Arcanum 1780: A New World
Ur-ice, the comet-stuff that brought magic back into the world, is dangerous stuff to be around. Lengthy exposure to ur-ice or to the mana energy it emits can cause atavistic mutation in living cells. The stronger and more ‘wild’ the mana, the more dangerous exposure becomes. One of the times when magic is most wild is when a mage’s energy gathering goes wrong and that energy, instead of going into the spell, goes into the mage’s body (See Quirk Tables). Another is when a spell goes out of control entirely (see Botches).
The most common term in New Britain for the mutation that can result, “Twist”, is a reflection of a long effort to de-mystify magic, decoupling it from religious expectations of evil in magic working. In more backwoods and puritan areas, the term “witchmark” still gets bandied about. Despite these efforts by mages and scholars, society at large is still largely distrustful of the Twisted – although at least most aren’t clamoring to burn a Twisted person at the stake!
Twist is a variant of Corruption from GURPS Horror, page 146. Interacting with Ur-Ice, techno-magical artefacts, and areas with high mana levels can all incur Twist, while magical workings can result in Twist – either accidentally or deliberately.
A mage may tap directly into Ur-Ice to fuel his magic if he is willing to accept the Twist that this results in. When gathering energy for a ritual casting, a mage may tap directly into Ur-Ice as an energy source, taking on great power at the severe risk of Twisting his body into something unrecognizable. This uses the normal Energy Gathering rules, with the following changes:
- The skill roll is floated to HT; accepting Twist is a very harrowing task that significantly tasks the body.
- The Energy Gathering attempt takes five seconds instead of the normal five minutes. For a Ritual Adept, it only takes a single second.
- The energy gathered (and Twist accepted) is five times the Margin of Success (on an MoS of 0, five Twist and five Energy are generated) instead of equal to the Margin of Success.
- On a failure, five times the Margin of Failure Twist is generated, five energy is generated, and the spell is quirked. On a critical failure, five times the MoF Twist is generated and the spell is botched.
- Instead of at every third attempt for a given ritual, apply a cumulative -1 to skill for every Twisted Energy Gathering attempt made.
- Skill penalties for gathering ambient energy and for attempts to accept Twist are cumulative.
Thus, desperate magicians can work powerful rituals in fractions of the normal time – but only by accepting large amounts of Twist into their bodies. Watch out for the foul necromancer who knows that his time has come, for he may be willing to accept any amount of Twist in order to destroy you!
Any magical working which has been quirked results in 1 point of Twist per quirk; botched magical workings result in 1 point of Twist per 10 points of energy in the botch.
Handling Ur-Ice is a dangerous business; if proper precautions are not taken, Twist will inevitably result. For every minute or fraction thereof (even momentary contact is dangerous!) spent directly handling an Ur-Ice crystal will result in gaining some points of Twist in proportion to the size of the gem; use the below table. Note that uncut Ur-Ice is more dangerous than cut Ur-Ice to handle!
|Twist||Carats (Cut)||Carats (Uncut)|
The Hazardous Materials (Magical) skill can be used to reduce or eliminate this Twist; reduce Twist gained by the Margin of Success on a roll, up to the Twist to be gained (minimum of 1 on a success).
Note that this is for directly handling the Ur-Ice; exposure to the field surrounding the Ur-Ice uses the Extended Exposure to High Mana rules, below.
Some techno-magical artefacts cost an amount of Twist to utilize. In these cases, the Hazardous Materials (Magical) skill may be used to reduce this Twist, just as above.
Occasionally, someone who has been Twisted may develop an innate magical power which can be utilized without the normal process of ritual path magic or arcane artifice. These powers typically will cost some amount of Twist to utilize; this Twist cost can be effectively replaced on a one-to-one basis with FP, but attempting to do so calls for a Body Control skill roll. On a success, the Twist is replaced with an equal amount of FP. On a critical success, the Twist cost is removed entirely. On a failure, the Twist cost is as normal for the power. On a critical failure, the user gains 1d Twist in addition to the normal cost and loses one FP.
Anyone who has been permanently Twisted may learn the Body Control advantage.
Extended Exposure to High Mana
Prolonged exposure to high thaumaturgical fields can cause rapid onset of Twist. For every full hour that you are exposed to a field of high mana (a +1 or higher Place of Power), you gain points of Twist equal to the mana field. Skills cannot reduce this, but proper protective gear (see General Equipment for details) can provide protection.
Consequences of Twist
Every week, and any time you are affected by a botched ritual, if you have 25 points or more of Twist you must roll against HT+2 at -1 per full 10 points of Twist. Failure converts Twist to negative character points, at -1 point per full 25 points of Twist. You may choose how those disadvantage points are spent with the approval of the GM – Twist does not result in random mutations, but instead takes form from the subject’s inner thoughts; see Appropriate Traits, below, for examples. The first time a character is Twisted like this is usually the most impressive, as they will usually gain both a Social Stigma along with a negative trait and a set of positive traits that counter-act much of the Stigma’s price – but don’t think these are free character points, as you will always wind up worse off after a Twist than you were before.
Converting Twist to disadvantage points does reduce the subject’s running Twist total, but these disadvantages are now permanent – they can no longer be removed by treatment or visiting a Low Mana area. Keep a running total of how many poitns of Twist have been converted to disadvantages in this manner; they’re important for the next section.
Loss of Humanity
Once a character has had 1,000 points of Twist converted into disadvantage points (-40 disadvantage points worth), that character begins completely losing their humanity. They can no longer gain Twist – but every time they would gain Twist in normal play, they must roll versus HT. Any failure on this roll means the character is immediately and irrevocably changed into an NPC ‘monster’ as the Twist runs through their body in a chain reaction.
Medical professionals can reduce Twist by 1 point per full 4 hours spent in treatment through a complicated process involving flowing blood through a gold filter and then pumping it back into the body. The patient must be hooked up to the filtration machine for the full time spent, and Physician skill is required to attach it properly. Use of such a filtration machine costs $50 per hour or $200 per point of Twist. Alternatively, a filtration machine may be purchased for $20,000 – many rich magicians own one and use them during their nightly sleep to stave off any Twist they may have accrued during the day.
Note that this can be combined with the method below.
Low Mana Sabbatical
Living in a low or no mana area can reduce Twist naturally over time. Twist is reduced by one point per full 24 hours spent in a Low Mana area, and by one point per full 8 hours spent in a No Mana area. Any time in a normal or high mana area will reset this clock!
Some beings have learned of a truly insidious way to avoid Twist – transferring it from themselves to another. This ability would be highly illegal in most civilized nations, and the secrets to it are held closely by those who have discovered it.
There are two ways to do this; if you can transfer Twist to any other person, willing or not, then you must take the following 25-point Advantage:
Leech Twist: By making extended skin-to-skin contact (a grapple would be required in combat, not simply a hit), you can transfer one point of your Twist to another per second of contact. For every point of Twist that is removed from you, five points are added to the target. This is a Magical ability, and thus does not work in no-mana areas and can be interrupted by meta-magic abilities. 25 points.
Leech Twist was priced based upon the following Leech build: Leech 5 (Only Heals FP, -20%; Contact Agent, -30%; Steal FP, -25%; Magical, -10%; Decelerated, -5%; Cosmic, Twist instead of FP, +50%) 25.
If you can transfer Twist only to a willing subject, then you can make use of the following Ritual Path Magic ritual. Access to this ritual requires a 5-point Unusual Background.
Spell Effects: Greater Transform Magic + Greater Transform Body.
Inherent Modifiers: Damage, Internal Fatigue + Healing.
Greater Effects: 2 (×5).
This ritual transfers an amount of Twist from the caster to a willing subject. The typical casting will transfer 5 points of Twist from the caster to the subject.
Typical Casting: Greater Transform Magic (8) + Greater Transform Body (8) + Damage, Internal Fatigue 5 (2) + Healing, 5 FP (2) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs (3). 115 energy (23×5).
Anyone with even one point of disadvantages from being Twisted must have one of the following two traits:
Secret (Twisted) – Serious Embarrassment, Freq 9 [-5] if the Twist can be and is concealed from the public.
Social Stigma (Minority Group – Twisted) [-10] if it is impossible to conceal or the character decides not to try.
If the character was, for example, a member of the Christian, Jewish or Islamic clergy or was from a puritan family, they could buy their Secret at [-10] points or add one of Social Stigma (Excommunicated) or Social Stigma (Disowned) both at [-5].
Disadvantages suitable for Twist effects include but are not limited to:
Appearance, Distinctive Features, Disturbing Voice, Frightens Animals, Lifebane, Supernatural Features and Unnatural Features.
Twist can have an upside too. As long as the base disadvantage above and other disadvantages to justify an advantage are taken, there are many options. They include.
Acute Senses, Claws, DR (with Tough Skin), Hermaphromorph, Nictating Membrane, Rapid Healing, Slippery, Spines, Striker, Teeth, Temperature Tolerance, and physical perks such as Fur or Scales.
Players who wish to play characters who are Twisted from the outset should consult the GM.