Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Other Side of Space Magic

Now that we have a basis for our Space Magic, let's consider some of the details and flexibility the magic system offers us.  Specifically:
  • I take a look at how to implement the Dark Side, and the Light Side, in the Magic system.
  • I take a look at using Enchantment in an appropriate fashion for a setting inspired by Star Wars
  • I examine Destiny, how best to treat it, and how it fits into the larger picture

The Dark Side

Luke: Vader... Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

Magic comes with the perfect metaphor for the Dark Side: Demonic Contracts (Magic 156) that make magic “quicker, easier and more seductive.” According to the rules, we need an actual demonic contract, which is a perk, and then we can “lower the cost of a spell” by up to three times our skill level in Thaumatology or Occultism, and then, of course, we can start to accrue “black penalties” and even gain an Addiction to “black magic.”
Dark Jedi Brotherhood

The “Dark Side” can work the same. We'll waive the perk: All Jedi can fall to the Dark Side, and sometimes it happens entirely by accident! Still, some perk would be nice, or some trait that reflects a character “turning completely to the dark side,” usually with some specific action (such as Kylo Ren's action in the Force Awakens). The maximum energy borrowed presents an interesting idea. I'm tempted to replace it with “Philosophy,” representing ones connection to the Dark Side of the Force, and explaining why Sith need “training.” But even untrained characters can draw on the Dark Side, so perhaps our maximum should be Will + Sensitivity + twice your level in Philosophy (Dark Side). The rest can remain the same: The Dark Side cannot be used to help people, and its use will start to accrue Black Penalty, making use of the non-Dark Side harder and harder.


Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.
-Yoda, Return of the Jedi
Of course, Yoda points out that the Dark Side isn't stronger, and yet we can clearly see that characters can draw on the Dark Side to get loads and loads of Energy. Yoda claims it's only faster. Is there a power that the Light Side can draw on that's slower but just as powerful?

Meditation from Wookiepedia
Thaumatology gives us the answer on page 53-54: Meditation, Holiness and Study. Jedi Masters can spend hours, days, years meditating and accruing more and more power which they can use all at once, or hold onto. This requires “Very Blessed” and -10 points worth of “Holy Disadvantages” (Discipline of Faith (Monasticism or Mysticism) would both fit the bill), which amounts to a 10-point prerequisite. The book also suggests twice ones Will + Magery as a possible maximum, but notes that no such maximum is necessary. If we want to follow the same effective path as the Dark Side described above, we can say that the maximum someone can spend from this reserve on a spell is Will + Magery + twice Philosophy (Light-Side).

In effect, both the Light Side and the Dark Side can bring more power to bear, and both do it in the same way: By spending character points for energy. The Corruption mechanics of Black Magic give you your energy up-front, but slowly-but-surely strips your character points from you. The Meditation mechanic requires you to invest your character points (in the form of training times) up front, but then rewards you by allowing you to draw from your energy. This gives us a perfect parallel between both: Neither is actually superior, as both have their drawbacks and benefits.

We can even state that some spells can only be powered with one kind of energy or the other. The spells from Psychic Healing or Counter-Magic might be “Light Side only” while the spells from Psychic Vampirism or Ergokinesis might be “Dark Side only.”

Light-Side Spells

Psychic Healing

Will + Magery
Spell
Page
Cost
10
Lend Energy
89
1+
11
Body-Reading
88
2
11
Detect Poison
166
Area 2
11
Share Energy
89
1+
12
Awaken
90
Area 1
12
Minor Healing
91
1-3
12
Relieve Sickness
90
2
12
Share Vitality
90
0
12
Stop Bleeding
91
1 or 10
13
Major Healing (VH)
91
1-4
13
Resist Disease
91
4
13
Resist Poison
91
4
14
Great Healing (VH)
91
20
16
Healing Slumber
94
6
17
Suspended Animation
94
6
18
Halt Aging
94
20
Force Healing

Dark-Side Spells

Psychic Vampirism and Ergokinesis

Will + Magery
Spell
Page
Cost
11
Stop Power
179
Area 3
13
Steal Energy
150
0
14
Steal Vitality
150
0
16
Lightning
196
Missile
16
Resist Lightning
196
2
17
Shocking Touch
196
1-3
22
Glitch
176-177
3
23
Malfunction
177
5

Consider adding Choke and various Fear spells to this table.
Space Warlock

The Dark Side of Mana
Luke: There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death.
Yoda: [points to a cave opening beneath a large tree] That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
Places can also be “strong with the dark side of the Force.” How does that work in a Magic system? Thaumatology discusses mana levels on page 58 to 59. My recommendation would be to make a form of “Continuous Aspected Mana.” That is, some places grant a bonus and a similar penalty to one side or the other: A place “strong in the Dark Side” grants +5 to any “Dark Side” spells or any spells cast exclusively with Dark Side energy, and applies a -5 penalty to any “Light Side” spells or any spells cast exclusively with Light Side energy, and a place strong in the Light Side would do the opposite.

We could even make it more specific and benefit certain “colleges.” Perhaps some places are better for seeing the future, or for healing, or for connecting mind to mind.

Psionic Attunement

The First Blade from Wookiepedia
Psi-as-Magic also has rules for enchantment called “attunement” which allows mages to “attune items with psionic energy,” aka to enchant them. However, other than Jedi building lightsabers themselves, I never see anything in Star Wars that suggests that items are explicitly enchanted. A Jedi doesn't meditate upon his lightsaber to give it greater power, or “channel the force” into armor to make it stronger or lighter.




An elegant weapon... for a more civilized age
-Obi-Wan, A New Hope

Nonetheless, every once in awhile we get an implication of force-imbued objects (we do see an “enchanted ax” in Clone Wars), and we certainly see a fixation on ancient power or legendary items: The importance of Luke's lightsaber was one of the original plot elements of the Force Awakens (They later changed it), and it itself is an heirloom weapon which belonged to Anakin Skywalker, and at least one plotline in Star Wars: the Old Republic focuses on acquiring an ancient “warblade” of the Sith, as though a centuries-old weapon could compare to a modern weapon. Star Wars also makes a point about “searching for the original jedi temple” or ancient jedi burial grounds. Old things matter in Star Wars, which is itself ancient, but more importantly, legends matter. Each trilogy begins with a discussion of old stories that turn out to be much more than stories, from the legend of the Sith to the legends of Skywalker.

This suggests a universe where items don't gain their supernatural power from intentional enchantment, but from the power imbued into them over time by belief, intent, emotion and use. Thaumatology covers this with Enchantment Through Age on pages 110-112. It presents other options (Traumatic Enchantment or Enchantment through Deed, and the latter is tempting), but given the age of the universe, and the importance of age, I'd like to start with Enchantment through Age (perhaps mixed a bit with Enchantment through Deed).

How much time should it take to create an enchanted item? How enchanted should they be? These are setting considerations more than anything else, and thus cannot be answered now. Consider how old the setting is: What is the oldest Force Sword in Psi Wars? Is it 10,000 years old? Or 100? And how enchanted do we want it to be? If we want a 100 year-old forcesword to have 1000 points of enchantment, I suggest 10 “points” per year. If it's 10,000 years old and we want subtle enchantments of only 100 points, then we need about 1 per 100 years. If we want dramatically appropriate items to be more enchanted than other items, we might apply a multiplier. Perhaps unique weapons wielded by named Force-Wielders gain power at 2, 5 or 10 times faster than minor, industrial items wielded by generic characters. This might sound odd, but consider the armor of the lost space legion from a 1000 years ago, which had a reputation for bloodthirstiness and a legend of haunting a space sector for years. Their armor might be enchanted, but not as enchanted as the force sword wielded by their dark master, who was reputed to have the power to keep his soldiers alive after death to continue to fight as psionically empowered husks, and whose blade burned with a white rim around a dark core.

As for enchantment values, I recommend that we keep them modest. The spells we use should be mostly self-powering or simple “item” enhancements that make them better at what they were already doing: +1 to hit, +1 to damage (I'd recommend making that per die, though). If an item is made intelligent, it should give impressions to his wielder, rather than a full-on, conscious personality.

If we'd prefer to use character points, just divide the energy values by 25 to get the character point value.

Destiny

Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny, join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.
-Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back
Destiny and “Chosen Ones” play a prominent role in Star Wars. Its exact role is unclear. “Destiny” might be what Jedi use to refer to what their precognition has already seen. If you have seen in a vision that you'll marry the cute redhead secretary at the local spaceport, then that “is your Destiny.” On the other hand, Star Wars seems to give this destiny profound metaphysical weight, as though there are many possible futures, but the Force really wants something. If the cute redhead is your destined wife, then this is not just something that happens, but something that is meant to be on some fundamental level. Were your relationship to fail, something would be deeply wrong with the universe.

That sounds like myth to me. That sounds like magic.

While the GURPS Magic framework doesn't explicitly provide a role for Destiny, we can easily grab the Destiny advantage (and disadvantage, though I have yet to come across truly negative destinies. Even Anakin Skywalker's destiny was positive and empowered him) and make use of it. However, rather than use the nebulous rules from the core book, I highly recommend the rules from Monster Hunters: Every 5 points provides a destiny-aspected character point, once per session, that can only be spent as an impulse buy. This means Psi Wars needs impulse buys, but it already fits the highly narrative nature of the game. It also represents yet another way in which Force Users seem to be better than everyone else. Quite a bit of the expanded universe suggests that all “main characters”, or characters with any kind of narrative weight, have greater force sensitivity than the average person, and this connection is what empowers them to succeed. If we allow characters to purchase Destiny, then we interact with this precognitive universe on a deeper level, and we create a fundamental excuse for why PCs are allowed to make use of the Flesh Wound rules, or to purchase successes: it's not because it's a game mechanic that preserves their importance, but it's instead the Force acting to make sure their destiny happens. If you are destined to marry the redhead, then of course you can't die on this rock without having told her how you feel, and of course she won't laugh at you and date the other guy because you critically failed your savoir-faire roll when you introduced yourself. Of course it'll all work out, it's destiny.

This might also provide a nice, subtle basis for out item enchantment above. Rather than working out specific and detailed spell effects, like “This force-sword has +2 damage only vs Dark Force users” , we give it a specific destiny: “This force sword is destined to slay Dark Force Users, Destiny 2”, then it has 2 points every session that its wielder can use to further its specific destiny. Note that at 5 points per Destiny level, we're talking about (without accounting for gadget limitations) 125 “energy points” per point of destiny. At one “energy point” per year, a Destiny 3 item is around 500 years old.

Ruins
  
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