Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Revised GURPS Magic: Grease and Ice Slick

I've been working on this fix for a little while. I thought it might annoy my players, who had been working on a Cunning Plan involving Flight and a Grease spell. But Grease and Ice Slick are broken in a really bad way. But they seemed fine with the proposed fix, because, like I said, broken in a really bad way.

Grease and Ice Slick are extremely nasty spells.

Grease is a very harsh spell, even at 3/Area cost. The big issues with Grease, to me, are its unique approach to bad footing, and its invisibility. The first is that it basically has one-off rules on bad footing that make the frictionless floors in the Slaver series look generous.

It "cannot be seen by normal means." It's not clear what abnormal means will work - presumably Mage Sight, or maybe Mage Sense, but what about See Invisible? Is it invisible, or just not see-able? Who knows. I think that's just a throwaway gimme to the caster to allow a small grease spell to trip people up like a slapstick movie banana.

Slick footing is covered in Dungeon Fantasy 16, p. 38-39, under Tricky Environments.
The best way to handle Ice Slick and Grease, I think, is to use those. The rules there are slightly more generous to fighters, but they're also canonical DF rules for slick surfaces . . . and I prefer Ice Slick and Grease to create slick surfaces, not create one-off special surfaces.

Those rules basically create a very strange and extremely harsh set of slick surface rules that don't generally operate the way similar rules work in GURPS. Bad Footing is -2 to skill or DX rolls, -1 to Active Defenses, double movement cost. These give -3 to melee (and close combat, an odd call-out), -3 to active defenses, -2 to missile attacks and other tasks, DX-2 rolls to stay standing if you move, and even a few more little tidbits.

That's not how GURPS does Bad Footing. Or ice, except in GURPS Classic: Russia, which seems to have just taken the rules from the earlier edition of GURPS Magic. That's 3e, though, and we can totally ignore that as many rules have changed fundamentally and for the better, including Bad Footing.

Ice Slick

Creates a thin sheet of clear ice. Per-3 to spot it if you're not actively looking for it. Effects are per ice (Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, p. 38-39). It can be used to extinguish fires, as written, but equally fire can be used to clear it. Spiked footwear negates the effects of ice normally; skaters can skate on ice slicks normally.

Base Cost: 2. Same cost to maintain.
Time to Cast: 4 seconds.


The area effect is slick, as if coated with a thin layer of a grease-like substance. Per-3 to spot it if you're not actively looking for it. Hobnailed boots will affect this normally. Effects are per ice (Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, p. 38-39), although ice skates and spiked footwear won't help.

Duration: 1 minute.
Base Cost: 2. Same cost to maintain.
Time to Cast: 4 seconds.

Basically, Ice Slick and Grease are cheaper (2, not 3), act like ice, and have a specific counter. Both are equally hard to spot. Ice Slick is counterable with fire, but it can also counter fire. I also shortened the time on Grease down from 10 minutes to 1 minute, because I don't particularly like 10 minute combat spells. Ice Slick can stay, it adds some interest to the variation.

The time to cast has been modified to fit my Mass X spell changes.

I think that addresses my concerns with the broken win-button effect of the spells ("Can't fly? Welcome to loser-town!") and the cost (it's too expensive as written for the dulled-down effects). It's also now linking a canonical rule with the spell, so it's not like Magic Ice isn't ice.


  1. I am enjoying this series, keep 'em coming!

    I feel like any magic user I'd play would have to know Grease. It was always one of my favorite spells in dnd and it sounds like it's still pretty awesome in GURPS.

  2. One of my favorite things I ever did to a party was to throw a Linked Grease and Lure at them, in a 8-hex area. They were almost ready to throw dice at me by the time the fight was over.

    1. That sounds nasty. It would still be nasty with the above, but at least it won't behave unlike any other form of bad footing!

  3. Thinking cinematically, at least, perhaps spiked footwear should work to limit the effect of Grease. Think of the scene in The Transporter.

    1. That's why I made the allowance for hobnailed boots - I'm not convinced ice shoes really would do it vs. grease, so I figured I'd split it and have special footgear work in each different case.

      That'll actually mean that Grease is useful in the arctic vs. skaters!


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