RogerBW's Blog

GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery, Jason Levine 05 October 2015

This GURPS supplement explains how to convert spells from the standard GURPS magic system into power effects.

That probably doesn't mean much unless you already play GURPS. The standard magic system was written in the early days of GURPS, and while it's distinctly more flexible than those of many dungeon-bashing games that's primarily what it was written for. There are set spells with known names, energy costs, ranges, and other effects, and support for designing new spells is minimal.

Which is fine. But GURPS Supers brought in a way of designing superpowers based on their game utility, in much the same way that Champions always had, and GURPS 4th edition extends that to non-superheroes: pretty much everything in the game can now be built in this way. Except magic. And the cost of spells is often unrelated to their utility.

Building magic as powers tends to lead to characters with just a few things they can do well, rather than the classic GURPS wizard's huge array of specialised spells. There are two modes of casting in the Sorcery system: Known Spells, ones that you've bought explicitly as powers, and Improvised Magic. Sorcerous Empowerment, this system's equivalent of Magery, caps the maximum point cost of both, in different ways; improvised magic is much more restricted. By default you can only use one spell at a time, which helps reduce their cost: even something like Haircut now runs to a basic 11 points, while Suspend Time is a minimum of 141, but normally one pays only one-fifth of that.

Not every spell is explicitly converted into power terms (there are several hundred, after all), though there's a reasonable set of guidelines and a representative selection of a couple of spells from each college. I speculate that, if there's demand, more spells may get the comprehensive treatment.

In any case, the conversions don't make up the really good stuff here: that's the Sorcery system (which will allow you to convert anything buildable as a power into a spell), and particularly a new way of enchanting (binding powers into) items. This is GURPS: I can see that being the basis for a weird-tech gadgeteering system just as well as for magic.

This book still leaves a fair bit up to the GM, but it may well end up forming the core of a magic system which will be to many players' taste. Thaumatology: Sorcery is available from Warehouse 23.

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:50pm on 05 October 2015

    Alas only available as a PDF, so I'll give it a miss. PDFs are for searching, but to read the thing and understand it I much prefer dead tree.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:58pm on 05 October 2015

    Do you have a duplexing printer? It's a trivial exercise to run these off as A5 booklets.

  3. Posted by John Dallman at 03:30pm on 05 October 2015

    I have a duplexing printer you're welcome to use for this.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:57pm on 06 October 2015

    We have a duplexing A3 colour photocopier/scanner/printer at work, and a long arm stapler. So I could do this, either as A4 or A5 booklets. But I've done that in the past and I find the results unsatisfactory. They don't lie flat on the desk, the fold doesn't work above a certain page count, the text is too small to read if A5 booklet, and the entire thing is too floppy to handle if A4 booklet. Real printed and bound stuff is just so much better.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 02:00pm on 06 October 2015

    Since there aren't enough people who feel the way you do to pay for the massive extra cost of a print run, perhaps you might consider getting it done professionally.

  6. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:17pm on 08 October 2015

    I dread to think what it would cost to get a single copy printed professionally. I was always hoping that the proposed SJ Games POD machine would happen, but after several years of inaction they finally killed the idea.

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