Monday, November 18, 2013

GURPS 101: Remedial Ritual Path Magic Part I

Since its release, Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic has proven to be the hot-ticket (446 copies since October 3rd, 2013, with a rating of 4.6/5) of 2013. That’s a lot for GURPS. Which, since you are reading my blog about that game system, I assume you know that. I’m no PK, but I do arguably know the ritual path magic system better than just about anybody that isn’t PK. So I’m going to give GMs a few quick tips for wizardly archetypes using RPM. Most of these work regardless of point level.

The Defender: This guy is all about defense. He’s reactive, not proactive. Unfortunately, the number of defensive effects are scattered over several Paths; he'll probably need to pick one particular shtick and specialize in it: Path of Body (for enhancing living beings), Path of Chance (for those lucky breaks), Path of Energy or Matter (for conjuring barriers or “hardening” air), Path of Magic (for taking down other casters spells), and Path of Mind (for defending against mental effects). A variation is the “warder” – the guy who specializes in creating barriers to keep out supernatural forces. He needs Higher Purpose (Warding) and Path of Magic, Mind, Spirit, and Undead. Defender casters might consider a Higher Purpose for their specialty (Barriers, Conjuring (material), and so on). Defender magic is one of the archetypes that actually works better as charms or conditional spells.

The Gatemaker: This bloke is all about ripping a new spacehole in the Time/Space continuum. Because teleportation with RPM is impossible, gates become the logical “magical” means of rapid movement. The Gatemaker only needs Path of Crossroads, but he needs it high, breaking barriers into other dimensions is a tough business. Higher Purpose (Gates) is a must-have, as is Ritual Adept (Path of Crossroads only, -40%) and maybe Detect (Spatial Anomalies; Magic, -10%) [9]. Optionally, GMs may allow Gatemakers to purchase Warp with the Tunnel enhancement to represent an internalized ritual.

The Illusionist: Misdirection. Legerdemain. Chicanery. These are not Changeling bunks. These are the meat and drink of the illusionist. He’s a tricky bastard. Decide on either Path of Energy (for “hologram” style illusions) or Path of Mind (for mind-f*cking someone). Both ways have their merits, good Illusionists can do both. Illusions or Deception are both valid Higher Purpose specialties. Ritual Adept (Illusions only, -30%) is a good buy. Artist (Illusion) suits the artiste casters and aid when creating realistic looking illusion. Illusionists need a lot of mundane skills to be really excellent at what they do, at minimum Body Language, Detect Lies, Psychology (or Sociology), Fast-Talk, Filch, Sleight of Hand, and Pickpocket. High Manual Dexterity is also a valid buy. GMs might even allow illusionists to have Artist (Illusion) as their core-skill instead of Thaumatology if they take optional specialties for their Path skills. For example, Path of Energy (Illusion) and Path of Mind (Deception).

The Master of Elements: Your domain is the classical four elements. There is overlap with this and the Weather-Worker in the fact that the you can also manipulate the elements, but probably not as well. The Master of Elements need Path of Energy and Matter (for manipulating the elements), and Path of Spirits and Crossroads (for summoning elementals to do their bidding). No one Higher Purpose suits the Master of Elements, but variations on a particular element (Aeromancy, Pyromancy, Terramancy, Hydromancy, and Elemental Summoning) are valid specialties. Like the Necromancer, the Master of Elements should probably purchase Allies for elemental beings. The Summonable (or Conjured) and Minion enhancements are common.

The Metamage: Your spell is my spell, and my spell is mine too. The metamage loves to take other casters hard work and make it his own. He’s also the “Know You Don’t” mage. He’s a Blue Deck embodied in a single character. Path of Magic needs to be at a decent level. Higher Purpose (Dispelling) or (Warding) are excellent choices. High levels of Thaumatology are also common, as is any Hidden Lore that covers magical secrets or the like. He’s also the master of conditional spells so should probably have at least 1 point in other Path skills.

The Necromancer: He sleeps with voodoo dolls and won’t give up the search for the ghosts in the halls. He doesn’t need friends. He makes them. With those obedient little zombies or skeletons that do his bidding. He might even make his own girlfriends (EEwwwww), but I ain’t going there. Necromancers need Path of Undead, plain and simple. As much as they can possibly get. Ritual Mastery for a few attack spells is de rigueur for the fantasy necromancer. Higher Purpose (Animating Undead) is a good choice for “Horde Master” necromancers. Ritual Adept (Path of Undead only, -40%) is a good choice for such a specialist. GMs should allow necromancers to buy Allies (Zombie Horde); see Zombies (p. 27-28) – make sure you add the Magic limitation. Actually creating undead (any undead) is a Greater Create Undead. To create multiple undead with a single spell add Area of Effect. Whatever you animate takes on the standard template of the setting (zombies, skeletons, etc.); to change this use Altered Traits and bundle them into the spell. GMs may allow necromancers to create undead that do not have specific Duration, and instead use Conditional Termination (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 18). “Only until laid to rest or turned using True Faith” is worth 18 energy as a Duration

The Spellslinger: He conjures bears, TKs chairs, and blows up the neighbor’s dog. That’s right. This fella is all combat all the time. To put it bluntly: he blows shit up. That’s right, this guy is like a 12 year old playing Call of Duty on his Play Station. He exists only to pwn the bad guys with teh magicz. Or not. Whatever the reason, he’s a bad mofo with some powerful mojo. Put as many points as you can into Path of Energy and/or Path of Matter. Optionally, specialize in a particular form of matter or energy. For example, a caster specializing in cold could have Path of Energy (Cold) and Path of Matter (Ice). Buy Ritual Mastery for all your signature combat spells. Ritual Adept is a must. Buy as much Magery as you can or purchase Energy Reserve (Mana Reserve; Path of Energy or Matter, -50%), both would probably be around (-40%). If you’re specializing, you also are going to want to grab Higher Purpose (whatever you’re specializing in; Cryo- or Pyromancy, for example). Consider Magic Resistance (Improved, +150%; Switchable, +100%) for 7/level; it’s expensive, but worth it when you meet another Spellslinger. GMs may consider allowing an Average technique to buy off the penalty to cast a particular ritual quickly (up to Path skill+10; negating the penalty for casting a blocking spell). This never results in a net gain. It only cancels penalties to “fast cast.”

The Technomancer: It’s technology. It’s magic. It’s technology. It’s magic. GAWDDAMNIT IT’S INDISTINGUISHABLE?! Technomages can be a blast to play. Especially when you buy High TL and take into account Visualizing The World (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, p. 8). Path of Body (for “bioenhancement”), Path of Energy (obvious), Path of Matter (ditto), and Path of Magic (creating a melding of magic and tech). Technomancy is probably a valid Higher Purpose. Consider also switching the core-skill from Thaumatology to Computer Hacking or Physics for a real technomancy "feel." Ritual Mastery is a good choice for any technomancer. Like the Defender, technomancy works best as conditional spells. For instance, charms (one-use gadgets) and potions (advanced drugs and chemicals), and enchanted items (RAY-GUN!) are perfect fits. GMs may also wish to allow technomancers to purchase Gadgeteer with the Magic limitation (an extension of his magical gifts). If his High TL advantage is only for “theoretical knowledge” good enough for getting a bonus for Visualizing the World, then this is a -20% limitation. GMs may even require an Unusual Background to gain such bonuses.

The Weather Witch: This guy controls the weather. He can call down lightning, drench an area with rain, or cause a blizzard. He’s got two options: he can dump as many points as he can in Path of Chance, optionally specializing in Weather-Working to make it cheaper. Alternatively, he could take Path of Energy (for moving around air or calling lightning) and Path of Matter (for creating snow, hail, and other forms of precipitation). The first way makes for a very specialized character, while the latter lets the character do other things as well (like throw fireballs and conjure swords from thin air). Both have their merits. Characters should buy Higher Purpose (Weather Witchery), Magery (Ritual Path) or Ritual Adept with “Accessibility, Weather-Working only” (-50%), Stabilizing Skill (Meteorology or Weather Sense for Weather-Working effects), Meteorology or Weather Sense as high as they can, and maybe Energy Reserve (Mana Reserve, Weather-Working spells only, -60%). That’s cheaper than one Path (which is -50%), but is still pretty broad, thus -60%. Appropriate disadvantages include Meteoromania (an analogue to Pyromania), Compulsive Weather-Working (don’t like the weather outside? CHANGE IT. Like it? DO IT ANY WAYS), Supernatural Features (Weird Weather Magnet) [-10] (the weather is always strange around you? It snows in July, dust storms on Christmas, etc.).


  1. I have to admit, the archetypes are helpful, but my favorite part was the modifiers. I'd take Energy Reserve (One Path, -50%) or Ritual Adept (One Path, -40%), but how would you price something like Ritual Adept (One Effect)? I'm thinking of a mage who focuses on Strengthening, for example. Heck, if you felt like you had a whole posts worth of modifiers for RPM advantages, I'd be delighted.

    1. This is actually been answered in the latest issue of Pyramid. If you like RPM at all you really need to pick it up. There is nearly 20 pages worth of new material. that said, "Strengthen Effects Only" is worth -30% per Pyramid #3/66 The Laws of Magic, p. 17.

  2. Oh, excellent! I'll take a look, thank you.

  3. Do we have a part 2 of this article?

    1. Not as of yet, though my notes on the subject remain a bit bare. Still waiting to put some more together at some point.