RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 91: Thaumatology IV 10 July 2016

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's magic.

Technomysticism (W.A. Frick) gives a lens for the Techie template from Monster Hunters: the Technomystic, who takes a ritualistic and spiritual approach to high technology. (This is very reminiscent of some of the shamanic powers I remember from Werewolf: the Apocalypse.) This works fairly like the standard techie in terms of role in the party, but it's an explicitly magical approach, making devices work for the technomystic… or stop working at all. This looks mechanically pretty solid, though it's not a style that really appeals to me.

The Tome of the Black Island (J. Edward Tremlett) describes the origin and nature of a very cursed book of magic, and the sorcerer who wrote it. This is clearly intended for a fantasy campaign, or at least one where magic is widely known, and it really deserves to be the focus of a series of adventures.

Eidetic Memory: Dark Alchemy (David L. Pulver) lists several new potions related to death and the undead. Preserve a severed head and let it answer questions; distil a victim's memories into a drinkable form; make a corpse look as though it is still alive. These vary from the harmless to the repellent.

The Thaumaturgy of Metallurgy (Ted Brock) expands on the Metal spells from GURPS Magic's Technology college, building them into a stand-alone college. Which means it has a big attack spell. Yes, you can now summon an anvil to drop on someone. But you can also suck the iron out of someone's blood, spray metal pellets as from a shotgun, and so on. I am unconvinced by Essential Metal (a mere "three times as strong as iron" puts it at the bottom end of the steels), but there's definitely fun to be had here. (Especially with "Transmute Metal". Yes, it only lasts for a minute, but, well, mercury is a metal…)

Codex Duello (Christopher R. Rice) provides a framework for resolving magical duels: a challenge, a partition to protect bystanders, sizing up the opponent, then the duel itself. I love the idea, but there are significant implementation problems (a cheaply-prepared duelling ground makes it harder to create the partition than having no preparation at all, and all that sizing up the opponent does is give a speed bonus to the first round of combat). Mages are given extra spells (basic attack and defence modes) so that non-combatant mages can still duel, which feels as though it removes some of the flavour – yes, I can see why it's done, but to me it makes the duel feel too artificial, rather than something that could have evolved from genuine wizardly battles. Designer's notes here.

Random Thought Table: The Power of a Good Reputation (Steven Marsh) suggests a setup in which magical power derives from the number of people who think you have magical power, perhaps even the size of your audience at the time you're casting the spell. It's an intriguing idea, and links stage to real magic in a plausible way.

Short Bursts: Tech Support (Matt Riggsby) is more Car Wars tie-in fiction.

Out of these articles I'm most likely to use the Metal college, but I don't tend to run a great many games with magic in them at the moment (partly because I'm playing in one where the PCs are exploring the fundamental structure of magic, among other things). I may well adapt magical duelling, but it'll take a fair bit of work to fit my ideas of how it should go. Pyramid 91 is available from Warehouse 23.

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