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hal 05-13-2021 06:19 AM

Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Hello Folks,
StevenH made a comment in another thread, so I thought I'd port his quote to here and open up a tangential thread exploring the concept being discussed.

First the Quote, then the definitions, and then finally, the rational one might employ regards to how, as a GM, you would rationalize improving Magery after the start of character creation.

While I'm of an opposing viewpoint that some attributes/advantages are inherent and should not be improved - I'm of an open mind to see how such a thing can legitimately be improved after the "birth" of a character. After all, Combat Reflexes is not something that is an inherent trait that can't be learned by sheer experience, but how does one justify improving what Magery is?

StevenH's comment:

Quote:

Originally Posted by StevenH (Post 2379564)
I like the idea that you can train up a level in Magery, personally. It also simulates what I read in L.E. Modesitt's Recluce series--those mages can increase their power and range by practicing. His Order and Chaos mages get better skill-wise as well, but I like the mechanism of being able to train both skill and power.

Now for the definitions:

What exactly is Magery?

Per GURPS BASIC SET CHARACTERS (using 4e here), we have the following aspects of Magery on the whole:
  1. It is the ability to shape energies such that you can cast a spell in low or normal mana zones
  2. It is an ill defined ability to innately understand HOW to cast certain types of spells that are unlike others. In GURPS MAGIC terms, spells that require Magery 1 to learn, are different than the more difficult spells that require Magery 3 just to be able to learn. In a way, it is as though you need vision to be able to study vision related disciplines
  3. Magery by level is added to the apparent IQ of the character as far as the actual skill mastery is concerned.
  4. It also grants the possessor of this particular "trait" the ability to either see visually, that an item has been imbued with magical capabilities, or failing that, still permit the possessor of this trait, to identify such magical energies imbued into an item by a simple touch.

This is what Magery as a trait does. One could argue, casting spells is a simple function of having basic knowledge in the "how to" aspects of spell casting. This is why each spell has a knowledge component if you will, where it is treated as a skill, and is based upon the IQ stat like other knowledge based skills.

Complex spells - where they a simple function of knowledge, should be such that if you have a high enough skill in the underlying metaphysics of magic - would permit you to cast ANY spell. Easy simple spells could be understood with the minimal of "body of knowledge" basics, while the more complex spells would require a more extensive "body of knowledge" before you can comprehend it. Sort of like where simply mathematics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are required before you can engage in algebra or in pre-calculus mathematics. Then you hit Calculus and the whole thing becomes generally incapable of being grasped by say, a 6 year old starting with simple maths.

So, what precisely is it, that magery is - where you can "Improve" it through use? If it is simple knowledge - that doesn't belong in the "Advantage" aspect, but in the "Skill" aspect. If it is an inherent "raw power" - that doesn't much make sense because Magery isn't used to power spells - fatigue or energy reserves (Magic only) are used to power spells (when not using power stones that is or gaining extra energy via the spell "Lend Energy").

In a way, Magery 1 as opposed to Magery 0, is the ability to "manipulate" as well as comprend the manipulation at a sensory level - those energies required to cast a given spell. Putting this "concept" at an abstract level, that is like a magery 0 mage only being able to sense Red strands of energy, while a Magery 1 individual being able to not only touch White strands of energy, but actively manipulate both Red and White strands of energy. Likewise, each additional level of magery up to level 3 - permits one to be able to comprehend differing levels of energy or aspects of reality in which to not only study a given spell, but actually cast it.

hal 05-13-2021 06:32 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Continuing on a theme...

Would one expect someone with Acute Vision at level 1, be able to increase it to acute vision 2 just because the person has been using their acute vision on a regular basis?

If Magery can be improved by some means of enhancing some inner trait by sheer exercise of said "trait", can one lose Magery from a lack of using said "trait" much like one can lose physical strength via lack of exercise?

If Magery can be improved - can it diminish over time much as anything else - due to aging?

By asking questions like these and getting answers - I hope to find a way to perhaps introduce the ability to improve Magery over time. But - just as in GURPS, where IQ was forced to become a higher priced attribute due to its multiplicity of use - should Magery that is improvable, actively cost more per level than is Magery that is not improvable?

Case in point: Increasing Magery effectively expands the number of spells you can learn that were otherwise out of your reach. Improving Magery means that you become that much better at identifying if an item is magical or not. By unlocking the ability to improve magery - you're effecitvely turning it into its own attribute of sorts.

And finally...

Can a non-mage simply pay 5 character points to attain Magery 0 if that person didn't have the innate trait in the first place?

What precisely is 10 points being spent to improve Magery from Level 0 to Level one actually representing in "reality" terms? Is it "knowledge"? Is it "attribute increase"? Is it a perception increase?

Raising one from a ST 10 to ST 11 requires Exercise. Improving IQ by +1 requires eduction of sorts (even though IQ is not education in and of itself). Raising Dexterity is the process of training your body to more easily move or manipulate things such as dodging stuff or repetitious actions for muscle memory. Increasing HT (hmm, can't tell you how I'd approach that as a GM - there has to be some sort of theoretical limit to that!)

So - hit me with your best explanations, offer more definitions, correct what I've listed, or what have you.

As GM, do you require that before you can spend 1 character point towards raising Magery, that the character has to achieve a critical success at their current highest level Magery based spell before they can put 1 character point towards improving Magery to the next level?

For example: Casting magery 0 based spells over and over would not permit a mageborn to improve magery 1 to Magery 2. Casting Magery 1 spells over and over on the other hand, might?

So, HOW do you treat raising Magery in your campaigns such that it makes inherent sense to you as a GM or player?

Gnome 05-13-2021 06:39 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
I'm generally of the opinion that a PC should be able to improve almost anything, because it's more fun to advance your character without being hamstrung by "realism"--after all, it's fantasy, right?

It's easy to justify many improvements as "discovering the true potential you had all along."

Right now, maybe you're a beginner who can only harness a Magery 1 levels of power/skill. But as you develop, you find within yourself wells of energy/proficiency that you never realized you had, and suddenly you can unleash Magery 2 (or 3, etc.) levels of ability. To me, this is no more or less realistic than any other story you might care to tell that involves magic, but this one is more fun (in my opinion of course), both for players who don't have to plan out their advancement during chargen, and for the GM who doesn't have to police what's available for each character based on some questionable metaphysics that the player surely cares not a wit about.

One thing I have done in DF campaigns is to allow characters to buy anything on template, but reserve "power-ups" (DF11) for special occasions, usually when something magical happens to imbue the PC with special powers (eg., slaying a dragon releases the dragon's soul and anyone nearby can benefit from its influence, the dungeon is populated with crystals of power and when you touch them you gain a power-up, etc.).

I also don't like putting special restrictions on certain character types. A typical fighter will usually want to improve weapon skill, which seems like you could do naturally with practice, while a typical caster might want to learn new spells, improve IQ/Magery, etc., which may seem "realistically" more difficult to accomplish.
However, I don't think it's particularly fair or fun to make life more difficult for your caster PC simply because the party needed a cleric and you pulled the short straw. I'd rather make up some BS about how prayer is very effective, spellbooks are readily available to learn from, you can raise your DX to sky-high levels because you finally overcame that lack of self-confidence that was holding you back, and so on.

whswhs 05-13-2021 06:53 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Gnome (Post 2379611)
I'm generally of the opinion that a PC should be able to improve almost anything, because it's more fun to advance your character without being hamstrung by "realism"--after all, it's fantasy, right?

Well, in one sense of fantasy, the one that means roughly "wish fulfillment." I don't think that's the same as the sense that refers to a genre of literature, visual art, or gaming. My own preference is for fantasy to have constraints that are just as stringent as those of the real world, but not in the same way.

But that's my own preference; it's not some sort of law.

I think that GURPS can certainly accommodate improvement in Magery. It's purely a question of whether that fits the GM's vision of how the game world works.

Checking GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School, I see that it says that adding levels of Magery, if you start out with Magery 0, is at the GM's option, and suggests a mechanism for doing so: point conversion (buying up Magery and simultaneously buying down multiple spells so that the net spell casting ability in those spells remains the same). There's also the cinematic option of buying up a Talent or power Talent: Magery 1 or above is effectively a Talent.

Anaraxes 05-13-2021 06:54 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
It's entirely setting dependent. Magery could be anything from a rare gift of the gods to specific individuals to a Talent that anyone could train at a vo-magi-tech school any time they wanted to. I've done it different ways in different games, from one end of that spectrum to the other.

In most of my games, there's something you theoretically have to do to improve a trait. But that's a narrative excuse for being able to spend the CP on it. I generally don't care for rules like the learning-by-study rules where you explicitly account for so many hours. The most common convention in our games is the notion that you spend CP on stuff that you used, or a couple of things you've declared you want to improve.

Actually spending time studying books or finding that guru on the mountaintop might have minimal impact on the actual game session (just a mention that it's the thing you're studying in your off time and narrating the couple of occasions where you get interrupted) to something a little more descriptive (a montage or quick resolution style scene in the Danger Room) to an entire adventure (locating that guru and convincing her that you're worthy to be trained).

Even in the "inborn gift of the gods" kind of setting, if a PC really wanted to acquire Magery in play, I'd try to come up with a way to make it happen. That one's definitely going to wind up in the in-game-visible-action category, as in those settings it's the sort of thing that would be a dramatic event. If we're talking about magical settings, "can't be acquired during play" isn't a terribly hard and fast rule, unless the gods themselves are pretty strict followers of the Word As Written.

Magery is a levelled Advantage, so if Magery is improvable by use, then I personally would find it odd to treat Magery 0 as different from Magery 1. The rationalization (should you want one) is of course that you only get better when you challenge yourself, so you can only qualify for training Magery N+1 if you're using Magery N. But that's a distinction that doesn't really make a difference to the "justification for spending CP" requirement, but only for the detailed "track accumulated qualifying uses" style of gating the right to spend the CP.

maximara 05-13-2021 06:59 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hal (Post 2379604)
So, what precisely is it, that magery is - where you can "Improve" it through use? If it is simple knowledge - that doesn't belong in the "Advantage" aspect, but in the "Skill" aspect. If it is an inherent "raw power" - that doesn't much make sense because Magery isn't used to power spells - fatigue or energy reserves (Magic only) are used to power spells (when not using power stones that is or gaining extra energy via the spell "Lend Energy").

Two things here;

1) Having a skill as advantage is what happened with Languages, In Classic each language was a skill but in 4e it is an advantage. So instead of English-15 one has English (Native). Similarly Eidetic Memory can be learned as well as being inborn. (It is expressly stated this is the case)

2) Magery is a talent and GURPS has two types of talents inborn and learned. The issue with Magery is the (Functions as a Different Talent 0%) enchantment/limitation so there are forms that are inborn and other learned such as via Fractional Magery.

Gnome 05-13-2021 07:18 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whswhs (Post 2379612)
Well, in one sense of fantasy, the one that means roughly "wish fulfillment." I don't think that's the same as the sense that refers to a genre of literature, visual art, or gaming. My own preference is for fantasy to have constraints that are just as stringent as those of the real world, but not in the same way.

Agreed.
However, rpgs are not the same as works of fiction. The primary goal is fun for the players/GM. Fantasy as a genre makes it easy to build constraints that will make for good gameplay and don't cause internal consistencies, thus eliminating sources of frustration for players.

One of the issues with DnD 3e was that good chargen required you to plan ahead all of your advancement. GURPS doesn't suffer from this issue--unless you build in all kinds of artificial constraints. If those constraints genuinely impact the story or the vision of the world you're creating, then by all means apply them. However, I think a lot of times the world and the story are just fine without them, and the gameplay can be smoother and more fun for all.

If the game is about finding the sacred mountain so that you can improve your Magery, then of course that should be required. However, if it's about an adventuring party that happens to include a mage, why hamstring that character? What is the upside to building constraints that will make his life more difficult than that of the fighter or rogue?

ericthered 05-13-2021 07:18 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Anaraxes (Post 2379613)
It's entirely setting dependent. Magery could be anything from a rare gift of the gods to specific individuals to a Talent that anyone could train at a vo-magi-tech school any time they wanted to. I've done it different ways in different games, from one end of that spectrum to the other.

Very much so. This is a setting choice.



I do lean towards the "can improve magery" side of things when building my games. But then I also lean towards the camps "Treat Magery like any other Talent", "Don't cap Talent Levels", and "Use Talents for Everything".

hal 05-13-2021 07:18 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by whswhs (Post 2379612)
Well, in one sense of fantasy, the one that means roughly "wish fulfillment." I don't think that's the same as the sense that refers to a genre of literature, visual art, or gaming. My own preference is for fantasy to have constraints that are just as stringent as those of the real world, but not in the same way.

But that's my own preference; it's not some sort of law.

I think that GURPS can certainly accommodate improvement in Magery. It's purely a question of whether that fits the GM's vision of how the game world works.

Checking GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School, I see that it says that adding levels of Magery, if you start out with Magery 0, is at the GM's option, and suggests a mechanism for doing so: point conversion (buying up Magery and simultaneously buying down multiple spells so that the net spell casting ability in those spells remains the same). There's also the cinematic option of buying up a Talent or power Talent: Magery 1 or above is effectively a Talent.

So - that brings up the next question - can Talents justifiably be increased merely by throwing points at it? Is Talent one of those things, that as Gnome points out, you're reaching out for depths of your ability you never knew you had?

I guess what I'm looking for here is that although the game centers on the player characters as the main point of interest - what I'm looking for is justifications where the rules that apply to the player characters as "People" also apply to the non player characters as "People".

If Talents/traits are improvable with no limitation in sight for player characters, the rational that ordinary people who might have talents, could also advance to greater and greater levels of Talents.

In a way, any "Talent" or "Trait" such as magery, has the great divide between those who have it and those who do not. That is the difference between the lowest level of the talent/trait and the non-existence of it in ordinary people. So in this instance - having a particular talent/trait is essentially binary in nature. Either you have it - or you don't.

Does that make sense?

hal 05-13-2021 07:38 AM

Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by maximara (Post 2379614)
Two things here;

1) Having a skill as advantage is what happened with Languages, In Classic each language was a skill but in 4e it is an advantage. So instead of English-15 one has English (Native). Similarly Eidetic Memory can be learned as well as being inborn. (It is expressly stated this is the case)

2) Magery is a talent and GURPS has two types of talents inborn and learned. The issue with Magery is the (Functions as a Different Talent 0%) enchantment/limitation so there are forms that are inborn and other learned such as via Fractional Magery.

Which leads us to the fact that GURPS 4e is definitively different from GURPS 3e in ways that can cause issues on how something happened prior to 4e, and subsequent to 3e.


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