Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Psi Wars: Empowering Artifacts

There's been a discussion of history over on Mailanka's Musings for the Psi Wars setting, focusing on determining an appropriate span of time and how to break that down into manageable chunks. One of the measures that Mailanka used to set bounds on the stretch of history was based on enchantment through age from GURPS Thaumatology. This turned out to be a difficult measure to use, since it either gave rather small stretches of time or it allowed for artifacts of absurd power.

This led me to wonder: why bother with using the exact age of an artifact in years to determine its potential growth? Instead, since Psi-Wars is conveniently broken up into eras, you can use the number of eras that the artifact has been around for to guide its growth.

However, simply assigning a point value to each era would give unsatisfactory results as well, since it's not just age that determines whether Communion will invest a given artifact with power.  No, artifacts that gain that power are always significant in some way, whether because of the events they're involved with, the individuals, organizations, or families that owned them, or the path of a legendary archetype that it's associated with.

In that vein, I would like to propose a system that takes into account an artifact's age, its historical significance, the length of time it was in continuous use, and whether it was associated with a legendary archetype.

In brief, the concept is:
  1. Determine the base point value from the most significant person, event, or organization the artifact was involved with.
  2. Add modifiers for continuous use and legendary archetype as appropriate
  3. Apply the multiplier for the artifact's era of origin.

Base Value
Galactic - 10 points
Sector/Large Galactic Region - 8 points
Planetary - 6 points
Major Free Agent - 4 points

+0 for 0-5 years of continuous use, +2 for 6-75 years of use, +4 for 75-200 years of use, +6 for 201+ years. Use only the highest applicable value. Add an additional +4 if it is part of the regalia for a path.

Era of Origin
Recent Events - x1/2
Living Memory - x1
Recent History - x2
National History - x5
Dawn of the Current Era - x10
Mythic History - x15

It's important to note that the final point values for artifacts are guidelines, and that it would be reasonable to vary the value by up to 25% either way. If you have a good idea, don't let yourself be constrained by a budget, or feel obligated to use every point that it could have if this means adding abilities that doesn't fit the concept.

The first table is derived from the Admistrative Ranks that Mailanka uses for Psi-Wars, since that acts as a reasonable proxy for how important the artifact's associations are. The artifact's owner need not have any formal rank for this to apply, like a notorious bounty hunter famous for their use of an archaic vibrosword. Since they're known on a galactic level, but actual impact on events is limited to a more individual level, their signature possessions have the potential for power investment, but it's limited to 4 points of base value.

Use some discretion here. Just because an artifact was involved in a battle for the galaxy doesn't mean that it itself is of galactic significance. Save the full value of such events for the major leaders and items that played a pivotal role in the battle, without which it would have gone very differently. Other notable figures like famous aces and commandos should use smaller values, down to free agent for those known to be involved in a significant way but who didn't direct the course of events themselves.

The modifiers come from my desire to make heirlooms and national (galactic?) treasures more significant than an artifact that's only had a single notable owner. The scepter of a planet's royal family, handed down from generation to generation, carries with it the stories of many individuals, and so is correspondingly more powerful.

The final modifier for being used as part of the regalia of someone following the path of a legendary archetype represents the power of Communion that already exists around those paths. This deep connection means that they gain power much more quickly than an otherwise similar mundane artifact.

Finally, you have the crux of my system, and that's the multiplier for era of origin. An artifact that's only recent begun to build a reputation hasn't had the opportunity its legend to spread or for Communion to invest power in it, and so it only has half the base value. As it ages, the multiplier increases, roughly doubling each time, tapering off in the mythic era to keep them from growing too extreme.

So how well does this work out?

The good luck charm of an ace pilot who played a key role in a battle for the fate of a sector a few years ago has a base score of 4, divided by 2 for recent events, and so could have up to 2 points of abilities. Since she was a notable figure of the battle, but didn't lead it herself, this is quite reasonable.

The personal blade of the First Emperor, who united the galaxy under one banner in the Mythic Era, established one of the paths, and was then lost shortly after his death has a base value of 10. Adding +4 for being the regalia of a path and +2 for 40-50 years of use gives 16. Applying the x15 for a mythic era artifact gives a final value of 240. Powerful, but appropriate for an artifact of this age.

The crown of the leader of a house that eventually helped to found the Federation originates in the dawn of the current era, and has likely been handed down for several generations. As leaders of a large region of a galaxy, the base value is 8, plus 4 for 150 years of history, and then multiplied by 10 for dawn era. This gives 120 points. Again, this is powerful, but it has great historical significance.

The founding of the Federation was commemorated with the creation of a set of ceremonial regalia. Unfortunately, it was stolen shortly afterwards. Since it marks an event of galactic significance, it has a base value of 10, and a multiplier of 10. Thus, the regalia could have 100 points of powers.

The rifle used by the assassin to kill a sector governor in an incident that would help to lead up to the conflict that birthed the Empire is from Recent History. Since it's of sector significance and was only used briefly, it has a base value of 8, multiplied by 2 for recent history. This gives 16 points of powers.

The dark throne of the Emperor himself, said to sap the will of any who would even think of defying him, is an artifact of living memory. Its owner has Rank 10, and has likely been using it for more than 5 years, but much less than 75. Base value is 10, plus 2 for period of use, and x1 for living memory. This gives a final value of 12 points.

On the whole, I'm satisfied with these values. I think that they need some more tinkering, but it gives a solid basis for building artifacts from all eras of history without them being ridiculously powerful or unreasonably weak.

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