GURPS Stuff

End of June report

My best friend gains another year under his belt as do I in a few days time. I’m still dealing with physical therapy for my pelvic floor dysfunction as well as shoulder impingement. It feels like the world is on fire with the continuing protests and another surge of COVID-19. I’ll say it: black lives matter, and everyone should be wearing masks. Politics aside, black lives matter, and everyone should be wearing masks. Personal feelings aside, black lives do matter, and everyone really should be wearing masks. I hope that’s clear. I know the internet allows me to more easily see bad news, but it really does seem like humanity is in short supply of reason and empathy. I’m sure it’s always been that way, but, as I said, it’s just even easier to see on the internet.

Life has felt extra weird and out of my control for the past month—probably even before that, but I’ve really been feeling that way lately. Here’s to hoping for some good things ahead.

Still, I managed to get out quite a few blog posts in a short span of time, even if three of them were about coffee recipes. It makes me happy, and I think that counts for a lot.

Conlang stuff report

My conlang has continued to mostly be on the back burner. I did get some extra bits of inspiration from Toaq and Ceqli. And, when I say “extra bits”, I mean some loglang inspiration that might fundamentally change how a certain part of my conlang works. I’m not turning my current greyfolk language into a loglang, but, like I said, I have some really neat ideas.

Speaking of stealing borrowing ideas for my conlang, Globasa turns 1 on July 26th. I’ll do my best to make a blog post for its birthday, especially because that should mark the worldlang becoming much more stable as it goes into Phase III.

RPG stuff report

My GURPS/Fate Savage Worlds Deadlands mess has continued to go really well, which is nice. I’m planning on adopting even more of the Savage Worlds framework. I don’t think I have the Will to ever leave GURPS behind—I love it too much! But even GURPS likes to sand down its own rough edges to streamline play. Even outside of the post-apocalyptic genre, the Boldly Going Forth chapter of GURPS After the End 2: The New World is great for just that. I’ve already taken it much further by just leaning on Fate‘s aspects for so many things, but I ended up wanting a bit more crunch than what that provides. Savage Worlds, in a lot of ways, seems like a nice middle ground, and I think I can adapt a lot of its ideas to make GURPS better fit the play-style of my group.

Also, another GURPS Kickstarter will be launching soon. If there’s enough money put into the project, we’ll be able to grab 12 PDFs for $3. Not $3 each. I mean $3 for all 12 PDFs—again, assuming that the project reaches a high-enough funding level.

Writing stuff report

Well, I’m supposed to start Camp NaNo tomorrow. It’s gonna happen, but I think I’ll at least be off to a rough start. In April, I got 10,000 words (which was my goal) in only 20 days; so, I’m not too worried about taking some extra warm-up time.

Alternate attributes and skills in GURPS

When GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes came out, I was thrilled. Right now, sitting here and typing out this blog post, I’m still thrilled about its existence. It’s everything someone like me could want! By “someone like me”, I mean someone who tinkers with tabletop RPGs past the point of frustration out of unnecessary perfectionism and perhaps a bit of masochism. I’ve been a follower of the Divine Order of Splitting Per and Will from IQ for a long time.

If you’re feeling particularly devilish, you can even apply this to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. I do, but I also tinker with every single thing I get my hands on.

Alternate attributes

On the forums, Kromm had also mentioned a whole set alternate attributes here and here in a discussion that came out of “The Fifth Attribute” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V, which was about adding an additional attribute to GURPS (called Quintessence) to cover supernatural stuff. Basically, the idea was to split Perception and Will from IQ to make them their own attributes. Then, split IQ into a social intelligence attribute as well as a general intelligence attribute, and split DX into a full-body coordination attribute as well as a manual dexterity attribute. So, you get four physical attributes and four mental attributes, and there’s room for supernatural attributes, but I later decided against them because I still feel that’s better covered by optional stuff like Talents and Energy Reserve. Of course, if one is going to boost Will to an attribute, it makes sense to give it an analogue to Fatigue, which is nicely covered in “Mad as Bones” from Pyramid #3/103: Setbacks. In the article, it’s called Stability, but I like calling it Anxiety. Furthermore, I also use “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V with “Knowing Your Own Strength” from from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV as I recently detailed in this post, so I use Vitality instead of HP.

Physical basic attributes:

  • Strength [ST]. ±10 points/level. Almost the same, but it’s logarithmic.
    • Vitality [VT]. ±2 points/level. Replaces HP for use with logarithmic ST.
    • Striking ST, Lifting ST, Arm ST, etc. are all in there, but I don’t really allow them to be bought up from where they are. If I did, Striking ST would probably be ±2 points/level with Lifting ST at ±6 points/level.
    • Basic Lift [BL] is covered too, obviously, but I usually just call it Lift.
  • Agility [AG]. ±10 points/level. Covers Agility and Flexibility from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Dexterity [DX]. ±10 points/level. Covers Fine Motor Ability and hand-focused Coordination from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Health [HT]. ±10 points/level. Almost the same. Covers Athleticism from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
    • Fatigue Points [FP]. ±3 points/level. Unchanged.

Mental basic attributes:

  • Charisma [CH]: ±10 points/level. Covers Creativity, Social Intelligence, and softer Naturalistic Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Intelligence [IQ]: ±10 points/level. Covers Knowledge, Logic, Practical Intelligence, Technical Ability, and harder Naturalistic Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
  • Perception [PR]: ±10 points/level. Replaces the secondary characteristic. Covers Awareness and eye-focused Coordination from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41). I use PR-based aim rolls in a similar manner to “On Target” from Pyramid #3/77: Combat, and PR rolls work with “Dodge This” from Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay.
  • Will [WL]: ±10 points/level. Replaces the secondary characteristic. Covers Intrapersonal Intelligence from “Reassigning Skills” (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 41).
    • Anxiety Points [AP]: ±3 points/level. Analogue to FP.

It’s not perfect, and there are better names for these attributes, surely, but I wanted to stick with what was already familiar. Charisma [CH] could be something like Character [CH] (but that’s tricky since characters are called… characters) or Personality [PR] (but that would require me to rename Perception). Intelligence [IQ] could easily be Knowledge [KN], but I wanted to keep it the same.

Secondary attributes:

  • Contacts: ±10 points/level. Works like Resources (below), but it covers social connections like the Contacts advantage. (I’m still ironing out how it works, but it should work similarly to the Contacts skill in the Fate Condensed system.)
  • Resources: ±10 points/level. Works like the Social Standing attribute (GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, p. 26).
  • Reflex [REF]: ±30 points/level. Covers Dodge, Block, and Parry. It is not formulated on any of the basic attributes like Basic Speed was.
  • Movement [MOV]: ±5 points/level. Replaces Move. It is not formulated on any of the basic attributes.
  • Size [SIZ]: ±20 points/level. Replaces Size Modifier. Negative points for a higher Size because it comes with so many inherent disadvantages like making you easier to hit, making you need to consume more, and making you spend more money on scaled equipment.

In the GURPS Basic Set, you need 70 points for a +1 to attributes, secondary characteristics, Basic Speed, etc. In the system I have outlined above, you need about 100 points. So, my system is about 50% more expensive; of course, a typical character only seems to have about 50% of their points tucked into their attributes, so this will end up being a +25% increase to template costs.

Alternate skills

I didn’t with attributes. For how I play GURPS, it has way too many skills. I like the condensed skills from Savage Worlds and Fate Condensed. Similarly, GURPS has Talents and wildcard skills, and the Wildcard Skills found in “Pointless Slaying and Looting” from Pyramid #3/72: Alternate Dungeons and “Pointless Monster Hunting” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV are pretty great treatments of how to cover an entire genre’s worth of skills with wildcard skills. However, wildcard skills are prohibitively expensive—no, skills in general are too expensive! Even if I slightly overstuffed some Talents, it would cost about 225 points for a +1 to all (standard) skills—using wildcard skills would put it at about 228 points for that same +1. With my system, you could instead go for +1 AG [10], +1 DX [10], +1 HT [10], -1 FP [-3], +1 CH [10], +1 IQ [10], +1 PR [10], +1 WL [10], and -1 AP [-3] for 64 points, and that still gives you the benefits of claiming the boost to those attributes themselves. That tells me that skill costs should be half or even a third of what they are to stay somewhat competitive. I went for the drastic third, which would make a wildcard skill equivalent to just a VH skill, and that would make a 15-point Talent a 5-point Talent. (It’s worth it to re-evaluate other advantages like Daredevil and Higher Purpose too).

For a while, I just used the skills from Fate Condensed, but that wasn’t enough after seeing what other people posted in this thread. Someone mentioned “Niches” from GURPS Template Toolkit 1: Characters (p. 35), which is a really solid framework for creating wildcard skills (or just VH skills in my case) to cover every skill. The only changes I made were merging Animals and Plants into Nature while splitting Combat into Melee and Ranged. Oh, and I renamed several of them to fit what I wanted a bit more. In Malainka’s review of GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Attributes, they talk about whittling down the skill list to about 13 of what it is, which, of course, seemed to fit nicely with my own vision. That’s also really great stuff, and, if I wanted more granularity than the broad niches, I would absolutely pick up the work they did.

Going back to the niches, there are 30 of them, but the above talk about 228 points of wildcard skills for a +1 to everything only points to 19 wildcard skills. The niches have plenty of overlap, and I allow them to be used very flexibly and in a complementary way, so I’m fine with there being 30 of them. If you wanted, you could raise it to an H skill instead of a VH skill to compensate. I also heavily use Talents. If niches/skills are vertical lines, then Talents are horizontal lines, and they intersect at the true specialty of a character, which I really like. A cowboy might have decent Melee, Nature, Outdoors, and Ranged niches, but it’s the Cowboy Talent that helps them excel specifically with bowie knives, cows and horses, working on a farm, shooting revolvers, etc. Really, wildcard skills and Talents follow almost the same cost progression, so I usually treat a 5-point Talent as a +2 to an extra ‘niche’ with a little bit of a reaction bonus tied in there. (If a 5-point Talent covers up to 6 skills, a 2.5-point Talent might cover up to 3 skills, which is about the same breadth as one of these niches; so, 5 points is enough for a +2 to something with the breadth of a niche. So, Cowboy Talent [5] gives +2 to doing cowboy stuff, and it helps with cowboy-related reaction rolls.)

Let’s get to the implications. Skills are typically a pretty small portion of a template; so, even though their cost is being divided by a third, it’s only about a -12.5% decrease to template costs.

Using them together

Overall, that means this will net a +12.5% increase to template costs. I should further explain that the increase is for total positive points—e.g., a 250-point template with -50 points in disadvantages is really worth 300 points. Using these systems, 300 points would become ~337 points. Then, of course, factor the disadvantages back in for 287 points.

You’re not going to come out with super clean numbers in most cases, unfortunately, and some templates in a genre have different pools of disadvantages. I’d eyeball it like this:

  • Templates in GURPS After the End go from 150 points to 175 points, which is a decently pentaphilic number, but I’d even go up to 200 points if feeling generous.
  • Templates in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy go from 250 points to 287 points, but I would just round that up to 300 points (or back down to 250 if you want weaker starting characters).
  • Templates in GURPS Monster Hunters go from 400 points to 506 points, which makes it pretty easy just to call that 500 points.

I’m throwing that out there because I would get so stuck on saying that the relative costs are set in stone by the gods of GURPS themselves, but they’re not. They’re based off of good estimates and pentaphilia—I mean 250 points obviously looks better than 287 points. However, if you’re handing out points at the end of the first session, that perfect number is going to break right away.

What about everything else? At this point, I’m pretty comfortable making stuff up on the fly, so I’m not terribly worried about converting monsters and whatnot before I use them. They don’t really have points anyway, right? Though, for logarithmic ST and VT, I obviously have to convert some of that stuff, and I tend to just convert GURPS damage wholesale into my system.

Revisiting using Knowing Your Own Strength with Conditional Injury in GURPS

All the way back in September 2019, I made a post on how to use “Knowing Your Own Strength” from Pyramid #3/83: Alternate GURPS IV with “Conditional Injury” from Pyramid #3/120: Alternate GURPS V in GURPS. For five months, I worked on it, but I just wasn’t figuring it out; so, back in March, I messaged dataweaver on the GURPS forums, and I asked for their help in moving forward with combining the systems.

  • ST = 20 × log(BS_ST) – 10.
    • ST = VT.
      • VT (Vitality) replaces HP at 2 points/level.
    • BL = 2 × 10(ST / 10).
    • For static damage (like firearms), ST = 20 × log(BS_damage / 0.5547) / log(10).
    • For DR, use the static damage formula and add 14. This is Armor Rating (AR).
    • For muscle-powered weapons, double the modifier, add 10, then log-subtract 9. This is the Weapon Rating (WR). Log-add WR to ST.
    • For damage bonuses (for punches, All-Out Attack, etc.), use them as a bonus to ST—use double the amount as a ST bonus if the damage bonus is per die.
  • Severity = 5d6D2 + ST – VT.
    • D2 means drop two, so drop the lowest two dice.
    • Log-subtract AR before subtracting VT.
    • 5d6D2 averages to 14. I usually just substitute 4d6.
  • Conditional Effects Table:
    • Negative Severity: Nothing.
    • 0 to 4: Scratch, Shock -0, HT+6.
    • 5 to 9: Scratch, Shock -1, HT+5.
    • 10 to 14: Minor Wound, Shock -2, HT+4.
    • 15 to 19: Minor Wound, Shock -3, HT+3.
    • 20 to 24: Major Wound, Shock -4, HT+2.
    • 25 to 29: Reeling, Shock -4, HT+1.
    • 30 to 34: Crippled, Shock -4, HT+0.
    • 35 to 39: Mortal Wound, Shock -4, HT-1.
    • 40 to 44: Mortal Wound, Shock -4, HT-2.
    • 45 to 49: Instantly Fatal Wound, HT-3.
    • 50 or more: Total Destruction.

For the Multiple Injuries rules, I use the above HT rolls for wound accumulation. Log-addition and log-subtraction use the table below. For log-adding two values, look up the difference between the two values in the Log-Addition column, then add the Modifier to the higher value. For log-subtracting two values, look up the difference between the two values in the Log-Subtraction column, then subtract the Modifier from the higher value.

Log-Addition Log-Subtraction Modifier
0 +6
1–2 +5
3–4 +4
5–7 +3
8–10 +2
11–18 +1
19–25+* 26+ +0
26–35 16–25 -1
36–38 13–15 -2
39–41 10–12 -3
42–43 8–9 -4
44 7 -5
45 6 -6
46 5 -7
47 4 -9
48 3 -11
49 2 -14
50 1 -19
51+ 0 -∞

*For WR, use the rest of the chart.

I still need to figure out how to adjust throwing, collisions/slams, and grappling. That shouldn’t be too hard, but I just haven’t given it thought. Additionally, Innate Attack and Damage Resistance need to be reformulated as well, which I think will be a bit trickier.

End of May report

Oops! It’s already June 1st. My GURPS/Fate game was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday this weekend, so I ended up forgetting to write this post yesterday.

Of course, there are other things going on right now. Like, a lot. And I’m tired of people acting like this is a political issue too. You know what I’m talking about. Justice for George Floyd. Police brutality, racism, and murder are not political issues. And, if they are for someone, then that person’s politics are tainted. I feel fairly confident in saying that. I’ve also seen some of what’s going in first-hand in Columbus. It’s been really strange for me, coming from a smaller town. Big city protests are so different. Anyway, here’s a reminder that these things are not binary: I support the protesters and their message 110%; I have seen continuing police brutality during these protests about police brutality; I understand the rioting because people are frustrated that their voices aren’t being heard, so this is how they yell; and I think most of the looters are opportunistic idiots. I feel that so much nuance is being lost in the way that the internet (and people parroting the internet) talk about things. It’s rather unfortunate. Also, on that last part of my stance, I’ve heard what I believe to be a false equivalency about ‘a few bad cops’ giving all cops a bad name and ‘a few bad rioters’ giving all protesters a bad name. It’s not equal in my eyes. Law enforcement is an institution, they are expected to uphold the law (and should be held to higher standards), and they are expected to keep each other in line. Protesters are a sea of individuals with a largely common message, but they are not an institution in themselves.

I don’t even know how to transition after saying all of that. As I said in my fourth life update, my arm is just about back to its old self, and I am in physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of other small things have happened (like getting my keyboard), but the details are in that post, so I’ll move on to my progress over the month. Well, first, let me say that, even though May was such a weak month in terms of blog content, it’s not a bad thing right now. This time, it’s a good sign. In spite of the craziness going on in the world, I’ve been enjoying my life as much as I can, and I have finally found my GMing spirit. As the honeymoon phase starts to die down (and I settle into things again), I’ll be talking way more about what’s going on right here on my blog.

Conlang stuff report

I took a look at how I want to handle adverbs and prepositions. I only worked on my conlang for a couple days this month. Right now, I’m actually waiting for Globasa to firm up a little more, so I can steal borrow some more ideas. I am trying a more cautious approach rather than just jumping into things only to radically change things again a short while later. Right now, I’m happy with that approach, but we’ll see if the conlang bug bites again.

RPG stuff report

I’ve dumped using Fate Condensed on its own, and I have integrated the Fate framework into GURPS. Aspects are actually a really handy way to cover my ass for rules that I can’t remember or that would take too much time to look up. Really, it just helps me drive GURPS in a narrative manner, which is really nice because I love GURPS and its complexity, but it can bog me down a lot, which is a me thing. Some people can just gloss over rules or make things up on the fly, and I can too, but I always feel guilty for doing that, and I feel a lack of structure when I do things like that. My integrated system gives me the structure by using Fate‘s narrative framework—as I said. It’s not perfect, but I’ve cobbled together 6+ pages of rules, and I hope that I can eventually share them in some form without having to worry about infringing on any properties. (With the power of logarithms, I’ve even finally been able to incorporate “Knowing Your Own Strength” and “Conditional Injury”, but more on that later too!)

Hand in hand with finally having a solid system (for me, personally, of course), I am finally running a really solid setting: Deadlands. I absolutely love Weird West stuff. It’s one of my favorite genres right now, up there with New Old West. I have the third edition GURPS Classic: Deadlands book for a nice and easily convertible reference point, but there are so many great adventures for Deadlands Reloaded, and I have had a blast converting and running those. It has taken away a lot of the burden of being the (forever) GM, but, even more importantly, because it has done that, it’s given me a lot more space to actually be creative. If I don’t have to worry about setting up the quest, the location, and most of the characters, I can dedicate a bunch of my prep time to creating cool things on the side. Spoiler alert to my players, but, yes, I plan on having a Weird West version of Metroid’s own Samus Aran appear.

Have I forsaken Norðlond? Oh, no. No. Absolutely not. If the Native Americans in Deadlands are trying to get back to the Old Ways, then who says that’s not happening in other (perhaps colder) parts of the world? Norðlond is definitely up next after I take off my Deadlands training wheels. I’ve mentioned my own campaign world that I’ve called GURPS Project Sirocco, which was going to squeeze in Norðlond as part of that, but, as I said, it may just become part of Deadlands now. We’ll have to wait and see! Really, it would make sense either way as both approaches give Norðlond a (semi-)post-apocalyptic magic-comes-back kind of scenario.

Writing stuff report

I didn’t work on my story at all, unfortunately. All of the story-building parts of my brain have been hard at work on tabletop RPG stuff. Next month, however, is another Camp NaNo, and I plan on participating. I’ve got some ideas stewing in the back of my brain, though!

End of April report

COVID-19 is still here, but my new mechanical keyboard isn’t. What a way to start this report! Truly, I feel so grateful to be safe and healthy, but I have grown ever more frustrated and weary with the world, especially my country and the people within it. Don’t worry. I won’t get too political—well, not yet, at least. However, I think I can fairly argue that one person’s freedoms and rights end where another person’s freedoms and rights begin. My expectation to not get sick can be greater than another person’s freedom to not wear a mask. It’s not tyranny. My expectation of safety on the road is more important than another person’s freedom to go 20 over or another person’s freedom to drive while intoxicated. Furthermore, it goes beyond that too. A law requires a person to wear a seatbelt while driving, but that doesn’t affect other persons (very often, that is). Yet, that’s not tyranny either. A person has the right to be dumb and reckless. A person has the right to say racist things. However, actions also have consequences. I was so frustrated about protesters that I even made two whole tweets on an otherwise empty Twitter account.

I have good news too. My arms has been feeling much better after slowly starting to work it out at home more. My symptoms from my infection still come and go, though, which is a real bummer, but it’s never as bad as it used to be. I have another appointment in a couple of weeks to see what can be done. I finally started playing tabletop RPGs again, which is so nice. I’ve been keeping up with therapy, and I even get to virtually meet with my old Al-Anon group from Bloomington. I’ve also been writing a lot. Anyway, where’s my damn keyboard?

Conlang stuff report

Oops. I have barely half an entry in my project document for this month, which I wrote yesterday, and the previous entry is from March 9th. It’s actually been nice to take a break. My next step is to really focus on function words again. I want to make sure I have a robust set before I start adding a bunch of content words. I also think I need to renew my Language Creation Society membership, so there’s another oops. As I spend less energy on writing and gearing up to start playing tabletop RPGs again, I expect to have much more energy for conlanging. It’s really nice to be able to switch between a few really core hobbies.

RPG stuff report

Well, I created a flexible powers/magic system for GURPS called Modular Powers that I ended up reworking into my Wildcard Power Pool system. I’m still having some internal conflict about game design, but that’s really only because I’m trying to bridge GURPS and…

Fate. Yes, I’ve jump-started my tabletop RPG hobby with Fate. It’s a generic and modular system like GURPS, but it puts the narrative first. It’s also not as exceptionally detailed. However, the positive way to put that is that it’s very streamlined. Of course, the first thing I did was hack in a logarithmic system for damage. It actually works very well. It’s not a crazy assumption to say that Fate could work on a +6 = ×10 scale. (I don’t know math. Please be gentle.) That allowed me to squeeze in some ideas from Knowing Your Own Strength and Conditional Injury, and, because it establishes that bridge, it allows me to convert between damage in GURPS to damage in my Fate system along with being able to say how many characters points a stunt or a skill level is worth in Fate (which seems to be ~16.67 points). It’s easier to start small again. It’s easier to take off the pressure of wanting to be perfect at GURPS because I love it so much.

Also, I virtually attended FnordCon. Here are my highlights:

  • Kromm said that coronavirus is not related to 5G, and I’m pretty sure he works for the Illuminati, so I think he would know. Conspiracy de-confirmed.
  • Kromm also said that he really likes Fate, so I feel like I have his indirect blessing.
  • They talked about doing a Space Opera line like DFRPG.
  • Douglas Cole mentioned doing some Secret Wars Mission X stuff after Norðlond. He mentioned it being inspired by X-Com games, so that’s interesting. Not my typical cup of tea, but I usually drink coffee anyway, so I’m happy to try new things and support his stuff.
  • In response to a question about what gives GURPS players the most grief, Kromm said something along the lines of when people ask a question on the forums only to receive 600 replies but zero actual answers. I can confirm.
  • Steve Jackson was asked about ways to make GURPS more narrative-first, but he said that GURPS isn’t really the best fit for that. He basically said that, if you want to play Powered by the Apocalypse, then play Powered by the Apocalypse. Though, Douglas Cole added that it is still very possible to sand off all the splinters (paraphrasing his actual words) to make GURPS a bit faster, lighter, and narrative-forward if not first.
  • I also was allowed to record Steve Jackson telling my best friend’s dad to clean up his house, which is the highlight of highlights.

Now that I really think about it, I guess I should’ve made a post-FnordCon post, but oh well! This is good enough for me.

Writing stuff report

I participated in the April Camp NaNo, I set my goal for 10,000 words in a month, and I hit my goal on April 20th. So, yeah, I’m pretty content with that. I worked on a continuation of the story I wrote last November, and it’s still coming along quite nicely. This is a small report for what was a good amount of story, but I think I’ll talk more about it when the first draft is actually finished.

Wildcard Power Pool: a revised take on my Modular Powers system for GURPS

Two weeks ago, I posted about Modular Powers, which is a system for flexible magic/powers that I worked out for GURPS. Since then, I’ve received a good amount of feedback, and I think I can just go ahead and simplify the system even further while giving it a more appropriate name.

Wildcard Power Pool is 2 points/level. This must be taken in conjunction with a base ability, and the level of the Wildcard Power Pool cannot exceed the point cost of the base ability. The base ability can be a raw advantage or it can be a modified power, but, if the base ability has a Power Modifier, the Wildcard Power Pool abilities must have the same Power Modifier. To use the Wildcard Power Pool, choose any other ability whose cost, after all enhancements and limitations, is not greater than the level of the Wildcard Power Pool. Only one of the base ability or the Wildcard Power Pool ability can be used at a time, and switching between the base ability and the Wildcard Power Pool ability or between Wildcard Power Pool abilities can be done at the start of one’s turn as a free action. To use multiple abilities at once, one can buy multiple Wildcard Power Pools.

Wildcard Power Pool can only be modified by the Limited Scope limitation (and I prefer the version from Ritual Path Specialists from Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic as a basis)—e.g., Limited Scope, Abilities related to Druidic magic, -20%; Limited Scope, Abilities that create or control fire, -50%.

Furthermore, the base ability may be changed as part of advancement. As long as the level of Wildcard Power Pool is equal to the cost of the base ability, the points in the base ability may be spent to purchase a more expensive base ability. Optionally, if the level of the Wildcard Power Pool is less than the cost of the base ability, the difference between the cost and the level is the temporary cost of the previous base ability until the level of the Wildcard Power Pool is equal to the cost of the previous base ability. For example, if Zambazor has Flight [40] and Wildcard Power Pool 30 [60], but he wants to upgrade to a more expensive base ability, he must also pay 10 points (the difference between the 40 points in Flight and the 30 levels of Wildcard Power Pool) to keep Flight as part of his pool of available abilities. If Zambazor takes a higher level of Wildcard Power Pool, the original cost of Flight should be lowered in the same way.

Design Notes

Obviously, I started with Modular Powers. I turned the base Modular Abilities into Modular Abilities (Slotted Cosmic Powers; Physical, +100%; Reduced Time, +20%; and Trait-Limited, Alternative Abilities, -20%) for 14 points for the base cost, + 10 points/level. It’s important to keep Reduced Time for instant configuration because you already have to spend a moment switching between powers anyway. It also makes the cost a bit smoother, which is nice. If you have Flight [40] and you can take Alternative Abilities up to 8 points, then you need Modular Powers 8 [94]—remember that 14 points of that is from the base cost, so the remainder is 80 points.

If you turn Wildcard Powers from GURPS Supers into a Wildcard Power Pool that costs 2 points/level, it comes out to about the same price without the base cost. If you have Flight [40], you need Wildcard Power Pool 40 [80].

At that point, I can just say that the Wildcard Power Pool requires an Unusual Background (that I would personally make equal to an extra level of power Talent for the character) to make it cost the same as Modular Abilities. Or, of course, I could just drop the extra cost. If you want to require the Unusual Background, go ahead!

This works better. Instead of using a simple ability to justify a complicated one, it seems much easier to use a complicated ability to justify a simple one. There’s no need for base costs or extra modifiers or even a new power Talent, but the math is all the same!

Modular Powers: a new flexible powers/magic system for GURPS

Modular Powers is 20 points for Modular Powers 1, + 10 points/level. This advantage holds points of Alternative Abilities for a main ability bought at its full cost. For example, if you have Flight [40] as your main ability, an Alternative Ability would cost up to 8 points. So, Modular Powers 8 [90] would cover the cost of any Alternative Ability to Flight.

Modular Power Talent is 10 points/level. This is the power Talent for Modular Powers. Modular Power Talent adds to every roll made to use the main ability or any of its Alternative Abilities or to use any of those abilities well.

Modular Powers and Modular Power Talent can both be modified for Limited Scope and the Cosmic Power Modifier, but only Modular Powers can be modified for Power Modifiers other than Cosmic. For Limited Scope, you could use the version of the limitation on Sorcery or I would personally recommend using the version from Ritual Path Specialists from Pyramid #3/66: The Laws of Magic as a basis as it is much more nuanced (though, I would only allow it down to a certain level or you’re just better off buying a non-flexible set of powers). The unmodified scope is enough to cover anything the GM agrees could be used as a power in the setting. For example, an Alternative Ability to Flight in the above example would not be limited to abilities related to Flight. Instead, Flight could be thought of as a defining ability for that character out of a pool of any possible power. (In fact, now that I think about it as I’m typing this, I’d probably allow a +1 to that one ability for free or at least have that as an option for a perk—call it Signature Power.) If the abilities should only relate to Flight, then something like Limited Scope, Only for abilities directly related to flying (-50%) should be applied to Modular Powers and Modular Power Talent.

Furthermore, the main ability can change as part of advancement. As long as you have enough levels of Modular Powers to cover the cost of your old main ability as an Alternative Ability, you can put those points toward the cost of the new main ability. For example, if you have Modular Powers 8 [90] and Flight [40], you can reallocate all 40 points for Flight to your new main ability because you are able to cover its cost as an Alternative Ability. If you do not have enough levels of Modular Powers, you may only reallocate the points that can be covered by your level of Modular Powers, but you may still use the old main ability as an Alternative Ability. For example, if you only had Modular Powers 4 [50], you would only be able to reallocate 20 points of Flight as you can only cover 20 points as an Alternative Ability, but you may continue to use Flight.

Optionally, for simplicity, you could drop the idea of a main ability altogether and add Modular Power Pool at 5 points/level while requiring characters to have the same level of Modular Powers and Modular Power Pool at the same level. The only reason I didn’t bake the cost of Modular Power Pool into the cost of Modular Powers for this option is because Modular Power Pool shouldn’t take any modifiers as it’s really just a nameless main ability.

I would use this system as flexibly as one would use Wildcard Powers from GURPS Supers. For the above example using Flight, I would be willing, as the GM, to guesstimate what feels like a 40-point ability rather than calculate new abilities during the game. This kind of flexibility is the very reason I sought to create a powers/magic system like this one.

And that’s it. It seems simple, but it took me a lot of tinkering to get all the way back around to what amounts to an alternate version of the system from GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery.

Design Notes

GURPS Thaumatology introduced me to the idea of ‘magic as powers’ or ‘powers as magic’, which is a nickname for an advantage-based power system. Since I first discovered this idea, I have always preferred powers and magic as powers to the system laid out in GURPS Magic because it made it easier for me to easily create new spells, which is something I really wanted. As I discovered other flexible narrative-focused RPGs like FATE, I wanted to bring that flexibility to GURPS. As a GM, I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time creating spell after spell, I wanted to be able to say, yeah, that sounds like it’s worth about 50 points and you have the ability to cast 50-point spells, so it works. Well, that brought me to Wildcard Powers in GURPS Supers as well as Using Abilities at Default in GURPS Powers. (It was also heavily inspired by the flavor of GURPS Powers: Divine Favor, which allows a character with Divine Favor to call upon their deity for a prayer/power, but that works in quite a different way.) The idea of Using Abilities at Default and improvisation became a core part of the magic as powers system of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery, which I really loved. Still, that flexibility still paled in comparison to what I could do in FATE and what Wildcard Powers allowed.

My first thought was to create a flexible magic system that allowed one to use an ability at default based on the power Talent itself. Of course, there was already a thread about that very idea. Feelings were mixed, and it didn’t end up feeling like the solution I wanted.

So, I started thinking about Wildcard Powers again. I realized an inherent issue (from my perspective) of Wildcard Powers (and, by extension, Using Abilities at Default), which was that Flight! [160] would be way less flexible than Control Time! 1 [160]; for example, I could get Flight out Control Time! 1 but not Control Time 1 out of Flight!. So, I started a thread about it, and it came down to the idea of Wildcard Powers not being very realistic for a reason—I mean, Superman was able to fly fast enough to turn back time; so, Flight! [160] should be way more flexible than I am giving it credit for. That’s an extremely fair point. Though, I later realized that the flexibility is probably more related to the power Talent than the ability itself. I’d find it easier to justify a more flexible scope for Flight! [160] if I had the Kryptonian Talent versus just a plain-old Flight Talent.

Well, Christopher Rice has a blog post (Call of the Wild) about assigning different multipliers to Wildcard Skills based on their breadth, so I figured I could do the same to Wildcard Powers. It’s also important to note that the base multiplier for Wildcard Powers is ×4 instead of the base ×3 for Wildcard Skills because Wildcard Powers allow/require one to use the base power while using the improvised power. (I was starting to come up with a very similar system to the one found in this thread.) So, I tried to figure out how to tie the cost/breadth of the power Talent to the multiplier for Wildcard Powers.

But I was already hatching a different idea. A Modular Ability is expensive because it can hold a certain number of flexible points. What if I extended that to include Alternative Abilities? So, if I have Example Spell [10] and Sorcery 2 [30] and paid full-price for both, could I just use my Sorcery 2 to improvise any 10-point spell as a 2-point Alternative Ability? That seemed like it would probably be very broken, but the math lines up with Wildcard Powers. Example Spell [10] plus Sorcery 2 [20] (ignore that I took out Sorcery 0 [10] for now), is 30 points, which is the cost of Example Spell ×3, which is the base multiplier for Wildcards. Of course, Wildcard Powers uses ×4, but, again, that allows/requires the use of the base power with the improvised power. Now, that pesky Sorcery 0 [10] was starting to look like power Talent 0 because the base cost of a Modular Ability reflects the breadth of abilities that it covers, and I had already devised that the breadth of the power Talent should theoretically determine the breadth of Wildcard Powers or Using Abilities at Default. This pretty much lined up with Modular Abilities (Cosmic Slotted Power), which has a base cost of 7 points. To make it equivalent to Sorcery, I modified it by Limited, Advantages Only (-10%), Physical (+100%), and Reduced Time 1 (+20%) turns it into 14.7 points, which rounds up to 15 points, which just so happens to be the cost of Cosmic Talent. Coincidence? Probably I think not! Sticking Magical (-10%) back in there turns it into 14 points, which is still close, but I wanted to leave out a Power Modifier for the base build.

So, I called it Modular Powers and Modular Power Talent.

Modular Powers is 10 + 10/level points just like Sorcery, and I would be more than fine with someone buying Modular Powers 0.

Modular Power Talent is 10 points/level. It can also be modified for Limited Scope, but it is not modified for Power Modifier unless it is the Cosmic Power Modifier (which explains why Cosmic Power Talent is 15 points/level).

I could have gone either way with Limited Scope on the Modular Powers advantage itself. Modular Abilities don’t tend to get a big reduction for Limited Scope, but Sorcery sets a weird precedent. If I didn’t want the Modular Abilities portion to get limited or enhanced (except for by relevant Power Modifiers), I would turn Modular Powers 0 into Modular Power Talent 0 because that zeroth level should be modified as the base cost of Modular Abilities is dependent on scope.

Even if it’s not perfect or RAW or whatever, all new rules start somewhere, and I think the math ended up being quite fair. Really, I just recreated Sorcery with some extra rules and flavor—you can apply the same idea to Sorcery as I did above.

End of March report

Well, COVID-19 is here, and it looks like it’s going to be staying a while. My arm is actually still recovering, but it’s definitely feeling better. As I’ve done more stretching, the symptoms from my infection have also started to go away, which is nice. There’s a new loveseat in the living room, I have a new mechanical keyboard on the way, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a fantastic way to pass the time while trying to shrug off politics- and pandemic-related dread.

Conlang stuff report

I created a way to say hello, reworked the monosyllabic roots, reworked the numerals, and talked about my process for creating disyllabic roots for the greyfolk language I’m working on. Oh, and I took a deeper look at natural semantic metalanguage. That’s about it. Everything is in place, and, when I’m ready, I can start deriving a bunch more words.

RPG stuff report

I figured out some more math for the flexible magic system I was creating for GURPS, which I only briefly touched on in my last end of the month report. More on that to come too. Also, I just about figured out how to finally resolve Conditional Injury with Knowing Your Own Strength (as I have attempted previously). And, when I say that I figured it out, I mean that I asked for someone to help me figure it out. I’ll make a post about that soon too, I hope.

Oh, right, and I posted seven reviews of DFRPG products in a single day.

Writing stuff report

April is the first month of Camp NaNo, and I’ll be revisiting (I already have) the story that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2019. I finally went to start working on it again the other day, and I actually just happened to notice that Camp NaNo was to start in a couple of days, so I guess I’m doing it.

Quick Review(s) of The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard are all part of the Norðlond Sagas (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG, which is coming out right about now. Also, I should specify that Hand of Asgard is an extra, but, of course, I had to pick it up. I’m reviewing these books at the same time because they were all part of the same Kickstarter, so it seems fitting to me. First of all, let me just go ahead and say that Douglas Cole has done it again. These are all fantastic products, the art and the maps are as great as ever, and I am super happy to have backed them, and I anticipate that I’d back anything he created for the DFRPG, which is good because he’s working on a bestiary next.

The Dragons of Rosgarth is another great micro-setting and adventure that’s part of the larger Norðlond setting that I love so much. More worldbuilding, more festivals, more information about climate and weather—that’s the stuff I live for. Then, there are detailed factions, which are unique and well-written. But I’m still happiest about all of the dinosaurs in the bestiary. A great book, a neat adventure in a wonderful setting, and I can’t wait to run it.

Forest’s End is another-another great micro-setting and adventure. Of course, I love all of the history, the information about population, a very detailed underworld, and even some stuff about taxes. Yes, Douglas Cole makes taxes fun and interesting. You can quote me on that. There’s a wealth of information on resources, points of interest, services (like magical healing), and festivals and holidays. And it doesn’t stop there. It fleshes out more of how the setting approaches dragons and druids and faerie, all of which are ever so prevalent in Norðlond. A big chunk of the bestiary goes to dragonkin, which is also fun.

Of course, it tickles me that The Dragons of Rosgarth has a lot of dinosaurs while Forest’s End has a lot of dragonkin. No problem with that—it’s just funny.

Norðlondr Fólk is my kind of book. It’s a short supplement that details the races of the Norðlond setting, and a lot of the pages are spent on fitting in the base races in the DFRPG while also providing some welcome norse-themed versions of those races. Sick of how all fantasy dwarves have big bushy beards? Then take a look at the dvergr for hairless dwarves that resemble stone. Of course, I also have a special place for the hrafnar (raven-folk) because they remind me of the kenku in D&D, which is the race that my youngest sister chose when I forced my younger sisters to play D&D with me way back when.

Hand of Asgard is even more my kind of book because it’s a short supplement that deals with the faith, religion, and surrounding culture of the Norðlond setting while providing some really cool abilities for clerics and holy warriors. My review is short, but this book is absolutely packed with great stuff. Plus, you get stats for valkyries at the end.

Many thanks to Douglas Cole (The Dragons of Rosgarth), Kevin Smyth (Norðlondr Fólk and Hand of Asgard), Merlin Avery (Forest’s End), and Kyle Norton (The Dragons of Rosgarth) for bringing these truly incredible books to life.

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

The Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG was released not too long ago this year, so I’m finally catching up. It was a ‘Quickstarter’ with no stretch goals, so the turnaround was really quick for this book. I like stretch goals, but it made sense for them to be absent from this book because this book was made up of stretch goals past that were never met. That’s neat in itself. I’d love to see this trend continue; i.e., book with stretch goals, book with stretch goals, book with no stretch goals that includes stuff from previous stretch goals that were missed. I don’t know if it’s because of that or if it’s just coincidence, but this book is my favorite DFRPG supplement that isn’t written by Douglas Cole. It has some magical items (with ways to introduce them), a handful of new monsters (with adventure seeds), and some enemy PCs. That’s great on its own, but it also includes so many new rule tidbits. In the magical items section, there’s stuff like wood as a new armor material (under the Oudou). In the monsters section, there’s stuff like a playable centaur race for PCs (under the Centaur, obviously). But the villains section? That’s where this shines. Each villain is awesome in their own right and comes with an adventure seed, but every single villain comes with a rules tidbit from new racial templates to new abilities for professions to new spells to use. If that isn’t great design, I don’t know what is. Plus, what better way to introduce new abilities and new spells than to have a villain use them first? So, yes, get this book. And, if you haven’t already gotten into the DFRPG, do yourself a favor and get on that right now.

Other Quick Reviews: