Playable PC Enchanters for GURPS: The Crossbow Method

by William J. Keith

One of the most difficult types of wizard to play in GURPS is the Enchanter, a specialist in creating magical items. The time and energy required for enchanting most items make useful creations on the time scale of the typical adventure virtually impossible. Multiple sets of alternate rules are available on Pyramid to spur this process, but a wizard working under the standard GURPS system can be at a severe loss.

The easiest answer is one or more huge Powerstones, and a few friends to help. Unfortunately, "huge" gets expensive, beyond the means of most PCs, and hirelings (or hired Powerstones) are not necessarily available, especially in the wilderness. Still, a mage with a size 20 or 30 Powerstone, within the reach of various Wealth Advantages or a few points in starting equipment, can do a surprising amount of worthwhile work for his friends; the bulk of this article is taken up with a different method, but these low-energy applications are emphasized in the options list below.

A route to fast enchantment does exist in standard GURPS, but it can be obscure, difficult to master, and risky. The basic necessity addressed is a great deal of energy available on short notice for Quick and Dirty enchantment. Beyond this, helpful skills and materials can ease the process. The amount of energy the method generates could quickly become abusable even for non-enchanters, so suggestions are offered for GM controls.

The Crossbow Method

The core of the method is two spells from Grimoire: Draw Power/TL (any) at reasonable skill and Manastone at a minimum level of 17. The mage requires an energy source large enough to cast Manastone for the duration of the process. He also requires a stone of quality suitable for the Manastone spell, big enough to store the desired energy. The Repair spell is essentially a necessity; without it, hundreds of such stones are likely to be required, putting the process beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest enchanters in most game worlds.

Once these requirements are met, the method is simple. The mage casts Draw Power on the source, then casts Manastone repeatedly upon his chosen stone once per turn until it reaches the desired size. If a critical failure occurs and the stone is destroyed, he deals with any other consequences of the critical failure, casts Repair upon the shattered pieces of the stone, and begins again from scratch (since Repair does not restore the stored magical energies). A manastone of the desired size having been created, the mage uses the Quick and Dirty enchantment rules. Unlike using a Powerstone, several hundred Fatigue can be available to one caster and the process may be repeated in hours or days rather than months.

The name refers to the concept of storing energy and releasing it rapidly: "the capacitor trick," "the crossbow method," "the coiled spring," or "the geyser" are all possible names to distinguish this process from regular Quick and Dirty enchantment.

The Fine Print

Like everything in life, if it were that easy, everyone would do it. Most mages would enjoy hundreds of Fatigue to fling about, and enchanters that could do in a day what took another a year would quickly crowd out the previous market. The method entails several difficulties for which a wise enchanter will prepare and which GMs may use as controls.

Assuming Manastone cast once per second and some rest time during the day, eight hours of work suffers 448 critfails, leading to 64 damage and 2 demons a day. This table lists the expected values of time spent, damage suffered, and demons summoned in making one stone of a given size:



Crit. Fails













2.25 min


1 in 7 tries


1 in 216 tries


Enough to make small items





5.75 min


about 1 hit


1 in 33 tries







14 min


about 2


1 in 13 tries







37 min




1 in 5 tries







1hr 35min




1 in 2 tries


Moderately powerful items; even odds of a demon; most mages will have to rest or heal.









1.25 per try


Demon more likely than not





1day 4hrs






About 64 damage and 2 demons a day from here up





4 days











10 days






Slower than Slow and Sure if the mage must heal mundanely at 1pt/day





25 days











60 days











150 days











422 days







A 687-point stone would average 691 days of work, pointless for most enchanters when Slow and Sure works. Mages who do not relish the prospect of demon attacks and magical healing being a regular necessity in their profession will probably stick to creating manastones of 250 points at most.

Costs for pre-made "capacitors" are up to the GM. Keep in mind that for big jobs you're not only paying the enchanter for risky work, you're also paying his doctors (likely mages themselves) and several guards. Even an enchanter who sticks to 50-point stones will still have to deal with a demon every now and then.

GM Control Levers

Not many spells outside of the Enchantment College can use hundreds of Fatigue. Many can be maintained, though; having a battery of 100-300 energy can be handy when one needs to maintain a powerful spell for a long time without a Circle. One College which can use this much Fatigue to wonderful effect is the Weather College, wherein a single mage with 250 points of Fatigue can summon a storm to envelop a city (or a fleet) and lash it for hours. Other outlets exist. If such stones are available to your mage players, rest assured, they will find creative uses.

This sounds great for players, but can be wildly unbalancing for the game. The GM has several controls he can institute on the crossbow method, without changing any game rules.

  1. Availability of gems. No 300-carat gems in the game world, no 300-point manastones. This implies that only natural gem-quality stones can be made into Powerstones and manastones. Smaller gems of 50-100 carats may still exist, and can still aid in several tasks an enchanter may find of game worth.
  2. The spells Draw Power or Manastone do not exist or are not widely known. The interconvertibility of various kinds of natural energy, as in Draw Power, was a leap in physics theory which may not have happened in a fantasy world. Also, both of these are Grimoire spells, so they may not be well-known; the crossbow method may be a closely-guarded secret of a small circle of mages.
  3. Critical failures utterly destroy the stones. The Basic Set does not describe just how a stone is destroyed. Perhaps a critical failure on Manastone or Powerstone turns the stone to vapor or energies that cannot be subjected to Repair. About the only way to get around this limit is by obtaining hundreds of stones at great cost. Still, manastones will be cheaper than powerstones of equivalent size, and an enchanter should be able to make a size 30 or 50 stone in a few tries. Happily, this much Fatigue can enable an interesting array of tasks for an enchanter.
  4. Demons get the hint. An adventure-oriented plot twist: If a mage summons too many demons in a short time via critical failures, have new demons attack the caster hesitantly, or in subtle ways, with temptation and offers of service; or take one look at the caster and run away! Word about the enchanter has apparently gotten around whatever realm demons come from, or he has somehow colored the energies from which demons are created; use any suitable theory of demon arrivals. This should disturb any "decent" PC mage, who would hopefully respond by limiting his creation of large batteries to important situations. Even if it doesn't, demons that run away and attack innocents nearby will disturb all but the most jaded folk, and probably give the caster a reputation (somewhat true) of being a demon summoner . . .

The Juicy Bits

So you've seen the theory and liked it, you've found the risks acceptable, your GM has pronounced the practice allowable, and your enchanter has sweated the training and taken all appropriate cautions (or just paid the money), and gotten his grubby little hands on a mouthwatering 250-point Manastone. What to do now?

One answer is, "make enchanted items." But which? There are enough options that an enchanter will still probably have to choose an area on which to concentrate; such a concentration results in a secondary area of ability where the enchanter can contribute to the party with normal casting. Spell Stones for these spells are one of the cheapest and most adaptable enchanted items an enchanter can make; carefully chosen spells given to one's friends can dramatically increase the party's versatility. Their single-use nature requires the mage to plan carefully to maintain the party's stock, but many take barely an hour to make with the crossbow method.

One last note: Even with a setting not suited for the crossbow method, the lowest-cost items allow a mage with a large Powerstone to enchant items of use to an adventuring group. (Thirty character points would buy a size 30 Powerstone in a medieval campaign, as would Filthy Rich.) Instead, a starting enchanter mage may want to quest for a Powerstone of sufficient size, truly coming into his profession when he obtains one.) With such a system, each large Powerstone would allow one 40-point item to be created each month, and a 1-Fatigue Spell Stone each 10 days. In civilized regions he may be able to "rent" the power from someone else's Powerstone: 30 points from a 30-point stone would cost $1,200, as per the sidebar on p. B152.

Below are lists of services an enchanter mage can provide. The first list gives those services within reach of 40 Fatigue, such as a mage with a 30-point Powerstone and 10 Fatigue of his own. The second expands the first list and gives some selected tasks within reach of a 250-point Manastone. The first list is exhaustive, while the second is not; many moderately powerful spells can be enchanted into items with 250 Fatigue.

Smaller Jobs

Bigger Jobs

An exhaustive list of Enchant College spells is included, as well as some selected other spells. Note that Power requires 500 energy, but may reasonably be assumed fairly well-known among enchanters, allowing the PC and a hireling with 250-point stones to work together for a day to make much more useful "always on" items with 1 or 2 points of Power.

Some other spells that can be enchanted with 250 Fatigue (many others work):

Sample Enchanter PC

Carrick Stonecutter


100 points

Carrick apprenticed under a stiff Guild enchanter in his hometown and graduated to a decent living. He lived a settled life, picking up a few Earth spells to help the business but nothing like a footloose adventurer would have. Then the crossbow method was invented, and enchanters suddenly had the career of an adventurer opened to them. Carrick examined his life and found it wanting: excitement, luxury, and companionship. He spent a few years studying the method as well as some militant spells, to the dismay of his old teacher, and fell in with the first young adventuring group he found. He's rapidly learning that some fighting and woodlands skills were expected, and is doing his best to shake off a dangerous hesitation that grips him when violence threatens. Thank goodness the group hasn't journeyed by sea yet; Carrick is miserable when he doesn't have solid ground under his feet.

When starting out on a wilderness mission, he often brings a clay golem. He happily provides Spell Stones for Minor Healing and Stone Missile to his friends, and is considering expanding his repertoire of Earth spells and enchantments.

If creating a manastone away from his group, Carrick will summon an Earth elemental as an anti-demon guard, bargaining for services with Essential Earth. He'll use Minor Healing if badly damaged. Carrick's manastone is a magic-made 300-carat duplicate of an emerald from the monarch's crown with distinctive flaws added. Jewelers value it at $7500 for magical labor; local laws forbid its resale and tax its possession at four days of work for the Crown each year.

Carrick is a 100-point starting character. Somewhat richer and older, with some of his ambitions for spells realized, he could be the Golem Master: a Patron to young mages, or a villain who emerges from seclusion with hundreds of soldiers to terrorize a region, then vanishes into the earth to flee if confronted.

Age 40; 5'7"; 150 lbs.; dusty brown close-cut hair; brown eyes; an angular middle-aged man with a mercurial face.

ST 9 [-10] DX 9 [-10] IQ 13 [30], HT 10 [0]
Basic Speed 5, Move 5
Dodge 5, Parry 3 (mace), Block 4

Advantages: Literacy [10], Magery 3 [35].

Disadvantages: Impulsive [-10], Combat Paralysis [-15], Motion Sickness [-10].

Quirks: Wants to learn the fabled Earthquake spell; seeks a Wish enchanter to learn more about wishes; hopes to regain the respect of his former master; looking for a wife as well as a fortune; occasionally talks to rocks fondly. [-5]

Skills: Sculpting-9 [2], Mace-7 [1/2], Shield-8 [1/2], Geology/TL3-11 [1], Survival (Woodlands)-11 [1/2], Merchant (enchanted items)-11/17 [1].

Languages: Common (native)-13 [0].

Spells: Enchant-17 [12], Seek Power/TL3-14 [1], Conduct Power/TL3-13 [1], Steal Power/TL3-13 [1], Draw Power/TL3-13 [1] , Manastone-17 [12], Find Weakness-14 [1], Weaken-14 [1], Restore-14 [1], Rejoin-14 [1], Repair-14 [1], Delay-14 [1], Spell Stone-14 [1], Detect Magic-14 [1], Identify Spell-14 [1], Analyze Magic-14 [1], Golem (Clay)-15 [4], Puissance-15 [2], Seek Earth-14 [1], Shape Earth-14 [1], Shape Stone-14 [1], Walk Through Earth-14 [1], Earth to Stone-14 [1], Create Earth-14 [1], Earth to Air-14 [1], Stone Missile-15 [2], Essential Earth-14 [1], Summon Earth Elemental-14 [1], Ward-14 [1], Sense Foes-14 [1], Sense Emotion-14 [1], Ignite Fire-14 [1], Extinguish Fire-14 [1], Sound-14 [1], Silence-14 [1], Hush-14 [1], Create Air-14 [1], Purify Air-14 [1], Death Vision-14 [1], Summon Spirit-14 [1], Animation-13 [1], Lend Strength-14 [1], Lend Health-14 [1], Minor Healing-15 [2]

Equipment: Standard traveling equipment, mace, small shield, large manastone (weight 2 oz, value $7,500, details above) [7.5].

Adventure Seeds

Article publication date: May 7, 2004

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