Boil and Bubble: How to Build a Spell Thief

Recently, Shieldbunny from the Steve Jackson Games forums asked:

I’ve been kicking around the idea of building a character based off of the spellthief class in That Other Game. For those of you that don’t know, the idea is a stealthy character that steals the spells from her enemies minds to cast herself. After some thought, I’m not exactly sure how to model this. So, as my DM’s usual answer is, “Go ask the Forums.”, I come to you, the experts, for advice.

Since I’m not entirely familiar with Pathfinder, I went and did a quick check of the SRD. It certainly is an interesting class, but it’s wrapped to tightly in that setting’s game mechanics. Essentially, the main ability of the class is to be able to steal the spells of another caster and use them once. That’s all well and good for a system that uses Vancian Magic…but not so much for GURPS. The underlying assumptions are completely different. Vancian/DnD style magic is like the Ron Popeil of the magic world: “You set it and forget it!” You study your spells, affix them in your mind, and then they disappear once cast. GURPS magic is more a skill that once learned you can use as much as you want – as long as you have the energy (FP or HP) for it.
As noted in that thread Leech, Neutralize, and Modular Abilities could all be pressed into service to create this ability. I think I’d use Neutralize as a base – even though Leech with a suitably modified enhancement might be a better way. So if I were to make an ability to “steal spells” for GURPS, I’d do one of the following:

Spell Thief: Neutralize (Power Theft (Accessibility, Spells only and one at a time only, -80%), +40%; Increased Range, LOS, +40%; PM, -10%; Ranged, +40%) [105]. Notes: Make a Quick Contest of Will with your subject who you must be able to see (this takes normal range penalties, p. B550). Success means you gain one spell randomly chosen that the victim has. This lasts for minutes equal to your margin of victory. On a tie or failure, there’s no effect (critical failure means you can’t use this ability for 1d hours). If you can somehow detect the subject’s capabilities (i.e., what spells he knows), then you can make a Perception-2 roll, spend two FP, and target that specific spell. 105 points.

Stealing Spells as a Enhancement for Leech
Alternatively, taking someone’s spells might be better served as an enhancement on Leech.
GURPS Powers, p. 96
Stealing skills may be possible through the following modifier.
Special Enhancement
Steal Skill: You steal skills instead of HP. Drain occurs at the rate of 1 point in a skill per level of Leech. Excess drain due to having a higher level of Leech than the total number of points in a single skill do not give extra points in a skill (e.g., you cannot gain more points in a skill than your victim has). You use your attribute to determine final skill level in all cases. For example, if you have a DX of 12 and your victim has a DX of 14 and Karate at DX+2, your skill would be 14, not 16. If Leech has a Power Modifier, you can add your Power Talent as a bonus. This is instead of any other bonus granted by any other Talent you may have. Points drain away at the rate of one per second, unused ones first. You can add Extended Duration to increase this time. Cost depends on what type of skills you can steal. Add an additional +20% if you can decide what skill you take.
  • All skills: +100%.
  • A broad group of skills: all Technological skills, all magical spells, etc. +80%.
  • A medium-sized group of skills: a subset of one of of the above (e.g., all spells from one college or all skills used to operate a vehicle) or all skills of a particular type (e.g., Combat Skills Only or Social Skills Only). +60%.
  • A small group of skills: a further subset of a medium-sized group (e.g., all missile spells) or all skills from a particular skill category (e.g., all Melee Combat or Ranged Combat skills). +40%.
Thus a special ability to steal spells might look something like this:

Spell Thief: Leech 1 (PM, -10%; Ranged, +40%; Requires Will vs. Will Roll, -15%; Steal Skill, Spells only, +80%) [49]. Notes: Make a Quick Contest of Will with your subject (this takes normal range penalties, p. B550). If you success you drain 1 point from a randomly chosen spell from your subject and you gain it for 1 second. Your skill level uses your IQ-2 plus Magery (or whatever Power Talent the Power Modifier is for on this ability). Your victim loses the ability to cast that spell as long as you can use it. If you have some means of detecting what spells your victim has, make any IQ roll to target a particular spell. 49 points.

Picking Over the Bones
This might be made even cheaper by using the Steal Skill spell (GURPS Magic, p. 158). You could even specialize it so you can only use the spell to steal other spells via an optional specialization. So a build might look like this: Charm (Steal Skill) [1] + Magery 4 (One Spell Only, Steal Skill, -80%) [9] + Steal Skill (Spells) (A) IQ+5 [4]. That’s cheaper than either Leech or Neutralize and uses GURPS Magic and nothing else. Still, some settings might not use the standard magic system or have multiple systems and the previous two options might be the better way to go. Use Accessibility if only one system’s spells can be stolen if there are two or more types of magic. How would you build the ability to steal spells? Go another route not presented here? If so, what?
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