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Old 05-13-2021, 06:19 AM   #1
hal
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Default 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 View Post
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.
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Old 05-13-2021, 06:32 AM   #2
hal
 
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Default 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?
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Old 05-13-2021, 06:54 AM   #3
Anaraxes
 
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Default 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.
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Old 05-13-2021, 07:18 AM   #4
ericthered
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
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".
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Old 05-13-2021, 07:50 AM   #5
hal
 
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
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".
At this point, yes - it is readily apparent that it is a "Setting" choice. But here is the rub in my eyes...

How do you justify the "Growth" in character, of an inborn trait, that is leveled?

The "knowledge" to use higher energies is a knowledge thing better handled by "Thaumatology" as a skill. The RAW ability to manipulate reality is what exactly? Is it to "reality" what Lifting muscular strength is to moving items with mass? You improve weight lifting by your muscles bulking up.

So, what does 10 character points represent in terms of real life (assuming magic were real that is!!!) when one wants to improve from Magery 0 to Magery 1?

Take for instance, the Novel series MAGICIAN by Raymond E Feist - Pug goes from a lesser magcian to one who can handle magic magic after undergoing a physical trial that almost leaves him insane.

In GURPS VOODOO, one can suddenly become an initiate level spell slinger after having a near death experience.

These are all EVENTS that can strengthen one's ties to the supernatural or perhaps to the abilities that through constant use, can somehow be sharpened.

Now, take for instance, the idea that before a mage character can improve his "Magery" advantage, he has to have 10 critical successes casting spells under stress. In this case, non-adventuring mages will never meet that criteria 10 times within their lifetimes - and thus, never improve their Magery. On the flip side, a player character will likely never amass 10 critical successes even while adventuring. So, let's try 3 critical successes while using spells whose magery level requirement is equal to the best the mage currently enjoys.

NOW we have a rationale for why his Magery level can advance. He's perhaps suffered a radical rewiring of his soul to where he can now touch/sense entropy level 3 energies (ie Magery 3 spells) that those who can only touch entropy level 2 energies can't.

THAT would make sense at both the player character level and at the non-player character level.

Addenda: In a way, what I've written above sort of does make the argument of allowing Magery to improve as a result of game play. But unfettered throwing of character points at this is what doesn't make sense to me as a GM. Having an in-story reason for it, makes more sense. Just because a player wants to buy off his disadvantage of an enemy worth 10 points and has 10 points to spend, doesn't mean the GM removes the Enemy. Spending the 10 points requires the GM to set up an adventure where the player CAN put finis to his old enemy and not have a new one spring up in its stead. Pug in MAGICIAN risked going insane to improve his magery level. If players had to worry about losing 1d6 IQ points after undergoing a Trial to strengthen their Magery from 0 to 1 - then most people might not risk it. This explains why most of the NPCs don't improve without risk taking. A player character who tries and fails? That's a STORY! A player character who gambles and wins? That's an even BETTER story right?


Last edited by hal; 05-13-2021 at 07:55 AM. Reason: Addenda
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Old 05-13-2021, 07:56 AM   #6
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

I was thinking in terms of fasting, meditation and a ritual initiation.
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Old 05-13-2021, 08:30 AM   #7
ericthered
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hal View Post
How do you justify the "Growth" in character, of an inborn trait, that is leveled?

Practice.



I don't see talents in general as static things that a infant is born with and will never improve throughout their life. I see them as part of a continuum between skills and attributes, representing aptitude at a type of study. Sure, natural aptitude talent exists, but its not the only trait that appears in the world that talent can represent, and natural talent looks best when it is improved upon.



Now, Magery is NOT a typical talent, though pyramid 4/1 weakens that somewhat, explicitly breaking down everything but the zeroth level as a power talent. However, the alternative, that it represents power rather than skill, rings hollow. Its effects on spells are identical to a level of IQ, with the exception of some prerequisites, and its been stated that spells are mostly balanced by FP costs, not prereq chains. Power instead would correspond to Energy Reserves or more exotic ways of gaining mana.



As a final comparison, raising power talents is fairly normal, and powers talks about doing it in various places. I know I've seen people talk about spending just a few points in a power at character creation in order to "leave the door open" to build up that power later.
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Old 05-13-2021, 09:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hal View Post
How do you justify the "Growth" in character, of an inborn trait, that is leveled?
The same way you justify increasing any other stat or Talent, which is defined and limited by the setting. There is no single unified answer, because every setting (and campaign) has its own needs and wants.
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Old 05-13-2021, 10:06 AM   #9
martinl
 
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hal View Post
But unfettered throwing of character points at this is what doesn't make sense to me as a GM.
"Unfettered throwing of character points at X", for any X, doesn't make sense.

Amy goes on an exciting adventure and when she is done she is instantly an expert mathematician, with no training or practice. If you, as a GM, require her to study math to justify this, you are requiring things beyond "throwing character points" at it just like the other folks who are suggesting requirements for improving magery. (I like using potassium concentration in the body as a magery level myself.)

GM imposed restrictions on spending CPs in order to support the feeling of the game or setting are of course completely ok, but spending CP to improve anything is an RPG construct. Folks like improving their characters as a reward for playing.

They really like it.

Really really like it.
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Old 05-13-2021, 04:49 PM   #10
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Magery as an improvable advantage?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hal View Post
If Magery can be improved - can it diminish over time much as anything else - due to aging?
Page B444: "At the GMs option, you may lose advantages or gain disadvantages of equivalent point value instead of losing an attribute point." If a GM is going to make Magery eligible for aging losses, they should really decide if it's a quality of your mind, body or spirit, or whatever divisions they find useful for living beings. That's a world-building decision, not something that belongs in generic rules.
Quote:
So, HOW do you treat raising Magery in your campaigns such that it makes inherent sense to you as a GM or player?
I've only made serious use of Magery in my Infinite Cabal campaign. There, it was something that some people had naturally, and very powerful entities could grant. If you had it, it was improvable, but this required specialised training. Magicians in many worlds knew how to work up to Magery 3, but higher levels were a Cabal secret. Learning higher levels required Cabal Rank equal to your Magery level.
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