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Old 11-13-2022, 04:32 PM   #1
VIVIT
 
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Default [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

As with many Telepathy abilities, the levels of Mental Stab mainly affect range, and do so according to the following progression:
  1. Skin-to-skin contact
  2. "Any touch will do"
  3. Linear range penalties as for a Regular spells
  4. Normal SSRT range penalties
  5. Long-distance penalties
  6. No range penalties at all
The native context of this information is the description for the Telereceive ability (GURPS Psionic Powers,, p. 59). Other abilities that work like this simply say "Range is as for Telereceive (p. 59)." But since these abilities are based on a variety of different advantages with different default properties, the modifiers required to make the abilities work this way are often very different. In the case Mental Stab, there's an oddity: every level of that ability has Malediction, including levels 1 and 2, which are modified with Melee Attack (Reach C), and, in the former case, Contact Agent. According to Basic Set:
  • Malediction is incompatible with modifiers that "only apply to convention ranged attacks," which seems to describe Melee Attack.
  • Malediction is a penetration modifier, which definitely makes it incompatible with Contact Agent!

The more think about it, the less sense it makes. If Mental Stab 1 and 2 require the attacker touch the target, then in any combat situation, they will require an attack roll, allow a defense roll, and then require a quick contest of Will. For most maledictions—including higher levels of Mental Stab—the QC totally replaces the attack roll, but in this case, it logically shouldn't. This defeats half the point of Malediction. The other, more significant half of the point of Malediction is that it ignores DR. For Mental Stab 2, this actually does something, but for Mental Stab 1, you need to be touching bare skin, which doesn't have DR anyway!

For Mental Stab 1, Malediction does nothing advantageous at all, but is still a +100% enhancement. You get some points back for Melee Attack and Contact Agent, but only as many as you would get back if you didn't buy Malediction. There is a −50% nonce limitation of "Damage cannot exceed margin of victory", but that plus Malediction is still a net positive. If you remove both those modifiers, the cost goes down by 50% of the base cost, no QC is required, and the attack deals more damage.

Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

Last edited by VIVIT; 11-13-2022 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 11-13-2022, 05:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

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Originally Posted by VIVIT View Post
Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?
Because Malediction bypasses DR. Without it, any native DR they have will reduce damage.
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Old 11-13-2022, 05:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

Melee Attack is not a modifier that applies to ranged attacks. It changes an attack from ranged to melee. Contact Agent (that particular version) is not a penetration modifier. It's a limitation that means you have to make skin to skin contact in order to do damage. The Malediction just means that native DR provides no protection while the Contact Agent limitation means even the thinnest covering provides complete protection.

Last edited by David Johnston2; 11-13-2022 at 06:49 PM.
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Old 11-13-2022, 08:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Contact Agent is not a penetration modifier. It's a limitation that means you have to make skin to skin contact in order to do damage. The Malediction just means that native DR provides no protection while the Contact Agent limitation means even the thinnest covering provides complete protection.
But maledictions aren't ranged attacks—they don't have Range, 1/2 D, RoF, Rcl, Malf, or Acc, and they can't be aimed. They're not Melee Attacks either—melee attacks have Reach and benefit from Evaluate maneuvers. Maledictions aren't really attacks at all; none of the rules on pp. B369–377 apply to them. They use a different mechanic altogether: the Quick Contest.

The problem with putting Melee Attack and Malediction on the same ability is that that means, both by RAW and diegetic common sense, the user should need an attack roll and the target should get a defense roll before the Quick Contest even happens, and this major drawback is completely unrepresented in the ability's point cost. Melee Attack (−30%) alone can't possibly cover the difference. Does a malediction without Melee Attack require a roll against Innate Attack and allow the victim to defend? No, it goes straight to the contest. Does a Melee Attack (−30%) without Malediction require a Quick Contest? No, it's just an attack and a defense!

The −30% to turn a ranged attack into a close-combat melee attack does not represent two additional single-point-of-failure die rolls; it represents the fact that you have to be in close combat in order to make the attack. The user is getting shortchanged significantly here, if not on the DR-ignoring malediction, then certainly on the, "Oh, but you can't even activate the malediction unless you can hit with a melee attack!"

And at level 1 with Contact Agent, the anti-DR benefits of Malediction don't even apply. Basic Set very explicitly says that Contact Agent is a penetration modifier, and that it is blocked completely by any DR at all:
Quote:
Originally Posted by B111
Your attack must touch bare skin or porous clothing to have any effect at all. DR always stops it … This is a “penetration modifier”; you cannot combine it with other penetration modifiers, such as Follow-Up (p. 105).
What it doesn't say there, at least not explicitly, is that contact agents—even the limiting, non-cone, non-AoE ones—ignore DR with the Thick Skin limitation. Thick Skin is effectively Flexible (−20%) plus Accessibility (Not Against Contact Agents, −10%) and Accessibility (Does Not Stop Follow-Ups, −10%). DR without Thick Skin assumes chitinous plates or something, and is as good as DR from an equally durable artificial source. Touching that kind of DR isn't making "skin contact" and shouldn't activate contact agents in the first place. So what we have is a Malediction that ignores DR if and only if there is no DR to ignore.

If anything, I think this calls for a new modifier altogether—Resistible, Contested (−10%), or something.
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Old 11-13-2022, 11:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

I agree Mental Stab is a weird build.

Another wrinkle: Malediction requires a Concentrate maneuver so you can't even use it on the turn you Attack.
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Old 11-13-2022, 11:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

Mental Stab with touch is more for I shake hands and they happen to fall down with a sudden stroke/embolism/whatever. Best when psionics is hidden.
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Old 11-14-2022, 11:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

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Malediction requires a Concentrate maneuver so you can't even use it on the turn you Attack.
This is a fun thing to remember for touch spells.

Especially since those often take multiple turns to prep meaning you have to go back even further to establish a grapple or contact and then maintain it, since you can't re-initiate.

I guess you could do a "grabbing parry" during a concentrate maneuver to establish contact so long as someone attacked you at the right time.
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Old 11-15-2022, 01:11 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

What I'm really wondering—and have been wondering for a while, actually—is if there's any way to build an offensive ability that involves a QC rather than an attack and a defense, but does not otherwise function like a Malediction. QC Skill vs. Will or QN or whatever; if you lose, you're struck by lightning/engulfed in an explosion/whatever and take large-area injury reduced by DR. The closest thing I can come up with is Cosmic (No Active Defense, +300%) plus Resistible, but that costs more than Malediction does despite allowing an uncontested resistance roll.
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Old 11-15-2022, 01:22 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

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Originally Posted by VIVIT View Post

The problem with putting Melee Attack and Malediction on the same ability is that that means, both by RAW and diegetic common sense, the user should need an attack roll and the target should get a defense roll before the Quick Contest even happens, and this major drawback is completely unrepresented in the ability's point cost. Melee Attack (−30%) alone can't possibly cover the difference.
So what's the appropriate modifier for a malediction with no range that can be dodged but will continue until you finally touch your victim?
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Old 11-15-2022, 03:06 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Psionics] Why do Mental Stab 1 and 2 have Malediction?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
So what's the appropriate modifier for a malediction with no range that can be dodged but will continue until you finally touch your victim?
There is no standard modifier that allows that, though you can create a custom limitation.
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