Thursday, January 30, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 21: Swarm Familiar

Swarms are pretty cool, and freaking scary. A bug, a small snake, or a small bird is not much of a threat, but a swarm of them is freaking scary. The main thing about a swarm is that its a Injury Tolerance: Diffuse, which is pretty much what makes it a swarm. There are options for Swarm in GURPS Powers but I don't have the book, so I'm choosing to work without it (because I've run the limit of my Xmass buying spree). Its ok because the creature is not going to use the options in that book. The GM can just run with what ever is here and his imagination.

Swarm Sizes and HP is important, to take note off. The bigger the swarm, the larger the area it occupies in a Tactical Hex. At SM+0 if it is Verminform or Horizontal it occupies two hexes long (see B392 and B460), at SM+1 its occupies similar to a Horse at 3 hexes long , and at SM+2 to SM+3 like an Elephant. You can say the weight and size of the bugs can help you calculate HP. Consider the Size the Area of which the bugs can be targeted, and Larger Area means cheaper HP cost.

Swarms are not their Individual Animal. When stating them out, they don't have the dex or ht of the animal its composed off, instead you imagine it as an entire entity.

The Swarm Examples

Ravenous Poisonous/Toxic Lizards or Bugs or Rats 

108 point template
This can be any crawly and clingy animal or insect that can be a swarm. It can be ravenous mice, rats, ants, spiders, small lizards,

In Haven, ants, cockroaches, and rats are Ideal because there will always  be supplies for them. Although because cockroaches can fly and cling they are easily 112 point worth or Powerful Familiars. Wielders may suffer Odius Personal Habit (Minor Bad Smell; B22) or Bad Smell (B124).

Note that these creature swarms can manipulate objects (see one arm) and can EAT. Some swarms can be valuable, character with Spider Swarms can harvest the silk as a 0pt Feature or Cockroaches can be sold to the Chinese market.

Abilities and Characteristics [-54]:
ST 10 [0]   HP33 (+23HP, -20% HP cost discount) [56] SPD4.25
DX8 [-40] Will10 Move 6 [10]
IQ3 [-140] Per10 [70]
HT9 [-10] FP9 SM+3 (10 hexes)
Dodge10 Parry- DR-

Traits [154]: Increased Consumption 6 (B129; 48 lbs of matter) [-60]; Universal Digestion (B95) [5]; Bad smell [-10]; Clinging [20]; Night Vision 5 [5];  Social Stigma (Monster) [-20]; Dead Broke [-25]; Status -2 [-10]; Duty, Extremely Hazardous to Master (Freq-15) [-20]; Appearance (Horrific, Universal +25%) [-30]; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse, see B60 and B380; Swarm, powers 53,   +160%) [260]; Regeneration (Regular, 1HP / hour; Accessibly if more of the swarm components are around, -20%) [20]; Unkillable 1 (B95; Achilles Heel, Fire, -50%) [25]; Cannot Speak [-15] (B125); Innumerate [-5] (B140); Illiterate [-3] (B24); No Language [-3] (B24); Hide Bound [-5].

Swarm Mild Poisonous Bites (Toxic Attack 1 point damage, 1cp; Contact Agent, -30%, B111; Cyclic, 10 seconds, 6 cycles, +300%, B103; Area Effect, 2 yards radius, +50%, B102; Melee Attack, Reach C-1, Cannot Parry with Attack, -25%, B112; Resistable, HT-5, -0%; ) [4]

Swarm Overbearing/Binding Attack (Binding 1 level, 2cp, B40; Engulfing, +60%, B40; Area Effect, 2 yards radius, +50%, B102; Melee Attack, Reach C-1, Cannot Parry with Attack, -25%, B112) [4]

Skills [2]: Stealth-12 [2];
Class: Animal, Familiar, Swarm

Cockroach Swarm Special Familiar

109 point template
Normal People would be struck by fear seeing a Swarm of Cockroaches this big and Concentrated. The first thought is to kill it with Fire (area attacks are really  the best way to deal with such see B380). Bug spray helps, a nasty area attack of it will help very much (kill it or knock it out).

This same template can be use for bats and other flying and crawling swarms.

Abilities and Characteristics [-64]:
ST 10 [0]   HP33 (+23HP, -20% HP cost discount) [56] SPD4.25
DX8 [-40] Will10 Move 2 [-10] Flying Move-6
IQ3 [-140] Per10 [70]
HT9 [-10] FP9 SM+3 (10 hexes)
Dodge10 Parry- DR-

4500 lbs of Cockroaches

Traits [173]: Increased Consumption 6 (B129; 48 lbs of matter) [-60]; Universal Digestion (B95) [5]; Bad smell [-10]; Flying (Fly Move-6; +2 move) [44]; Clinging [20]; Night Vision 5 [5];   Social Stigma (Monster) [-20]; Dead Broke [-25]; Status -2 [-10]; Duty, Extremely Hazardous to Master (Freq-15) [-20]; Appearance (Horrific, Universal +25%) [-30]; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse, see B60 and B380; Swarm, powers 53,   +160%) [260]; Regeneration (Regular, 1HP / hour; Accessibly if more of the swarm components are around, -20%) [20]; Unkillable 1 (B95; Achilles Heel, fire, -50%) [25]; Cannot Speak [-15] (B125); Innumerate [-5] (B140); Illiterate [-3] (B24); No Language [-3] (B24); Hide Bound [-5].

  • Swarm Mild Poisonous Bites (Toxic Attack 1 point damage, 1cp; Contact Agent, -30%, B111; Cyclic, 10 seconds, 6 cycles, +300%, B103; Area Effect, 2 yards radius, +50%, B102; Melee Attack, Reach C-1, Cannot Parry with Attack, -25%, B112; Resistable, HT-5, -0%; ) [4]
  • Swarm Overbearing/Binding Attack (Binding 1 level, 2cp, B40; Engulfing, +60%, B40; Area Effect, 2 yards radius, +50%, B102; Melee Attack, Reach C-1, Cannot Parry with Attack, -25%, B112) [4]

Skills [2]: Stealth-12 [2];
Class: Animal, Familiar, Swarm

Current Campaign the Kaeneen are mages that use Swarms. Although they take a lot of drawbacks in order to wield them, with this base, you can pretty much figure out how much of a drawback a mage needs to be able to wield such creatures.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 20: Darkness Aspect and Shadow Path Mage

Playing around with Darkness Aspect Mage and Shadow Magic. Again lets begin with some basics. Reading the definition of Darkness Aspect Mage (B67), it seems the mage can only cast spells in Total Darkness. I wonder if spells can "exist" outside darkness.

Basic Darkness Aspected Mage Template

73 points. 
Unusual Background (Mage) [10]
Magery 15 (Asepct: Darkness -40%; Accessibility: Ally -40%) [35]
Thaumatology (VH) IQ+3 [20]-23 (-5 from low mana)
Special Familiar [8]
Maintaining Darkvision-20 and Scryguard-21

Shape Darkness (M113)

The character has 19 hexes of Darkness to Shape. The familiar typically maintains the darkness. Powerful Familiars are more adept in maintaining the spell and shaping it creatively in order to grant the mage a strategic advantage.

Special Familiar 
Familiar up to 75 points
(Ally 50% Point Value 2cp; Special Ability +50%; Sympathy, death of ally brings Character to 0HP -25%; Constant Frequency x4; Dependent Freq-6 -2cp, ) [8]. Typically these Familiars grant Mana Enhancer 1.

Powerful Familiar 
Familiar up to 112 points
(Ally 75% Point Value 3cp; Special Ability +50%; Sympathy, death of ally brings Character to 0HP -25%; Constant Frequency x4; Dependent Freq-6 -1cp) [14].  Typically these Familiars grant Mana Enhancer 2 .

Shadow Path Magic (house rule; non-RAW)

Ignore if your only interested in RAW.

Special Paths or Expanding the spells of a particular path is something I will go into greater detail. I just want to get Shadow Path out of the way. Shadow is a common go-to concept in many fantasy and even 4-color settings. Shadow Magic is one of my favorite in DnD 3e, of course after playing all these games shadow has a very flimsy and inconsistent definition. Shadow has substance, when in science its merely the absence of light that we can SEE (so its not really darkness because there is electro magnetic stuff going around). 

I like Shadow or Darkness as a concept taken from Science, the concept of there being something where there is nothing (one of lectures of Laurence Krauss Something from Nothing). Basically its impermanent matter.

So in this Concept (Dark Matter), Illusion Creation falls under Shadow Magic as well as Darkness (particularly only the Spells that Cause/Control/Manipulate Darkness). Because its that "Schrodinger" like sense of unstable reality, I want to put elements on Movement (particularly teleporting and blurring elements) in the Shadow Path Magic. 

Basically special Magical Paths (I will cover Blood, Flesh Crafting, Sacred Flame, in other posts) allow them to "default" certain spells from other schools at a "default" penalty. It requires an additional unusual background worth 10 points for special magical paths. The reason why i want to go over special magical paths is because the way concepts overlap in GURPS Magic, depending on your perspective certain spells should be in certain colleges/paths and certain things should be achievable by many colleges. 

Shadow Magic 

Certain Movement Spells are possible at a -2 penalty plus their prerequisite count (like Mage Hand, Teleport and Blink) but it is aesthetically pulled off as being shadow and darkness related.  
Certain Illusions and Creation spells can be done at -2 penalty  plus their prerequisite count but everything appears to be black featureless things and beings. 

Meta Spells dealing with Concealment (like Conceal Magic and Scry Guard) are done at -4 penalty.

I'm tempted to allow darkness themed elements like, Shadow stuff gust of Air feats or Liquid-Water Like Feats or Obsidian Earth to be created at a greater penalty (-4, -6, and -8 respectively adding to its prerequisite count). Black Fire or Shadow Flame being something possible at a -10.

The Darkness Aspected Mage can be easily converted or grow to become a Shadow Mage

Shadow Mage Template

83 points. 
Unusual Background (Mage) [10]
Unusual Background (Shadow Path) [10]
Magery 15 (Asepct: Darkness -40%; Accessibility: Ally -40%) [35]
Shadow Path (VH) IQ+3 [20]-32 (high mana)
Special Familiar (Typically a Shadow Snake) [8]
Maintaining Darkvision-31 and Scryguard-28 

Shadow Raven, Special Familiar

The Shadow Raven is a Common Familiar for Darkness Aspected Mages. The mage need only to give it shade, in order to allow it to begin casting Darkness and Shape Darkness. It manages the Shape Darkness for the mage and is able to maintain it indefinitely. 
74/75 point template
Abilities and Characteristics [5]:
ST3 [-70] HP3 SPD6
DX14 [80] Will10 Move 2[-15]
IQ10 Per12 [10]
HT10 FP10 SM-4
Dodge10 Parry- DR-

  • Traits [-24]: Acute Vision 2 [4]; Telescopic Vision 2 [10] Night Vision 5 [5]; Sharp Beak [1]; Flight (Winged -25%; +3 Move; Air Move-12) [36]; One Arms (Uses Beak) [-20]; Social Stigma (Valuable Property) [-15]; Dead Broke [-25]; Status -2 [-10]; Magery 0 [5]; Duty, Hazardous (Almost Always) to Master [-15]
  • Magery [35]: Magery +15 (Ally Accessibility -40%; Light and Darkness College -40%) [35];  
  • Affliction (B35) Granting Mana Enhancer 1 to its Mage [53] (Mana-Enhancer level 1 +500%; Optional Rule Limited Enhancements B111 applied on the Mana Enahancer) 53 points.
  • Skills [10]: Thaumaturgy-25 [8]; Scrounging-12 [1]
  • Class: Animal, Familiar

Shadow Snake, Special Familiar

The Shadow snake is a Special Familiar that grants a great amount of power to its mage (Mana Enhancer 2). It is fairly weak, but has the ability to slip through cracks and hide on the person of the mage. Note Unlike, the other Snake Familiar this familiar cannot manipulate at all. 
70/75 point template
Abilities and Characteristics [5]:
ST 7 [-30]  HP7 SPD5.75
DX12 [40] Will10 Move 4 [-5]
IQ10 Per10
HT11 [10] FP11 SM-0
Dodge10 Parry- DR-

  • Traits [-73]: Cold blooded (50 degrees) [-5]; Night Vision 5 [5]; Innate Attack Toxic (Blood Agent -40%; Melee Attack, Reach-C -30%; Onset -10%; Cyclic, every 10 seconds with 10 cycles +500% ) [21];  Sharp Fangs [1]; Magery 0 [5]; Vermin Form [-35]; Social Stigma (Valuable Property) [-15]; Dead Broke [-25]; Status -2 [-10]; Duty, Hazardous (Almost Always) to Master [-15]
  • Magery [25]: Magery +15 (Ally Accessibility -40%; Light and Darkness College -40%) [35];  
  • Shadowform [-20]; Unusual background Shadow Path Magic [10]
  • Affliction (B35) Granting Mana Enhancer 2 to its Mage [103] (Mana-Enhancer level 1 +1000%; Optional Rule Limited Enhancements B111 applied on the Mana Enahancer) 103 points.  
  • Skills [10]: Shadow Path-25 [8]; Stealth-12 [2]; 
  • Class: Animal, Familiar

War Shadow-mare, Powerful Familiar

The Shadow-mare is a Powerful Familiar used by "Shadow Riders". 
110/112 point template
Abilities and Characteristics [65]:
ST21 (-10% SM+1, -40% no Fine Manipulators) [55] HP24 SPD5
DX9 [-20] Will11 [5] Move 6/12 [5] 
IQ10 Per12 [10]
HT11 [10] FP12 SM+1
Dodge9 Parry- DR-

  • Traits [-72]: Combat Reflex [15]; Quadruped (B263) [-35]; Chummy [-5]; Peripheral Vision [15]; Weak Bite [-2]; Social Stigma (Valuable Property) [-15]; Dead Broke [-25]; Enhanced Ground move 1 [10]; Status -2 [-10]; Duty, Very Hazardous to Rider [-20] 
  • Magery [45] Magery +15 (Ally Accessibility -40%; Shadow Path -40%) [35];  Unusual Background: Shadow Magic Path [10]
  • Affliction (B35) Granting Mana Enhancer 1 to its Mage [53] (Mana-Enhancer level 1 +500%; Optional Rule Limited Enhancements B111 applied on the Mana Enahancer) 53 points.
  • Skills [14]: Mount-10 [4]; Shadow Path-25 [8]; Brawl-10 [2]
  • Class: Animal, Familiar
  • Note: Can Speak


oooo Shadow Mages ooooo. Its aesthetically and conceptually pleasing to see shadow mages and darkness aspected mages. So I had to write about them. I guess now that I have all this hashed out I can have some of these appear in my games.  Since all my notes are available hopefully you find it useful for your game, it takes little effort to adapt it to adapt it to other games.  

Blood Mages is another themed mage that would be cool, they would be drawing from Body and Water path spells. If you've watched Beyond Boundary, you might get the idea of shaping items out of blood (like Illusion Creation Spells). Blood Mage with a Mosquito Swarm Familiar Lolz (awesome and terrible at the same time)!

Themed mages are pretty cool conceptually, and with their limitations and costs hashed out make them hard to use since the circumstance they become very powerful is very limited. A Darkness mage is actually a bit more powerful than a Shadow Mage, since Thaumatology allows a blanket ability to cast any college at -6 vs the narrower themed focus of a given the costs a 150pt character as a Special Themed mage will not be so powerful as a generalist, and a little better off in flexibility as a specialist.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 08: Doctrine 03 - Information Gathering

Lets have a quick review of some key concepts.

Let's Review

  • Magery (B66) is a Binary Answer: Magical or Non-Magical. Since there is no Extra-Perception Stimuli I'm actually puzzled how to describe it consitently without falling into a Meta-game description: "magical". Exception Mana Enhancer (B68).
  • Quick Contests (B348). Ties is Both Lose. Funny that Quick Contests are only covered in Basic Set Campaigns. 
  • Information Spells (B241 & M13). Secret Rolls! Only in Critical Failure and Success does the GM say anything. Otherwise the GM says "404 error" lolz.
  • The Rule of 16 (B349). this may affect Sense Observation... MAY, note that Sense Observation is not an Attack Spell. Its ability to Trace back the source of Observation becomes very hard to use with the Rule of 16 since the Trace back attempt is always at a -5 penalty.    

Hostile Intent (rule this out early)

Sense Foes (M44) and Pentagram (M124) talk about Hostile Spells and Hostile Intent. Note that these are very poor descriptors and the GM should consider the repercussions. 

Example is that Sense Foes should not be able to discriminate Zombies and various kinds of Automata Intelligence Creatures. Digging a hole to Automata is as "hostile" to the ground as it is to Cut up the Target Mage. Mages can employ various kinds of delusions to its targets, Obscene Fascination or Obsessions may not be considered hostile and the GM should rule these things out early. 

Personally I rule that players use something unambiguous and provable than intent. Any strong emotion is general enough but very clear, if their attention is locked on my person is something that is also less ambiguous but general, etc.. 

Now lets go to Pentagram and Hostile Spells. Information Gathering are not hostile but all Social Engineering activities begin with Information gathering. Permission to be known was part of basic etiquette and is part of basic security in some cultures, you do not just give away your contacts information to just anyone and people want to know if you do give away their information because they want to know where a threat can come from. So in such a case, Information Gathering Spells falls under hostile spells. 

So what happens is that Pentagram can hide someone who doesnt want to be found. That's a powerful and dangerous circumstance. With Sense Observation, it becomes a multi-layered defense of privacy. 

Sense Foes can be made more specific using strong emotion or attention or violent urges as a way to determine Hostility but not so broad and exacting as hostility. So the sense foes can be used in such a way, the mage eliminates factors and tries to narrow down possible intent. 

Scryguard (M121)

In Doctrine 01 we learned that Scryguard is one spell everyone casts everyday because: its fairly easy to maintain, and some masters cast it multiple times a day since it costs nothing for them to maintain it for Allies.

Things the GM must Rule ahead of time
  • How it Affects History Spell? I like a good puzzle so I'm making Scry Guard distort History Spells. 
  • How it Affects Impressions?  This is fairly complicated but can be simplified. While under the influence of Scryguard what happens to the impressions left on objects? If you let it distort history, it acts like an emissions or signature negater, then it may also distort the impressions left items (of course biological remains are a different story). for WBH I'm ruling it distorts impressions, (they are unreliable and subject to GM misinformation). 
  • How it affects Sense Observation? Wording wise you have be observed in order for Sense Observation to work.  But there are many legal ways to interpret this that allows even a failed Seeker/Magical Observation/Observation skill roll attempt to Trigger Sense Observation because the Act of spying and scrying is all that is needed not the SUCCESS of the action. I like my game to be a bit cloak and dagger/cat and mouse, so I'll allow just the mere act of Trying to observe (successful or not) enough to trigger Sense Observation. Often we gather information that does not make sense, but the act of gathering information has used up time, effort and resources (its tangible). 
  • Tracer? (M106) This bypasses Scry Guard BUT it does not bypass Sense Observation only when The Mage concentrates to locate the Tracer. Tricky eh, so "tagging" someone with a Tracer and only activating later on will require fore-thought and planning. Something I want in my games.   

Sense Observation (M167) and the Surveillance State (GM Ruling)

The GM has to rule if Passive Observation, one that does not target someone specifically Triggers a response. Because of how tricky this matter is, in WBH I rule that the spell is triggered anytime information about the character can be collected. That means that a character will find himself being "Pinged" by his cellphone as it sends data to a cell tower. Character must rely on very low tech means of sending information or Comm/Empathy spells for communicating.

The spells identifies many threats, so a character will be wise to get Expertise: Security or Electronics Operation: Security skill to identify and judge the threats. Even an NPC just taking smart phone pictures of his comrades with the mage in view can Trigger the Sense Observation for the character to look away from the camera. If someone does that Dark Knight trick where all cellphones are hacked to gather information, Sense Observation will notice.

Characters who have this spell on will immediately notice if their phones' power-down state is a sleep state or truly an Off-state (unless a RFID switch triggers and powers the "on" state with a radio signal of the phone, the Sense Observation will only be triggered when the RFID is activated).  If they are on a Computer, the spell will trigger if they are Online and if they don't have enough computer savy, it will alert them of basic keylogger programs that are used for debugging (which the character has to use a Computer Operations Roll -2 to turn off lolz). Suffice to say, a character has to make Computer Operation Rolls to customize his OS to gather less inforamtion about him/her. Paranoid Mages only use Linux Lolz (there is a Distro for Mages lolz! which is the same used by the paranoid)

Seeker One Try Per Week (GM Ruling)

my Search Fu has poor results. I'm going to give a Hard once per Week limit to Seeker (M105-106) per Caster and spells like it. When we consider scrolls and magic Items that replicate the spell, the person who is gaining the information can only attempt the Seeker once per week. The only way to circumvent this is to Buy Scrolls of Seeker and have someone else use the scroll (like a Novice or Initiate). Making Seeker scrolls also count as Casting Seeker. Since its precast, if all the penalties exceed the Scroll Power Level then the spell fails. 

Sense Observation and Scry Guard

Someone trying to use Seeker will trigger both Sense Observation and Scry Guard (despite scry guard interrupting). Its like make a "search querry" , when you hit enter the signal is out there. Scryguard is just a Blocker, and Sense Observation gathers information on the Querry. Note that these are all contests,  a Seeker can still find out information if they Bypass the Scry Guard but will have a problem against Sense Observation (which is Against the Seekers IQ not his Spell Skill).  

The GM has to make ruling as how these interact. The ruling has many potential consequences, so feel free to use my ruling as a guideline to how you want certain consequences to play out.

Sense Observation in a crowded street? You feel everyones gaze as they walk by but you know it when one gaze lingers longer than the rest. 

Killian has a Scryfool-30 (Scroll, cast after all the prep spells; +5 from High mana mana enhancer 2) on Osman, Scry Guard-26 on himself (first spell cast) and Sense Observation-23 (2nd spell cast; -1 penalty) Set up on himself, and he is guarding Osman.
An Adept casts a Seeker-29 (Scroll cast ceremonially; double energy cost for +4, x20 the time) on Osman. The Adept has set up Scryguard-24 (1st spell cast) and has Sense Observation-22 (2nd spell cast; -1 penalty) 
The Adept rolls a 11 with a margin of 18 success with Seeker-29 vs Killian's Scryfool of 30 rolling 12 (18 margin of success), they Tie in a Quick Contest and "Both Fail". The Adept cannot seem to gather any information and is frustrated. Still the Act Triggers Sense Observation-23 vs IQ Adepts IQ10. The adept Rolls 12, failing by 2, and Killian rolls 9 succeeding by 14, for a Total Success of 16.
Killian can make a Seeker roll at +16 - 5 for unfamiliar at his Seeker-18 for a total of 29. Killian rolls a 10  for a margin of 19 vs the Adepts rolls 9 for a margin of 15! Killian is able to penetrate the Adept's Scryguard and able to see the Adept's Whereabouts (he probably makes an Observation Check and cast Memorize to get all the details). 
The Adept gets a chance to detect Killian with his one Sense Observation (a quick contest). Killian rolls vs his IQ12, a 13 (failed by 1), and the Adept rolls his Sense Observation-22 with a 8. He has a +15 to detect Killian with a Seeker BUT alas Seeker can only be attempted 1 per Week! 

Counter Intelligence Traps

Because of Security Concerns, its common that someone intentionally leaves an "Impression" items as Bait. Mages act on their Patrons behalf and leaders can break the connection between themselves and their patron in order to protect the patron. This is a muddy issue and professional try to always find out more before closing the noose, unless their hands are tied and they have to act. 

This kind of expectations helps create the kind of problem solving and strategic mindset you may want out of an Espionage Mastermind Game (one of the faces of the Ware Beneath Heaven Campaign). 

Illusions Surveillance Machines

Garbage In Garbage Out. Surveillance Devices only detect what they are designed to detect, you can use details to Infer certain things but an illusion disguise is recorded on a camera as is. An invisibility spell wont be picked up by a visual camera, of course other devices like heat detection can pick up an invisible character.

Alternate Identities (GM ruling)

A mage can have an alter ego, creating a Fake Face and Fake Identity (get the Alternate Identify advantage B39) to begin with... not exactly. It takes time to cultivate an Identity, some mages can create Fake Identities for sell it anonymously. It should cost about $20,000 per year of traceable history (modified by fame) and given how Haven attracts so many migrats and expats, there are a lot of missing and dead people to harvest their identities.

This will really screw with Seeker Spells. Of course there are limits to Alternate Identities, and Patricians and Dynasts may alter their features slightly to make it harder for Seekers spells to be used to gather information about them. 

GM has to rule is Seeker's Visualization requirement Kicks in with characters with multiple faces. In WBH the Visualization only works with the face, if an Illusion copies the face then the spell will return with an Error. Thats why name, Impression component and face is needed. The more details the better. 

What Happens Next?

Once you know the Identity and Location (through Trace) of who you are looking for, you have the foot in the door. When its Large Organizations vs Large Organizations (symmetric warfare), things can be porous because they will both use social engineering against each other weakest link.

Large Versus Small (asymmetric warfare), unless Small has the initiative it is pretty much a straight forward rub-out. If Small has the initiative, then guerrilla tactics/shadow warfare and exploiting the weakest Link of the larger organization.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 07: Doctrine 02 - Basic Magical Defense is to Know a Mage

More Extensive Countermeasures and their Costs. These packages are useful for GMs to detail how extensive the protections a Character may have.

First is to get Mage Man-power at the character disposal. How much and how to get such man power. Next is the Basic Security Strategy based on Common and Simple threats. Haven with its massive population growth (more than 2% per annum) and attracting many expats makes magical manpower something very complex.

Mages are Allies with Special Abilities, always count the +50% where applicable as a Patron or Ally.

Rules in Review

  • The Rule of 16 (B349)

Powerful Mage Allies and Contacts

Mages as Contacts (M44)

Mage contacts is the first step to accessing opportunities and magical equipment. The higher the level, the more powerful the equipment available. You can say contact skill level cubed is the FP worth of Item the character can get. Reliability determines the default reaction score level with the character, at unreliable at Poor (B560;  sells at +20%-50% "market" price), somewhat reliable at Neutral (at "market" price), Usually reliable at Good (at "market" price), and Completely Reliable at Very Good ( up to -20% discount of "market" price). 

Retainer Fee. 10-20% Monthly earnings of a Mage contact can be the retainer fee. Retainer fee is the freedom to bug your mage contact without having to exchange favors every transaction. 

Preventative Measures. Consulting with a Mage contact helps determine if there is someone out for you, if your plans are going to cause problems with other mages, and many other basic planning information gathering. This is the cheapest and smartest way to go about things: watch where you tread. 

Mages as Allies 

Powerful Familiars, Demonic and Undeath Companion, or Fate Bonded Allies can all help when it comes to Magical Counter measures. Of course only the Time they can allocate to the PCs can be dedicated in this way, so an Unsleeping companion can probably hold vigil 24/7. 

Allies (unless unwilling ones) are automatically at the best reaction roll with the PC (the unwilling ones in helpfulness but not feelings). Note that these are relationships and when the character eats up a lot of time and expense of some of their allies, and the allies cannot afford it then they may feel responsible (depends if they have some code of honor or sense of duty) for that ally. Note that PCs who have these sense of duty tends to have more allies lolz. 

Mages count as allies with Special Abilities. if it needed to be said.  

Paying Mage Allies. Some allies require retainer fee, others are Part of the PC's business and get wages from the PC. Allies should not exist in a vacuum, and their financial involvement with the PCs point out their strong shared incentives. 

Mages as Ally Group  

Being a Patron to mages, has its advantages, particularly when getting the price of the manufactured goods and leaving a very small detectable footprint for Intelligence Gathering as to the Size and Strength of the Organization. Most organizations project power in order to create ambiguity regarding the resources at their disposal, part of the game theory. Powerful Entities with Mages are ambiguous in the threat they can present, and often create peaceful coexistence in this game-theory situation.  

The price is there if you want to make them hirelings to make them more accessible, despite their lower Freq. The better their Freq-Appearance the more available they are to help.

Group of Adepts 24/7 FTE 2 (typical for the most most powerful Mages)
 $672,000 annually
At least Wealth Status 4 character
Ally (Ally 50% of Mage's Point Value; Frequency: Often, x2; Supernatural +50%; Group x6; Dependent at 50% Point Value of the mage, Freq-6 -5) [31]

Group of Masters 24/7 FTE 2 (typical for the most most powerful Mages)
 $1,680,000 annually
Typically Wealth Status 5 character
Ally (Ally 100% of Mage's Point Value 5cp; Frequency: Often, x2; Supernatural +50%; Group x6; Dependent at 100% Point Value of the mage, Freq-6 -1) [89]

Group of Masters 24/7 FTE 2 (typical for the most most powerful Mages)
 $3,360,000 annually
Typically Wealth Status 5 character
Ally (Ally 100% of Mage's Point Value 5cp; Frequency: Often, x2; Supernatural +50%; Group x8; Dependent at 100% Point Value of the mage, Freq-6 -1) [119]

Third World Mages.  

the way mages are created in haven is a process of Indoctrination, Patronage, and the extensive use of Minds Reading/Search and culling out dissent. Mages who survive the culling process and pursue the industry are those that are mostly likely freelancers or quickly protect themselves by joining a Coven. In Haven the most common mage groups are CULTS, worshiping the persona of some immortal mage patron (pretty much the situation of baby boomer or taken to the extremes in Transhuman settings).

Masterless Mages

There are very few Masterless mages. Mages of independent personality and initiative, and not part of some Cult or Coven (typically they are a "Circle or Guild or Fellowship" where they are peers in pursuit of knowledge -- total nerds). These mages owe their training to other Masterless mages who are pretty much like historical Free Thinkers, who breed through knowledge being passed instead of Indoctrination. PC mages in my game are Masterless mages (they do have mentors but they are not "Patrons" but teachers), they are the minority that is both dangerous and fighting for ground to survive (if not to thrive).

They are important to note that these are the extremely rare, probably 1:1000 and poverty and ignorance doesn't help the demographics lolz. They are pretty competent compared to the Adepts of Cults and Covens, and have a real passion. Typically seen as good guys because they don't perform the typically exploitative process of indoctrination, but can be REAL JERKS (be prepared to be offended lolz).

Allies, Contacts, Hirelings

Allies and Contacts have a Freq of appearance. When its not constant, it is assumed they have responsibilities that take them away from the player's access (they need to make a living, and the PC is not the center of his/her world). 

I've discussed mage "retainer" (based on my experience working with lawyers in our company and various consultants). Then there is actually hiring them, making them part of your monthly expenses, for a long period (like 2-3 years with periods of evaluations, and basic provisions that maintain performance and protect you as an employer). Even if they are hired, the PC must declare their job role. Assume the lack of access is the mage doing research, gossip, and study.
Mages are expensive but a whole market of them doesn't make them too expensive. Example is Killian who earns about $5,200 monthly for the HSS and on retainer for a year. He is a pregen for players who want to taken on challenge of playing a mage, but is still a hired member of HSS and does his job (with his brother Bill who has a great disposition to evaluate his performance to Thomas and Osman) particularly providing and maintaining scryguards for the team (he maintains one for Speedy, Osman, Fish, Thomas, Himself, and Sid; -6 to all his spells cast)

Mage Skills

Hidden Lore: Mages (A) IQ - Understanding the kinds of Mages, Colleges, the Orders/Covens/Guilds/Cults etc... You also know the Cost of Living, wages, and many things about the magical industry regarding HR. You also know that most powerful mages have cults/followers/devotees to draw magic power from (particularly because of how regular magic system works)

Information Analysis: Thaumatology  (H) IQ - the ability to understand magical doctrine and practice, you are able to apply your Thaumatology in gathering information regarding strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Defaults to Thaumatology-6. 

Expertise: Security (Optional Specialty: Thaumatological) (A) IQ - Very Specific regarding Magical information Gathering, Intrusion, and Counter-Intelligence. All the social engineering related practices with magic.  

Strategy (Thaumatology) (H) IQ - waging a Thaumatological Campaign, defaults from Information Analysis: Thaumatology -4.  Since magic has many elements of logistics and preparation, and how to organize magical elements. 

Current Events (Thaumatology) (E) IQ - requires Hidden lore Mages, knowing whats happening currently. Basic Political situation and Atmosphere among the many magical factions. Typically people learn about current events from their contacts, so sometimes you don't need it but sometimes its better to be the one to get the information yourself instead of 2nd hand. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The War Beneath Heaven S02 E04 reboot Summary

The team basically tried to cripple a Mega Church from taking over their team mate's territory. Although the Team mate wanted to kill the church agents compromise was reached and they decided to destroy the Church's reputation by attacking the PR firm (since the Church's rely on the professionals). They did this by doing social engineering against the innocent but the very competent' Account Director lady. The adventure was basically making her life terrible so that she would leave before they launched a malware attack. So the guys ended up digging up her ex, making it appear he's stalking her and leaving weird messages (which is more fun than it should be), they got her a job offer in HK, and blew up her serviced residence unit. 

Since the PR firms managed the dirt, in the month of June 2013 the whole world learn about the mega church and various scandals, and public pressure is placed to investigate them (which will be eventually bought off since the group learned the church has diamond mines and many other assets). Since they are one of the best Security Firms, they landed the mega church as their "client" and like PCs are violated rules of ethics by taking them on lolz. Justifiably, it was tossed that if you want to make those charges stick you got to take them on as their Security Service provider. 

There is clearly a disconnect in expectation, from Street-level to Empire building. I have to think about how best I will accommodate all, the activities of Bill was a good cue and break. Since some characters can be "back in the office" and provide support remotely, some characters will be taking point (a PC needs to be in the encounter).  

Still the consequence of their Actions are showing and the Alignments are making things difficult. Mind-Rape (mind search spell) was an option that was shot down, but suggested by the character who was pacifistic (in killing innocents) but gray in the area of violence (who happens to be violent himself; so mind rape option was concerned). Bill voiced opposition to the idea, and pointed out exactly that these are the things he doesn't want magic to be used.... and that's what Bill is... the mage conscience of the group who can be a bit enthusiastic having learned of magic and taught about what is going on beneath the veil. He's going to help out people and consult with the Prince and Knight regarding whats happening magically. His brother (with his obsessions) will be working to find out more about their previous enemy. 

Speedy, having been responsible killing the helicopter pilot has taken the family of the pilot as his dependents (secretly; friends advised not telling them) so he's going to be helping them out. $600/mo. for the forseable future and advancing $5,000 should cover funeral and other necessities using SGC (their ally lawfirm's charity foundation) as a front. He personally (in the electronic shadows) fixed education and  various other future needs of the children, and even provides enough money for the wife to study if she decides. the Empress will personally help in this kind of reparation, and potentially "push" her to educate and train herself since her kids are not too young. 

Cheng is going to fill the power vacuum by making his own Gang. I guess I'll need to get a psychological/socialogical profile of what his gang is going to be. As for recruitment, depends on how far he wants to reach out and what are the goals of the gang. Mention of creating his own Tong is pretty cool. 

There are a few new Character faces and allies. Jakub and Fish just got out of the hospital and is being nursed by Constanz, a skilled caregiver and one of the other prisoners rescued. They are friends of Martin Quesada, a fairly successful businessman who is into manufacturing and construction with a factory.  

By the end of the game, they have converted the old church into a Civil Center and invited some friendly churches to grow and spread there (Episcopalian i think). Despite Cheng's territorial growth, crime is unusually lower because of the civil center and the influence of HSS and SGC is stronger in the Heights. the Church of Haven is having been dealt a blow, is currently reeling and unable to offer its services at the moment. Remaining factions are Legba group and the Luna dynasty who are intersted in developing the area.

Legba group is approaching Cheng if they can jointly develop a Low income Housing and Commercial Center. Offering him majority share, to buy up more of the area. They will be sending him an NDA and their written proposal before the next session. 

The Luna group is approaching HSS, particularly Thomas' side of the business as a partner for an eminent domain take over of some of the housing for the much controversial Subway system. They property they want is HSS property for one of the main stations. Leorazon is of the same mind, but has left HSS hanging. Thomas is particularly interested in the project because it means tunnels and his ability to make more underground networks for HSS. The subway serves him as a way to better hide his infra if he is own of the owning firms. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 22: Demonic Ally

I'll leave it up to you what are demons in your setting.

Summoning such a demon costs only 11FP of course the Pentagram (M125) prepared costs 10FP as well for every 1 sqm. Typically a 19sqm pentagram, area 3, for 190FP or $47,500 for the penagram casting; easily $5 per sqm allowing with fine (x4) or very fine modifiers (x20) to casting per sqm of durable material for the pentagram. A silver inlaid pentagram of 19sqm at $950 of materials totals $48,500.

Material Component for Summoning a Demon.
I'm using the way to calculate Slaves found in Basic Set (annual income of profession x5 years). A demon should be worth as much as a Master (Mage who is Wealthy) at $780,000 worth of materials (human traffickers may be selling human life for such use) .

Demonic Ally Template
-20 point template

Advantages [190]: Resistance to Mind Affecting Magic +8 [15]; Unaging [15]; Darkvision [25]; Magery 20 (Aspected Darkness -40%; Granted by Contracted Ally -40%) 20 [45]; Demonic Talents (Acting, Merchant, Law, Fast Talk, History, Disguise, Intimidation, Psychology, Stealth, Hold Out, Politics, Hidden Lore)+4 [60]; Unusual Background [10]; Unkillable 2 (B96) (Achilles’ Heel, Common-Burning, -50%; Hindrance, Common- Impaled weapons, -25%; Trigger, a Simple Ritual, -5% ) [20]

Disadvantages [-210]: Dependency (B131) (Very Common-Ambient Mana, Constantly x5) [-50]; Dependency (B131) (The Contract and the Other Party's, Very Common, and Constantly x5; if the Contract is Violated) [-50]; Weaknesses (B161) (Sentimental or Significant Item) [-20]; Social Stigma (Valuable Property; Bound Demon) [-15]; Vulnerability (Magic Weapons Aspected , x4) [-20]; Dead Broke [-25]; Obsession (long term goals) (6) [-20]**; Code of Honor (Gentleman's) [-10].

Skills: Apply an Adept Template (+112cp template)

Class: Divine, Supernatural

Notes about Demon Template.
  • Allow the Adept Template and Demon Template Magery to Stack! for a Magery of +30. Not that the PC will gain the full advantage of this, Demons will not grant their full power. 
  • Code of Honor can be brought down in exchange for some Vow or strong psychological compulsion.  

Demonic Motivations.

Obsession is a requirement for each demon (and supernatural creature), since we established that these were once human feel free to think about what Immortal Motivations a demon can have. You can have something like bram-strokers dracula and undying love, revenge, etc... Murderous/Sexual compulsions that need sating can be a good substitute.

Contract with Demons.

If the demon is not plot protected, make SECRET opposed legal roll with the demon. Contracts are Perks (B100) according to M156 under Demonic Contracts. So a demonic ally is at least work 1pt. The margin of success or failure determines the Demons loyalty score. Its important that this roll is secret. The GM can always ask the player to Roll but use that as a Red herring (its sounds mean but this is a demon not paid in points). Since contracts can be renewable and adjustable.

Sample Contract. 

Since Demons are going to be part of a Player's own Motivations, but cannot derail the GM's story. 
  • This is one of the most annoying because the Demon basically YES&/BUTS all the player's wishes lolz. This is also pretty fun. The Demon is a machine for the GM to play out an obnoxious member of the party lolz. 
  • The Demon is left to his own Devices, as an ally the time the demon is not found (he has a freq-12) he creates some kind of trouble. Trouble that makes the PCs own plans more interesting (or closes many avenues and options to the Party). As a fickle creature the GM never has to justify anything, lolz.  
  • The PCs gain a secret enemy, gains the demon's secret enemy (this is not part of the Demon Template, but the Demon Character).
  • The Demon is leaching some of the resources of the PCs, borrowing powerstones (which takes time to power up again) or damaging various devices (they are worn and damage, but still functional). 
  • Demons F*cking with NPCs. Demons creating complicated relationships and giving the party some problems and some convenient NPCs in the Picture. (Basically the story with Tribonian Locke in the War Beneath Heaven Campaign, a head ache for his former master Dylan Baker which lead to some events). GMs fond of Soaps and messy relationships Go-to material! Worse, demons giving birth or fathering children lolz. Or Demons and their children lolz. 

Notes on Contracts

  • These are CONTRACTS meaning there is an exchange of Consideration. You cannot enslave someone via contract. If you read the basics of contracts it requires voluntary actions and decision. 
  • In the end of the day, what the contract really binds the mage and the demon is duty to each other and to help each other out. Its like a forced friendship. Even if you can conduct everything lawyer-like, Contracts require consideration for everything in exchange so the demon can make it as difficult as possible to the Mage or can make it very easy for the mage depending in how it feels towards the mage. 
  • That is why a demon who has the same Aligned Motivations with its mage is what works best. The real magic is the ability to research the Demon's motives and making a "match made in heaven" kind of deal. See the Sample Demon. 

Typical Adept 

93/112 points
Comfortable ($5600/month)
ST: 9 [-10]   HP: 9 SPD: 4.5
DX: 10      Will: 14 [20] Move: 4
IQ: 10   Per: 10
HT: 9 [-10]   FP: 9   SM:-0
Dodge: 8 Parry: - DR: -
Typical Age late 30s and early 40 (13-20 years of work)

Advantages [50]:  Magery 15 (Ally Accessibility -40%; Half-Power unless casting at Night -20%; Pact: Sense of Duty to Coven -10%; Pact Code of Honor Soldier of the Faith -10%) [35]; Signature Gear: Powerstone 15pts [2]; Powerful Familiar [14];
Disadvantages [-20]:  ST-1 [-10]; HT-1 [-10]; (you can add Enemies, Dependents, conflicting Duties, Inconvenient Compulsions, etc...)
Skills [43]: Thaumatology-31 [32] (-6 for other colleges - prereq count); Enchantment-25 [11]

A demon with the Adept Template can have Thaumatology-46 (skill 40 in any school/path)


Theresa The Angel of Death

Sadism (12) [-15]; Discipline of Faith: Ritualism [-5]; Obsession (Cause all to Suffer to Purify themselves) [-10]; Fanaticism [-15]; Masochist [-10].

Theresa is a beautiful but simple woman by all appearances. She wears a nun's habit, and has quiet and meditative lifestyle, but can be very charismatic and charming. She has one particularly nasty "overhead" to any Mage who contracts her, and that is her obsession with pain and suffering. In life her obsession was very well known and has brought controversy down on her and her order after she died, but despite this humanitarian atrocity she is pretty much a Saint to many.

As a demon, she likes to cultivate this and thus aids in attacks that bring about the increase of such pain and suffering. She would like to see any public good welfare activity, particularly medicine and health education cease. She wants increased "devotion" to her beliefs, and would further any "charitable" house who provides a place for people to suffer and die to expand their reach.

She will Aid in refugees (like in Haven's open refuge policy) to would gladly shelter them, asking her

Who would Want her? If you are big pharma who want to abolish generic medicines and monopolize medicine, she will be aligned to most of your goals. She also helps in giving good press as she will also conduct and manage the charitable institutions that house these people dying in misery. Although the best combination would be a mega-slum lord Politician, reap the suffering for their votes and divert wellfare aid to his/her coffers, deny them basic medicines and pain relief to feed Teresa her obsession, and use the resources and press she grants to advance property and human acquisition.  As a slum lord he can "breed" and grow his manpower reserves, to make it sustainable for Theresa.

She would be favoring Comm/Empathy, Mind Control (pain related magics), Body (particularly pain related), and healing spells (that increase the ability to endure, but not in any way relieving). 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 06: Doctrine Part 01 - Most commonly used magic

This is some doctrine basics (basically the Cliff notes so that you wont' have to go through all those spells) regarding Knowledge, Protection/Warning, Communication/Empathy, Mind, Necromancy, Meta-Spells and Enchantment.

The weakness of my approach is that I have many powerful schools that I've not explored thoroughly: Movement, Gate, Healing, Elemental Paths, Plant, Animal, Technological etc... In light of this please assume correction in more recent posts about these other schools to over-ride what I say here. Of course, since In The War beneath Heaven setting these are primary schools discussed all the other schools being Rare, it falls under in-character knowledge that the more recent posts will be unknown for the character.

  • Costs are based on War Beneath Heaven Economics. 
  • If costs in the book is based on the $33 per day, x7.6 to get the Setting price
Here is my Spell Spreadsheet for Sharing (In case someone accidentally alters it).
So far only Meta-Spell, Enchantment, Knowledge, Mind Control, Communication/Empathy, and Protection/Warning

Rules in Review

  • Magic Rules (B234). I keep having to read this again and again, because I read the spells description and the other fine print and find something nuanced again lolz. It is a lot of rules to keep in mind, hence the "Rules in Review" will definitely add to my word count lolz. 
  • Success Rolls (B343). Like above, I keep having to read this again and again. I had to leave a a post it page marker. 
  • Critical Failure (B348). Skills are unlike Spells, there are more dangerous consequences for Spells (see Critical Fail Table B236) unlike skills and even a simple failure has a cost (B235 last paragraph of Casting Spells, especially Information Spells). A mage will always try to have skills at least at 15 and Higher because of Special Resistance Rules (like vs Spell Endurance or another Spells Power Level)  
  • The Rule of 16 (B349). Basically it caps the Maximum Margin of Success of a Magical Attack when it is against a Stat. Since Spells with Magery can reach very high levels, this rule caps this. Its one of those things GMs have to remind ourselves, its better if I can notify spells with Max-16 in the Resistance notes. 

Divination to Speculate on the Future

Summon Shade allows you to talk to people in the Future. This is funny since the GM doesn't really know whats going to happen. If Players think they can use Divination to find out what stocks to buy, even with their epic law or research or writing skills to make a very well worded and productive question the bottom line is that maybe its a completely USELESS spell. If you are a fan of those string theory headaches, then maybe the magic doesn't call  on any one particular Time Line. So you can be calling on your best buddy from another timeline. 

If it was a useful spell, it would tell you things you can deduce from your own fact finding but it when boils down to probability its worthless because other timelines being created when probabilities are 50/50.
The GM can make his job easier as to make this spell near worthless (and a source of many red herrings). Of course divination has its Cognitive Biases, and Facts are not believed unless a person wants to accept them. So you don't have to tell your players divination is CRAP or you dont have to make it worthless, just be completely ambiguous (also meta story wise, how complicated things get with these elements). A lot of the elements come out of the recent news lines about "how to find time travellers"

Funny if it happens to be in the "Right" timeline, it might self correct lolz and in the next day something happens to alters the timeline slightly enough to make it worthless. 

Optimization of Points

So its no surprised you've probably guessed that Magery with Aspects are the cheapest way to having higher spell casting ability. In 2pts versus 4pts per level, Magery with -80% limitation aspects win out, thats why I've put a CAP of 15 levels. The Cap can be circumvented but by NPCs and powers gained in play.

The next obvious optimization is putting it all on Thaumatology, which is hard to beat at the cost of specialization. Note there is a difference of -6 between a specialist and a generalist, which is equal to 2 maintained spells or 1fp power discount or being able to cast in Low Mana conditions. Also prerequisites add up quickly, so I find it 50/50 for those who specialize vs those who generalize.

munchkin note: it is best to always give Opportunity Costs to help quantify what each levels mean.


Specialists would have 4-8cp in Thaumatology and put all their points in one Path and Enchantment. 20cp in a specialization is equal to about 10 years of on the job training. Its relatively no different from a professional trained from 16years. Note that this can be hastened with the special familiars and companions that have Teaching and can coach and train characters to these levels at 1/3 to 1/2 the time.

Enchantment is the School where everyone knows as a secondary specialty because most of the magical professions are in the manufacturing of enchanted items. Specialists can have 48cp dedicated into one path, at such a level and 15 magery there is a 5 point discount in spell casting (up to 6 point discount) when a powerful familiar grants mana-enhancer 2.

Specialists can call upon their powers frequently and in levels that are very lethal at 48cp... but not even 150cp characters can get there at the start without taking too crippling costs.

Few Paths are worth Specializing: Illusion, Mind Control, and Comm/Emp are the few and they have great economic specialization trade offs. Otherwise the access to all other Paths via generalists have worthwhile rewards. One big deal is that its easier to make a character if magic is just ONE SKILL lolz.


Thaumaturgy of of 48cp (IQ+10) makes up the difference for a specialist with 20cp (IQ+4); thats 28 more points, with the same budget a Specialists is +6 better than a Generalist and if there are a lot of Resistance Rolls, this matters A lot. Generalists are as common as specialists and the trade offs are generalists have more research skills (to know what are the spell options out there) and buy up their enchantment (to be able to prepare better).

Optional Rule Maintaining Skills (B294)

This fits perfectly as to why its hard to keep extreme skill levels. I'm planning to require it for Mages. Which means they get their bonuses from other sources, probably buying up the other Paths using Improved Defaults (B173). 

To keep buying up defaults (improving skills from default B173), the player has to pay 4cp for every -1 default value. so a -6 default means 24cp to be equal to what ever your current Thaumatology has equal or more points invested.   

What is the most common spell used? 

Enchantment is the most common spell used because of magical enchantment Industry. Enchanters focus on the just need to buy off the Difference in Enchantment Prerequisites (11pt Technique). Enchantment is an activity that counts both the Enchantment skill and the other path involved in the item creation. Enchantment is tricky since its -16 to cast from Thaumatology vs Enchantment at -10, and you use the lower of key spells. 

Typically the Specialization is +4 to +3  better than the Enchantment path/college (Example: Comm/Emp 20cp, Enchantment 8cp)  with 11cp hard technique for Enchantment. 

Currently because magical Items are made by Adepts, the power level is 25-prerequisite count.

Scrolls is the second most common spell used, (GM Ruling) its the Only way to negate the Maintaining multiple spell penalty. Since Multiple Spells (B238 under Casting Spells while Maintaining Other Spells).  If you read the description carefully, the Roll for the Scroll is AFTER its made and not when it is used.

Note that Power Level is the only way to determine how effective the spell is. A mage with multiple scrolls of different powerlevels can figure out the relative skill level of a scroll.

Typical Scroll Power Level is 15 (-5 from low mana) minus prerequisites. Higher levels are more expensive and rarer, lower levels are cheaper and more common. Power levels 20 (-5 from low mana) higher can command x4 time, and 25 (-5 from low mana) costs x20.
Optional Rule. Specialist Enchanters (Those with their specialty being Enchantment College), can use Scrolls so that a Higher Skilled Casting of the desired Spell can be used. This will allow enchantments to have higher Power Levels. This would allow Magical Specialization, and Power Levels of 31-prerequisite count. Power level is a big deal because it determines it the magic item is practically Always On since it determines its maintenance cost. You don't have to introduce this immediately in a setting, it can be when Modern Economics and Systems are in place and the Thaumatology/TL improves at a certain level. 
Scryguard (M121) This is the most commonly used spell for Privacy and for Protection. If you read the description carefully its ANY information spell. The GM should make some rulings as to how this interacts with spells like History (M106; is your actions detectable via History Spell while you were in scryguard). Because it lasts 10 hours. Mages can regain the mana in 30mins at the latest, and pay the maintenance easily, every mage has this spell on himself and on allies ON constantly.

Protects against any Information Type spells:

Seeker (M105). Are the next most commonly used spells for information gathering, this is the primary threats that concern most "Illuminated" people.
Clarify Impressions Rules (GM Ruling)
Reading Seeker (M105)  and  Impression Blocker (M60), Sympathy component is needed for such information gathering spells. Only one person handled the Object for an impression to be usable, that is why unhandled bodily remains of the target is best because there is no doubt who owns it. The entourage or companion of a Mage always handles the object so as to muddy the Impression on it.  

What is the most common defense measure/the most common threat? 

Privacy Threat and Information Gathering - is the most common threats. There are mundane ways to protect Privacy and this is what most mages take on. WHY?- because this his how you start any Social Engineering or Activity against someone (this is why Privacy is such a big deal, because the basic process to any effort against someone is gathering information about them... now if you gather information about an entire population, it may seem like your target is that population lolz)
Expertise (Security: Optional Specialization Mage) (A) IQ [2]; Acting (A) IQ [2]; Schtick Persona [1] 
Maintaining a separate Persona is the first line of Defense. The second is maintaining Scryguard (Metaspell M121) which is easy at 1FP every 10 hours which can cost nothing for caster of 15 skill after low magic. Note that what is important is the "casting level" because it must be defeated. While some mages can cast Scryfool, scry guard has a higher level unless the mage spent time buying up the technique. Illusion Disguise or Sense Observation (or both) since these spells can be easily maintained for long duration.

Scryguard Item ($125,000) and Simple Illusion Disguise ($37,500) are used by wealthy non-mages.

Only the Powerful Patron can afford Magical Resistance (M123) at $375,000. The patron typically is a Mage-himself, acquiring the advantage as a Tattoo/Branding/Implant/Grafting etc... if it was not imborn and then acquiring their own Powerful Familiar.

I will save Magical Countermeasures and an example of Layered Defense for another article since its too distracted to talk about it in this summary article and some more doctrine notes.
House Ruling Option. Amulet (M58) is not a go-to defense because it pretty specific and that spell relationships bleed into each other which requires many ruling notes (which i am slowly accumulating for just this spell and defense doctrine). Its useful for a broad kind of approach threat like Mind-Reading and Mind Searching, but given the randomness of Encounters and Circumstances it can be very hard to use. The best go to would be Magical Resistance (M123 Since there are so many methods of attack. Under Just Mind Control, there are about at least 16 offensive spells that can be casts under 7 prerequisites. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Review of GURPS Spaceships

It deserves its glowing review and ratings. It simplifies a lot of work when creating ships in GURPS. I have one big problem tho, its that you have to still build doctrine from scratch.... and thats a contestable failing if there was one. That being said, its a great book, but you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to have Ship combat, encounters, and Naval centric adventures in the future. 

So in a simulationist point of view, its simplified - I agree with the cost benefit of simplification in order to get some ships down and the Game ON!. Unfortunately you will need to have some form of doctrine to build in order to give guidance and internal rationale to methods and decisions. Best Practices has to be developed so that real creativity and problem solving can occur, and that's the real fun for me.

Otherwise, if there is no Doctrine its a Narrative Game (as someone who like and plays narrative mechanic games) and I'm not looking for that flavor of fun and I'm not as "Gaming High" as I am in problem solving fun. 

Why don't I just throw away my setting premises and just adopt the ships in the Series?

This is the first thing that comes to my mind when I look at all the ships (from just the Table of Contents of the Gurps Spaceship Series). F*CK my setting premises and just adopt the ships and just make a doctrine out of that... then they should have made such a book in the GURPS Spaceship series and doctrine happens WHILE building sample ships. I'm sure their making it, I'll just wait for that but while thats on its way I'll work on my own given my own premises. 

We start with simple assumptions and move on to complicated ones. Like a Gardener Writer, you let Interesting elements you want into the premises and you tie them together when they grow to a particular direction. Its hard being an Architect of an entire doctrine, especially when you want to start playing ASAP. Its not like a novel which can be planned in years lolz. 

Building Doctrine - the Analyst Compulsion

I'm a fan of Honorverse and love the doctrine element of the story. You can simplify the battles as Honor kicks everyone's ass, but then you can look at what it took for the Manticore and Havenite Navy to get where they are and the costs they paid. Simple is great, its better when applied where it counts and the focus in the elements that matter to the audience. 

Then again how many RPGamers have the same "turn ons" lolz? First thing about doctrine is that its really just for the GM who happens to get a big hadron in such things. Honestly I know of only one other person I know who likes this kind of stuff, and he's playing slots are full (and so are mine) I'm most likely trying to please myself lolz (there is a term for this). Hate it when reality and perspectives ruins an pedantic argument lolz. 

Still, I'm a big boy and I like the Doctrine and I'm unashamed of that. So with my self justification, on with some points about it particularly in GURPS Spaceships. 
  • OMG the assumptions. The design switches really make GURPS Spaceships - GURPS. the options are dizzying and really aim to please those with a hadron for Sci-fi. if your a Sci-fi author wanna be you would love this (and I'm a BIG Wannabe). So get them all down. 
  • Be Patient. There is a lot of ships to build and many sample combats to run! 
    • The method I'm using is working on the basic premise that SM+8 1000tons is a 200dton free trader. I did some research on Liberty ships and Economics so I'm just going to use some economic assumptions that will have my professors pestering in my head. A note 1945 USD is 10x the value presently. a Liberty Ship is $20M currently. It fits SM+10 but has lower density as 85% of it is cargo hold at 14,000 longtons/cu m or 1,000dton ship with 10,000 longton capacity or  700dtons cargo. Using the economic implication of City Stats for System Economies. Using WW2 economies with some assumptions regarding Common Good Spending (particularly in Interstellar Trade and Industry; basically the Imperial Economy heavily subsidizes it and makes it its primary commodity, taking the liabilities of its subsidized cost - its basically entrepreneurship instead of WAR as channel for political will and aligning economies. Kinda my thesis as to why I think the space program is good for the world economy). I can just hear my wife shouting out NERD!
  • So you got your research material and you have made about 12 ships in the course of 16 hours lolz. Funny, without doctrine you don't know what is important and what is expected or practiced. So in the first bunch of ships you make and as you learn the system you are going to be studying how to make things work, or a good BS excuse why things work the way they are. Still these are all happening in your head and you have no one to talk to about it to air the ideas to see if forgot some rule or failed to see an assumption (since your myopic). Then hopefully you know how I feel and why I want to talk to other gamer in Hangouts and send me a msg and take my offer to talk about this kind of crap that will test your spouses's or players patience lolz. 
  • After talking to someone or getting to talk to someone Be ready for a lot of Notes to digest and after writing it all down and having your Final IDEA let it sit for a MONTH before getting back to it to add some perspective. If you don't find yourself kicking your own ass with what you wrote then proceed to make a ton more ships until the next WALL hits you and everything looks like crap and you wasted your time... then Call me again and lets figure out some BS reason why we can make it work LOLz. Otherwise revise with the clearer and objective voice you have after you gained some space from your work and have someone critique it lolz. 
  • After you accomplish basic logistics and economics, basic commercial level threats and the broad brush strokes of Naval (with a few Naval Engagement Demos under your belt) then you have achieved a King of the Nerds award which you have to Claim after submitting your final thesis and had it peer reviewed (by fellow Nerds of your Peers). There will be a ceremony in onAir, with a couple of Puppets with Sesame street rip-off voices handing the virtual award. Be sure to invite the spouse for the false praise and heaps of sarcasm. Tell your spawn that Daddy did something great and there will be icecream and chocolates. 
Well hope this helps, if anything it just made me really depressed and should put adequate alchohol or some recently legalized herb in my to buy list or better yet spend some more quality time with the spawn. 

GURPS Social Skills Include Personal Grooming, Dress, and Styling

All Social Skills, have grooming and styling as part of the training and knowledge base of a social skill. I'm of the opinion that it should be universally built-in into social skills of any game system. Savoir Fair (Business) means dressing sharply according to your (professional or social) status, and not just how to address the owner of a company (a particular position), or what each title and position means, or how to format a letter of introduction, how to give professional gifts (that don't break rules of ethics), etc. etc...

If you add Grooming, Styling, and Dress then Social Skills becomes more indomitable to myself and many other gamers who don't need to deal with Byzantine Social Strata that has made us feel inferior and excluded since childhood lolz. But made into PART OF The GAME the attitude changes and the geek will try to use adaptive learning to make sense of it all using the learning tools of gaming.

So the PC who is a social animal, is able to convert a business casual (Savoir-Fair Business) into party clothes (carousing), attention getting clothes (sex-appeal), or "gangster" (streetwise), etc... or basically their Savoir Faire (High Society) to other mediums or knows how to "clean up" or "dress up" when needed. (note these days even artists who are recluse need to learn dress and personal styling to make believable characters).

Some Notes
  • Of course if your defaulting from a Non-social Skill like Psychology or Merchant it does not help with dressing, unless you are defaulting from Connoisseur: Dress IQ/A.  Note that communicating with clothes is as alien as Mandarin to me, I'm learning but its still a language I can barely understand and need my wife to translate. 
  • Fashionable is typical for this but I would suggest using Charisma instead with a limitation where its accessibility is in situation where clothes matter (limitation: Accessibility only Dress, Style, and Grooming -40%) . So using charisma over the phone won't grant the bonus or if the character was not able to Groom-him/herself the bonus is lost.  It gives a new meaning to "Cleans up nice" or Transformative looks while in uniform or Dressed to kill. This assumes Charisma is capped at 2 levels.  
  • The Player declares what Social Skill he/she is using to Dress. Multi-Tasking penalty when trying to dress Business Sharp (Savoir-Fair Business) but able to Party (Carousing) etc..
  • The reaction bonus from Social Status is halfed in modern setting. The only way to get the full bonus (which is 4) is through the Social Skill Ability Modifier ex. Carousing (E) IQ+2 [4] allows a Rockstar to dress to Party. 
  • Formal Clothing are restrictive! Tailoring (use Low Tech Tailoring Rules or just apply Fine or Very Fine Cost modifier) -3 to DX and HT checks (try running or hiking in heels or those pointed hard heeled business shoes). Quality modifier negates some of the penalty.  

Again work is often a source of inspiration-frustration and this is one of those little details that matter when I wish it didn't.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 23: Ghostly Companions

Ghostly Companions is an old trope, you can say Virgil in Dante's Inferno is one of such. A very popular example is "Bob" in Dresden Files. Then there are the "Shikigami", one of their many fantasy interpretation are these ghostly "familiars". Ghostly servants can come about for a variety of reasons in your settings, even in a setting that leaves an atheistic interpretation to the world. More importantly they are pretty fun.

Using GURPS Magic.
Requires Bind Spirit (M158); a 225cp ally can be summoned as a service but to if you want "Plot Immunity" you may want to pay it with points. No plot immunity, then the GM hides the character sheet and rolls in so many forsaken tables for its motives and hidden desires... which is actually more interesting.

Ghostly Companion Template

-14 point template

Advantages [191]: Doesn’t Breathe (B49) [20]; Doesn’t Eat or Drink (B50) [10]; Doesn’t Sleep (B50) [20]; Insubstantial (B62) (Usually On, -40%; no-need for flight, can move any direction at full move) [40]; Invisible (B63) (Substantial Only -10%; Visible to Mirrors -10%) [32]; Magery 0 [5]; Night Vision [9]; Resistance (B80) (Immunity to Metabolic Hazards) [30];  Unaging [15]; Unusual Background [10];

Disadvantages [-205]:  Social Stigma (Valuable Property) [-15]; Dead Broke [-25]; Supernatural Features (No Body Heat, No Shadow, No Reflection) [-25] Dependency (Common, Ambient; Constant x5 cost) [-50]; Dependency (Ties to the Mortal Plane, its destruction causes constant loss ) [-50]; Unhealing (Partial) [-20]; Vulnerability (Magic Weapons, x4) [-20].

Skills: Typically has the skills of a Mage Template

Class: Undead, Spirit,

Non legal human Entity meta Trait [-40] - Social Stigma (Valuable Property) [-15*]; Dead Broke [-25];
*Social Stigma: Monster [-20] are for creatures that are not owned, which means anyone can destroy without social repercussions. It may be even encouraged like pests.

Typical Adept 

93/112 points
Comfortable ($5600/month)
ST: 9 [-10]   HP: 9 SPD: 4.5
DX: 10      Will: 14 [20] Move: 4
IQ: 10   Per: 10
HT: 9 [-10]   FP: 9   SM:-0
Dodge: 8 Parry: - DR: -
Typical Age late 30s and early 40 (13-20 years of work)

Advantages [50]:  (No need for Unusual Background); Magery 15 (Ally Accessibility -40%; Half-Power unless casting at Night -20%; Pact: Sense of Duty to Coven -10%; Pact Code of Honor Soldier of the Faith -10%) [35]; Signature Gear: Powerstone 15pts [2]; Powerful Familiar [14];
Disadvantages [-20]:  ST-1 [-10]; HT-1 [-10]; (you can add Enemies, Dependents, conflicting Duties, Inconvenient Compulsions, etc...)
Skills [43]: Thaumatology-31 [32] (-6 for other colleges - prereq count); Enchantment-25 [11]

The difference between the Deathless Companion and the Demon, the deathless companion is more of a slave while the Demon is more of a Partner. Less powerful than the Demon, they create less complications for the Mage.