Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Standard Magic: Recover Energy as an Advantage

I've recently been looking at the standard magic system for Gurps, for a number of different projects. One thing that sticks out to me is that the Recover Energy Spell is weird. And the more I look at it, the more I'm convinced that it should be a [5] point advantage. Here's why:

Its not a Spell

Recover energy is written as a spell, but it doesn't work like a spell. Its never cast, and in fact never rolled against at all. It just alters FP and ER recovery, unless it hasn't been bought high enough, in which case it doesn't do anything at all. That doesn't sound like a spell, or even a skill: that sounds like an advantage.

Skill-15 is Overused

Recover energy exacerbates the skill-15 break point in magic. The magic system already strongly encourages characters to be able to buy every spell at skill-15, because that's where all the energy cost breakpoints are. This results in wizards who differ only by their spell lists. Recover Energy taking its effect at -15 reinforces this paradigm, where IQ 14 + Magery 3 wizards rule over their lessers. Changing recovery energy to an Advantage won't completely break this, but it will weaken the incentives.

It Doesn't Have a Good Home in a College

Recover energy is placed in the healing college... which is an awkward place for it. I suppose meta-magic might be a better choice, or possibly body control, but sticking it in a college at all creates issues, because it means that one-college magery now hurts your ability to recover energy. It also necessitates statements like the Dungeon Fantasy rule that wizards don't get spells in the healing college, except for Recover Energy and its prerequisite. It'd be nice if the spell didn't care about colleges.

Every Wizard Wants It

Recover Energy's quirks are both tolerated and exacerbated because its one of the most important "spells" in the system. Having it roughly doubles the amount of energy you can use for spells. This means everyone wants it, everyone learns it, and the need to get it is a significant character-building concern. Making it an advantage actually simplifies this a little. The added complexity of a rule change is compensated by removing a bunch of thorny subtleties. 

It Reinforces the Supremacy of Skill

Recover Energy is very expensive for very skilled mage, and very cheap for a talented one. This makes sense in some paradigms, but less so in others, and helps make all Gurps Mages in the same direction.  A mage who often fails to cast their spells but has much more plentiful energy sounds like an interesting trade-off. Making Recover Energy an advantage increases the diversity of mages that can be built, and it increases the power of a low-end mage, while slightly decreasing the power of a high-end mage. In this particular system, that's a good thing.

A Flat Cost Is Fairer

The advantage should cost [5] points, because Fit costs [5], and because having advantages divisible by 5 is nice. Having it cost [3] or less feels very cheap, and is about what the skill-maximizing wizards are effectively paying for it right now, while paying [10] points for it feels a little steep... though I suspect some wizards would still find it effective.

This all applies to the effects gained at skill-15, of course. I'm not sure what a fair cost for regaining Energy every 2 minutes. Regeneration (FP) is probably a bad comparison, especially given that the numbers were scaled for HP, not FP. When using the spell, [20] points is enough to go from 5 energy a minute to 2 energy a minute, if a mage just put those points directly into skill. I suspect that's not how mages with Recover Energy -20 are built. Maybe an additional [10] points, for [15] total, kind of like very fit? I kind of like that symmetry. 

In Summary

I hope I've made my case. The proposed change is really simple, and should improve the variety of mages that get built using the standard magic system. I hope you find this useful, and I hope you enjoy it!