Monday, February 29, 2016

Memorable Enemies

What makes an enemy in a Roleplaying Game memorable?  I've been running GURPS for nearly twenty-five years now, and it's amazing how many opponents the players remember that I never would have thought made an impression.  On the opposite side, the opponents I thought would be memorable sometimes never register.  So, what elements go into a memorable foe? Here are a few things I think help.

A Vivid Description

This doesn't mean a five page breakdown of dress and quirks.  A few notes is all it needs.  "A male Drow with a Lemmy Kilmeister mustache and wearing an amulet" is all the description one recurring foe has ever gotten, but several of my players past and present remember that guy unfondly.

A Legitimate Threat

An opponent has to seem capable and dangerous.  This doesn't mean he needs to be able to single-handedly wipe the party, but he has to be dangerous and seem capable of taking someone out.  "The Mage-Knight Dorn" was a Teleporting greatsword-wielder, and wreaked havoc on the party and the players from that campaign still hate that guy, even after eighteen years or so.

Who Lives to Fight Another Day

This might be the most important, at least in my experience.  The only foes who really strike a chord are the ones who get away.  Being able to come back, whether it's in this campaign or a later one, makes for a foe (and a few "Not this asshole again" comments from the peanut gallery.)

Or Takes Their Stuff

Having someone take equipment, money or treasure from the party is like waving the red flag in the face of the proverbial bull.  I guarantee my players remember anyone who ever stole from them, ever.

So, for anyone else out there: what makes your group remember their foes?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Magical Style: Gideon's Lessons

It's Sick Daughter Week here at Southern Style GURPS so posting is sparse.  Here's a magical style created in memory of an NPC who was very important to my earliest GURPS fantasy campaigns.

The Fraternity of Gideon

The Fraternity of Gideon evolved from the teachings of the legendary Archmage Gideon.  The Fraternity itself came into being on the grounds of the University of Citadel at the hall of the College of Mind Control.  In the year 697, a century after Gideon’s death, a student near graduation came across Gideon’s grimoire and diary in the College library, and decided to found an order of mages in his memory.  He ably managed to convince a number of his peers to join him.

Membership in the Fraternity of Gideon is arranged in five ranks: Probationary Scholar, Scholar, Gentleman (or Lady), Dean, and President.  The Fraternity is arranged in numbered Chapters.  The founding chapter at Citadel is I Citadel, the second chapter at the Guild of the Mind in Torona is II Torona, etc.  Each chapter sets its own membership rules and meeting places.

Rank in the Fraternity costs 5 points a level. There is no Honorary Title equivalent; members of this Fraternity must pay the full cost.

Fraternity of Gideon Ranks


Probationary Scholars are the students of the style.  When they have learned the basics of the style, their teacher brings them to a meeting of the Gentlemen of the local Chapter for a black-ball induction vote.  Rejected candidates are forbidden from instructing others in the style.
Scholars are those fully inducted into the Fraternity.  They must hold at least one office (Secretary, Treasurer, Herald, etc.) in their chapter for no less than two years before they are allowed to advance.  A Scholar may not take on his own students, but they can aid a Gentleman in instructing others.
Gentlemen (or Ladies) are elevated when they are permitted to take on a student.  A Gentleman (etc.) can have as many students as he chooses.
Councilors make up the leadership pool of a Chapter.
Deans are the elected leaders of the local Chapters. This is a lifetime appointment and may be unofficially hereditary in some Chapters.
The President is the leader of the whole Fraternity.

The Fraternity is nominally part of the Brotherhood of Mages, but it’s not especially keen on advancing the Brotherhood agenda.

Gideon’s Lessons

15 points

Style Prerequisites: IQ 12+.

The style is named for Gideon’s Lessons, a multi-volume work consisting of Gideon’s journals, grimoires, notes, and letters collected by the university and annotated by past Deans and Presidents.  Each Chapter of the Fraternity has a copy, and new annotations are sometimes passed around between them. Discovering a new book or writing to add to the Lessons is a great accomplishment for any Gideonite.

A Gideonite studies the mind almost obsessively, in an effort to understand the nature of Mind in general and the subject’s mind in particular.  A Gideonite will always try his non-magical skills on a subject before moving to his spells.  Most members of the Fraternity consider it a personal failure to being forced to resort to casting a spell.

Required Skills: Acting; Detect Lies; Diplomacy; Fast-talk; Propaganda; Psychology; Public Speaking.
Required Spells: Daze; Emotion Control; Foolishness; Mental Stun; Persuasion; Sense Emotion; Sense Foes.
Perks: Continuous Ritual (Any); Intimidating Curses; Knower of Names; Permit; Rule of 17 (Any); Sanctum;  Secret Spell (Enslave, Gideon’s Fortress, Great Geas, Mind-Search, or Permanent Forgetfulness), Shortcut to Power (Remove Curse); Special Exercises (Charisma); Special Exercises (Mind Control with Suggestion and Hearing Based); Special Exercises (Mind Shield); Stabilizing Skill (Psychology).
Secret Spells: Enslave, Gideon’s Fortress, Great Geas, Mind-Search, and Permanent Forgetfulness.

Optional Traits

Attributes: Improved IQ.
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Improved Will.
Advantages: Allies; Charisma; Claim to Hospitality (The Fraternity of Gideon); Cultural Familiarity; Languages (Modern); Smooth Operator; Status; Voice; Wealth.
Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Gentleman’s); Jealousy; Overconfidence; Pacifism (Cannot Harm Innocents); Proud; Selfish; Sense of Duty (Friends); Stubbornness.
Skills: Brainwashing; Gesture; Hypnotism; Intimidation; Interrogation; Linguistics; Mental Strength; Mind Block; Philosophy; Psionics; Sex Appeal; Streetwise; Teaching.

Spell List
Hide, Fear, and Forgetfulness
Boost Intelligence
Borrow Language
Lend Language
Borrow Skill
Lend Skill
Magery 1and  Loyalty
Magery 2 and Forgetfulness
Compel Lie
Emotion Control
Compel Truth
Magery 2 and Truthsayer
Magery 1, Garble, and Silence
Magery 1
Magery 3 and 15 spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Dispel Magic
Counterspell and 12 spells
Emotion Control
Mental Stun
15 spells of Gideon’s Lessons including Charm
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
False Memory
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Sense Emotion
IQ 12
Magery 1 and Foolishness
Gideon’s Fortress†
Magery 2 and Strengthen Will
Gift of Letters†
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Gift of Tongues†
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Glib Tongue
Great Geas†*
Magery 1 and 15 spells of Gideon’s Lessons including Lesser Geas
Great Voice
Thunderclap and Voices
Great Ward
Magery 2 and Ward
Hide Emotion
Sense Emotion
Hide Thoughts
Hide Emotion
Lend Language
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Lend Skill
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Lesser Geas†
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Mass Daze
IQ 13 and Daze
Mass Suggestion
Mental Stun
Truthsayer or Borrow Language
Magery 1 and Emotion Control
Permanent Forgetfulness*
Magery 2, IQ 13, and Forgetfulness
Sense Emotion
Persuasion and the seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Delay and Ward
Remove Curse
Magery 2 and 15 spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Sense Emotion
Sense Foes
Sense Foes
Silver Tongue
Emotion Control and Voices
Strengthen Will
Magery 1 and the seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
Emotion Control and Forgetfulness
Sense Emotion
Magery 1
The seven required spells of Gideon’s Lessons
*: This is a Secret Spell.

†: This spell’s prerequisites have been altered.

Secret Spells

Gideon’s Fortress (VH)

The caster, and anyone included in the area when he casts the spell, gets +3 or +8 to resist spells that affect the mind and all mental Psionic attacks.
This is a Mind Control spell.

Duration: 1 minute.
Base Cost: 3 (min area 2). Increase base cost to 8 for +8 to resist.  Same to maintain.
Time to Cast: 3 seconds.
Prerequisites: Magery 2 and Strengthen Will.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Current Campaign, Session 17 Log


Aengus, Mage and Present Champion of the God of Thieves
Aslan, Nephilim (half-angel) Bard and Mage
Beorth Swords-dragon, Drake with a Greatsword
Dregma, Goblin Tinker
Markus, Hobgoblin Paladin of the God of Chivalry
Nesha, Catfolk Cleric of the God-Queen of Arcte
"Sir" Reginald, the Psuedo-otyugh Swashbuckler
Zakur, Amnesiac Reformed Lich


Hadric of the Dancing Swords, Mage


Decided upon settling for a time in Arcte, the party decided to search for interesting things in the city.  Aengus used his newly-earned Oracle ability to look for signs from his god. He saw a rat carrying a brass coin into the sewers, leading him to the conclusion that treasure awaits there.  Nesha, a native of the city, warned everyone that the sewers were sealed by the Council because of great dangers in the lower levels, including a great misshapen beast made of the assorted bodyparts of the ancient and dead gods of the city.  It was decided to risk it, but Hadric decided that he had enough, and wished to take an offer to join the city guard and retire from adventuring.  He was given a decent party and a Fine broadsword as a going-away present.

Aengus used his Streetwise to find a discreet and unguarded entrance.  An attempt to locate sewer maps was rejected when it was discovered all copies of such maps had been removed to the great green tower of the Chief Engineer in the midst of the city.  The half-angel Aslan, who had been acting as a sort of tour guide with his decent Area Knowledge of the sewers, signed on with the group.

This entrance was being watched by a rat-man of some sort, who fled when he saw the party.  They followed his trail to a dead end, where a secret door was discovered.  A Lockmaster failed, as the lock was at least partially no-mana.  Aengus's first lockpicking attempt also failed, so he decided to take extra time, with Dregma assisting him with his Mechanics skill.  This again failed, so a third attempt started, but after a few scant seconds a Glue was cast on their area, followed by a Stench and a Spark Cloud.  Nesha managed to Dispel all three spells, having started just after the Glue went off (that -5 for not being able to see your target really adds up when a spell's in danger of being dispelled.)

Zakur Teleported to the other side of the door, and Madnessed the likely spellcaster, a rat-man in a bone headdress.  He opened the door, and the party rushed in, facing four lines of ratmen in a tight corridor, the ones in the second and third ranks using spears and the fourth with lit grenades.  When the ratmen threw the grenades, Zakur Commanded the first to drop his, which he did.  The other two landed at the feet of the obvious spellcaster Aengus.  Dregma dropped prone and threw them into the muck of the sewer behind the party, probably saving several back-rank squishies in the process.  In the meantime, the one grenade that landed at the rat's feet caused terrible havoc to their numbers and an immediate rout.  There was little loot, but there was a undamaged 15d satchel charge on the ratman grenadier farthest from the explosion.  The party spent several minutes emphasizing that Dregma Cannot Have It.

Moving forward, Markus and Sir Reginald were hit with Spear traps for 3d impale each, which slowed their progress a bit.  While they were being healed, Aslan created a tiger to chase the rats, but the tiger hit a deadfall trap at the end of the hallway which blocked the passage after its fall.

Retreating to plot, they noticed an ogre-sized grey hand clearing rocks from the rat-side of the passage.  A Wizard Eye was sent in to scout, and when Aslan reported the slave collar on the ogre-sized ratman, Markus vetoed any attempt to blow up the debris.

They waited until the passage was clear, then Nesha used Emotion Control to make the ratmen feel fear, and Beorth used Intimidation to make them flee the area. Proceeding father down, the party was attacked by a demon made of metal, but a critical success on a Daze plus 15d boom-boom took care of him.

The party found two secret doors further down the passage.  The first had a witch-like rat stirring a cauldron, who died in one stroke to a critical-success rapier to the eye.  The second was a number of jail cells, one cell having a false bottom (damn See Secrets!)

They tossed the witch-rat's room, finding an enchanted wand, a locked curio box, and a selection of potions. The liquid in the cauldron rose up to attack, but Nesha and Aslan cast Purify Water at it, so I ruled it was basically Dehydrate used on this impure Poison Elemental, and rolling good damage they dispersed it.

Unbarring the other door in the room showed a three headed, rhino-sized rat in the hallway.  They managed to cow it without fighting, and proceeded to a strange sight: a Dragon in a chamber it could obviously never leave physically. (Teleport and Shapeshift if you're wondering.)

They tried to speak to the dragon, but noticing that Aengus's cloak was enchanted with Scryguard-20, the dragon demanded he hand it over.  Aengus refused, the Dragon Charmed him and asked again. As he started taking it off, Markus stopped him and a battle ensued.

It only lasted a couple of seconds.  Highlights include: Beorth flying up as far as he could, the Dragon casting Mass Sleep on everyone, including enough height to reach Beorth, Sir Reginald throwing a dagger at Beorth to wake him up before he hit the ground very, very hard, and Zakur making a Calamity Check at +9 after casting Flesh-to-Stone on a SM 4 dragon; it failed, but the Dragon shouted "Begone!" and a series of Linked Teleport Others sent the party to the surface.

After the fight the party did a bit of research and concluded that the Dragon was here when the city reappeared in the material world, and was enclosed by it.  

Sir Reginald and Dregma also decided to retire.  The next session is planned for this Sunday.