Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Enchantment Through Deeds

So the New Dawn campaign starts Thursday. It's going to have a couple of new players, and that accidentally exposed some issues with GURPS Enchantment that bothered me.

The Benefits and Problems of Named Possessions

GURPS Fantasy came up with the idea of Named Possessions: for the cost of a Perk, one of your PC's Signature Items could freely earn enchantments as the PC earned CP. In a long-running campaign, this is an amazing perk: 50 CP is worth 750 energy points of enchantments, which is 2-3 decent enchantments. Conceptually, it's neat that as your PC grows from zero to hero, his favorite weapon or armor grows with him.

Named Possessions have a lot of problems. First off, the equipment needs to be Fine and Signature Gear, which means it's easier to have Named Hand Axes ($500 and 1 CP for Signature Gear in most Fantasy games) than Named Two-Handed Swords ($3600 and 10 CP for Signature Gear in most Fantasy games) and nearly impossible to have Named armor (because Fine armor starts at $2000 and goes up quickly). Second, a PC gets the most benefit from having a Named Possession at the game - if a new player starts to admire a more experienced player's Named Possession 10 sessions in and buys the Perk then, the new player's Named Possession has 375 energy at the time the experienced player's has 3750. Finally, Named Possessions discourage upgrading your weapon: if you have 3000 energy of free enchantment's on your named Balanced Longbow, then getting a Fine Balanced Elven Composite Bow as a reward from the Faerie princess might be a step backwards because you lose all those enchantments.

On balance, Named Possessions are probably more trouble than they're worth. But the concept is neat, doubly so because it means that a non-magical fighting type can get a powerful magical weapon without having to be nice to a wizard so the wizard will enchant it for him. I like the idea that non-magical fighter types can get by without wizards, so I want to preserve that concept. The following rules try to preserve the good parts of Named Possessions and reduce the bad parts.

Enchantment Through Deeds

Each PC has several pools of Deed Points that normally start at 0 (in a high power game, the GM might start them at some other level). Deed Points stay with a PC and can be applied as CP to buy Advantages, Perks, and Skills for specific pieces of equipment. After Deed Points have been applied to a specific piece of equipment, they stay with that equipment but are still available (subject to some restrictions) for applying to other pieces of equipment.

Deed Pools

Normally, a PC has three Deed Pools: Weapons, Armor, and Miscellaneous.

Earning Deed Points

There are lots of ways to earn Deed Points. The general rule is to do stuff, and then to do awesome stuff on top of that:
  • A PC earns 3 Deed Points (1 Weapon, 1 Armor, and one that can be applied to any pool) for every significant fight they're in.
  • A PC earns Deed Points for doing significant non-combat activities (sneaking into a fortress to open the gates, negotiating an alliance with the minotaurs, finding the Lost Orb of Phantasma). The GM will specify the amount and which pools the Deed Points apply to.
  • A PC earns a Weapon Deed Point for defeating a foe in a memorable manner (massive damage, an arrow to the eye, a really impressive critical hit, picking up the foe and throwing them out a window).
  • A PC earns a Deed Point for surviving an impressive set of attacks (Actively Defending against 4 or more skilled foes in a single turn, dodging multitple lows from a giant that can disable the PC in a single hit)
  • In Mass Combat, a PC earns a Deed point for being involved in the battle, and another for any Significant Actions by the PC. If the Significant Actions don't break into a Detailed Action, the PC earns another 3 Deed Points.

Spending Deed Points

Deed Points can be spent to enhance equipment, including the PC's body, by buying Advantages, Perks, and Skills. Once spent, Deed Points cannot be changed.
  • Weapon Deed Points can be spent freely between the PC's equipment and the PC's body.
  • No more half the Deed Points in the Armor and Miscellaneous pools can be spent on the PC's body.

No Advantage, Perk, or Skill comes into effect until the PC has spent at least 10 Deed Points on that piece of equipment. Weapon, Armor, and Miscellaneous Deed Points applied to the body count separately for activation purposes.

Each Deed Point buys 1 CP worth of Advantages, Perks, or Skills.
  • Extra skill for equipment costs a flat 4 points per level of bonus and only applies when using that piece of equipment.
  • Imbuement skills can be bought for the item, and in addition to the Imbuement advantage, the individual Imbuement skills cost 4 points for level 12 and 4 points for each additional level. Item Imbuement's are always independent of the user's abilities, though the user has to pay the Fatigue costs unless the item has an Energy Reserve.

Changing Equipment

The first time a piece of Deeded Equipment is passed on to someone else (voluntarily or involuntarily), it immediately loses 10 Deed Points worth of enhancements. If that leaves it with less than 10 Deed Points, it no longer has any active Enhancements. Killing the owned of a Deeded item does not strip the item of existing Deed Points, beyond losing the usual 10. If the original owner of a Deeded Item recovers it, it immediately recovers the lost 10 Deed Points and the owner may spend any additional earned Deed Points on it.

If a PC picks up a new piece of equipment, they may immediately use any active Deed enhancements. After earning another 5 Deed Points with that piece of equipment, the PC may spend their full Deed pool on the new equipment.

Example: John has 20 Deed Points in his sword. He fights the Sanguine Count, who has 45 Deed Points in its spear. John claims the spear as his new weapon and can use its 35 Deed Points, and gives his sword to his squire, who can use its 10 Deed Points. After John earns 5 more Deed Points with the spear, he can spend all 25 of his Weapon Deed points on it. If after earning another 10 Deed Points with the spear, he loses it to a rust monster and has to start again with an ax, he'll have to earn 5 more Deed Points before enhancing the ax with his 40 Weapon Deed points. If his squire dies and he gets his original sword back, the sword goes back to having 20 Deed Points and John can spend another 20 Deed Points on it (he has earned 20 Weapon Deed Points since giving up the Sword).

Upgrading Equipment

Upgrading equipment (by making it Balanced, Fine, or whatever) does not change the amount of Deed Points in the equipment. Armor with Deed Points can be upgraded piecemeal, as long as at least 55% of the armor coverage stays the same and 5 Armor Deed Points are earned and applied between upgrades.

Example: John's career starts with him wearing a mail shirt, leather pants, and a pot helm. After earning 10 Armor Deed Points, his armor is magical. John replaces the leather pants with plate greaves. The enhancement stays. After earning 5 more Armor Deed Points, John replaces the pot helm with an Orichalcum helm and the enchantment stays. He then also replaces the mail shirt with plate harness, but since that changes more than 45% of the coverage, the enchantment moves with the shirt and his new plate harness is not enhanced (and the mail shirt loses 10 Deed Points and also becomes unenhanced). If John then earns another 10 Armor Deed Points, he can spend all 20 Armor Deed Points on his plate harness.

Sample Items

  • Bracers of Force (12 Deed Points) - These DR 6 metal arm guards project a minor forcefield, protecting the wearer from harm. DR +2 (Force Field +20%) [12]. 7 lbs. 
  • Hammer of the Forge God (50 Deed Points) - This minor artifact destroys inanimate objects and makes the wielder a better smith. Smithing Talent +4 [20], Crushing Innate Attack 20 (Melee Reach 1 No Parry Follow-up -30%; Accessibility: Inanimate Objects Only -40) [30]. Treat as a Fine Mace in melee combat. 5 lbs.
  • Ever-Distant Bow (36 Deed Points) - This bow shoots at long distances incredibly well, though it can be very fatiguing to use. Imbue 2 (2 skills only -60%) [8], Imbuement Talent 2 [10], Guided Weapon (Bow)-14 [4], Far-Shot (Bow)-14 [4], Energy Reserve 4 [12].


I've tried to make this system as simple as possible, but I'm not sure I've succeeded. My concerns are:
  • Record keeping for keeping track of the Deed Points available to the PC and the Deed Points invested in an item (especially for items that have had multiple owners). Hopefully limited the new owner charge to a 1 time deal will minimize this.
  • Keeping track of when PCs earn Deed Points. It's mostly Rule of Cool plus some simple static guidelines, so hopefully everyone will keep track, but I suspect people will forget. I don't have a good solution for this.
  • Whining about whether something counts as Cool enough to earn a Deed point is potentially a problem. My theory is it that it has to be memorable: it's not enough to get a critical hit, it's got to be a critical hit to the head that takes someone out or something like that
  • Favoritism towards certain builds. Hulking warriors and eagle-eyed elf scouts are much more likely to get one shot kills than weedy kobold thieves. To some extent, the requirement that actions be memorable will mitigate against this: the elf's 3rd eyeshot in the same fight isn't memorable, while the one time the thief backstabbed that guy to the neck is memorable. 
  • Power level: things could get out of hand quick, with everyone earning 10+ Deed Points per session and getting new and wonderful items regularly while handing off reasonably potent stuff to their allies. If it looks like people are trying to game the system to an unreasonable extent by changing to identical equipment to power it up and pass it on to allies, then I'll have to take steps but I hope/expect it won't be a problem.

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