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Old 04-08-2020, 01:54 PM   #1
Raekai
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Default Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

Hey, all!

I've been working on a flexible powers/magic system that suits my needs, and I hope that someone out there might find it useful or at least interesting.

Modular Powers is 20 points for Modular Powers 1, + 10 points/level. This advantage holds points of Alternative Abilities for a main ability bought at its full cost. For example, if you have Flight [40] as your main ability, an Alternative Ability would cost up to 8 points. So, Modular Powers 8 [90] would cover the cost of any Alternative Ability to Flight.

Modular Power Talent is 10 points/level. This is the power Talent for Modular Powers. Modular Power Talent adds to every roll made to use the main ability or any of its Alternative Abilities or to use any of those abilities well.

Modular Powers and Modular Power Talent can both be modified for Limited Scope and the Cosmic Power Modifier, but only Modular Powers can be modified for Power Modifiers other than Cosmic. For Limited Scope, you could use the version of the limitation on Sorcery or I would personally recommend using the version from Ritual Path Specialists from Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic as a basis as it is much more nuanced (though, I would only allow it down to a certain level or you’re just better off buying a non-flexible set of powers). The unmodified scope is enough to cover anything the GM agrees could be used as a power in the setting. For example, an Alternative Ability to Flight in the above example would not be limited to abilities related to Flight. Instead, Flight could be thought of as a defining ability for that character out of a pool of any possible power. (In fact, now that I think about it as I’m typing this, I’d probably allow a +1 to that one ability for free or at least have that as an option for a perk—call it Signature Power.) If the abilities should only relate to Flight, then something like Limited Scope, Only for abilities directly related to flying (-50%) should be applied to Modular Powers and Modular Power Talent.

Furthermore, the main ability can change as part of advancement. As long as you enough levels of Modular Powers to cover the cost of your old main ability as an Alternative Ability, you can put those points toward the cost of the new main ability. For example, if you have Modular Powers 8 [90] and Flight [40], you can reallocate all 40 points for Flight to your new main ability because you are able to cover its cost as an Alternative Ability. If you do not have enough levels of Modular Powers, you may only reallocate the points that can be covered by your level of Modular Powers, but you may still use the old main ability as an Alternative Ability. For example, if you only had Modular Powers 4 [50], you would only be able to reallocate 20 points of Flight as you can only cover 20 points as an Alternative Ability, but you may continue to use Flight.

Optionally, for simplicity, you could drop the idea of a main ability altogether and add Modular Power Pool at 5 points/level and require characters to have the same level of Modular Powers and Modular Power Pool at the same level. The only reason I didn’t bake the cost of Modular Power Pool into the cost of Modular Powers for this option is because Modular Power Pool shouldn’t take any modifiers as it’s really just a nameless main ability.

I would use this system as flexibly as one would use Wildcard Powers from GURPS Supers. For the above example using Flight, I would be willing, as the GM, to guesstimate what feels like a 40-point ability rather than calculate new abilities during the game. This kind of flexibility is the very reason I sought to create a powers/magic system like this one.

And that’s it. It seems simple, but it took me a lot of tinkering to get all the way back around to what amounts to an alternate version of the system from GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery.

I'm also happy to receive critique or feedback. If you want to read my design notes about how I came up with the system and played with the numbers, let me shamelessly plug my blog post.

Thanks!

EDIT: I made a few changes to the system, and I turned Modular Powers into Wildcard Power Pool.

Last edited by Raekai; 04-22-2020 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 04-08-2020, 06:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

My primary issue with it is that it is more complex than a comparable Modular Ability. For example, I could take Modular Abilities 8 (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +50%; Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) [62], which would have the same utility, and we are not talking about any cheesiness with the design, and it is only 102 CP total with Flight [40]. Alternatively, if you had Enhanced Move (Flight) [40] and Flight [40], you would want Modular Abilities 8/8 (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +50%; Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) [124], which would allow for a lot of flexibility, for only 204 CP total.
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:29 PM   #3
Raekai
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
My primary issue with it is that it is more complex than a comparable Modular Ability. For example, I could take Modular Abilities 8 (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +50%; Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) [62], which would have the same utility, and we are not talking about any cheesiness with the design, and it is only 102 CP total with Flight [40]. Alternatively, if you had Enhanced Move (Flight) [40] and Flight [40], you would want Modular Abilities 8/8 (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +50%; Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) [124], which would allow for a lot of flexibility, for only 204 CP total.
That's fair. I could incorporate the same Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20% limitation for a reduction in price. But you're also right about an issue inherent with Modular Abilities: the price for mental vs. physical vs. both. I could just slap on other modifiers to my system, but that might even be fair for the Limited Scope limitation already there. However, I didn't consider that distinction because Sorcery doesn't consider the distinction, so it was something that I missed.

And there isn't any cheesiness with my design outside of saying that Modular Abilities could actually hold Alternative Abilities, which seemed technically allowable but probably not in the spirit of things.

Otherwise, yes, you're just approaching the same thing with a more detailed approach whereas I am trying to get a quick barebones system available for those who don't want to spend too much time thinking about modifiers and point costs—for example, my players.

So, Modular Powers would be Modular Abilities (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +50%; and Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) for 9.1 points for the first level, + 6.5 points/level. That's what you described, and it just leaves out the other +50% on Physical to also have mental powers and the +20% from Reduced Time like Sorcery. Modifiers: Limited Scope, variable; Mental, +40-ish%; Reduced Time, +20%, etc.

Of course, you could go even more barebones. Just use Modular Abilities (Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) for 5.6 points for the first level, + 4 points/level as the base. It just works for mental abilities. Modifiers: Limited Scope, variable; Physical and Mental, +100%; Physical Only, +50%; Reduced Time, +20%, etc.

I would rather approach it from the other direction, starting with something less barebones for simplicity. And I apologize if my tone sounds argumentative—I'm just trying to explain that we're doing the same thing from different angles. And I actually really appreciate your reply because it has pointed out some things I will be thinking about for the Modular Powers design. It probably would've been a bit fairer to call it Modular Sorcery as it leans way closer to that simpler design than starting from the ground up.
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Old 04-09-2020, 12:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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Originally Posted by Raekai View Post
I would use this system as flexibly as one would use Wildcard Powers from GURPS Supers. For the above example using Flight, I would be willing, as the GM, to guesstimate what feels like a 40-point ability rather than calculate new abilities during the game. This kind of flexibility is the very reason I sought to create a powers/magic system like this one.
I like what you are going for, but you point out right here a likely easier way of going about it. To keep the abilities as AAs instead of in addition to, you could drop the multiplier to x3 from Wildcard powers. Which, now that I compare some math, breaking that into lesser levels would be 10pts/lvl if you can't slot full cost abilities of the main power (close to what you had, but without the bigger buy in cost. Then again, that extra cost coincidentally lines up with UB's normal cost of 10pts...).
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Old 04-09-2020, 01:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

Nice writeup. I've been a fan of this technique for quite some time, but its great to see someone else talk about it.



Some tweaking of the modular ability cost to bring it down would be nice, but if you don't want to worry about that, sure, its fine.


When trying to bring the cost down, the Mental/Physical divide is exceptionally awkward. I'm looking at list of advantages: affliction is physical (always, I think), altered time rate is mental (what?) healing is mental (ok, I can see that under certain circumstances), Insubstantial is labeled as possibly both...


on the other hand, advantage types specify the GM has final say, and the markers just assist it. So if the power won't have mental advantages (fairly common for most narrow powers) the cost drops to 8+8/level, because the modular ability is using physical only+50%
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Old 04-10-2020, 07:25 AM   #6
Raekai
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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Originally Posted by kirbwarrior View Post
I like what you are going for, but you point out right here a likely easier way of going about it. To keep the abilities as AAs instead of in addition to, you could drop the multiplier to x3 from Wildcard powers. Which, now that I compare some math, breaking that into lesser levels would be 10pts/lvl if you can't slot full cost abilities of the main power (close to what you had, but without the bigger buy in cost. Then again, that extra cost coincidentally lines up with UB's normal cost of 10pts...).
Yep, in my blog post, I talk about how the costs come out to almost be the same with that weird little Unusual Background cost thrown in there. That's how I knew that my pricing was quite fair. The reason I didn't go that route, however, is that I want a system that accepts modifiers. I mean, you could also just say that you have Flight [40] and Wildcard Power Pool 40 [80], and then slap modifiers onto the Wildcard Power Pool, but that felt less legal to me. Though, I suppose, if I wanted to go even simpler, that works too.

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Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
Nice writeup. I've been a fan of this technique for quite some time, but its great to see someone else talk about it.



Some tweaking of the modular ability cost to bring it down would be nice, but if you don't want to worry about that, sure, its fine.


When trying to bring the cost down, the Mental/Physical divide is exceptionally awkward. I'm looking at list of advantages: affliction is physical (always, I think), altered time rate is mental (what?) healing is mental (ok, I can see that under certain circumstances), Insubstantial is labeled as possibly both...


on the other hand, advantage types specify the GM has final say, and the markers just assist it. So if the power won't have mental advantages (fairly common for most narrow powers) the cost drops to 8+8/level, because the modular ability is using physical only+50%
I've been struggling with the mental/physical divide since I started getting feedback about my system. I'm going to work on tweaking some things, but, right now, I'm looking at...

Modular Powers is Modular Abilities (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +100%; Reduced Time, +20%; and Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) for 14 points for the base cost, + 10 points/level.

For me, it's important to keep Reduced Time for instant configuration because you already have to spend a moment switching between powers anyway. It also makes the cost a bit smoother, which is nice. I also knock off the 4 points from the base cost because this is not Cosmic yet (which makes it effectively the same as the Modular Abilities that Sorcery uses).

Now, Modular Powers 8 [90] could just take the Limited Scope limitation to restrict it to physical powers only. Modular Powers 8 [90] (Limited Scope, Physical powers only, -25%) [68]. (The -25% comes from the mental part of Physical, +100% only equating to 1/4 of the total build cost. Though, with standard limitation pricing, it seems fairer that it would be -20%, which would make it 72 points.) If AlexanderHowl had used a 10-point base and had Reduced Time on his build, it would have come out to 68 points, so we've arrived at the same numbers. Both are still just a bit more expensive than doing something like Wildcard Power Pool 40 (Limited, Physical powers only, -20%) [64]. That's because Modular Abilities have that pesky base cost.

Without the base cost, Modular Powers 8 [80] is now the same as Wildcard Power Pool 40 [80]. Now, say that Modular Powers requires an Unusual Background equal to the cost of an extra level of the power Talent. That can be 5, 10, or 15 points, which seems fair, and will usually end up being the same price as the base cost of Modular Abilities (for this build) anyway. Might as well just say that Wildcard Powers now require the same Unusual Background. Now, they're the same price anyway.

Of course, this is only slightly different than what I did with the Cosmic modifier anyway. Throwing +50% onto Modular Powers (including the base cost) is the same as having Cosmic Talent and adding Social, +50% to the meat of the advantage to cover truly everything.

So, yeah, the price works out, and you can justify keeping or dropping the extra cost as an Unusual Background or whatever.

The only thing is that Limited Scope, Mental powers only, -20% will never bring it down to the price of the unmodified Modular Abilities, but I am a-okay with that. A small price to pay for salvation.

Last edited by Raekai; 04-10-2020 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 04-10-2020, 03:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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Originally Posted by Raekai View Post
Yep, in my blog post, I talk about how the costs come out to almost be the same with that weird little Unusual Background cost thrown in there. That's how I knew that my pricing was quite fair. The reason I didn't go that route, however, is that I want a system that accepts modifiers. I mean, you could also just say that you have Flight [40] and Wildcard Power Pool 40 [80], and then slap modifiers onto the Wildcard Power Pool, but that felt less legal to me. Though, I suppose, if I wanted to go even simpler, that works too.
Less legal, sure, but in this situation you are more accurately making a new advantage that happens to line up close to MA enough to follow most its rules. But it isn't one because its actually a non-leveled advantage broken into a leveled one (For instance, you could make Voice a leveled trait by cutting the cost and effects in half so each level is a +1). One really nice thing about building it this way is you don't have to worry about adding Physical or Social to it, and unlike real MA, you only have to spend 1 turn to switch abilities, not 2.

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The only thing is that Limited Scope, Mental powers only, -20% will never bring it down to the price of the unmodified Modular Abilities, but I am a-okay with that. A small price to pay for salvation.
I don't think that's an issue. In fact, I dislike how MA isn't priced to include everything and has limitations to bring it down to certain categories instead.
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Old 04-13-2020, 10:07 AM   #8
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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I don't think that's an issue. In fact, I dislike how MA isn't priced to include everything and has limitations to bring it down to certain categories instead.

Yeah, its rather weird that Modular abilities is mental only be default, and physical costs more. Especially because that's one of the few places the mental/physical/social split shows up. Does anyone know the justification for that?
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Old 04-13-2020, 12:25 PM   #9
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Yeah, its rather weird that Modular abilities is mental only be default, and physical costs more. Especially because that's one of the few places the mental/physical/social split shows up. Does anyone know the justification for that?
My guess is it might be a carryover from 3e. I don't recall their being any generic MA in it, only specific versions (and maybe only Psionic ones?).
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Old 04-15-2020, 09:07 AM   #10
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Default Re: Modular Powers: a flexible powers/magic system

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My guess is it might be a carryover from 3e. I don't recall their being any generic MA in it, only specific versions (and maybe only Psionic ones?).

I suppose the 10/slot +10/point value has been enshrined by sorcery, though that feels really high. I suppose I just think that physical only should be +0%, because you can do some really broken stuff with Mental only (it includes skills and languages) and the most obvious uses of Modular abilities are physical.
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