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While the previous post gives you a pretty complete picture of the gear available to Gransys adventurer’s, there’s one aspect left to cover that can really bring that Dragon’s Dogma feel: equipment upgrades. Obviously, these rules can also be used to good effect in generic Dungeon Fantasy games.

Upgrades in the original game

The original game not only has a very extensive selection of equipment, it also allows the player to upgrade each of those items. Certain weapon vendors can apply from one to three upgrade levels to a weapon or a piece of armor. Each one increases its damage or protection value and decreases its weight. This both costs money and requires “special components”. More often than not, that means monster parts, though some might require specific types of ore or miscellaneous items like buckets and sconces instead. It’s unclear whether these upgrades are a mundane or magical process.

In addition to this, when the player kills a dragon there’s a chance that their equipment may be “Dragonforged”, which improves it beyond what’s possible with the normal upgrades. These and the further alchemical “refinements” possible in the Dark Arisen expansion are definitely magical. They also have a nice mythic resonance!

The game does still have a sizable selection of weapons of increasing effectiveness that’s common to most electronics RPGs. Sometimes it’s better to trade up to a better weapon, and sometimes it’s better to keep upgrading the one you have. Generally, though, you want to keep getting better weapons until the very end of the game, when you pick a high-level set that has the abilities you want and max their upgrades out.

Designing the Upgrade System for GURPS

We’ve seen what the system in the original game looked like. Does something like that have a place in the tabletop version? If so, can we implement it without needing to come up with a detailed list of monster parts required for each of the hundreds of entries in GURPS’ gear books?

The “upgrade pattern” for weapons and armor in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy resembles the end-game pattern for Dragon’s Dogma from the start. PCs either start with their preferred weapon and armor types, or acquire them very soon into the game, and from that point on they seek to improve either the quality or the enchantments in their gear.

The big difference here is that “upgrading” a piece of gear in DF means replacing it with an entirely new piece that was either bought in town or found in a dungeon. You can’t really add better quality descriptors to a given item, which is realistic. And while you can add or replace enchantments to a magic weapon by the rules, in DF the best magic is usually found as dungeon loot. When that happens, it’s better to use the new item than to cling to the old one.

An upgrade system should challenge that assumption. It should give PCs the means to improve both the quality and the magic of a given piece of gear without having to replace it. It should give them tangible benefits for choosing this route over the traditional one, but it shouldn’t be so good that replacing gear is never a feasible option.

One benefit of an upgrade system is that an upgraded item is still the same item. This gives players a little more incentive to invest in Signature Gear, Weapon Bond, or Armor Bond without fear that the points spent in these perks will be wasted. Another benefit is that it can be slightly cheaper to upgrade an item if the player can meet the necessary conditions.

The Upgrade System: Gransys Alchemy

As we said in previous posts, enchantment in Gransys isn’t the province of wizards. Instead it’s an expression of mastery in artisanship, borrowing from the old belief that each artisan learned the secret magic of their own profession as they progressed in skill. It’s a lot more similar to alchemy than to standard spellcasting - through knowledge of these secrets, an armorer can refine a weapon or suit of armor and get it closer to its platonic ideal.

These secrets are jealously guarded, and usually the province of NPCs. Anyone who knows them is more than able to make a comfortable living without needing to mess with dungeon-delving! Some of these processes do require rare ingredients only found in dangerous places, but that’s what adventurers are for.

This means that PCs with access to a skilled artisan can improve the quality of their weapons and armor by paying the difference in cost between the initial and final state of the item. Add up the CF of the desired options and multiply that by the item’s base cost.

Adding magical enhancements to an item follows a similar process, though only those enchantments marked as available for sale in DF 1 can be added in this way. Simply total up the cost of the enchantments you wish to add. Adding a better version of an existing enchantment (say, Puissance 2 to a weapon that already had Puissance 1) does not grant a discount! The old enchantment is simply lost.

The number of master artisans capable of imparting more powerful magic into an item can be counted on one hand. They all seem to have paid some unspeakable price for their knowledge, and either live in remote places surrounded by danger, make outrageous demands of potential customers, or both.

Only half of the upgrade cost represents the artisans’s wages. The other half represents the materials and alchemical components required for the process. The PC can provide them directly to the artisan instead, thus saving some money in exchange for the time spent and the risks taken in finding them. The more extensive an upgrade, the greater the chance the artisan simply doesn’t have the necessary materials in stock, which means the PCs must go out and find them.

As we’re dealing with sympathetic magic and not with mundane craftsmanship, these materials take many surprising forms. Aside from the metallic ores you might expect, upgrading a given weapon might require things like crystals, rare flowers that only grow near active volcanoes, or hydra gallstones.

Somehow, it seems this stuff is never found just lying around in a peaceful meadow. Mineral ragents require rolls against Prospecting to find and extract. Rare plants require rolls against Naturalist or Herb Lore to identify and harvest. And monster parts require combat skills and everything listed under Dead Monster Bits in DF 2, p. 13. Alternatively, if you have DF 19 you can use Professional Skill (Dungeon Butcher).

Each component contributes a certain monetary value towards the upgrade of an item, determined by the GM. Better components are more difficult to find and usually heavier. This table can act as a guide:

Quality Value
Basic $300
Good $1000
Fine $3000
Legendary $10K or more

Note that the value listed above is only for the purposes of contributing towards upgrading a given item. PCs who go around harvesting random generic components for sale can expect to get around 5% of that price or less for anything less than Legendary components. Legendary components are never random or generic: they’re treasure!

There is no fixed table of what each component requires. The GM is free to either come up with a fixed “shopping list” on the spot for each process, or let players present their own with justifications as to why they fit. If the GM judges a particular component is particularly resonant with the item being upgraded, they can have it count as a higher category.

At the GM’s option, PCs seeking only relatively minor upgrades can simply pay the full cost in money - either the process didn’t require any special reagents, or the artisan had them on hand already.

Example: Ser Alexa’s Family Sword

Ser Alexa wants to turn her decrepit family blade into a weapon worthy of an hero. While she could perhaps afford a new sword, she wants to use this one to rid her barony of bandits. It’s the sword she trained with as a young squire, and she has a Weapon Bond to it. She also sees its state as symbolic of her family’s fortunes, and thus restoring it to its full glory would be a good omen. She asks Master Caxton, an armorer from Gran Soren, to perform the service for her.

In game terms, Alexa wants to make her Cheap thrusting broadsword Balanced, Very Fine, and Silver-Coated. Going from Cheap to Good quality is +0.6 CF; the other options add up to +25 CF. Multiplying all of that by $600 gives us a final cost of $15360.

This turns out to be far more money than she has on hand at the moment, so she settles for making the sword a Good-quality blade for $360, paying all of that in coin. After conferring with the weaponsmith, she spends the next few days looking for alchemical reagents that resonate with that particular sword and with her family legacy: dust from the family crypt, a scrap of silk to signify nobility, unspoiled silver ore from an old haunted mine in the barony, and a rare flower that only blooms at night and features prominently in the family’s coat of arms. That last one was especially hard to find.

The GM judges that the first two components are Basic, the silver is Good and the Flower is Fine, for a total of $4600 in value. However, since Alexa has gone to the trouble of making sure every one of them is symbolically related to her quest to bring glory and prosperity back to her family, they also decide that these components are enough to cover the $7500 material cost of the upgrade after all.

That still leaves another $7500 to cover Caxton’s wages, which the Impulsive Alexa acquires by pawning off the family jewels she smuggled out of the barony. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!