A while ago I said that I would get into my system for handling Heroic Paths in GURPS Midnight. In the original D20 Midnight, Heroic Paths were a way to augment your character in a setting where magical items and magic itself are both rare and illegal to possess. Each level, your Heroic Path would give you a bonus, or a spell-like ability or free Feat that fit with the theme of the Heroic Path.
At the beginning of the campaign, I had the players go through a few pages of images I’d picked to represent each Heroic Path. These were just culled from Deviant Art or wherever – my apologies to dozens of artists, but I didn’t charge money or anything. For the list of Heroic Paths, I went with the Midnight Campaign Setting, Second Edition. The players chose:
Chanceborn, Faithful, Fey-blooded, Shadow Walker, Spellsouled and Sunderborn
What I decided that I wanted to do is to have various powers from the Heroic Paths manifest at dramatic moments during the game. At the end of each session, each player gets 5 character points, and I also put 5 character points into their Heroic Path. (This leads to faster-than-average development for GURPS, but we only play once a month on average, and I actually haven’t found it to be unbalancing or anything so far) When there are enough points in a Heroic Path to justify something manifesting, it happens. Usually this is around 15 character points or so, so once every three or four sessions for each character.
Here’s what I’ve done so far. Most of the characters are in their third manifestation, and the Heroic Path totals are at about 50 character points. Again, this is pretty powerful, but because it is incremental, I haven’t found it to be unbalancing. I can still threaten the PCs pretty easily because it is GURPS after all. When choosing powers to manifest, I’m looking at what is offered in the Midnight core rulebook and expanding on those ideas. I’m also thinking “What would this player enjoy?”
Jin is a Sarcosian smuggler and horse-trader who has a strong penchant for fighting and a great deal of pride. The player playing Jin is also a big fan of fighting characters with a lot of braggadocio and taunting who rely on luck. Perfect.
First manifestation: Serendipity Level 1 [15pts]
Second manifestation: Hard to Kill +2, Hard to Subdue +2, Damage Resistance 1, Fearless +1 [15pts]
Third manifestation: Incredible Luck (every 1/2 hour of game time), Damage Resistance 2 [20pts]
Callan is a Halfling ex-slave who went to Baden’s Bluff to free his wife and daughter. Callan’s player loves cooking, and tends to play characters who are excellent cooks. When he chose “Faithful”, which in the core rulebook means kind of religious, he meant it as faithful to his family ties, that sort of thing. This player hasn’t been with us in a while, so I haven’t had a lot of input on his powers.
First manifestation: True Faith [15pts] – representing not religious faith, but sort of like true love
Second manifestation: Regeneration (1 HT/hour) for those who eat special food he prepares, and he can also now roll Cooking and have it count as being under the care of a medical professional, restoring 1d-3 HT per day [30pts?]
Maeve is a half-Elf, which in the setting is not something that is supposed to be possible, but her mother was an Elf and her father an Erenlander. She was taken as a slave and was liberated by the other PCs. I imagined this Heroic Path as her becoming more and more Elf-ish.
First Manifestation: 15 Perfect Balance; 5 Illusion Disguise @12 [20pts]
Second Manifestation: 5 Dodge +1; 5 Move +1; 5 Night Vision +5; 5 Shape Plants @12 [30pts]
Kenneth is a rogue, sneaky and thief-like, living off of what he can steal and dealing with horrible memories of what happened to his family. He really found his niche, though, as someone who stabs servants of the Shadow in the throat. I liked the idea that this Path would have him kind of walking the line between hero and villain.
First manifestation: Chameleon +3 (modified: functions through clothing, only functions near ambient shadow) [15pts]
Second manifestation: Blind Fighting 12, Dodge +1, Fearless +1 [21pts]
Third manifestation: Shadow Step @ 12, High Pain Threshold [15pts]
This Heroic Path introduces an idea that I imported from GURPS 3rd Edition – the idea of magical Knacks. You can do the same in 4th Edition with a lot more work, but basically my rule is that as a 5pt Advantage, you can take a spell as a Knack, at either a skill level of 12 or IQ+Magery, whichever is higher. That’s where he gets the Shadow Step from. He also gets Blind Fighting without being Trained by a Master – part of the Heroic Paths is that you get Advantages and Skills and so on that you wouldn’t normally be able to get, those included.
Emre is a business-Gnome and an accomplished smuggler at this point. He has a natural talent for channeling, and can manipulate minds and emotions with ease, but what he really wants is “elemental kill-you magic”, so that’s just what I give him through his Heroic Path. What his Spellsouled path provides is access to spells that no one in the current setting could teach him. He already has Magery 3.
First manifestation: Ignite Fire, Create Fire and Shape Fire at IQ+Magery [12pts]
Second manifestation: Purify Air, Create Air and Shape Air at IQ+Magery; also the ability to spell-sing (lower cost, 10x longer casting time) and Singing at HT+1 [14pts]
Third manifestation: Seek Earth, Shape Earth, Earth Vision, Seek Water, Create Water, Icy Weapon all at IQ+Magery [24pts]
Verrick is a bureaucrat, and has been incredibly effective as such, shuffling around paperwork and records and committing dozens of forgeries for the Resistance. He has also successfully infiltrated the Order of Legates, and is posing as a Legate, doing damage from the inside. For his Sunderborn Path, it took me a while, but I eventually decided he would be manifesting powers of a Star Archon.
First manifestation: Power Investiture +1, Bravery and Sense Spirit at IQ+PI [18pts]
Second manifestation: Tongues [15pts]
Third manifestation: Haste, Minor Healing and Levitation at IQ+PI [12pts]
Another option, if you want to give the players more choice (I’m always open to suggestions or what they want to see) is to give the players extra character points, and let them buy Advantages they normally could not buy during the course of the game with them. This is a good option for a group that is accustomed to playing GURPS and knows the rules well – this group is pretty new to the system, so I thought I’d just take care of the specifics, and we could always negotiate if they weren’t happy. So far, they all seem to be enjoying it.