Thursday, May 28, 2015

Revised GURPS Magic: Animate Shadow (VH)

The necromancer in my current DF game is looking at Animate Shadow, GURPS Magic p. 154, so naturally I had to, too.

Much like Phantom, the spell has some unbalanced upsides - such as, the animated shadow having DX equal to the caster's skill. Again, like Phantom, that's fine when skill 15 is solid, 18 is high, and 20-25 is a master of the arts. Not when 20+ is pretty much baseline for a really serious PC mage.

Also, I think some of the effects are a little . . . undramatic. Like how you can parry or block, but only if you had those items on you when the spell was cast. Eh, I am a huge fan of people grabbing some random weapon to fight with or getting tossed a friend's weapon or shield to fight with, and I don't want to ensconce an exception to that kind of awesomeness.

On top of that, it's not clear why:

- it should do either thrusting or swinging damage for what's ultimately an insubstantial touch attack.
- if it has any DR.
- it dies at 0 HP instead of -1xHP like other Fragile (Unnatural) things.
- it doesn't specify if it gets DR or not. A shadow generally shouldn't, but it also gets shadowy weapons and shields.
- it is resisted by HT. Doesn't Will seem more appropriate for wrenching someone's shadow away from them and making it attack them? The physically weak are easier prey than the weak of Will? Seems odd for a Necromantic spell attacking an insubstantial aspect of someone.

Even so, it's got a lot of HP, it's hard to hurt. It's got a very short duration (5 seconds), and a solid cost for the effect (4 FP, same to maintain).

Here are the changes to Animate Shadow (VH):

- Resisted by Will.
- the shadow has DX 15 and Speed equal to the subject.
- the shadow has HP equal to the subject.
- Attacks do thrusting FP damage. Attacks can be Parried, Blocked, or Dodged by the subject only.
- the shadow has any Injury Tolerances of the subject.
- the shadow has the Body of Shadow advantage (short version = half damage from physical attacks.)
- shadow is destroyed at -1xHP.
- the shadow has 0 DR, even if the subject has DR.
- effects of FP loss is per the rules on p. B426.
- shadow disappears automatically if the subject falls unconscious from reach FP 0 or below.
- it will only ever attack the subject; however, it can be affected by outside attacks (and defends normally against them.)
- Reach is per weapon type; the shadow can use any weapon the subject had on him at the time of casting!
- Shadow has active defenses equal to the subject and Dodge based on its unencumbered Speed.
- Shadow has all movement modes of the subject; the subject only has Ground move the shadow can only walk but is unaffected by bad footing, won't fall into pits, etc. - treat it as having Walk on Air for most purposes.
(Editing 1/25/2016: ST of the shadow is equal to the caster's skill in the spell)

For example, cast on a ST 20, DX 11, Move 6 Ogre the shadow would be ST 20, DX 15, Move 6, and do 2d-1 FP damage per strike. It would have 20 HP and die at -20 HP automatically. Cast on a ST 13, DX 13, Move 5 man it would have 13 HP and do 1d FP damage per strike. On average you'd need to inflict 52 physical injury to get rid of the thing before 5 seconds have elapsed!
(Editing later: ST of the Ogre would be equal to the caster's skill - the example still holds if the caster has Animate Shadow-20)

All in all, this seems like a more interesting, more complete, but also more balanced. It lasts all of five seconds but it can do a lot in that time.

Some questions from my players I answered:

Can you cast spells on the shadow? No. It's a spell effect, not a character.

Who runs the shadow? The GM. It's a spell effect. The GM runs spell effects and summoned creatures.

Does the shadow get weapon skills? No, it just attacks at a flat 15.

Is the shadow affected by shock, stunning, crippling, etc.? No, none of those affect it at all.

Does the shadow benefit from the buffs on the subject at the time of the casting? No, base stats only.

Does the shadow benefit from special characteristics of the subject's weapons? No. It just does flat FP damage.

For more spells I've changed, check out my Revised GURPS Magic for DF page.


  1. Thank you for sharing all this stuff. It is very helpful to the rest of us!

  2. The golem was also written to die at HP 0 instead of -1xHP. Apparently that finally got fixed in errata recently.

    1. I didn't notice that. I've treated all constructs as Fragile (Unnatural). Spell-created minor undead, summoned things, Phantom spells, etc. all die at -1xHP, for consistency.

      Die at 0 (or -1 HP) was swapped for Fragile (Unnatural) in 4e, so I've used that whenever the other used to apply.

    2. Just seems to be another oversight, I think.


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