Monday, October 31, 2016

Building Minions

Like all Action games, Psi-Wars definitely needs minions, those faceless mooks who die by the dozen beneath a hail of blaster bolts or the sweep of a force sword.  This has been true since we began, hence those troopers I've been including in every Iteration for our trusty heroes to kill.  In an Action game, we don't generally care that much what our minions are like: the difference between terrorists, pirates, military contractors and FBA agents are usually a matter of scale and resources (ie BAD) more than actual tactics: They all just shoot at you.  This isn't necessarily true in a sci-fi story, though.  In sci-fi, you want to explore, and you want a sense that different locations and different races are different.  Star Wars sometimes touches on this: Rebel troopers and Storm troopers, tactically, don't seem very different except in how much armor they get (Storm troopers are more BAD than rebel troopers), but Tusken Raiders, Gungens or Battle-Droids fight fundamentally differently.

Games like Dungeon Fantasy celebrate a variety of bad guys.  The first thing DF players complain about when it comes to DF is the lack of monsters, because DF can never have enough monsters!  But what they mean isn't "Different skins for my opponents," because any GM worth his salt can say "You're fighting werewolves!  Now you're fighting slimes!  Beware the King Slime!"  They mean tactical diversity.  They expect werewolves to fight differently than slimes, to have different strengths and weaknesses, and require different tactics to defeat.

The problem arises when one wants to create detailed opponents and run them as mooks.  Players can appreciate that dragons are different from werewolves, but it becomes difficult to handle a battle with a dozen orcs, and then another battle with a dozen skeletons, and make it meaningfully different.  D&D 4e had this down to a science: Each monster could be written on roughly an index card, and it had a very limited number of attacks and options.  This, by itself, wasn't so interesting, but it worked with others to create a sort of interesting tactical encounter.  If you fought orcs, you had to fight berserker orcs as well as orc shamans, while fighting skeletons forced you to deal with skeletal archers, dark riders and the necromancer (or whatever).

In a sense, Psi-Wars should be a little closer to DF in this regard than to Action, because Action is dominated by the human wielding a gun.  A terrorist with an AK-47 is not fundamentally different from an FBA Agent with an AK-74.  Skill, level of training and resources make a difference, but BAD covers this.  Psi-Wars, on the other hand, features aliens, and powers and alternate technology.  An army wielding force glaives and force shields will be fundamentally very different from one wielding blasters.  We can go too far in that direction (Star Trek is more interested in exploring alternate technologies and philosophies of war than Star Wars is), but as the Star Wars universe expands, we see more and more of these alternate technologies and tactics.  Psi-Wars is shaping up to be even more baroque.  Furthermore, given that Psi-Wars has martial arts as a fundamental of its gameplay, how your opponent fights really matters.

Before I began designing my martial arts, I discussed the usefulness of signature moves when creating minions.  The intent here is to allow us to rapidly construct a few simple minions with simple strategies that supports one another while also giving them a distinct flavor.  To do this, we need four things:
  • Concept (Who they are in the setting, what they stand for, what they look like, etc)
  • Overall threat level
  • Technological infrastructure
  • Preferred Tactics

    Iteration 2 gave us the overall threat level (ie BAD).  Iteration 3 gave us the technological infrastructure.  Iteration 4 gives us preferred tactics, and we'll have to wait for Iteration 6 to get at concept but we already know a lot about what we want, so we can go ahead and make some prototypes.

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    Peng Lai, where dreams come true, the Chancel of Kirin

    Properties of Peng Lai

    • Everyone has a purpose
    • Destiny shapes all lives
    • Doubt will destroy you

    The Geography of Peng Lai

    Peng Lai is a great mountain in a still, sun-set sea, with great clouds rumbling above its peak and a lazy, perpetual rain. It has a picaresque quality, like a fantastic painting brought to life. One can only arrive at Peng Lai by boat, which leads to a great gate and wall. One must pass the gate and then travel the 10,000 steps to reach the top of the great, craggy mountain, and only there, at the top, can one petition Kirin herself to grant your destiny. The path taken is called the Pilgrimage and one must necessarily encounter the whole of Kirin’s estates and Powers along the way in some fashion.

    The Poison of Peng Lai

    Something rots at the heart of Peng Lai. A great crack runs up the entirely of the mountain that has split the temple at the top itself. At first, it was barely perceptible, but it grows worse. Something blackens the plant life and the water, and sometimes, off the beaten path, terrible beasts roam. Not everyone sees these things, but they always flicker at the edges of your vision. This is the manifestation of the poison of Peng Lai, which Kirin claims is the result of some attack on her domain and her estates, perhaps the act of an Excrucian, or perhaps even treachery by Lord Entropy himself (for he is Dark and Kirin is Light). The poison can infect and wound those who stay in Peng Lai via numerous possible paths, but only one vector for infection is certain: If you give into your doubts about Peng Lai, you’ll be poisoned. This definitely includes a player asking if “Will this poison me?” Just asking such a question results in the poisoning of your character. The severity of poison depends on how deep one has traveled into Peng Lai, and manifests as a wound.
    Other possible ways to become poisoned may include (or may not include!):
    • Accepting food/help from strangers
    • Suffering the scorn of others
    • Drinking the water of Peng Lai
    • Accepting a lie as truth
    • Acting in a way contrary to your true dharma

    Thursday, October 27, 2016

    Re-Evaluating and Revising Iteration 4

    Whenever I get to this point, I feel like they're the parts I shouldn't share with you, dear reader, because there's nothing more tedious than editing (ask any editor!).  On the other hand, it's such a crucial step, that it's one I really feel I should not ignore, and one I should certainly write about.  First, I need to do it for me, because writing about it helps to frame my thoughts and knowing that I have to write about it means that the work gets done.  Second, for those among you who are novices at this sort of thing, I fee you should understand the process of drafting and editing.

    Never let perfection be the enemy of the good.  When you see the polished final product of a book or a game or an artwork, I find many people think that it sprang thus, fully formed from the brow the artist.  The fact that you, dear reader, cannot do that stifles your creative process, and you think that you're not as capable as those other, more numinous and perfect creators.  In fact, what happens is this: You do the first thing that comes to mind, and you continue on that path, until you've created enough "rough material" that you can begin to shape it.  Then you do so, and as you do so, you find more flaws and problems and you keep chiseling and working until it's serviceable enough to go on to the next step.  That last part is where a lot of artists trip, but it's why I often say you should "deliver the minimum necessary product." You can polish and gold-plate forever, but then your work will never get out the door.  Do it enough so that your product works, and then move on to the next step (the next iteration in our case).

    Iteration 4 presents a serious challenge because, in a sense, it's the first time we've really come to grips with Psi-Wars. It turns out that my previous formulations of Psi-Wars were wrong.  It's not really GURPS Action in space.  Neither Star Wars nor Psi Wars focus first and foremost on gunplay or the cynical real politik of Action, though it could.  Instead, it tends to focus on grand mythmaking and the galaxy as a huge stage for the epic heroes of war and history.  Some critics suggest that Star Wars is more fantasy than Sci-Fi, and certainly the beats and themes of Star Wars borrow more from mythology and fairy-tales than from sci-fi or from Action.

    But that doesn't mean we need to throw it all away and start over again with TL 11 Dungeon Fantasy as our base.  In a sense, Action still supports our needs: There is a lot of gunplay, Action totally supports kung-fu, and the political arena definitely matters in Star Wars and, of course, Psi-Wars has cemented the idea of Action into itself.  Psi-Wars is a world where gunplay and heroism in the face of a gritty and cynical world have become part of the DNA of the world.  What we need, then, is to adjust some expectations.

    Is that okay?  Sure!  The sense that "We should throw it all away and start over" is called creator's remorse.  Don't listen to it.  In general, the material you've come up with is quality material.  If you can't use it now, you can at least use it later.  In this case, I don't think we need to change anything.

    We do need to look at our work more closely, though.  What does gameplay actually look like now?  Does this new gameplay, especially the gameplay that falls outside of the bounds of Action, actually work as we intended?  What holes can we find and fill (which will mostly take up Iteration 5, which I hope will be shorter than Iteration 4).

    This will take awhile, about on the order of what Space Ships took, so probably about three weeks.  When I'm done, though, I am pleased to announce that not only can we finish off this rather successful Iteration, but I've decided that moving forward, I'm going to maintain a working document, so that all of this great stuff gets collected into one place.  The document will be available in a link in the Psi-Wars primer that 's been sitting in the sidebar for, oh, the past few weeks now (As of writing this post, I've just put the primer up!  I work pretty far ahead, eh?  But that's why I put it up, to eventually hold that document).

    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

    Thursday, October 13, 2016

    Psi-Wars Template: The Space Knight 3.0

    Oh how exciting! Every time I post anything about a Space Knight, it gets a lot of views, comments and likes. Why? Because everyone wants to play a Jedi, and this whole iteration has been, at its core, about the Space Knight.

    I won't lie, though, this has been a huge challenge. Not just in the sense that I've needed to develop enough material to support our Space Knight, but I need to be able to fit all of those cool tricks down into a single Space Knight and the result is, in my opinion, a mixed bag and definitely needs careful testing.

    The Space Knight is built out of three parts: force swordsmanship, psionic powers, and a few general skills. For the general skills, I took a stripped down version of the following skill-packages: relic hunter, command, personal security, conspiracies, goon, parkour and resistance. In principle, these are characters who understand psionic power, how to lead, how to serve a conspiracy, how to guard others, and how to run and chase, should physicality prove necessary. The Space Knight's proficiency  Force Swordsmanship is manifested in a very meager amount of techniques and skills, one free style, precognitive parry and Force Swordsmanship-18, in keeping with Kalzazz's complaints about anything less than 18 for an Action character who is supposed to be cool at something. Psionic powers are limited to a handful of skills and a single, 15 point ability.
    To be honest, your psi-knight looks like a padawan
    -Raoul Roulaux, Gentleman Gamer
    That's a fair assessment of the result.  Of course, the level of force swordsmanship is certainly effective, at least as effective as Dun has been this whole time.  15 points in powers is what Dun had the very first time I created him (it'll buy you danger sense, or some TK-Grab, or Emotion Sense or Psi-Sense).  This makes someone who feels more psychically sensitive than really psychically powerful.  On the other hand, you're free to buy further psionic power sets, or even psionic styles, like True Communion!

    This leaves me with the question as to whether or not 300 points is enough.  It's run pretty decently so far, and perhaps it's a fine point for "a starting space knight." We'll have to see how it plays out.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Psi-Wars Template: The Assassin

    Assassin 1.0: 250 points

    This assassin template has nothing to do with the Assassin template in GURPS Action. Players who want to try a stealthy sniper are better off exploring the Commando template, as military-style training is their purview. This assassin is much closer to the Ninja template from Action 3, as its intention is to be the ninja to the Space Knight’s samurai. This is a character who specializes in stealth, silent kills and melee combat.

    The Assassin needs decent infiltration skills to get near her target, making her the Rim-version of the Spy, but substantially more lethal.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2016

    Psi-Wars Template: The Frontier Marshal (and the Bounty Hunter)

    Frontier Marshal 1.0: 250 points

    Intergalactic Space Cowboy,
    by Tuabak
    The Frontier Marshal was an idea I had all the way back in Iteration 1, and I think it remains viable. Law and crime seem very important themes in Psi-Wars, whatever side of the law you’re on. Rim characters, by and large, are on the “wrong” side of the law, so the Frontier Marshal represents a lone representative of law in a lawless domain, which means he needs to be very self-reliant.

    The Bounty Hunter represents the other law-enforcement character, which gives us an interesting challenge, in that the Bounty Hunter and Frontier Marshal need to fill different roles, despite existing largely in the same niche. Both offer us a chance to explore martial arts, but they’re not going to be martial artists. They’ll be characters highly skilled in gun combat, preferably in their own ways.

    The Frontier Marshal, like the Bounty Hunter, needs to be good at combat, but will need to favor low tech weapons and it’s not “in theme” for him to be a skilled unarmed fighter: He doesn’t need to bring his targets in “alive or dead.” He just needs to resolve the problem. The Frontier Marshal is also on the frontier. If the domain of the Bounty Hunter is “hives of scum and villainy,” the frontier marshal lives on the edges of the civilized world, roaming villages, dunes and mountains to find bandits and lawbreakers. He’ll be a skilled survivalist, rider or driver, someone deeply familiar with the landscape he’s in. In a sense, he’ll mingle some of the scavenger’s niche with the bounty hunter’s niche, with a little extra focus on survivalism. A better name for him might be a ranger, given his focus on whatever sort of environment that his beat is made up out of.

    The styles contributing to the Frontier Marshal are the Way of the Galaxy and the Huntsman’s Path. He hasn’t formally studied these styles, but rather they represent a sort of commonality to how these particular characters tend to fight.

    Monday, October 10, 2016

    Martial Arts and Psionic Style Power-Sets

    Psi-Wars, like Star Wars, focuses deeply on the development of martial arts skills.  Some characters might choose to deepen their combat capabilities with a formal education in a deeply detailed style, or might expand their combat capabilities into new directions.  Psionic characters might do the same: Rather than use the standard psionic power set, characters might study a focused psionic discipline.  In fact, we could even replace the psionic power set with the psionic style power-set.

    The bulk of the work for this has already been done: The styles themselves detail what you can purchase and what you can't.  The details of the power set is, thus, pretty simple:

    Martial Arts Power Sets

    Advantages: Choose 30 points from among Trained by a Master [30], Weapon Master [Varies], or any Optional Attributes, Traits or Advantages from your chosen style.
    Skills and Techniques: Style Familiarity (Chosen style) [1]; Spend 19 points on skills, cinematic skills, techniques and perks  associated with your chosen style.

    Psionic and Communion Style Power Sets

    Advantages: 30 points from among Talents, Powers or Communion levels associated with your chosen style.
    Skills: Style Familiarity (Chosen style) [1]; Spend 19 points on skills, cinematic skills, techniques and perks associated with your chosen style.

    Martial Arts Power Packages

    Right, that's one of the shortest post ever.  To keep you from being bored, let's see if we can expand this.

    Just as Psionic powers can be broken down into simple 25-point or 50-point packages, we can do the same here.  Martial Arts have 20 points worth of skills, perks and techniques.  We can use that as the basis for our how characters could learn to fight.  The following is a small sampling of possible techniques.  If we like it, it might be worth expanding.

    The Destructive Form

    Destructive Brawler 20 points
    Skills: Brawling (E) DX+2 [4], Force Sword (A) DX+2 [8]
    Techniques: Beat (H) Force Sword+2 [3], Targeted Attack (Pummel/Face) Brawl-3 [3]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Destructive Form) [1], Dirty Fighting [1]

    Destructive Precision 20 points
    Skills: Brawling (E) DX [1], Force Sword (A) DX+3 [12], Precognitive Parry (H) IQ [4]
    Techniques: Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Arm) Force Sword [3]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Destructive Form) [1], Grip Mastery (Force Sword) [1]

    The Graceful Form

    Graceful Flyer 20 points
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX+1 [8], Flying Leap (H) IQ-2 [1], Force Sword (A) DX [2], Jumping (E) DX [1]
    Techniques: Feint (H) Acrobatics+3 [4], Flying Strike (H) Force Sword-1 [4]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Graceful Form) [1], Acrobatic Feints [1]

    Graceful Dancer 20 points
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX-1 [2], Force Sword (A) DX+1 [4], Jumping (E) DX [1], Precognitive Parry (H) DX [4]
    Techniques: Combat Art (H) Force Sword-1 [3], Spinning Attack (H) Force Sword [4]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Graceful Form) [1], Flourish [1]

    Art of the Blade

    Vibro-Brawler 20 points
    Skills: Brawling (E) DX+3 [8], Shortsword (A) DX+1 [4]
    Techniques: Bind Weapon (H) Shortsword (H) [4], Hammer Fist (A) Brawling [1] 
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Art of the Blade) [1], Technique Adaption (Binding to Shortsword) [1], Trademark Move (Display of Force) [1]

    Vibro-Storm 20 points
    Skills: Brawling (E) DX [1], Shortsword (A) DX+2 [8]
    Techniques: Counter Attack (H) Shortsword-2 [4], Dual Weapon Attack (H) Shortsword [5],
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Art of the Blade) [1], Off-Hand Weapon Training [1]

    Space Ninjutsu

    Shadow-Stance 20 points
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX-2 [1], Judo (H) DX [4], Karate (H) DX-2 [1], Savoir-Faire (Dojo) (E) IQ [1], Stealth (A) DX+1 [4]
    Techniques: Choke Hold (H) Judo [4], Disappear (H) Stealth-7 [4]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Space Ninjutsu) [1],

    Serpent-Stance 20 points
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX [4], Judo (H) DX-2 [1], Karate (H) DX [4], Savoir-Faire (Dojo) (E) IQ [1], Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]
    Techniques: Exotic Hand Strike (A) Karate [1], Sweep Kick (H) Karate-1 [3], Targeted Attack (Exotic Hand Strike/Neck) Karate-2 [4]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Space Ninjutsu) [1],

    Psionic Arts Power Packages

    A psionic power package is just enough to get a psionic talent, a 25-point power-package and 20 points in skills, much like our fighting styles above.  Some samples might be:

    The Visionary Path

    Ecstatic Oracle 50 points
    Advantages: ESP Talent +1 [5], Prognostication 2 [23]
    Skills: Expert Skill (Psionics) (H) IQ-2 [1], History (Future) (H) IQ-1 [2], Meditation (H) Will [4], Philosophy (The Visionary Way) (H) IQ-2 [1], Prognostication (H) IQ* [2], 
    Techniques: Deep Trance (H) Meditation-1 [4], Deep Time (H) Prognostication-1 [5]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Visionary Path) [1], Ecstatic Psi [1], Secret Technique (Deep Time) [1]

    Disciplined Oracle 50 points
    Advantages: ESP Talent +1 [5], Prognostication 2 [23]
    Skills: Expert Skill (Psionics) (H) IQ [4], History (Future) IQ-2 [1], Meditation (H) Will-2 [1], Philosophy (The Visionary Way) (H) IQ-2 [1], Prognostication (H) IQ* [2], 
    Techniques: Competitive Precog (H) Prognostication+4 [5], Directed (H) Prognostication-1 [5]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Visionary Path) [1], Exposition Sense [1], Psychobabble [1]


    Warrior's Self-Mastery 50 points
    Advantages: Psychic Healing Talent +1 [5], Metabolism Control 5 [23]
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX [4], Esoteric Medicine (H) IQ-2 [1], Meditation (H) Will-2 [1], Metabolism Control (H) HT* [2], Power-Blow (H) HT+1* [4]
    Techniques: Metabolic Speed (H) Metabolism Control-3 [6]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Prana-Bindu) [1], Attribute Substitution (Power-Blow to HT) [1], Secret Technique (Metabolic Speed) [1], Skill-Assisting Psi (Power-Blow) [1], 

    Ascetics's Self-Mastery 50 points
    Advantages: Psychic Healing Talent +1 [5], Metabolism Control 5 [23]
    Skills: Acrobatics (H) DX-2 [1], Esoteric Medicine (H) IQ [4], Meditation (H) Will+2 [12], Metabolism Control (H) HT-1* [1],
    Perks: Style Familiarity (Prana-Bindu) [1], Life Force [1], Inner Mastery [1], Stabilizing Skill (Phsychic Healing, Esoteric Medicine) [1]

    True Communion

    Way of the Philosopher 50 points
    Advantages: Communion 6 [25], Learned Prayer: Wisdom of Communion [5]
    Skills: Expert Skill (Psionics) (H) IQ-2 [1], Meditation (H) Will [4], Philosophy (H) IQ+1 [8], Hidden Lore (Communion) (H) IQ-2 [1]
    Techniques: Communion Heuristics (H) Philosophy-3 [4]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (True Communion) [1], Secret Technique (Communion Heuristics) [1],

    Way of the Mystic 50 points
    Advantages: Communion 6 [25], Learned Prayer: Psionic Focus [3]
    Skills: Expert Skill (Psionics) (H) IQ-1 [2], Meditation (H) Will+1 [8], Philosophy (H) IQ-1 [2], Hidden Lore (Communion) (H) IQ-1 [2]
    Techniques: Communion (H) Meditation+4 [5]
    Perks: Style Familiarity (True Communion) [1], Inner Mastery [1], Stabilizing Skill (Choose one psionic power; Meditation) [1]

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Deirdre Brooks, Bodhisattva of Education

    Dierdre Brooks worked very hard to earn her PhD (in Education, with a thesis on “Epistymology and Education: On knowing when something has been taught” and when something has been learned) and it launched her from the world of mere mortals into the magnificent world of academics, where she had always yearned to be. Only there, she discovered that she was locked in an endless wheel of dissertation, publication, argumentation and lecture. She realized that she learned nothing and knew nothing. So, she abandoned her lofty position and wandered the world.

    She studied in the secret laboratories beneath the Rocky Mountains she found data without context. She sought knowledge in the sacred libraries of the vatican and found only dust. She meditated with mystics in India and found empty babbling. She journeyed further east until she found her path blocked by endless ocean, and a single island, and upon the island, a deer. She sailed to the island and clambered the winding paths of its mountain, always following the strange deer. Finally, the deer stopped by a fountain in a cave, and bowed its head.

    “You may drink,” it said “But you will forever be burdened with wisdom.”
    Suddenly, all became clear: the context behind the data, the meaning of the dusty books, the truth in the babbling, and the purpose of the fountain. “I know what I came to know.” She said, and the deer became a kirin and bowed its head

    “Then you should teach me.”

    And thus, was Deirdre enlightened. Kirin became her student and offered the Estate of Education as her payment. Deirdre came back down from the mountain bearing a new great work: The Eightfold Path to Smarter Living: the Art of Self-Engagement, a wondrous treatise that laid out the steps necessary to improving ones life. But though the wisdom contained unparalleled wisdom, those who followed its precepts needed a teacher, and Deirdre became that teacher, for she had transcended her professorship and became something greater: a life-coach.

    Dierdre follows the Song of Light, and her flowers are the Vervain (the Key of Something Powerful) and the Alyssym (the Key of Destiny Fulfilled).

    Thursday, October 6, 2016

    Anti-Psi Styles

    In a world full of psionic powers, characters will seek to protect themselves from that power.  Mundane countermeasures (like Mind Block) exist and mundane characters will certainly seek to train themselves in its intricacies.  Anti-Psi characters will also seek to improve their talents, studying the art of anti-psi as deeply as psions study the arts of psi.

    I originally designed the following styles with non-psions in mind.  They focus mostly on Expert Skill (Psion), Meditation and Mind Block.  However, given that Anti-Psi characters need something to counterbalance powers like True Communion or Psionic Witchcraft, I've added some Anti-Psi and Broken Communion powers as well.  Treat these as examples.  There might be simpler, smaller mundane styles, or more baroque and sinister anti-psi styles.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2016

    Communion Styles

    Divine Favor can absolutely have its own traditions and cultures and techniques, and should!  Just as Catholicism has a different body of supernatural lore and power than Appalachian folk-religion, so too should Communion have a rich variety of worship and empowerment.

    Communion Style Familiarity

    Communion styles are just psionic styles with a greater focus on communion.  Treat them as the same, except they gain the following, should it be relevant:
    • You may acquire any non-secret learned prayer with earned points in play without having to seek instruction.
    Communion styles have a greater focus on skills and perks than on powers, as miracles rarely require skills outside of Meditation, Philosophy and Religious Ritual.  Even so, we gain "Learned Prayers" as style abilities, which characters may purchase the same way they could purchase "style skills and techniques."

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    Aeon-D Season 1: Episode 1

    Our Heroes:

    • Nichodemus Faust -- The Devil in a Suit
    • "Eddie" -- A mysterious, time-travelling gadgeteer
    • "Doc" -- A deeply christian healer with a floating rainbow cat
    • "Kurst" -- Totally not a wendigo, he promises.
    • Alexander Ini-Herit -- Philosophical brick

    Psionic Styles

    Psionic Styles focus primarily on exploring a few specific or interrelated concepts within the world of psionic powers.  Most should offer some kind of secret power or technique, or at least a few interesting perks, but their most important aspect is adding in cultural context.  Psionic styles say something about a setting.

    For building a psionic style, follow the guidelines in Thaumatological Styles:

    • Styles have Required Skills to learn, and might have Required Psionic Skills to learn.  Don't bother to list a power as a prerequisite: it's assumed when you include the skill.
    • Styles may have Additional Skills and Techniques which represent psionic skills and techniques that the character can learn as they wish.
    • Styles may have Perks.  A character may learn 1 perk for every 20 points invested into style-related skills and techniques but not powers.
    • Styles may have Secret Skills and Secret Techniques which represent lore available only to that school. Each has a perk associated with them, and must be learned at the feat of one of the style's masters.
    • Styles may have Optional Traits, which represent advantages, skills or techniques that a specific school of a style may or may not teach.

    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Building Psionic Styles

    Thaumatology: Magic Styles
    GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles is probably my favorite book out of the Thaumatology line (other than the core book itself, of course).  In addition to giving us more perks (I dearly love perks), Magical Styles take the cosmology-building of Magic and turns into the culture-building of specific applications.  We might devise a world of 4 elements, with magical colleges circling those four elements, but then we need to show what practitioners of those magics might be, and suddenly we have the vivid detail of the Fire Dancers of the Black Mountains.  It takes the generic and makes it specific.

    I want to do the same for Psi-Wars, and I want it for several reasons.  First, Star Wars emphasizes martial training, and it does so in a classic wuxia tradition of external vs internal.  The hot-headed jedi student wants to learn how to fight with a lightsaber (external arts) and how to blast people with lightning, but the master slows him down and demands patience and teaches him first to medidate and commune with the force (internal arts).  We've spent the last month or so discussing external styles.  Now, we can discuss internal styles.

    Moreover, players may well be at a loss as to how to build their characters, how to tie them into this vast and crazy world we're building. The addition of things like Paths helps that, but the players still need to grasp what it all means for them, specifically.  The Jedi Order and the Sith Order do that by providing cultural context. We need to do the same for Psi-Wars.  Perhaps we have an Oracular Order who has oracles who dedicate themselves to reading the future (and blind themselves to the mortal world) while they're guarded by warriors who have mastered Third Eye fighting techniques, and they work together to reshape the future of humanity.  Then, a player has a reason to choose ESP, a direction to take his Space Knight.  Or perhaps we have Death Cultists who worship the Path of Death and see Psychic Vampirism as a sacred communion with the Dead God's power.  Our "Sith" become these Death-Worshippers, cowled men with ghostly, white-bladed force swords who drain the life out of those around them with their terrifying power.  Context.

    But to make this work, we need to understand the components and pieces of our styles.  We need skills, perks, techniques and optional traits.  I've already defined most of these in a previous post, but we can always revisit and revise old ideas.  In particular, I lacked techniques, which was fine when we're only worried about what a skill does, but if we want to differentiate one school from another, we need greater definition.  Thus, in this post, I'll define further techniques and perks, either taken from other sources, or adjustments from said other sources to fit psionics and communion, or created whole-cloth to fit our assumptions in Psi-Wars.

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