Ley Line Magic

spells for a GURPS Magic campaign

by Joshua Roby

Mana begins its journey at a mana spring, a cairn or mystic site, which funnels or constructs (Thaumaturgists don't know which) mana and sends it into the world through ley lines, a crisscrossing network of conduits through which mana flows easily. The mana flows down these ley lines, forking and splitting, sometimes falling out through weak spots in the lines called nodes. The mana spreads out through the world, saturating it with mana, maintaining the mana level and allowing magic to exist. Below are the spells with which mages may manipulate this foundation of magic.

The Ley Line Spell College

Seek Ley Line

Tells the caster the direction and approximate distance of the nearest significant (1-point or more) ley line. Use the long-distance modifiers (p B151 or p M10). Any particular ley lines may be excluded if the caster specifically mentions them before beginning.

Cost: 3 pts
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: Instantaneous
Prerequisites: Magery
Item: Any headgear, or a compass. Cost: 60

Sense Ley Line

The basic Ley Line Spell. With this spell, the mage can "see" the ley line network around her. He will see all lines, nodes and springs within his line of sight, and have a general idea ("south" "downhill") of where the lines lead. This is not an overlay on his normal vision, though; it is an "extrasensory" sense. If blindfolded, the mage may be able to navigate a room by following the ley lines he'd already seen in the room.

Cost: 2 pts, half to maintain
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: 15 minutes
Prerequisites: Seek Ley Line
Item: Any headgear, or a compass. Cost: 100

Draw Ley Power

This spell allows a mage can draw power from the ley lines around him. It is a modified form of Restore ST, and may be substituted for it. A mage standing within casting distance of a ley line can draw from it one point of fatigue for every three points that he makes his skill roll by. When standing on a node hex, a mage can pull one point of fatigue for each point he makes his roll by. This amount is limited by the level of mana running through the line. The effects of more than one mage casting this spell on the same section of line (GM's discretion for whatever that may entail, one hex or entire line) are cumulative: that is, four mages can only pull seven points out of a seven-point line; if the first three pull two each, that leaves the last one with one point.

Cost: N/A
Time to Cast: one second
Duration: Instantaneous
Prerequisites: Sense Ley Line, Recover ST
Item: Any garment or accessory. Cost: 800

Ley Line Look

With this spell, the mage can "look" down a ley line and see from any point along it. Taking a -3 modifier, the mage can also cast spells in the area he is looking at, ignoring distance penalties. Every three nodes between the mage and the point from which he looks adds one to the cost of both the Ley Line Look spell and any spell he'd like to cast through it.

Cost: 2 pts, plus 1 for every full 3 nodes. Half to maintain.
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: 15 minutes
Prerequisites: Sense Ley Line
Item: Any headgear or telescope. Cost: 1500

Ley Line Map

This is the more developed version of Sense Ley Line. The mage begins by sensing the ley lines around his and where they intersect other ley lines, at which point the mage looks down those ley lines to where they intersect other ley lines, and so on and so on. The information gained makes a sort of mental map which the mage can refer to in planning spells. The distance a mage can see is limited by his skill roll and the number of nodes in the lines: he may see through as many nodes as he makes his skill roll by. If desired, the mage can also put extra effort into the spell: doubling the cost doubles the number of nodes the mage can see through. This also doubles casting time. The mage will remember the map as he would any map he studied for a minute or two.

Cost: 2 points, or more for extra effort.
Time to Cast: 60 seconds
Duration: Instantaneous
Prerequisites: Ley Line Look
Item: Any headgear, usable by mages only. Cost: 150.

Detect Ley Line Use

This spell allows the mage to sense whenever a ley line is being used. The mage must already have cast Sense Ley Line, Ley Line Look, Ley Line Map, or have Ley Eyes. The mage can only monitor a line he can see, through one of these methods. If another person uses that ley line in any active way (not Sense Ley Line or Ley Line Map), the mage will sense it. On a critical success, the mage will know the user's identity; on a critical failure, the mage may see "phantom users" or no users at all.

Cost: 2 pts, 1 pt to maintain
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: 15 minutes
Prerequisites: Ley Line Look
Item: a) Any headgear, usable by mages only. Cost: 150. b) Any headgear; usable by anyone, always on. Cost: 400. Note) The user must still see the Ley Lines, through spell or Ley Eyes, in order to detect use with either of these items. A simple solution is to enchant the item with these spells, as well.

Ley Travel

A mage armed with this spell can fly along ley lines at high speeds. A mage using this spell travels at the equivalent of Move 20, straight down the ley line. Acceleration, deceleration and turning are limited only by the mage's own physical constraints. Ley Lines do not always arc through the air, though. They are just as likely to burrow into the ground or go straight through walls. Unless intangible or something similar, the mage can't follow the ley line through solid matter, and may even crash if not paying attention. When ley lines intersect, the mage can turn onto the new one; this requires a "control roll" under this spell, but costs no fatigue (or a mage can use the Flying: Ley Line (PA) skill, instead). A successful control roll transfers the mage onto the new line; in the case of a failure, the mage continues on his previous course. A critical failure short-circuits the spell, and the mage falls to the ground (no damage unless mage is very high or going over Move 10; in this case, 1d-1).

Cost: 5 pts, 2 to maintain
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: 10 minutes
Prerequisites: Only Draw Ley Power and Levitation are required, but Sense Ley Line or Ley Line Map would be nice to see where you're going.
Item: a) Cape, ring, clothing. Usable by wearer only. Cost: 1000. b) Carpet or Surfboard Cost: 1000 per hex.

Mana Ley Travel (VH)

The more advanced version of Ley Travel, this spell allows the mage to translate herself into mana and travel through the ley line in this manner. The mage need not worry about his physical constraints or running into walls. Move is still 20. If the mage rolls a critical failure on a control roll, he falls out of the ley line and back into normal reality, and instantly translates back into physical form. Note that, at a high enough level, a mage can disappear into the ley lines and remain there for as long as he wishes; a mage in mana form does not need food or sleep; he can become a ghost in the machine . . .

Cost: 10 pts, 2 to maintain
Time to Cast: 10 seconds
Duration: 10 minutes
Prerequisites: Ley Travel
Item: a) Cape, ring, clothing. Usable by wearer only. Cost: 2000. b) Carpet or Surfboard Cost: 2000 per hex.

Create Node (VH)

With this spell, the mage can pull on a ley line and create a node. This will have two effects: first of all, all business down this line will be more difficult and the line below will carry less power. It may even stop altogether if enough nodes are placed along it (although someone might just create a new line going along a parallel route or repair the nodes (see below)). Secondly, the node will begin to drop power out of the ley line and into the area around it. The node's power is specified by the mage at the time of the casting; it is limited by the margin by which he made his skill roll. A mage with the "Draw Ley Power" spell can draw more power if he is standing in this hex. If the node is left alone for a long enough time (a few years), the area surrounding it may even turn into a higher mana area!

Cost: 5 pts per level of the node
Time to Cast: 15 minutes per point of the node
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisites: Draw Ley Power, Magery 2
Item: Any. Cost: 1000.

Create Ley Line (VH)

A major spell by which a mage can create a ley line for his own use. The created ley line must connect to other ley lines on both ends. This spell can be used to provide the mage with easy access to the rest of the world via the ley lines: a ley line going right past one's house, or even through one's study, is mighty convenient for the mage. Of course, it's also convenient for others who might want to peep in or even show up unexpectedly.

The created ley line will contain no nodes (see Create Node, above) and will only transfer power between the two lines it connects with. Its strength can be as high as the parent line, minus one (to defer all the mana, the mage must set up his line and destroy the other; see below). The junction between the new line and its neighbors will be a node of a power equal to a third of the line's level. In order to cast this spell, the mage must be able to see both endpoints of the new line; this is usually done by casting from one end and looking through other ley lines to the second end. It will be a matter of days before the line is filled with mana; if a number of lines are created at once, it may take weeks for the entire network to fill.

Cost: 10 pts for every 100 yards the line will cover
Time to Cast: 10 minutes for every 100 yards
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisites: Ley Line Map, Draw Ley Power, Magery 2

Node Gate (VH)

This spell can be used to create a Gate between two nodes, making instantaneous travel between the two possible. The mage must be able to see both nodes to cast the spell. The mage must specify at the casting whether the Gate is two-way or one-way, and if one-way, which way it goes. The orientation of the gate can be changed at any time by the maintaining mage.

Cost: 8 times the cost of for similar-distance Teleport spell; same to maintain.
Time to Cast: 20 minutes
Duration: 1 minute
Prerequisites: Create Node, Create Ley Line, Basic Gate
Item: a) Any. Mage only. Cost: 800. b)This spell can be made permanent by spending 10 times the cost in the casting, which can be performed in a ritual manner, like enchanting an item.

Destroy Node (or Repair Ley Line) (VH)

This spell is used to "smooth over" a ley line which has a node in it. If completed, the ley line is cleared of the node and will function easier; power will flow through the area, and those pesky modifiers will be removed. Higher-mana areas which might have been an effect of the node may dry up over years.

Cost: 5 pts per level of the node
Time to Cast: 30 minutes per level of the node
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisite: Create Node, Create Ley Line
Item: Any. Mage only. Cost: 400

Destroy Ley Line (VH)

This is, rather obviously, the opposite spell to Create Ley Line. This spell allows a mage to tear apart a ley line so that it no longer exists. The possible applications are rather obvious. It costs surprisingly little to cast because in the process of tearing apart the line, the mage is washed over with the power it was carrying. In fact, for a full day after the line is destroyed, treat the area around it as one level of mana higher than it is. Any mages using Mana Ley Travel who are in the line when it is destroyed "fall out" and are translated back to physical form.

If this spell is used to destroy a ley line that is the only route between a mana spring (see below) and other ley lines, the ley lines will be rendered dead; the lines still exist, but no longer have mana running through them and cannot be tapped. Ley Line Look and Ley Travel spells will work on dead lines.

Cost: 5 pts per 100 yards of line
Time to Cast: 10 minutes per 100 yards of line
Duration: Permanent (although ley lines may regrow naturally, over many, many years)
Prerequisite: Create Ley Line, Create Node, Dispel Magic

Destroy Ley Network (VH)

A spell of mass destruction known by few, this spell enables a mage (probably group of mages, considering mana costs) to destroy all the ley lines and nodes in an area. The spell differs from the special condition stated in Destroy Ley Line in that this spell destroys all the ley lines, leaving no dead lines. The mage must be able to see all the lines leading into the area (he can use the lines he's about to destroy), but he need not see all the lines he's going to destroy.

Using this spell will probably make the mana level of the area drop, though this will take a while. The more immediate effect of this spell is that all the power running through the lines is released all at once. The ensuing chaos would be incredible; effectively a ridiculously high-mana area. In a high-mana area, magic is more loose. In the aftermath of this spell, magic obeys no laws, least of all the Laws of Physics. Most people in this area would be killed in numerous gruesome ways, and the few survivors would be maimed, driven insane, perhaps even twisted/mutated.

This is a complex spell, and it is even more complex to figure cost. It is based on the sheer length of the combined ley lines the mage will remove, and this can be difficult to figure. An easy cop-out is to just take the area to be denuded and multiply this by a modifier, based on what mana level the land is. Modifiers: very high mana: x13.5, high mana x5.4, normal mana x2.7, low mana x.54, no mana x.27. This will give a rough estimate of how many feet of ley line there is in a given area.

Cost: 5 pts per 100 yards of line
Time to Cast: 10 minutes per 100 yards of line
Duration: Permanent (Until the ley lines grow back naturally… in a century or so.)
Prerequisite: Destroy Ley Line, Drain Mana, Magery 3

Create and Destroy Mana Spring (Unknown)

Whether these two spells exist are almost certainly unknown in any game world. If they did exist, they would be secret spells and would have incredibly prohibitive costs and casting times: rituals lasting days and including a number of human sacrifices sound appropriate for the level of power these spells would require. These spells do make a good mystery or threat for the PCs to respond to.

New Advantage

Ley Eyes --10 pts

A character with this advantage sees all ley lines around his at all times, even in the dark. It requires no fatigue, and he can see everything a successful Sense Ley Line spell would reveal.

Ley Line Physics and Geography

Depending on how detailed the GM wants to make his campaign and how much he wants to bother with ley lines, the physics and geography of ley lines can be very simple to dizzyingly complex. Following are a dizzyingly complex set of rules.

Neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed, but it can be converted. Light waves can become heat when absorbed, wood can be burnt into heat, uranium can become kinetic energy in a fission reaction. Mana, being energy, cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be converted. Most spells are the conversion of mana into either other forms of energy (Apportation turns it into kinetic energy, Lightning turns it into electricity) or matter (Create Water). Technically speaking, this conversion should be handled with the equation E=Mc2, using fatigue, converted into calories, as the energy, but this brings depressing results, so we will throw science out the window, something scientists do all the time.

According to Mage: the Ascension, mana is diluted Quintessence, which was broadcast from humanity's heads into the world and caught, collected and converted by mystic places like cairns. For those of us who are "magicians" and not "mages," as will be most PCs using these rules, the mystic places that convert quintessence into mana and called "Mana Springs" and are believed to create mana. (Thaumaturgists debate whether mana is really created or just constructed here, with varying degrees of force in their arguments. We will leave the Thaumaturgists to their arguments, though, and proceed directly with the game mechanics.) Mana Springs are rated for how much mana they produce; a typical spring produces 100-500 points of mana per second, though small ones can produce only one (or fewer) points per second, and larger ones more: the sky is the limit. Mana Springs will exist in high-mana areas, and the mana spring itself (if large enough to occupy an entire hex) will be at a ridiculously-high mana level, where reality really starts breaking down.

Each mana spring will have a number of ley lines running from it, which will split up the output of the spring. For instance, a 120-point spring may have one 50-point ley line, two 30-point ley lines, and one 10-point ley line running from it. These ley lines will run out from the ley line and split a number of times. The 50-point ley line splits into two 25-point ley lines, then one of those, a mile down the line, splits into a 15-point line and a 10-point line, which in turn splits into two five-point lines. Actually, these numbers aren't quite right. Nearly every split of a line is a node; the line is messy here and mana falls out. Nodes can range in power from small, dripping, one-point nodes to torrential 10-point (or more) nodes. The level of the mother line is split between the daughter lines and the node, so the 50-point line splits at a 6-point node into two 22-point lines, one of which splits at a 2-point node into a 11-point line and a 7-point line, which splits at a one-point node into two three-point lines.

If you think of detailing an entire network of lines that don't just run along the ground, but through the air and underground, you've got an idea of how dizzying this can get, but I'm not done yet. Here are a few more thoughts to complicate your ley network: How thick or wide is a ley line? The preceding has assumed that they are anywhere from a few feet to a few inches, depending on the strength of the line. This could be changed. There is no reason why ley lines can't join; two ten-point lines join at a three-point node to produce a 17-point line. Mana Springs may be aspected, making all the mana down the line aspected, as well. What happens when two, differently aspected (fire-water or death-life) mana lines meet? Or what happens when a line loops back and joins itself? If there are no other routes out, the section of line will fill up with mana over time, resulting in a sort of "Dead sea" . . . what happens to unused mana? Does it decay? Will the lines eventually burst under the pressure?

If mana cannot be created, then it can't be destroyed, either. Instead, it is lost into the environment—entropy. The energy isn't destroyed, it exists; it's just lost, unavailable for use. Each node dumps a little more mana into the world, where it is sucked up by reality. Various natural processes use mana. Places with "auras" about them that instill fear or awe are powered by mana, as are sites which are "unnaturally" beautiful. Gravity is completely mana-based; this is why no physical law seems to adequately describe it. Many plants and animals, especially in the microscopic world, convert mana into energy along with the food they eat. Magical animals, like gryphons or dragons, use mana to fly or breath fire, etc. These may sound silly, but if mana exists, it will be used by the whole world, not just mages; and even the mages are part of this natural cycle, since they use the mana in their own ways.

The more mana that is dropped into the world, the higher the mana level. Areas with a large number of ley lines and/or nodes will have higher ratings than areas with fewer. This is why it costs less mana to cast spells in high-mana areas; there is mana floating about, fresh from the ley lines.

Ramifications on the Gameworld

Natural Geography may follow Ley Geography (or is it the other way around?), with riverbeds following ley lines, and mana springs gushing from the tops of mountain peaks. Animal life, some of which is dependent on mana, will congregate around ley lines, making the lines and especially the intersections and tangles into dense forests, swamps, or jungles. Human habitations, once they can manipulate ley lines, will undoubtedly be set at large intersections.

Depending on the depth of human knowledge of magic, ley lines have a potential to greatly change the course of human history. The ley lines will become like the railroad was to the frontier US: if the railroad/ley line visits your city along its route, you will be guaranteed a place of importance. If a city is bypassed, it is in grave danger of becoming a ghost town. A city may attempt to construct their own ley lines to connect themselves with the larger conduits, ensuring that they will survive (PCs could be called in to facilitate this).

Trade routes will follow or be the ley lines; communication and package delivery could be done via ley line. This is because the fatigue and enchantment costs for ley-magic are less than that of the costs for that of non-ley-magic (Travel Ley Line is cheaper than Levitation) because the existence of the ley line makes the work easier. A mage traveling down the ley line could simultaneously be casting Tap Ley Line to regain the mana he uses to travel, making it even cheaper.

Culture would travel faster, as with the railroad. Distant lands become not-so-distant when you can putter down the ley line to get there. Long sea-voyages between Megalos and Arraterre become a number of short ley-trips, hopping from city to city, sometimes straight over the ocean. The increased level of transportation moves fashion faster, and instead of backwater cities advertising "Fashions from Megalos" that are years old, the fashions are introduced almost simultaneously the world over. Technology's progress may increase as ideas are exchanged at a faster rate.

In war, large battles might be fought over ley lines and nodes, and occupied ley lines guarded closely (or blocked with nodes) to prevent enemy penetration. Large complexes of ley-lines become positions to be envied. The goal of an entire war might be to capture one mana spring.

The existence of ley lines will also beef up the impact of general magic on the world. It becomes easier to enchant magic items when the power put into them can be pulled out of ley lines instead of waiting for powerstones to be recharged; consequently, there will be more magic items out there.

Managing Ley Lines in a Campaign

Ley Line Geography can be simplified easily:

1) All ley lines can be of a uniform power (say, 10) and all nodes set at an equal level (say, 2).

2) Ley Lines can run exclusively along the ground, or their height can be ignored (in this instance, they radiate out of the core of the planet and are ley planes, but this is supposed to simplify things...)

3) Mana springs need not even exist, and the ley lines can just run hither and yon with no rhyme or reason.

4) Ley Lines may be only straight lines.

If the "Ramifications on the Game World" sound horrible to you, simply add more nodes to the ley network. Travel and communication become more difficult, and the speed of the railroad peters down to only slightly faster than the horse or becomes too difficult, and not practical for such frivolous uses as moving fashion designs (though a quick look at history will reveal that humankind has an amazing ability to put new advances to frivolous ends).

PCs will generally not know many of the spells in this college; it is the sort of college (like Enchant and Meta-magic) which is used by elder, experienced mages. The spells in this college can easily unbalance a carefully-constructed adventure by letting PCs tap great amounts of mana, letting them see or appear at places where they shouldn't be allowed or even know about. If the ley lines are too powerful, reduce their strength. The simple addition of nodes will prevent short-circuiting of adventures: mages often protect their own section of ley-line networks by adding a succession of nodes on a short piece of line. Anyone trying to see in or travel in would have to overcome a great deal of interference to do so.

Ley Lines can easily complicate—and therefore make more interesting—any game world. The addition of the Ley Line College can extend (and restrict) the power of mages. Ley Lines can be used to make the world (Yrth, for example) go faster than a normal, medieval setting. Travel becomes easier, enchanted items become cheaper, and the mages may be looking over your shoulder via a convenient ley line ...

Article publication date: July 17, 1998

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