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This is an adaptation of GURPS 4th ed Advantage system into an alternative magic system. It refers to material contained on “GURPS 4e Characters” and “GURPS 4e Powers”.

Basics[]

Every magic spell is built as a GURPS Advantage which contains certain enhancements and limitations. Some are mandatory and specific to the “flavor” of these rules.

The “magical: -10%” limitation[]

Advantages are turned into magical powers by use of the “magical” limitation. This limitation alters the advantage by conferring the following characteristics:

Magical advantages are affected by mana level in the following way:

  • They do not work on a “no-mana” zone.
  • They gain the “Unreliable: 11” limitation, without change to their cost, in a low-mana zone. If they already have “Unreliable”, then the “Unreliable” activation numbered is lowered by 3.
  • They consume ½ of their power points (see below) in a high-mana zone.
  • They consume ¼ of their power points in a very high-mana zone.

Magical powers can be countered by “Neutralize”, “Cancellation” or “Obscure” if these are also “magical”.

No character can use more than one “magical” power each turn even if one of them is “instantaneous”.

Repeated magical bonuses and modifiers which affect a character are not cumulative. Instead, the most powerful of them is always the one which is considered. Therefore, a character could have a modifier of ST+1 and DX+1 due to ongoing spells, but if someone cast a ST+2 on them, only the ST+2 would take effect: it would overlap the ST+1 due to being the more powerful modifier.

Any roll required by a magical power gains a positive modifier based on the mage’s magery.

Magical powers are affected by the magery of a character as described below.

Magical Spells and Limited Uses[]

Mages can only cast a specific number of spells per day, based on their “Power” level. Every spell, save specific exceptions, consume one “power” point. This is a special case of the “Limited Use” limitation. Therefore, every magical spell must contain a new limitation and cannot also contain a regular “limited use”.

This new limitation is called “magical spell” and costs -15%. This cost is based off the “limited use: 5-10 times a day”, for -10%, but added a -5% since all spells share the same power pool.

The “magical spell” limitation also includes the modifications for maximum duration and minimum casting time described below.

Gestures, words and focus[]

Fundamentally, no magical spell requires the mage to perform gestures or to speak arcane words. However, mages may alter this by adding specific limitations to their spells:

Requires gestures: -5% or -10%

This spell requires the mage to move their hands in odd and complex movements. For -5%, the mage must perform soft gestures in one hand. For -10% they must perform extravagant gestures with both hands and arms. Other mages may identify the spell being cast if they can see the mage, in a successful roll of “Thaumatology” at -5 for soft gestures, or at no penalty for extravagant gestures.

Requires words: -5 or -10%

This spell requires the mage to speak arcane words of power in order to be cast. For -5%, the mage must speak softly, in a tone a bit lower than normal. For -10% they must speak up, in a decisive, clear voice. Other mages may identify the spell being cast if they can hear the mage in a successful roll of “Thaumatology” at -5 for soft words, or at no penalty for clear voice.

Requires Focus: -5% or -10%

This spell requires the mage to use a physical focus as the vessel for their spells. For -5%, this can be a small, hand-held object such as a wand or a book. For -10%, this must be a large, human-sized object such as a walking staff. This level of requirement is incompatible with “Requires gestures: extravagant”.

Spells which contain any of these limitations at -10% cannot be cast instantaneously.

Spells are Alternative Abilities[]

GURPS Characters on page 61, and GURPS Powers, on page 11, define a rule for alternative abilities: abilities which cannot be used simultaneously. This is the exact same case as for spells, since a mage cannot cast more than one spell at the same time. The rules on GC61, GP11 state that the character must only pay for the full cost of the most expensive power, and all other alternative powers cost 1/5th of their usual cost.

This system uses a variant of these rules whereby all of a mage’s spells have their final cost reduced to 1/5th. This cost reduction is calculated after all enhancements and limitations and accounted for.

Independent Spells[]

This means a mage cannot cast a spell while maintaining another. However, spells can have the special limitation “independent: -5%”, which means that once cast, they are out of the mage’s control. They must run their course and cannot be cancelled or maintained anymore (although they can be countered by other spells). This limitation allows mages to cast other spells while their “independent” spells are still ongoing.

The Magery advantage[]

Mages must have the “magery” advantage in at least level 0 in order to learn spells. The magery level also influences the overall power of a mage’s spells.

Any spell based on an advantage which has levels cannot be cast with more levels than the character’s magery level. This means, for instance, that no “Innate Attack” can have a number of damage dice greater than the mage’s magery.

Exceptions:

  • “Damage Resistance” can have at most Magery x 2 levels, unless “ablative”.
  • “Ablative Damage Resistance” can have at most Magery x 5 levels.
  • IQ bonus cannot set the target’s IQ above the caster’s IQ.

Any spell under the effect of an enhancement which has levels (such as, “Area Effect”, “Armor Divisor”, etc) cannot have more levels on that enhancement than the character’s magery level.

A character’s magery level also adds to any roll required by a magical spell.

If the character’s magery is 0, they cannot learn spells based on advantages which have levels, and cannot add any enhancement which has levels to their spells.

Casting Roll[]

Some GURPS advantages do not require any kind of skill or attribute roll to take effect. For the purposes of these rules, however, every spell requires a roll against an IQ/H skill (modified by magery). Even if the advantage being used as basis for the spell outlines another attribute required for the roll (such as willpower), in these rules this is resolved as a roll against a specific IQ/H skill.

However, this skill does not have to be purchased for each different spell, but rather for each different advantage. For instance, if a mage has many different spells based out of “Innate Attack”, only one IQ/H skill, called “Innate Attack Spells”, needs to be acquired.

Spell Duration[]

No spell can be permanent. If the advantage being conferred is not limited in duration by any enhancement or limitation, it is considered to have a duration of 1 day.

This duration can be enhanced with the use of “Extended Duration”. If a spell is built up with “Extended Duration: Permanent” for +150% (which would require magery 7), even then it must specify a set of conditions which would cancel its effect. These conditions must be achievable (even if improbable). If they become impossible, or so implausible as to be effectively impossible, the spell fails.

Time to Cast[]

Every spell requires, at least, a “ready” maneuver to be cast. If the spell is built with an advantage that already requires a ready maneuver, this is unchanged.

Spells can be cast instantaneously if their effect requires a “ready” maneuver and they have the “Reduced Time” enhancement, or if they have enough levels of “Reduced Time” to cast the spell in less than one second.

Even casting an instantaneous spell, a mage cannot cast more than one spell in a single turn.

Encumbrance Effects[]

Spells are usually not affected by the character’s encumbrance. However, due to some esoteric energetic blockage, some spells may require the caster to be free of load in order to work properly. This takes the form of a new limitation called “affected by encumbrance”, which cost depends on how much a character’s encumbrance affects their magery:

  • -5%: -1 to magery if at extra-heavy encumbrance.
  • -10%: -1 to magery if at heavy encumbrance, -2 if at extra-heavy.
  • -15%: -1 to magery per encumbrance level above 1 (light).
  • -20%: -1 to magery per encumbrance level.

Transcribing Spells[]

Every magical spell has a mandatory enhancement called “transcribable: +5%”. This means these spells can be inscribed in a piece of writing, allowing another character with the required “magery” level to cast these spells simply by reading from the writing.

A magical inscription is a one-time use magical item. Once cast, the spell’s inscription is erased, and its power is consumed. If an individual copies the inscription into another piece of writing, it will be gibberish unless they also spent the required power point to imbue that writing with power. This means that it is possible for a mage to copy a magical inscription even if they themselves do not know the spell (as long as they have the required magery).

In order to create or copy a magical inscription, the character must be literate in the required language at “Written (Native)” level.

To transcribe a spell into a magical inscription, the mage must spend a number of days which equal the spell’s cost in character points, round up. At the end of the process, they make a roll against their “thaumatology” skill, with a penalty equalling the spell’s original cost (before the 1/5th adjustment). If successful, they spend one power point (or as many power points as the spell requires) and the inscription is achieved.

Casting an inscribed spell takes as long as the original spell does, with the exception that inscribed spells cannot ever be cast instantaneously. The very process of having to read the inscription prevents that.

Magic Power[]

Not every spell needs to consume the mage’s FP or HP, but nevertheless the mage is limited in how many spells they can cast per day based on the value of their “Magic Power”.

“Magic Power” is a pool of points which equal the mage’s “magery” level plus 1. A character can increase their “Magic Power” with character points. Every extra point of “power” pool costs 5 cp.

Some spells may be deemed to be so complex that they consume more than one point of power. These spells have a special limitation called “complex: -20%”, which means they consume 2 points of power to cast. This could be assumed in levels. A “complex: -60%” spell would consume 4 points of power to cast.

Magic power is recovered gradually. The actual rate of recovery of a character’s power is based out of how many points of power they have, adding up to 1 day in the end.

Therefore, a mage with 6 points of power would recover 1 point at every 4 hours. A mage with 8 points of power would recover 1 point every 3 hours, and a mage with 24 points of power would recover 1 point per hour.

Mages do not recover points of power in a no-mana zone and recover at half speed in a low-mana zone. High and very-high mana zones do not grant additional recovery, but instead the mage’s spells cost less power points if cast in these areas.

Learning Spells[]

There are three ways to learn new spells. By developing one on their own, studying an empowered inscription, or from a teacher.

The easiest and fastest way to learn is through direct instruction by a teacher. The teacher must know the spell being taught. In this scenario, every 200 hours of study grant the student one point in the spell being taught. When they accumulate enough points, they gain the spell. If the character has free character points, they can spend them and learn the spell after the first day of study.

When learning from a magical inscription, the process is much similar. However, the character must study the inscription for 400 hours per point of character the spell costs. If spending free character points, they must study the inscription for 2 days before spending their points.

When developing spells on their own, characters need access to a laboratory properly equipped with magical tools, and much more time. Such a laboratory usually costs about $10,000 in a TL/3 setting. In this scenario, the character must spend 800 hours per point of character the spell costs in order to develop the spell. If they are spending free character points, they must study for 2 days per character point the spell costs before being allowed to spend their points.

Sorcerers[]

The rules presented thus far deal with “traditional”, scholarly mages. However, some individuals have such an instinctive knowledge for magic that they can cast spells simply by intuition. These individuals do not have to study as hard as mages, but are somewhat more limited in what they can do.

Sorcerers are, in every respect, like mages. However, they do not purchase extensive spell lists. Instead, they can cast spells spontaneously, improvising effects as they need it.

Sorcerers must purchase an additional advantage called “sorcerous intuition” which costs 5 character points per level. This advantage is built as:

Modular Abilities, Cosmic Power [10]
magical -10%, spells only -20%, preparation required: 1 minute -20%.

Sorcerous intuition grants characters a “pool” of character points which they can use to add, remove or change new spells at will. It takes them one minute of concentration per exchanged character point to learn or modify their spell list.

No sorcerous spell can cost more character points than the sorcerer has levels in magery.

Sorcerous spells can be inscribed, but they are such a personal aspect of the sorcerer, that only the sorcerer which inscribed them can make use of that inscription.

It is possible for a traditional mage to also have levels of “sorcerous intuition”.

Example Spells[]

Below are a few sample spells. Their point cost is presented with decimal places, since the final rounding will take place after the spell’s levels are accounted for, and all spell costs are added-up.

Fireball [1.6 points per level][]

The quintessential damage-dealing spell. The mage creates an explosive ball of fire which hurls itself towards targets.

Innate Attack: Burn [5], magical -10%, magical spell -15%, transcribable +5%, requires gestures: extravagant -10%, requires words: clear voice -10%, explosion 1 +50%, Homing (Vision) +50%.

Healing [1.2 points][]

The mage can touch a target and heal their lost hit points. This costs 1 FP per each 2 HP healed. Maximum healing per cast equals twice the character’s “magery” + 1.

Healing [30], magical -10%, magical spell -15%, transcribable +5%, requires gestures: soft -5%, requires words: soft -5%, melee attack C -30%, Injuries Only -20%.

Might [2.5 + 2 points per level][]

The mage can touch a target and raise their ST temporarily, enough to give a boost for one combat.

Affliction [10], ST +1 +100%, magical -10%, magical spell -15%, transcribable +5%, requires gestures: extravagant -10%, requires words: clear voice -10%, independent -5%, melee attack C -30%

Panic [3.6 + 1.2 points per level][]

The mage can cause a target, up to 10m away, to suffer a fright check at -1 per level.

Terror [30+10], magical -10%, magical spell -15%, transcribable +5%, requires gestures: extravagant -10%, requires words: clear voice -10%, active +0%.

Enchantment[]

Enchantment is the process by which a mage infuses magical power on an object, granting it spell-like abilities. It works much like the development of a new spell but takes considerably longer and is more expensive.

An enchantment is not a magical spell, and therefore must be built with a different set of limitations than a spell does. The “magical” limitation does apply, but “magical spell”, “transcribable”, and modifiers to spellcasting cannot.

The enchanted item becomes the “caster” of the ability, which is infused therein, and thus in order to affect anything other than the item itself or its holder, enchantments should make use of the “affliction” advantage causing the target to get the benefits of a specific advantage.

Furthermore, because enchantments are bound to specific items, they can, and usually must, make use of gadget limitations: “Breakable”, “Can be stolen” and “Unique”.

Because they are not spells, enchantments do not consume power points. Therefore, enchantments can be created with “limited uses”.

Enchantments are also not alternate abilities, because a user could, theoretically, activate all of an item’s enchantments at once. Thus, enchantment’s costs are not cut to 1/5th.

In order to enchant a specific magical power on an item, all magery restrictions apply normally.

Item and holder are one[]

For the purposes of determining which target is affected by an enchantment, the mage can assume the holder of an enchanted item, and the enchanted item itself, are one and the same. Therefore, advantages which boost the item’s holder can be purchased directly, without the need to enchant the item with an “Affliction” that grant the holder that specific advantage.

However, the mage must determine if a specific enchantment affects the item itself or the holder. Once this is determined, the option cannot be changed for that enchantment.

Enchantment Process[]

To enchant an item a mage needs access to the target item, and time. They can choose to speed up the enchantment process by spending their own free character points.

Once the spell power to be enchanted has been defined, the mage must concentrate magical energy into the item at the rate of at most 10 hours per day. At every 200 hours of concentration, the item is “infused” with one character point in the desired power. When all necessary points have been infused in the item, the enchantment process is finished.

More than one mage can join up to speed up the process. The total hours that the item requires to be enchanted can be split by as many mages as possible. All mages must have the required magery to enchant the desired effect.

If the mage or mages which are enchanting an item wish to infuse their own free character points in order to speed up the process, each character point reduces the time required to enchant the item by 200 hours. However, each infused character point still requires at least 2 days (20 hours) of work.

Triggers[]

Enchanted items cannot read the user’s mind (unless the item itself is enchanted with “Mind Reading”). Therefore, any condition which triggers their powers must be a physical, perceptible condition. That can be either a spoken word, a gesture, or the presence of another item.

A trigger cannot be based on something which depends on specific knowledge by a user, such as “when someone named bob touches the item”, because the item itself cannot know who bob is. Assume that an enchanted item could “see”, “hear” or “feel” things like a normal person but has no memory or intelligence with which to give context to these sensations.

Enchanting items with IQ can cause them to develop their own intelligence, or even sentience, and thus, could expand the possible triggers to conditions that are cultural-dependant or knowledge-dependant.

Casting Roll[]

If the enchanted advantage requires any kind of roll to work, then the holder of the item must make the roll using their own values. If, however, the holder is a mage which has a spell skill for that particular advantage, they can choose to roll their skill value instead.

Mages can infuse their own spell skill level into the item, if they desire to have the item roll with their values instead. To that end, they must add to the enchantment cost the number of character points they spent on the spell skill. The item gains the skill at the mage’s level.

Enchantments can be permanent[]

Unlike spells, enchantments can grant permanent advantages to their targets. However, these boons only last while the item is in contact with the target. If the item is broken or contact is interrupted, the provided bonuses dissipate.

An enchanted item could provide permanent effects that outlast itself and require no contact if these effects are built as an “affliction” which grant a specific advantage, with the “independent” modifier, and enough “extended duration” to be permanent (which, by itself, requires magery 7). However, even in these cases, the effect must be defined with a specific condition that potentially cancels it.

Enchantment Examples[]

Neberi, the Flaming Sword [4.5 points][]

A longsword which bursts into flames at a verbal command by the user. The flames add 3d burning damage to the sword’s strikes.

Base Item: Thrusting Broadsword, very-fine quality. Damage: sw+3 cut, thr+4 imp. Reach 1. Parry 0. Cost $12000. Weight 3. ST 10.
Enchantment: Innate Attack: Burn 3 [15], magical -10%, breakable DR7 -10%, can be stolen -30%, unique -25%, melee attack 1 -25%, reduced time +20%, link (strikes alongside the weapon) +10%.

Feather of Flight [10 points][]

If the holder of this feather raises it up high, they can soar into the sky at double their move, flying for as long as they hold on to the feather.

Enchantment: Flight [40], magical -10%, breakable DR0 -20%, can be stolen -20%, unique -25%.

Mask of forgetfulness [130 points][]

Anyone who lays eyes on the person wearing this mask (up to 64m away), will forget they saw them as soon as they move away from view. This can be countered by a Will test against the user’s IQ – 12.

Enchantment: Mind Control [50], magical -10%, breakable DR2 -20%, can be stolen -30%, unique -25%, conditioning +50%, conditioning only -50%, no-memory +10%, fixed conditioning: partial amnesia -45%, sense-based (vision) -20%, area effect 64 m +300%
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