Friday, August 2, 2013

Revised GURPS Magic: Merging Stone to Flesh/Flesh to Stone

Another "fix" I made to GURPS Magic for my current DF game.

GURPS Magic takes two approaches to "reversible" spells.

- this spell costs 10 to cast, but also lets you cast the reverse of the spell for 6 points.

Flesh to Stone, Stone to Flesh - these are two separate spells. Stone to Flesh's only effect is to undo the effects of Flesh to Stone (or similar supernatural petrification).

I'm not a big fan of separate spells that essentially provide a spell and a way to reverse it. I don't mind if a given spell Summons X and another Dispels X, or one Destroys Y and another Creates Y. It's the spells that only counter another specific spell that I find to be a bit crufty. All Flesh to Stone does is reverse another spell; it's not separably useful. It can't animate a never-living statue. It can't turn a wall of stone into a wall of flesh to let you cut through it to escape a trap. It doesn't do anything except counter a specific other spell's effects.

So in my game, there is no Stone to Flesh spell. It's subsumed into Flesh to Stone. Cost to cast is the same, and you still need the same prereqs to cast it - so if you're lacking Magery 2, say, you can't reverse the spell. Essentially I got rid of one spell by taking Entombment as a guideline and putting them together.

What about clerics? The base DF cleric can only cast Stone to Flesh, not go around petrifying people. That's fine - they get a more limited version of the spell. Cost is unchanged, but then again, they don't need to provide any prereqs for it aside from the right level of Power Investiture, so it's fine. They get the spell but can't use it to petrify people, just fix petrification.

Why not Earth to Stone and Stone to Earth, too? Because neither is a pure counter to the other. The first will let you turn any old earth to stone, the other stone into earth. Neither is limited to only countering the other spell. The goal is to eliminate cruft, not merge all possible reversible effects.

Any other "this spell only reverses this other spell" pairs I'm missing? The is the only one that's come up in play, so far.


  1. I know there's a specific preclusion on this one, but it really seems like Counterspell is the ticket here. It's effectively what you've done, anyway. You cast Counterspell at the lower of the spell you're trying to reverse or your Counterspell skill. You could also charge the energy cost of the higher of the two or something. But ultimately, "you have to know the original spell and a trick to reverse it" just makes sense.

    1. That would take an expansion of what Counterspell covers, though - from ongoing spells, to counter spells that have an indefinite effect after the spell ends. Which would basically make Remove Curse useless.

      Now, to be fair, some of the reversible spells could be covered by those, but then you end up pretty much ensuring that:

      - all mages must take Counterspell, because it's the only way to reverse spells from their own colleges.
      - make One-College Magery even more crippled (can't counter certain spells, because you didn't take Meta as your college).

      The weird confluence of reversible spells, Counterspell, Dispel Magic, Remove Curse, and the various anti-enchantment spells can really be cleaned up and simplified, though. They overlap in some areas, not in others.

  2. One of the things I love about Nethack is that spells like Stone to Flesh do everything you'd logically think they would do. Except maybe work on walls. Haven't tried that one. It even works on magic items made of stone, and statues that were never alive in the first place.

    One of the classic strategies for playing a healer is actually to zap Stone to Flesh at a big pile of rocks to turn it into a big pile of meatballs, which you can eat yourself or use to tame animals. The spell even turns stone golems into flesh golems. It's great.

    1. I find myself impressed and utterly nauseated at the same time. Well played.

    2. Heh. It's pretty funny. The reason I wouldn't want to deal with that is because I have dealt with that in the past. It gets messy in face-to-face games. The whole "If Stone to Flesh can turn a rock to flesh, can you eat that flesh? How many HP does it have?" etc. thing was annoying to deal with.

  3. Clerics had only Stone-to-Flesh. Are you taking that away, or upgrading them with a potent direct attack spell?

  4. A few thoughts...

    1) For the 1-college only magery issue, I let meta spells count as part of EVERY college, but not as breadth requirements for ANY college. E.g. A fire mage can learn Delay, but a normal mage cannot use Delay (or any other Meta spell) as a prerequisite of the form X spells from each of Y colleges. I think this is fair and it makes 1-college more playable and interesting.

    2) If Magic were to be re-written I would like to see Ward, Counterspell, and Remove Curse affect Instant/Blocking, Regular/Area, and Permanent spels respectively. They could all use the same mechanic just apply to different classes of spells.


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