Designer’s Notes: The Old Ways

Writing The Old Ways
The Old Ways was perhaps one of my favorite articles to date. I’d been writing pretty steadily at that point, but I previously had a gap where I didn’t submit anything or had written anything noteworthy. The last issue I appeared in had been Pyramid #3/49: World Hopping and I’d gotten my first rejection in the form of my It’s a Trap! article which I submitted  to Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy II. Though to be fair, it wasn’t an actual rejection, it was just “We don’t have room for this right now,” which still sucked at the time (Steven actually used it later on in  Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III, so that did make me happy). So I was in a strange place when I started writing for the Prehistory issue. Before I had been trying to differentiate myself from my growing “I’m the Ritual Path Magic Guy” hat that everyone had assigned me. And really, I don’t mind wearing that hat, in fact, I kind of love it, but I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. I’ve gotta lot to offer other than just new spells, charms, and so on – but right then I felt, let’s say an urge to do “caveman spells.” The idea was cool, how does a TL0 society view magic? What sort of spells would be useful? They’re not going to be trying to fireball one another – they’re going to be to busy surviving. At first, I wrote up something like 50 or 60 spells that were a mix of survival magic, ice/cold magic, and spirit-contacting/commanding magic. Eventually, I realized that I was starting to head off course, and I ditched everything but the survival magic and a few one or two interesting or tangentially related survival-ritual spells. After a time, I got something workable, but I had quite a few outtakes. For those that like such things, here they are.

Knickknack Paddiwhack Give the Medicine Man a Bone
Standard magic (the system that appears in both the Basic Set and GURPS Magic) has a system for creating “knacks” or inherent magic. Basically, you don’t know how to cast spells you just “do it” or you do know how to cast spells – well, spell, and that’s it. I originally had a couple of methods I created while exploring the limits of Ritual Path magic, and I tried to toss at least one into the Old Ways…but I just didn’t have enough room, so I cut it.

Ritual Path Magic Knacks
Knacks are created by first defining the spell that they are meant to emulate. Whether it’s Fireball or Bewitched Basketry. Once this is done you figure it’s cost in the following way:

  • Buy an IQ/Easy skill to whatever level you wish to be proficient in. For example, if you want to have Fireball at IQ+5, you’d spend 16 character points to purchase it at that level. This is also the skill you use to fill your native reserve. Ignore Path Caps for this one spell when purchased this way.
  • Buy Energy Reserve N (Mana Reserve) with “Accessibility, One spell only, -80%” for 0.6/level. Where N equals the base cost of the spell to cast once. You may purchase more if you wish, but always in a multiple of N.
  • Decide whether you can use the Adept times or not, if so add Ritual Adept (Accessibility, One spell only, -80%) [8].
  • Package those traits together along with the perk “Magical Knack” to find the final cost.

Example: Sasha the Scorcheress is a one-trick pony: she can cast Fireball…a lot, but has no other magical ability. Her player decides Sasha is going to be really good at her spell, so she buys a whopping IQ+10 skill for 36 points. Since Fireball costs 18 energy, she has to buy Energy Reserve 18 (Mana Reserve; Accessibility, Fireball only, -80%) for 11 points, but decides to purchase her reserve to 90, for 54 points. Since she can definitely use the Adept times, this costs another 8 points. The total cost is 99 points, and Sasha can now cast up to five Fireball’s before having to gather energy to do so at IQ+10 or using her HP or FP to power her spell. All other aspects of casting remain unchanged. Sasha may have 99 problems, but Fireball ain’t one.

Like a Tattoo, Take Two
I had originally included a system for creating permanent magical tattoos into the mix…but I had to take it out because GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic had yet to be released and violating an NDA is a bad bad thing. That said, here it is for your use:

Tattoo Enchanted “Items”


-25% or -20%

A small tattoo (2 1/2″ or smaller at its longest dimension) somewhere on the body. Tattoos can be targeted (use the SM below as a penalty), if any damage penetrates the DR of any protection, the wearer has plus two and does at least 1 point of damage, the tattoo becomes non-functional until it can be retouched (use the regular rules for repairing magic items). The tattoo can be transferred to another, but the owner must be willing or restrained and a Lesser Control Magic effect must be used to transfer it. Protected tattoos cannot be transferred unless the target is willing. SM -9 or less, DR 2, HP 1, neg.

Larger tattoos are possible, use the following chart:

Tattoo Size      Additional Reduction   HP Required to Disable Tattoo
-7 or -8           -5%                                2
-5 or -6           -10%                              4
-3 or -4           -15%                              6
-1 or -2           -20%                              8
0 or bigger       -25%                             10

Additional limitations may be appropriate depending on the setting or the tattoo.

Example: Fergus McCloud was given a gift by local witch for saving her life: a giant blue tattoo that covers a large portion of his body and protects him from harm. This gives him a Defense Bonus (just as if he were using a shield and stacks with any other DB he gets) of +3…but only if he’s nude. So the tattoo would be written up as Defense Bonus meta-trait (Accessibility, Only when nude, -40%; Magical, -10%; Tattoo, SM -2, -45%) [18].

Mysticism and Magic
The following (highly optional) lens is used to make “shamans” or “mystics” out of the Crusader template:


0 points

You’re still in touch with your spirit patron(s), but you also possess knowledge of magic – much like the sage (GURPS Monster Hunters 1: Champions, p. 15), though your knowledge isn’t even as extensive as theirs is. Additionally, your Path skill cap is based on Ritual Magic, not Thaumatology. This is a feature and costs no points.

Advantages: Add Magery 1 [15] and Ritualistic Refill [1*]. Reduce the cost of Mysticism abilities by 25 points. Add Magery 2-4 [10/level] to the optional list of traits. Optionally, GMs may allow the Mysticism Power Modifier to be added to Magery, this reduces the cost by one…but if the Crusader loses access to his Mysticism abilities he loses access to his magic as well.
Primary Skills: Ritual Magic (VH) IQ-1 [4]-13. • Choose either Path of Body or Path of Spirit, each (VH) IQ-1 [4]-13; pick one of the following Path skills: Body, Chance, Magic, Mind, Matter, or Spirit all at (VH) IQ-1 [1]-11. You may spend points on any of the above Paths with other points from your template.
* Allows the use of Ritual Magic to refill the caster’s mana reserve, not Path of Magic.

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  1. I like this, but it seems that it would be much cheaper to buy the 3d fireball as a reloadable clip of 5 as a power. I am away from my books or I'd do the math now.

  2. So far, I've observed that the principle of "if the purpose is to do damage, Innate Attack is cheaper" is true in all cases, barring external restrictions on Innate Attack. As a result, there are nearly always external restrictions on Innate Attack, including but not limited to removing it as an option entirely. I appreciate knacks as an alternate way to achieve RPM effects, including damage.

  3. My only issue is that I believe Energy Reserve to be overpriced for RPM in general, because one point of RPM energy doesn't go nearly as far as one FP using baseline Magic. Personally, I'd consider allowing RPM ER (and RPM Magery) to grant triple the points they do currently.

  4. Yup. If you're goal is to do damage it's going to be cheaper period – but, some RPM spells cannot be duplicated using character traits. This complaint was one of the reasons I left it out to begin with (which is why you are seeing it here and not in the magazine).

  5. That's not true. RPM mana reserve has always been priced as a Energy Reserve. Magery (Ritual Path) is ER 3 (Mana Reserve) [9] + Improved Path Cap perk [1] = 10 points. That said, when using some of the systems in Thaumatology with RPM you *do* need to adjust stuff, I recommend (and my article Alternative Ritual Path Magic does this) using 1 FP = 5 RPM energy. But that's only for adjusting some of the effects of other systems and their interactions with RPM.

  6. If you used that ratio; the cost for fireball would be much more reasonable. 11 points for 5 uses before recharge.

  7. Please keep in mind that that is for converting systems that have been published to be used with regular or FP-using magic systems. It is not for standard conversions. Seeing that I converted most of the magic systems in Thaumatology…it probably won't be needed much.

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