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Ritual Path Magic FAQ

Last Updated 4/30/11

There is no such thing as a "universal magic system"; by its very definition, magic is something that works differently depending on who you're asking. It was for this reason that I was comfortable creating a new system, Ritual Path magic, for the GURPS Monster Hunters line. Of course, I didn't do it ex nihilo -- it was built up from concepts and rules found in GURPS Thaumatology, then ruthlessly pounded into the mold I was looking for.

Ritual Path magic is a freeform magic system; the caster chooses a combination of Paths and effects, and the GM has the final say over whether this will achieve the effect the caster is looking for. Due to this open-ended nature, I have no desire to lock down every aspect of the system. No matter how many rulings I make, 99% of the decisions regarding Ritual Path magic are going to be made at the game table, between the GM and player. That said, a few questions have come up which are so generic and universal that I think they're well worth answering here. Hopefully this FAQ will help anyone trying to wrap his head around Ritual Path magic.

If you have a question that you think belongs here, please ask it openly in the GURPS forum, instead of contacting me directly. You're likely to get a faster answer that way, and I assure you that if it seems like it belongs here, I'll put it here.

How would you describe Ritual Path magic, for those who haven't read it?

The basic concept behind Ritual Path magic is that casters must learn Paths; each Path represents a subject (think "Noun" or "Realm"; e.g., Path of Body, Path of Magic). Each Path cannot exceed the lower of Thaumatology skill or (12 + Magery).

Casters use these Paths to work rituals. A ritual's energy cost is determined by the Verb being used; e.g., a Sense Magic spell costs less than a Transform Magic spell. In addition, effects are rated as Lesser or Greater based on how blatant or game-breaking they are; Greater effects raise the spell's energy cost even more. There are then lots of modifiers to customize the spell (e.g., how much damage it does, its duration, its range), and all of those affect the energy cost as well. Casters have a few ways to obtain energy, but the main one is by accumulating it.

Are there rules for creating grimoires? How about enchanted items or similarly permanent effects?

Ritual Path magic intentionally does not have rules for creating enchanted items or "witch's tools," no. There are a few reasons for this, but one of the biggest is to avoid a situation in which a PC is encouraged to take a few years off to build a magical arsenal. For most purposes, charms fill this void.

The best way to represent enchanted items in Ritual Path magic is by building them as advantages with gadget limitations. For example, a flying carpet can be represented as Flight (Breakable, DR 5, HP 12, SM 0, 3 lbs., -40%; Can Be Stolen, Easily Snatched, -40%) [8].

Every conditional spell has a Lesser Control Magic effect attached to it. Does this mean no two conditional spells can ever stack?

No. The Lesser Control Magic effect is part of what makes the spell into a conditional effect or charm, but it's actually separate from the spell itself. Think of it as a "meta-effect," if you will. If you want a charm that grants you warding against demons, you'd use Lesser Control Spirit and Lesser Control Magic to make the charm, but once activated, the charm is considered a Lesser Control Spirit effect and nothing more.

Related to the above question, does adding the Lesser Control Magic effect to a ritual make it a different spell for the purpose of Defining Rituals (Champions, p. 39)?

No, for the same reason. If Brad has Ritual Mastery (Spontaneous Combustion), that applies whether he casts it as a Greater Create Energy spell on the spot, or whether he uses Greater Create Energy and Lesser Control Magic to create a spontaneous combustion charm. As explained above, in this one case, the Lesser Control Magic is a separate effect from the normal use of the ritual.

Can I use Greater Control Mind (or an ability like Mind Control) to force someone to sacrifice his FP or HP for me "willingly"?

No. It doesn't count as "willing" unless the helper has a choice. In this case, you are making the choice for him. If you want to mentally enslave people and then brainwash them later, you'll have to use the unwilling sacrifice rules in The Enemy.

This doesn't apply to using Intimidation, Fast-Talk, Sex Appeal, or other uses or coercion or trickery, however. It is legal to hold his daughter hostage until he helps you with your spell, because he still has a choice -- he could choose to let her die. (Though as an optional rule, the GM may decide that coerced energy automatically adds an appropriate quirk to the ritual.) When using trickery, remember that the target must understand what's going on; that is, he must understand what your spell will do and that his self-inflicted pain is to contribute to its success!

Hypothetically, let's say someone were to ensorcel an entire small country, so that the energy cost for the Area of Effect along were in the hundreds. Now, I want to break that spell on just one person. Do I really have to overcome the massive energy cost of the original spell?

Absolutely. It's intentional that "epic magic" requires similarly "epic" magic to dispel. You can't counter such a powerful ritual with thousands of minor-spell castings.

Now, remember that you always have alternatives. For example, if that mighty spell is a Lesser Control Mind effect to add a Delusion, you can't use Lesser Destroy Magic to dispel it or use another Lesser Control Mind effect to overcome or alter it unless you're willing to generate at least as much energy as the original caster did . . . but you can use a Lesser Restore Mind effect to undo it, because that's a different effect, and it's not taking on the original spell directly.

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