Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Possessions Under Control" and Magic

"Possessions Under Control" (PUC) is a nifty article from Pyramid v3 #83 that rewrote the rules for possessions and mind control. Instead of a one-time only quick contest, possessions became a series of rolls based on Technical Grappling's control points. Despite generally positive response on the forums, there's some oddities in the rules and I want to explore using the concepts of PUC with magic.

First, I'm going to present some suggested house rules for using PUC with GURPS Magic. Then, I'm going to do an example of play using the standard rules for mind control and possession, followed by the same scenario using PUC.

House Rules for Possession Magic

Control Person, Possession, Dispel Possession, Permanent Possession, Exchange Bodies, Loyalty, Charm, and Enslave are Possession spells for these rules.

All Possession spells have half their normal casting time, and when successfully cast, allow the caster to make Concentrate maneuvers while performing a mental grapple. The time spent in the mental grapple does not count against the spell duration, but the caster must make a Concentrate maneuver at least once per turn to continue the spell. If the caster does not, the spell lapses and the mental grapple fails.

Mental Grapples
Mental grapples follow the rules on p28 of PUC under the heading "Technical Possession." The attacker rolls against his effective skill in the spell (modified by casting time, gestures, target distance, etc) or technique and counts as having full bought up the Possession technique. He may use any other Possession based technique normally.

Most Possession spells use the Average or Meditation track for Trained Will.

Exorcisms
Dispel Possession is a form of Exorcism. It can only be used to remove a Possession and uses the Fast or Exorcism track for Trained Will.

Example of Play: Our Combatants

I'm using the stock Dungeon Fantasy templates from Adventurers and Henchmen. Anything that isn't mentioned below uses the standard template values, so Singeon (for example) has IQ 10. There are two teams: Singeon and Sir Albrect, versus Mad Donald and his guards.

Singeon is a standard Dungeon Fantasy Swashbuckler with Appearance (Handsome), Enhanced Parry 2 (Saber), Extra Attack, Two Weapon Fighting (Saber/Saber), ST +2,  Saber-20, Knife-Throwing-16. He carries 2 balanced, fine, weapon bonded sabers and wears Lightened 25%, Fortified +2 Heavy Leather Armor. He is, in short, a very offense focused DF swashbuckler.

Singeon's buddy Sir Albrecht is a standard Dungeon Fantasy Holy Warrior with Blessed (ST), Blessed (DX), DX +1, ST +1, Shield-Wall Training, Thrown Weapon (Axe)-17, Axe/Mace-21. He carries a Fine Large Shield, a fine, dwarven axe (with hammerhead and top spike), a Blessed Holy Symbol, and wears Lightened 25%, Fortified +2 Heavy Mail. He's a pretty typical DF Holy Warrior.

Their enemy is Mad Donald, a standard Dungeon Fantasy Wizard with IQ +1, Energy Reserve +3, and various mind control spells, most importantly Enslave-16. He carries a bejeweled quarterstaff with the Staff spell (it's worth $25,000 and is a 25 point Power Item) and wears Fine, Lightened 50%, Fortified +3 Heavy Leather Armor.

Mad Donald's guardsmen are 3 Guards with HP +1, Striking ST +1, Sacrificial Block, Sacrificial Parry, Shield Wall Training, Broadsword-13, Shield-12. They carrying Large Shields and Broadswords and wearing Lightened 25%, Fortified +1 Mail.

Example of Play: Standard Rules

Singeon and Sir Albrect encounter Mad Donald and his guards in a 10' wide corridor. The guards form a shield wall with Mad Donald 2 yards behind them. Singeon and Sir Albrect start 10 yards away.

Round 1
On his turn, Singeon runs forward 7 yards. Sir Albrecht follows and runs 4 yards. The guards take All-Out Defense (Block) maneuvers but don't move. Mad Donald steps forward and takes an All-Out Defense (Dodge).

Round 2
Singeon wants that staff! He makes a Move and Attack to close with the shield wall and attacks a guard, rolling a 9 versus Saber capped at 9. The guard blocks with a 10, rolling against a 14. Sir Albrecht also chooses to Move and Attack, slipping past Singeon to shield rush the same guard with a -1 deceptive attack: he rolls a 7 against a 15. The guard's neighbor takes advantage of Shield-Wall Training to block for him and also rolls a 7, blocking easily.

Mad Donald is now 2 yards away from Singeon, and thinks that a skilled swashbuckler would make a great minion. He swings his staff forward and casts Enslave, rolling a 9 versus a 16 (no distance penalty thanks to his Staff spell) and succeeding by 7. Singeon resists and uses his Luck, rolling a 9, an 11, and a 13: success by 1 is not enough to beat Mad Donald, and now follows Mad Donald's commands. The guards continue to All-Out Defend (Block).

Round 3
Singeon does what Mad Donald wants, and Mad Donald wants Sir Albrecht dead. Singeon is already behind Sir Albrecht, so he uses an Attack maneuver to make three telegraphed attacks against Sir Albrecht's. He rolls 12 three times, easily succeeding against a net 21, and does 2d+4 cu versus DR7, for 12, 6, and 0 injury. Sir Albrecht isn't dead immediately, but he's in really bad shape.

Notes
This was not exactly the most engaging combat ever, was it?

Example of Play: Possessions Under Control

Singeon and Sir Albrect encounter Mad Donald and his guards in a 10' wide corridor. The guards form a shield wall with Mad Donald 2 yards behind them. Singeon and Sir Albrect start 10 yards away.

Round 1
On his turn, Singeon runs forward 7 yards. Sir Albrecht follows and runs 4 yards. The guards take All-Out Defense (Block) maneuvers but don't move. Mad Donald steps forward and takes an All-Out Defense (Dodge).

Round 2
Singeon wants that staff! He makes a Move and Attack to close with the shield wall and attacks a guard, rolling a 9 versus Saber capped at 9. The guard blocks with a 10, rolling against a 14. Sir Albrecht also chooses to Move and Attack, slipping past Singeon to shield rush the same guard with a -1 deceptive attack: he rolls a 7 against a 15. The guard's neighbor takes advantage of Shield-Wall Training to block for him and also rolls a 7, blocking easily.

Mad Donald is now 2 yards away from Singeon, and thinks that a skilled swashbuckler would make a great minion. He swings his staff forward, chooses to prioritize the mental struggle, and casts Enslave, rolling a 9 versus a 16 (no distance penalty thanks to his Staff spell) and succeeding by 7 and then steps back. Singeon attempts a mental parry using Trained Will and rolls a 9 versus a target of 8; he fails and Mad Donald inflicts 1d+2 MCP or 5 MCP. Singeon is now at -2 to IQ, DX, Per, and Will. The guards continue to All-Out Block.

Round 3
Singeon shouts "He's in my head!" He knows he's going to eventually lose this struggle, but he can fight back physically if he can just get through to Mad Donald. He elects to prioritize physical activity and makes a Committed (Determined) attack and chooses to make two steps for a -2 on attack rolls. First, he steps into a guard's hex and Acrobatically Evades: he's at a net -7, and uses Luck to roll 12, 9, and 16 for a success by 0. The guard rolls a 12 and fails by 1, so Singeon gets past him and steps again to get within reach of Mad Donald. Singeon slashes 3 times for Mad Donald's face, rolling against a 15: 11, 15, and 6 are all hits. Mad Donald retreats and dodges the first blow and retreats and performs a dual weapon parry against the dual weapon attack, but with a -4 this will be hard: he rolls a 12 against the dodge and a 5 for the parry, so he takes a sword blow to the face for 7 injury. That's a major wound, and he rolls HT-5 to avoid stunning: a 15 fails so badly that he falls unconscious and releases his mental grip on Singeon.

Sir Albrecht had been about to use his Blessed ability to perform an exorcism, but he thinks Singeon has it under control. He steps back and grimly begins beating up Mad Donald's guards.

Notes
That was not exactly a titanic struggle, but it was a little more interesting and could have easily gone differently. PUC makes mind control a slower and less certain process, which is probably a good thing: mind control is very powerful, and it shouldn't be a single roll to decide the outcome.

In Review

I like Possessions Under Control, but I'm really dubious of the rule that possession attacks and defenses are distracting and require focus. It effectively means that even not very successful possession attacks stun the target. I think I'm going to abolish that rule, and now I want to see how the combat would play out without it.

Example of Play: Possessions Under Control with a House Rule

Singeon and Sir Albrect encounter Mad Donald and his guards in a 10' wide corridor. The guards form a shield wall with Mad Donald 2 yards behind them. Singeon and Sir Albrect start 10 yards away.

Round 1
On his turn, Singeon runs forward 7 yards. Sir Albrecht follows and runs 4 yards. The guards take All-Out Defense (Block) maneuvers but don't move. Mad Donald steps forward and takes an All-Out Defense (Dodge).

Round 2
Singeon wants that staff! He makes a Move and Attack to close with the shield wall and attacks a guard, rolling a 9 versus Saber capped at 9. The guard blocks with a 10, rolling against a 14. Sir Albrecht also chooses to Move and Attack, slipping past Singeon to shield rush the same guard with a -1 deceptive attack: he rolls a 7 against a 15. The guard's neighbor takes advantage of Shield-Wall Training to block for him and also rolls a 7, blocking easily.

Mad Donald is now 2 yards away from Singeon, and thinks that a skilled swashbuckler would make a great minion. He swings his staff forward, casts Enslave, rolling a 9 versus a 16 (no distance penalty thanks to his Staff spell), and then steps back. Singeon attempts a mental parry using Trained Will and rolls a 9 versus a target of 8; he fails and Mad Donald inflicts 1d+2 MCP or 5 MCP. Singeon is now at -2 to IQ, DX, Per, and Will. The guards continue to All-Out Block.

Round 3
Singeon shouts "He's in my head!" He knows he's going to eventually lose this struggle, but he can fight back physically if he can just get through to Mad Donald. He makes a Committed (Determined) attack and chooses to make two steps for a -2 on attack rolls. First, he steps into a guard's hex and Acrobatically Evades: he's at a net -7, and uses Luck to roll 12, 9, and 16 for a success by 0. The guard rolls a 12 and fails by 1, so Singeon gets past him and steps again to get within reach of Mad Donald. Singeon slashes 3 times for Mad Donald's face, rolling against a 15: 11, 15, and 6 are all hits. Mad Donald retreats and dodges the first blow and retreats and performs a dual weapon parry against the dual weapon attack: he rolls a 12 against the dodge and a 5 for the parry, so he avoids everything.

Sir Albrecht chooses to Exorcise Mad Donald, and rolls Exorcism (at -2 for distance and +1 for his Holy Symbol), succeeding with a 13. Mad Donald parries with Enslave, rolling an 11 and cancelling the attack.

Mad Donald steps back and sustains his Enslave attempt, attacking Singeon again with a 15, while Singeon mentally parries with a 6, somehow successfully defending! One of the guards takes a Move maneuver to reposition himself next to Mad Donald, while another Waits to step into Sir Albrecht's way, and the third makes an attack maneuver. He drops his sword, turns around and steps into Singeon's hex, and grabs him with a telegraphed Wrestling attack: a 9 is sufficient to grab Singeon, and Singeon cannot defend since his back was to the guard.

Round 4
Singeon is in trouble, but when has that ever stopped a swashbuckler? He performs an All-Out Attack (Double). First he uses an attack to Break Free, rolling a 9 against the guard's 12, and slips out of the grapple. He moves up to Mad Donald and launches three attacks to the face, rolling 11, 12, and 10 against a 15. The guard next to Mad Donald performs a sacrificial block and parry, rolling a 10 and an 11, and intercepts one of them. Mad Donald dodges the other two while retreating, rolling a 10 and a 7, dodging both.

Sir Albrecht steps closer to Singeon (and ends up in the same hex as the guard trying to intercept his movement) and tries another exorcism. He rolls an 8 and succeeds easily, and Mad Donald attempts a parry with a 13 against an 11, failing. Sir Albrecht rolls 1d for MCP, getting a 6 and breaking Singeon free of Mad Donald's grip!

From this point, the fight is mostly over: Mad Donald doesn't have enough energy to try another Enslave, and Singeon and Sir Albrecht can deal with some guards in a few seconds.

Final Evaluation

I think these rules can work and make for interesting combats in the mind. I do think getting rid of the distraction rules really helps, but other people might have a different opinion.

3 comments:

  1. I need to check out PUC, I think.

    Isn't Enslave an odd choice? It is permanent and costs 30 to cast. Charm is probably better. For 30 energy it better do more than inflict partial control. Or did PUC change the cost?

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    Replies
    1. Enslave has a 1 second casting time, which means the mind controller spends less time within a couple of yards of the swashbuckler muttering to himself.

      PUC, as written, doesn't address Magic at all, which is why I'm trying to figure out how PUC and Magic should interact.

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    2. Yeah, but 30 points . . . it's a horribly risky use of 30 points even if it's total success. I'd never cast it in a fight. Better to up Charm until it's 1 second!

      I like the idea of PUC at a glance, but if a spell goes from a success/failure dynamic to a partial success/failure dynamic, it needs to get cheaper and/or faster. Otherwise, it's just being weakened in the guise of making it more interesting.

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