Monday, May 25, 2015

GURPS Hekinoe Sorcery: The Eighth Time Is The Charm Continued

We're making pretty good progress here with the sorcery basics. So now I think we've got to establish some variations on the themes of sorcery. So what little subtypes of sorcery have cropped up in the background material? Shadow sorcery, that's a thing. We've got gun sorcery. It hasn't really been spoken of or seen, but totemism is a thing in The Beast Lands. There's also intuitive sorcery, which is rare because it is kind of stupid. It is definitely not the same as Pathfinder spontaneous casters. There's also astral sorcery. 

In the previous post we were working on something called major sorcery. It's the "normal" kind of sorcery. There are various types and schools with little quirks and bits and pieces and fiddly bits (Common, Emboderel, Shamanism, Wizardry, etc, etc), but they're all fundamentally the same in the mechanics of how they work and what they do. Astral sorcery, gun sorcery (which we're calling weapon sorcery from now on), intuitive sorcery, shadow sorcery, and totemism are in some cases extremely different and all fall into a category known as minor sorcery. Each of these minor sorcery types requires an Unusual Background to be accessed, so they're all a bit points heavy at times. 

Astral Sorcery
Astral sorcery is sorcery that kind of uses the movements and positions of celestial bodies as its core concept. Spoiler alert: it's mostly bullshit. But sometimes it works. Unless it doesn't. Mechanically, it amounts to an Unusual Background that allows you to buy an Energy Reserve that represents a stable supply of energy for spells. Spells still misfire, but you have a small amount of energy that does not factor into calculations for increased chance of misfire. 

Ok, this next part consists of non-player information that kind of spoils things.

Back in the day, there were these three ships of the Elder Races, they were in Hekinoe's solar system because reasons. They were destroyed just prior to Kaleshmar's destruction, because reasons. The engines of these spaceships broke open and they ended up kind of fused together, giving rise to the planet now known as Gorelon. Gorelon isn't really a planet, despite looking like it. It's a very luminescent perfect sphere of energy containing the ruins of these three ships and their engines. The energies of these engines, as stated in a previous blog post from ages ago, have turned the interior of this "planet" into this realm of fleshy pseudopods and fanged mouths. It's the closest approximation Hekinoe has to a DnD Far Realm. The energies of these engines are very similar to sorcerous energy, but they're different, and can only be called on when Gorelon's position in the sky gives it a direct line of sight to Hekinoe's surface. There are also sentient creatures in the infinite layers of warm, sweaty, fanged flesh mass that are Gorelon. Opening your mind to Gorelon allows them to enter yours, leading to literal voices in your head.

I have all of the mechanics for astral sorcery pretty hashed out in my head. Practitioners contemplate the void of space a lot. The best way to describe it is telepathic communication. The sorcerer kind of stares up at the void deep in meditation listening in a telepathic way until he forms (or believes he formed) a bond with one or more celestial bodies and then he draws energy from them. Successful, non-bullshit snake oil salesman practitioners tend to be a bit bat shit crazy and often believe they can hear the voices of the stars. 

So what does that look like in GURPS terms? First you need at least the Sorcery 0 advantage, which allows you to purchase the Unusual Background (Astral Sorcerer) [10] advantage. Which is required because you're doing something most people can't do and buying advantages in a way most people on Hekinoe can't.

This allows you to buy one of the following advantages: 
  • Energy Reserve 1 - 10 (Sorcery, Cosmic: Does Not Count As Energy For Misfire Purposes When Use, +50%; Accessibility: Only When The Stars Align, -20%; Required Disadvantage: Phantom Voices: Annoying, -5%; Sorcery, -10%) [4 - 40]
  • Energy Reserve 11 - 15 (Sorcery, Cosmic: Does Not Count As Energy For Misfire Purposes When Use, +50%; Accessibility: Only When The Stars Align, -20%; Required Disadvantage: Phantom Voices: Disturbing, -10%; Sorcery -10%) [44 - 60]
  • Energy Reserve 16 - 20 (Sorcery, Cosmic: Does Not Count As Energy For Misfire Purposes When Use, +50%; Accessibility: Only When The Stars Align, -20%; Required Disadvantage: Phantom Voices: Diabolical, -15%; Sorcery, -10%) [64 - 80]

So what does all this mean? Energy Reserve is an advantage used to power things like psi abilities and superpowers. It's like an extra reserve of FP. The Sorcery designation means that it is used for sorcery related abilities, like spells. The Cosmic enhancement does exactly what it says, the energy from this Energy Reserve does not count as sorcerous energy when you pay for a spell or whatever, so it can lead to a slight decrease in the unreliability of a spell. The Accessibility: Only When The Stars Align limitation that there will be times where this advantage is unavailable to you due to the movements of planets and other celestial bodies. Required Disadvantage means that your character must also have the Phantom Voices disadvantage at the Annoying, Disturbing, or Diabolical level, depending on how large your Energy Reserve is. You get the normal character points for the disadvantage, which leads to a slight reduction in the cost of the advantage. The Sorcery limitation means that this particular Energy Reserve is sorcery and as affected by anti-sorcery effects. So if you are deprived of your access to sorcery, you're deprived of the Energy Reserve. 

Intuitive Sorcery
Intuitive sorcery is similar to major sorcery in how it functions. Kind of. The gist of it is that some people don't really learn sorcery, they guess and get lucky. Or they know a little bit and fucking fake the shit out of the rest of it. Some people are very intuitive and can make leaps of logic or shockingly perceptive guesses or do stunning feats of math without paper that shock normal folks. That's kind of what intuitive sorcery is. It only functions because a big component of sorcery is symbolism and having the willpower to create mental constructs that force this vast and chaotic energy into a specific form to achieve a specific effect. 

There will be a little more that goes into the description in the campaign book, so we'll move onto the actual mechanical rules. First things first, you can't have a character that has both major sorcery and intuitive sorcery, and I'm not sure why anyone would want to. That's a ridiculous point sink. You also need Sorcery 0 and Unusual Background (Intuitive Sorcerer) [10].

Because intuitive sorcery does not stem from learning recognized forms of rituals and incantations, it relies on Will alone as the base attribute for spells, as well as misfires. Resisting misfires is still done at Will-3 in The Known World. Because it is so off the cuff and lacks any formalized training (which exists and functions well for a reason), the Intuitive Sorcery advantage must have the -30% version of the Radically Unstable Sorcery limitation (the version that doesn't allow any stabilization rolls, so every failed check to cast a spell results in a misfire). Intuitive sorcerers don't really need to or want to write things down, their whole skillset revolves around casting spells on the fly, so they don't need grimoires. Intuitive sorcerers still gain mutations as other sorcerers down. They also follow the previously established rules for how their check to resist misfire is affected by energy use and such. 

So here is the major difference between intuitive sorcery and major sorcery: instead of buying spells individually, an intuitive sorcerer buys colleges as wildcard skills. Wildcard skills are treated as very hard skills, but at triple the cost. So buying Air College! at Will+Sorcery+0 costs 24 character points. But your intuitive sorcerer can cast every air spell without buying them individually. There is one big penalty though (aside from the exorbitant cost). For every prerequisite the spell has, you take a -1 to your effective skill level when attempting to cast the spell. 

So if you have a Will of 14 and Intuitive Sorcery 2 and know Air College! at attribute+0 your skill with air college spells is 16. If you want to cast the lightning spell (an air college and weather college spell) to fling a bolt of lightning, your effective skill level would be 10. Lightning has a prerequisite of Sorcery 2 (which this character has via Intuitive Sorcery 2) and any six other air college spells, leading to a -6 penalty to effective skill level. 

Shadow Sorcery
Shadow sorcery is something I really really like. It's actually one of my favorite things from Pathfinder. Which is why I have an unnaturally raging nerboner for Shadowdancers and shadow dragons. One complaint I have about shadow magic in Pathfinder is that it's treated like illusion magic, which is fucking stupid. Most of the spells describe you pulling shadow stuff from The Plane of Shadow to create creatures and effects. To me, it is no more of an illusion than pulling fire or fire elementals from The Elemental Plane of Fire. There's nothing to disbelieve about it, it is physical stuff that exists. It's only semi-solid, and that should have an effect on its physical traits, but you shouldn't be able to just disbelieve in the fireball of shadowstuff coming at you to reduce it to 20% effectiveness. 


There is a Plane of Shadows in Hekinoe. It's not really a plane as we define them, well, it is, but whatever. Anyway. I like the Plane of Shadows, so it exists in my game world. It's super fucking cool that there is an amazingly appropriate Secret GM Background Info reason for it to exist. I mean, I'd still have it even if there weren't, but I'm tickled by the fact that there is. There are lots of names for this place: The Land of Shadows (Goebleen), The Shadowlands (Fallen), The Realm of Falsehoods (Elduman), to name a few.

It's an adjacent realm, similar to the Hound's neverending moonlit forest or a Nel holding, that exists as a dusky copy of the real world. Colors are subdued, light is poor and unchanging, etc. It is full of cities and continents and people that match the real world. However, cities are in different places or have different names or are in different states of condition. Distances and sizes fluctuate. It's also on the cold side. It also has no Builders, Elduman, Nel, or Rankethlek shadow people within it. A few other races no one has encountered yet are absent from this place as well. 

Shadow sorcery requires the Sorcery 0 advantage and the Unusual Background (Shadow Sorcerer) [10] advantage. Beyond that though, it does not follow the majority of the rules of sorcery we've already established. Instead of using the regular GURPS system of magic, shadow sorcery uses advantages. This is because shadow sorcerers basically only use sorcerous energy to poke a hole into the membrane between the real world and this place of shadows and then grab at shadowstuff from within it to create effects. 

These effects are fairly similar to what you've seen from Pathfinder. Shrouds of darkness and such. Jumping from shadow to shadow. Creating constructs built from shadowstuff. Transforming into a shadow. Etc. But it does have some more offensive and defensive uses. Shadowstuff is soft, but you can layer it about yourself for Damage Reduction (albeit with the semi-ablative limitation) or fling thick clouds of it at foes to blind, suffocate, and/or freeze them. It's pretty mutable stuff so what you can do with it is pretty flexible. It would be impractical to list every little itty bit of mechanical meat to the capabilities of shadow sorcery, so I'm not going to do that.

Because shadow sorcery is based on using sorcery to access this shadow realm, it does misfire using the normal Will-3 check to resist misfire. However, it only misfires in a very specific way. This  is because of the nature of the shadow realm. It's basically a vast space with a lot less stuff in it, and the stuff in it doesn't have as much weight to it as the stuff from the physical world. It's kind of a sort of metaphysical equalization of pressure. Basically, when the sorcerer pokes a hole from the real world to the shadow realm, the sorcerous energy is kind of getting sucked into it instead of running around all crazy like.

Basically what happens during a shadow sorcery misfire is that the sorcerer's willpower isn't focused enough to keep shoving sorcery into the hole between worlds and it cuts out and the shadow realm kind of sucks on the closest source of energy for a moment before it snaps shut. That's the sorcerer, fyi. So when shadow sorcery effects misfire, the shadow sorcerer takes FP or HP damage as a bit of his lifeforce gets shunted into the shadow realm (and totally doesn't feed his shadow double and give him the ability to pass from the shadow realm to the real world to hunt down his double and devour him).

There are two main advantages that are used to mechanically represent shadow sorcery. The first is Shadow Talent [5]. Shadow Talent isn't mandatory, but it helps. Every level of Shadow Talent offers a +1 bonus to effective skill level on rolls with shadow sorcery. This means attacks with shadow sorcery abilities, defense checks while using shadow sorcery powers, and so on. It does not affect your check to resist misfire.

The other main advantage is Modular Abilities. Modular abilities is a very versatile advantage that lets you purchase a reserve of character points to alter your capabilities. It's good for representing a more traditional prepared spellcaster like in Pathfinder, AI's that can delete and download skillsets as needed, and deity-like beings that can just wish themselves new capabilities. Because shadowstuff is so flexible, I feel like using Modular Abilities is a great way to represent it.

So how does it work? We need to base it off of Modular Abilities with the cosmic enhancement. This means that the shadow sorcerer has an infinite number of "slots" for abilities, rather than a limited number like the other versions of the advantage. It also means he can change his current modular abilities by concentrating for one second each. This costs 10 character points per character point in the reserve. That's fucking expensive.

The first two limitations for the Modular Abilities is Environmental: Only With Access To Sorcerous Energy, -5%. So the shadow sorcerer can only access the shadow realm if he can use sorcerous energy to open up a hole to get it. Luckily, sorcerous energy is everywhere (except the middle of the oceans and in the nonexistent blackstone pyramid prisons beneath Serethnem that Kusseth totally does not have). The second limitation is Sorcery, -10%, which means that any effect that stops or negates or effects sorcery (such as Sorcery Resistance or Neutralize) also affects shadow sorcery effects. It also has the Advantages Only, -10% limitation because it's not capable if granting you new information (skills) or improving your attributes or that sort of thing. It has the Physical Only, +50% enhancement because normally Modular Abilities is about granting yourself mental and social advantages and skills. Finally, it has the Limited: Shadow and Darkness, -10% limitation which means you can only use it to create effects tied to shadow and darkness.

Well fuck. That's super fucking expensive. That's 12 character points per character point in the reserve. So something as basic 5 DR semi-ablative cloak of thick shadowstuff shrouding you using Damage Resistance (20 character points base cost) could run into the hundreds of points. There's gotta be something else to do with this.

There's something called alternative abilities, it's like alternative attacks. You take several abilities that stem from the same source, pay for the most expensive one and pay 1/5 the cost for the rest. The only issue is that you have to use a ready maneuver to switch modes and if you switch modes, an effect like Damage Resistance or Allies would turn off. There's also the risk of if one ability is disabled, they all are, but the kind of goes along with Modular Abilities.

The other option is to create my own Modular Abilities. I don't know what I'll call it, but we'll use the rules in GURPS Power and create a slot system. We'll break it down into three branches ("slots") of shadow sorcery: Shadow Sorcery Attacks, Shadow Sorcery Defenses, and Shadow Sorcery Constructs. Shadow Sorcery Attacks is very broad, it could be a blast of FP damage dealing cold, clinging shadows that blind (Obscure) or weight you down (Binding), as well as various forms of the Affliction advantage. I'm going to say that slot has 5 base points since it is a pretty broadly focused. Shadow Defenses is a little bit more limited, since it will primarily deal with defending yourself from attacks or effects, stuff like Damage Resistance. Fuck it, we'll go with two.


See, I keep getting confused with what I want to do. There's nothing that fits super well in my head. I think the least frustrating thing to do is going to be outlining the sort of things shadow sorcery can do, as well as saying all shadow sorcery powers must have the Environmental: Only Functions With Access To Sorcerous Energy, -5% and Sorcery, -10% limitations and then allowing players to use the whole alternative attacks/abilities option. That's a lot easier than getting complicated with Modular Abilities. 

I didn't mention it earlier, but once you take Unusual Background (Shadow Sorcerer) you can purchase Dark Vision or Night Vision 1 - 9 at any time. 

Totem Sorcery
Yeah, I just renamed totemism. Totem sorcery is actually a poor name choice, as you don't have to be a sorcerer to use it. It does require sorcery to function, but the amount of sorcerous energy is so minor that misfires amount to a flash of light or a loud noise. We have to talk about the great (dire) beasts of The Beast Lands for a moment.

The great beasts are typically huge predators, and in rare cases herbivores, that have existed forever in The Beast Lands. These creatures are massive, ill tempered, and continually grow in size and strength as long as they live. They also live indefinitely, like dragons. Some of these beasts are ancient. They're extremely rare and extremely powerful and they are terrifying. They're still animals, but their IQs tend to be 6 - 8 instead of 2 - 4. They're still animals, though. Just like dragons, whose IQ can get up to 10. If I remember right, there's one with an IQ of 11 somewhere in my notes. But she's special.

Anyway. One of the talents of the shamans of The Beast Lands is using sorcery to deal with the great beasts. There is also a very rare practice that involves communicating with these ancient great beasts and gaining some of their strength. This practice is extremely rare, and the first part of it is finding a shaman that can do it (likely requiring a quest in and of itself) and convincing him to do it (probably need to perform a quest to get him to even consider it). Then you have to find one of the beasts and convince it not to kill you (usually by presenting it with the corpse of a slightly smaller great beast as tribute and using the beast speech spell to communicate with it). The other route is to get the shaman to use sorcery to force the ancient beast into compliance with your wishes, but that offers some risks. If the ancient beast is amenable, the shaman casts a secret spell that has beast link as a prerequisite and sort of binds the beast to someone, allowing the someone to gain aspects of the beast's power.

Dammit, totem sorcery and totemism are really stupid names for this thing. But I can't think of another one. I suppose a made up name works. Irehontism. Irehontism, yeah, I like it. It means haunted by the rage of beasts in ancient Uncout.

Back to game stuff. So once you're bonded to this creature, you can gain some fairly standard abilities. ST, HP, HT above and beyond the norm. Enhanced senses. Claws, fangs, scales or hide. Etc. Each advantage must be purchased with the Environmental: Only Functions With Access To Sorcerous Energy, -5% and Sorcery, -10% limitations. They also have Required Disadvantage: Bad Temper and/or Berserk, and/or Bestial.

There are further restrictions, and they are why I have not opted to include an Unusual Background requirement in this stuff. The advantages and attributes purchased must be in keeping with the particular beast you are bonded to. So if you are bonded to a great viper, sure give yourself Teeth and an Innate Attack modeled after its venom and some Damage Resistance as scales. But you can't give yourself Claws. Additionally, the points spent on these abilities cannot exceed more than 50% (round down) of the value of Bad Temper, Berserk, and Bestial.

I might change that to 75% (round down). Dunno. Or I might just make the disadvantages prerequisites and not restrict the points you can spend on the ancient beast traits. Who knows!?

Bad Temper and Berserk are both mental disadvantages that allow for a Self Control check. Their base value is 10 and that's with a Self Control of 12 or less. So if you are bonded to an ancient wolf and have Bad Temper (Self Control: 12) [-10], you could spend up to 5 points and gives yourself Claws (Blunt) [3] and Teeth (Sharp) [1]. If you wanted to double your pleasure you could take Bad Temper (Self Control: 9) [-15] and Berserk (Self Control: 9) [-15] and have Claws (Blunt) [3], Teeth (Sharp) [1], ST+1 [10]. The points values of the advantages would play out slightly different due to the previously mentioned Environment and Sorcery limitations. So the ST+1 would really be 9 points, not 7 (Required Disadvantage applies a cost reduction as a limitation based on the value of the disadvantage in question, -15% in this instance). Claws and Teeth have points costs too small to really be modified by only a -30% value of limitations.

It should be noted that Irehontism is an extremely sketchy practice and shamans willing to perform these rites tend to be bad dudes. Dudes that hang out in the forest will all the beasts because they killed and ate their tribe. It will also lead to some social issues with folks in The Beast Lands that recognize what has been done to you and where you draw your power from.

That said, the Niht tribe practices Irehontism extensively. Primarily they use it on outsiders and criminals to create berserkers.

Weapon Sorcery
Weapon sorcery is pretty basic, it uses sorcery to enhance weapons temporarily. This is pretty standard sorcery here. Most of the misfire information and such will translate from major sorcery to weapon sorcery.

The first way to do it is to treat it precisely like sorcery, but using only spells like flaming weapon/missile/armor spells. The flaming weapon spell has four other spells as prerequisites, as well as Sorcery 2. The other route is the Imbue advantage, which allows you to buy skills that allow you to wrap your weapon in energy and that sort of thing. The first way feels kind of pointless, you know? Sorcery already exists and if a sorcerer wants to specialize in using weapon effects, he can. So I guess we're going with the Imbue advantage to represent weapon sorcery.

Instead of an Unusual Background, you're going to need Gunslinger, Heroic Archer, or the Weapon Master advantage (all of which are on the expensive side, hehe). Whichever is the most appropriate to your specific weapon. Additionally, you'll need Sorcery 0. After that, you can buy the Imbue advantage. It has the following limitations: Environmental: Only Functions With Access To Sorcerous Energy, -5%; Sorcery, -10%. So you have to be able to access sorcerous energy to use Imbue skills and anti-sorcery effects work as anti-Imbue effects. It'll also have the Radically Unstable Sorcery limitation at the -30% value, so just like a spell there is a chance of misfiring if you fail to successfully use an Imbue skill. Because the energy amounts are so small compared to regular spells, Imbue skills only misfire due to failing to properly activate the Imbue skill you are using. If you fuckup an activation, you'll be able to resist the misfire with the Will-3 resist misfire roll. The effects of misfires are determined by the nature of a spell and how much energy was spent on it. The more energy put into a spell, the more potent the misfire. Since Imbue skills don't take energy, I think I'm going to have to base the strength of their misfires on the penalty you apply to your skill when using them. Most Imbue skills have the ability to apply a negative modifier to their effective skill for an increased effect, so that's the closest translation to putting more energy into a spell. I'll figure it out. 

Once you have the Imbue advantage, you can start buying Imbue skills and do sorcery with your stupid fucking weapons and whatnot. The Imbue skills are pretty standard: burny weapons, acidy weapons, poisoned weapons, hard hitting weapons, ammo that bounces and ricochets, and so on. 

Minor Sorcery tl;dr
  • Astral Sorcery: Commune with planets, gain a special Energy Reserve that doesn't increase misfire chance when used, as well as voices in your head.
  • Intuitive Sorcery: Uneducated sorcerers that don't bother learning things, uses Will instead of (IQ+Will)/2, very unstable, have no need of book learnin' or grimoires, buy colleges as wildcard skills instead of buying spells individually. 
  • Irehontism: Bond with ancient great beasts, gain some of their strength and characteristics as advantages, as well as some of their rage as disadvantages.  
  • Shadow Sorcery: Draw extremely flexible shadowstuff from another realm to craft effects with. Uses Shadow Talent. All advantages must have the following limitations: Environmental: Only Functions With Access To Sorcerous Energy, -5%; Sorcery, -10%. Taking Unusual Background (Shadow Sorcerer) allows the purchase of Night Vision 1 - 9 or Dark Vision. 
  • Weapon Sorcery: Uses the Imbue advantage, only misfires when you fail to successfully active an Imbue spell. 

After all of that, I think we're done with sorcery. I've made a lot of experimental builds, but I think this one (this post and the previous one last week) is a good balance of matching the campaign's background material and not bogging down gameplay with excessive extra mechanics and rolls. We'll see though.

Next up, psionics, and Gifts. And the Nel. Not sure which one I'm going to do next quite yet. We'll see. 

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