The Power of Synergy

I didn't really think I'd have time to plan and put together a new campaign world, but that little bit of extemporaneous planning that I did yesterday kind of lit a fire under me, and I've started writing up more bits and pieces of the world in question, and establishing which rules I want to employ, which house rules to include, and other game mastering checkpoints like tech level, starting character points, and some hand-designed variants on the Big Four standard fantasy races.

I blame the current upswing in the number of GURPS-specific blogs, wherein I'm constantly bombarded with new ideas, from the fun number crunching of a Doug Cole or Grouchy Chris, or the thaumatological stylings of Mark Langsdorf. I just hope I can maintain a decent level of output, and come up with some fun, new ideas.

So, what's new so far?

I'm following Mark's growing pains on how to deal with magical systems with some interest. As much as I want to give the default magic system its due, I'm sorely tempted by all of the alternatives presented in Thaumatology, and want to find something that is flavorful, but also player-friendly, without being game-breaking.

I've also decided that this time I'm going to follow through with a promise I made a while back, to keep my non-human races from being too monolithic. No more "dwarves are all axe-wielding stone masons with scottish accents and a penchant for beer" style of game, for sure, but also no more "dwarven kingdom" or "realm of the elves" either. The Kingdom (I've not named it yet) is multicultural in that sense, with men, elves, dwarves and halflings living together, and the place that they grow up has more to do with their predilections, styles and personalities than their species.


Appearance: All varieties of skin, hair and eye color are represented in The Kingdom, typically gathered by region, but mixed in the larger, cosmopolitan cities, and especially so in the City of Glass.

Mechanical: Human characters are not required to take any advantages or disadvantages. They are the baseline from which the other species are derived.


Appearance: Tending towards taller and much slenderer than humans. Elves primarily have a pale skin tone and their hair ranges from a stark white through to a pale honey brown shade. Eye color can be quite variable, with a preponderance of jewel tones.

Mechanical: ST -2; DX +1; FP +3; Acute Vision 2; Telescopic Vision 1; Extended Lifespan 2*. Elves are biologically vegetarian, and get no sustenance from meat of any kind, instead experiencing distress if too much is consumed. Find their height and weight per their reduced strength, then add 10 inches to the height, leaving the weight unchanged (e.g. an average, ST 8 elf stands from 5'8" - 6'6" tall, but weighs just 90-150 pounds). [10 points]

* I'm employing Jason Levine's rule on flavor traits, and EL 2 only costs 2 points


Appearance: Shorter than humans by a fair margin, male dwarves tend towards stocky, muscular builds, while dwarven women lean towards voluptuous. Their hair grows quickly, and to great length, leading towards a tendency for the men to wear beards and the women braids, though that varies by region as well. Skin tone is almost entirely ruddy, and hair dark, from a medium brown to coal black. Dwarven eyes are invariably green.

Mechanical: ST +1; HP +1; Resistant to Disease +3; Base Move -1. Find height and weight per their adjusted ST value, then multiply height by 2/3, while weight remains unchanged (e.g. an average, ST 11 dwarf stands from 3'8" - 4'2" tall, and weighs 125 - 195 pounds). [10 points]


Appearance: The smallest of the species in the kingdom, halflings are much like smaller humans in appearance, with the same range of skin tones, hair and eye coloration. Their hair does tend towards curly, but with variation from tight curls to a more moderate natural wave.

Mechanical: ST -3; DX +1; +1 HT, +1 Will; SM -1; Base Move -1; Fearlessness 3; Hard to Kill 2. Find height and weight per their adjusted ST value, then reduce height by 20 inches and weight by 20 pounds on the low end and 30 on the high (e.g. an average, ST 7 halfling stands from 2'11" - 3'9" tall, and weighs 55 - 105 pounds). [10 points]


  1. Hey, I'm giving the standard magic system it's due: it's a hodgepodge of strange spells, weird rules, odd mechanics for talent and skill, and other issues that make it a hassle to explain, a pain to play, and a headache to design worlds around. From "missile spells suck and so does my wizard" to "Grease is completely overpowered" to "Wait, how does Delay work again?", you'll find plenty of justified complaints. My pains with the system are not growing, they are large and well-established. Fixes for them - well, those are a work in progress.

    Shouldn't your elves have Restricted Diet (Vegetarian, Very Common, Substitution) for -5 points?

  2. Restricted Diet is a disad I've never used before. Glossed right over it, I'm sure, a thousand times. Definitely a consideration. And given my OCD need for all of my non-human races to cost the same, gives five more points to play with to make elves exceptional.

    And certainly no offense meant on calling you out about your magical ruminations. I, too, have seen the dissertations on the failings of the default magic system, even with the Unofficial GURPS: Magic Errata document in place to take care of the most egregious of issues (Permanent instead of Instant being the most prevalent of them). I've always loved the alternative systems and system building tools that Thaumatology presents, and Magical Styles delves even further into.

    I'm re-reading RPM in the Monster Hunters PDF now, and trying to figure out a) how to make it a little hotter for a more fantasy-style of play, and b) how to shoehorn in a 40 point advantage on top of Magery levels, high IQ and half a dozen or more magic skills - when you want to start play at 150 points!

    1. Having played a 200 point RPM in a friend's Castle Falkenstein game, my advice for being a successful low-power RPM is simply to not be a Ritual Adept. Bring a charm kit and a bunch of charm-tokens into the field. Use the "quick casting of charms" rules from MH4 Sidekicks to replace the charms you use every day. Cast a lot of long-term buffs (it only takes a few hours). In the field, blast people with activated charms and use simple rituals for anything else you want to do.

      My problem with RPM in that context is the slope of skill:spell power curve. At skill-13, you can reliably blow yourself up. At skill-20, you can semi-reliably move movements. That is more or less acceptable in a 400 point MH game, where the witch and the sage have skills in the 15-17 range, but a huge pain in a game where you have skills in the 12-14 range. Grimoires only go so far.

      I wrote up some ideas for integrating RPM in to DF:

    2. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "hotter", nor if there's a need. A dodgeable, external, explosive burning 4d attack is a Greater Create Energy (4d damage), requiring 30 energy. Assuming a low power wizard with Ritual Path Mage 2, you need to draw 24 energy to cast it, and effective skill 16 to cast it relatively safely by exceeding twice the safe threshold (MH4 p11). So Path of Energy-14 and Ritual Mastery (Explosive Fireball Ritual) or Path of Energy-13 and a +3 Grimoire. Those are pretty low requirements, even for a 150 point caster, so it'd be easy to make 3 of those charms every 2 hours. Is a wizard who walks into the fight with 3 explosive fireballs and 11 other prepared spells "hot" enough?

    3. What I'm finding is that I'm missing out significantly by not owning MH4! Sounds like many of my concerns may be addressed there. Charms definitely make the RPM mage more effective without making him superhuman compared his compadres, and I need to re-read those rules so that I can more fully grok them.

      I'm also considering reverse-engineering Ritual Adept per the pullout on MH1p.33, and letting folks take four levels of it at 10/level, choosing whether or not the levels apply to Connection, Consecration or Time (once for the first round of energy collection, a second time for the later rounds).


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