Friday, January 22, 2016

Revised GURPS Magic: Air Vortex

This spell has an interesting history.

Originally, it was Carpet of Yimsha, in GURPS Conan.

It's a GURPS conversion of the transport spell used by the wizards in The People of the Black Circle:

"Down the mountain-slopes, like a whorl or shining dust blown before the wind, a crimson, conoid cloud came dancing. [. . . ] The crimson cloud balanced like a spinning top for an instant, whirling in a dazzling sheen on its point. Then without warning it was gone, vanishing as a bubble vanishes when burst. There on the ledge stood four men."
- Robert E. Howard, "People of the Black Circle" (quoted from The Bloody Crown of Conan)

Those wizards use it to whisk away folks with them when they go, too. They take (of course) the woman of the piece, so Conan can go and rescue her. It's not clear how they take her (grab her, different spell, same spell) but they do and whisk her off. Conan sticks around, and it's possible he's staying because he resists the spell or because they don't want him at all.

Either way, in its original form, the spell is mainly transport. In the GURPS version, it's the same, although frustratingly it seems like you can't resist it.

"This spell allows a caster to fly all persons in the area of effect in the form of a giant, swirling conical crimson cloud. [. . . ]. The caster can choose which persons to pick up, and which to leave behind."

The other particulars are similar - Move 10, casting cost and time, etc. It says the affected subjects are "insubstantial" and can't cast spells, but cannot penetrate solid objects. It never says who directs this - the spell in the story is clearly directed as a unit, which probably means the caster. In GURPS Conan and later GURPS Magic, it's really not clear, especially if the caster isn't in it. If the caster can move it, it's an offensive spell and a transport spell. If the subjects can move it, you need to figure out who and it's an odd transport spell useful for when it's okay to lose everything but 6 pounds of clothing,

Air Vortex turns this, basically, into Mass Body of Air that can be resisted by DX or HT. Why DX? That's not clear. Body of Air is resisted by HT.

It changes the cost (8, 3) and prereqs (from Body of Air and Flight to Magery 2 plus Body of Air and Windstorm.

I figure I have three ways to go with this:

- turn it back into Carpet of Yimsha as much as possible.

- turn it into a mass transport spell.

- turn it into Mass Body of Air.

I like the idea of a mass transport spell. The cost (8, 4 in the original, 8, 3 in Magic) and movement is pretty cool. But that's not really fitting the air theme - if you want Mass Flight, it's better if it's scaled to work more like that. I'll leave that aside - my DF game doesn't really need Mass Flight.

Mass Body of Air is easiest, but it's not really very useful. It's actually more useful for offense (disarms your foes) than defense (we lose our gear) or utility (we can move together, and lose our gear.)

But perhaps just a utility version of the original spell would do - no as restricted as Body of Air, but a lot more focused.

Air Vortex

Turns the caster and any willing (or unconscious, incapacitated, or helpless) subjects in the area into a vaporous cloud with the Body of Air meta-trait (p. B262). Any equipment carried, up to the caster's skill with the spell in pounds, also transforms with the subjects, but lose any magic powers they might have had while in this form. The cloud is the same size as the original casting area, but can squeeze into smaller spaces like other vapors. The cloud moves as one unit, as the caster wills, with Air Move equal to the 2 x the caster's Basic Move.
This is also a Movement spell.

Duration: 10 seconds.
Cost: 8 to cast, 3 to maintain.
Time to Cast: 2 seconds.
Prerequisites: Magery 2, Body of Air, and Windstorm or Body of Air and Flight.

I feel like that's a useful spell, but isn't an attack spell. I like tying what converts with you to the caster's skill one-to-one as BL, too - physical strength shouldn't matter, magical skill should. I may need to do that with Body of Air and Teleport (assuming I use that again). We'll see.

(PS - That story is where the spell Evisceration is from, too.)


  1. I have a player that really likes Conan, so it's kinda amusing to me that there are tons of GURPS classic supplements for it. I only know GURPS 4th edition though, if I were to purchase the Conan books, would they easily integrate into 4e play?

    1. Well, "tons" as in "five," four of which are short solo adventures of limited utility.

      But GURPS Conan itself can integrate reasonably well. The book is mostly weapons-grade background material. The spells may be a bit clumsy in 4e, but many spells are a bit clumsy in 4e. There are some monsters and character write-ups which would have to be edited before direct use in your game, but you can interpret the monsters fairly freely; I avoid named characters from source material like the plague if I'm running in somebody else's setting, so those aren't a problem for me, but YMMV here.

    2. What the Llama said is true. It's easy enough to adapt - the adventures, especially. The main book has some nice monsters in it, but you'll want to just use their ST for HP instead of the split HT/HP of large monsters under 3e.

  2. I mostly think of Air Vortex as Mass Escape From Total Party Kill. As long as the party is close together, the wizard is up, and the wizard has enough time and mana to cast it, the party can go gaseous and fly away at Move 10. That should be enough to save them from many kinds of impending death.

    My wizard recently found an item with Air Vortex and some power. I feel much braver with it, as if we get surrounded, we have an out.

    The utility of this spell really depends on the weight limit. The version of Air Vortex in Magic doesn't mention one directly in the spell, though it does refer to Body of Air, which limits you to 6 pounds of clothes. If the GM enforces that limit on Air Vortex, then it's "you escape but lose all your gear," which is a pretty harsh penalty that mostly restricts the spell to true emergencies. (Or maybe certain infiltration scenarios where leaving your equipment behind is okay.) Your version is a bit better, as a typical wizard will have the spell at 15 or so, enough to carry most essential gear but not armor. If the GM generously says no weight limit because it's not directly mentioned in the Air Vortex description, then this is a great general short-distance movement spell.

    1. Your GM is really generous - the spell points to Body of Air, which has a 6 pound weight limit. If there is no weight limit, it's a fantastic transport spell - cram everyone into a small area, cast the spell, and travel up to 100 yards in the original destination!

      It's a potentially good way to get away from a TPK against foes without magic or area attacks (both really useful vs. diffuse targets) as written. Foes with it, well, you're kind of toast.

      But as written it doesn't reflect the source material. It's kind of oddly nerfed and oddly changed. I'd rather have it function a bit closer - so it could really whisk four wizards in to kick someone's butt and then steal the female victim of the week for Conan to come rescue.


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