Thursday, January 18, 2018

Revised GURPS Magic: Levitation costed by SM, not Weight

Here is another spell we've revised for my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy / Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game campaign, Felltower.
This is not a spell that is "broken" or even abusive - this is all about making it much less time consuming and fiddly to use in play!

Click here for a complete list of spells we've modified and links to the same.

Levitation is weird in that it is a Regular spell, which by definition means its cost should be affected by positive SM.

On the other hand, its cost is based on weight, at 1 energy per 80 pounds.

We've always played this that cost is purely weight based and SM is irrelevant.

But this has lead to a lot of questions, a lot of very gamey character decisions, and a lot of slowdowns in play. Not only that, but it's meant I need to know how much every monster weighs, because that's how this spell is costed.

We've dealt with questions like:

- Does the spell levitate a certain weight (I paid for 240 pounds, I'm 225, but I can add 15 more pounds and still be levitating), or is the weight just for cost at the time the spell is cost?

- Can I overcast the spell to prevent someone from weighing me down and breaking the spell?

- Does extra weight break the spell or pull you down? If so, how fast?

We've had issues like:

- all wizards are below 160 pounds, usually 160 - No Encumbrance. A ST 10 wizard generally clocks in at 140-145, so Levitate is free to maintain at skill 15+. A player who made a 165 pound wizard because he didn't consider this caused a lot of issues - he was 3/2 instead of 2/1 and needed Levitation-20 to keep up!

I could have gone all Car Wars here and say a "normal human" is 150 pounds or even 160 pounds, so they are just 2 base cost. But I think that's exceedingly generous. Generally targets are in the 161-240 range, and heavy fighters tend to be in the 241+ range. So if weight is going to matter, it has to matter.

That's lead directly to situations like we had a couple of sessions ago - over 20 minutes of play time spent juggling weight. People handed off backpacks to skeletons and folks with big weight margins thank to their breakpoints, took off and traded armor, passed out the contents of packs, etc. to get everyone to a weight-efficient point so the wizards could Levitate everyone. I got up and had a snack, went to the bathroom, did some quick Japanese practice on my computer, and otherwise killed time until it was done.

So that pushed me into a solution I'd long considered - changing Levitation so it's size, not weight based. I'd suggested this before, but mostly it was objected to by players who had something to lose - they'd already set themselves up for free to cast, free to maintain levels of weight, or routinely used a cheap casting in play and didn't want to shift. But once real, significant game time was being spent on weight bookkeeping, I decided to push for a change. The group agreed to the following change:


From (Spells, p. 57 or GURPS Magic, p. 143) but replace the text with:

Moves living beings without touching them. The subject floats horizontally or vertically at Move 3. Movement is under your control, and requires concentration unless you’re also the subject; leaving the subject suspended in midair requires no concentration. You can use DX-based skills normally while levitating; other subjects are at -3.

Cost: 3 to cast, 2 to maintain.


By making these changes:

- Levitation cost is based on SM, like any other Regular spell, including Flight (not weight based), Air Vortex (not weight based), Body of Air (not weight based), and even Lighten Burden, which lowers the weight of things you carry (not weight based.) Teleport has an encumbrance limit (Heavy), but isn't actually based on the weight for cost.

- We don't need to know anything about the weight of a subject, just that they are at Heavy encumbrance or less. That's almost all subjects in almost all situations.

Here are some FAQs addressed:

Does living beings include undead, contructs, etc.?

Yes. In our game, I run it as "animate" beings, under their own control or self-impelled through magic. It definitely includes animated skeletons, golems, and so on.

Can a target just hold on to something?

Yes. The spell isn't a grapple or a force-based spell. Any attempt to keep from moving is probably going to succeed, here.

Does this mean I can just load up past Heavy encumbrance and neutralize the spell?

Yes, it does. And it does means stronger subjects can carry more when Levitated by the spell. Teleport (a non-DF spell) works the same way, as do other movement spells. Wallwalker lets you walk on walls with more stuff if you're stronger, too. It is giving you an ability, even if it's outside of your direct control, not moving your weight around with a set amount of magical force. It's magic, don't turn it into a physics exercise.

What if the subject goes over Heavy encumbrance?

The spell continues, but the subject will move straight down at Move 3. Treat this as movement, not a fall!

Does the -3 for DX related skills when I'm levitating but not the caster apply to (choose a skill)?

Yes. I'm not sure why I get asked, but yes.

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