faster and safer to get an enchantment job with Virgin Galactic (or whomever, this situation is likely to massively increase the number of space concerns on OTL-Earth, all the way down to SF clubs forming cooperative ventures), save up, and buy a spacecraft with your employee discount.

In general, a beginning enchanter can turn an item into a better version of itself (e.g. an already-working spacecraft into one with twice the delta-v, a fusor or pollywell that does better than break even), fairly consistently, in an hour or so, or a few minutes, if the effect is temporary (making a vehicle faster or stronger for a few minutes to maybe an hour). Causing an item to act like something similar (e.g. turning a high-altitude jet that's had LO2 tanks installed, and some or all of it's engines replaced by liquid-fueled rockets into a working spacecraft) is rather harder, and usually takes longer to compensate for the difficulty. Turning something into something else that it looks like, but isn't (e.g. prop Police Box into pseudo-TARDIS, saucer-shaped house into actual flying saucer), is yet more difficult, and making something act like something totally other (ring that shoots fireballs, car or watergoing ship to spacecraft) is even more difficult, to varying degrees. As you can see, symbolism is important: a Reliant Robin with wings and rockets, or with a Star Fleet paintjob and a pair of 'warp nacelle' props (especially if the nacelles contain 'warp coil' props, and such), looks like a spacecraft enough to be rather easier to turn into one (though you still have to remember all the life support issues, navigation issues, and other fiddly details). A ring with rubies and a fire motif is likewise easier to turn into a ring of fireballs. Puns may also be symbols: for example, springmetal is most effective when forged in March, April, or May, near a natural wellspring, and/or quenched in spring water (and other puns for other languages, of course). Power is another matter, however. By this I mean both processing power (complex things are harder to do), as well as the physics definition (which to some degree, both fall under what RPGs tend to call 'power level' or 'power rank'). In both senses, the more power you need, the more effort is required, and the longer it takes - though of course, those who are already more skilled, powerful, or both, have an easier time of it. In terms of physical power, the more you have from mundane or semi-mundane sources, the less magical effort is required - wall current, batteries, enchanted fusion reactors, car engines, sunlight, and so forth, all can be used, rather more easily than tapping into dark energy (or whatever it really is).

A note on ranged weapons: the farther away you are from your target, the easier it is to make you miss, whether with psychokinesis, probability alteration, or clever uses of other powers. Likewise, the more complex your weapon, the easier it is to psychically screw it up, or even turn it against you. Thus, swords and bows are generally more useful against magic-users and some psychics than guns and most grenades. That's not to say that guns are useless, because they're not, but their usefulness is limited. A sniper against a magician isn't going to do well, because the distance maximizes any defensive thoughtforms' ability to cause a miss, even if they're prevented from affecting the sniper directly. An infantry squad or section is another matter: Firstly, they have a numerical advantage, which means more guns to disrupt, and even if those guns are reduced to awkward clubs or clumsy spears, there's still eight to sixteen of them. Secondly, they're trained to work together (well, in First World professional forces, they are; Third World rebels or conscripts, random mobs, and gangs of thugs, are generally not so effective), and in some cases, have done so for years, which is a substantial advantage. If you know your squad/section is going up against a magic-user who might know something about modern weapons, leave the automatics and semi-autos on base. If you must have a rifle, make it a SMLE or other bolt-action rifle, and if you must have a handgun, use a revolver; otherwise, pump-action or simpler shotguns are preferable, as are bows, crossbows, machetes, axes, entrenching tools, knives, swords (see why they're still part of the uniform?), or Home Guard pikes.

The Psychic Deflection ability is a mix of long range Combat Sense (though not limited to surprise attacks), and long range TK. The ESP determines where and when an incoming projectile is going to be, and the TK nudges it off to the side, just enough that it misses. Stats would be helpful, please.

The other common limitation of modern firearms is related to certain types of psychokinetic shields (which are distinct from PK deflection): while most such force fields provide the same resistance to all attacks, there are some that have a 'water-like' or 'Holtzmann-like' (though without the 'makes lasers blow up' part, as it doesn't fit this context) effect, having greater resistence to the impact of very fast objects than to relatively slow objects. Rather than go into an exhausting list in a post that's already longer than I'd like, I'll just say that a shield that would generally be penetrated by a sword or a crossbow quarrel, would strongly resist most subsonic bullets, and fully block most supersonic bullets, unless they're at the level of a .50 BMG or greater, due to overwhelming force. Such shields tend to be (relative to the number of beings who have PK Shields at all) rare-to-nonexistent on Fa-Earth and Clp-Earth, uncommon on Stp-Earth, and fairly common on Dp-Earth, paralleling the development and availability of firearms. They're likely to become fairly common on OTL-Earth, for that very reason.

It's an enhancement I'm not sure the cost of. I don't normally like the way GURPS uses Imperial instead of metric, but here, it makes the shield enhancement much easier to model. Basically, the greater the energy in foot-pounds exceeds the speed in feet-per-second, the less effective the shield is against high-speed objects. For example, a .50 BMG round (647 gr Speer) has a velocity of 3,044 ft/s, but an energy of 13,144 ftlbf. That's quite a difference. A more normal bullet, like the .30-06 Springfield it was based on (well, the 150 gr Nosler Ballistic Tip version), has a velocity of 2,910 ft/s, and an energy of 2,820 ftlbf. A DR 1 PK shield with this enhancement would stop a .30-06 bullet, but would be penetrated by a sword, an arrow, or a .50 BMG bullet. I'm hoping someone here can help me work out the stats for this, and perhaps help the explanation make sense.


TL;DR: Magic, including weird science, consists of psionics used in simple or complicated ways, usually involving thoughtforms (often called spirits or gods) to do the work. Spellcasting mostly involves long rituals, and there are many styles of magic.
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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 9/29/2018: The Eyes Have It, by maximara, has been posted.
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Old 12-18-2012, 11:53 AM   #15
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Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

This is going to strongly affect public attitudes toward space travel, the existence of aliens, and the paranormal, among other things. The arrival of the probe from Dp-Earth, even more so, and in ways that will not be obvious, at first.

When the last booster burns up in OTL-Earth's atmosphere, either the thoughtforms within the booster's unspent fuel, or the entity that caused all this to happen in the first place, give OTL-Earth a 'gift': somewhat less than 1% of the population, all over the world (though not consitent with population density - North America, Europe, Japan, and Oceania (mostly in Oz and NZ) tend to have more psykers than either India or China, though India has more than China does) develop active psi powers - mostly low level, and mostly just thoughtform generation. The selection of exactly who gets powers is somewhat telling, as all of them tend to be considered strange within their own nations and cultures: Wiccans and other neopagans, New Age mystics, particularly 'spiritual' martial artists, tribal shamans (they're respected, but do tend to be seen as 'a bit off'), followers of Vodoun and Santera, science fiction and fantasy fans, gamers, the more eccentric historical reinactors, would-be superheroes (well, the ones that are relatively serious about it), and mentally ill folks (OK, there's some overlap between the last two, particularly if chuunibyou is a real mental illness), in or out of asylums, with sufficiently 'interesting' derangements. Few of these people start with even enough power to hover, much less fly, nor are they going to be bouncing bullets off their chests any time soon. Those who get psi powers beyond thoughtform generation and manipulation tend to start with subtle abilities like probability alteration, ESP, and sometimes astral projection, meta-psi, psychic vampirism, and telepathy, rather than anything flashy, and even those with more obvious powers like PK or EK are rarely going to have something impressive - expect one to levitate a pencil, not oneself. Also, mind control is far from easy, more along the lines of telepathically-assisted RL hypnosis than the sort of things you see in the comics.

The abilities gained are generally consistent with the individual's beliefs, interests, and personality - someone who believes they have a particular power, or strongly wants it, will gain some version of it, albeit generally an unimpressive version, at first - Star Wars fans who 'feel the Force', martial artists with (weaker versions of) the legendary and/or cinematic powers of their style, D&D gamers with a Path style based on the Schools of Magic in that game, or a Book style based on the feats and powers of their favorite class (at barely first level), and so forth. Strong-willed individuals, as well as those who don't take orders well (which isn't quite the same thing), tend to start out stronger, and improve faster, as do those with greater intelligence (though a combination of all three is best). Those not given the gift can train for it, particularly if taught by someone who already has it (though again, the ones who don't take orders well tend to be better at it) - this is rather easier if the teacher is a telepath, or has learned or developed mind-affecting spells.

Some animals will also develop powers - mostly cats, and species native to Australia, though any animal of a species with significant local myths about it might merge with an appropriate spirit (e.g. foxes and tanuki in Japan, coyotes and ravens in North America, and so forth). This rarely happens to plants or locations, without at least semi-conscious human interference - at least until something arrives from Fa-Earth.

Being so affected by Dp-Earth, the spirits tend to behave 'in-genre' (though they don't all agree on what genre it is), and try to get machinery, animals, and people to behave in-genre, as well - this doesn't work well people, especially as in-genre behavior is often the opposite of what a professional is trained to do (listen to a cop or soldier complain about cops or soldiers in most fiction, and you'll see what I mean). It rarely works well on animals, unless it's consistent with their instincts. This in-genre behavior may be a factor in who gains powers, and who is better at it.

It isn't going to take long before governments start asking their space agencies to draw up plans for both manned and unmanned visits to other worlds, and getting frustrating results. Then again, for an interplanetary spacecraft, the Nautilus-X looks surprisingly affordable, even if you add a second grav-wheel to neutralize the centrifugal force - how affordable it turns out to be is another matter, but given the gift of magic, 'less expensive' is actually fairly likely. Before that, though, the difficulty of space launches from OTL-Earth will be at RL levels - complex and very expensive. OTOH, the situation on Dp-Earth will likely lead to various nations' military budgets being diverted to space, even before the probe arrives.

On another note, the particles produced by dimensional transition have a sufficiently consistent speed, that observation of particle detectors can precisely locate any dimensional incursions heavier than 3 kilograms, even if astronomers somehow don't (which isn't so helpful with spirits, but while they lack mass, they do disturb whatever it is that's producing these sprays of particles as if they did - just not much).


Per samdamandias' suggestion on SB.com, these worlds are designated Crossroads-4a through Crossroads-4e. For purposes of the IW setting, Stp-Earth is on Quantum 3, Clp-Earth is on Q4, OTL-Earth is on Q5 with Homeline, Fa-Earth is on Q6, and Dp-Earth is on Q7, unless someone with more knowledge of the IW setting gives me a good enough reason otherwise.

Thinking about it, I feel sorry for any Infinity agents that show up on OTL-Earth: Their arrival point is likely to be spotted immediately (due to the particle spray mentioned in the OP), if they arrive after 'we' start triangulating such bursts (something I can see happening fairly quickly), which is bad enough, but imagine having to give your boss a copy of GURPS Infinite Worlds. Sure, they probably won't find that first thing, but they ought to stumble across it eventually, if they don't just never come to this world. If they only arrive on one of the other Earths, though, they'll be able to stay hidden for rather longer, because you need 21st century tech to detect the particles (I think; I'm not up in the latest in particle detection tech, nor how old it is), and it'll be a while before we set up a detection scheme for the other worlds.


Timeline (OTL-Earth dates used, for convenience):

2012 (December 21): The new Earths appear, the nearer ones first, and the further ones a little less than thirteen seconds later. From the prespective of the other Earths, of course, the order of appearance is somewhat different. Communication attempts will begin in short order, once the right frequencies and signal strengths are found, but only Dp-Earth and Stp-Earth are equipped to respond. At some point on the 21st or 22nd, Winston Churchill has a frustrating conversation with David Cameron (sadly, it would be at least as frustrating with a PM of any other party), and begins to wonder if he'll get more help, faster, from the folks sending radio-telegrams; he is heartened, though, by Merkel telling Hitler where to shove himself and his Reich (even if hardly anyone on Dp-Earth thinks a woman is really Chancellor of Germany).

Dec 22: An astronomer on OTL-Earth notes an asteroid near Clp-Earth, moving away, and marks it for further observation.

December 26: A probe is launched from Dp-Earth, and begins to be mated to the booster rockets already in orbit.

Dec. 28: The probe leaves Dp-Earth orbit, on course for OTL-Earth.

Dec. 31: The asteroid observed near Clp-Earth disappears at 3 light-seconds from that Earth.

2013 (January 4): The Dp-Earth probe fails to disappear.

Jan. 12: the probe from Dp-Earth passes through an asteroid, unperturbed. The asteroid is only visible from OTL-Earth, not the others.

Jan. 19: The probe enters the three light-second bubble around Earth, releasing a significant particle spray.

Jan. 21: On OTL-Earth, the UK requests an emergency summit of the leaders of all members of the Commonwealth. Rumours surface of sightings of soldiers guarding a blue police box in the woods of Northern England, and of a man bearing a suspicious resemblance to Jon Pertwee being taken to a cottage hospital nearby. The placing and quickly rescinding of a D-notice on these matters only encourages speculation (which may have been the point).

Jan. 26: The probe arrives in OTL-Earth orbit, its last booster falling into our atmosphere, and burning up. People on OTL-Earth start developing (generally minor) powers.

February ??: The members of the Commonwealth of Nations begin ratifying the Treaty of New Delhi, the founding document of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, or 'UNIT', a military group dedicated to the defense of the Commonwealth and it's members and peoples from threats of an extraterresial, paranormal, or otherwise extraordinary nature.

There, finally done. Sorry it took so long, hope it produces interest, instead of annoyance.
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:49 PM   #16
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Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

Can I just be the first to say "that was epic" and "thank you" for providing such a body of work to everyone on the forums to enjoy. I haven't read the whole thing yet (it is rather long!), but I got through two posts and wanted to make sure someone had responded with a "this is great work" post.

I assume this is for a campaign you are playing or going to play?
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Old 12-18-2012, 06:42 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apoc527 View Post
Can I just be the first to say "that was epic" and "thank you" for providing such a body of work to everyone on the forums to enjoy. I haven't read the whole thing yet (it is rather long!), but I got through two posts and wanted to make sure someone had responded with a "this is great work" post.
You're very welcome, though I admit that if I'd known about the '10,000 words per post' limit, I wouldn't have tried. If you think it's long reading it, imagine how long it was trying to post it when every (I think four or so posts needed moderator approval (I don't blame the mods, and I'm glad they didn't complain about it).
Quote:
Originally Posted by apoc527 View Post
I assume this is for a campaign you are playing or going to play?
It's more an idea I have for a campaign setting, just not one that could easily be published, due to lawyers. I might eventually run a game in this, or participate in a game, but it's more that it occurred to me that it's something other GURPS gamers might enjoy, even if they live far enough away to make gaming with them inconvenient. As you'll see when you've read more, it's still under development, and I'm hoping to get help on some things.

EDIT: Couldn't fit this in the Overflow post. It refers to what's happening on OTL-Earth, as people start getting powers:

The basic power set is the Active Thoughtform Generation perk (or whatever replaces it), and one point in Ritual Magic, which will usually be a personal Book style, though it may be a personal Path style, a Path or Book style already being practiced by that person that now works (or 'works better', depending on who you ask) such as Wicca or Voudon, a Symbol Drawing style already known, or a Book style for a martial art that the new spellcaster practices. As mentioned above, gamers and SF fans stand a decent chance of getting a Path/Book style based on games they play or stories they read or watch (Ritual Magic (Jedi), for example, would have three Paths if you go by the games: Control, Sense, and Alter, and maybe a fourth called Alchemy, at least for the Sith variant, and maybe for the Jedi; the Force in the movies, most books, and the cartoons looks more like psi powers, though). Some few people start with levels in Path/Book Adept, Thoughtform Talent, or Wild Talent, or higher skill levels. Those with Path styles don't usually start with much skill in the individual Paths, just the style, though there are exceptions. Those who get psi powers tend to start with only the first level of an ability, and rarely start out with more than one or two per power, nor more than one or two powers. As a general rule, unless you want to run a power-centric campaign, PCs and most NPCs who have powers at all should not have more than 10% of starting points spent on powers or related skills, and most people who have powers just start with the perk and a point in a Ritual Magic style.

Empowered animals tend to get a specific, limited power and/or skill set that never improves, unless they gain an intelligence boost to the point of sapience. Psi powers are more common among non-sapient animals than spellcasting is. Lots of cats might gain a level or two of Autoteleport (Accessibility: Not While Being Observed), for example, and foxes in Japan are likely to have some form of Sensory Control, and possibly Telereceive. Sapient animals often have spellcasting in addition to any psi powers.
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Old 12-18-2012, 08:56 PM   #18
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Wow. Just wow.

This is great man! I'd love to play in this type of setting, its definitely different from anything else I've seen.
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:12 PM   #19
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You're very welcome, though I admit that if I'd known about the '10,000 words per post' limit, I wouldn't have tried.
Tell me about it. Let's storm SJG with torch and pitchfork and demand a 100,000-word limit! :)

Epic post, man!
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Old 12-19-2012, 04:25 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stix4armz View Post
Wow. Just wow.

This is great man! I'd love to play in this type of setting, its definitely different from anything else I've seen.
Thanks you.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stripe View Post
Tell me about it. Let's storm SJG with torch and pitchfork and demand a 100,000-word limit! :)

Epic post, man!
Thank you, as well. Yeah, a 100,000 word limit would have made this vastly easier. Also, fairly epic post of your own, in the linked thread.

Trying to work out the mechanics of damaging spirits (third paragraph in this post, not counting the crunch note). Was thinking that you treat Will as ST, using the Damage Table on pB16. Use the Thrust column if you aren't experienced at applying your Will in this manner, and the Swing column if you are (probably a perk in need if a name); this alters the base damage of the Astral Sword ability (Psionic Powers p28), but otherwise leaves it unchanged - though since it's designed for attacking astral beings, use the Swing Damage column.

The spirit's Hit Points are likewise based on its Will.

Does that work? Not sure how to define the stats for the 'banished or destroyed if fetish is destroyed' disad, but most likely, someone already has something close enough.

Also, anyone out there with a lot of experience in the IW setting, care to let us know how the various parachronic factions would react to this skerry (if I'm using that term right)? One thing I'm pretty sure of is that the Cabal is going to be rather annoyed that the Decans of Hermetic Astrology are semi-public information on Steampunk Earth, and fairly easily available (at least in a very basic and abbreviated form) on OTL Earth, by just buying a copy of GURPS Thaumatology (sure, it isn't going to make you an expert in the slightest sense, but it's a place to start, especially for people whose Ritual style is based on GURPS). Many of the mystery guilds on Dieselpunk Earth (GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War should help you imagine them) probably won't be happy about it, either.

Speaking of gamers developing Ritual Magic styles, I would say that the forms the rituals take are in many cases likely to involve sheets of paper, pencils, dice, sometimes figures and counters, and sacrificial soda and nachos... mind you, some roleplayers really get into the role enough to work out what their characters are actually doing in a fair bit of detail, so their styles are likely to be more 'mystical-looking'.

Thoughts?
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