Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Mystical Powers?

As we will get to, there are a few types of supernatural powers in Starfall. These are largely self-explanatory, but I’ll go over them briefly just to be thorough.

Magic. There are two types of magic in Starfall – natural magic and black magic. The former is your typical wizardly magic and the latter is a corrupting kind of magic that is powerful and easy to use.

Miracles. Sometimes spirits and deities perform miracles on behalf of the devout. This is not magic, although sometimes magical ability is gifted to mortals as a miracle.

Mysticism. This is a mix of typical chi powers and psi powers. They are blended together and all result from a person’s connection to Ananta. This is what I will discuss further today in preparation for developing mechanics for it.

With that summarized, I can hear you nodding along for the first two and then saying, “What?!” You might wonder why I don’t just use chi or psi or both. I have my reasons, and I’ll get to them presently.

Why No Chi Powers?

 I have never been a fan of mixing faux Eastern fantasy with my faux medieval European fantasy. I find it jarring that there are a bunch of knights and yeomen and swashbucklers and a pseudo-Buddhist monk?! Where’d he come from? “Far away?” Well, how’d he get here? And why? And why doesn’t anyone blink when they see him? I’m confused! Aaaaagh!

So to avoid such things, I prefer to either stay in the genre of faux Eastern fantasy or faux medieval European fantasy. And how do I do this? By canning faux Eastern fantasy tropes like monks and ninjas and chi and wuxia!

Why No Psi Powers?

Again, this is a personal taste. To me, psychic powers fall into one of two categories: pseudo-magic-that-isn’t-magic and pseudoscience science fiction powers. In the first case, why do I need yet another kind of magic? I already have actual magic and gods doing magic-like things. What’s the point of having a third? The second? Well, I don’t want science fiction romping around my fantasy!

So again, to keep the “supernatural space” as uncluttered as possible and to keep my fiction genres in their own corners, I nix psychic powers.

So Why Mystic Powers?

“So you just said you don’t want to muddle up your supernatural powers with more kinds of magic, and you don’t want pseudo-Asian tropes like samurai, monks, and ninjas in your game? Then why are you inserting some new-age-sounding theosophical spirit-quest stuff?!”

Well, despite what I said above, I do acknowledge that some players will want to do the sorts of things that psychics and ninjas do. I also have to admit that I do like those sorts of things myself, even if I don’t like them in my faux medieval European fantasy. And on top of all of this, mystical powers seem to flow quite naturally from the cosmology and eschatology I’ve already established. So with this in mind, I don’t think I’ll have any issues with including it, as long as it doesn’t crowd the supernatural scene.

The easiest way to do this, I think, requires two things: making mysticism feel different than magic or miracles and taking careful note of the scope of the various supernatural powers. The first will be done through a combination of fluff and mechanics. The latter requires a little deeper look at what powers can do.

What Can They Do?

Mysticism is pretty focused. It cannot affect demons, and it isn’t flashy. It deals with things like ESP, telepathy, possession, and bodily control. It doesn’t do stuff like creating objects, throwing things around, making fireballs, flying, etc. This makes it relatively subtle as supernatural powers go, but it is also reliable. Mystical powers are intrinsic to the individual and cannot be readily stripped short of severing a person’s connection to the collective soul. So mechanically, I’d like mystical powers to just work, but they will require special training in the form of time spent meditating. Moreover, they will specifically focus on what they do – affect the mind, body and soul.

Quite the opposite of mysticism, magic is very broad and tends toward the flashy. It isn’t particularly reliable, unless you dabble in black magic and that carries its own price. Magic can be countered, and it requires skill rolls to work. That’s all pretty good since it keeps mysticism and magic mechanically and functionally different. But what about scope? Magic in its current state is quite broad. Sure, it doesn’t do healing, but it does do everything else. One approach would be to further restrict magic so that it doesn’t affect people’s minds or bodies directly, but too many such spells are iconic going back even to fairy tales and folklore. No, I think we will have to stress that while magic can do anything, mysticism does what it does exceedingly well.

Additionally, we have miracles. These can result in just about any effect, just like magic, except they can heal, too. Still, miracles tend to be helpful, buffs, or otherwise avert disaster. They are flashy, but not in the way that a fireball is. Instead, a door happens to be unlocked when it needs to be or a basket of food never runs out. It does require skill rolls, and it is much easier to be cut off from the source of miracles – your god can’t reach you or just doesn’t feel like it. Again, I don’t think miracles actually do what mysticism does, even if it technically can. It is more genuine and far less coercive.

What Does It Mean?

This means that mysticism is a good fit for Starfall. It doesn’t step on the toes of other supernatural powers any more than they already step on each other’s toes. Furthermore, it lets players access tropes I normally would disallow for aesthetic reasons.

What's Next?

Next time, we will being a full worked example of how to use GURPS to create fully-wrought powers with a mind toward game play. I'll begin laying the mechanical groundwork for fully working out mystical powers in GURPS. This will make heavy use of GURPS Powers, and as I go through it, possibly GURPS Power-Ups 4 - Enhancements. By the time we are through, we should have a full set of powers that represent the capabilities available to mystics in Starfall.

This will take several posts, so I may update this or another post to provide an index of links.

No comments :

Post a Comment