Thursday, January 7, 2021

GURPS 101: Item/Spell Effects or Creature Weaknesses?

In some game systems, spells and items will have special effects against certain creatures - more damage against evil beings, or undead, or living things, or golems and robots, or . . . whatever.

In GURPS, the standard is that creatures are all equally affected by the effect, unless they have a special Weakness or Vulnerability. In other words, fire doesn't do extra damage to "dry" beings, but requires that the "dry" creatures have a disadvantage that makes them more vulnerable. Holy water is just water to everyone - even unholy creatures - unless they're specifically written up to be weak to holy water or holy objects.

For example, the Sunlight spell does exactly what the name implies - it creates sunlight. That sunlight is perfectly ordinary - it doesn't do special damage to undead, or evil creatures, or creatures of shadow, or anything like that. But creatues such as vampires, or demons, or shadow creatures may have a Weakness that causes them to take damage from sunlight. Against them, the spell has an effect - but really, it's an effect of the Weakness, not the spell.

This is a small point, but it's a critical one to note. Don't expect your spell, item, or power to do anything special, unless your target is especially vulnerable or weak against it!


  1. Right. Ulf was hoping these were creatures of shadow of some sort that might be explicitly vulnerable to Sunlight. When that didn't work, he went to Rebuke Evil (hoping they were evil, and thankfully, they were). I agree that we should try silver and/or meteoric iron weapons next time also (if we have them). If they come from the moon, maybe they're affected by iron from outer space...

    1. It's one of those things about a generic, universal system - you can only tie broad effects to the source, and specific effects to the target. You can't assume the source or the targets are the same from one campaign to the next.

  2. In the general, I find the above to be logical and consistent within the rules. However on that note, DF (both GURPS DF and DFRPG versions) has holy water for sale. Now admittedly the wording makes it clear that the target is required to have a Weakness in order for it to be useful...but this weakness is decidedly not usual. In fact of the two editions, only DFRPG has stats for a monster that is affected by holy water, as written.

    1. The way I use my GURPS 101 posts, it had better be 100% consistent with the rules. It's just a series of simple, for-beginners explanations of something that is true in the GURPS ruleset that might not be clear - or might use some highlighting. I might need boilerplate to put on the front, now that I think of it, because I often get comments on GURPS 101 posts or generic GURPS posts pointing at DF, DFRPG, or DF Felltower, even when they're not really what I'm talking about. Not a criticism of your comment, just a thought that it occasioned after the comment above.

      That said, you're right - few monsters have any weakness to Holy Water, but it's for sale. It has a very limited subset of uses . . . but it's also only $15, $7.50 for clerics. It's not likely that a $15 item is really going to prove to be an especially deadly weapon if Alchemist's Fire is $100 and potions cost significantly more. I think in my games, players seem to want it to be basically universally effective against anything that's supernatural and/or evil. Or allied with either. Also, to have additional spill-on effects for those who are good or allied with good. It's just overpriced water most of the time, for the uses it is put to.

    2. "Also, to have additional spill-on effects for those who are good or allied with good."

      I allow Holy Water to give a +1 to Cleansing and/or Sanctifying an altar/removing curses if it's liberally splashed around (ie used up) as part of either the Cleansing //or// the Sanctifying ritual. If it's a big altar or area, it might take a lot of Holy Water...

      So I tend to see Clerics and Holy Warriors carrying at least a few pints. Not just for Undeads, but for Cleansing altars/removing curses.

      I'm playing a Dungeon Saint who specifically can create Holy Water on demand for just such purposes... and in on one mission where we needed to cleanse and sanctify a whole bunch of altars on ex-holy grounds (a fallen abbey) we brought a barrel of Holy Water on the cart.

      So it can have uses outside of just "splash on a suspicious foes to see if they are secretly Demons of Old or Vampires..."

    3. @Peter D - a fair point. You did specifically call out GURPS in both title and text. I guess my comment was tangential to the point of your article.

      Not that the core GURPS rules to my mind are in any way unclear to me on that score, for exactly the reason you state above; more that in the specific "worked example" of DF/DFRPG, the presence of Holy Water as an option is a bit meh, unless the GM looks to expand its purview a little. I agree that being as Holy Water is so cheap, that effect should not be all-encompassing...

      @evileyore - the +1 is a nice idea. I had been toying with requiring Holy Water for some cleansing/consecration, or possibly giving a bonus for its use (or use of additional doses). It hasn't come up in play yet since, and I hadn't decided. I think I'll give your example a try.

    4. @Joseph R - no worries. It's a worthwhile discussion, although I probably should have done a blog post about Holy Water because now I'll never find any of this discussion 5 years from now when a player asks about it.

      @evileyeore - nice idea.

    5. "I probably should have done a blog post about Holy Water because..."

      You still can sir.

    6. Sure, but I have nothing additional to say. If I ever end up with enough to add to a post I'll try to find this post and mine it for that future one.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...