RogerBW's Blog

GURPS Powers: Totems and Nature Spirits, Rory Fansler 09 September 2019

This GURPS Powers supplement provides mechanical support for characters aided by totem spirits: something less than gods, but still more than human.

Disclaimer: I was lead playtester for this book, and therefore did not pay for it.

The basic framework here is the Native American one: a totem is a powerful spirit, but one that demands respect more than worship. And it tends to work indirectly, empowering the individual rather than creating blatant magical effects. The core new advantage is Totem-Bearer, a variant of Alternate Form which lets the user take on selected attributes of a powerful spirit in return for being influenced by its personality; mechanically, this means adding lenses or full-on templates to the character.

The second chapter goes on to specify how totems can be built. Rather than stick to a single mythology, there's a list of roles (such as Oracle, Healer, Trickster, and the slightly fuzzy Culture Hero) with suitable traits, followed by a list of specific animals (with their own specific traits) and the sorts of role they're typically put into. (Also dragons and nymphs, which suggests the possibility of a rather more interesting approach to fantasy magic than the usual sort.) So your Crane Teacher won't look quite the same as a Deer Teacher.

This material isn't ready-to-play, but I could definitely see this as the core of a magic-as-powers system that's restrictive but still flavourful. It's not tied to any particular period or setting.

GURPS Powers: Totems and Nature Spirits is available from Warehouse 23. Designer's Notes and additional material can be found in The Path of Cunning issue #1.

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