There is a comparative dearth of ritual spells in D&D5.

On the way home from work the other day I was thinking what would happen if any spell could be done as a ritual. Higher level spells would simply take longer.

yes, I do a lot of my noodling while driving. Oddly enough, I have not yet crashed or gotten at ticket, despite driving a WRX. Go figure)

Even the Ritual Master Feat only allows you to cast spells with the Ritual tag.

Anyway, here’s the thought. You never want a ritual, even for a 9th level spell, to last longer than it would take to simply cast it and then take a long rest. You probably don’t even want to come close to that. So 4-6 hours to cast a 9th level spell as a ritual is probably as much as you’d want to go. Even 1-4 hours for that upper limit might be pushing it.

On the low end, casting a spell as a ritual usually adds 10min to the duration to cast. So the minimum time to cast anything as a ritual, even for a 1st level spell, should probably be 10min – maybe a bit longer because this doesn’t seek to overwrite the ritual tag, merely supplement. Let’s say 20min is the lower end.

That would make a time-to-cast chart look like this, with entries for “fast progression” and “slow progression.” I’m assuming a geometric progression, so each level is X times slower than the level before.

Spell
Level
Slow Cast Fast Cast
1 20 20
2 30 25
3 40 30
4 1 hour 40
5 1.5 hours 50
6 2 hours 1 hour
7 3 hours 1 hr 15 min
8 4 hours 1.5 hours
9 6 hours 2 hours

Truthfully, though . . . that’s not that interesting. If you can spare the time, you can cast anything fast. The “fast cast” progression doesn’t really do anything for me. I’d actually almost rather have the rituals start at something like five minutes instead of 20, and then stretch to 6 hours.
That would look like the following. Each step is roughly sqrt(3) larger than the previous one, but the numbers are rounded for convenience. No one cares abut a ritual that’s 48 or 50 minutes long; that’s “about an hour.”
Spell
Level
Casting Time
1 5
2 10
3 15
4 30
5 45
6 75 min
7 2 hours
8 4 hours
9 7 hours

Parting Shot
Ritual casting lets you trade time – a lot of time – for a spell slot. I think that the “use it right the hell now” aspect of combat spells will mean that is all this will do is let you ignore the expenditure of spell slots out of combat time for spells you already know, so long as you can afford the downtime. Sure, you could spend 15-40min to slow-cast fireball, but why would you? Are there situations that would make that reasonable?
Actually, there are. If you have time and the foresight to open up a combat with one big entry that doesn’t use a slot, and can arrange the prep time . . . sure. That’s worth rewarding.

I’m playing in +Rob Conley  Majestic Wilderlands campaign, using D&D 5th edition as the ruleset. I’m playing a Paladin of 4th level, following Oath of Devotion. The character background and full writeup can be found here.

I’ve got six spell slots plus Sanctuary and Protection from Evil/Good which are Oath abilities and therefore always prepared. What I’m wondering is, in the collective experience, what spells are effective in what conditions and fit with the character concept.

My experience with D&D magic is somewhat limited, and I’m very interested in actual play anecdotes about where each spell might be more and less useful.

Note that at fourth level, I am only selecting from the fifteen 1st-level spells, of which two are pre-selected. So I’m basically choosing from half the list. My paladin is focused on sharp combat, defeating those that oppress the weak, and putting himself in the way of harm.

I tried the Stack Exchange forum, but since I’m asking for actual opinions and data, that seems to be off topic – that forum seems to be strictly right/wrong answer driven, which is not what I’m looking for.

So, here’s the list from which I must choose:

  • Bless
  • Command
  • Compelled Duel
  • Cure Wounds
  • Detect Evil/Good
  • Detect Magic
  • Detect Poison and Disease
  • Divine Favor
  • Heroism
  • Protection from Evil
  • Purify Food and Drink
  • Searing Smite
  • Shield of Faith
  • Thunderous Smite
  • Wrathful Smite

I already have Proection from Evil (and Sanctuary, for that matter). Perhaps the right way to go here is to talk about what’s not appropriate. Detect Magic and Poison/Disease doesn’t seem the right thing for my guy. He’s all about putting himself between overt threats – that was the curse/blessing that the fey elf and Veritas called him for. Likewise, Purify Food and Drink seems equally off-base.

Compelled Duel almost screams at me that it’s mandatory, so I’ll mark it that way. “Face the wrath of the Hand of Veritas!” seems just perfectly in character. Shield of Faith fits in perfectly with the Protection fighting style, so that has to go on the list. Four more.

That puts me at

  • Bless
  • Command
  • Compelled Duel
  • Cure Wounds
  • Detect Evil/Good
  • Detect Magic
  • Detect Poison and Disease
  • Divine Favor
  • Heroism
  • Protection from Evil
  • Purify Food and Drink
  • Searing Smite
  • Shield of Faith
  • Thunderous Smite
  • Wrathful Smite

So, of the four remaining choices, where would you go?

Edit: Based on the comments and another day’s play, I’ve made some more selections, with the definites in bold, and the options in red. I actually used Command in the game on Feb 16 to cause the surrender of a person that we might have otherwise had to kill. Bless is twice-recommended, so that’s probably in. Healing never goes out of style, so Cure Wounds isn’t a bad call, but Heroism and Divine Favor also have some compelling qualities.

So I’m down to “Pick two of Cure Wounds, Divine Favor, and Heroism.” I agree that spending a spell slot on 2d8 extra damage for my channel divinity ability (and more still with higher level spell slots, which I don’t currently have) is worth more than the smite spells. Plus I enjoy the visceral feeling of whacking things with swords.

In Monteporte 44, the session began and ended with animated discussions on the rules for attunement to magical weapons. +Rob Conley had created a chart or an excel file listing all the weapons that required attunement from the DMG, and we played around with the concept a bit. We all, I think, liked the general concept of attunement, but were all equally bothered by some of the implications. In addition, since Monteporte was migrated over from a game with different assumptions than went into D&D5, there were many more magic items than seemed typical for a D&D5 party.

Attunement (DMG pp. 136-138)


The basic concept behind attunement is simple. To use a weapon with magical properties in a magical way, you have to spend a period of time – a short rest – bonding with the item in an appropriate way. If you don’t do so, the items functions like a normal, non-magical item of that type, but no nifty stuff can be generated from it. A Sword of Sharpness might act like a regular sword and would cut things just fine, but no other magical abilities would be present, and I’m not even sure it’d damage creatures that are only damaged by magical weapons – the text seems to suggest not. A suit of plate armor that requires attunement would still give you AC 18 for wearing it, but whatever powers it has would not be available to you until attunement is complete. A wand or ring, which otherwise serves no purpose than to give you certain powers, is basically useless. Maybe you could use it as a napkin holder or a stir stick?


Limits on items


The biggest thing that the DMG rules hit you with is that you cannot be attuned to more than three items at a time. Period, done . . . see you later. So you can’t (for example) wear ten Rings of Protection, one on each finger, and another couple on your toes. Firstly, you can’t usually wear multiple of any given item, but also, three is the limit, and the limit shall be  three. Not two, unless proceeding directly to three, etc.

This makes any given player decide what she wants to be equipped with, and since you can only detune-attune to an item with a short rest, you can’t just swap out inventory slots and always get the benefit of the good stuff. So you have to prepare. It’s not quite as restrictive as spell slots and long rests, but it’s there to make you think about what you’re doing.

What requires attunement


The magic item lists speak to what requires attunement – sometimes by a particular class – and what does not. There definitely seems to be a pattern to it, and some very useful stuff does not require attunement. 

Let’s start with some examples:

Basic Magical Weapons and Armor: Your basic +2 Mace or longsword, or +1 Chain Mail, or +3 half-plate does not require attunement. OK.

Mace of Disruption: Requires attunement. If you smack a fiend or the undead, you do extra radiant damage. If the critter has fewer than a certain number of HP, it must make a saving throw or be destroyed outright. The foes of the affected type are afraid of you. Also, the weapon glows if you hold it.

Mace of Smiting: +1 damage, more against constructs. If you roll a 20, you get extra damage, and can destroy constructs on a lucky roll. Does not require attunement.

Immovable Rod: Hey, the thing doesn’t move. Ever. Does not require attunement.

Gloves of Thievery: Provides a bonus to Sleight of Hand and DEX checks while wearing them. Does not require attunement.

Most any Cloak of X: Protection, Elvenkind, Invisibility. All of these require attunement, but . . . 

Cloak of the Manta Ray: Allows you to breathe underwater, and swim pretty fast. There’s another item like this that makes a bubble of air around your head. Neither require attunement.

What’s the Common Theme: The key bit here seems to be that if the item is magical because of itself, such as magic armor, it does not require attunement. If the item has powers that only affect the victim or the environment – that is, the magic is outwardly directed – it does not require attunement. But if the thing is basically casting a spell or giving its blessing to the user – something that if malign would be resisted by a saving throw – then you need to attune to it. 

It’s a fine line. The Cloak of Protection is just a cloak, it’s not particularly sturdy. But even it it is sturdy, the bonus to saving throws impacts the wearer as if it were a spell. That requires attunement. The Manta Ray cloak and the bubble-head charm (whatever it is) probably work their magic on the water and air around you, not you. They don’t bestow gills, they create a space of breatheable air.

I have no explanation for the Gloves of Thievery. I’d probably force you to attune to them, but perhaps the skill/DEX boost provided is actually a spell that impacts whatever you’re working on, not you. 

Basic magical swords are just magical. The Mace of Smiting is totally outwardly directed. The Mace of Disruption . . . seems like the mace of smiting, but makes creatures afraid of you (not the mace) and casts light. I suspect it’s the fear thing that turns the tables.

Armor that’s just magical is simply better made and enchanted. That’s inherent to the item. But if it also provides extra spell-like abilities, that requires attunement. 

Anything that requires conscious activation seems to require attunement.

House Rules?

Wouldn’t be a blog – specifically my blog – without the tinkering. So, here we go. What could we do to tweak out what’s basically a good concept?

More Awesome is More Awesome


The first one is easy. Allow the number of magical items to which you can attune vary by character level. Specifically, something like “you may attune to item equal to your proficiency bonus” would allow two items for beginners, but up to six at very high levels. Another would be you may attune to one item plus half your proficiency bonus. That’s still two items at low level, but four at high levels. 

In any case, items tend to grow with power at high levels, so another way might be a slot system. Each rank from Common through Legendary is given an effective number of slots: say 1 for Common, 5 for Legendary. You might get a number of slots equal to 1 plus your proficiency bonus, so slots vary from 3 to 7. So you can attune to seven Common items at very high level, or one Legenary item and two Common ones. Or two Uncommon and one Rare. Still limiting, but if you really want to wear seven common items instead of carrying around that Vorpal Sword . . . 

Partial Powers


Not attuning to an item having it behave as completely mundane seems off to me. Of course, that thought was started by Ken thinking that any item of +2 bonus or higher, including armor and weapons, requires attunement. I was thinking that in that particular case, the weapon or armor would still be magical, just provide no bonus. So not attuning to said Vorpal Sword would give you a magical longsword which could damage creatures that are only harmed by magical weapons (if such exist anymore in 5e), but would not suddenly decaptiate anyone.

Gotta Fight, for the Right . . . 


One thing that would be interesting for non-attuned weapons would be that yes, you can still use them, but you have to force the item to obey. You’d need to make some sort of saving throw, and I’m thinking INT, WIS, CHA rather than the physical stuff – basically willpower – in order to activate the item’s powers. 

In fact, one interesting thing would be to have attunement be a gradual process. Each short rest spent attuning would give you a bonus to the roll to master or attune to the item. You have to successfully use the item in order to claim your next bonus. Eventually, your roll will be high enough that you automatically beat the item’s DC. At that point, you’re attuned permanently unless you voluntarily switch it out – then you have to start again.

That would make it a bit of a process – and narratively interesting – to get to know a weapon or armor or magical device. If the process were intersting/onerous enough, there’s a barrier to switching out.

Naturally, you’d want the DC to go up with item power. So maybe if we use the level analogy above, the DC might be 10 plus twice the slots. So a Common magical item would be DC 12 for mastery, a Legendary one would be DC 20.

Parting Shot

Attunement brings a very cool dynamic to equipping magical items in D&D5. The core concept is very good, and it forces you to be choosy about what items and powers you can have. It keeps the focus, to some extent, on the character rather than the gear – though some of the Legendary items are truly badass, so there is always going to be a certain cache to having that Hammer of Thunderbolts paired with the Girdle of Giant Strength, which is also good.

Tuning the attunement rules also provides knobs for campaign-specific flavor. This is also good.

We’ll see what Ken decides to do with it, but I can certainly see options.

+Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor just wrote two pieces on the Sleep spell. 

It called my attention to something that I didn’t pay much mind to, since I play a boring old fighter. Or young fighter. Whatever.

Tim’s character Minister has used sleep to good effect before, but I didn’t really realize how darn powerful it is. Rather than just start tweaking from the get-go (I’ll get to that later), I thought I might first look at how such a power is handled in the two games I actively play, and one I’d love to play a game in.

D&D (5e) and Swords and Wizardry


These two really aren’t that different. In S&W, you can impact a certain number of hit dice of critters. 1 at 4 HD (4 HD total), 1d6 at 3 HD (about 10 HD total), 2d6 at 2 HD (14 HD total), and 2d8 at 1 HD (9 HD total). 

For DnD 5th edition, casting this at first level you roll 5d8, and you can put that many HP of creatures asleep. Since the monster HD is a d8, by and large you’ll, on the average put 5 critters to sleep, or 5 HD.

Comparing the two, I think that the D&D version is clearly easier to adjudicate. You start from weakest to strongest, and put to sleep creatures until you run out of HP, and if your pool of HP don’t cover the next critter on the list, you’re done.

For S&W, the spell is a bit odd, and clearly the best way to throw it is against 2-3 HD creatures. And if you have a group of mixed foes . . . huh. Not sure. I think a better way would be to roll (say) either 3d6 or 2d8 (likely 2d8) and you can put to sleep that many HD of creatures, and steal a page from D&D5 and start from the weakest.

Because, wow . . . no saving throw. If you’re impacted by the spell, you’re just o-u-t out, and snoozing for a minute (D&D) or an hour (S&W). Against PCs of low-ish level, this is bad, bad news. 1d6 creatures at 3HD (3rd level)? A good roll can snooze half the party. 

Darn good reason to have at least one elf or something in the party!

GURPS

Now, there are a few different versions of magic spells in GURPS, so we’ll hit two of them. 

GURPS Magic – Standard Skill-based system
The basic Sleep spell costs 4 fatigue points (a normal human starts with 10, but casters will maximize this; I expect 15-20 to be more usual, plus mana stones, and discounts for high skill). You have to roll to cast it, but that’s probably not a big deal unless your subject is fairly close. A caster worth his salt will likely have high IQ and as much Magery as they can eat. Still, range penalties are -1 per yard of distance, and the subject can resist if he wins a Contest of Skills, often based on HT, against the spellcaster’s skill (subject to the rule of 16). 

If it works, the single victim drops for 8 hours of normal sleep. If awakened, they’re stunned for a bit until they snap out of it.

The more apt comparison, of course, is mass sleep. That has a base cost of 3, minimum radius 2 yards. . . so 6 FP for 2-yard raddius, 9 FP for 3 yards, etc. Everything else is basically the same as Sleep, though by rules-as-written you need to already know Sleep and have IQ 13 or higher – and Sleep has a “prerequisite chain” as well.

This is clearly depowered compared to D&D and S&W. You have to first make a skill roll to cast the spell, and even you have to win that Quick Contest to overcome the subject’s resistance. That being said, spells get high enough for few enough points in many cases (due to lots of IQ and Magery) that the Rule of 16 exists for that purpose. Only on a critical success is it a freebie.

Thanks to the comments for pointing out some errors with my assumptions

Ritual Path Magic
Another system that is gaining in popularity, and is a highly interesting alternative to the standard skill-based system, is Ritual Path Magic. This system uses a framework based on Powers, and is considerably more flexible, but requires a lot of GM and player participation, and no small amount of oversight, and a GM willing to say “no.” 

Still, +Christopher R. Rice has a substantial amount of mastery with the system, and he created for me three versions of an RPM sleep spell.

Sleep

  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Sleep.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

This spell causes the target (who must be within 30 yards) to fall asleepfor the next 12 hours if he fails to resist.

Typical Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Sleep (30) +Duration, 12 hours (6) + Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3).153 energy (51×3).

Mass Sleep

  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Sleep + Area of Effect.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

This spell causes multiple targets in a 10-yard area (who must be within 30yards of the caster) to fall asleep for the next 12 hours if they fail toresist the ritual

This Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Sleep (30) + Area OfEffect, 10 yards, excluding up to 4 subjects (10) + Duration, 12 hours (6) +Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 183 energy (61×3).

Sleeping Curse

  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Coma + Extra Energy.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

This spell (a favorite of wicked godmothers and evil faeries) causes thesubject to enter a coma (p. B429) which lasts until the spell is broken orthe subject is kissed by their true love (commonly a prince).

This Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Coma (50) + Duration,Until subject is kissed by their true love (24) + Extra Energy, +61 energy(61) + Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 450 energy(150×3).

Looking at the three, each is cast by rolling against the Path skill in question, and resisted by the better of Will or HT (but still a Resistance roll, I believe – the same Quick Contest). The energy gathering phase can take many seconds, and is often done offstage, using a charm or some sort of suspended spell when it comes time for casting it. For that purpose, if you think “spell slots,” you’re not too far wrong, though significant differences exist.

An important modification to RPM is that by spending more energy – sometimes considerably more – you can hit the victim(s) with penalties to that HT or Will roll beyond the Quick Contest. So if you want to drop your average HT/Will 12 adventurer to 6- even before you roll against your skill, you’re probably looking at about 100 extra energy. That’s quite a bit, but it’s doable . . . and that might just bring you into the level of a 1st level D&D Magic User!

Night’s Black Agents


I actually have no idea if NBA has a sleep sleep spell in it. Yep, p. 132, send to sleep. A vampire can put a single target to sleep by spending at least 2 Aberrence points, adding that to a die roll (1d6+2 or more). That roll must be 5 or higher (“more than 4”) for the attack to occur. If it does occur, the victim must make a Stability check of equal or higher to the original attack roll. Against normals, well, they’re probably just out light lights. Against the Night’s Black Agents, which start with Stabilty 4 and may go to 12 or higher, they might have a good chance of resisting. PCs probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of putting a vamp to sleep. 

Parting Shot


Wow. I didn’t really have much of an appreciation for how awesome the sleep spell is in D&D. Especially compared to the hit-and-miss nature of most GURPS spells. 

The typical 1st level Wizard can probably count on a DC for his spells of about 13 – 8 +2 for his saving throw proficiency and likely +2 or +3 for intelligence; I’ll assume 13. A foe will likely get some sort of bonus to his save roll, likely again about +1 (for 1 HD) to +3, which means he’s got about a 50% chance to resist. If one wanted to make the 1st level Sleep spell just a bit less automatically nasty, double the dice rolled for HP or HD impacted, but allow a Saving Throw against the effects of the spell. 

That has its own possibilities, for tweakage, but as it stands . . . Sleep? 

Awesome.

Been re-reading The Dresden Files, since I’m up at all hours with the newborn anyway.

In Proven Guilty, Harry sets up to do a ritual to use a wizardly tool to look in Chicago for fear and terror. Butcher spends some prose on describing the fact that the thing about ritual is it helps you put aside all the myriad petty distractions endemic to just being human, and focus on the magic.

That got me to thinking about certain discussions in GURPS, where you get people noting that Tactical Shooting has these non-Combat bonuses that can add up to +10 to the skill roll for knowing things like range (up to +3), shooting environment, and how much risk (emotional or physical) is tied up in the shot.

The usual argument goes “I’m going to play a character that can just switch off, and so I always get that non-Combat bonus!” Wacky fun ensues as it’s pointed out that the way to model that is to just buy higher skill.

Why is this even relevant?



What got me thinking was that it would be logical to say that, for example, a mage has been through some Wizardly version of Kolinahr.

So clearly, a mage that had no emotions, no distractions to put to the back of the mind, would just be that much better at ritual magic than a regular human mage. Just like a computer, or, say, a Terminator, will not feel pity, or remorse, and will not stop, etc.

Bullcrap. Both at a metagame and metaphysical level


That which is achieved with no work is not valued. That which one works to achieve is prized, regardless of the amount of money involved. I have seen this personally. I taught a martial arts club at my work for a few years. For a while, it was completely subsidized by my company, including a quarterly fee of about $75.

Attendance was good at first, but dropped off. People would come and go.Very irregularly.

At some point, they had to stop subsidizing in full. That cost was passed on to the practitioner.  Since we met at work for three hours a week, and a quarter is 13-ish weeks, that meant they were paying perhaps about sixty cents per class.

Attendance suddenly became very regular. You see, they were paying for it. The students modified their behavior because of a notional fee of less than one dollar per hour.

Does this have anything to do with magic?


What if one of the necessary elements for magic of any type, ritual or no, Ritual Path or spell skills, was in fact that tension between distraction and focus. That ritual is powerful and aids your spellcasting because you are waging preemptive war on your distractions. That tension, between focus and chaos, is the waterwheel through which whatever magical forces flow.

This is one of the reason fae, reasoning but ruled by passions suitable to their (in the Dresdenverse) Winter or Summer alliegence (or the tension of being unaligned) are such powerfully magical creatures. The distractions they must suppress to actually bring their power to impact the world, are large, and so their impact is large.

Computers? No distractions. No power. No magic. You can’t have a computerized ritual. Because there’s no tension there. The magic requires that balance, the focus, the suppression of random chaos, in order to be brought to order.

You can’t really ballroom dance if your partner provides no tension. Hard to dance with jelly-limbs. Sort of like that.

Anyway, it was a thought.

This is in response to a quite interesting thread on Reverse Missiles. Like many things that occur at the intersection of magic and technology of any sort, there can be many answers depending on the metaphysics of how it is all supposed to work.

Reverse Missiles 101


The key bits are

  • There is one hit roll – whatever you roll to hit your foe, you roll to hit yourself instead
  • The “game effect” is that of a bounced shot, bounced “straight back,” in fact.

Hit Roll

In a way, this is the easiest. Make the calculations to hit your foe, and like the old “I’m rubber you’re glue” game, whatever you shoot comes back to you.

The game mechanics are straight-forward. Roll to hit, and if you succeed, you have potentially hit yourself. More on implicatinos later.

Bounce Back


This is where the trouble might start. The projectile or spell energy flies from the shooter to the target, and bounces back. This innocuous statement can carry some implications that might make things more complicated.

Mechanics vs. Metaphysics


This is one of those things where you really need to decide what’s going on, and then make the rules interpretations loudly and publicly. 

It can’t be a true bounce or reflection – the trajectory would be all wrong. So there’s a magic adjustment that happens to direct i on its way.  Cool enough.

What about range? Is there a magical energy boost that restores velocity? So that the projectile hits with whatever energy it would have? GM call, but I think the answer is “yes.” It simplifies the mechanics, and as long as you’re adding energy to redirect a projectile, you might as well get back up to launch velocity too.

Hit location? Easy – whatever your intent for the target happens to you.

Basically, the game mechanics are designed to allow the GM to act like Nelson when you attack your target. It basically says “don’t give the player a clue that he’s firing into a magical field of “stop hitting yourself!”

Duck!


So that takes care of the hitting. What about active defenses? 

Seems fair to say that if you were allowed an active defense based on your actions on your turn (maneuver selection), you’d be allowed one if you’re attacking yourself.

But there’s a trick. Certainly, you may usually dodge or block ranged attacks (and with a one-handed weapon, it’s possible to have a shield-and-pistol thing going on), and with Parry Missile Weapons, you might be able to break that one out. So what’s the trick?

Awareness is key


As always, the caveat to any sort of active defense is spelled out in the Basic Set,  specifically on p. B374:

You also get no active defense if you’re unaware of the attack. Examples of situations in which no active defense is possible include a stab in the back from a “friend,” a surprise sniper’s shot, and a totally unexpected booby trap.

The reverse missiles spell would seem to qualify in many cases for the “unexpected booby trap” codecil. If the attacker is unaware that magic even exists, then he’s going to be unprepared to react against it.

In a way, this is why the “Aimed and Sighted shooting is an All-Out Attack” rule from GURPS Tactical Shooting is annoying (to the players) but important. It tells all involved that you are not expecting counterfire.

So, if you are aware that such magic exists, and you take an option that allows an active defense, then you get to use yours. I’ve had this conversation at least once with +Sean Punch and for a long while we made a joke about it in GURPS Technical Grappling, that taking “Attack” instead of All-Out or Committed Attack assumes that the fighter believes that the referee or the fans of a sporting event might pull out MP5s and suddenly start shooting into the ring. I included the One Foe option in Technical Grappling for that exact reason.

I don’t like that plan


One tends to assume that if you’re shooting or loosing an arrow at a foe, you’re not expecting it to come back at you. And if you are shooting, then you’re not doing the kind of evasive maneuvering that grants you a dodge.

To that i say: yes you are. If you didn’t take Committed or All-Out Attack, you are doing that kind of movement. That’s what such options are designed to preclude.

If, however, that just bugs you, well, there’s a handy article (Dodge This, from Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay) that spends four pages giving you options, including painful modifiers to see a projectile coming so that you can dodge, parry, or block it.

Parting Shot

So, ultimately the answer to the question of “can you Dodge reverse missiles” is probably simply “yes.” If you didn’t choose a maneuver that precludes a defense, and if you are aware at all that such a spell exists, you are presumed to be ready for such.

If you don’t like that plan, there are options, but I think the intent is that you have to spend a “holy crap!” moment dodging, and that the line of fire from your notional victim to yourself is now threatened behind you!

Yesterday was GURPS-Day, but I was on a plane, so I missed it. Sorry.

My own book was the crack in the dam. Since then, we’ve seen a bunch of new GURPS releases, in addition to our monthly dose of Pyramid.

So, what’s new?

Well, we’ll start with my own work.

Technical Grappling cranks up the potential resolution for close combat, armed and unarmed. It’s been revised once since publication, and based on a pretty good forum discussion, I think there’s one more thing that probably needs to be done. And no, it’s nothing to do with Bites.

I’ve copied the e23 page for each book, and the cover images are live.

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling 

An e23 Original!



For GURPS 4th Ed.

Avg. rating (24 votes): 4.5
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Written by Douglas H. Cole
Published by Steve Jackson Games
51-page PDF (1.2 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1644, $9.99

Master Grappling . . . or Face Defeat!

The canny warrior knows that grappling is fundamental to fighting. Any melee — from a brawl to a swordfight — could suddenly move into the clinch. Some fighters even specialize in such tactics!
This is a hard subject to get a hold on, however; volumes have been written about leverage alone. GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling brings this depth to GURPS. Expansions to the GURPS Basic Set and GURPS Martial Arts rules include:
  • Trained Strength. Discover how technical proficiency complements raw power.
  • Control Points. Transform grappling from an all-or-nothing affair to a matter of degree.
  • Position Revisited. Achieve leverage by jockeying for not only posture, but also facing and orientation.
  • Armed Grappling. Control and entangle your foes with a surprising variety of melee weapons.
  • Combat Options. Narrow your focus with the One Foe option, exploit Committed Attack to force a posture change, pass a limb to trap your opponent, and more.
  • Techniques. More than 30 of them — some new, some modified. Use an Escaping Parry to break a clinch, or Change Position to establish a weight advantage.
  • Fighting Styles. Learn Jacket Wrestling or Shuai Jiao — and distinguish between between bear and lion attacks — with six classic styles plus four specifically for animals.
Whether your campaign features athletes wrestling for prizes and honor, lawmen who must control and disarm suspects, or historical warriors trained to fight to the death, Martial Arts: Technical Grappling will add detail and realism to your battles.
This supplement requires GURPS Martial Arts for GURPS Fourth Edition.
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
***
Next, a hugely-awaited release: Ritual Path Magic. This alternate magic system is calculation-intensive, but there are some helper programs out there. Also, it’s awesome. I’ve played in a test-campaign with it, and it’s tons of fun. For additional help, someone went and converted all, or nearly all, of the GURPS Magic spells to RPM for you.
GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic 
An e23 Original!


For GURPS 4th Ed.GURPS Monster Hunters and GURPS Thaumatology
Avg. rating (19 votes): 4.5
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Written by Jason Levine
Published by Steve Jackson Games
56-page PDF (2.2 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1653, $9.99

You Can Do Anything!

Magic is a creative force, and those who can harness its full potential can change the universe. This is the core of GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, a complete, stand-alone, and self-contained magic system forGURPS. Designed to emulate the magic of real-world traditions and popular books, movies, and television shows, this framework permits practitioners to cast improvised spells, elaborate rituals, and everything in between. This supplement empowers you to:
  • Master the traits necessary to become a Ritual Path magician, from specialized advantages to the core and Path skills behind every spell . . . or alter them to fit your campaign needs.
  • Learn how to craft rituals to produce the effect you want with the skills you have, and what can help or hinder you when gathering the energy to make the ritual work.
  • Acquaint yourself with the benefits and pitfalls of various methods for making spell-casting easier, including charms, elixirs, grimoires, places of power, enchanted items, and more.
  • Discover ways to modify the basic system, how to combine it with other magic systems, what awful things happen when you mess up a spell, and exactly what you cannot do with Ritual Path magic.
  • See how the system works with over 80 sample rituals that cover all the major effects the average caster relies on, such as healing, injury, communication, and protection.
With this system, you can augment the arcanists of the GURPS Monster Hunters series (or other modern-day magical myths), wend new ways for wizened wizards, and provide new possibilities to power for any setting. With GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
***
The shambling hordes – or not so shambling – made their appearance in October as well. The first hardcover release in quite a long time. I’ll admit I haven’t dug through this one fully yet. But I will. I got comped on this one, largely I think for making suggestions that didn’t make it in the book.
GURPS Zombies 
An e23 Original!


For GURPS 4th Ed. and GURPS Horror
Avg. rating (21 votes): 5.0
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Written by Sean Punch
Published by Steve Jackson Games
163-page PDF (13.7 MB)
Stock Number SJG31-1004, $19.95

Undead, Infected, or Just Plain Cursed?

So . . . you think you know zombies. Are you sure? You want to be certain about something like chopping off an arm after a crazy person gets bitey, and it would be most unfortunate if you were looking out for the walking dead when a little kid with a fever lunged for your brains. If only there were a guide to all this stuff!
GURPS Zombies aims to please. It goes into detail on all kinds of zombies — undead and living, slow and fast, supernatural and superscience, and more. Its pages include:
  • A rules-free survey of zombies by fictional and folkloric origin, physical and supernatural type, and dramatic role.
  • Systematic guidelines for creating custom zombies to surprise your players.
  • Ready-to-use examples for the zombie-master in a rush: B-movie and fantasy undead, living-but-infected crazies, necromancers’ pets, science experiments gone horribly wrong, surgical constructs gone disturbingly right, and many others.
  • Rules for topics dear to the zombie-lover’s heart: horde management, splatter and contagion, cures, and even inventing new kinds of zombies!
  • Information for those who must confront zombies, including gear recommendations, rules for avoiding infection and simply surviving, and templates for survivors, zombie-hunters, and zombie-makers.
  • Advice on using all this in any genre. Who says zombies are only for horror?
Get ready for the time of your life — or unlife, if need be. Every zombie fan will find something to cackle about here! GURPS players get the bonus of detailed rules and stats to tell them exactly how hosed they’ll be when the zeds turn up on their doorstep.
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
***
I helped a bit with the next one, since Michele is a friend of mine. It’s a fictionalized Gothic Cathedral, and can be dropped in to anywhere such an edifice is important. Given the importance of such structures to to social fabric of the times, this is a great piece of work. 
GURPS Locations: St. George’s Cathedral 
An e23 Original!


For GURPS 4th Ed.
Avg. rating (11 votes): 4.5
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Written by Michele Armellini
Published by Steve Jackson Games
32-page PDF (2.0 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1415, $7.99

A Spire to Godliness

The church: so central to medieval times, it can be difficult to grasp today. Communities poured great resources into monuments built in awe and fear of God. Now perhaps viewed as stone skeletons from a pious past, cathedrals were the most impressive structures of their era . . .
GURPS Locations: St. George’s Cathedral presents a grand example of such an imposing edifice. Though fictitious, it is based on fact and suitable for use in any place and time that can call its Gothic corridors home. Open these pages and you shall:
  • Explore the immense structure from crypt to roof, discovering the artwork, relics, and other contents of each room. Detailed maps (including variants that preserve this site’s secrets) present all of the features mentioned in the descriptions, while GURPS stats spell out the challenges faced by visitors bent on unscrupulous entry.
  • Learn key details about the community that supports the cathedral, including local political problems and prominent people. A map shows the church’s location relative to other significant buildings in its vicinity.
  • Become acquainted with notable priests, lay workers, and other locals who might be found at St. George’s. Discover why the church is often the perfect meeting place.
  • Unearth a dozen adventure ideas involving the cathedral, plus several lenses to customize the locale to different campaign styles and settings – whether as a place of power, a modern-day curiosity, or a despoiled former jewel.
  • Peruse an extensive list of inspirational resources that can provide GM and players alike with more information about church architecture, religion in the Middle Ages, fitting fictional plots, and specific real-world cathedrals.
Lightning flashes, illuminating the silhouettes of the gargoyles perched on the edge; their stony faces betray no emotion as they await your visit to St. George’s Cathedral. Will entry bring your heroes closer to the divine . . . or remind them of their own insignificance amid the endless echoes?
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
****
Another one I got to play with early, Yrth Fighting Styles is a great resource not just for Banestorm, but for how to blend martial arts with magic. Each presented style takes a cultural background and reason for existing and builds fightin’ words around them. Even if you’re not playing a Banestorm campaign, it’s a great worked example of how to design styles – and also some nice examples of non-styles.
GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles 
An e23 Original!


For GURPS 4th Ed.
Avg. rating (7 votes): 5.0
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Written by David T Moore
Published by Steve Jackson Games
38-page PDF (1.4 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1681, $7.99

Become the Best Martial Artist on Yrth!

GURPS Martial Arts looks at hand-to-hand combat of all kinds, with an emphasis on what’s feasible on our Earthly orb. But what can fighters do in a world where “fantasy” is reality? GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Stylesexplores the violent possibilities in the GURPS Banestorm setting . . . and offers many options that can enhance the combatants of your own fantasy realms.
  • Discover more than a dozen armed and unarmed fighting styles specific to Yrth, and use the included lenses to focus suitable Martial Arts styles into Yrth-based ones.
  • Find out how existing advantages, disadvantages, and skills work in a fantasy world, and augment your heroes with new perks, techniques, specialties, and variants.
  • Fight like an animal (literally!) using expanded rules that cover everything from sharks to giraffes — or exploit guidelines that let you take the action underwater.
  • Depart from the traditional! Power up styles with Imbuement Skills from GURPS Power-Ups 1: Imbuements . . . or use the included werewolf template and related abilities to bring out your inner beast.
  • Live as a knight, legionary, mercenary, dwarf, or dark elf, thanks to insight into daily routines and suggestions for suitable character templates (including two new ones).
  • Learn the martial history of Yrth’s civilizations — not only human, but also dwarven, elven, many others — and read about the great warriors who influenced that world’s fighting styles.
Whether you’re seeking new options for fantasy adventurers, more details to enliven your elves, or fitting threats for Yrth’s mightiest heroes, you’ll find it in Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles. The fields, forests, and seas are more dangerous than ever. Give your champions a fighting chance!
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
***
And finally, yesterday’s release is yet another supplement/variation on a theme presented in Thaumatology, showing off the toolkit nature of GURPS. I haven’t purchased this one yet; it’s not immediately my cup of tea, but I’m something of a completist so I’m sure I’ll get it eventually!
GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers 
An e23 Original!


For GURPS 4th Ed. and GURPS Thaumatology
Avg. rating (2 votes): 5.0
Written by William H. Stoddard
Published by Steve Jackson Games
42-page PDF (1.3 MB)
Stock Number SJG37-1654, $7.99

Wield the Might of the Five Elements!

The Chinese view of the elements (xing) is rich and nuanced, with cycles of creation and destruction: earth refines into metal, smothers fire, is covered by wood, and absorbs water. These interactions are as flavorful as they are balanced — perfect for a magic system! GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers blends the concepts of qi (chi) and magic, empowering elementalists with gifts that truly capture the feel of xing mastery. With it, you’ll be able to:
  • Master more than 60 fully worked abilities — and 20 new perks! — spread across the five elements, from the literal (summoning water as fog) to the metaphorical (using water chi to target the heart’s fire).
  • Combine Talent, Meditation skill, and the new Focus technique to push your elemental abilities beyond their limits and use them in powerful ways.
  • Supplement cinematic martial-arts skills with peaceful but equally fantastic feats of Alchemy, Erotic Art, Esoteric Medicine, Fortune-Telling, and Herb Lore.
  • Use the expanded advantages, disadvantages, and skills to build the magician you want — or just adapt the sample elementalist, Wang Laowu.
  • Learn how the concepts of xingqi, and yin and yang permeate Chinese culture, and then use that understanding to work this magic into your campaign.
Whether you’re playing mystical wu and brave xia in ancient China, modern martial artists locked in a secret street war, or classic fantasy dungeon delvers questing after a unique power-up, GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers puts the power of the elements in your hands!
Visit the official web page for more info, resources, product support, and links.
I most often throw down
some sort of tidbit or observation on rules and tinkering with them on
GURPS-Day, but today, my mind is on campaigns.
I’m starting to get the
itch to GM one again. Not out of disappointment with the three in which I’m
playing, but it’s a good way to ensure familiarity with the system, exercise
creative muscles, and generally ensure some proactive social action on my part.
So, with that, what
would I run? Not sure, but some possibilities in no particular order:
Krail’s Folly
The concept of “go
north and conquer the wilderness, and you get lands and title in exchange”
was hashed out a while back, and the game concept carries as much appeal now as
it did then.
I’d vacillate a bit, but
likely come down to using Dungeon Fantasy as the core basis. It is, quite
simply, the best supported part of GURPS, with tons of cool stuff. I’ve also
got a direct line into +Nathan Joy‘s pool of players, far more
experienced in playing this genre than I am. Of course, +Peter V. Dell’Orto is no slouch either, and
since he and I collaborate on stuff on a regular basis rather well, there’s a
monster pool of talent I can go to. Not to mention rules-authors and tinkerers
such as +Antoni Ten Monrós.
What would I bring to
the table? Well, I’d still use Divine Favor for clerical powers, since I
really do love the feel of it. I might tweak out a few things, since as Peter
points out in today’s post over at Dungeon Fantastic, there are a few
potentially fun-killing/fun-reducing aspects of Divine Favor’s Learned Prayers
that could use some tampingdown.
I like the granularity
of the Low-Tech armor and weapons and whatnot, but I am right there with Peter
in thinking that it’s a bit too fiddly. GCA can be used pretty well to design
kits of armor, even very complicated ones. But there’s something rather nice
about NOT having to get crazy with it, and fine tuning each piece gets
complicated.
What about my own rules?
The Deadly Spring for bows is a behind-the-curtain thing. So all that work is
done ahead of time, and won’t interfere with the game much . . . but “realistic”
bows in Dungeon Fantasy? Meh, what’s the point? So I might bypass that in favor
of ridiculous levels of smackdown. More fun that way.
Magic? Ah, there’s the
rub. From what I’ve seen of Ritual Path Magic, I like the feel of the system
but it seems every bit as fiddly as the armor-building issue I talked about
above. I’d be tempted to try a Divine-Favor inspired magic system, but then, really, that’s not that different in fiddly
than Divine Favor or RPM – you’re still creating “spells” based on some sort of
metasystem, and as long as you ruthlessly quash “let me design a spell while I’m
sitting at the table” behavior, it’d probably go fine.
I’d definitely bring on
the Setup Attacks I introduced in Delayed Gratification. I might even eliminate
the RAW Feint entirely. Not sure about that, but likely.
I would probably try to
use Technical Grappling too, since it would be way easier for me to answer future
questions about that book if I’d had experience playing it and adjudicating the
rules!
Would I also do
long-term fatigue and action points, from The Last Gasp? Grar . . . might be
nice, but that would make a LOT of new rules to swallow, and both TLG and TG
require characters to be built with those rules in mind. So I’d probably skip
the Action Point rules this time.
Monster Hunters
This is probably my
favorite genre of all time. It combines creepy horror and magic with a world
that we’re more or less all familiar with, and has the over-the-top  Black Ops feel that I loved when I GM’d that
campaign years ago, without being 1,000-point characters.
I feel like it’s got a
nice combination of swords, guns, and monsters. Action Points and TG would fit
in here pretty well, I’d not have to worry about Low-Tech fiddliness (though I
would have High-Tech fiddles, but that’s rather well defined due to the nature
of it being right-here, right now).
This also lends well to
being an episodic campaign that can see players come and go without too much
pain. Given the variability in modern adult life, I think that would lend
itself well to my needs.
Modern Special Ops
I was Lead Playtester on
Tactical Shooting for a reason: I’m pretty familiar with this trope, and I love
laying out tactical challenges. I could also see doing this as a variable tech
level science fiction setting, Colonial Marines style, and near-future (TL8/9)
Sci Fi is pretty familiar to most people. Hell, given how much fun I had
playing the game, GURPS X-Com would rock on toast.
Parting Shot
I’d obviously see who’d
want to play in each campaign, how often (but no more  than twice a month, but no less frequently
than once every three weeks, I think) and if someone says “hey, wouldn’t it be
cool to run X” and I get inspired, I’m in.
But I really do kind of
want to run a game, and I’d love to get my wife in on it; she’s gamed with me
before and we’ve both enjoyed the experience.
One thing I would do,
however, is have to learn MapTool or Roll20 way, way better. I would also insist
that all players use webcams, because my experience is that the camera experience
is simply better (for me) than the
chat-based games. It’s faster, more social, and for me, more fun.
I’m getting that itch,
though – and it might be time to run something again.

This one is going to be some thoughts, but I’ll get this out of the way early: I’m not terribly experienced with the current and alternate GURPS Magic systems. Some of that is lack of interest, some is lack of experience . . . but some is experience playing and GMing in a few games (not lots) where magic featured, and walking away less than fully thrilled.

Many of the issues and questions I’ll raise are not new or novel. A good, even cursory, search of the GURPS Forums will reveal most of these questions, I’m sure, along with answers. Maybe even answers from +Sean Punch or Rev Pee Kitty.

Anyway, some random thoughts and discussion about magic in GURPS.

Skill-based GURPS Magic

The basic core system presented in GURPS magic is at it’s core, skill based rather than advantage-based. No surprises there. Each spell is a skill, and you derive those skills the same way you derive all skills: a base attribute, plus any levels of bonus-granting attributes like Talents, plus points invested in the skill itself.

Whipping out Cadmus, whose skills are a blend of physical and mental stuff, I find that for this particular DF character, I’ve got 9 DX-based skills, 8 IQ-based skills, 3 HT-based skills, and 1 Per-based (which of course is also an IQ-based one). One of the IQ-based skills, though, is Holy Warrior!, a bang skill that “replaces Leadership, Religious Ritual, Strategy, Tactics, and Theology, as well as Hidden Lore, Physiology, and Psychology specialties pertaining to evil monsters. Make a Will-based roll for Exorcism, Intimidation, or Meditation.” (Dungeon Fantasy 1, p. 18).

So this character effectively has 18 IQ-based skills.

Where should I spend my points, then? Clearly on IQ, for anything where relative skill level doesn’t matter much. If I choose not to buy up Per and Will (though that counts against the disad total, should one exist) then it’s blindingly obvious that increasing my IQ is the way to go. There are some caveats. Since Monster Hunters came out, one of the great benefits of “Bang!” skills is that every 12 points in one can give you a “bonus point” that can be spent on several things, such as rerolling bad die rolls or avoiding critical failures, or even spending a couple to make a roll into a critical success. Having only one (as Cadmus did until maybe recently) is a limit, having three or so is nice, and more than that starts to get a bit silly, but they’re always nice to have, and nice to use.

Why the digression?

Magery is the Talent for casting spells (it also defines your power level), and adds to IQ when figuring the base from which you calculate skill level. There’s a 5-point Magery 0 buy-in, but after that, it’s 10 points/level, and gives +1 for every spell you know. Given that higher levels of Magery are also prerequisites for more powerful spells, and often the amount of energy you can put into a spell is limited by Magery or some multple of it . . . well, that’s looking pretty attractive. Certain genres have different limits on how many levels of Magery you can buy, but unless you’re only buying a few spells, the value here is pretty clear.

Next, especially if you are going to spend 4 points in more than five (only five!) spells, is IQ. Given how many magical effects might require a Will roll, I’d never buy down Will, but perhaps slacking on Per isn’t fatal. Maybe not. I like Perception. Too many conversations/interactions in gaming begin with “everybody make Perception rolls,” and that’s not just a GURPS thing; it happens so often in Pathfinder that I’ve made some nasty noises about how Perception should be a class skill for all classes.

Anyway, the issue here, of course, is that building your classic Mage with bunches of Magery and IQ starts to get niche-stomping on anyone with IQ-based stuff pretty quick.

If that’s a problem for you, of course many solutions exist. You could create a new stat called Magic or something that replaced IQ as the base for spells’ skill levels. You could just assume that all mages have a base of 10, plus any levels of magery. Increasing IQ is interesting, but relative skill level is based of off 10+Magery, and so you might use IQ-based rolls to discuss magic intellectually, Will-based rolls to resist the effects of a similar spell, but you roll against 10+Magery+Relative Skill Level to actually cast it.

Huge Tracts of Grimoire


In my limited experience, though, people have a lot of spells. With hundreds and hundreds of spells in GURPS Magic for Fourth Edition, and the way point investiture can work, having three or four dozen spells isn’t out of line at a point or two each. Without large dependencies on relative skill level, and the standard rules presented on GURPS Magic, p. 8 do not have such a dependency, the benefits of increasing the base level for all spells is huge. You get a reduction in the cost of a spell by 1 FP starting at effective skill 15 and another every five points of skill thereafter. Not “relative skill,” but skill, as in IQ+Magery+relative skill level.

I know where I’m spending my points.

Game Play and Feel


In the GURPS Jade Regent Dungeon Fantasy game I play in with +Nathan Joy as GM, the spellcasters we’ve had have used the basic Magic rules (as opposed to one of the alternates presented in GURPS Thaumatology, or cribbing from Ritual Path Magic, from Monster Hunters and with a big expansion book coming out).

I find that the feel of the system doesn’t work for me as well as I’d like. There are many complex effects, each of which can invoke special rules. It’s very technical, not terribly mystical, and sometimes the spells are wildly effective, and others . . . not so much. +Mark Langsdorf could probably fill many screens of text on this, since he’s got a very good grasp of the “do/do-nots” of the magic system.

That imbalance can be all well and good when you’re on the giving end; not so much receiving, sometimes.

Also, the Magic book – the spells particularly – feel like they either have too much metasystem (or metasystem applied unevenly) or not nearly enough. You’d better be ready to look up how it’s all done, and some spells seem to follow different rules. The energy cost vs. spell effects trade could really use some serious rationalization, but that wasn’t done when the book was revised for Fourth Edition.

Honestly, this is where the Divine Favor and Ritual Path Magic type systems shine. They have an underlying metasystem that’s very strong, and so you can be more sure that powers and abilities are balanced against each other. 

Parting Shot

I’ve occasionally been tempted to play a mage in the game. The versatility and occasionally power of the spells is compelling, but ultimately, I’m turned away by the complexity of the system. I happily play a Divine Favor-based Warrior Saint, though. He’s got a much smaller number of enumerated powers, and then uses the General or Specific Prayer mechanic (two rolls, one for petition, one for reaction, GM decides what the results are on a success) for other stuff. That’s a lot of GM fiat, but you can always do this, and it’s hugely flexible and fast and fun to play.

I’ve played in a game recently with Ritual Path Magic, and the mechanics for casting spells are pretty straight-forward, but they’re heavily weighted to out-of-combat play. You need to spend a lot of mechanics-time defining a ritual, make a ton of rolls to gather energy, and then you do the spell, which if you’re sitting around a table, will get you beaten to death with large core rulebooks or pelted with d4s, and you’ll deserve it. It very much rewards coming to the table prepared. And really needs a grimoire of pre-written spells, which I have to believe is a core part of the upcoming book.

I’ll have more thoughts on magic in GURPS coming up. But by and large, I’ve found it something I like other people to play, but because of the idiosyncrasies of the skill-based system, it takes a bit of work to prevent the Wizard from being the best at all things that might derive from IQ. And that’s annoying.

I love Divine Favor. I think it’s a far better and more elegant solution to the question of miracles and clerical “magic” than the existing GURPS system, which is basically the same as Magic, with Power Investiture standing in for Magery, and Sanctity making the tag for Mana levels. You pay your cost and you cast your spell.

With Divine Favor, you are (thematically) buying a level of influence with your god(s), and you can appeal to them for aid. The quality of the aid is based on a reaction roll, and can have pretty far-reaching effects.

Cadmus, my Dungeon Fantasy character in +Nathan Joy‘s game based on Pathfinder’s Golarion and Jade Regent Adventure Path, has “Divine Favor 8” which is good for getting my deity’s attention about one time in four if I’m subtle, about half the time if I wave my holy symbol in the air and generally act like a street preacher.

Now, you can request a specific effect, such as the ever-popular Smite, which inflicts 2d burning damage of really ugly holy fire on malign supernatural creatures. It’s particularly effective against the undead. Anyway, the book comes with a list of pre-defined miracles intended as guidelines for effect, and each “level” of miracle has a reaction minimum that comes with it.

You can also buy these as Learned Prayers, which are basically something you can just do, since you’ve paid points for it, and your god has granted you the ability to get the job done more or less at will.

Game mechanically, these are Alternate Abilities, costing 1/5 (round up) the cost of the power that is bestowed; the buy-in is the level of Divine Favor required to “qualify” for the prayer.

Cadmus has used his LPs to great effect, and has several. Protection from Evil (Enhanced) and Smite are great for stomping undead, while Righteous Fury turns him into a Cuisinart for 3d seconds (adds 1d to each of ST, DX, and HT).

Recently, though, I have started to wonder if the “IF Pray, THEN Miracle” nature of how Learned Prayers work might make them a bit too “by rote,” taking away some of the variability and thus mystery of divine intervention.

I’ve not thought this through completely, but I wondered if it would be interesting to work off of the following:

When using a Learned Prayer with things that have a defined benefit, roll 3d and consult the following table:

6-       Half normal effect, double time, or -2 per die damage
7-8    2/3 normal effect, 1.5x time, or -1 per die damage
9-11   Normal effect
12-13   1.25x normal effect, 80% time, or +1 per die damage
14+     2x Normal effect, half time, or double damage

Now, the approximate weighted average of all that crap is about 105%, meaning that on the average, your Learned Prayer is about 5% more effective than the rules-as-written. Kind of a bonus for rolling dice.

Let’s take a look at a few common prayers, and see how this would impact them.

Final Rest: Here’s a great example of an example that isn’t great. You pray for a minute, and at the end, your subject (who is dead) can’t be made undead later. The only thing I can think of here is that the prayer takes longer – two minutes if you roll a 6 or less, but only thirty seconds if you roll well. Big deal.

Protection from Evil: Again, this minor miracle doesn’t let malign supernatural entities approach within a
yard. in this case, you might say that the bad results mean then can get within your hex but can’t touch you, while the bonus effects mean they stay 2 yards away. That’s actually a real benefit, especially for (say) skeletons of the sword- and axe-wielding variety.

Lay on Hands: You can transfer HP from yourself to your subject. This one’s straight-forward, I think. You say how many HP you want to transfer, and roll the dice. If you are planning on transferring 6 HP, a bad roll means you spend 6 HP to restore 3 or 4. A good one means that you either spend 6 HP and restore 8 HP or 12HP, or if (say) your guy is only wounded for 6 HP, you might spend 4 HP or 3 HP in order to restore 6 HP.

Smite: This one’s easy. Roll variable effect, roll damage. You can either just roll the damage and modify that flat out, or use the per-die suggestions above.

Righteous Fury: Cadmus’ favorite prayer, it adds to your physical stats: 1d for 3d seconds. This one could go either way, meaning you might roll only 1d-2 on a bad roll, but roll 2d on a great one! Alternately, for those who don’t relish the possibility of +12 to DX, 3d seconds might be modified directly.

Why bother? 

Honestly, I like variable effect rolls, though in many cases, the effects are already variable. The bottom line is it makes relying on your relationship with your deity just a bit chancy, but also potentially even better than you think.

Why not just use the Reaction Table again?


Um, because I didn’t think of it initially, but it’s a good idea. It’s more granular, and it’s the same basic mechanic used for Divine Favor in general. What the Learned Prayer would do, then, is bypass the Petition Roll, and have an average effect on the same magnitude as the current LP.

Try this as an alternate:

Very Bad 25%
Bad  50%
Poor 75%
Neutral 100%
Good 150%
Very Good 300%

I said, WHY BOTHER?


Some people like rolling dice. 🙂

More seriously, it would definitely take some real prep on the part of the GM and/or player. Using the guidelines above, you either need to be willing to make stuff up on the fly so that you adjudicate the prayer results as you go, or you need to create the reaction table for each prayer on the PC’s sheet. Might be too much trouble, but I still like the idea that you can never really guarantee an effect when negotiating/praying for intervention.

Magic is not Technology


People who are keen on this can take it one step further, and apply the same sort of thing to magic. Either make the effects per mana point spent variable as above, look up the margin of success or MoS+some number (maybe 5?) for a casting on the reaction table (that might easily be too good), or some other “you can’t really use a magic spell the way you use a gun” type impact.

Parting Shot


Again, some campaigns styles or player character concepts would break doing this; some players would not enjoy this sort of thing. But as I said when I started, the variable and occasionally unknowable impacts of prayers is a lot of fun in the game I play now, and applying that to Learned Prayers as well is something I jotted down in my Journal of Pretentiousness as a thought experiment.