Monday, March 14, 2016

Review: GURPS Powers: Divine Favor

Powers with a
Social Engineering bent.
One of the weird things out of the box for me was that magic and miracles are basically the same thing with different names. GURPS is the first RPG I ever played, so I thought maybe it was a peculiarity of GURPS brand Dungeon Fantasy. I recently played D&D 5e over a weekend, and found to my dismay, the "de-facto" system plays like this as well. To me, this is a little jarring, but I can get that some people don't like learning how to do the same thing in two ways.
For people like me with such a hang-up though, we have the short, not especially expensive, and somehow unique-even-when-reusing-existing-mechanics system of Divine Favor. Let' take a look at this supplement that I very much enjoyed.


Table of contents
So, first off, looking at the table of contents, we have 4 pages dedicated to boilerplate like the cover, table of contents, intro, and index at the other end. 2 Pages are dedicated to rules, and half of the book, nine pages, is dedicated to a spell list, with a one page easy-to-browse appendix besides.
First off, two pages for rules. This system is basically that easy, though... maybe not quite? This casting system is based on the concepts of advantages and powers and constructing them with limitations and enhancements, as is introduced in the Basic Set - Characters volume, and further expounded on in Powers (which is explained in the Introduction). To use these abilities, you don't need those books, but to tap into full potential, having those tool kits enables one to create new prayers  (The term used in Divine Favor for spells) and abilities really lets you get your mileage out of this book.
That being said, since prayers are based on Powers, it also means it is easy to recycle any favorite spells from a number of other popular casting or powers by exchanging it's power modifier for the Divine modifier, which conveniently is -10%, a very common value, which means you usually don't even need to recalculate character point amounts.

Divine Favor

The first chapter describes the nuts and bolts of the system. It follows the pattern of using alternate abilities seen in other casting systems, allowing for a mechanic where one can pray for help in general, or use "learned prayers" to reliably create a specific effect. The mechanics are straight-forward if you are used to the way advantages and reaction rolls work in GURPS. The only thing that was a little confusing to me in this chapter is that the root advantage of Divine Favor's cost is slightly variable from level to level, so a table is included showing the cost at each level. It was not immediately apparent that the cost column indicated total cost (Eg: If you want to go from level 7 to 8, you pay the difference between them.) Besides that hiccup, it is very simple.

Prayers and Miracles

This chapter is basically a catalog of statted out advantages for use with Divine Favor. Of course, the book being based on the concept of "clerical" casting, these powers tend to have a bent towards holy abilities, like healing the sick, blessing crops, and performing exorcisms. It also gives a template for how the prayers should be formatted.
Though I say the broad strokes of this chapter is a catalog of prayers, there are asides here and there with new rules; a few brand new advantages (Such as different versions of Blessed for exorcism) and a handful of suggested templates for golem helpers at various power levels.
Though the content is simple, the organization is a little unusual. Some of the asides have some fundamental rules for the system, such as the guidelines for creating new learned prayers on p.9. The book is short so it's not like you will minutes finding it if you need it, but it might have been organized better? That said, the spell list is pretty unique, and I can definitely appreciate that, because some of the effects listed here are among the holy grail of Cleric abilities, like Resurrection, or the difficult to define like blessing crops. A very good list.


After the Prayers and Miracles chapter there is an appendix which addresses the (very) small issue of organization of the spells. The book is short, but that isn't really a problem. It does exactly what it needs to do in the amount of pages it has, and that is, enable you to use a different ability system with a religious bent. The book is overall great, and all complaints I have are trivial, If someone said to me, "Clerics seem too samey in GURPS, I wish they were more unique from other spell casters." I would not hesitate to recommend this book.

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