Friday, October 21, 2016

XygXygl "Budd" Zardoz, the Repentent Destroyer, Baron of Immigration

Excrucians have launched wave after wave of attacks on Earth, but few were weirder than the time they brought aliens. First, they arranged for the death of Zeta Reticula, among other worlds, and then enslaved the desperate, homeless refugees and hurled them with excrucian-powered weaponry. Budd led one of these attacks, wielding one of Zeta Reticula’s most lethal weapons. Alas, Deirdre and Magnus combined forced to fend off this attack, the first working with the Power of Science (who wielded Occam’s Razor) to prove that the Zeta Reticulans really couldn’t be attacking, and then Magnus turned the engines of economy and hype to popularizing the attack. Through their efforts, mankind was saved and the Zeta Reticulans reduced to jokes and tchotchkies.

As Deirdre waded through his armada, her red blade glowing with disdain, Budd made sure to surrender to her. Deirdre brought her to Peng Lai and cast the war-criminal before Kirin’s throne for judgment. When she demanded to know why he shouldn’t be brought before the Locust Court for serving an Excrucian, Budd claimed he had only his race’s best interests in mind. Kirin understood this and judged that he should serve her as her power: He would save all of humanity by taking them away from this doomed world and to other, safer worlds, far from the threat of Excrucians. In exchange, she would allow him to move the refugees of dead worlds, including his own, to Earth. When humanity was safe, she would allow him to be free once more. He graciously accepted slavery as preferable to death, and gained the Estate of Immigration to better serve Kirin.

He works now to repair the harm his armada dealt to the fabric of Earth’s reality. His Reticulan Conspiracy works tirelessly to ferry people to and from the world. The conspiracy vanishes people from the world, bringing them to a safer world far from the Excrucian war. They also go to dead or dying worlds and brings the desperate back to Earth. Many of them congregate in refugee camps at the base of Peng Lai until they can find some secret nook and cranny on Earth into which they can secret themselves.

Despite his good works, the Powers and Imperators of Earth remember well that he once served an Excrucian and continue to question his motives. Can we really trust the aliens he brings with him? Have they been properly vetted? And are the people of Earth being safely taken care of? Kirin assures everyone that everything is fine, but many people are suspicious of Budd, despite his claims to be a true Earth-man now, having even taken an Earth name (borrowed from one of his abductees).

Budd serves the Song of the Wild; His flowers are the Wild Rose (The Key of Something Different) and Gorse (The Key of Something Enthralled).  His anchors are the Reticulan Conspiracy and his Interstellar Death Engine and flag ship of the Reticulan invasion, the Arc of Extinction.


Budd brings a variety of important races with him into Earth as part of Kirin’s exchange program of hope and redemption. They’re not technically anchors, but they often serve Budd’s purpose. Among others, these include:


From a dying world full of rich greenery, giant bugs, mushroom houses and colorful, twee deciduous trees, Gnomes have escaped the dread hand of the Excrucians to make their way to Earth. Budd often holds them up as an example of model immigrants, as they’ve integrated fairly well with humanity. They’ve found a place in the gardens of mankind and employment in the banks of Zurich. Often, when humans discuss gnomes, they universally imply that gnomes are jewish. This is a stereotype! Most gnomes might be jewish, but there’s quite some Buddhist and LeVayan Satanist minorities among the gnomish populations
Rules of Gnomes:
  • Bond: Gnomes are adorable +1
  • Bond: Gnomes are very good with money +1
  • Affliction: Gnomes turn to stone while a human looks at them 2


Not all aliens from other worlds aren’t human! Steampunks come from a world that’s dying of airship piracy. Starvation, war and general collapse have turned the world into a vast ruin of decaying monuments, badlands and deserts full of lost cities and toxic smogs that hide the land. They came to Earth recently, and have mostly settled into the Pacific Northwest. Some have mistaken their technology and style as a fashion trend and begun aping Steampunks, which the Steampunks consider offensive cultural appropriation.

Rules of Steampunks:
  • Bond: Steampunks look great +1
  • Bond: Steampunk technology is beautiful, wholesome and impractical +2

Zeta Reticulans

Hailing from Zeta Reticuli, they mounted an ill-fated invasion in the early 20th century, under the threat of Excrucian extinction, who employed robotic inquisitors to ensure that the Zeta Reticulans obeyed his will. Since the failed war, wiped from humanity’s memory, which remains only as audio-recorded thought records that some have mistaken for a radio play, the Zeta Reticulans have taken up residency in the world, where they serve in Budd’s conspiracy, helping to transport humans off world, often leaving duplicates or tracking devices in the humans that remain. They also work closely with the governments of the world to give them new technology (and, it must be said, those governments often use Zeta Reticulan assistance to maintain power)

Rules of Zeta Reticulans:

  • Bond: Zeta Reticulans are small, weak and ugly +2
  • Bond: Zeta Reticulans are smarter than humans +1
  • Bond: Zeta Reticulans experiment on others +1
  • Bond: Zeta Reticulan technology is dangerous, frightening and powerful +2

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Heroism and Experience as Power-Sets

Heroism as Power-Set

So far, we have psionic powers, martial arts and cybernetics as power-sets. Each invests the character more deeply into a particular aspect of the setting, and expresses what makes him cool.
  • Psionic Powers invest the character more deeply into Communion and Psi-Wars as a mystical setting. It lets your character be cool in a “spooky” way.
  • Martial Arts invest the character more deeply into a particular culture and Psi-Wars as a warrior setting. It lets the character be cool in a “lethal” way.
  • Cybernetics invest a character more deeply into technology and the robots of Psi-Wars. It lets your character be cool in a profoundly physical way.
I've decided on a Heroic power-set as a fourth option. It represents a more generic power-set, someone who is cool for the sake of being cool. A heroic character embraces the fact that he's an action character as his prime element and turns that particular aspect up to 11. It also has no specific focus. Whereas the other powersets require huge catalogs of options for the player to navigate, the heroic power set will not. The hero isn't required to worry about the specific nature of his heroism. He's free to work those details out later.

This doesn't tie a character into anything specifically, but it seems very probable that such characters would have a great deal of destiny. These characters matter. Wherever they show up, the world shifts and changes. They're “the chosen one.”

Attributes: Choose one of DX +1 [20], IQ +1 [20] or both HT +1 [10] and Will +2 [10]

Advantages: Destiny (Varies) 3 [15]; Choose 15 points of Appearance (Varies), Combat Reflexes [15], Danger Sense [15], Daredevil [15], Destiny +2 or +3 [5/level], Fearlessness or Unfazeable [2/level or 15], Hard to Kill [2/level], Rapier Wit [5], Serendipity [15], or improve Luck to Extreme Luck [30] for 15 points.

Experience as Power-Set

The rest of the power-sets involve moving the character in a new direction. But what about characters who want to be more of what they already are? Should a spy take psionic powers, she becomes able to read minds or see the future, while a martial artist spy becomes a lethal ninja, and cyborg spy becomes a master of technology, but what about a spy who wants to be more of a spy?

After the End also has power-sets, though less dramatic than those of Psi-Wars (it’s a lower-key game), and it also features an Experienced power-set. It represents an additional investment into your characters capabilities, and it’s specific to each template, which is very suitable to Psi-Wars. It would also address a concern I have, namely that players who enjoy the more high-octane gameplay typical of the super-hero-style antics of the prequels might want to start at higher point totals (400, perhaps). Can non-Psi-Knight characters keep up without resorting to psionic powers and martial arts?

Dungeon Fantasy doesn’t use these sorts of power-sets. Instead, they offer power-ups, smaller packages that characters can grab as they increase in experience. This actually fits the rest of the power-sets pretty well: A psionic character doesn’t buy psionic powers 50 points at a time, nor do martial artists. Instead, they improve a few skills and buy a few powers 5-10 points at a time. Power-ups work the same way.

So, I propose mixing the two: Every template has associated power-ups, and characters who choose Experience as their power-set get a 50-points worth of power-ups.  I'd like to make the individual power-ups worth no more than 25 points, so players can buy them in place of something in their advantage set, if they wished.

To make this work, I need to define power-ups for each individual template, which is a lot of work, work that I’m willing to do, but we should start one template at a time.

I’d like to start with the Spy, as the Spy is the most non-combat focused of the character templates thus far. If I can’t come up with ~100 points worth of power-ups for the Spy, then this idea won’t work.

Advantages: Choose 50 points from your template Advantages, or from your template Power-Ups.

Spy Power-Ups

Conspirator 25 points

Advantages: Spend 20 points on Forgettable Face [1], Honest Face [1], Illuminated [15], Security Clearance [5 to 15], Serendipity (Conspiratorial -20%) [12], Truth Seeker +1 to +4 [5/level], Zeroed [10]

Skills: Expert Skill (Conspiracy Theory) (H) IQ [4]; Spend one additional point on Current Affairs (Headline News or Politics) (E) IQ [1], Propaganda (A) IQ-1 [1], or Intelligence Analysis (H) IQ-2 [1] or Detect Lies (H) Per-2 [1].

Illuminated allows the character to roll IQ in place of Hidden Lore (Communion) to recognize any Communion symbolism, and the character may roll IQ to recognize someone’s Destiny, provided it’s involved in any conspiracy. Finally, it grants a +3 to Pulling Rank rolls.

Master of Disguises 25 points

Advantages: Spend between 0 and 20 points on Impersonator, raising it to a minimum of +4 [20]. Spend remaining points on Accent (Any) [1], Convincing Nod [1], Cultural Familiarity (Any) [1] or Cultural Adaptability [10], Disposable Identity [1], Equipment Bond (Disguise Kit) [1], Gizmo 1 (Disguise Kit Only -80%, Cosmic: Retcon +50%, Requires Disguise Roll -10%) [3], Passing Appearance (Androgynous or Passing Complexion) [1], Voice [10]

Skills: Mimicry (Speech) (H) IQ+2* [1]; Spend an additional 4 points improving Acting, Disguise or Mimicry.

Note that Voice adds +2 to Mimicry.

Cosmic: Retcon means that the character can claim he was already using said gizmo. For the Disguise gizmo, this means that the character can claim to have been diguised “the whole time” as some other character (that the GM approves).

Ghost 25 points

Advantages: Spend between 0 and 20 points on Craftiness, raising it to a minimum of +4 [20]. Spend remaining points on Skills (below) or on Catfall [10], Flexibility [5] or Double-Jointed [15], Forgettable Face [1], Nightvision +1 to +5 [1/level], Perfect Balance [15], Serendipity (Stealth Opportunities Only -80%) [3], Silence +1 to +2 [5/level], Trained by a Master (Evastion -50%) [15].

Skills: Improve Stealth by 1 level for 4 points; Spend one point on Jumping (E) DX [1], Climbing (A) DX-1 [1], Acrobatics or Escape (H) DX-2 [1].

Hacker 25 points

Advantages: Cyberneticist 4 [20]

Skills: Computer Hacking (H) IQ+4 [4]; Spend one point on Computer Operation (E) IQ+4* [1], Computer Programming (AI) (H) IQ+2* [1], Electronic Repairs (Computer) (A) IQ+3* [1], or one of the following perks: Beep Fluency [1], Cross-Trained (Computers) [1], Equipment Bond (Computer) [1],

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Robots Revised

So, we've updated how DR works, which means we need to revise all the point-costs for robots.  I've also noticed that I've been handling Modular Abilities wrong.  After looking at both, I've made some substantial revisions to Robots, noted below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cybernetics as Power-Set

Cybernetics can be chosen as a power-set or, with GM permission, taken as part of a template's additional advantage points.

Cybernetics as Power-Set

Advantages: Choose 40 points from the Cybernetics below.
Additional Traits: Choose an additional 10 points from the Cybernetics below or from the following skills: Beam Weapons (Pistol) or Fast-Draw (Cyberblade), both (E) DX+1 [2], Shortsword (A) DX [2], Current Affairs (Technology) (E) IQ+1 [2], Connoisseur (Cybernetics or Robotics) or Mechanic (Robotics) both (A) IQ [2], or Engineer (Robotics) (H) IQ-1 [2].
Disadvantages: Characters with the cybernetic power-set may add the following disadvantages to their disadvantage lists: Secret (Cyborg; Embarassing) [-5], Social Stigma (Cyborg) [-5], or any disadvantageous Cybernetics.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cybernetics in Psi-Wars

Why Cybernetics?

Before I start, let's talk a little theory. A Psi-Wars character is built up out of three templates: her occupational template, her background lens and her power-set. The occupational template determines what she does. It's her role and niche. A spy, for example, is going to fit into the information gathering and infiltration niche. The background lens tells you something about who she is. Leylana is an aristocrat, while another spy might be a slave. Both will be masters of information gathering, deception and infiltration, but Leylana wears beautiful outfits and worries about what's fashionable in court and who is marrying who, while the slave is more worried about whether her master will beat her for the terrible secrets she just uncovered while skulking in shadows.

Power sets explain why you are cool. They set you apart in a specific and precise way. Psionic Powers and Communion say that you are cool in a spooky or mystical way. If Leylana chose a psionic powerset, then she becomes the sort of spy that snatches secrets right from your mind, who sees visions of the future and worries about destiny and the future of all mankind while spouting nonsense like “I must slay the Great Beast with the Secrets of the Dark Emperor!” Martial Arts sets say that you are cool in a culturally specific and martial way. If Leylana studied Space Ninjutsu, then she becomes a ninja, able to kill with her bare hands and vanish, but also tied into a Space Ninja clan, who share their secrets with few. It suggests that she has some deep, cultural tie to them (perhaps she knows their language and their cultural familiarity).

Cybernetics say that you are cool in a physical and robotic way. A cyborg has given up some of her humanity to be stronger, faster and more technological way. She has become a bit more like a bot to gain an additional edge over everyone else. If Leylana chose to be a cyborg, then we would expect hidden weapons, gleaming red eyes when angered, a bullet-proof under-chassis, a super-strong arm, and the ability to interface directly with computers to steal their secrets.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cross-Post: Why Not Pokemon?

The post I look forward to the most all week is Benjamin Gauronskas's weekly cross-post, both to get an idea of what's going on across the blog and to see if anything I did over the week merited a mention.  I think Benjamin is a case-study in two good pieces of advice I could offer to any blogger.

The first is that if you want people to read your stuff, talk about them (especially in a positive light), a point also well elucidated in Terry Pratchett's "The Truth" (at least, I remember it well).  From my perspective, through his weekly commentary on the blogosphere, Benjamin has become the pre-eminent "GURPS Blog" commentator, and which means he holds my attention, which means I often end up quoting him on this blog.  Cross-posting works, and it's one of the reasons that I think the GURPS blogosphere is really flowering right now, because of all this cross-pollination.

The second is that if you want to improve your writing, write.  Anything you make a habit of doing will improve.  Also, if you want people to read your stuff, write.  People prefer something to nothing, so even if they think your stuff is terrible... they're still reading it!  It's terribly brave to put your stuff out for the world, but being brave, being willing to fail in the effort to improve, is how leaders are born.

So, where is brave Benjamin leading us today? To Pokemon.  He's been making quite a few, and some people have asked him (excitedly, I'm sure) if he's making a pokemon campaign.  This is his response:
I've had some serious writer's block this week, so I've been putting up some filler posts statting out pokemon abilities. I think I'm getting a reputation as someone who is trying to create a pokemon setting, and I'd like to clarify that isn't the case: Pokemon, well, any video game has some moves that are interesting (and some that are trivial) so my train of thought is along the following lines:
  1. Making abilities based on a list of already existing concepts is easy, but helpful.
  1. Demonstrating that it's "easy" or at least "possible" to convert any given ability is a good demonstration of the flexibility of the system,
  1. Pokemon is fun and popular, so it's a somewhat accessible introduction to what GURPS can be or do for people who have ever thought of playing a tabletop RPG but are worried about playing a system that requires them to shoehorn things into mechanics that don't support their designs or assumptions.
In any case, it has been a bit of an education for me, with people helpfully pointing out things that could be done differently or better, so that's appreciated.
In other words, he's just writing them to maintain his habit, and because they're easy, and because he knows them.  He's also stated that he dislikes ripping stuff off, that he'd rather make his own thing, which is a sentiment I obviously agree with.

But as I read that, I thought it was a bit of a shame that he's essentially throwing away his material.  Now, far be it from me to criticize someone working to work, because all work leads to other work.  By building these abilities, he's sharpening his ability-building skills, and deepening his understanding of Pokemon.  That's a worthy goal!  But I love to say "Why do one thing when you can do two?"  If you're going to go to all the work to build up those abilities, why not also turn them into something someone can play with?  Well, he's already answered that: because he doesn't like to rip stuff off.  Besides, I'm sure you can find a half dozen, half-finished GURPS Pokemon games out there to pick from.  How could he make his material stand out?

Well, given that I'm writing a knock-off of Star Wars, I think the answer would obviously be to write a knock-off of Pokemon.  Since that sort of thought process is largely what my blog is about, I thought I'd dig into why Pokemon rocks, how we can capture that feel, and use it to build our own campaign.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Abigail Ng, Saintess of Tea

Ah, here she is, the tragic Abigail Ng.  Who is she?  Where did she come from?  What happened to her?

This post has no spoilers, not even after the jump, because she's too central to offer any information on.  She's on par with a few other figures who won't even get a post at all.  But I can tell you a few things about her.


British archeaologist Matilda Carter believed that a secretive “tea blossom cult” existed in on some lost island off the coast of China, and that this cult had a direct line to God. Her obsessive pursuit of it put her in the cross hairs of the guardians of the cult, the Five Divine-Beasts. One, the accomplished and handsome Ng Sin-Feng fell for her wit and beauty and sought to bring her into the cult. Another, the sinister Li Xuan, saw a danger in her and demanded her destruction. Kirin whispered her judgment and spoke of the destiny of Matilda Carter, that she and Ng would bear her a child that would become her heart and saintess. Li Xuan declared “This must not be,” and was exiled from Peng Lai by Kirin.

To fulfill Kirin’s command, Matilda and Ng married and moved back to Britain to raise the child.
Abigail was born beneath an auspicious sign of the pheonix and enjoyed a well-heeled British life, thanks to her mother’s lingering fortunes and her father’s mysterious wealth. Her father raised her in the ways of the tea ceremony, and her mother raised her as a proper British lady. While they journeyed off to China to prepare her entrance into the cult, Abigail was left in a boarding school, dreaming of a new life for herself where she could decide for herself what she wanted to be, rather than being forced to live up to her parents’ legacy.

On her 16th birthday, the time of her sacrifice came and she journeyed with her parents to China to become the saintess of the Tea Blossom Cult.

Unwittingly ascending to godhood didn’t set well with Abigail. She understood it. She felt as though it had always been there, but she found it unduly interfered with her life. And so, in a fit of teenage pique, she left England when she turned 18 and chose to study journalism in the University of British Colombia. She remained duty bound to serve Kirin, though, and so Kirin shifted Peng Lai to connect to Vancouver, embedding Sun Yat Sen’s garden throughout Vancouver’s history.

She was found killed in an abandoned warehouse by an unknown assailant.


Abigail's flowers were the Alyssym (the Key of Something Spiritual) and the Gorse (the Key of Something in Thrall).  She had the Cult of the Tea Blossom (with both Sin-Feng and Xuan) as her (known) anchors.  She followed the Song of Heaven, for Abigail sought to make the world a better place.

Ng Sin-Feng
Li Xuan

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