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Magic that requires adherence to a moral code to be used.


MechaniCat
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So I'm a new hero player/gm and I was looking for some advice and opinions on how I would write up a form a magic that comes from some sort of fickle external source. The idea is that this type of magic comes from a god that the character must worship, and consequently follow the moral code of that god. If they don't then the god snatches that power away and the character must prove his worth to recover it (through a quest or some such).

 

Now I am aware there are complications that would be able to simulate the behavioral restrictions, but they don't scale with the powers as a character develops. Using a Complication gives the PC a static amount of points, but doesn't give the character discounts to the power, even though the restriction is becoming greater and greater over the development of the character. A character who loses a small 1d6 RKA for unfaithfulness is getting the same rebate as a character whose losing a 10d6 RKA AND a 4d6 HKA AND some other powers, despite that fact that the second character is taking a much larger risk.

 

Also there's a problem where I want more than one type of magic in the setting that can mixed and matched to a degree. This means that the way this magic works can't be built into the character. It needs to be purchasable wholesale in some way. I have the other types of magic largely worked out satisfactorily, but the other types all work as a VPPs or Multipowers with required limitations so they scale per power in a way that I would prefer this "Patron God Magic" to also scale.

 

I can always make something from scratch, but I would really like to hear some opinions on how to do this using what's already in the system so I can used the point costs as a good starting point for balance.

 

PS: I would put this in the fantasy hero forum, but the setting is a mash-up of multiple genres anyway and I thought opinions from people who work in different genres might be beneficial.

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The most obvious answer is to use a Conditional Limitation: Only with approval of Deity, and set the value of the Limitation wherever you think it should be based on the parameters you want.

 

Another option is to use some variation of Charges with the "Recovers under limited circumstances" option, and again set the difficulty by how hard you want it to be to use the power again; "must tell only the truth for a full day" or "pray for 15 minutes" or "perform some generous act of almsgiving" or whatever.

 

Finally you can give the inspired character a (fairly expensive) Contact with the Deity in question, and treat specific powers like "equipment" or assistance from the Contact. That would be if you really want to get into roleplaying the Entity that dispenses power.

 

There are probably other answer that other people come up with, but that's it for me right now.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

And a Contact with a palindromedary

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There are several non-exclusive ways this can be handled. "Only When Following Deity's Wishes" is a typical Limitation for clerical spells. It's usually -1/2, but that can be adjusted. "Must Stay In Deity's Favor" might be more limiting, maybe -3/4 or even -1. Balancing this might be tricky, as you don't want the character to receive a large Limitation for something that might not come up, or, conversely, a small Limitation for something that routinely impairs the character.

 

The second way is, as you suspected, a Physical Complication. This scales better than you might think. A character with only a few spells will be Barely Impaired (+0) if he loses them. A character that relies on spells might be Slightly (+5) or even Greatly Impaired (+10) when they lose all of them. Don't worry too much about scaling the Complication to the power level of the campaign.

 

The third way is to have the character take a Psychological Complication involving their faith. It makes sense that a fickle deity would only grant spells to those with the greatest faith.

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I generally go with a Psychological Complication combined with a small to medium (-1/4 to -1/2) limitation on the powers in question. It depends somewhat on the player and what I see as the likelyhood that the situation will come up (a limitation that never comes up is worth no points). This is a combination of the players thoughts and my own, since as a GM you can force the issue with various Catch 22 situations, but that can feel contrived or leave the player feeling manipulated if you don't talk it out beforehand.

 

Note that generally I apply Unified Power to these types of powers as well, since in my current setting drains would target the powers "source" by blocking the connection. Just something to think about. You can control this by placing limitations on drains that do not act this way (single target power only: -1/2 or the like).

 

- E

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Psych Lim and Watched for the Complications to start with.  

 

On the powers...by and large, they probably shouldn't start with any Limitations.  I like the old D&D notion that low-level clerical spells are largely automatic;  it's when you get to the higher level ones that a problem kicks in.  One way...spells of significant effect could have Side Effect (Watched goes from, say, More Powerful (15), Infrequent (5), Watch Only (-10),  up to More Powerful, Easy to Find, Yes, Being Watched, and up to MAY Harshly Punish (call it -5)).  That's taking a 10 point Complication to a 35 point Complication.

 

OR, take Side Effects depending on what you're doing.  It's not simply that you're drawing more power, it's what you're trying to do.  The obvious, extreme example is usually Resurrect-level Healing, but in fantasy that's pretty much the ultimate expression of divine power.  That might not be the case in a world with superpowers.  So you could just say that Side Effect kicks in, with the 1/4 less limitation "only when violating ethos" as the baseline.  Base it on active points, something like:

 

0-30 active:  minor side effect (-1/4), only when violating ethos AND only if a Watched roll fails (+1/4)...so 0 net limitation

31-60:  major side effect (-1/2), only when violating ethos (+1/4)...net -1/4 limitation

61-80:  major side effect (-1/2), triggers Watched (meaning, the Power reviews recent actions), only when violating ethos...net -1/2 limitation

81+:  extreme side effect (-1), same conditions.

 

Side effect:  if this is being done as a VPP, as I suspect...that many points lost from the pool size until atonement is made.

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At the risk of sounding totally ignorant and crazy...

 

Perhaps an END Battery or whatever it's called now.

All deity powers are powered by the battery.

You can then have a limitation of causing the recovery time on the battery be increased however long or some other limitation to represent how the battery gets recharged.

The more powers you have the large the END Pool must be and the worse it is to recover (based on whatever limitation is applicable).

 

Just a thought.

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59 minutes ago, schir1964 said:

At the risk of sounding totally ignorant and crazy...

 

Perhaps an END Battery or whatever it's called now.

All deity powers are powered by the battery.

You can then have a limitation of causing the recovery time on the battery be increased however long or some other limitation to represent how the battery gets recharged.

The more powers you have the large the END Pool must be and the worse it is to recover (based on whatever limitation is applicable).

 

Just a thought.

 

 

Leaves too much power.  END Bat has how many turns' worth of power in it?  Several, generally.  Not to mention, this'd allow anything inherently costing no END.

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31 minutes ago, unclevlad said:

 

 

Leaves too much power.  END Bat has how many turns' worth of power in it?  Several, generally.  Not to mention, this'd allow anything inherently costing no END.

I thought the END Pool was used up based on endurance costs?

Plus those that inherently cost no END would have to take the limitation Costs END. At least that was my intent.

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The idea works fine, so long as you limit the REC in some way: prayers, duties to the deity that must be performed, continuation of a quest, evangelism, or what-have-you.  And of course, be careful that the pool isn't so large so that the prospective caster can pop off spell after spell without proper supplication.

 

How about Charges?  That gives you a lot of what you want without too much re-working, and you assign what must transpire in order to replenish the Charges.

 

 

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Sure, the END pool is used up, the point is, after violating the rules, he's still got however much END was in the pool.  So he can continue to act, potentially continually in violation, until he uses it all.  

 

And if everything has to cost END, that forces a massive END Bat...cuz that includes all defenses.  You're also probably saying powers can't generally buy reduced END...which also means the END Bat has to be very large.  It's a big PITA for this kind of broad-based power concept.

 

Hmm.  Another approach...if this is a VPP, and if a skill roll is required to change powers, then 

a)  all powers in the pool are reset

b)  the skill roll to change the powers suddenly gets a big honkin' penalty, like -5 to -10.

 

 

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Lots of advice and food for thought here. Though I do feel the need to make some clarifications.

 

I tend to imagine the relationship between the character and god to be like a bad Job. Where the manager expects sometimes unrealistic things from the grunts (not having experienced that job or not for a long time at least). But instead of "smile to all customers" it's something like "plant a tree every day" (even though you're in a cyberpunk city where fertile ground can be hard to find). You're a representative of that god/company and anything you do that (they think) reflects badly on them and you're fired. I figure each god you can select will have 5 to 10 tenants you must follow with at least half being reasonable (don't be a dick), and the rest being esoteric or strange (always wear a purple hat facing north or must eat all food offered to you even if it's rotten/not meant for your species/knowingly poisoned). The big difficulties are the latter tenants and would be problematic in some easily foreseeable way, so I don't think a player would be too put off with the weird stuff being an issue since they knowingly agreed to them.

 

Part of that is a desire for magic bought through this style of magic to have a large discount. Which is to say, as characters develop and gain more points to work with, the Patron Magic user is getting powerful spells sooner then other styles of magic. That's because Patron magic is affecting your entire life where the difficulties of other styles of magic are only affecting your spells. And also because it just would feel weird to me if the magic you get from the gods wasn't some of the "best".

 

The first suggestions from Lucius and IndianaJoe3 are what I'm leaning toward currently, but the other suggestions will undoubtedly be useful ideas for later projects.

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39 minutes ago, MechaniCat said:

 

 

 

The first suggestions from Lucius and IndianaJoe3 are what I'm leaning toward currently, but the other suggestions will undoubtedly be useful ideas for later projects.

 

Can't say as I blame you; lots of good stuff there. :D

 

1 hour ago, unclevlad said:

Sure, the END pool is used up, the point is, after violating the rules, he's still got however much END was in the pool.  So he can continue to act, potentially continually in violation, until he uses it all.  

 

I suspect you and I were considering radically differently-sized pools.

 

And even if it was a Battery of two thousand END, I'd have to make two basic assumptions:

 

1) The GM okayed it as fitting within the parameters of his vision for his world's magic system

2) The deity in charge of the REC was okay with refilling it, even knowing the character would have it till it was gone.  Though I guess that's just one assumption, as that, too, if a factor of how the GM sees it working.

 

 

1 hour ago, unclevlad said:

 

And if everything has to cost END, that forces a massive END Bat...cuz that includes all defenses.  You're also probably saying powers can't generally buy reduced END...which also means the END Bat has to be very large.  It's a big PITA for this kind of broad-based power concept.

 

It only forces a big battery if you assume the Ancient Lord High Muckety-muck thinks your force wall should last more than two Phases.  Or thinks you should have it at all.  I would assume there would be at least _some_ defensive magic, but as it's not my system, I can't say what, or how well it works.

 

Though I won't argue that a really large END battery _is_ a pain in the rear; that's the biggest reason I instinctively assumed a small one that would cover a spell or two until the brass statue in question was properly placated.

 

1 hour ago, unclevlad said:

 

Hmm.  Another approach...if this is a VPP, and if a skill roll is required to change powers, then 

a)  all powers in the pool are reset

b)  the skill roll to change the powers suddenly gets a big honkin' penalty, like -5 to -10.

 

 

 

 

The Skill Roll is an intriguing idea-- penalties based on the whim and mood of the figurehead being entreated, I assume?  Excellent idea.  Though that does still bring up the possibility of succeeding directly against the will of the one who grants you the ability-- no amount of penalty removes "success on a three."

 

And honestly, a VPP is hands-down the biggest PITA in the entire rules set.

 

And why do we still call it a VPP?  Why don't we call it "Multipower with everything I will ever think of in it"?

 

(never mind; I have my answer: "pool" is easier to type....)

 

 

 

 

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Something that might aid with the ENDbattery idea is a susceptibility to going against the deities wishes.  Every time you break a tenet of the religion you take a hit to your END reserve.  If you are minorly bad all that happens is the temporary reduction in the pool, if you have been majorly bad, this is complicated by the reduced ability to regenerate the pool....

 

Doc

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8 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

And why do we still call it a VPP?  Why don't we call it "Multipower with everything I will ever think of in it"?

 

 

For the same reason we don't call a Multipower a "Not so Variable Power Pool." Because it would be confusing and unhelpful.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Variable Palindromedary Pool

 

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Generally the problem with a limitation like "must follow moral code" is that player then defines the moral code as how he's planning on acting anyway.  "Must always be condescending jerk" isn't much of a limitation.  Neither is "must make crude jokes at inappropriate times".  Presumably a player won't select a moral code that he knows he'll have a hard time following.

 

If you set the requirements up as the GM, then you have a little more control, and the limitation value can be higher.

 

Perhaps you could give higher powered spells an activation roll with a burnout.  When the activation roll fails, the power works (that time), but to use it again you've got to do something that pleases your deity.  You've drawn his attention and he wants you to do something to prove you're still worthy.

 

 

So let's say something like this:

 

Lightning Strike

4D6 RKA, Indirect (+1/2) (always from the sky)

Incantations (-1/4), must follow moral code (-1/4), 12- activation roll w/ burnout (-1/2), OAF holy symbol (-1)

90 Active Points, 30 Real Cost, 9 Endurance

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6 hours ago, massey said:

Generally the problem with a limitation like "must follow moral code" is that player then defines the moral code as how he's planning on acting anyway.  "Must always be condescending jerk" isn't much of a limitation.  Neither is "must make crude jokes at inappropriate times".  Presumably a player won't select a moral code that he knows he'll have a hard time following.

 

 

Do you have similar concerns with psychological complications?  I am pretty sure a player who writes "Code vs Killing", and "Honorable" on his character sheet is not planning to play a lying, cheating murderer, but he still gets points for those complications, doesn't he?

 

I'd say the question is less about whether the character is intended to be played as adhering to that moral code, and more about how often that moral code will prove inconvenient.

 

That said, I like the idea of a Susceptibility which Drains the character's magical powers whenever he violates his moral code, say with a recovery rate per day.  It won't drain a huge amount for a single infraction, presumably, but will slowly erode his magical abilities if he drifts from that moral code.  Recovery reflects his adherence to the moral code outside of these infractions.  It is not that the spells are limited, but  that the character's behaviour is limited, which is typically a Complication.

 

Another possibility would be a Watched by his deity, who will punish infractions by reducing spell power, or denying spells entirely.

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1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

Do you have similar concerns with psychological complications?  I am pretty sure a player who writes "Code vs Killing", and "Honorable" on his character sheet is not planning to play a lying, cheating murderer, but he still gets points for those complications, doesn't he?

 

 

No, I view complications/disadvantages differently than I do limitations.  Regardless of what the book says they're for, I view disadvantages as player-defined story hooks for the GM.  They are hints as to what kind of challenges you'd like to face.  The GM picks and chooses the ones that seem interesting and makes a story out of them.  Disads also work as an incentive for the player to define the character.  Ever see a player struggle to come up with a name for his character?  Disads help them lock down key parts of their personality and background.

 

Pretty much every character will have max disads.  Everybody ends up with the same point totals.  I view limitations more strictly, because that's how you squeeze a 700 point character into 350.

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Massey, I'd say the key is that the moral code is more a Complication (story hook) than a limitation on the powers, so we're thinking on similar lines, at least.

 

The moral code complication makes sense for a devoted follower of the deity.  The Susceptibility or Watched may be better suited for the character who will follow those rules, but he doesn't necessarily agree with them.\, and may try to wiggle out of them on occasion.

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As a GM, I would much rather deal with a moral code being written up as a complication than written up as a limitation.

 

If it's a limitation, I'm supposed to find excuses for the deity to not let the PC use the power regardless of whether the PC is following the moral code or not. The limitation has to limit the power a certain portion of the time or it isn't a limitation.

 

If the limitation is the character adhering to a moral code, the character can completely ignore the limitation by adhering to a moral code. That puts control of the limitation, and whether it ever happens at all, completely in the hands of the player while still making me as a GM obligated to find reasons to limit access to the power during play sessions anyway.

 

Honestly, I wouldn't want that headache.

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I see the Complication and the Limitation as different parts of the same package. The Complication (applied to the character) defines the code of conduct and how it is triggered. The Limitation (applied to the Powers) determines which abilities are affected. it's quite possible for a character to have abilities that are not granted by a deity, and would be unaffected when the deity removes granted abilities.

 

The character may be able to avoid game mechanical penalties by following the code of conduct,  but they still have to deal with the effects of following that code in-game. A code that is trivial to follow should be worth no points because it doesn't complicate the character's life or limit his abilities. A code that is difficult to follow would be worth a lot of points because it really complicates the character's life.

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It depends on the type of campaign.  When I run a Fantasy Hero game I am the one creating the deities not the players.  As such I create the moral code not the players.  Generally in a Champions game the players have a lot more flexibility.  But don’t forget the rule that if a limitation does not limit you than it is not worth any points.  If a player in a Champions game uses the moral code limitation he should be required to specify what is against the code and the GM set the value.  If his code never causes any problems then it is a -0 limitation. 

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