Thursday, October 31, 2019

GURPS Magic: Bless (and when does it work)

I was reminded about this reading the session reports over at DF Whiterock such as this most recent one. This isn't meant as a criticism of how Bless is run there, just a look at how I run Bless in my games.

Reading other people's posts is a great way to get thinking about your game in different ways.

My previous GURPS games extensively featured the Bless spell. With two wizards who could cast it, everyone was typically under Bless +1 at all times, Bless +2 or Bless +3 occasionally (usually due to a critical or a powerful NPC casting.)

We also had a lot of characters with strong defenses, high DR, Luck, and supernatural backup plans like the very occasional Lesser Wish or Wish.

Order of Operations of Aid

The big question we grappled with as a group was, "When does Bless 'fire'?" In other words, when does Bless activate and provide its (potentially) life-saving and harm-avoiding benefits?

This was especially critical regarding Luck. It was a time-limited resource and players liked to husband it for something really important to them, like rolling to avoid death.

The question was, did Bless "know" what the attack could, or would do? Could it retroactively apply if the effects of the attack were too much? Who decided what was too much?

We decided that Bless didn't "know" anything. It didn't know if you had Luck left. It didn't know if you were going to fail a HT roll and die as a result of that attack or make it easily and live and really need that +1 or better next turn. It didn't know the damage or results of an attack. It was a supernatural blessing but it wasn't prescient.

Therefore, we decided it was the first line of supernatural defense. You still got any defense roll, if you had one, or a resistance roll, or Blocking spell, or other "normal" attempt to defeat something. If that failed, Bless would kick in and save you if the threat was sufficient to do so. You couldn't use Luck to save Bless unless you'd done the very rare thing of declaring a use of Luck ahead of the roll's failure.

Extent of Bless

We essentially made it a hierarchy - +1 shifts things one level (critical success to success), +2 two levels (critical success to failure), +3 three levels (critical success to critical failure). That made for easier rulings; it only affected an opposing success (or own failure) and made it better for the Bless recipient by the margin determined by the spell level.

And like Luck, it couldn't go back to earlier rolls. It affected the immediate roll that caused the immediate problem and went away.

How did it play?

Once we settled on this, it was fine. Bless was very useful, but its bonus would burn off pretty quickly along with its saving effect as the first rolls were failed. It ended up being a very simple ruling in the end. We found that we liked the overall effect - it was a useful spell but it didn't save you only after everything else was gone. Nicely it kept Bless +1 from being an always-on +1 to everything with a last-ditch Undo button for only the worst circumstances. It played well for us.


  1. Is Boon, from this post, available at PI 5? Not particularly relevant just yet, but Ulf would totally save up for that--it's a pretty darn good spell. Or Dismissive Wave from Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power Ups, etc., etc. So many wants!

    1. I'm still not sure if I'd allow it.

    2. The big problem I see with allowing it is that it would be so valuable as to be effectively required for a cleric. It would be a race to PI 5 to get the spell and then PI 6 to maximize the number of people it could be on. It would be an expected buff on everyone, always. It would encourage groups to stop and rest, or fall back to return later, whenever the Boon has been triggered. There would be strong demand for scrolls of Boon, NPC hired castings of Boon, expectations that anything even vaguely quest-sounding by the church would come with a Boon ("Why wouldn't they do that? It doesn't make sense not to."), questions about items with Boon and backups of the same, etc.

      I think that's the most logical result of allowing it. So I'm leaning against doing so.

  2. I think I like your way of running Bless better than mine. It's simpler, and makes Bless a bit less overpowered. However, I don't think I'll change in mid-campaign.

    1. Thanks, and that makes sense. I only change rules mid-go when it's clear the change is less of a problem than leaving it, and then only with at least some player agreement.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...