Blood Magic in GURPS

by George Tucker

Blood magic is an ancient form of spellcasting. It is or has been practiced nearly universally, but is also regarded as backwards and bestial by most. Put in its simplest form, the caster uses HT instead of ST to cast spells -- the caster wounds himself with a ritual knife or other weapon.

Because of the inherent power of blood magic, magicians using it to power spells can ignore the restrictions of local mana, and the Magery prerequisite for spells. For these reasons, blood magic may be the only source of magic in a hidden- or low-magic campaign.

Blood Mages

Young blood mages normally show an intense fascination with blood. They often bite themselves, or deliberately cut themselves -- anything to revel in that powerful liquid. For these reasons, young blood mages are often institutionalized by concerned parents (in our modern world), exorcised by a priest/ess (in more superstitious worlds), or dedicated to the gods of death and disease. NPC blood mages will often have the Bloodlust (if not Sadism) disadvantage, along with negative Appearance due to scarring, Odious Personal Habit, Reputation, Social Stigma, or Secret. Blood mages are never without a dagger or scalpel, or, in an emergency, a razor blade or even a piece of glass. An old blood mage will be a palimpsest of scars, and easily identifiable.

Despite these drawbacks, blood magic is so inherently powerful that it allows characters to cast spells having a prerequisite of Magery whether or not the character has Magery. In a world where blood magic is the only form of magic, a blood mage should take the 35-point version of the advantage (below).

Generally, blood mages travel with a first-aid kit. See p. B-130 sidebar for the effects of open wounds.

Any wizard will be able to determine if another wizard is a blood mage from his aura -- those who practice blood magic are haloed in fiery scarlet.

The Rules

All spells the mage cast take at least one extra second to complete, more if the mage doesn't have an edged weapon ready (GM's decision).

The caster must make a Will roll in order to use himself as a power source, unless he has High Pain Threshold. If the cost of the spell is 4 or more, the roll is at -2. If the cost of the spell is 8 or more, the roll is at -5. Note that if the caster allows someone else to wound him to power the spell, the Will rolls still apply -- and on a failed roll, the caster will attempt to dodge his ally's blow.

The caster then rolls versus his skill with the attempted spell (or at IQ+Magery-3 for the 35-point advantage). A failed attempt has the normal results -- but not only is the mage still wounded, he must roll vs. his Surgery or weapon skill (DX-2 for non-weapons) or lose an additional hit point.

Blood magic cannot be used to cast Blocking spells or any other spells the GM deems off-limits.

After any spell-casting that costs the caster 5 or more hit points, he must roll vs. HT or lose one level of Appearance.

Being stabbed by someone else. A blood mage sometimes relies on a companion to do the knife work. Any time this happens, the character wounding the mage must roll vs. Surgery, Physician-1, or weapon skill-2 to avoid causing the normal amount of damage to the mage with the weapon. Discriminating blood mages prefer skilled doctors as companions, for multiple reasons.

Can I save my own blood up, or use someone else's blood? No. A great deal of the power of blood magic comes from the psychic energy generated by the caster wounding himself. Raiding your local Red Cross and dumping three pints of blood on the ground just doesn't have the same power (nice try, though).

Blood Magic In The Campaign

Blood magery is easily adapted to any magic system. The concept and the drama is much more important than game mechanics, and, at the GM's whim, hit points can be exchanged for magical power at a greater or lesser rate.

In a world where magic is extremely rare, blood magic can be brought onstage to demonstrate the wages of dealing with such powers. Or in a world where Magery is common, blood magic could be the only tool available to the "mundanes" to combat sorcery. At the GM's whim, blood magic could be the only technique for casting certain spells (the Healing and Necromancy colleges come to mind), and any warlock worth his salt will be conversant in its techniques. But nothing will make a mage think twice about casting a spell faster than the gleam on the edge of his ritual knife. . .

Blood magic can be a tool for the GM who is creating a world that has fewer mages, with more modest powers (imagine enchanting an item with this method!). Or practitioners of bloodletting could have their own guilds side-by-side with traditional Hermetic-type mages. In a fantasy campaign, all blood mages could belong to a certain race, or family bloodline. Blood magery can be considered a blessing or a curse.

In an occult or horror campaign, blood magic can be another dark weapon the PCs can learn to wield. Play up the dramatic aspects, and the difficulties of hurting one's self badly.

Imagine a world where magic exists, but power is only generated by injuring one's self. Perhaps further mutilation (cutting off a hand, putting out the eyes. . .) would create magics of incredible power -- or, the only method of creating powerful magical items.

NPC blood mages are liable to be a surly and secretive lot. Highly recommended are: Odious Personal Habit (Intensity, Bad Smell, and so on), Bloodlust, Reputation, Secret (Black Magician or Blood Mage), Unluckiness, Visions, Voices (p. VO56), Weirdness Magnet, negative Appearance (scars), Enemy, Murder Addiction (Voodoo p.99) and anything else the GM can think of.


Blood Magery

15, 20, or 35 points

The talent of channelling energy released by wounding one's self. The cost is, at the GM's discretion, 15 points on a world where magic is common, or 20 points where magic is rare. If Blood Magery is combined with the Natural Spellcasting advantage, the total cost is 35 points. Note that the blood mage with this 35-point advantage does not get to specify the spell he will cast, merely its effects. (See p. WW58-59 for details.)

Because blood mages are accustomed to pain, they only suffer half the shock penalties for injuries (see p. B-126-127), and can take High Pain Threshhold for only 5 points.

Article publication date: October 25, 2002

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