Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First thoughts on Gate spells in DF Felltower

I mentioned during the summary yesterday that I need to deal with some problematic Gate spells in DF, while still allowing for Gate spells in DF. Please note I'm using GURPS Magic plus Wizardry Refined, so not all of the spells are available.

The Gate spells as written in GURPS Magic are good for a more normal game. If you have far-flung gates or the game is centered on them, the spells work generally fine.

In a megadungeon, spells like Seek Gate are just asking for abuse as exploration substitutes. Just keep casting Seek Gate to map them out, triangulating as you move around. To some degree that's just smart play, but again, it changes the game from "boldly stride down the corridor seeking danger" to "use this spell until you've determined if you really need to adventure down that corridor or not." I can see an hour of playing time whizz by as people cast Scry Gate, move a few yards, cast it again, use Cartography to fix the map to reflect the detected destination, etc. All the while I'm counting squares on the map and checking if there is magical interference or closer gates I'm forgetting. Aargh. That turns "mysterious ways to find new adventure" into "beacons for pre-mapping."

The only bit I like about it is finding the way back if a gate is one-way. "We're here, and my magic tells me the way out is there." That's cool, I need to keep that.

Other spells need tweaking, too. Scry Gate has this bizarre "smells" aspect to it. It reveals the smells behind the gate? Obviously the Great Wizard Farnsworth created it. My players instantly realized that if smells come through, clearly the particulate matter that creates the smell comes through, so Scry Gate pulls poison gas through gates. If it doesn't, and just tells you the small magically, it's just weird that it isn't caster-only.

What I'm thinking at the moment is:

Scry Gate - as written, but without the smells aspect. Sights, possibly sounds. I kind of like a silent movie effect of viewing it.

Seek Gate - I like the "find the way back" aspect, but not much else. Perhaps only a specifically known gate, or a gate to a specific location, can be sought. So "Where is the gate to Felltower from here?" works, or "I want to try and seek a gate to Hell" might work, with the penalties listed (-2 for closed, -5 for an arrival point for a one-way) but not the -10 for specific destination as that would be a requirement. If you get lost you can triangulate by seeking around a known gate, which is annoying. Maybe adding Once Per Day will fix that, too. I could do both or either.

Control Gate - probably just forcing them open or closed, none of this dragging them around stuff.

Analyze Magic - will tell you the type of gate (same world, plane, time, etc.) and possibly a hint at where. Critical success will reveal lots of details. So success might be "This is a gate to different world!" and a critical success might be "By which I mean, it's a gate to Hell." One Try. This plus Scry Gate can tell you a lot about a destination.

Mage Sight - an active casting of this spell will detect closed gates. The spell needs to do more anyway.

And related only because it's a prereq, I do need to make Seek Magic more useful. Or ditch it and add a different prereq. It's expensive, bound to be stacked with penalties ("Okay, I spend 6 base energy, and excluding these five magic weapons, seven suits of magical armor, my wand, our potions, that scroll, and my magic hat, I seek the nearest magic item. I rolled a 10." "You find Hjalmarr's magic ring." "Dammit!")

And obviously, gates won't work on constructs of pure magic like Wizard Eye. Crteated Servants clearly work, which I already regret, but I let it work a while back before I'd considered how annoying that would be. It won't work on all gates, though, since I have some different types out there. At least they're terrible, terrible scouts (IQ 9, Per 9, rarely any skill), and serve to alert people on the arriving end that something is coming.

Lots to fine-tune here. But mages should be able to affect gates to a degree, without either the breadth of power implied in GURPS Magic or lack the abilities whatsoever. I need to tune the spells to the world for this game, not the other way around.


  1. Have separate spells for hearing and smelling, with appropriate prereq chains.

    1. I just want to get rid of smell, because I don't think it makes any sense at all in actual play. Anyone can smell means affected by the smell, which means the smell is coming through the gate, which means the gate is open and functional and two-way. It's just bizarre and I can't see an upside to having it at all. It's gone, period. Sounds, we'll see, like I said, I like having it a silent picture. I'm not saying it's a bad thing it's included without additional prereqs, just that it's not necessarily something I want at all.

    2. Well, but technically if sound and light gets through that would mean energy gets through it.
      Wouldn't that also mean it is "open and functional and two way"?
      Only a matter of time until the party tries to use lightning spells (or other energy based attacks) through it.

      Maybe caster only is the best choice? Like other mage-senses, it is all just in their head.

    3. "Well, but technically if sound and light gets through that would mean energy gets through it."

      That's not convincing me to let smells through. Really, explain to me why smells should get through, and why that's cool and interesting. All I see is problems wrapped in "this is silly, but you smell the following beyond the gate."

      Other scrying spells don't work that way, and the implication that a crystal ball lets you see so energy must pass from the place you're seeing or hearing and thus be an open two-way conduit is equally weird.

      Caster only is a bit late - it's been cast in play. The effects already shown should stay unless there is a pressing reason to change them.

    4. I don't think he was trying to convince to "let smells through" so much as pointing out the logical results of 'letting light through".

    5. Sure, but my reply stands. Allowing smells through means weird effects, allowing you to see and potentially hear just means being consistent with scrying by other means. Scientific logic doesn't matter, effect consistency does.

    6. Yes... but allowing smell allows no more 'weirdness' than allowing light and sound to cross.

      Light carries light and sight based attacks (Sunbolt, Dazzle, Gaze attacks, Medusa type attacks, etc) and sound allows for sound based attacks (Thunderclap, possibly Concussion?).

      If you shutdown harmful effects from crossing.... then all your doing is stopping gate Scryers from determining is if the there is an /odor/ on the other side (which could determine the presence of a hazard or an enemy, etc).

      Also, as it reads to me Scry Gate doesn't actually transmit anything other than sensory input*. So even if you could smell a poisonous gas on the other side of a Gate, it wouldn't be leaking through /due to the Scry Gate spell/.

      Not arguing that you should do anything other than what you are doing, just pointing stuff out.

      * Personally I wouldn't allow it transmit anything harmful, no Gaze Attacks for instance.

    7. "Yes... but allowing smell allows no more 'weirdness' than allowing light and sound to cross."

      To me, it does. That light and sound get transmitted makes it act like other scrying spells. It makes it act like TV. Allowing smells to get transmitted makes it act like an open gate, which it's not. Keeping it requires I start using explanations like the one you wrote out - only sensory input, input is not harmful, etc. Ditching it means it acts like other Divination spells and doesn't automatically get rid of the effect of negative sights and sounds. All of that is upside to me. All of keeping smells is a downside to me, including the jumps I have to make to explain it.

  2. Mortar mixed with meteoric iron filings as seen in Welles' Death of the Necromancer should work to block some seek spells (as well as keep fey out.)

    1. I've got very similar things in Felltower already; I'm really thinking of spell-specific changes rather than location-specific changes. If I want shield specific gates, there are a lot of ways to do it. I'd rather just make "Seek Gate" work differently.

  3. Scry Gate gives you only the visions of what is on the other side of the gate accompanied by jaunty piano music.

    1. Scratchy black-and-white images!

      On the plus side, you can identify the main enemy on that side of the gate by their piano music.

    2. This is only peripherally related, but the piano thing reminded me of DM of the Rings (I think) mentioning an intelligent magic item that performed scrying, and then gave colourful reports of what it felt was most relevant. It's likely to show up in my campaign.

  4. Couldn't you just make monsters aware of wizards using Seek Gate? It could be like the wizard is pinging the fabric of reality for weaknesses but maybe some monsters that use gates like demons would likely become aware of the wizard and attack. Or maybe the fabric of reality in a dungeon is weak due to there being so many gates in the dungeon so a wizard using Seek Gate could have a high chance of opening new gates to places like the Abyss, Hell or worse. And Elder Things are attracted to weak points in reality so using Gate magic surely attract them too. Maybe scrying into a gate might give a Fright Check or madness too. Maybe a demon might sense this and then let loose a blinding flash and incapacitate the wizard. Maybe just make more powers to detect gate magic.

    1. I'm not trying to nerf the spell or make it useless or dangerous to cast. Clearly, from the comments I've gotten, that seems to be how it sounds. It just doesn't fit my game as written, but parts of it do, so I need to re-write it to fit that.


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