Friday, January 29, 2016

GURPS Hekinoe Magic: Alchemy, Enchantment, and Other Stuff.

So like I said, I want to talk about some other stuff related to magic, especially stuff I haven't spoken of before. We'll start with alchemy. And we'll start with alchemy by discussing how it normally works. Actually, we started with alchemy like three or four weeks ago, but then I found more things to talk about and just kept writing and writing and writing. Someone please stop me.

Adjustable Spells
GURPS Thaumatology has an option called adjustable spells that I've decided is very appropriate for the way spells work in Hekinoe. There are two things you can do with this. The first is that you can pay 4 more energy to reduce the spell's casting time by 1 second (but not to 0). The second thing is that you can add enhancements to spells, similar to when you add them to advantages. So you could apply No Signature (+20%) to cast an invisible lightning bolt or fireball or you could choose Increase Range (2x, +10%) to change fireball's range of 25/50 to 50/100. The only issue is that spells modified this way cost 1 more energy and have -1 to effective skill level per +5% of enhancement. The extra energy used to speed up spells or modify them with enhancement does not count as as base energy for the spell, so it will likely lead to addition penalties to effective skill level due to exceeding base energy cost.

Adjusted Colleges

There are a lot of colleges in GURPS. 24 to be specific. Here's a list: air, animal, body control, communication and empathy, earth, enchantment, fire, food, gate, healing, illusion and creation, knowledge, light and darkness, making and breaking, meta, mind control, movement, necromantic, plant, protection and warning, sound, technological, water, and weather. DnD only has like eight or so. To be fair, the collections of spells in GURPS are way more fucking organized and sensible than in DnD. There doesn't seem to be a lot of organization in DnD in terms of what differentiates a conjuration spell from an evocation spell for instance. 


I feel like there are too many colleges, especially since this newest system of sorcery in GURPS relies on buying the colleges rather than individual spells. In the chapter on sorcery in the campaign book, the in world justification for colleges, because there are no real spells per se, is to create common language between sorcerers to help them understand what they are talking about. So my purpose here is to reduce the amount of colleges that must be bought by characters that want a broad range of magical ability. Also, there's a lot of overlap in the weather college, all of its spells are either air or water spells already, so the weather college is completely gone. Also, metal spells are lumped into technological, and I feel they are more appropriately earth spells. So here are the new colleges and their contents: 

  • Air: Air
  • Body: Body Control, Healing
  • Earth and Metal: Earth, Metal
  • Enchantment: Enchantment
  • Fire: Fire
  • Flora and Fauna: Animal, Plant
  • Food: Food
  • Illusion and Creation: Illusion and Creation, Light and Darkness, Sound
  • Knowledge: Knowledge
  • Making and Breaking: Making and Breaking, Technological
  • Meta: Meta
  • Mind: Communication and Empathy, Mind Control 
  • Necromantic: Necromantic
  • Protection and Warning: Protection and Warning
  • Transportation: Gate, Movement
  • Water: Water
  • Removed Colleges: Weather
  • Removed Subcolleges: Divination, Plastic, Radiation
So that consolidates things just a little bit, making it a little bit more cost effective for generalists. 

Alchemy is an IQ based very hard skill with no defaults. So you need to have the skill to use it. Once you have the skill, you can make alchemy stuff. This typically requires the purchase of raw materials and doing various things to them over the course of several days, finally culminating in a skill check to see if you produced or did not produce a viable elixir of some kind. There's a list of like two or three dozen elixirs in GURPS Magic and an alchemist can produce any of them. The elixirs all modify your effective level with alchemy based on how difficult they are to create/how powerful they are. For instance, beast-speech is made using alchemy-1 and the resurrection elixir is made using alchemy-6. An alchemist can buy a technique for each elixir to offset their penalties to his skill level though. During the crafting process, an alchemist can make multiple doses of an elixir at once (at a penalty to his effective skill level) and there are several physical forms of elixir that can be made (potion, flammable powder, regular powder, or ointment). Some elixirs are restricted to being made in certain forms. The reanimation elixir, which lets you reanimate a corpse long enough to question it, can only be made in ointment form, for instance. Also, ew.

So that's a rough outline of how alchemy works in GURPS, let's talk about how it works in Hekinoe.

The first major thing is that alchemy is a Will based very hard skill with no defaults. As a side note, it also no longer functions as a default of chemistry. The second major thing is that Magery of at least level 0 is required to utilize the alchemy skill to produce elixirs. The reason for these changes is because the assumption in regular GURPS alchemy is that certain materials have magical essence that can be alchemically manipulated to create magical effects. In Hekinoe, an alchemist is using his willpower to guide and shape sorcerous energy into reagents that have symbolic meaning. In effect, the reagents and the cooking processes are the alchemist's equivalent of a sorcerer's mental constructs. Because alchemy involves the use of sorcerous energy, the region's unreliability penalty applies to a character's skill level when using the alchemy skill to craft elixirs. Because the assumption in GURPS Magic is that alchemy requires rare components, reduce the cost of raw materials for elixirs by 10%.

Elixirs will check for misfire when they are used on or by a target, not when the creation process is completed. The misfire level of an elixir is the effective skill level of the creator's alchemy skill when they crafted the elixir. Every week the elixir exists, roll against its misfire level. A failure on this check reduces the elixir's misfire level by one. In GURPS Magic, the various forms of elixirs have specific ways in which they lose their power, in an instance where an elixir would  lose its power normally (such as a potion being left uncapped for a day or mixed with another fluid) it automatically misfires.

Aside from those aspects, Hekinoe alchemy will work the same as it is described in GURPS Magic. As has been mentioned before, magic items explode when they misfire, this holds true for alchemical elixirs. Originally, I was going to dig through all the elixirs and find the relevant spells or effects they duplicate to figure out how much "energy" was in each of the elixirs, but many of them do not copy specific spells. They just do things. I came up with an alternate solution though. In GURPS, the suggested price of an enchanted item you buy in a store is $33. What I did was find the cost in raw materials for each elixir and divide that by 33 to come up with an "energy" amount for each elixir. These energy values will be used to determine how hard an elixir misfires.

Let's move to our next topic.

Blood Magic
This is more of a side note than anything else, as it is totally useless and impractical in The Known World, but it bears mentioning. In normal GURPS magic, casters use FP and have the option to use HP to pay the energy cost of casting spells. Because sorcerers in Hekinoe disperse some of the excess sorcerous energy from their spells by absorbing it into their bodies, this is an option for casters in Hekinoe. However, the amount of lingering energy in a sorcerer's body is very small, and accessing it is painful. It is only possible in areas of normal, high, and very high ambient sorcerous energy. The conversion rates are 3 HP/FP for 1 energy in very high regions, 6 for 1 in high regions, and 12 for 1 in normal regions. So it's very impractical in the first place and incredibly likely to kill you in regions of normal energy. Basically, you're using your ability to sense sorcerous energy, finding it in your body (or someone else's), and tearing it out with your will. Unliving casters, such as Fallen and Soulless, are immune to this. This practice is known of in The Known World, but it's basically useless due to the amount of sorcerous energy present on the continent. I mean, hypothetically speaking, if there were sorcerer prisons deep beneath Serethnem which Kusseth accesses via a super secret underground railroad of pain and suffering overseen by Brasscoats, sorcerers in such a completely hypothetical prison that find themselves cut off from sorcerous energy because they've been entombed in a blackstone pyramid older than time, might find a use for it. Too bad such a place is completely hypothetical.

Ceremonial Magic
Ceremonial magic is used for two things in GURPS, group spells and enchanting. Spellcasters are allowed to use it on their own if they are enchanting. I'm not going to outline how it works normally, because that system is completely pointless in Hekinoe. Normal GURPS forces spellcasters to rely on their own FP to power spells and the level of mana in the area immediately restores a portion of that energy. In Hekinoe, magic is completely external. This means the main benefit of ceremonial magic, increasing the amount of FP a caster has for casting a spell, is irrelevant. But I want to keep ceremonial group castings in Hekinoe. In regular GURPS, non-casters and bystanders can also add their energy to a spell, but that's stupid.

So what's the goal with ceremonial magic in Hekinoe? I want there to be an element of increased power as well as an element of increased stability. I do want to keep the feature of ceremonial magic taking ten times longer than the spell being cast normally does. I am going to remove the whole thing about enchantment using ceremonial magic. With individual sorcerers being able to command butt tons of sorcerous energy in The Known World, the penalties association with using ceremonial magic to enchant items make it super pointless and impractical. It's a thing that could happen, but there's no reason for it to come into practice in The Known World.

The way I see it working is the group of casters sort of attempt to synch up their minds and form a sort of collective. The easiest way to do this is via the telepathy spell, but it can be achieved via a successful meditation check from each participant. Meditation defaults to Will-6 and autohypnosis-4. This method takes longer, one minute per participant.

These collectives are basically a group of casters working together to make a spell, so there's no real leader. There might be a leader in the sense that someone is guiding the process and declaring the goal to be dropping the biggest fireball ever on Kusseth City, but it's more like an assembly line. Because of this, there are several aspects of ceremonial magic that are an average of all the participants. The averaged aspects are the Will of the participants, the Magery level of the participants, and the level at which they purchased the college of the spell they wish to cast. The level at which they purchased the skill refers to attribute+1, attribute-1, etc. Each of these aspects will be rounded up.

Let's look at an example with a fireball spell.

So we have three casters. They have a Will of 14, 12, and 16. They have Magery levels of 2, 3, and 6. They know the fire college at attribute+0, +1, and +3. So the collective has a Will of 14, a Magery level of 4, and a fire college level of attribute+2. So the collective's base effective skill level with fire college spells is 18. With fireball, its base skill level is 13 (due to the three prerequisite spells of fireball and the -2 due to The Known World's unreliability.

I jumped the gun here, there are more modifiers. For every participant that has a Will of 13+, increase the Will of the collective by +1. For every participant with a Magery level of 3+, increase the Magery level of the collective by +1. For every participant that bought the relevant college at attribute+3, increase the base level of the collective's college skill by +1. With all this factored in to the above example, the collective has a Will of 16, a Magery level of 6, and knows the fire college at attribute+3. Which changes things to a base fire college skill level of 22 and a base skill level of 17 with fireball.

One more thing needs to be averages. I spoke of a technique last post, one that neutralizes penalties to skill level due to exceeding the base energy of a spell, extending if for additional durations, etc. If any participant possesses such a technique, average the value that it is possessed by all participants and round up. So one participant doesn't have it, another knows it at default+2, and the third knows it at default+5. This means the collective knows the Sorcerous Stabilization technique at default+3.

Because there are several minds working on different parts of the spell to make it stable and disperse excess energy and that sort of thing, each participant negates one -1 to effective skill level from exceeding minimum energy, extended duration, etc.

Casting times are ten times longer with ceremonial magic. So a normal maxed out fireball spell would take three seconds. Casting it ceremonially would take 30 seconds. However, the effective skill level of the collective does modify casting time. This doesn't affect the casting time of the collective we are currently using as an example, but one with an effective skill with fireball of 20, rather than 17, would only take 15 seconds to cast it ceremonially.

To be fair, that doesn't seem that beneficial. The third set of statistics, 16, 6, and attribute+3, actually has a fire college skill level of 22 and a base skill level of 17 with the fireball spell and has the Sorcerous Stabilization technique at default+5. So he alone is as competent as the collective.

The problem is that I've used fireball as an example. Fireball is really too simple of a spell to be cast using ceremonial magic. We've also used a very small group of casters with wildly different statistics. If we take a more modifiable spell, like rain of fire, which is an area spell and one with a duration that can be extended, and we take a larger group of casters with attributes that are closer together, the benefits of ceremonial casting become much more stark.

That single caster has a base skill level of 18 with rain of fire (-2 from prerequisite spells, -2 from sorcerous energy). If that single caster, we'll call him Kn'otnak Man'der, chose to cast the 2d-2 burning damage per second version of rain of fire, he could cast it on a 5 yard radius area with the -5 from increased energy cost immediately negated by his Sorcerous Stabilization technique. The base duration is one minute (for a total of 120d-120 burning damage in 2d-2 increments) though. If he wanted it to go for two minutes, he'd immediately generate -5 from increased energy (the spell costs the same to maintain as it does to initially cast), and another -1 from extending the duration. His effective skill to extend the duration would be 12 instead of 18. If he and say 12 other casters were holed up in a secure place casting it as a collective, he'd have a little bit more wiggle room to keep it going and make it larger, especially if the other members of the collective were as skilled as he is.

So that's how ceremonial magic works in GURPS The Known World. In other areas of Hekinoe, it will be slightly different, but the fact that sorcerous energy is so plentiful in The Known World makes those differences irrelevant.

There are two types of enchantment, the kind that uses actual enchantment college spells to enchant an item, and the item version of some spells that allow you to create an item that duplicates the spell's effect (such as the wand or staff you can create for 800 energy and a $400 ruby that casts the fireball spell when powered). Some enchanted items have passive effects that are always on, others are activated effects that cost energy and duplicate a spell. Enchanted items that have activated effects must have a powerstone integrated into them or they cannot function. Well, they can, but a sorcerer would need to channel sorcerous energy into them, which is of minimal benefit since they could cast the spell themselves. There is one benefit though, activating an enchanted item has no ritual component like casting a spell might.

All of the rules outlined for enchanted items and their creation and using them outlined in GURPS Magic operate as normal. Enchanted items have a power rating, the GM makes all the creation rolls for the player, they don't become cursed on really bad rolls, but they do become wonky.

Just as with spells, the misfire level of a magic item is the effective level of the creator's spell that creates it. Each enchantment on an item has a separate misfire level. Enchanted items check for misfire when they are used, but no more than once per minute. So a weapon with the accuracy enchantment checks for misfire when you attack with it, but you probably only have to check for misfire once during a battle. . Every week an enchanted item exists, roll against its misfire level, failure on this roll reduces the misfire level of the enchantment by one. Additionally, the misfire level of enchanted items is modified by the material being enchanted. It's a range of -2 to +2, with materials like glass and paper being -2 and materials like wolf-iron being +2. The material also modifies how often the enchantment checks for misfire.

Blah blah blah, misfires, explody, boom. There is more to enchanting but for some reason I wrote the actual mechanics in the campaign book instead of outlining it here. Most of the rules are already in place anyways, so it would kind of just be retyping pre-existing material. I'd like to talk about how enchanted items are made rather than how they break. The only real change I made was that the exploding enchantment must deal enough damage to destroy the object it is on before it can deal damage to anyone else. I don't think I've specified it before, but if an enchanted item is broken, the enchantments on it automatically misfire.

There are two ways objects are enchanted in GURPS, slow and steady enchantment and quick and dirty. These methods both exist in GURPS Hekinoe, but the rules outlined here replace those in GURPS Magic. Regardless of which method you use, enchanting is an exhausting process. The enchanter expends 1 FP per hour spent enchanting.

Enchanting an object is basically investing an object with so much focused sorcerous energy that you carve your mental construct of what you want the spell to do into the object on the atomic level. Or something more magical sounding. Heh.

Quick and dirty enchantment is precisely that, quick and dirty. It's faster, but slightly more unreliable. Basically, you just dump energy into the item and its enchantment. You're focusing on speed here, not super stable casting. This allows an enchanter to dump energy equal to his Magery level into the enchantment process every minute. However, once the item is completed, there is a -2 penalty to the enchantment's misfire level.

The other method, slow and steady, takes significantly longer. You're slowly and steadily feeding energy into the object to give the enchantment permanence and solidity. This method allows the enchanter to dump energy into the spell equal to his Magery level each hour. This makes the process lengthy, but grants a +1 bonus to the enchantment's misfire level after it is completed.

Shadow Magic
Shadow magic/sorcery is a thing. The Shadowlands/Land of Shadows/Nychtemihar/etc are the only true plane that exists in my universe. There are planes, which I call realms or adjacent realms to be difficult, but they are fleeting and not permanent cosmological fixtures like those we think of from DnD. Nel/Immortal holdings fade when the Nel/Immortal dies or is weakened. Sorcerer's can create little realms, but because misfire, those are unlikely to persist forever. The Shadowlands are permanent. They are where shadow sorcery comes from. Shadow magic is the act of using sorcerous energy to pull shadowstuff from The Shadowlands to do stuff with it. Typically this involves various forms of attack and defense, summoning allies made of shadowstuff, etc.

In previous versions of the GURPS Hekinoe magic rules, this was an advantage based system that relied upon having a connection to sorcerous energy to activate it. I may continue to use that system. Or not. I honestly don't know. The other route to do it is to make a shadow college of spells. This college would basically duplicate spells found in other colleges, but modify them in specific ways. This route would be easier on the player, somewhat, but more difficult on my end because I have to dig through all the spells, which there are lots of. Then I'd have to modify them and recalculate their energy costs and such. Which actually isn't that hard.

Sorcerous Constructs
In the Pathfinder version of Hekinoe, it was easy to resolve issues of the summon type spells. In Pathfinder, these spells summon a creature from elsewhere to do your bidding. Since Hekinoe has no planes, the way to resolve this was to simply say these summon spells were creating a creature from the caster's imagination and it was composed of pure magic. This required no real alteration to the way anything worked in Pathfinder and amounted to a cosmetic change. In GURPS Hekinoe, we have to get a little more involved. In GURPS there are a variety of summon spells (elemental, demon, etc). These no longer exist. The summon beast spells are a bit different, and are unchanged because they use magic to call an already existing creature from the environment to the sorcerer's side. 

So after we've removed the inappropriate spells, we need to create a new spell. We'll call it create sorcerous construct. This spell is based on the removed summon spells. Most of them cost 1 energy per 10 character points and have an hour duration, so I've used that as a base for this spell. 

Basically, the spell costs 1 energy per 10 characters points that the sorcerous construct has. The base value of the spell is considered to be the value of the sorcerous construct meta-trait. So exceeding that carries the normal penalty. The base duration of the spell is for an hour, and it costs half of what it cost to cast it to maintain it. The create sorcerous construct is an illusion and creation spell and it has six prerequisite spells from that college, meaning at its base it will have a -6 modifier to your effective skill level when casting it. It will have additional prerequisites, potentially, for enhancing the creature with certain abilities (for instance granting it fire related abilities will add create fire to its list of prerequisite spells). 

The current value of the meta-trait is 15 character points, so it costs 2 energy to create. This assumes a bipedal creature with a value of 10 for all its basic attributes, no personality or empathy, and no real special abilities beyond the innate abilities garnered from being made out of sorcerous energy (mainly resistance to injury and various living weaknesses).

I cannot sorcery anymore. I have been poking and prodding and writing and researching on an almost daily basis since the previous post appeared. There's still more to discuss, but I need to take a break.