Thursday, May 29, 2014

Designer's Notes - Alternative Ritual Path Magic

Writing Alternative Ritual Path Magic
If you're not a writer or game designer, you might not understand the following sentence (or at least not all of it): That article nearly ate my soul and stole my sanity. It started small, honest, four thousand words, but it started to grow. It was like a thing alive. I went from having Ritual Path Magic mixed into Divine Favor, Effect-Shaping, and Book Magic to what you eventually saw published. There were so many systems it was really hard to keep track of at first. It got so bad that I had to keep a physical notebook for separate ideas and a spreadsheet in Excel to keep it ordered. I went through over ten revisions before I even submitted the thing to Steven Marsh (which I was sure he was going to make me break it up - though I'm really glad he didn't). According to my notes (I keep prodigious work notes so that I can improve myself), I spent 267 hours writing, rewriting, revising, editing, editing some more, oh yeah, editing, re-revising, researching, and oh yeah, more editing on this thing. Now, for a comparison, I spend maybe 40 hours total on any typical article, some less (I wrote Magic Bullets in three hours with revisions and edits) some more (nearly 68 hours on Safe as Houses - which I knocked out over a weekend at Steven's request). Now when you spend all that time working on the same document, it's inevitable that you are worried that you're writing crap. It just happens. Ask any writer, they'll tell you the same. I almost threw the whole thing out at one point after I couldn't get Effect Shaping working the way I wanted, but PK, L.A., and Antoni insisted I keep at it. So I did. There was even one stretch somewhere around version six where I was awake for four days straight working on it off and on. It taunted me with its hidden mysteries. I couldn't sleep. I started DREAMING in rules (you can think the example Book on one of the dreams I had) when I did sleep. Hell at one point during those four days I started hallucinating that I was talking to Harry Houdini (don't worry, it happens when I stay awake too long, I know it's a hallucination, so there's that at least). My sister said she came into the room, and I was calling the nearby wall one of the greatest live acts of the 20th century. She calmly reported my antics to my mother who then came into the room and held my sleeping meds (high-dose Haloperidol) in one hand and a frying pan in the other. Guess which one I choose as my sleep aid? The next day I dashed out version seven, sent it off to Steven and thought nothing of it for several months. I revised it three more times after that, faithfully sending in another copy when I felt it deserved another. I also made some fantastic contacts during this period as I sought out reviewers. Because this thing was so massive, and I didn't have much word count, the following folks helped me out with this one (I never could have done it without them)

Reveiwer and Assister List
  • Antoni "Kuroshima" Ten Monr√≥s (alpha-reviewer and number cruncher extraordinaire)
  • Beth “Archangel” McCoy (Beta-reviewer and editor)
  • Douglas Cole (Beta-reviewer)
  • Emily “Bruno” Smirle (Beta-reviewer, additional assistance with the overall article
  • The Headhunters (my gaming group were the victims...errr test group for a lot of this stuff, and they told me what worked and what didn't)
  • Jason "PK" Levine (Beta-reviewer and editorial changes that made it far better than the final draft)
  • Jefferey “Langy” Head (Beta-reviewer, I “stole” his working-together rules for Effect-Shaping Ritual Path magic)
  • John “johndallman” Dallman (inspired the High Craft magic rules)
  • Jonathan “Dataweaver” Lang (Beta-reviewer, additional assistance with Divine Favor, Clerical magic, and Effect Shaping)
  • Kael (Beta-reviewer)
  • Nikki Vrtis (she changed the layout of the article, and it was awesome! Thank you so much Nikki)
  • Patrick "Celti" Burroughs (Beta-reviewer)
  • Pyramid Write Club (They helped to whip the final draft into shape spotting errors)
  • Raekai (Beta-reviewer)
  • Rory “Refplace” Fansler (Beta-reviewer, additional assistance with the overall article)
  • Sir_Pudding (Beta-reviewer)
  • Sunrunner's Fire (Beta-reviewer)
  • Timothy "Humabot" Ponce (Beta-reviewer, additional edits, and inspiring the Control (Magic))

Stuff That Made It In
Here is a list of what made it in (all page references are to Pyramid #3/66 The Laws of Magic).

Ritual Path Magic as...
...Assisting Spirits (p. 7)
...Book Magic (p. 4)
...Clerical Path Magic (p. 7)
...Corruption (p. 7)
...Divine Favor (p. 5)
...Effect Shaping (p. 6)
...High Craft (p. 8)
...Ley Lines (p. 7)
...Magical Styles (p. 9)
...Powers (p. 12)
...Raw Magic (p. 7)
...Realm Magic (p. 12)
...Sacred Architecture (p. 7)
...Spiritual Vessels (p. 7)
...Symbol Magic (p. 13)
...Threshold-Limited Magic (p. 7)
...Words of Power (p. 7)

There were also additional rules for digital Grimoires (p. 5), being a Place of Power (p. 11), and a magical-flavored version of Gunslinger (p. 14)

Some stuff that didn't make it in
The following had to be taken out because there just wasn't enough room. In some cases, the rules just needed the word count I didn't have, in others the idea was too raw, and I didn't have enough time to hammer it out to my standards. 

Ritual Path Magic as...
...Tree Magic (see GURPS Thaumatology, p. 42)
...Based on a Static Attribute (see GURPS Thaumatology, p. 42)
...Shamanic Magic (see GURPS Thaumatology, p. 66)
...Lapidism (see GURPS Urban Magic, p. 18)
...Knot-Symbol Magic (see GURPS Thaumatology, p. 177, I did a ton of research into this too!)
...Bagua Magic (see GURPS Thaumatology, p. 255)

I additionally included rules for familiars, another way to create "magic items" (I called them "focusers"), expanded rules for working weather magic, and more rules for enchanted items.

Picking Over the Bones
Though there was just too much for me to squeeze in I did manage to turn most of that into Pyramid articles, some of it might end up on my blog at a later date. That said, there just wasn't a lot of outtakes here (that didn't end up in another article) which is always surprising. But I'm not going to leave you with nothing! You didn't think I would did you? Here, have some new rules for creating a spell that uses the target's senses as a vector:

Sense-Based Areas Spells:
Creating a spell that works through the target's senses is possible by adding the Sense-Based enhancement (p. B109) directly to the spell itself. Normally, the spell would ignore DR, but DR is already ignored for most Ritual Path Magic spells, instead each target rolls against the targeted sense and adds his margin of success as a penalty to resist the spell! For some senses, this can be devastating, the +10 bonus to Vison rolls for spotting something in plain sight apply here if the caster is out in the open for all to see (and target)! This adds an additional +30 energy to the spell (+10 for each additional sense it can affect), but it may be worth it for certain situations. Imagine a death spell in the form of gourmet ice cream charm that uses a Taste-Based damaging attack on whoever eats it...That chocolate ice cream is to die for. For external damaging spells, simply add the Sense-Based enhancement to the Damage Modifier for damaging spells and ignore the above. If you have to detect the target with your sense first, use the rules for Repurcussive Rituals (Pyramid #3/66 The Laws of Magic, p. 38) and gives a -10% discount for the entire spell.

Sample Sense-Based Spell

Aura of Kali
Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Spirit.
Inherent Modifiers: Area of Effect (Vision-Based) + Damage, Internal Corrosion.
Greater Effects: 1 (x3).

This spell allows the caster to momentarily channel the power of Kali. All targets who can see him are affected and must make a Vision roll (+10 if the caster is in plain sight and drawing attention to himself), the target's margin of success is then added as a penalty to his roll to resist this spell! He may choose up to eight targets that are excluded from this effect. All subjects who fail to resist the spell take 3d corrosion damage. Damage sustained in this way requires natural healing, and no magic or supernatural power can speed this up. Unlike normal corrosion attacks, this does not reduce DR in any way. Because the caster is channeling the goddess of death, this ritual works on anything, from chairs to sentient gerbils, as long as it weighs 300 lbs. or less..

Typical Casting: Greater Destroy Spirit (5) + Area of Effect (Vision-Based), excludes eight targets (34) + Damage, Internal Corrosion 3d (Cosmic, Unhealing Damage, +100%; No DR reduction, -10%) (34) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 228 energy (76x3).


  1. Whoa. I had no internet when this got posted, so sorry for the delayed comment. But uh, is there any way we could possibly see the other ideas? Or will they be showing up in another Pyramid article? Personally, I'm particularly interesting in your ideas for alternate ways of enchanting and for familiars, but since RPM as a whole is extremely awesome in my opinion, seeing any of it would be great.

  2. I'm breaking my usual rule here and posting a anonymous comment (I usually don't). The short answer is: I intend to try to get them into a GURPS supplement somewhere. If they don't get in, I'll post them on my blog - probably as a Patreon special (which are going to get their own private password-protected section of my site by the end of the year). Several items have been turned into Pyramid articles though - Tree Magic, "focusers," and familiars all got expanded and turned into full-length articles.

  3. Whoa, where do the RPM/Tree Magic and RPM/familiars crossovers appear?

  4. Both are in unpublished Pyramid articles at the moment.