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The POW Economy


Michael Hopcroft

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I'm planning to get some RPG writing done and would like a little guidance from more experienced BRP/d100 gamemasters on how POW is gained and expended.

The reason I ask is that some forms of magic and psionics are so demanding that even to learn the technique requires the character to sacrifice a point of POW or even more. There are many places that POW can come from depending on the setting, but let's assume it's the user's own POW. IIRC, that POW can eventually be regained and even improved, though that might not happen for quite a while. But how does that work in-story? And are there stories where a magic user sacrifices enough POW that he dies to achieve a particularly potent effect (assuming one dies when they reach 0 POW, which is not a given).

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For RQ2/RQ3. POW was an expendable commodity and POW gains were obtained by overcoming in a POW vs POW or MP vs MP contest, usually through casting a spell. I think that a successful resistance also worked, but we never used that, as we only gave experience ticks to the activa participant. In a quite time between adventures, POW was increased as part of overall experience, you simply had to roll (Species Maximum POW (21 for humans) - Current POW) x 5% and success gained you some POW, rolled on a table in RQ2 or 1D3 in RQ3.

Other versions of RQ downplayed this, as POW was used for so much it became a POW-economy, where POW was all important.

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In other words: include a POW economy in your games only if you are convinced that it is a good idea and it fits the narrative. Do not do it just because it is traditional. There are other alternatives which have been developed during the last 10 years or so from which you can take your inspiration (Pact, Allegiance, Vows, etc.) and that might be a better match for your world. If you are asking others about how to justify it in the story, then this is a signal that a POW economy might be a poor choice for the story you want to tell.

That said, once you are sure about which mechanics you wish to use in the game, we are still here and available to give you advice about how to better use the system of your choice.

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23 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

I'm planning to get some RPG writing done and would like a little guidance from more experienced BRP/d100 gamemasters on how POW is gained and expended.

I came up with some ideas for gaining POW (and other characteristics) based on Stormbringer 3rd edition.

In the Chaosium/Games Workshop Stormbringer rules (third edition or SB3) there was a way of a Priest (of whatever cult) gaining ELAN points for acting as his/her religion specified. When Elan reached 50 points, it could be converted into ONE point of the character's POW (with all the bonuses the POW increase also allowed).

I thought this was a great idea and wondered how it could be applied to normal (i.e. not SB3 Priest) characters. My idea is this:

Whenever a character successfully rolls to increase a skill (D6 points or similar) the player then has the option of increasing the skill by the amount rolled or adding the amount rolled to a "experience pool" of spare points. When this experience pool reaches 50 points, the player may increase the character's POW. STR. DEX (or whatever) by one (1).

Over the course of time the character's skills rarely increase but his/her stats do.

The player then has a choice between increasing a normal skill or investing in the characters natural attributes. The character must balance natural ability against learned skills. High skills or high stats: the character can't have both.
 

This idea hasn't been tested in game play but I thought I'd throw it out there as a suggestion.

Colin

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I let POW be trained like other stats.  I also handle experience a little different.  I give 'experience points,' about 4-5 per session.  These can be banked or used to increase either stats or skills.  No increase chance for skills, they increase either by the average or by point die roll.  For stats you need the stat points +1.  If a character has a POW of 15 they would need 16 points to increase their POW to 16.  If they had a POW of 17 they would need 18 points.  Works well enough.

70/420

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Q3 also had a form of POW gain in that characters earned some Divine Magic in chargen. The idea was this was POW gained by membership in a cult that was then spent to buy Divine Spells.

 

If I recall correctly in RQ2 a character could die by spending his last POW point on a spell, even on a temporary spell (Battle Magic), while RQ3 replaced the term temporary POW with agic Points and running out of MPs only resulted in unconsciousness.

 

Without magic or PSI, POW can become a lame duck- especially if you play without Category Modifiers ad or STAT rolls. It probably should be relevant in things like resistance to  hypnosis, interrogation and mind altering stuff. 

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1 hour ago, Mugen said:

You should be very careful of the impact of POW economy on skills.

If you have to change 15 skills every time you spend or gain POW, it might be problematic.

It wans't too bad in old RQ. A bit of an annoyance though. 

Pershaps POW should be taken out of the skill percentages and instead affect skill use in some other way? Say, something along the lines of spending Magic Points to adjust die rolls as a form of Luck. Kinda like Stormbringer's old Elan mechanic. 

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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There are actually a lot of possible ways that a POW economy could work.

Probably the best working example I am aware of is RQ3 shamans, for whom POW was their bread and butter.  A wise shaman would have a fetch, a spirit to whom they sacrificed a portion of their POW, but they would also have an Allied Spirit that they could gain separately from a cult that accepted shamans.  Now every time any of these entities was able to overcome another creature with a POW vs POW spell or spirit combat, they would potentially gain a tick on POW.  As fetches started typically with low POW, often the Shaman would boost the fetch to something better by channeling the Allied Spirit's POW into the Fetch, thus equalizing them and giving them a similar chance of making a POW gain roll.  A middle power Shaman was one who had themselves, and their fetch and Allied Spirit hovering around POW 18, providing potentially three 15% chances of increase. 

Now another facet of the POW economy was that initiates of cults could potentially sacrifice POW to make matrices for spells, and then sell them, netting around 1000 pennies a pop.  Now as POW gain rolls and ups in general are generally handed out only every game week, it takes about 9-10 weeks for a successful POW up to occur for most characters with an 18 POW.  That would mean about 5 or 6 POW ups per game year.

This led to an interesting situation very much like a resurrection auction, wherein a healer who could cast a single resurrection would essentially have their temple effectively perform a sealed bid auction every time the spell became available.  This had to be done in secret because healing was supposed to be "freely given", and the bids were effectively "pious donations".  Healers became immensely rich, but more importantly, more healers learned how to resurrect, and that ultimately drove the price down.  Now the same thing happens with a professional spell caster.  They have to manage their time versus how lucrative a potential job offer is, but measure that against the potential political advantage of providing services to someone influential, even if it is not the most lucrative use of their time.  For a shaman, as an example, most of their time was spent summoning spirits that teach spells partially as a cult duty for worthy worshipers but quite often to turn coin.  It was far more lucrative for a shaman to do this than for them to spend their precious POW on enchanting magical items for someone else, so that basically became something only initiates and acolytes did to generate income.

Now a very grey area is whether you can give your POW to someone else voluntarily.  Most GMs will simply say, no, because of the potential for abuse, but the best justification is that just because someone is giving it to you, doesn't mean you have the skill to receive it.  On the other hand, arguably, there is no reason why you can't just trade POW that way, it is just that nobody voluntarily will.

Now in Call of C'thulhu I have seen players do something very interesting with the Gate Spell.  They would only trade the spell in return for having the student make a single gate of their choosing.  If they liked the character, the gate would be to somewhere nearby like Bermuda (2POW), if they didn't it would be to Celaeno in the Hyades(14POW).

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 22/02/2017 at 2:49 PM, Atgxtg said:

It wans't too bad in old RQ. A bit of an annoyance though. 

Pershaps POW should be taken out of the skill percentages and instead affect skill use in some other way? Say, something along the lines of spending Magic Points to adjust die rolls as a form of Luck. Kinda like Stormbringer's old Elan mechanic. 

If I was to play BRP again, I think I'd tie each skill with only one of 4 characteristics (STR, DEX, INT or CHA) and use CON and POW essentially as HP and MP sources.

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1 hour ago, Mugen said:

If I was to play BRP again, I think I'd tie each skill with only one of 4 characteristics (STR, DEX, INT or CHA) and use CON and POW essentially as HP and MP sources.

That's what most RPGs do. It has it's good and bad points. I'd rather tie hit points to SIZ than CON though. I'd love to use CON for healing though. Something that's been kinda off in just about every BRP based RPG. Namely the fact that the guy with the high CON takes longer to heal. 

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On 3/10/2017 at 6:12 AM, Atgxtg said:

I'd rather tie hit points to SIZ than CON though. I'd love to use CON for healing though. Something that's been kinda off in just about every BRP based RPG.

Fix coming up in just a small AEON. ;)

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 2/22/2017 at 8:49 AM, Atgxtg said:

It wans't too bad in old RQ. A bit of an annoyance though. 

Pershaps POW should be taken out of the skill percentages and instead affect skill use in some other way? Say, something along the lines of spending Magic Points to adjust die rolls as a form of Luck. Kinda like Stormbringer's old Elan mechanic. 

 

I added the Willpower stat to replace POW in my game.  POW becomes a "secondary" stat, like Hit points, based on a roll and modified by WILL and CHA.  It is strictly a measure of magical power in my game.    

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On 3/31/2017 at 9:54 PM, olskool said:

I added the Willpower stat to replace POW in my game.  POW becomes a "secondary" stat, like Hit points, based on a roll and modified by WILL and CHA.  It is strictly a measure of magical power in my game.    

Interesting. How do you handle POW improvement? And do you use WILLpower or POW for resistance rolls? 

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  • 3 weeks later...

POW is now a "secondary characteristic" like HP which represents your magical "life force."  Originally I did a randomizer (as I noted above) but eventually, I changed from a number of D6s based on CHA and WILL to another system that actually works better (or more logically for a new player).  I took all the character's other stats EXCEPT SIZ and gave the character 1 point of POW for every 5 FULL points of each characteristic score that character possessed.  For example, a character with STR, CON, DEX, WILL, CHA and INT of 10 (a totally average character) would have a POW of 12.  Maximum POW is now determined as 25 (1 more than having all 6 characteristics at 20 would give).  PLEASE NOTE, I determine the character's attributes by rolling 3D6 + 2 which nets a total between 5 and 20.  I also set the human characteristic max at 20 (not 21), the max you can roll.   I substitute WILL for POW when determining most skills.  I do add CHA as a NEGATIVE modifier for Stealth skills though.  I justify this by explaining how people with a high CHA (and not necessarily good looks here) can "light up a room" or "stand out in a crowd."  This makes it harder for them to be "sneaky."  This means I never have to worry about "skill adjustments" since POW is now a "derived characteristic" that doesn't influence skills.

Increasing POW Beyond 25:

I allow anyone who has attuned a Spirit Rune like most Shamans do (and I was doing this since the early 90's... well before MRQ1 brought the concept to print) to increase their POW MAX to double their Base POW (as determined by their Characteristics total), or 50 points of POW for humans.  I will now put that Rune in the character's Rune Tree (as described in the part on of Chaosium's ongoing updates) as well.  I LOVE the potential of the Rune Tree and Opposed Runes!

The Luck Roll:

I also allow players to "expend" a point of POW (like casting a spell) and rolling under their current POW (post spell casting) to get a "luck roll."  It is assumed the character "prays to the gods," or "invokes the spirits" and rolls under his CURRENT POW to get a "Luck Modifier."  If successful, he adds his current POW to whatever success roll he is attempting (kind of like a minor form of Divine Intervention which isn't always successful).  This is treated just like casting a spell but anyone can do it.. as long as they have the POW to do it.   

 

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Actually, I felt none of the RQs satisfactorily clarified whether "sacrificed" POW was gone for good (until your POW was raised) or would gradually come back over the course of hours/days as it normally would.

So I always cut priests and cultists slack assumed that it did.

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On 4/2/2017 at 11:02 AM, Atgxtg said:

Interesting. How do you handle POW improvement? And do you use WILLpower or POW for resistance rolls? 

Resistance and POW Rolls:

 I'm sorry I didn't answer this properly last night.  Keep in mind that I am basing my house rules on an RQ campaign using the "attuning" of Runes (similar to MRQ1) NOT BRP.  My POW rolls are still done the same way but are based on the successful casting of a spell, attuning of a magic item, or spirit combat.  For instance, I wanted to reduce the frequency of Spirit Magic in my own game.  I now require that you pay a Shaman the money for a spell.  He then summons a spirit which knows the spell in question.  The spirit then attempts to "teach" you the spell, which entails rolling [the average of INT & WILL] x 5 (originally it was POW x 5).  If you succeed, you now "owe" the spirit for teaching you that spell.  Payment comes in the form of the loss of a point of POW.  The bright side is that learning a spell nets you a POW gain roll in my game.  

As for Resistance rolls, this is a bit harder.  For some spells (Disruption immediately comes to mind) I still use POW versus POW.  This is because you are trying to "overcome" your opponent's "life force" (as represented by current POW).  Other spells will use a differing resistance roll.  I have a spell based on the AD&D Suggestion spell.  The resistance roll for this spell pits your CHA against the target's INT.  Finally, I have some spells that manifest physical effects.  These effects are IMMUNE to Counter Magic (because they are physical) but require the caster to make an "attack roll" using DEX x 5 (and I do allow experience roll for these attacks) and armor protects against these effects.  Power Bolt, Fireball, and Lightning Bolt are some examples of this type of spell (from my homebrew list).

Alternate POW Determination:

Another method for determining POW that will favor spellcasters over fighters (I play Runequest, not BRP so these are one in the same) is to take INT, WILL, and CHA and average them.  This will remove the characteristics which fighters favor and they will have a lower POW as a result.  The Max POW could be left at 25 or you could lower it (making it my 20 max for characteristics for instance).  This is fairly arbitrary by design and you should set YOUR POW limit based on how powerful you want your Mages to be.        

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On 4/17/2017 at 6:30 PM, Aycorn said:

Actually, I felt none of the RQs satisfactorily clarified whether "sacrificed" POW was gone for good (until your POW was raised) or would gradually come back over the course of hours/days as it normally would.

So I always cut priests and cultists slack assumed that it did.

The RQ2 (now RQClassic) rules were clear that a "sacrifice" of permanent POW was just that.  Not a "spend" of (quickly regenerating) POW points.

From p.59 (emphases added):

Quote

... the initiate must permanently sacrifice POW points ... Again, he can regain this sacrificed POW through the usual POW gain rolls.

YGMV, of course; but the RAW was clear. 

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4 hours ago, g33k said:

The RQ2 (now RQClassic) rules were clear that a "sacrifice" of permanent POW was just that.  Not a "spend" of (quickly regenerating) POW points.

From p.59 (emphases added):

YGMV, of course; but the RAW was clear. 

Well shame on me for being so dumb....

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14 minutes ago, Aycorn said:

Well shame on me for being so dumb....

<shrug>  YGMV.  You had a version you liked, and played.  That meant you were Doing It Right.  :)

Lots and lots of HR's, misinterpretations, and unclarities abound...

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