Thursday, November 28, 2013

GURPS 101: Magical Legalese

For campaigns where magic is common, GMs may wish to adopt a “Spell Legality Class” or SLC for various spells, colleges, or types of magic. The GM will have to decide exactly what is what in his campaign, but the following might work for most campaigns:

Control Rating Examples for Magical Societies

CR0 – Anarchy. There are no laws regarding magic. Mages can do whatever they want, learn whatever spells they want (if they can find a teacher or spellbook), and so on.

CR1 – Very free. There are very a small number of laws concerning magic. Mages have some restrictions – mostly in SMDs (Spells of Massive Destruction) and “dark” magical spells (necromancy, plant blight, etc.). Only access to SLC0 magic is controlled. Magical taxes may take the form of voluntary labor on civil projects using magic (bridge building, crop blessing, and etc.) or the creation of magic devices (items, potions, etc.) for the common good.

CR2 – Free. Magical laws exist, but most of them are to the benefit of the individual. Magical taxes exist (as above) and are mandatory, but are light. Access to spells of SLC0 and SLC1 are controlled.

CR3 – Moderate. There are many laws relating to magic; many for the benefit of the individual. Mandatory magical taxes are moderate and fair (as above). Access to spells of SLC0 through SLC2 are restricted.

CR4 – Controlled. Many laws exist (most of them for the convenience of the state). Magical communications are limited (especially telepathy and crystal ball “networks”); privates uses of magical communication may be restricted as are all but the simplest of magical items. Magical taxation is often heavy and sometimes unfair. For example, mages could be required to serve the government for a specified period (e.g., 5 years of service) or a part of a “special” reserve. Access to spells of SLC0 through SLC3 are tightly controlled.

CR5 – Repressive. There are many laws and regulations, which are strictly enforced. Taxation is heavy and often unfair. There is strict regulation of communication, divination, and other methods of magical contact. All magical goods are controlled; you can’t buy anything without the right clearance, proper paperwork, and so on.

CR6 – Total control. Magical laws are so vast they fill libraries and so complex that they require their class/caste of scholar to interpret. Mages exist only to serve the state. Free mages are anathema. Many offenses carry either enslavement or the death penalty. Magical taxation creates its own social class and being born with any magic is often considered a curse rather than a blessing. Magical censorship is common (thought police, “anti-magic” cops, etc.) and private ownership of magical items is strictly forbidden. All magical servicers and goods are restricted, and the government might even withhold necessities (magical healing, purified water, etc.)

Spell Legality Class Examples for Magical Societies

SLC0 – Banned. Spells that cause damage on a massive scale; spells that kill instantly; “black” necromancy spells; time travel spells.

SLC1 – Military. Spells that can create a unbeatable defense (e.g., Utter Dome); spells that cause “instant” death; spells that have no use other than military or espionage application (e.g., Permanent Possession); or dimension shifting spells; spells that summon demons, undead, and other actively hostile entities; spells that enslave or permanently control others.

SLC2 – Restricted. True divination spells (i.e., ones that can see the future); Mass communication spells; Teleportation, gates, and most “movement” magic; Spells that weaken structures or buildings (e.g., Weaken); Spells that induce or create addictive effects (e.g., Ecstasy); Spells that modify or create beings (e.g., Spellgraft or Golem); Spells that summon elementals or similar beings; Spells that provide invisibility or similar concealment; spells that temporarily control minds.

SLC3 – Licensed. Most damage-dealing and lethal spells, most personal communication spells; spells that allow fast modes of travel (e.g., Flight or Cloud-Walking); Healing spells that are better than what the campaign’s TL could provide via first aid; Spells that conceal (e.g., Blur). Many enchantment spells; spells that allow you to see the past; spells that let you commune with the dead; spells that permanently change the landscape (e.g. Alter Terrain or Move Terrain).

SLC4 – Open. Spells that stun or are otherwise nonlethal; Healing spells that restore what the campaign’s TL could provide via first aid; spells that can fix or restore inanimate objects; most utilitarian or protective spells (e.g., Create Fire or Resist Cold)

SLCs could also logically be applied to magical advantages at the GMs discretion. For example, Magery 0 could be SLC4, anyone could have it; Magery 1 or 2 could be SLC3, you’d need a license; Magery 3 could be SLC2, if you’re that talented you’re probably going to be forced into a military or police force; Magery 4 could be SLC1 (or even SLC0!), those with this much talent disappear into a black bag and are never seen from again…

The same could also be said for magic items, alchemical potions, and other permanent forms of magic. Most would just follow the rules above. For example, a Potion of Invisibility would be SLC2.

Keep in mind that different magical systems might need fine-tuning. For example, in games that feature ritual path magic all Greater Effects might be SLC2, limiting truly mighty magic to those with the proper clearance…or those who just don’t care about obeying the law. For a example of Magical Legality Class and Control Ratings in a medieval setting, see the box Magic Licit and Illicit in GURPS Locations: Worminghall (p. 32).


  1. This has just come in handy for me, so I just want to thank you.
    Michele Armellini