RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 97: Strange Powers 12 January 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's the loose idea of bizarre phenomena and, well, strange powers.

High Psi (Kelly Pedersen) looks as high-powered psionic abilities, building onto the Psi series of supplements. It starts by considering what needs to be changed and what to stay the same when building a campaign with high-powered psi abilities: they're still driven off skills, they may require external assistance, and countermeasures should be similarly epic (city-wide psi dampers, anti-psi specialists who can lock onto a target from their photograph). The article then lists some recommended advantages (particularly Energy Reserve!), a new Psychic Recovery skill, and one or more "epic techniques" for each power group. These deliberately break the usual limits: ectoplasmic materialisation for the astral projector, fatal psychic blasts, automatic analysis of ESP visions, a teleport that locks someone in place for a few seconds, and so on. Actually, after all that buildup, these don't really seem all that Epic… but that's a good thing, because it means this is a reasonable power-up for psi, something for powerful psychics to aspire to, rather than world-breaking Ultimate Power.

Mask of Humanity (Christopher R. Rice) looks at that standard trope of modern supernatural fiction, the way humans tend to ignore supernatural occurrences (so that the series can still be set in the "real world" plus vampires or whatever, rather than the world changing completely). Here there's a specific magical effect called The Façade (very reminiscent of The Veil from Grrl Power), plus special powers like Obscure (Memory), and while Christopher conflates scepticism and closed-mindedness this seems mechanically fairly solid. How much it's necessary is another matter, though I may well steal some elements of this for my current 1930s occult campaign.

Eidetic Memory: Anthropomorphized High-Tech Weapons (David L. Pulver) looks at moe personifications of weapons and vehicles, as seen in anime series such as Kantai Collection (WWII warships), Strike Witches (WWII aircraft) and Upotte!! (modern firearms). Fully-worked examples are a boy who can take on attributes of a tank, a tough guy who's the guiding spirit of the MAC-10 machine pistol, and a psychopomp patrolling the River Styx as the spirit of a 1970s missile boat, as well as a set of flight pods straight out of Strike Witches. These really demand campaigns of their own, or at least a particularly flexible superhero game, but it's all good fun, especially if you recognise the source material.

Snakes Who Walk (W.A. Frick) are serpent-people who are disguised as humans. This is classic conspiracy stuff (and would seem to owe a huge debt to GURPS Dragons, which covered similar ground at greater length), and includes the sort of abilities one might expect: the ability to command snakes, hypnotic gaze, venom-spitting, and so on. (No fear of the Yellow Bird, though.) Again, really needs a campaign of its own.

Random Thought Table: We've Got the Power… Let's Never Use It! (Steven Marsh) looks at powers with limited numbers of uses, and how to get players to use them even so. Unsurprisingly, if no replacement power is on the horizon, they tend to be saved up for a really desperate situation, and in practice may never be used at all. Steven proposes making that replacement available, though not so very quickly as to overshadow other abilities.

The theme this time is a gesture more than a spine, but the first two articles may well see use at my table in some form. Pyramid 97 is available from Warehouse 23.

See also:
Kantai Collection

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