Friday, June 15, 2018

Mystic Powers Part 1 – Groundwork

Today we begin working toward modeling mystical powers in GURPS. I will begin by reviewing a few key things from the last time I discussed mysticism, then begin digging into how it should behave. I’ll go through GURPS Powers to find rules that seem fitting and then pare them down to those that add flavor without increasing complexity past that of standard GURPS magic. This will culminate in a block of rules, talents, and modifiers that work together to provide a relatively simple and cohesive framework for mysticism in Starfall.

A Mystical Review

Mystical powers fall into one of seven categories:

Body Mastery. Mystics are capable of exerting extreme amounts of control over their own bodies’ functions. They are often supernaturally fast, strong, and fit, and capable of actively altering involuntary bodily functions. By meditating on their physical form, mystics develop the skills required to open their senses to the unseen world. This is usually the first step in becoming a mystic.

Projection. As mystics delve into what exactly comprises a person, they learn that the body and soul are not rigidly attached. In fact, one’s soul can be ejected from one’s body, changing the person’s sensory perspective and leaving the body a mindless shell. This is usually the mystic’s first step into the greater world. Those with highly developed projection powers can even project their souls into the Veil, or even the astral plane.

Perception. By projecting his soul, a mystic learns to control his soul and discovers the first shadows of an enormously powerful soul deep within himself – although “within” is not quite the correct word. As he concentrates on his soul, he first experiences Ananta, the world spirit and the true interconnected nature of all spirits and souls. By developing this connection, a mystic learns to perceive the world not only from his own perspective, but from that of anything within the world – including Ananta herself.

Dream Mastery. Often developed in tandem with powers of perception, a mystic’s ability to project into the Dream Plane is common, as well. The mystic may enter the Dreamlands through his own dreams or by projecting, but once there, he acts not as a dreamer, but as an observer and shaper of dreams. Some mystics learn to enter other people’s minds in this manner.

Fate Mastery. A common latent talent, the ability to bend the world to one’s will in minor ways – e.g., ensuring a coin always comes up heads, regularly rolling seven on a pair of dice, etc. – is a relatively trivial after once one is open to Ananta. If developed, this power can become a powerful tool in the hands of the mystic. He learns to manipulate the fate of himself and others, blessing and cursing those around him as he sees fit. Moreover, where some may hope for a lucky coincidence, such serendipity seeks out the mystic.

Telepathy. Once a mystic realizes the true interconnected nature of all life in the world and develops sufficient control over his own connection to Ananta, he can begin learning to enter the minds of other entities, creatures, and even people through that connection. He can see through the eyes of others, manipulate their thoughts – even possess them as a spirit might. This is among the most powerful powers available to a mystic, as he can attempt to bend anything to his will. As such, masters are often reticent to even teach it to pupils before they first prove their intentions.

Soul Mastery. Both a dark and light power, this is the most advanced set of abilities a mystic might learn. The closely guarded secret of manipulating a person’s soul is held by few masters and rarely taught to pupils. With such power, a mystic can mend spiritual wounds, cleanse a person’s soul of corruption, siphon away a person’s life force, or even steal his soul outright.

With that review out of the way, I will begin working through Powers from the beginning to see what sort of things I need to consider when creating these.

Source & Focus

Powers, p. 7

All of our powers stem from the same source – the interconnections of souls through Ananta. This is innate to the user meaning it will be difficult, if even possible, for other people to neutralize. Even denying this innate quality based on location a la low mana or low sanctity zones feels wrong.

But establishing and maintaining the level of connection necessary to access this source is arduous. It should require a significant amount of time meditating. I suppose Ananta could sever a person’s connection, but that would be like you cutting off your own finger. So that’s not really a good option unless a mystic is just that vile.

Each power already has a focus described above, so this doesn’t need to be addressed further.

Power Modifiers

Powers, p. 8, 20-29

This makes for a nice segue into power modifiers. Yes, we are skipping the initial look at abilities (p. 7-8 and 9-19) partly because source leads nicely into power modifiers, but more because we are building seven different powers, but only one power modifier. So let’s construct the Mystical modifier!

I’m going to go heading by heading to see which ones look appropriate, how they might work, and make a final decision on whether or not to include them. When all is done, I’ll put it all together to produce a fully worked power modifier.


We said previously that there are no active ways to cut a mystic off from his source, but there is a large class of foes who are immune to such powers by virtue of their nature. This suggests we should examine countermeasures closely.

Mundane Countermeasures. There are no common or ordinary items, materials, or places that can inhibit mystical powers, so this does not apply. This gives +0%.

Anti-Powers. There is no specialized technology that can disrupt mystical powers, but all demons are completely unaffected by mystical powers and some can even nullify them. The latter counts for -5%.

No Countermeasures. Mystical powers have a countermeasure, but in its absence, do they automatically win when opposed by magic or other powers? I’m going to say no. That would unbalance things a bit in favor of mysticism. This gives +0%.

Required Disadvantages

“Some powers stem from dedicated exercise, meditation, prayer, etc.”  – Powers, p. 21

That says it all right there. We definitely have something from this section, since we already said that our source requires extensive meditation to access.

Suggested Disadvantages. This section lists a lot of possibilities, but I’ll only pick out the ones that I think are the best candidates and discuss each. Disciplines of Faith has a few specializations, but immediately, we can rule out Monasticism, Mysticism, and Asceticism because they all involve spending most of your time not adventuring. And this is a game about sending paper men running down holes to kill monsters and take their stuff. Ritualism, while not quite the flavor I’m looking for, does have some promise. Further expanding my reading on what is offered in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1 – Adventurers and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 12 – Ninja for other ideas, Disciplines of Faith (Chi Rituals) comes very close to what I need – a way to sink free time into meditation. I’m not a huge fan of paying more for supplies, however. So I’ll create my own Disciplines of Faith called Meditative Reflection. This requires you spend 1d hours per day doing nothing but meditating quietly. It is worth [-5] as a disadvantage, which translates to -5% toward power modifier.

Required Behavior and Power Modifier. Failing to meditate should have consequences. If a mystic fails to meditate adequately for a day, he can take an entire day to do nothing but meditate and mend his connections. If he tries to use his powers before then, they crap out without warning. This is worth +0%.

In Dungeon Fantasy, delving time is generally divided into week increments for the sake of upkeep and such. This suggests that a delve rarely takes longer than a week, and indeed, unless a group is hex-crawling or in a super dungeon (Super Dungeons, GURPS Pyramid #3/50 – Dungeon Fantasy II, p. 20-26), they probably won’t spend an entire week of game time in a dungeon. So I’m comfortable suggesting that 1d days of meditation is enough to put a mystic out of commission for a week as penance. This is worth +0%.

Energies Channeled

Mystics do not channel energies, ambient or otherwise. None of the potential limitations mentioned here are applicable to Mysticism. These give +0%.

Other Factors

A few other factors should be considered before we write this up as a single power modifier.

Accessibility. Not all mystical abilities affect others. This precludes the use of such a limitation to represent the prohibition against affecting demons. Even if it could, this would be an “in place of” rather than an “in addition to” sort of limitation. So which one is applied is really just a technicality. This gives +0%.

Costs Fatigue. While I’m not 100% certain if mystics will have to spend FP on every power, I’m certain they don’t have to spend an additional FP on every power. This precludes including fatigue costs in the power modifier and gives +0%.

Nuisance Effect. These can be absolutely wonderful to work with, but since mysticism is intentionally a subtle power, nuisance effects really aren’t appropriate in this instance. This gives +0%.

Finalizing the Modifier

Totaling what we have above, we find our power modifier to be worth -10%. Demons can nullify a mystic’s powers and mystics must take Disciplines of Faith (Meditative Reflection) [-5], which requires 1d hours per day spent doing nothing but meditating. Failure to do so means the power will burn out without warning the next time it is used if a full day is not first taken to meditate. If the power burns out, it won’t work again without 1d days of meditation.

Power Talents

Powers, p. 8, 29
Next, we need to make some decisions about the power talent. For one, will one talent govern all of the powers or should we break this up by power. The former approach will result in something more akin to Chi Talent and produce generalists. The latter will promote specializing in specific powers. Another option is to wrap some additional benefits into the talents, such as skill bonuses, Power Defenses (Powers, p. 167-168), Talent as Resistance (Powers, p. 1668), etc. The lattermost option requires us to consider what sort of rules apply to mystical powers, but it is also potentially the more flavorful option. We will tentatively go with that!

So now we know we will have seven power talents – one for each power. These should be held down to a cost of 5 points per level to permit PCs to be good at more than just one power. I may also consider adding in bonuses to a skill or two for flavor and balance based on the number of abilities that require rolls. This cannot be determined until abilities are chosen, so tentatively, each talent will be given five possible skills it can benefit.
  • Body Awareness. Autohypnosis, Body Control, Body Sense, Breath Control, Esoteric Healing (Mystical).
  • Projection Talent. Body Sense, Exorcism, Kiai, Mental Strength, Push.
  • Mystic Perception. Blind Fighting, Body Language, Observation, Search, Sensitivity.
  • Dream Walking. Body Sense, Dreaming, Fortune-Telling (Dreams), Mind Block, Mental Strength.
  • Telepathic Talent. Detect Lies, Interrogation, Hypnotism, Mind Block, Psychology.
  • Oddsmaker. Finance, Gambling, Games, Sports, Zen Archer.
  • Soul Manipulation. Esoteric Healing (Mystical), Hidden Lore (Spirits & Undead), Pressure Points, Pressure Secrets, Theology.

Next Time...

...we will take a look at potential rules from Powers in Action (Powers, p. 152-178), and put together a set functional ruleset that should work alongside magic.

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