Saturday, September 18, 2021

RPM Mistakes- some made, some avoided

My brother moved across the country a few months ago, and to help deal with his social isolation he got up the energy to convince me and some other family members to start a new GURPS campaign. It's been going swimmingly, recaps may or may not be in the works.

That said, it's been a long time since I've GMed a campaign that uses Ritual Path Magic (and the last time the only PC caster was using alchemy), which means it's a perfect opportunity to go over mistakes we've made, as well as pitfalls we've avoided that have come up in play.

Delivering a Spell via Melee Attack is not a Free Lunch

I choose to accept a very broad reading of page 17 of Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic to allow attaching a spell to an attack:

Once created, the missile has to be delivered by touch
(using DX, Brawling, etc.)
Activating a charm requires a full Ready maneuver. Before we realized this the resident mage was thwacking people with his staff and loading additional spell damage beyond what would've been reasonable given the overall action economy of the game.

Yes, you can put a conditional on the weapon so that a spell takes place when it hits, but short of extremely careful preparation of conditional triggers (good luck convincing your GM to let that slide), you're looking at being one and done as far as those go.

Even the option presented in Pyramid #3-66 The Laws of Magic for Charm 'R' Us doesn't get around this - a ritual charm meant to deal damage after a melee attack still has to be activated with a Ready maneuver, even if the charms inhabit a physical wand or staff, or other object.

For those wondering why delivering a RPM spell via melee attack is still an appealing option:
  1. Cheaper than adding range and subject weight for internal damage
  2. No range penalties from attempting to utilize a missile for external damage
  3. Having actual melee weapon skill allows for better parry than raising Innate Attack skill
Important note: Compartmentalized Mind has no interaction with charms themselves due to the requirement of a Ready Maneuver.

Tapping Energy Reserve is a Free Lunch

Tapping Energy Reserve takes a Concentrate maneuver, meaning that as long as you tapped enough energy for the full spell cost, the spell happens immediately.

On the caster’s turn in which the last necessary point of energy has been acquired, he rolls against the appropriate Path skill (Choose the Skill, pp. 19-20) to cast the spell.

Blurring the Lines between Conditionals and Charms is a Bad Idea

Initially, I waffled on how concretely to treat Charms, whether they were physical objects, or something more akin to Vancian Magic where you just prep the spell ahead of time and then get to activate them at will.

Ultimately, forcing Charms to be physical objects that must be readied to use became important to ensuring that mages don't become magic machineguns, dishing our 7d of damage turn after turn after turn. This also introduces potential counter-play (by creating opportunities for enemies to respond before charms are utilized), allowed for people to steal charms created by others, and is overall more consistent.

It also forces more careful thought about the use of conditional spells in general.

The Rule of 16 is Important

Per B349:

If a supernatural attack (magic spell, psi ability, etc.) offers a resistance roll and the subject is living or sapient, the attacker’s effective skill
cannot exceed the
higher of 16 and the defender’s actual resistance. If it
does, reduce it to that level.
Example: A wizard has an effective skill of 18 with his Mind-Reading
spell. If he tries to read the mind of someone with a Will of 16 or less,
he rolls against 16. If his subject has a Will of 17, he rolls against 17.
And if his target has a Will of 18 or higher, he rolls against 18.

In our specific circumstance, the Rule of 16 should've kicked in when a practitioner with Path of Mind 19 whammied the party with a Terrify spell. With fright checks, rolling without -3 in penalties can be the difference between being stunned for 1 second and having to roll vs Will to snap out of it, or being stunned for 1d seconds then having to roll vs Will to snap out of it.

No, You can't Bestows a Penalty to the Resist Roll

I largely view this as a case of using magic to get better at magic, which is explicitly forbidden. You can hit someone with a spell that saps their HT or Will, or a spell that gives them Magic Susceptibility, but those spells have to defeat the target's Resistance Roll mano-a-mano before taking effect, and they only benefit the following spells that affect the target.

Penalties that take effect after the magic has successfully affected a target are generally fine.

This one we avoided.

Path Skill Defaults Can't Exceed 12

Path Skills default to Thaumatology-6, but cannot exceed 12 at Default. Beware your preferred character sheet program of choice 'helpfully' increasing Path Skills above 12 if a character's Thaumatology exceeds 18.

Drinking a Potion is yet another not Free Lunch

Per page 29 of Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic:
Before using an elixir, you must have it ready. If you
have it exposed (e.g., in a bandoleer), this takes only two
Ready maneuvers (one to draw it, one to open or ready it).

This is one that my group is still coming to grips with, along with another important note on potion use.

No Administering Potions to Unconscious Individuals

You cannot administer a potion or powder to an unconscious individual. 

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