Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Smooth Operator Should be [10] points

We were in a character building session when I went on a long tirade about why smooth operator is a bad talent and you shouldn't take it,. As I was winding down, one of my players said "If its such a bad idea, can I take it for 10 points a level?" I thought about it, and then thought about it some more, and said "Yes". And the more I think about it, the more I think its a great idea in general. Here is my reasoning:

First, 15 points can get you a lot in GURPS. You could add +4 to a skill you have. You could get +1 to all defenses. You could get a reroll once per hour. You could get +3 to a more narrow group of skills. If you save 5 more points, you could buy a level of IQ and add +1 to a vast swath of skills. 

Second, Smooth Operator is barely a 15-point talent as it is. It has 13 skills, which is just barely the threshold for a 15 point talent. It has two skills that are HT-based, One that's Per-Based, and ten that are all based on IQ. That's some reach across attributes, but not a lot. Its reaction bonus basically says that if the person matters, the reaction bonus doesn't apply. Its not as narrowly focused as some talents, but it clearly represents a very coherent set of skills. Despite this, I struggle to imagine a character who actually uses all 13 skills, because several of them are pretty niche in application, like panhandling or politics.

Third, the Basic set acknowledges that "the GM’s word is law when determining which skills are “related” and how may points the Talent is worth." This is for custom talents, but its also a general caution that there is a "Feel" to designing properly balanced talents, rather than just relying on counting skills.

So I don't feel bad telling people not to take smooth operator. And that indicates its not worth those 15 points. Is it worth 10 points? probably. It still faces some pretty stiff competition from options like Charisma and the Talker Talent from power ups. So even at 10 points, its not an obvious choice for the type of character that its designed for. And that, to me, is the best proof that lowering its cost to 10 points isn't broken: that it doesn't create a rush of players trying to take it.  

So go ahead and try pricing smooth operator at 10 points. Hopefully it makes a certain type of character more viable, or at least less awkwardly built. Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

GCS files for Historical Folks Skill Sets

One of GURPS's specialties is historical games. So it should not come as a surprise that one of the more impressive fan-made projects is GURPS Historical Folks. This project comes in both a 3rd Edition and a 4th Edition version. And recently Infornific on the Forums decided to turn the templates into Skill Sets in the mold of Action 4: Specialists or Delvers to Grow. And I decided to write GCS templates for all of them. So these are GCS templates for the Historical Folks Skill sets:

GCS Templates for Historical Folks Skill Sets

They come in a zip file you will need to unzip: the file is about Half a Megabyte but contains about 150 templates. They are written for GCS 5.20.4, which is a pretty recent version. You can open the files in GCS directly by double clicking, or by putting it in your GCS folders (usually at C:/Users/<username>/GCS, or by going to GCS and right clicking the library and selecting "Show On Disk")

This is the very tip of a lot of work done by a lot of people. You can find their work here:

Historical Folks Skill Sets

Historical Folks 4e

Historical Folks (3e)

I hope you enjoy this, and find it useful. There is a LOT in here. Happy Gaming!

Friday, April 19, 2024

Control (Shaping)

In the powers book is the Control Advantage. And I'm glad we have the control advantage, but I have a few complaints with it:

  • quantity and finesse of control scale together
  • It gives massive arbitrary bonuses
  • Its priced fairly for someone who uses those massive bonuses for every single thing they do

I was building a powers based magic system and had the thought that I didn't want the ability to move a cubic yard of dirt to also include the ability to give anyone in that hex -5 to basically everything. I wanted something that acted like the shape spells from magic. And so I decided to wing the advantage:

Control (Shaping): Rather than using the standard rules for control, base the rules off of the shape spells, like shape earth or shape water. You can control level x level /2 cubic yards. Notably, this cannot be used to give arbitrary combat bonuses. The cost is the same as any other level of control, and can only be taken for solids and liquids.

Is it any good? Well, I haven't tested it yet. But my Tuesday night game is going to be playing in a game with it for the next few months, so in a while I'll be able to tweak costs and tell you how well it did or didn't work. I do know that shape earth is one of the most widely used and best liked spells in Gurps Magic. We'll see if this is overpowered, or if its just fun.  Hopefully it will play out like having a mage with shape earth, which I've played before and seems to constantly be useful but never quite be broken.

I look forward to reporting on this tweak!


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Planet Crimson

The Grand Cluster has many world shrouded in mystery and laden with power. One of the most pivotal to the power structure of the cluster is Crimson, which provides unique psionic drugs to the powerful Pinnacle Empire

Crimson is covered with an insidious thick red fog that gives the planet its name. It rises two miles above the planet's surface, sends most life into a helpless stupor, and corrodes machines from the inside. Just above the fog hovers massive machines kept aloft by powerful psionic flows emanating from the planet beneath. Strange gears four hundred meters across slowly turn in the red skies, while the factories attached to them use some unfathomable process to produce the most powerful psionic drugs in the grand cluster. Bolted onto these factories centuries later are a collection of homes and structures housing the modern population, a collection of native workers who can see the psionic flows emerging from below, occupying soldiers guarding the wealth of the planet, and doomed prisoners recovering from their exposure to the mist in the mines below.

 On the surface itself, protected and isolated by the fog, is an alien ecology featuring forests of an organism shaped like coral and a host of small hardy creatures that thrive in the otherwise hostile fog. dotting this alien wilderness are the old ruins of vast cities made of smooth towers with mushroom tops, massive vents in the surface spewing out the fog, miserable mines where the enslaved criminals of the empire are forced to harvest exotic psionic drug predecessors, and the camps of the flappers, a hairless winged race with a great crests, long beaks, and a taste for human flesh.

Crimson was one of the most memorable worlds of my campaign Called From Exile, and I'm planning a campaign set entirely on it. It is visually memorable, hides immense secrets, and easily lends itself to intrigue, being isolated, hostile, and at the center of grand politics, all at the same time. 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Create Visible Light

In Gurps powers, the create energy advantage can create light... but it creates "1000 KJ" of energy. KJ is not how I usually measure my light, and its not how many people measure their light. So how much light does Create Visible Light [10] actually create? And how do you even measure that?

The radius lit in this table is lit with the officially recommended light level for indoor settings like bedrooms. I recommend using this as "no vision penalty"... though see the "nickpick" section for more details.

Radius Time Radius Time
1 yard 2 days 7 yards 1 hour
2 yards 12 hours 10 yards 30 minutes
3 yards 5 hours 15 yards 15 minutes
5 yards 2 hours 20 yards 7.5 minutes

x2 x1/4

Time listed is for each 1000 KJ of energy. If you have Create Visible Light 3 [30] and thus have 9000 KJ of light, a 5 yard radius light can last for 2 hours * 9 = 18 hours.

If you're not interested in being sure why this works, or about environmental complications that might make your game more interesting, you can stop reading here and just use the table. If not...

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Tech Paradigms in the Grand Cluster

The Grand Cluster , the setting for Called from Exile, hosted a wide variety of technology: almost the entirety of the ultra-tech book exists in there somewhere. But I didn't want characters to be using all of it, because the point was to have lots of homages to various science fiction settings next to each other and interact with each other, and I wanted the PC's to feel that.

So the base TL was 10, but access to most technology had to be purchased with "technology points". These didn't raise player's Tech Level so much as control what genre of science fiction they could buy gear from. I let them choose a ranged weapon class for free (lasers is a class, slug throwers is another, force beams is another), as well as a specifying what their typical comms/computer interface looked like. For most other PC-style gear, they needed to select options with technology points. This was a player decision, but it was about their home culture as much as it was about them.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Grand Cluster and the Moment Drive

Back in Late 2021 I ran a game by the name of "Called from Exile". It was a high-powered game with sweeping scope, in a setting designed to accommodate homages any science fiction franchise I wanted. We had a lot of fun with that game, and I loved the resulting setting... or settings, as the case may be.

Here, I share the Faster-Than-Light system, which is key to making the setting work, and the broad brushstrokes of "The Grand Cluster"