“True Game ESP, -20%” and The Heat Limitation (Gamesman Magic Modeled as Psionic Power)

“Where do you think you’re going with all those ovens, friend?”

One of the neatest things about The Land of the True Game setting is that most of the magical powers depend on heat. I’ll discuss the implications of that in this post, along with providing the rules framework for the first system of magic: in setting terms, the “talents” of the gamesmen (except Wizards).

The ‘True Game ESP’ Power Modifier

GURPS Psionic Powers defines the power modifier ESP (-10%) in Chapter One. In my setting’s source materials, “Land of the True Game ‘Talent'” (not GURPS Rules “talent”–I mean the setting’s use of the word) is never described as ESP but its effects are so close to the already-defined ESP power modifier that I am going to keep the existing ESP modifier label that my templates are more readable by others.

There is really only one big departure from the ESP modifier and that is talent magic in this setting (statted as psi) depends on heat. In this forum post, PK modeled this as the following limitation:

  • if there is warmth present in the surrounding area, it is drained from the area and makes the area cold
  • if there is no warmth, drain it from the user (they become cold)

This can be priced as a kind of Costs Fatigue limitation, as:

Depends on Heat: Costs Fatigue, 1 FP per -5%, modified by the following: (Accessibility, Only In Cold Environments, -20%; Hazard: Freezing, +20%)

I think the right FP cost for this is 2FP. I know that’s steep, as the Basic Set ESP modifier and the Psionic Powers ESP modifier both appear to cost 0 FP, while the Dungeon Fantasy 14 ESP power modifier costs 1 FP. But I’d like this to act as a kind of GM brake on powers. Remember that if the environment is warm, it costs you nothing.

Applied to the power modifier ESP, this would increase the ESP power modifier cost by an additional -10%. So I’ll refer to this as ‘True Game ESP’ in my templates and set the cost to a total of (normal ESP at -10% + the limitation that power depends on heat x 2 FP at an additional -10% = a total of) -20%.

All gamesmen templates will use this modifier for their powers except The Immutables, whose powers do not work like “normal” ESP and do not require heat. They are closer to “anti-psi.” Also the Wizards don’t use psionic powers at all.

Interesting Heat Limit Gameplay Implications

Note that the addition of the heat limitation does not affect the existing FP limitations on Psionic Powers given in that book. A gamesman’s power can make her both tired AND cold. Hopefully this isn’t a PITA to keep track of, as the rules say FP lost to freezing and that lost to fatigue must be tracked separately because they are restored differently (one by warmth, one by resting).

EDIT: Perhaps I should change all stated fatigue costs to freezing costs (e.g., for Extra Effort or Repeated Attempts) to make things simpler. Not sure. Still thinking about that.

I think the added complexity of heat is worthwhile because I hope the heat limitation has some cool effects in the setting. For instance:

  • it makes Sentinels (firestarters) much more useful characters as they produce heat
  • it makes Sorcerers much more useful characters as they grant an exception to the need for heat (more on that later, but if you can’t wait just think of this setting’s Sorcerers as power-holders or FP reserves or powerstones)
  • it grants a way to detect power use, no matter what the power is (“you feel a sudden chill“)
  • in effect it makes powerstones in the default 4e Magic system into people (Sorcerers), who are much more visible
    • there are some interesting narrative repercussions — if you see someone walk into town with a few Sorcerers, I’d guess they are looking for trouble.
  • people preparing for great battles would start enormous fires (and they use “War Ovens”)
    • again, interesting narrative repercussions here: “where are you going with all that wood, friend?”
  • you can see traces of a big battle because huge swaths of forest are burned to the ground
  • if can’t be offensive, because you would freeze to death before anyone near you, but it might have some nifty narrative/flavor consequences (like everyone in a battle could go too far and freeze to death — including nearby pawns who were too close)
  • Certain situations would make powers that require maintenance FP, like flight, effectively free. Even though with this costs heat modifier flight costs 2FP to begin and 1FP per second to maintain, the GM could rule that a flyer is moving fast enough that they are able to gather heat from the environment as they move without running out–they just leave a trail of freezing air behind them. Long distance flight might then not cost any FP due to heat.
  • The weather, location, and the time-of-day, which are typically controlled by GM fiat by the GM, can drastically limit battles. The GM says when the heat in the environment is exhausted.
    • A battle on a sunny day next to a hot spring could go on forever and cost no FP!
    • In comparison, no one wants to fight on a mountain in the arctic at midnight in winter.

I think I might add a stipulation that there’s something magical about the heat limitation that makes fires and weather — or “larger” / area-wide sources of heat effective, but personal clothing is ineffective. This is purely a style thing, but I don’t want my adventurers always reaching for their parkas. Not sure about this. Still thinking about it. I just don’t like the optics of everyone buying and wearing warm coats in case battle breaks out. If you have any suggestions about how to deal with this, please comment.

From here down, this post is more about recordkeeping for my campaign, so feel free to skip everything else. I think the heat limit is the most interesting part.

Modeling Specific Abilities as Psionic Powers

As mentioned above. I decided to define the mental powers of gamesmen (“talents”) as Psionic Powers. To refresh your (and my) memory, Psionic Powers have these parts in the GURPS RAW:

  • A “power” is a collection of similar abilities — “powers” have no point cost but organize the abilities for other purposes. They’re basically section headings in the Psionic Powers sourcebook and also help do things like organize abilities into the GURPS talents advantage, mentioned below (Example power: “Psychic Healing”)
  • Powers have traits–advantages–which cost character points and allow the player to perform a particular psionic ability. Some traits have levels and some do not (Example advantage: “Cure 4”).
  • There is power modifier that applies setting-wide rules to all abilities, listed with the advantages in parentheses (in this campaign, the power modifier is nearly always “True Game ESP: -20%” — this is described below).
  • An optional GURPS talent (that is, in GURPS rule terms an instance of the talent advantage) that grants a bonus to all associated rolls. Note that you can have a power with no talent, some people are more or less gifted than others. For ease of recordkeeping, I’ll name the talents after powers and use the word “Talent” in the character sheet. Talents also have levels and each level provides a +1 bonus (Example talent: “Talent [Psychic Healing] 2”).
  • An associated Hard skill that represents uses of the power. Passive effects do not have an associated skill. (Example: “Cure [IQ/Hard]”).
  • Optional techniques that represent specific, difficult ways to use the power. In rules terms, these actually combine “power techniques” and “temporary enhancements” (see GURPS Powers, p. 162, 172). Passive effects do not have techniques. (Example: “Heal Limb [Hard: Defaults to Cure-6]”).

Powers of the Gamesmen

(Except Wizards.) For the purposes of the setting, I’ll need to do some adjustments, but basically the mapping between Gamesmen and Psionic Powers looks like this:

  • Demon: Telepathy (various parts)
  • Ruler: Telepathy (aspect) or possibly the Awe advantage listed as the opposite of Terror in GURPS Powers
  • Seer: Telepathy (visions)
  • Armiger: Psychokinesis (flight)
  • Tragamor: Psychokinesis (various telekinesis)
  • Sentinel: Psychokinesis (except that I don’t really like how creating heat models things and I may have to build it myself)
  • Healer: Psychic Healing (multiple)
  • Elator: Teleportation (warp)
  • Immutable: Anti-Psi (various)
  • Necromancer: No Psionic Powers equivalent, I’ll have to custom build this.
  • Sorcerer: No Psionic Powers equivalent, I’ll have to custom build this.
  • Shapeshifter: No Psionic Powers equivalent, I’ll have to custom build this.

In a few cases we’ll need to move some particular abilities around as GURPS Psionic Powers characterizes them differently than the setting. For instance, Healers have the “power of the flesh” in The Land of the True Game. That means they have what GURPS calls Psychic Healing. But in the setting they have the power to heal or to harm the flesh if they lay hands on someone. GURPS calls that a different power (Psychokinesis) but we want to bring it under “Healer” as that makes sense in the setting. And it makes sense logically come to think of it.

GURPS Talents For These Powers

Power Talent is 5 points per level in Psionic Powers (p. 18). Note that True Game powers are always more narrow than Psionic Powers, and this forces us to change some things. Basically I’m making Power Talent more like mundane talent.

  • Power Talents in this setting are named after gamesmen in The Index. e.g., Power Talent (Witch).
  • Rather than the “Power Talent” granting a bonus to the skills listed in Psionic Powers p. 18 (see mapping above), the Power Talent for ‘True Game ESP’ powers grants a bonus only to those skills given on the template for that gamesman.
  • This means Power Talents might grant bonuses to mundane skills as well as psionic ones, as some True Game powers are a mixture of both. But I will hew to the rules and limit 5 point talents to a maximum of six skills. I think this is a rules change but it seems super minor.
  • Buying talent at all may make less sense. E.g., if there is only one trait and skill associated with the gamesman, there is no sense spending 5 points to raise it by +1.
  • Contrary to the definition on Psionic Powers p. 5, buying GURPS Power Talent in this setting does not “keep the door open” for additional abilities to be added later. You have the powers that you have at birth (although you can get better at them).
  • Contrary to the definition on Psionic Powers p. 5, buying GURPS Power Talent in this setting does give reaction bonuses, as mundane talent would.

How Psi Works

I’m not changing the basic rules of Psionic Powers much beyond this, but I’m going to review them here just be to be sure I understand them. (I will also make a few slight changes.)

  • Multiple Feats: No change. -1 for every other ability in the same power
  • Repeated Attempts: No change. -1 modifier and -1 additional FP for each (cumulative) attempt of the same feat on the same subject after a failure.
  • Additional Contact: Since True Game setting powers are contact-based for the most part, this rule does not seem likely to apply much, or at all.
  • Situational Modifiers: As normal.
  • Time Spent: p. B346 rules do apply (this stated as a GM call), providing bonuses and penalties as though the base time to activate an ability were one minute.
  • Critical Success: No change. Waive FP cost. Critical success does not automatically overcome resistance.
  • Critical Failure: No change. Produces effects opposite to intended, or otherwise noticeably inconvenient. Requires additional unmodified Will roll. Failure on this Will roll cripples the ability for (margin of failure) minutes. Critical failure changes this to 1d months (harsh!).
  • Extra Effort: No change. Pay an additional 2 FP to roll vs. Will for a boost to the level of an ability. Modify the Will roll -1 for every 10% increase in level. Emergencies provide +5 bonus.
  • Gestalts: Contrary to the stated rules, all gestalts require touching. This is specified in the setting source materials. Other gestalt rules are unchanged.
  • Detecting Psi: Rules change: there is no expert skill in Psionics. Powers are detected as per the rules or as per special instructions in the templates I’ll post next.
  • Mundane Versions of Psionic Traits: This is specified as a GM option. My ruling is: Characters in this campaign can buy traits like Common Sense, Danger Sense, or Intuition but these are not considered “latent psionic” traits. They do not interact with the gamesmen’s Psionic Powers talent at all unless bought as part of a template. But it is OK to buy them.

OK, this gives us the rules framework for the Gamesmen’s powers (except Wizards, which use a different system of magic that I will address later on). Next up: The Templates!



  1. I’d advise renaming your PM. It doesnt need to have ESP in it and that will tend to confuse people. A new name is better. On Parkas and such they just trap body heat so shouldn’t counter draining your own body heat.


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