[Runequest] Alternatives to POW sacrifice for magic item creation

Peter Maranci pmaranci at gmail.com
Fri Oct 12 01:56:39 EST 2012

Actually, that reminds me of another point I've been pondering lately: the
use of alternate power sources for enchantments.

Please note, that's "power", *not* "POW". I can't speak for anyone else,
but the mechanism of sacrificing characteristic POW to make enchantments
always struck me as drastic - at least from a character perspective. Give
up a piece of my *soul*? For a relatively puny magic item? There are times
when that might be worth it, but given the circumstances, that was almost
never a choice I was willing to make.


1. POW can often mean the difference between life and death for an

2. In order to increase POW (or effectively replace POW which has been
sacrificed to make magic items), a character must either get into combat
situations (which must be, by definition, hazardous) OR be an officiating
priest on a high holy day. There may be other "slow" ways of increasing
POW, but none of these is likely to offer more than one or two POW gain
rolls per year, as I understand it. And, of course, POW gain rolls often

The result? In the 28 years that I've been playing and GMing RuneQuest III,
I can count the number of times that I've seen a player create a matrix on
the fingers of one hand. Unless my experience is a far outlier, I have to
conclude that this means there's a hole in the system.

I'm not saying that the POW for enchantment system is *broken*. What I'm
saying is that the cost is too high, and that there's a need for a
supplemental system - one which allows magic items to be created using
*outside resources*.

Okay, yes, you're right: You don't want to make magic item creation too
easy or painless. In most campaigns, that could lead to abuse. But surely
there are ways to make magic item creation sufficiently costly and
time-consuming that it won't be abused, but also won't be almost totally
avoided? In Chivalry & Sorcery, it was possible to harvest rare and magical
materials, enchant them (a very time-consuming process), and use them to
create magic items. Why couldn't we include a subsystem like that in the RQ
family of games?

Humans make use of their environments. We discover and exploit natural
resources. It only seems reasonable that in a world which includes magic,
magicians would exploit *supernatural* resources. These could include
spirits, rare materials (rune metals spring to mind), rare gems, parts from
unusual creatures, etc.. A time factor should be included as well; creation
of a magic item from outside resources should take time and work, at least
a month of work per POW point equivalent. That could be an advantage of
creating magic items with POW, incidentally. Using POW allows near-instant
creation, while using outside resources takes far longer.

It would be incumbent on the GM to make sure that the costs of creating a
magic item were never trivial. But such a system would at least make
creating magic items a practical possibility rather than a rare and
desperate option. It could also be a handy way to generate adventures:
expeditions to acquire rare items or kill rare beasts, for example!

What do you think, sirs?


On Oct 11, 2012 12:13 AM, "David Cake" <dave at difference.com.au> wrote:

> I'll agree with Peter - I've never liked the familiar rules.
> They scream 'not really playtested' even more than the rest of the sorcery
> rules. It becomes really obvious in play that the 'intuitive' or expected
> uses of the rules (animal familiars, wizards staffs, etc) are very bad
> ideas, and sorcerers that do very weird things like Marko's ideas are much
> better. The rules positively encourage you to ignore anything you are told
> about cultures, literary stereotypes, etc and just get down and do some
> inventive rules experimentation. More or less a prevailing idea for RQ3
> sorcery, but familiars have it worst. And the whole idea that sorcerers
> tend to shrink or get dumber in creating their familiars is very weird and
> as far as I can tell, not really supported by any source, Gloranthan or
> literary or IRL.
> Allowing POW to be sacrificed to add any other attribute sounds ok as a
> quick fix. But it only fixes part of the problem.
> I'm kind of hoping that RQ6 Familiars end up having little in common with
> RQ3 rules. Hopefully flexible enough to allow the weirder possibilites of
> RQ3 sorcery for back compatibility, but making animal familiars etc a far
> more common result.
> Cheers
> David
> On 11/10/2012, at 11:43 AM, Peter Maranci wrote:
> Let the hijacking begin! Well, just a little. :D
> Personally, the whole idea of sacrificing characteristic points to create
> a familar has always bothered me a LOT. First off, it makes the idea of
> creating a familiar out of anything which lacks INT *insane*. And the idea
> of shrinking, or getting clumsier, etc. to make a familiar *also* seems
> stupid.
> (I hope this wasn't one of Steve Perrin's ideas - if so, sorry Steve! But
> I'll bet he didn't create this mechanism. It doesn't *feel* like one of his
> ideas, somehow).
> For my own high-level campaigns, I use a modified Create Familiar spell.
> It requires the sacrifice of POW, *not* other characteristics. Depending on
> the game, the spell might require only one point of POW, or points of POW
> may convert directly into other characteristics for the familiar. A
> sorcerer may only have one familiar at a time, however.
> On Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 7:29 PM, Marko Perälä <perala at student.uef.fi>wrote:
>> Well, I wasn't really going for maximizing stats. I was just curious on
>> how to handle the different species thing. In D&D 3.5 (an rpg that has a
>> few interesting details, but which I loathe as a system) templates - such
>> as undeath - are completely species exchangeable. I'd hope someone could
>> have cleared these details for me.
>> >Related: if you want to push the limits of the STR and CON stat for a
>> >humanoid, then make an ogre into a vampire. And as it has sorcery, it
>> could
>> >give a large chunk of those stats to a hag as a familiar, which could end
>> >up with over 100 STR if the vampire wants to really go for it at its own
>> >expense.
>> I sense an upcoming thread hijacking on best familiars. Well, let's run
>> with it. Hag is excellent familiar matherial. All it needs is a point of
>> SIZ to make a complete creature (to make it's own SIZ permanent). It's
>> optimal also, because it is pretty much only economical choice for a
>> sorcerer, who wants a familiar, but doesn't want to a) play with chaos
>> monsters, b) sacrifice INT to a creature with fixed INT, c) dabble in
>> necromancy, d) sacrifice a butload of stats to make various spirits
>> functional.
>> Second possibility would be a ghost possessed elemental. You would only
>> need to spend CON and DEX. Although I'm not sure, how a CON 1 elemental
>> familiar would handle usual CON-related problems. Is an elemental familiar
>> suspectible to poison and disease. I'm sure regular elemental would be
>> immune. If answer was no, then CON 1 is not a problem.
>> Undead are also good options, for a) they only require spending POW,
>> which is simple to replenish and b) they can be made out of just about any
>> species that you might be interested in. E.g. dream dragon mummy or
>> mummified gorgon would be nice. Notice though that I don't prefer this
>> species malleability, because of a chance to get a stat (although those are
>> always nice), but because undead familiars allow the sorcerer to access
>> special abilities not available on simple magic. I did mention mummified
>> gorgon, didn't I? Unicorn mummy familiar for healing, Zombie jabberwock for
>> fire gaze, vampire huan-to familiar for creating a ghoul army (hey, that
>> last one is an adventure idea).
>> However my current favourite undead familiar is a ghost possessed centaur
>> skeleton. Requires only CON sacrifice. You see, I realised a while back
>> that in close combat skeletons are weak, but in ranged combat they are
>> actually quite powerful.
>> 1. Since impaling weapons harm a skeleton only on special hits or better,
>> skeletons have little to fear from ranged weapons. Bumerang, thrown axe,
>> thrown rock, lasso and bola are pretty much non-impaling ranged weapons -
>> none of which have long range.
>> 2. A skeleton's weapon skills are based upon DEX*5%. A skeleton enchanted
>> with 15-16 POW of which 11 given to DEX gets average 38 DEX and therefore
>> longbow skill at 190%. That's halved to 95% on extreme range, some 300
>> yards. That's well beyond the range of all Spirit and Divine spells as well
>> as all non-longbow ranged weapons.
>> 3. Centaur skeleton has Move 10. That means it has superior mobility. It
>> can pursue and retreat at the speed of a cavalry horse and thus always stay
>> at the extreme range. It's virtually untouchable, without sorcery or
>> Mobility spells cast on horse.
>> 4. Skeleton is virtually indestructible, once enchanted. Sure it can be
>> broken, but it nothing a simple Repair 1 doesn't fix. Here's a thought:
>> Repair 1-matrix linked to couple of POW-spirits and a trigger condition to
>> activate on broken bones.
>> 5. Skeleton doesn't tire, living horses do. It can keep on pursuing the
>> living all day long, shooting hundreds of arrows from it's saddle bags all
>> day long. Notice that as a steed a zombie horse is more comfortable. Bony
>> spine is bad place to sit on for living PCs. (Side note: Horses are the
>> best creatures to use Create zombie on, to create tireless, non-eating,
>> non-demoralized cavalry or wagon pulling steeds. Just don't take them to
>> cities containing uptight, sensitive nosed people within.)
>> 6. Skeletons don't scare, living cavalry do.
>> Bottom line: A skeleton centaur can shoot all day long from maximum
>> range, maintaining that range regardless of whether non-flying targets try
>> to go away or come towards. Unless they have longbows, they can't even
>> shoot back, and even then their to hit % is probably lower that 50%
>> (remember halved skill) and THEN it requires impale to do anything. It can
>> keep shooting all day, and it ain't gonna run out of arrows soon. As long
>> as it doesn't let anyone get close enough to slice it with a sword, it
>> pretty safe.
>> Well, after those familiar candidates, the next best thing is Chonchon
>> (requires only POW, smart, magical, can do aerial recon). It's the second
>> alternative to nymphs for a picky sorcerer, but rather weaker. That's why
>> it's so low in the list.
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> --
> Peter Maranci - pmaranci at gmail.com
> Pete's RuneQuest & Roleplaying! http://www.runequest.org/rq.htm
> The Diary of A Simple Man: http://bobquasit.livejournal.com/
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