Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ritual Path Magic: Vancian Style Casting

Ritual Path Magic
Ritual Path Magic is among, in my opinion, the most innovative systems to come out of GURPS. It is a smart evolution of Noun/Verb style casting and energy gathering combined into something slightly more compact, with none of the flexibility lost. If you've read the supplement, and you really cared about having a Vancian system, you'd realize you are probably 80% there with Ritual Path Magic, but here I'd like to spell out a few simple calculations that solve for the remaining 20%.
Also very helpful


The point of this post is to boil Ritual Path Magic (RPM) down to Vancian magic. This is a system of having some amount of spells prepared ahead of time to be used immediately as needed. If you looked at the basic RPM system at all, you can tell we are going to repurpose the charm system to fit. So let's get to customizing the core abilities of RPM to trim the fat and extra points down to what we need.


To Magery, we can apply the discounts for Charms Only, and Limited Scope of Rituals for which a Ritual Mastery Perk has been learned. This means that "learning" a ritual to be able to create a charm requires spending 1 character point. This makes Magery very cheap, but requires spending 1 point per ritual. On the other hand, a character will become very competent very easily at creating the charms that he or she can use because of the accessibility of a large energy reserve for a very small point investment.

Ritual Adept

Ritual Adept is also at a pretty big discount, and this is good because its benefits are nearly mandatory. As with Magery, the same discounts can be applied. We can get Ritual Adept at 8 points. Alternatively, with the cost of an advantage that I cooked up later, Ritual Adept could be reduced to 4 points, as the 20 points of the time component of the advantage are rendered irrelevant.

Further Limitations and Enhancements

We have gone from 80% of the way finished to 95% of the way finished. We have a cheap (character point wise) system that lets us only use rituals we actually know, and only lets us use them in the form of charms. From there, the next thing to consider is adding the following Limitations and Enhancements:
  • Limitation: All Charms Have an expiration date of 1 day. This seems to be a 0% feature in terms of limitation pricing in Powers.
  • Limitation: All Charms Must Be Created consecutively upon waking up before any other adventure activities take place. I think this is worth about 10%. This terminology shouldn't be abused by taking naps repeatedly to change charms more often in a day. Operate on the spirit of the limitation, not the letter.
These Limitations do not actually change the price of Ritual Adept Further, but it matches an appropriate part of the feel of Vancian Magic.

New Advantage: Speedy Charming

Creating a Charm takes 1 half-hour plus the time to actually do the ritual. If you are especially strained for time because you are playing with a 24-hour expiration on charms, you might appreciate the following advantage that I reverse-engineered. Starting with the concept of a technique that could allow someone to complete a ritual instantly (that is, taking a -10 for a rush job), I figured that would be worth 10 points per path. An advantage that is limited to a single path typically have a 30% limitation. Extrapolating on that train of thought, it would cost 34 points to extend that privilege to all paths; I don't like that number, so I went with 35 points to give it a nice, even value. Alternatively, you might say that the advantage costs 50 points if you would think that the technique would only apply to 1 ritual, which is usually an 80% limitation. I think either is fine. With the huge discounts on Magery and Ritual Adept, you can afford it. We can call this advantage Speedy Charming. Extrapolating backwards one more time, just for fun, we can make this a leveled advantage, especially easily if we use the 50-point cost.
Because normally we can't speed up the amount of time that it takes to make a ritual, the base 50-point cost should be adjusted with a 50% cosmic modifier for rule breaking that doesn't occur inside of combat. So the total advantage cost is 75 points. But 75 points is for unlimited charm making! The limitation of "making charms only" is redundant because that is what this advantage is all about, but we can apply "only for rituals which have a ritual mastery perk" and the limitation that all charms must be made consecutively. For the purpose of Vancian Magic, this advantage costs 23 points at maximum.
If it were up to me, I'd only specifically allow this advantage if combined with the Limitations above that only allows creating charms once a day and charms expiring. It is a huge handicap if a player needs to spend almost 7 hours to take full advantage of the conditional spell slots even a beginner starts with. If prepared spells never expire though and they can be made at any time, this is no longer a huge constraint.

New Advantage: No-Nuisance Charming

Deciding it might be annoying if we have to roll 2 dice for every charm slot for every single day, I decided to come up with a solution for this. I am going to work backwards from the No-Nuisance Roll perk that says that a user can skip rolls at a GM's discretion if they have a high enough skill level. There are 2 rolls that occur in quick and dirty charm making. One is against a static number with a modifier, and one is against a skill. If a user does not need to gather any energy because they have enough reserve, this roll becomes a nuisance. If the user's relevant effective path skill in this situation is also 15 or higher at this moment, this roll is also a nuisance.
Basically for one ritual, it would be a 1-point perk to avoid the second ritual, and a 1-point perk with a 50% cosmic modifier to avoid the first nuisance roll. This is 2.5 points. This 2.5 points for a single ritual is No-Nuisance Charming with the -80% limitation "Single Ritual". Using middle school algebra, that means the cost of the full advantage is 13 points. Like above, we can apply the limitation for only rituals we know with a ritual mastery perk and the limited window of opportunity to create charms. This makes the advantage 4 points in Vancian Magic.

Useful Perks

Picking over The Laws Of Magic issue of Pyramid, the following are very useful perks:
  • Easy Refill (p. 17)
  • Natural Thaumaturge (p. 17)
  • Leveled Ritual Mastery (p.17)
Additionally, if using Fast-Draw (Charm) below, a perk to use IQ-based Fast-Draw (Charm) can be helpful. If carrying several tens of charms, a perk like Pack Rat might be useful.

Useful Skills

Along with all of the path skills, and thaumatology, a type of Innate Attack as appropriate is nearly required. Fast-Draw (Charm) can be helpful when characters are expected to be useful in a fight.


A character that would like a Vancian Style Caster would like the following Advantages:
  • Magery[1,2] (1 point for level 0, 2 points beyond) Functions identically to regular RPM Magery, except with the Limitations of only being able to make and use charms for rituals you have a mastery perk with.
  • Ritual Adept[4] Ritual Adept can be used to ignore Connection and Space connections. This is typical in Vancian Magic systems.
  • Speedy Charming [23,30] Allows all Charms to be created instantaneously. It costs 30 points if the limitation for all charms needing to be created at one time in a day is removed
  • No-Nuisance Charming [4,5] Skip rolls on charms where effective skill is 15+ and no ambient energy is required. Costs 5 points if the limitation on charms being created at a specific time of day is removed.
  • Gizmo can be used to retroactively create a charm when one is needed immediately.
  • Because of the same constraints on Energy Reserve as the other advantages 3 Character Points buys 5 Energy Reserve. This is likely an important consideration because hitting the valuable ceiling in terms of Magery levels with these limitations is pretty trivial, at which point, investing in straight energy reserve may be better.
Skills that are needed:
  • Thaumatology, Path Skills, and Innate Attack as usual
  • Fast-Draw (Charm) to help make a magician more battle friendly
Perks to consider:
  • Easy Refill
  • Natural Thaumaturge
  • Leveled Ritual Mastery
  • Attribute Substitution (Innate Attack IQ)
  • Attribute Substitution (Fast-Draw IQ)
  • No Nuisance Rolls for Thaumatology when rolling to recover energy

Other Thoughts

I haven't play-tested this system at all, but I used the value of enhancements, limitations, and techniques to calculate all these values. The one immediate concern is that this process might interrupt game flow if creating charms once a day. Players need to be fully prepared each morning to be on the ball and roll for charms again. One small adjustment to the expiration limitation could be a feature that if no charms are used, no charms expire. This does not preclude the mage from creating more, as creating beyond one's limit just defuses the oldest existing charm. I edited the article with an epiphany that might ease this pain just slightly in the form of the No-Nuisance Charming advantage. Gizmo can be really useful in a pinch, and it might be worth considering uncapping its limit for the strict purpose of charms, which might be a 20% limitation. Adjusting Gizmo to run on Game Time instead of Real Time as per Powers p. 108 might also be fair, especially in campaigns where fast forwarding days or weeks at a time to suddenly interrupt with an encounter is routine. I'm not sure why I felt like writing this article, but it came to me in a moment of inspiration, and now I can say I have created one (slightly) customized magic system for GURPS by hand.
As a personal aside, I wish there was a conversion formula from Power Character Points to RPM Energy Points and back. I like the freedom of casting and the thematic feel of slow casting and rituals, but I so much more like the Powers system for describing abilities. Maybe I should tinker with that idea.

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