There were a couple of interesting topics recently on the forums about Ritual Path magic and sacrifices for energy. Some were about how much energy you could give or how much you could gather from a stadium of people or my personal favorite: summoning a demon and then forcing it to give you energy or be sacrificed.
First, a quick preface: Rule #3 of Stacking Spells very specifically says “Spells cannot make anyone better at using magic.” This is an incredibly important rule for an open-ended system like Ritual Path Magic. Ignoring this rule leads to a magical system that feeds on itself for greater and greater power. What’s more is that it doesn’t just apply to things like “Altered Traits, Magery” or “Altered Traits, Energy Reserve (Magical),” but for any spell where the effects of the spell further assist the mage in some way. There are exceptions to this – like adding Bestows a Penalty to a spell to make it harder to resist – but they are few and far between.
Better Living Through Sacrificial Summoning
If you (or anyone else) “summon” another being from outside your reality using magic (regardless of whether or not it’s Ritual Path magic or not) you cannot then get that being to help power a spell through anything but non-coercive sacrifice. This leads to feedback issues where you can summon a demon (or whatever) on the cheap, drain them of energy, and then caster a larger spell thanks to said energy. Now, if the GM wants to ignore this for his campaign, it might not break anything, but it sets off all my warning lights and my munchkin radar. For a better alternative, where you actually get more energy then what you could get from just bullying a imp see Assisting Spirits (GURPS Thaumatology, p. 90).
Mass Magic is Mathamagic
Yes, by the rules you can tap an entire stadium of people to give you energy for your spells. But there are a few considerations (of which I pointed out before).
- It hurts – even if it’s FP you’re sacrificing. -1 per FP or HP spent (up to -4). In real world terms it’s like getting a knife to the gut or suffering a wound that requires stitches. Keep in mind that magic won’t restore HP or FP lost this way. You remember that little pain scale they use at ERs and Hospitals? 1 is “you stubbed your toe” and 10 is “OMG I IZ DYIN”? That one? I’d call each -1 in Shock Penalties about 3.3 on that scale – so evne if you find folks who are willing to fund your Gate to Mars – they’re going to suffer the worst pain they’ve ever felt for at least a second to do it. If the campaign world is even remotely sane, finding volunteers for that on a regular bases is going to be difficult at best.
- They have to know what they are doing and what it entails. So you can’t say “Just trust me” and tap their FP/HP. They have to know what’s going on. You can use coercion or blackmail to make someone willing however.
- Tapping into a source takes one second for Adepts and 1 minute for non-adepts (who can use the adept times, though this requires a skill roll at -5)
Do What I Say Mage or the Familiar Gets It
How do you decide when coercion kicks in if using magic? I’ve always used an extremely simple rule: if you are directly using magic to force someone to do something he wouldn’t otherwise do (e.g. jedi mind tricks) then you cannot force them to give you energy to power a spell. If you are indirectly using magic to force them to give you energy (e.g., using Path of Matter to telekinetically threaten the target with a knife) then you’re good to go.
Piecemail Sacrifice and Healing
One thing I never thought about until it was brought up in a thread was how Voluntary Sacrifice intersected with magical healing. Even with only one sacrifice per donor per spell it doesn’t stop the mage from healing the donor and making the sacrifice moot. It skims insanely close to Rule 3 again. I’ve always kept track of such things in my most of my campaigns so I didn’t really realize what a shock my answer to this question was going to cause. Since then I’ve decided I’ll use the following rule for further campaigns where appropriate:
Since HP and FP granted by magical spells cannot be sacrificed for energy for magical rituals it stands to reason that inherent HP or FP restored by magic shouldn’t be able to be sacrificed either. This is realistic, but causes a headache for the GM. Therefore as a general rule, a given character may only sacrifice up to one multiple of his HP or FP if he’s received any sort of magical healing in the last 24 hours.