Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mystic Powers Part 3 - Choosing Abilities

Today, we continue our journey by selecting abilities for our powers. I will be going step by step through Choosing Abilities (GURPS Powers, p. 9-14) for each power, so I can show why I’m picking the abilities I am and how they fit into the power as a whole. This also lets me consider how I might apply different rules we decided on last time to abilities, as the need arises.

Note: When I started this process, I originally intended to post all seven abilities, but after breaking 2,500 words, I thought it might be best to split this into two posts to lessen the Wall-o-Text effect this will inevitably have. So this week, we will address Body Master, Projection, and Perception powers, and next week, we’ll jump right into Dream Mastery, Fate Mastery, Telepathy, and Soul Mastery.

Another Note: I have created an Index Post for easy reference to this series. If the series sees enough popularity, it might get its own page, but as of now, there really just isn’t the demand.

Body Mastery

Body Mastery, as one might expect, is all about exerting complete control over the physical form. This isn’t so much about generating flashy effects, although some of the physical feats enabled by this power are definitely flashy. Instead, Body Mastery is about enhancing what the user can do – run faster, lift more, resist diseases, survive physical damage, etc. In essence, the user becomes tougher, faster, and stronger.

This means that attack abilities really do not befit Body Mastery, but defensive ones most certainly do. These either obstruct or divert physical attacks; both are extremely suitable for the martial arts aspect of mysticism. Movement abilities are also very fitting, so long as they represent enhanced mundane movement and not supernatural transport like flight or teleportation. Mental abilities do not fit this power because Body Mastery, as the name suggests, is all about the physical body, not the mind. Lastly, physical transformations don’t fit this power at all. So let’s see what sorts of suggestions this gives us:

Attack Abilities

Body Mastery is about knowledge of and control over one’s body. This doesn’t necessarily extend to other people’s bodies, so attacks don’t really fit in this power. That isn’t to say other abilities don’t make a mystic better at attacking – just that this power isn’t about offense.

Defensive Abilities

Damage Resistance can represent a lot of things. With Thick Skin (40%), it is training and a thick hide. Adding Force Field (+20%), Semi-Ablative (-40%), or Ablative (-80%) can represent supernatural toughness or the ability to deflect physical attacks; while adding Limited, Mystical Abilities (-20%) can represent the deflection of mystical energies. In all cases, No Signature (+20%) makes this added protection unnoticeable to observers.

Resistance is also fitting for this ability, as long as it is against physical effects. I could see this going as far as offering Resistant to Metabolic Hazards, but lesser forms for Disease, Poison, Sickness, Knockback, etc. are all just as reasonable. I’m not sure this power should be the one to offer Resistant to Mystical Abilities, though; I think I’ll save that for Soul Mastery.

A wide range of specific defenses also befit this power. Pretty much anything that prevents injury or physical detriments is fair game. This includes High Pain Threshold, Pressure Support; Protected Sense, Reduced Consumption; Sealed, and Universal Digestion.

Movement Abilities

Most movement abilities in this power focus on enhancing existing modes – running, climbing, swimming, etc. They don’t provide new means of movement – flight, world jumping, teleportation, etc. That said, they can provide supernatural movement of a type that seems impossible. These abilities are the things of wuxia films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, where mystics can walk on water and bamboo branches with ease. It’s tempting to add in Clinging for similarly impossible climbing movement, but I think it might be more suitable to stick to Super Climbing instead.

Mental Abilities

Mental abilities aren’t body-oriented by nature, making them inappropriate for Body Mastery.

Transformative Abilities

While Body Mastery does not deal in Metamorphosis (p. 18) or Transformations (p. 19), it does allow for Restoration (p. 19) in the form of self-healing, recovery, and control. These are modeled using abilities based on Metabolism Control, Rapid Healing, Recovery, and Regeneration. Regrowth is a step too far; restoring limbs and such rests firmly in the realm of divine intervention, as does Healing other people.

Other Physical Abilities

While it is canonical not to have abilities directly boost attributes, boosting Lifting ST or Striking ST is fitting for this power, just as increasing Hard to Kill and Hard to Subdue.

Power Perks

First, I’ll take a look through GURPS Power-Us 2 – Perks for some likely candidates for power perks, followed by a look at how +PK handled them in GURPS Psionic Powers. I am going to gravitate toward cinematic, if not exotic or supernatural (marked with an asterisk *, below), perks that represent the kinds of things Body Mastery can do.

From Perks the following look like possibilities: Cotton Stomach; Iron Arms; Iron Legs; Iron Neck; No Visual Damage*; Pressure-Tolerant Lungs*; and Striking Surface*. Immediately, we see that Striking Surface kind of overlaps with Iron Arms and Iron Legs and the latter two assume a lot of grappling to be useful, as does Iron Neck. Let’s roll Iron <Limb> into Striking Surface and drop Iron Neck. Cotton Stomach is also a bit odd here, and lastly, the GM should recognize that Pressure-Tolerant Lungs is only useful if the PCs will be exploring high mountaintops; otherwise, it should probably be omitted from the list.

Next, let’s take a look at what’s in Psionic Powers. Here, we find the following options: Personal Awareness (p. 24) seems to fit the kind of inner awareness that results from Body Mastery, and Gecko Grip (p. 56) can easily be reskinned to model having an iron grip...which is a good name! That Extra Inch (p. 69) also can represent an awareness of body and heightening of reflexes.

Most powers in Psionic Powers seem to have about 6 or 7 power perks, so let’s try to stay in that range, too. That leaves us with Gecko Grip; No Visual Damage; Personal Awareness; Pressure-Tolerance Lungs; Striking Surface; and That Extra Inch. That’s six, so for good enough for a first pass!

Body Mastery Abilities

Breath-Holding; Catfall; Damage Resistance, with Tough Skin (-40%), Limited, Mystical Abilities (-20%) and No Signature (+20%), or Ablative (-80%), Force Field (+20%), and No Signature (+20%); Enhanced Move (Ground); Hard to Kill; Hard to Subdue; High Pain Threshold; Lifting ST; Metabolism Control; Perfect Balance; Pressure Support 1; Protected Power; Protected Sense (any mundane); Rapid Healing; Recovery; Reduced Consumption; Regeneration; Resistant to any physical threats; Sealed; Silence; Striking ST; Super Climbing; Super Jump; Temperature Tolerance; Universal Digestion; Walk on Liquid.

Power Perks: Gecko Grip; No Visual Damage; Personal Awareness; Pressure-Tolerance Lungs; Striking Surface; and That Extra Inch.


Many of these abilities are passive in nature and won’t require skill rolls to activate. These still require adherence to Disciplines of Faith (Meditative Reflection), but because they aren’t used on demons and thus cannot falter in that regard, they have a reduced Power Modifier worth only -5%. There will be some, though, and maybe more than I expect once I start actually making them. Additionally, they are all almost all physical in nature, which makes about half of these abilities useful for boosting a squishy psionic character’s survivability, and the other half just about useless. That’s not necessarily bad, but I find it interesting.


Projection is all about entering other planes of existence. These are almost exclusively the ethereal and astral planes, but I won’t want to limit the setting by saying those are the only two. This power should cover everything needed to reach and survive in both planes, affect those planes, and defend against them. This makes for a pretty diverse set of powers that will include anything from attacks and defenses to bodily transformations and transportation.

Attack Abilities

Projection attacks, if they exist, should generally forcefully project a target into another dimension. I picture this akin to Benedict Cubmerbatch getting his consciousness punched out of his body by the Master in Doctor Strange. This means Affliction, with either Alternate Form or Jumper. This includes banishments, but also incorporates transporting willing allies to other planes. Since this does allow a projectionist to affect entities in other planes, it may include innate attacks that only affect such creatures.

Defensive Abilities

Defensive abilities tend to involve moving part or all of your body to another plane of existence to avoid an attack. These center around traits like Insubstantial, an Alternate Form that includes Insubstantial, or Jumper. Most of these are likely a power-up or higher level of these traits, possibly built with Temporary Enhancements. Protected Power seems to fit here just as it fits just about any power.

This power also provides some protection against attacks from other planes of existence, such as mental attacks (Mind Block), physical attacks (Damage Resistance), and supernatural attacks (Resistant to Supernatural Attacks) – all with either Only While Projecting (-10%) or Limited, Specific Plane Only (-20%).

Movement Abilities

Most movement abilities either function solely in other planes or center around traveling to other planes. As such, I can see limited forms of Clinging, Enhanced Move, and Flight with Accessibility, Specific Plane (-20%) or Only While Projecting (-10%) possibly fitting. Because Jumper specifically moves you to another plane, this one is important to include here. Note that it does not teleport you, and that it will have the Projection limitation at all but the highest levels. While only kind of a movement ability, Insubstantiality and Altered Traits that include it are also counted here because they allow for greater mobility.

Mental Abilities

Mental abilities include Channeling and Medium for talking to extraplanar spirits. These often have Specialized (-50%) for a specific plane, but higher levels may not. It also includes Spirit Empathy with similar specializations. Furthermore, it includes the ability to affect extraplanar spirits in the form of True Faith, limited to affecting spirits from specific planes.

While this definitely encroaches on Perception Power, some basic enhanced senses that allow a projectionist to sense other planes might be appropriate here. These will be limited forms of Acute Sense, limited to a specific plane and mechanically eroding an inherent -10 penalty to perceive the other plane. Some might carry an inherent Unusual Background that represents how difficult it is to perceive a given plane.

Transformative Abilities

Those who can assume a spirit form have one or more Alternate Forms that represent spirit forms. These are bodily transformations that do not involve projection and as such are nearly on par with bodily entering another plane of existence. To a lesser extent, these include Insubstantiality and Invisibility. I doubt that Shadow Form is really fitting here, so I’m not going to include it.

Projection really isn’t about healing, so Restorations (p. 19) don’t fit. They might belong to Soul Mastery, however, for the sake of restoring one’s spiritual health.

Power Perks

Beginning with Perks, we find there really isn’t much in there. Luckily, Psionic Powers offers up the following: Astral Accessory, as applied to both the ethereal and astral planes; Astral Awareness, as applied to the Veil; Retractable Cord; and Subjective Navigator, specialized to any one confusing plane. Of these, only Retractable Cord doesn’t completely mesh with our existing fluff, but I’m very okay with projecting resulting in a silver cord connecting your body to your soul. Mechanically, this just means that while projecting, the locals can tell you’re not from around these planes, and this perk makes you seem like a native. That also works for me.

Lastly, let’s consider GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 9 – Summoners, since it has a couple of spirit-related perks on page 5: Licensed Exorcist; Spirit Badge; Spirit Weapon. The first two are completely reasonable, but the last one overlaps with Astral Accessory. Spirit Weapon is specific to weapons and does not have BL or Signature Gear restrictions; while, Astral Accessory can be anything that weights BL or less and is Signature Gear. The requirement for Signature Gear seems somewhat silly, and it’s nice if losing your gear on another plane means it’s gone, so I’m dropping that from Astral Accessory straight out. The weight limit doesn’t play nicely with enhancements that let you carry gear, but those negate this perk entirely, so the real question is whether or not we want PCs to take armor to other planes or not. I’m not against this, so I’m going to drop that, too. This leaves us with a new perk called Spirit Accessory that works like Spirit weapon for any one conceptual item you want to bring with you to another plane.

Putting this all together, we have the following power perks: Astral Awareness; Licensed Exorcist; Retractable Cord; Spirit Accessory; Spirit Badge; and Subjective Navigator. That’s our six!

Projection Abilities

Acute Sense with Limited, Only to Offset Penalties to Sense One Specific Plane (varies); Alternate Form (spirit forms); Channeling with Specialized, Astral or Ethereal Entities, both (-50%); Damage Resistance with Limited, Specific Plane Only (-20%) or Limited, Extraplanar Only (-10%); Insubstantiality, often with Projection; Jumper (Spirit), often with Projection; Medium with Specialized, Astral or Ethereal Entities, both (-50%); Mind Block with Limited, Specific Plane Only (-20%) or Limited, Extraplanar Only (-10%); Resistant to Supernatural Attacks with Limited, Specific Plane Only (-20%) or Limited, Extraplanar Only (-10%); Spirit Empathy with Specialized, Astral or Ethereal Entities, both (-50%); True Faith with Limited, Extraplanar Entities (-20%) or Limited, Astral Entities or Ethereal Entities (-40%).

Some abilities only function while a practitioner is projecting or physically on another plane. Represent these with Clinging, Doesn’t Breathe, Doesn’t Eat or Drink, Doesn’t Sleep, Enhanced Move (any), Flight, Immunity to Metabolic Hazards, Invisibility, or Possession, all with either Accessibility, Only While Projecting (-10%); Accessibility, Only on Another Plane (-10%); or Accessibility, Only on a Specific Plane (-20%). Such abilities work only while using abilities with the Projection or Projected Form modifiers or while physically on another plane of existence.

Afflictions with Malediction and Advantage for Alternate Form (spirit forms), Insubstantiality, or Jumper are appropriate for people others to other planes with or without their consent. Innate Attacks should be either burning or corrosion attacks, depending on whether they destroy or disintegrate their targets, and have Malediction and one of Limited, Extraplanar Entities (-20%) or Extraplanar Entities from a Specific Plane (-40%).

Power Perks: Astral Awareness; Licensed Exorcist; Retractable Cord; Spirit Accessory; Spirit Badge; and Subjective Navigator.


At a glance, Projection is broad and strange. It has a specific focus – the ability to travel to other planes – but it isn’t about creation or summoning. It is about going there or affecting things from there. It includes highly specialized attacks that are devastating against such creatures, the ability to project or travel to other planes, and some defenses against extraplanar attacks. It also lets the user turn into a spirit, which can be quite potent, depending on the form.

This basically amounts to a slightly beefed up version of Astral Projection Power on Powers, p. 122-123. It has a few more defensive traits, but otherwise isn’t too different. I’m kind of pleased that working through the steps in Chapter 1 resulted in something similar, since both powers do something similar.


Perception is all about a mystic’s ability to commune with the world spirit, Ananta, to gain information about the world. This information may be sensory, knowledge, etc., and it must be known by someone or something of the world – demons don’t count here. This makes the power very similar to ESP (Powers, p. 127), with the exception that it cannot accurately tell the future. Instead, it can give intuition, provide historical information, bolster a mystic’s ability to read people, etc. This often has the appearance of telling the future, but it never actually is.

Because this is all about perceiving things, Perception power includes augmentations to senses, new senses, access to the Akashic Library, and any abilities that might stem from these.

Attack Abilities

Perception is all about knowing or sensing things. This doesn’t really lend itself to attacks, so I don’t think any of these are truly appropriate.

Defensive Abilities

Similarly, perception powers are all about knowing things, not obstructing, diverting or negating attacks directly. It certainly can boost defenses via Enhanced Defenses (any) and possibly Combat Reflexes. These will be covered under mental abilities. It does, however, include Protected Power and Protected Senses (Any).

Movement Abilities

As with Attack Abilities, above, I don’t see where sensorial or general knowledge can justify faster or different mobility modes, so these don’t really apply.

Mental Abilities

This power is all about perceiving things. Part of communication is perception, so this does allow for unrestricted Medium, but not Channeling. It does not include speaking with animals, plants or such because that isn’t about perceiving the entities as much as it’s about understanding the animals. Similarly, perception isn’t about influencing others, so these abilities don’t fit either.

It is, however, all about information! Both Blessed or Oracle can fit, as does Danger Sense, but not Precognition – perception is about accessing the Akashic Library to gain information, and that is limited to past events. It can provide real-time information or help assimilate existing information to provide a sense of danger, hence Danger Sense. Similarly, Intuition can represent a subtle hinting of information from the Akashic Library while Psychometry and Racial Memory represent downright access. Finally, we have to include Clairsentience, since it is both a mainstay of ESP and befits looking through the eyes of the world spirit. Similarly, Detect for almost anything seems justifiable, although individual abilities will likely hone in on supernatural or mystical subjects.

The other place Perception shines is in enhancing existing senses and providing a couple of supernatural ones. Firstly, the basic five senses are greatly enhanced, adding options for 360° Vision, Dark Vision, Discriminatory Smell, Enhanced Tracking, Infravision, Night Vision, Parabolic Hearing, See Invisible (Ghosts), Sensitive Touch, and Telescopic Vision. It will also need abilities that cover extending other senses into the insubstantial realm; these will need to be created. Furthermore, it will add at least a one nonvisual sense probably best modeled with Vibration Sense with Sense of Perception. This seems a better fit than Pararadar. I will likely look into GURPS Powers - Enhanced Senses when I do a second pass on this power, since it basically addressed this very topic in full.

Transformative Abilities

Lastly, while enhanced senses might seem like a transformation, they don’t fundamentally turn the mystic into something else. Thus, these abilities don’t belong in Perception.

Power Perks

Beginning with Perks, we have the following: Eye for Distance. I don’t really see any others, so I may need to make some new perks for this power.

Next, Psionic Powers offers up the following: Card Sharp; Dowsing; Exposition Sense; Forecast; and Visions (Aspected Dream). Most of these are pretty much good to go as is. Exposition Sense doesn’t guarantee success, since the success roll is as much to determine if any rumors or information is available as it is about whether or not you find them. Instead, this perk always let you make a Research roll, even if someone else in your party also has that week. We will also rename Visions (Aspected Dream), which refers to a power in Psionic Powers to Dream Visions to avoid confusion.

Thus, we have Card Sharp; Dowsing; Dream Visions; Exposition Sense; Eye for Distance; and Forecast. That’s six, but I did come on an idea that might make for a good perk, so I’ll add it to the list: Rule of 14. This perk lets you use +Doug Cole’s The Rule of 14 for Passive Abilities. In games where this is the default, the perk becomes Rule of 13, and let’s you assume a roll of 13 instead of 14.

Perception Abilities

360° Vision with Panoptic 2; Blessed; Combat Reflexes; Danger Sense; Detect; Clairsentience; Dark Vision; Discriminatory Smell; Enhanced Tracking; Infravision; Intuition; Medium; Night Vision; Oracle; Psychometry; Racial Memory; See Invisible (Ghosts); Sensitive Touch; and Vibration Sense with Sense of Perception.

Power Perks: Card Sharp; Dowsing; Dream Visions; Exposition Sense; Eye for Distance; Forecast; Rule of 14.


Perception, which desperately needs a better name, falls pretty close to the ESP power in Powers (p. 127), so again, I think the process bares out its robustness. I included Enhanced Defenses and Combat Reflexes to represent enhanced sensory processing and the ability to sense others positions and so on through the Akashic Library as justifications. The less-fluffy version of this is that ESP is cool and it should let you predict what someone is about to do, even if Mysticism doesn’t allow you to accurately predict the future. This is a case of going with what is Awesome over what might make the most sense fluff-wise. Suck it, fluff!

I do need to call out the presence of both Dark Vision and Infravision, here. Traditionally in Dungeon Fantasy, they are basically interchangeable, so why include both? Well, because they aren’t quite the same thing. Infravision does let you see anything that gives of heat regardless of light levels but not all things do give off heat. Consider stone golems, rock mites, frost snakes, etc. These are all cold and usually match their background in heat intensity. Infravision won’t help against any of these, but none of it can hide from Dark Vision! That said, I am considering reducing the cost of Dark Vision, since an effective +150% on Infravision doesn’t get you all that much. I feel like [15] is sufficient for what it does relative to Infravision.

Next Time...

...we will continue our selection of powers for Dream Mastery, Fate Mastery, Telepathy, and Soul Mastery. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your feedback on this process, the abilities selected, and my reasoning. Tell me why I'm wrong and suck and should give up on gaming in the comments below!

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