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Old 12-24-2020, 06:43 AM   #1
Strabo
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Default [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

I've been using Sorcery extensively in my games for a long time, but there is one issue that inevitably comes up almost in every game, and I cannot resolve it with any degree of consistency.

The first sentence on page 6 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery states "The subject's SM cannot exceed the caster's SM + Talent". What/who is considered to be the subject? When does this rule apply? It is obvious for some spells, but not so much for others.

The only existing rules concerning SM and spells and similar effects are Afflictions and Inanimate Targets (GURPS Powers, p. 40) and Special Attacks vs. High SM (Pyramid #3-77, p. 8). The Disintegrate spell (p. 20 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery) and Blight spell (p. 23) use this rule. The SM limit rule did not exist in Sorcery in Pyramid #3-63, it was introduced in GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery. However, as there was no precedent for this limit, there's no further explanation or more detailed description of this rule. Psionic Powers and Divine Favor, for example, do not have such a rule despite being powers-based "magic" systems.

I'll try to list my examples and thoughts here:
[1] Missile and Jet spells. Is the target of such a spell considered to be the subject for the purpose of the SM limit? I feel like it should not, because otherwise a Fireball flung by a Talentless SM-2 halfling would only harm other halflings but would leave humans unscathed.

[2] Buff and Weapon Buff spells. Does the rule apply here? At first glance it seems that it should, but on the other hand, buffs are based on Affliction, even though an invisible one, so shouldn't they work identically to Missile and Jet spells then, like in [1]? That would mean that a Talentless SM-2 halfling would be able to buff SM+0 humans. Not sure if that was intended. A way to estimate a weapon's SM would have been great too, if the limit applies here.

[3] If Buff spells are subject to the limit, then what about non-buff non-Malediction Afflictions or Neutralize/Mind Control with the Weaponized limitation? A stun ray, for example. On one hand, it is based on Affliction, but still works closer to a non-damaging Missile spell. The opposite example would be an invisible Missile attack, such as Ignite Fire (p. 16 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery).

[4] Resisted spells, i.e. Afflictions and Innate Attack with Malediction, Mind Control, etc. This is the most obvious case. The subject should be the subject, and the SM limit should apply here.

[5] Binding. By default it works as a Missile spell and it seems that it should not be subject to the SM limit rule. What if we add Malediction? If it is something like a force bubble encasing the subject, the SM limit makes sense. But if the spell causes the local vegetation to entangle the victim unless they succeed in a Quick Contest of DX vs. Will, then it does not.

[6] If we add Area Effect and Persistent to Affliction, Innate Attack, or Binding, should it affect oversized creatures that enter the area? What if we combine it with Malediction?

[7] Detect (such as Sense Life on p. 15 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery). Are entities detected with Detect considered to be subjects? If so, should they be subject to the SM limit rule?

[8] Enchant. Enchant is an Affliction with Melee Attack and no Malediction. This is not a Buff, not a Missile, and not a Resisted spell. Would a Talentless SM-2 halfling be able to enchant a SM+0 statue?

[9] Control. For gases and forces, this is an Area spell. For solids and liquids, it is not. There is a subject that seemingly should be limited both by its SM and mass. If a Talentless SM+0 sorcerer is casting a spell based on, for example, Control Metal on a normal-sized sword, then it works. But what if they cast it on an arm of a SM+2 statue? Will the statue be the subject, making the spell fizzle?

[10] Area spells with the All or Nothing limitation (such as Suspend Time on p. 17 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery). For example, a Talentless SM+0 sorcerer is casting the spell on an area that contains three SM-2 halflings and a SM+1 ogre. Both halflings fail to resist, and the ogre cannot be affected at all, so there is no resistance roll. Does the spell go off and create an area with time-frozen halflings and an ogre that does whatever he wants or does the spell fail?

[11] Create and Snatcher. Are items/substances created considered subjects for this limit?

[12] Precognition with Directed and Active (such as Divination on p. 19 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery). This is not a Resisted spell, but there's still a subject. Would a SM-2 diviner be able to divine a SM+1 ogre's future?

[13] Neutralize. This ability can be both beneficial and harmful and, depending on the spell/modifiers, may target either the subject or the caster. For example, Dispel Magic (p. 21 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery) targets an area. If a Talentless SM-2 sorcerer casts it on an area, does it dispel magic cast *on* SM-2 and lower creatures or *by* SM-2 creatures? Same for Remove Curse. Even though the afflicted creature is the subject, the resistance roll is made against the original caster. Where does the SM limit rule come into play here?

[14] Terror is not a Resisted effect by default. Will a SM-2 halfling sorcerer be unable to scare SM+0 humans? What if we add the Active modifier?

[15] Telekinesis. Will a SM-2 sorcerer be unable to pick up, move, punch SM+0 creatures and objects? Haircut (p. 14 of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery) is built as a Resisted spell based on Telekinesis. Locksmith (p. 22) is a non-Resisted Telekinesis-based spell. Does the rule apply to both of them?

[16] Leech. Should it be possible for a SM-2 halfling to cast Steal Vitality on a SM+0 human?

[17] Turn Zombie (p. 23) targets an area, but affects zombies. Does the SM limit apply here? Same for Thunderclap (p. 24).

[18] Reverse Missiles. Is the target of the buff considered to be the subject, or is the creature that fires a projectile at the target of the buff considered to be the subject as well? Or is the projectile the subject?

[19] Telecommunication. Would Delayed Message (p. 24) left by a SM-2 halfling be inaudible to SM+0 humans? Delay mentions a subject.

[20] If a SM-2 halfling casts Icy Weapon on a SM-2 weapon, will it be able to hurt SM+0 creatures? If yes, then the SM limit can sometimes be circumvented through a weapon as a proxy.

[21] When using an enchanted item to cast a spell, whose SM and Talent applies? The enchanter's or the user's?

[22] Allies. Can SM-2 halfling sorcerers summon SM+0 angels?

[23] Does the SM limit only apply at the moment of casting, or does an SM-2 halfling that got buffed by another SM-2 halfling lose the buff if he somehow becomes enlarged?

[24] If a spell is built via an advantage with Affects Others, are these "others" considered to be subjects for the purpose of the SM limit?

I am just trying to find a consistent way to deal with this issue and would appreciate any help. A possible alternative would be treating sorcerous spells as Regular spells and multiply the cost by (1 + SM difference) or, possibly, (1 + SM difference - Talent), minimum 1. Or should this SM limit be ditched?

Last edited by Strabo; 12-24-2020 at 08:00 AM.
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Old 12-24-2020, 10:05 AM   #2
Taneli
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Default Re: [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

That is a good question. As a GM on a table where this issue would pop up, I think I would rule that this rule only applies in situations where other game mechanics can't produce sufficient results by themselves.

So, my feelings on the specific topics in order of your list.

1) No, missiles and jets themselves are subjects of the spells, not the targets

2) Maybe, the targets are the subjects of the buffs and weapon buffs. SM for equipment is a bit dodgy, but if it's smaller in volume, weight, and longest dimension, it's generally smaller than you. I might be persuaded to agree on only two of three, like in the case of a very long rope.

3) Again, maybe. It's difficult line to draw. Is the missile just a special effect, or the actual manifestation of the spell?

4) Yes, I agree with you here.

5) What about some grass trying to grapple a giant whose feet are the size of blue whales? SM limitation makes some sense here.

6) Innate attacks would still work, other spells maybe not?

7) I would consider that the one getting the information from detect is the primary subject, and the detected things are just targets (that might be protected by some means), so SM rule would not apply.

8) As per the SM-rule, no. But that produces silly results to me.

9) If the spell description allows to only affect a part of an item, I would rule it to be OK as longs as the affected part's SM is no larger than the caster's limit. See point 2 for my Q&D size parity approximation algorithm.

10) The ogre is not applicable subject for the spell, so I wouldn't count it in in any way.

11) Yes.

12) As with Detects, I would consider the party that gains the knowledge to be the subject, and the target to be, well, the target.

13) That's a tricky one. Although, I might argue that the subject of dispel is actually the spell, and not any physical entity. Do spells have SM's?

14) Does the spell make the halfling look scarier or the beholder more scared of the halfling?

15) I would rule that Telekinesis is more like missile spells. If your TK ST is enough to lift it, you can lift it regardless of it's SM.

16) I feel that the rules without the SM limit give sufficiently playable effects, no need for the SM rule.

17) Thunderclap's subject is the point in space, and the effects are just what follows naturally, so no SM limit. Similarly on Turn Zombie, assuming the world has such "natural laws". If it instead changes something in the zombie's mind, I would rule that the SM rule applies.

18) The one protected by the spell is the subject.

19) I would rule that the spell affects a point in space, and the recipient's presence is merely a trigger that activates the replay of the message. With full on Telepathy, the subjects would be the both ends of the conversation, and SM rule would apply.

20) Well, the subject of the spell is clearly the weapon, not the one being hit by it.

21) World creation issue, I would default to the one who is actively making things happen, that is, the user, but an interesting variant would be user's SM + Creator's Talent.

22) That's a tough one. Probably not, but I would rule 0 that out of the way.

23) Uuf, trixy little halflings! Can't decide without an actual example.

24) My gut says yes.

As a general rule, I would keep this SM-rule in and the relax it on a case-by-case basis when I feel that the rest of the ruleset is sufficient to handle any issues. I don't think that you can have an easy fix for this. I guess that it was left in for cases where a cheap simple spell can cause massive issues down the road.

Also, I don't think that an FP cost would the the Sorcery Way of solving this. FP cost is more like a limit on the number of spells you can cast in a given time frame, and not a power balancing thingy for spells, even though some spells defy this (like healing).
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Old 12-25-2020, 01:25 AM   #3
Strabo
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Default Re: [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

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Originally Posted by Taneli View Post
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Thank you for your thoughts. I've found the case-by-case basis to be way too inconsistent, and that usually annoys the players and hence the GM as well. I remember proposing an Extra Effort option to increase the SM limit by 1 for each additional FP spent on the spell, but that did not gel well with the players as it did not remove the issue of determining when and where the limit actually applies.
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Old 12-25-2020, 12:03 PM   #4
Taneli
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Default Re: [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

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Originally Posted by Strabo View Post
Thank you for your thoughts. I've found the case-by-case basis to be way too inconsistent, and that usually annoys the players and hence the GM as well. I remember proposing an Extra Effort option to increase the SM limit by 1 for each additional FP spent on the spell, but that did not gel well with the players as it did not remove the issue of determining when and where the limit actually applies.
Yeah, I get the feeling that your players have, although, you could just go through the existing spell lists and decide on those. That might help, no?
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Old 12-25-2020, 02:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

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Originally Posted by Taneli View Post
Yeah, I get the feeling that your players have, although, you could just go through the existing spell lists and decide on those. That might help, no?
Good as far as it goes, but half the point of Sorcery is the ability to improvise new spells, so it would be good to have clear general rules.
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Old 12-26-2020, 04:26 AM   #6
Strabo
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Default Re: [Sorcery][Powers] Sorcery and SM limit

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Originally Posted by ravenfish View Post
Good as far as it goes, but half the point of Sorcery is the ability to improvise new spells, so it would be good to have clear general rules.
I agree. While I do have an extensive grimoire of spells, having a clear general rule sounds like a good idea.
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