Friday, June 24, 2022

Powers Systems I've Used, Adapted, or Changed

     GURPS Powers (2005) expanded the rudimentary example of psionics in the Basic Set to the full 4e powers system. In GURPS a "power" is a set of related abilities that share a source (the energy that the power uses or manipulates) and a focus (the specific concept the power is themed around). Mechanically they have a Power Talent that adds to rolls to use the abilities of the power, and the Power Modifier: a shared modifier (typically a limitation worth -10%) that defines the limits of the power.

    I've run (or at least started) a few different games since Powers was published, some like my new weird road-trip Desolation Road and my Transhuman Space technothriller Hearts of Oak, Souls of Fire, didn't use powers at all, but the rest did.

Vintage Spirits

    Vintage Spirits was directly inspired by reading GURPS Powers and was intended to make full use of that book. The PCs were various kinds of spirits living in, and protecting, a vineyard in a fictional central coast California winery town. The players were required to each identify a source and focus and build their character around a power. The PCs ended up being a leprechaun with magic powers, a tulpa (whose genesis was as an imaginary friend, but had survived by becoming an urban legend) who had powers dependent on belief, a ghost with spectral powers, and an earth elemental with, obviously, elemental earth powers.
    Building unique powers for PCs works well, it trades the structure that using a pre-designed framework for creativity and variety.

Xiá of the Empire of Heaven

   My new space opera martial arts campaign Xiá of the Empire of Heaven used two different powers frameworks. 
    First the chi-powers which in this setting were actually exotic physics accessible through implants. Using the implants effectively requires mental focus and is typically cultivated by the study of martial arts. A pilot with one of these powers was required for FTL travel (performance was dependent on talent level). The powers were Body Control and Chi Projection, based on Martial Arts p. 46, with some modifications. Additionally just having the implants and either power talent created an exotic energy force field around the martial artist, giving 5 DR per level of talent (whichever was higher); this was treated as a consequence of the technology and not an ability (although Chi Projection included additional force field DR); however these fields were mutually cancelling: unarmed attacks (and melee attacks with special weapons) ignored this DR if the attacker also had a field (regardless of strength). 
    The other power was that of the nanren, engineers with an implant that allowed mental control of the ubiquitous nanotechnology of the setting. This power used Skills Enhancing Abilities, and appropriate engineering and science skills to control the swarms. Abilities included Corrosive Innate Attack with Area Effect, Mobile, Homing, and Persistent; a "minifac" built on Snatcher; etc. The power modifier was essentially an elemental modifier, giving bonuses or penalties based on the availability of universal assemblers in the local area.
    What I didn't do, which in retrospect, I probably should have, is require Ally (Nanobot Swarm) as the basis for the power, and then have other abilities be alternate abilities of that. Additional nanites could then be captured or hacked from the environment as part of the power modifier to boost effect.
    Also I ran this before GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers and if I were to attempt this game again, I'd likely take some inspiration from here too.
    Unfortunately this game never made it much past the first session, so I don't really have a good assessment of how well it would have worked.

The Blight Years

    The Blight Years was a post-apocalyptic psionic western, set in a future California in a world devastated by a psionic plague and alien invasion. The PCs were members of an order of psionic knights descended from the California Highway Patrol.
    Powers were from GURPS Psionic Powers with:
Psionics: Ergokinesis is not split (and Cyberpsi is generally unavailable); Telepathy works on all vertebrates; Dream Control does not exist (and there is no “dream world”); Optional Crippling Rules (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 7); anyone may use the Mental Maneuvers (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 11); the Jam technique (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 31) exists for all abilities; Telekinetic Control (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 54) and Telespeak (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 59) do not exist; and RL Exoteleport (GURPS Psionic Powers p. 70) replaces Exoteleport.
Imbuements: Psionic imbuements using the rules in GURPS Power Ups 1: Imbuements, and Psi-Powered Imbuements, Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys p. 24-26 (including the TK Bullet optional rule on p. 25).
    Initially I wanted to use Multiplicative Modifiers (GURPS Powers p. 102), but quickly discovered this doesn't work. Most abilities in Psionic Powers lose any distinction between levels using these rules. Multiplicative modifiers might be made to work, but they probably need most modifiers to be repriced.
    Unfortunately this game never made it past character creation, but character creation did go well.

The Phoenix Imperative

     The Phoenix Imperative was going to be about immortal heroes who are brought together periodically to secretly save the world. Many powers could be justified for this game:


Characters may have abilities as part of Powers. The most appropriate sources are Chi, Divine, Magic or Spirit. Depending on concept the power may include the abilities that make the character immortal in the first place.

The system of miraculous prayer described in GURPS Powers: Divine Favor is certainly appropriate for many character concepts in this campaign. Taoist immortals might find powers in GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers useful!

Unfortunately this game fell apart even before character creation was complete. I don't recall any of the characters that were made had powers or not.

Pickup Dungeon Fantasy Games

   While all these other games were not working out, I was running GURPS Dungeon Fantasy for the players that were available. This used all the powers as written in the Dungeon Fantasy line. Especially used were:
  • Holy Might for (Dungeon Fantasy 7: Cleric'sMessengers and Rogues, War, Order (which became "Clerics of Order and Chaos" in Pyramid #3/78: Unleash Your Soul; Pyramid: Dungeon Fantasy Collected) and the generic good and evil powers from Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers.
  • Psi from Dungeon Fantasy 14: Psis. The mentalist PC especially revelled in "putting encounters in your encounters", which led to me expanding the table of psionic threats. "More Psionic Threats" (Pyramid #3/80: Fantasy Threats)  originally included the expanded table but this was unfortunately cut for publication (I hope it can see print one day).
  • Ninja powers from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy:Ninja. I also expanded these powers with power-ups for the ninja, and wrote this up for publication in Pyramid, but it remails unpublished.
  • Bard-Song
  • Druidic Arts 
In general I used the abilities as written, except when I added to them as noted above.


    My GURPS Horror: The Madness Dossier campaign CODENAME: ZARATHUSA used the powers and paranormal abilities from that book. In the party we had two chevals. We didn't have a PC taisher, although the dog ally of the commando did have some psi abilities. The only real modification to powers was to use the full GURPS Psionics Powers rules for taisher, using “Expanded Psi for Sandmen” Pyramid #3/69: Psionics II p. 33.


    My currently in development six-guns and sorcery megadungeon Glasstown, (more on this in future posts), will use GURPS Powers: Totems and Nature Spirits for the native nimerigar wardancers with some modifications, as the wardance is a battletrance accessed using autohypnosis and estastic dancing. Magical powers will also be available for ritual practitioners and as magic items. Saints will use GURPS Powers: Divine Favor probably as written.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting ideas here, I especially liked the Xia campaign but several others sounded interesting too