Thursday, July 17, 2014

Revised GURPS Magic: Phantom (VH)

Here is another spell from GURPS Magic I've chosen to modify for my DF game.

Phantom is basically Perfect Illusion with the ability to cause damage/impede movement. It's mostly okay, but:

- a Phantom can have ST and DX up to the mage's skill with the spell. That's probably okay in a game where skill 15 in a VH spell is uncommon, it's not when skill 19-20 in a VH spell is typical. DX 19 is pretty high. ST 19, well, that's okay.

- the "note the margin of success" for HP.

- An odd 5 to cast, 9 for double ST and DX (uh, yeah, because I want to allow DX 38-40?)

- it's not clear how the Phantom does its thing when cast without the Initiative spell. Which, by the way, contradicts Phantom on DX by assigning it an 8!

Here is the change:

Phantom (VH)

As written, except:

- the Phantom has ST equal to the caster's skill in the spell for purposes of attacks and damage.
- the Phantom has DX 15.
- the Phantom has 4 HP.
- a victim can actively attempt to disbelieve - success means the victim treats it from then on a Perfect Illusion. Injuries and effects inflicted previously remain.
- the caster must concentrate to have the Phantom take any active measures, such as attacking.

Base Cost: 4. For a base cost of 8, the phantom has double the normal ST and HP.

That makes it slightly cheaper (4/8, not 5/9), easier to fend off, more consistent in its effects, and yet it is still valuable and dangerous.


  1. Yeah, this spell has been a problem since Grimoire (I think I've said that a LOT over the years.) I replaced it with a "Phantasmal Killer" spell based on the Illusion advantage from Powers with the Stigmata enhancement, but I think I like this modification better.

  2. Theres probably an alternate reality where GURPS Magic got revised. Or perhaps DF was more of Powered by GURPS release and had Book #x Spellcasters with a shorter updated spell list.

    In ours its probably not really viable though trying Plany Magic was probably a good idea.

    1. I agree there really needs to be a, magic system for the DF series.

    2. This is is a nice, functional improvement.

    3. This is that alternate reality, just that's being done one spell at a time, with a playtesting community of 4-5 players, and without any editorial oversight. :)

  3. Some issues I've run into that you may want to specify...

    Damage type. If my phantom is carrying a spear does it do impaling damage? Or is the damage psychosomatic in nature (crushing? toxic? something else?) Similarly can a phantom get a wounding modifier? Does that phantom spear do:
    {Thr(ST)+3} X 2?
    Can attacks have other effects? e.g. knockback? ignition and continued burning? bleeding? grappling/immobilization?

    Can a phantom tote barges and lift bales? Can it attack and damage inanimate objects (dungeon doors)?
    Can a phantom carry/physically assist someone who knows it to be illusory (the caster)?

    I have found that determining the answers to questions like these ahead of time could forestall confusion and aggravation.

    1. Damage type - depends on what the illusion is. An illusion of a guy with a spear? Yes, it can be impaling. No, it can't be toxic, unless you can somehow create the illusion of "poison" and sell it with a visual, audio, and physical illusion. No, making it look like poison isn't enough, because what does poison look like? Burning - sure, why not? Grappling, yes. Most of them, yes, I don't see why not.

      Yes, it can cause knockback. No, it can't cause fires, although the person affected might believe it does.

      The caster knows it is an illusion and cannot be affected by it, and thus it can't carry or assist the caster. It can only affect living victims who fail to recognize it as an illusion, so it couldn't affect a door - if you can't fool it, you can't affect it. So it can't tote bales, either.

      It's just a illusion, but one that can cause actual physical effects if you don't recognize it as an illusion. But it's still an illusion, not real, so anything that crosses over from "belief by the victim" into "physical effects on the environment." The key in this spell is that it isn't creation, it's illusion with some tangible effects, and to work it needs a believing victim.


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