Boil and Bubble: The Return of Magic – After the End

Guest Post by +Asta Kask aka Anders Starmark

What if magic returned? What if it never went away? How would magic interact with the post-apocalyptic world? Are magic and technology antithetical or are they capable of enhancing each other? The most important thing to figure out is probably what magic system to use – GURPS has a lot of options to choose from. GURPS Magic contains a detailed, flavorful system, but has many potentially game-wrecking spells. The most balanced approach is probably Sorcery, as the spells will be built the same way as psionics and mutations… but it may give the feeling that everything is the same. Personally I like Path Magic from GURPS Thaumatology (p. 121-165) – it is reminiscent of “classical” magic without requiring as much GM oversight as e.g. Ritual Path Magic.

As the Primary Cause

A magical breakthrough could be caused by nature spirits rising up against the soul-crushing technology… or as a last-ditch attempt to control humanity before they grow too strong for the Powers That Be To Handle. Either way, there are a number of Secondary Effects to consider – a zombie plague (GURPS After the End 2: The New World, p. 7) is always a possibility where magic is involved. Magic could animate statues and other objects, causing a Reign of Steel (or marble) scenario (The New World, p. 6). And the magic could bring back fey, turning the world into an X-Factor world (The New World, p. 7). Of course, the discovery of an entirely new way of doing things could case Things to Fall Apart (The New World, p. 6).

As a Secondary Effect
As long as the GM is willing to do the proper amount of hand-waving, any event involving large amounts of energy (e.g., Bombs Away, The New World, p. 4, or Cosmic Rays, The New World,  p. 5) or suffering (e.g. Mega-Virus, The New World, p.5 or Walkers and Shufflers, The New World, p. 7). Nature spirits behind a Mother Nature scenario (The New World, p. 5), or fey are the aliens in X-Factor (The New World, p. 7), they could bring back magic with them.

Appropriate Hazards

Magic could warp both men and animals, giving rise to Mutants (The New World, p. 18). Gangs (The New World, p. 15-17) and Paramilitaries (The New World, p. 23-24) are always a possibility, ruling the world via thaumaturgical might rather than technology (or a combination of the two!). Magic could bring strange Climate (The New World, p.12-13) or interesting new Diseases (The New World, p. 13-15). Rogue Bots (The New World, p. 25-27) in the form of re-animated statues, and Zombies (The New World, p. 27-29) could be the result of elemental or necromantic energies gone awry.
Other Information
As mentioned above, you need to discuss the relationship between magic and technology. If they are opposed to each other, consider adding the Nature Power Modifier (GURPS Powers, p. 28) to Magery or the magical powers you build. However, this can make magic almost useless in the most interesting areas (such as radioactive wastelands). Why would a magic-user even enter such areas?

If you use Path Magic, the question of magic and technology boils down to whether you allow the Path of Gadgets (Thaumatology, p. 145-148). With magic and technology opposed, you should probably not use the path – the only appropriate ritual is Gremlins, and that can be cast using the Path of Luck. With magic and technology working together, the Path of Gadgets becomes a good way to either complement or supplant a Techie in the group. The only rituals that should be banned are Fuel and Unlimited Ammo, both which negate the resource-management part of the setting. If radiation is a factor in the setting, you’ll also want to devise a ritual that allows you to deal with it. Alternatively you can allow the Dose (Thaumatology, p. 148) to clear away as many Radiation Points as the margin of success (for Effect Shaping) or energy accumulated.

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One Comment

  1. I think Bombs Away could get you a post Apoc Technomancer setting. Alternatively this could be demonic atomic postapoc followup to greed and poor reac5or design in Technomancer. That whole setting needs a 4e workover.

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