Thursday, February 12, 2015

Status, followers, and magic items in Epic Fantasy games

I'm still pondering how to run an Exalted inspired game in GURPS. There was a bunch of stuff that I glossed over in my original notes, and I'm going to come back and put down some more detail on them.

Social Traits

In the initial character creation notes, I wrote "another 50 points must be spent on Influence skills and mundane, social related abilities like Attractiveness, Social Regard, or Status." So what specifically can and can't those points be spent on?
  • Allies. Since Allies are very efficient in high point games, no more than 20 of those points can be spent on Allies, no Ally can be at 100% or more, and only 1 ally can be built at 75% or 50%. Everyone should be able to have a flying mount or something, but most Allies should be less spectacular. Templates that already have access to Allies out of their discretionary advantages still have access to them normally, so a druid can have a 100% Ally.
  • Charisma, Claim to Hospitality, Favor, Languages, and Social Regard. These work as written. I need to come up with a short list of useful languages, but a variation of the D&D ones probably works: Abyssal, Ancient Common (old tomes), Celestial, Common, Draconic, Dwarven (includes gnomes), Goblinish (includes orcs, giants, etc), and Sylvan (includes Elves and Faeries). Should the Elder Things have a language that other people can learn?
  • Contacts. I think Contacts as written are overpriced, and the easiest solution is to say that a Contact has a wildcard professional skill (like Mafioso!, Banker!, or Lab Technician!) at the normal price for a Contact.
  • Contact Group. Since Contacts already provide wildcard skills, Contact Groups become geographic networks of Contacts. Instead of having a Contact who lives in one place, a character with a Contact Group can always get in touch with their Contact.
  • Courtesy Rank, Rank, Status, and Wealth. These are highly revised and extended below.
  • Influence and military skills: Acting, Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, Intelligence Analysis, Interrogation, Intimidation, Leadership, Public Speaking, Savoir-Faire, Sex Appeal, and Strategy.
Legal Enforcement Powers, Legal Immunity, Security Clearance, and Tenure are still not available.

Rank, Status, and Wealth

Steve Jackson had a real innovation when he decided to let characters purchase wealth and authority as defined traits. Unfortunately, the mechanics for those traits have never worked well, and eventually led to oddities like the Emperor of Rome (Status 8) also needing to buy Military, Religious, and Bureaucratic Rank 8 in order to command the hierarchies that were inherent in his authority as Emperor. Which then raised the question of what exactly did those 40 points in Status represent?

Whatever the answer to that question is, my point is that the integration of Status, Wealth, and Rank is confusing and difficult for almost all games, and I want something simpler for this kind of game. But I also want people to be the Archbishop of Sord or the King of Rentir or Grandmaster of the Forestry Guilds and have it mean something. Without it also meaning that they have so much Wealth that they can buy their way out of every problem.

Status becomes a leveled 5 point advantage that includes the rank and wealth necessary to support the position. It provides authority over a number of people, 1% of which can assumed to be 62 point Guards or Cultists (from DF15: Henchmen) and another 2% can assumed to be 32 point downgraded versions of Laborers, Servants, or Torchbearers (DF15 again). 0.1% of the people are available as 125 point Henchmen and 0.5% of the people are available at 62 pt Laborers, Servants, or Torchbearers. All these hirelings have Loyalty 12 and are available for adventuring work (assume the same number of people or more are at home, keeping the place running as standing armies and permanent bureaucracies).

The effects of Status are summed up in the table below:

StatusCostAuthorityGuards/
Cultists
ServantsHenchmenExamples
15300360Squire, Vicar, Guild Master
210120010201Knight, Abbot, Guild Councillor
315600040804Lord, Lord Abbot, Guild President
42030,00016030016Earl, Bishop, Guild Grandmaster
525120,00045090045Duke, Archbishop
630600,00015003000150Archduke, Pontiff
7353,000,00030006000300King
84012,000,00012000240001200Emperor

Status can be bought with the -20% Disloyal limitation, in which case the Hirelings have Loyalty 9, or the -40% Treacherous limitation, with Loyalty 6. On the positive side, the +20% Zealous enhancement gives Loyalty 15.

No one is allowed to buy Wealth. Everyone has $200,000 in starting funds, and additional money for equipment can be bought at $100,000 per CP. Status provides sufficient money for Cost of Living, including inns and support cost for whatever army of hirelings is coming along.

Henchmen have $2000 in equipment, guards and cultists have $1000 in equipment, and servants have $500 in equipment.

Note that routinely traveling with more than 40 guards and 80 servants (Status 3) is likely to cause diplomatic difficulties. A king might have 3000 guards available as an expeditionary force, but if he actually travels with them into the next kingdom, the neighboring king is going to see it as a small invasion.

Courtesy Rank is a Perk, and lets you style yourself as whatever you please: a character may be a Status 3 Lord but titled the King of Grand Fenwick. Alternately, Limited Title is a Quirk, and means that a character's title is lower than their Status: the Lord D'Orleans might effectively be a Status 6 Archduke, but he gets seated at the royal ball with all the other barons.

Magic Items

I've written how I don't like the pricing of magic items in GURPS. However, magic items are part of the fantasy game experience.

I'm currently leaning towards giving everyone a separate pool of 100 CP that can only be spent on Advantages, with the note that those Advantages are provided by magic items. It may not be fair or make a lot of sense, but it puts
everyone on the same page as far as their magical equipment goes. I'd probably further insist that magic items provide "You Must Be This Tall to Ride" type abilities, not further vertical enhancement of a template's abilities.

So magic items should be things like
  • 360 Degree or Peripheral Vision
  • Clinging, Flight, Super Jump, or Walk on Air
  • Dark Vision, Infravision, or Vibration Sense
  • Doesn't Breath, Doesn't Eat, or Doesn't Sleep
  • Resistance or Immunity to Hazards
Having some points devoted to Affliction, Binding, Extra Attack, Innate Attack or Damage Resistance is probably appropriate, but it shouldn't be the focus of the magic items.

Gadget Limitations

Under the hood, all magic items are gadgets with the Unique [-25%] and Difficult to Repair [-15%] limitations.  They also have -40% worth of limitations in the Durability, Size, and Can Be Stolen categories. Some standard categories:
  • Armor: DR 6-15 [-10%], SM -1 [-20%], Thief must remove forcefully [-10%]
  • Weapons: DR 6-15 [-10%], SM -3 or SM -4 [-15%], Thief must win quick contest and item must be attuned [-15%]
  • Jewelry: DR 3-5 [-15%], SM -7 or SM -8 [-5%], Thief must use trickery [-20%]
These gadget limitations do not in any way effect the amount of CP that can be spent on magic items. Everyone gets 100 CP worth of magical effects, and can't buy more with their starting points or use additional gadget limitations to get more bang from their magical item budget.

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