Caritas Sorcery

for GURPS & In Nomine

by William J. Keith

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
--Matthew 25:34-36

From the humane swipe across the throat of an expensive bullock, to a chatty evening with a kidnapped virgin and an icepick, to a symbolic sacrifice of your God himself nailed up on a hill, many a proud and ancient religion has been founded on a good sacrifice. Blood-letting of one kind or another offers the devout a spiritual return on a physical investment of time and resources. GURPS Fantasy discusses the basic principle behind most historical beliefs about sacrificial magic: resources are ritually destroyed and thereby consumed by a spiritual agent which grants boons. However, sorcerers in Hermetic or In Nomine-style sorcerous traditions are notoriously independent-minded. They may prefer to alter the Universe themselves rather than give a middleman a cut. One of the basic principles of historical thaumaturgy may allow them to do just that.

Caritas Sorcery is described herein with standard In Nomine mechanics (a non-canonical GURPS conversion of the Sorcery rules can be found at It requires the usual prerequisites of any Sorcerer, as determined in standard or GURPS In Nomine. In any other fantasy setting, Caritas Sorcery would be a clerical-style magical system with a limited selection of subtle effects that mostly enhance the caster's abilities. In such settings, use the following GURPS mechanics:

At least one level of Power Investiture (Sorcery) and a Will of 12 are required. In most settings, the principles involved also assume that a practitioner is a corporeal being with physical needs such as food, rest, and the like. Use a core skill of Caritas Sorcery (M/VH), and default a ritual described as "Focus/n" to Caritas Sorcery-n as a Hard maneuver. Ritual skills cannot exceed the level of the core skill, and require a certain level of base knowledge: if the core skill Caritas Sorcery is known at less than level 12+n, a Focus/n ritual is performed at an penalty of -1 to skill. Where an Essence cost is listed, double this to find the Fatigue cost in a more typical magical setting.

Example: Transplant, a moderately difficult ritual, is listed as "Focus/3." If the sorcerer knows Caritas Sorcery at a level of 16, then the default for Transplant is 13, and can be bought up to 16 with 2 to 5 points like any Hard maneuver. If the core skill were only at 14, though, Transplant would default to 11 and could be bought up to a skill of 14 -- but would be cast at a -1 penalty.

Though limited and low-power in most such settings, Caritas Sorcery has one distinct advantage: self-initiation. A seeker need not have any potential as a standard mage, and Power Investiture (Sorcery) can be obtained without intervention by any pantheon or demonic powers.

In a world where Caritas Sorcery develops there is unlikely to be any region of anything other than normal sanctity for the tradition. (Players should discuss this assumption with the GM before purchasing the necessary traits, of course.) Thus, it makes an attractive path for someone to follow who desires supernatural abilities but lacks more common means to power, such as inborn Magery or the favor of a deity. Demonically-assisted magic, another option for persons in such straits, is considerably more powerful . . . but then, the moral risks of that are widely known, if sometimes foolishly disregarded.


Caritas Sorcery is a sacrificial tradition based on Hermetic principles rather than propitiatory ones. The core of any Caritas ritual is an act of physical sacrifice, but instead of resources being destroyed, they are released into the Symphony at large for the benefit of other people. This change in the Symphony is ritually harnessed to drive change in the sorcerer's own life, turning a benefit granted to others into a benefit gained oneself. This is based on the Hermetic principle that man reflects the Universe at large: as without, so within.

The only skill Caritas sorcerers learn in In Nomine is Focus, which is the basis for the standard rituals Sacrifice for Essence, Store Essence, and Symphonic Awakening. Interestingly, Focus is based on Precision, which means that high Will (beyond the 6 required to become a Sorcerer) is not of primary importance for Caritas sorcerers. Alchemy is much practiced by Caritas sorcerers, as well.

It may be that Caritas Sorcery represents an attempt by Heaven to alter the memetic basis of sorcery in a way that lessens Hell's grip on the practice. Certainly Caritas Sorcery finds sheer willfulness less useful than regular Sorcery. It also rewards asceticism and community spirit. On the other hand, some of its rituals are pagan or even blatantly infernal, and the sacrifices aren't always made by the sorcerer. Whether this represents a different source polluting the practice or a Heavenly attempt gone awry is entirely up to the GM.


Style is very important for In Nomine Sorcerous traditions. GMs are encouraged to give bonuses to skill for appropriate settings and penalties for similarly disadvantageous conditions. Visually and aurally, the simplest Caritas rituals appear to be quiet prayers or mantras in a foreign language, combined with a few hand gestures vaguely reminiscent of blessings. Longer and more complicated rituals sometimes require that the sorcerer use his finger to trace certain eldritch symbols on a subject. Only Store Essence, Protective Ward, Permanent Ward, and The Last Gift require the obviously-occult trappings of a pentagram, circle, and other such paraphernalia.

Caritas Sorcery may be nearly unique among In Nomine's supernatural traditions in that it gains effectiveness among large crowds of strangers. Nearly every Caritas ritual involves at least one other person in its casting, and Caritas benefits from a sorcerer being in touch with the community of humanity. If the sorcerer does his casting completely alone, a -1 penalty to skill is reasonable; more if other people are very far away. If in the presence of at least one other person, skill is at base level; if the Caritas sorcerer can manage to quietly do his casting in close contact with ten or so others, a +1 bonus is called for, while interacting personally with a hundred people over the course of a casting is worth a +2 (assuming the sorcerer's concentration is not broken during the casting time!).

Asceticism is also valued by the tradition. Flashy jewelry, expensive cars, a fine meal eaten recently, and other such luxuries penalize skill at -1 per item, while casting in plain clothes in a simply furnished home after a nourishing meal is at base skill. A ritual performed while wearing clothes threadbare from use, in one's bare sleeping quarters, after fasting for a day, could be at as much as +3. The GM can weigh whether sundry mortifications of the flesh would also qualify for bonuses.

Caritas Rituals

One important characteristic of Caritas Sorcery is that would-be sorcerers can self-initiate. The Symphonic Awakening ritual grants the Advantage of Awareness, of a type suitable for the setting -- Symphonic Awareness in an In Nomine game. Once this is performed, or if Awareness is not required in the setting, the Sorcerous Initiation ritual grants the Caritas Sorcery Attunement (in GURPS settings, Power Investiture (Sorcery)). The sole exception is a GURPS In Nomine game, wherein Power Investiture (Sorcery) and Essence Control equal to 2/3 HT automatically come with Awareness. In such a case, the GM may simply rule that the character's Sorcery is inaccessible until the proper initiation is completed.

Standard Rituals

Symphonic Awakening (Focus/1): Symphonic Awakening is unlike the other rituals listed here. While it can be studied as a maneuver based on Caritas Sorcery with the mechanics described above, it can also be studied as its own separate Mental/Very Hard skill with no default, and can be performed without Power Investiture (Sorcery). Success awakens any setting-appropriate Awareness in the subject, who must meet all other requirements in the setting and have enough unspent points available. In GURPS In Nomine, Awareness must also come with Power Investiture (Sorcery) and Essence Control equal to 2/3 HT. (A subject without sufficient points may, at a GM's whim, gain the listed traits and sufficient mental Disadvantages to make up the difference, to simulate a mind-wracking awakening.)

Every Sorcerous tradition has its own details. The Caritas version of this ritual requires that the subject be undergoing a nightlong vigil; the subject will preferably have spent the week beforehand in absolute silence, doing no significant work except meditating upon the principles of the Art. This is not strictly required, but helps a non-Aware mundane reserve the necessary Essence when attempting to initiate himself.

Time: 1d hours
Essence: 7 - check digit (or degree of success), with a minimum of 2.

Sorcerous Initiation (None): as per Corporeal Player's Guide. There is no skill involved, merely a Will roll by someone who meets all the other requirements to become a Sorcerer. The Caritas version requires the would-be initiate to ritually sever an important life tie. Moving to a new city, quitting your old job or getting a divorce are generally agreed to suffice; killing an old enemy or giving away a substantial portion of one's earthly wealth also work. The seeker should make it personal; the GM is strongly encouraged to grant bonuses or penalties to the Will roll based on the act undertaken. In GURPS In Nomine, this ritual is unnecessary; Power Investiture (Sorcery) comes with Symphonic Awareness. In other settings, this ritual grants one level of Power Investiture (Caritas Sorcery). Whether more levels are obtainable with deeper initiations is entirely up to the GM, who is invited to consider what the higher ranks of such an art might entail.

Time: no standard casting time
Essence: 0

Sacrifice for Essence (Focus/2): This is where Caritas Sorcery begins seriously differing from the standard model. Caritas sorcerers have a large array of sacrificial rituals that obtain Essence not from destruction of living creatures or artifacts, but from the diffuse Essence of every Symphonic act. In this sense, they are very similar to Rites. Each takes 30 minutes to prepare and has an initial casting cost of 1 Essence. Among the many Sacrifice for Essence rituals Caritas sorcerers practice are:

Other versions are available; GMs and players are encouraged to come up with suitable charitable acts.

Store Essence (Focus/3): as per Corporeal Player's Guide. Occasionally used by circles of Caritas sorcerers. In Fatigue-based settings, use the mechanics of Manastone.

Caritas Sorcery permits the use of the rituals Protective Ward and Permanent Ward. In non-In Nomine settings, use the mechanics of Astral Block and the enchanting of a permanent Astral Block, respectively. It also permits the making of a Spirit Anchor, which non-In Nomine settings should treat as a one-use Bind Spirit enchantment. It does not have a version of the standard ritual Siphon Essence! Such theft is antithetical to the underlying philosophy of the tradition. For details of all these rituals, see the Corporeal Player's Guide.

New Rituals

The real strength of Caritas Sorcery is revealed in the array of rituals unique to the tradition that harness universal benefit to achieve personal strength. Performing these rituals requires that one be initiated as a Caritas sorcerer.

Tithing (Focus/1): the Sorcerer gives away 10 percent of his income over the last year, beyond any legally required taxes, to charities of which he does not expect to benefit. The effect of the ritual is to ensure that his assets, less his debts, will not cause his Wealth level to lower over the next year. Primarily, this means unexpected debts or lawsuits will not impact his finances severely; attempts to make huge purchases on credit will merely be declined, shady dealmakers will get nervous, and other attempted abuses will fail.

Time: 1 hour
Essence: 1

Zakat (Focus/1): If the Sorcerer is a faithful and observant Muslim, he can substitute zakat for tithing. This ritual requires instead payment of zakat to eligible persons; this is 2.5% of all assets above nisab -- the amount necessary for the Sorcerer, and any dependents, to maintain Status 1 for a year (Status 0 in GURPS settings) -- and assures the Sorcerer that his assets, less his debts, will not fall below nisab.

Time: 1 hour
Essence: 1

If local religion sets other traditional amounts, these can be used. In settings where such tithing or zakat is governmental taxation, the required payment is a similar voluntary contribution above this.

Excalibur's Scabbard (Focus/2): This ritual requires that at least a pint of blood be donated. If the casting is successful, then for the duration of the effect the donor does not bleed: he loses no HP due to the bleeding rules, the Hemophilia disadvantage is negated, no Essence is gained from sacrificing him, vampires find him tasteless and less filling, and any other effects the GM considers reasonable for the setting. (The donor still has blood; for example, blood agents still work.) The sorcerer can cast this ritual upon other donors (often bodyguards) as long as the caster is not the recipient of the blood. The effect lasts until the blood is replaced -- two months naturally for a human, though magical or high-tech healing may shorten this.

Time: 1 hour, which can be simultaneous with the donation process or prior
Essence: 1

Transplant (Focus/3): the Sorcerer ritually marks the body of a person preparing to donate an organ, who must be alive at the time. (The markings are visible only to Symphonic or other suitable Awareness.) If the organ is successfully donated thereafter, the Sorcerer's analogous organs gain great toughness: he may treat the next successful attack to the vitals as a simple hit to the torso, or if a cornea was donated an attack to the eye as a hit to the face. Multiple successes at this ritual add uses of the ability. A powerful version of this ritual (Focus/6) allows the Sorcerer himself to donate a kidney; upon successful transplant, the ritual takes permanent effect, as long as the sorcerer had the points available to pay for the No Vitals advantage.

Time: 30 minutes, or 1d hours for the greater
Essence: 2, or 6 for the greater

I Was Hungry, And Ye Gave Me Meat (Focus/3): In high traditional fashion, the sorcerer slaughters an animal, thereafter giving away the food to the poor. Technically, the slaughter is not required -- potable water is also useful to give away -- but the ritual is performed at a penalty if the sorcerer doesn't put his heart into it. He must have owned the comestibles, and have been in sight of them at least briefly; a short incantation over the goods is required. Performing this ritual reduces the sorcerer's needs for calories and water by as much as was given away. The sorcerer can accumulate days of caloric and water needs over the course of several castings, to be stored and used when desired; in GURPS In Nomine or other GURPS settings, the sorcerer can accumulate up to HT days of satiation. In standard In Nomine, use (Corp. Forces × Strength). This ritual has the additional advantage of resisting Gluttony attunements, especially Consume -- powers which cause hunger, dehydration or starvation must "burn through" the sorcerer's stored satiety before affecting the sorcerer with any remainder.

Plenty of Caritas Sorcerers enjoy a good deer hunt -- one deer provides sufficient calories to max out the ritual's effectiveness for most Sorcerers. Others are too empathetic toward any form of life to enjoy such a thing, and find it more pleasant to give away overflowing cornucopias of fruits of the harvest.

Time: 1 minute
Essence: 1

Naked, And Ye Clothed Me (Focus/3): It's not that cold anyway . . . For each item of clothing ritually marked before being given away, a Caritas sorcerer can later summon a memory of such clothing at need. Effects are at the GM's discretion, but at a minimum should include Temperature Tolerance 10, resistance to sunstroke, and similar moderate environmental protections. If the Sorcerer springs for body armor to be sent to soldiers or policemen who need it, summoning equivalent DR as a Blocking maneuver is not unreasonable, either (roll against a skill the same as the original ritual). The clothing is merely an aura not visible to the eye, and effects generally last as long as the current situation requires -- hours for a jacket in a snowstorm, one bullet for a tac vest.

Time: 1 minute to mark, instant to resummon
Essence: 1 to mark, 1 to resummon later

I Was A Stranger, And Ye Took Me In (Focus/3): the Sorcerer houses someone who needs it; despite the name of the ritual, the recipient of the largesse does not have to be a stranger, merely someone honestly without a roof to call their own. For every night the Sorcerer so houses someone in need under the same roof, a successful casting provides the ability to skip one night of sleep without accumulating the mental effects of lost sleep. In standard In Nomine, up to Precision such days can be so accumulated; in GURPS, up to IQ.

Time: 1 hour
Essence: 1

I Was Sick, And Ye Visited Me (Focus/4): The sorcerer assists the sick as part of this ritual. The requirement is fairly broad; it is equally efficacious to work at an AIDS clinic or make chicken soup for an elderly shut-in with a fever. For each recipient of personal assistance, the sorcerer adds 1 to the target number of the next roll associated with disease, such as resisting initial infection, avoiding effects, or shaking it off. Alcoholism, drug addictions, and Songs of Pestilence are all possibilities beyond normal diseases. Bonuses may stack as high as the sorcerer cares to stockpile, at 1 Essence each, but all of them will be spent on the next necessary roll.

Time: 1 minute
Essence: 1

Between the lack of needs for food, water, shelter, and sleep, and near-immunity to disease that these four rituals grant, a human with all of these effects active simultaneously could very nearly pass as a celestial in a vessel -- an observation that has struck some Caritas Sorcerers and led to some intriguing lines of research.

I Was In Prison, And Ye Came Unto Me (Focus/5): This delicate ritual requires that the Sorcerer labor to expand the horizons of the imprisoned. In return, the sorcerer will not lack for aid when required -- in GURPS terms, the next attempt to employ a Contact, Favor, Ally, or Patron is guaranteed to make contact with the desired person. In standard In Nomine terms, a successful casting means the sorcerer can summon at will one manner of aid of a type rendered to a prisoner, appearing seemingly by coincidence. The return is proportional to the investment: a correspondence with a prisoner will ensure a Contact, a visit will requite a Favor, engaging in a teaching program for inmates guarantees an Ally, and actually seeing an innocent man freed or early parole granted promises a Patron. Equivalent means are usable, naturally, and can be "spent" on less labor-intensive advantages if desired. Only one assurance at a time can be readied.

Time: 10 minutes
Essence: 3

A different version of this ritual requires that the sorcerer personally free the prisoner, regardless of innocence or guilt. This version of the ritual costs no Essence, instantly grants 1 Essence, and occasionally attracts the attention of a human Sorceress of great skill and power. She tends to be favorably disposed toward the Sorcerer and can teach many peculiar and useful rituals. She appears extremely rarely, though: roll 3d6. She appears on 17 or more; this number can be decreased one-for-one by spending additional Essence on the ritual, and at the GM's discretion by addressing her in the casting with promises of service. (Wise Sorcerers will note that, while she is verifiably a human, it is essentially a kind of critical failure which summons her; conclusions are left as an exercise for the thaumatologist.)

The Last Gift (Focus/6): the sorcerer gives his life that another may live. This working may take two forms: in the full ceremonial form, the sorcerer prepares the dead body of someone he wishes to raise, and commits ritual suicide. The soul of the deceased is drawn out of its current realm of existence (although souls cannot be removed from the Higher Heavens or Lower Hells); if the soul disbanded upon death, this effect fails. Any necrosis in the body is reversed, though not fungal infections, killing wounds, and the like; an assistant with appropriate healing Songs nearby is recommended. An alternate form, a brief prayer, can be employed if the sorcerer is dying after aiding someone in mortal danger. In either case, the various versions of this ritual guarantee that the sorcerer himself will become a dreamshade, anchored in the Domain of a particular ethereal god (determined by the version, and doubtless promulgated to likely candidates by servants of the god). The primary benefit of this is to the god in question, but Sorcerers fearful of disbandment might find the relative surety comforting. (Naturally, this ritual will not function if the Sorcerer is undead. However, few if any undead ever become Caritas Sorcerers in the first place.)

In a broader fantasy setting, the ritual guarantees the Sorcerer his afterlife of choice -- perhaps stealing a judgment often made by the gods. Still, a notably evil sorcerer that forced his way into a Heavenly afterlife might find that angels make even scarier wardens than demons. Demons could be bribable, after all . . .

Time: 24 hours or instant, as description
Essence: all remaining (minimum 1)

Adventure Seeds

Article publication date: February 10, 2006

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