Boil and Bubble: Ritual Path Magic Inscriptions

Ritual Path Magic (and it’s flavors) has multiple ways to cast a spell now and be able to use it later. Between GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic, and Pyramid there are elixirs/infusions (liquid magic), scripts (scroll magic), tattoos (magic inked on skin), charms (magic in easily breakable form), conditional spells (magic set with parameters to go off), and incantations (magic attached to the mage’s aura). This post offers another: inscriptions. An inscription is unlike other cast-and-use-later enchantments in that it doesn’t actually cast spells. Instead, they function as a semi-magical tool the caster makes to help them cast their favorite spells. In this way it could be thought of as a +0 Grimoire. Any caster can create an inscription just like any caster can create a charm. Moreover, any caster familiar with the spell the inscription represents can use it to cast it and gain its benefits.

To create an inscription, first, choose what you’ll be engraving the spell on. This is an important step as an objects mass (i.e., its HP) determines how many inscriptions it can bear and how complex a spell it can contain. Each inscription has a rating for this purpose. To determine a spell’s level when its inscribed look up the total number of effects in a spell minus 1 and read them on the Greater Effects Multiplier table (Thaumatology, p. 18) treating the multiplier as the rating of the inscription. Any given object may have up to its HP in inscribed spells. For example, a quarterstaff has HP 12 and could thus bear up to 12 levels of inscribed spells.

An inscribed spell can do one of three things for casters who use them to cast spells:

  • Ignore -1 worth of penalties for faster casting, allowing energy to be gathered quicker.
  • Add +1 to the final Quick Contest to determine if the spell affects its target.
  • Add +1 to the total amount of energy gathered every gathering attempt.

To inscribe a spell requires a roll against the higher of Symbol Drawing or Artist (Illumination, Woodworking, etc.). Success gives (margin x 3) uses for that inscription before the lingering magic dissipates and needs to be renewed. A critical success or success by 5 or more allows the inscription to be used an unlimited amount of times, but the magic dissipates after a month. Alternatively, the caster can attempt to provide himself more than one benefit or enhance an existing benefit.

Treat enhanced benefits as if they were leveled. For example, you could enhance your inscription to gather energy faster twice allowing you to ignore -3 in penalties to gather energy quicker. Each extra or enhanced benefit claimed inflicts a -2 on rolls. There is no cap on this as its fairly self-limiting. You could for instance take a -4 on your rolls and get all three benefits or get one benefit at +3 or -3. No benefit’s “level” may exceed four. For example, you could have up to +4 on the final margin of your Quick Contest with a spell or ignore up to -4 worth of penalties for gathering energy.

Casters may also opt to “reduce” the complexity of given spell to be inscribed by taking a -3 per effect ignored for the purpose of its level. For example, a spell with three effects would normally take up 5 HP worth of space, but the caster took a -3 penalty on his roll to inscribe it and thus it only takes up 3 HP instead.

It takes 20 hours per effect in the spell before reduced (if at all) modified as follows: each additional benefit or enhanced benefit claimed adds a further 10 hours; add 20 hours if the mage succeeded by 5 or more or critically succeeded.

Example: David wants to have Duplicate Object (Thaumatology, p. 42) on his staff as an inscription. The staff can hold up to 12 “levels” of inscriptions. Since Duplicate Object has 2 spell effects it would take up 3 levels worth of HP on the staff to inscribe. Further, David wants to be able to rapidly gather energy when casting that spell so he opts to take a -6 on his roll so that he can ignore -4 worth of penalties to gather energy, allowing him to make gathering rolls every second. Rolling a 9 on his modified skill of 12, this will allow him to get 9 uses of the inscription before it needs to be renewed. If he rolled a 7 or less he could use it an unlimited number of times over the course of a month.

Picking Over the Bones

An interesting idea that occured to me while I was working through some campaign material and chatting with someone. Overall, it adds flavor similiar to Foci (Pyramid #3/82: Magical Creations, p.  24), but has an entirely different feel. Foci just “work”, whereas inscribed spells take work to gain a similiar function. They both have their places in a mage’s arsenal and using both of them shouldn’t cause any real problems as long as the GM rigidly enforces the rules for time spent to inscribe spells.

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