Appendix Z: Traffickomancy

A New Path for Ritual Magic in GURPS

by Eric Funk

"Luxor, nexor, burst and BURN!"
"What is she doing?"
"Just a curse, dearie. Have a nice day. "

--Grandma Addams and Debbie Jellinsky, Addams Family Values

How many people follow this motto? "If another driver cuts you off, curse them!" Few take it literally, but beware those that do! What is one to do when stuck in gridlock or by a long train? It gives one time to burn . . . candles? Ever wonder why cars break down when you are going somewhere important, but not just around the block? Why do people have voodoo heads; fuzzy dice; icons of the Virgin Mary; or Saint Christopher, the Patron Saint of Travelers? They are foci for rituals!

Cars can be integral to the lives and livelihood of many people. While most citizens understand the basic principles of how a car works, few care to know how to maintain a car other than to fill the gas tank when it gets near "E" and to bring the car in for a checkup when the "oil" light comes on. It's like magic, one might say.

"In fact, very few people [ . . . ] know that the very shape of the M25 [highway] forms the sign odegra [ . . . ]. The thousands of motorists [are] grinding out a low-grade evil to pollute the metaphysical atmosphere for scores of miles around.
"It had earned him a commendation."

--Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

Technology is slow to enter the world of ritual magic, but as more adepts that grew up with it begin to survive beyond the "adventuring" age, they find time to research new rituals. Generic charms (see p. SPI92) and charms enchanted specifically for the vehicle can be attached to the rear-view mirror, or on the hood. From there, it will protect the vehicle, which usually means that any harm intended for the passengers will usually have to affect it first.

Unless they are a bus or a semi, most civilian ground vehicles are compact enough that they will be within a "five-yard radius"(see p. SPI91). The lack of space for large numbers of participants is offset by the tactical mobility of the site. Even a portable Sanctity 0 vehicle saves an adept seven hours of preparation over the span of a week (see p. SPI87).

Other options include enchant the vehicle with Chaperone to protect it from a mishap or curse. Another ritual to use if traffic is backed up is to use the Ritual of Obscurity and drive (slowly) on the sidewalk? This would prevent active detection by bystanders, and they instinctively avoid you. (See also the Loa Legba, deity of Crossroads, p. VO87.)

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
--Roald Dahl

Example Vehicle 1: Vintage Horse-drawn Carriage

This pristine, simple cab looks like a perfect reconstruction of the earliest carriages. Changing hands throughout the centuries, this vehicle has traveled across Europe, and can be found anywhere the campaign is held, even in the Americas. Its size allows for most two to four person rituals and permits one to park nearby and reduce range penalties.

Ritual Modifiers: Sanctity +4

Example Vehicle 2: "Old Yellow": 1940s Cab

This mobile antique is still in perfect condition. The engine still purrs, it never seems to need an oil change, and the seats are still in perfect condition (albeit with and off plaid pattern). Passengers may notice the presence of odd scented air fresheners and a small variety of dashboard ornaments, but there is nothing out of the ordinary to the untrained eye.

Ritual Modifiers: Sanctity +2

Example Vehicle 3: "Peace Wagon": 1960s van

This van was originally decorated in the style of "technicolor kaleidoscope" paint job with large Peace stickers and bumper stickers. Their outlines are still visible upon a close inspection of its dark matte paint job. It appears to have rusty joints and a poor-sounding engine, but it actually runs flawlessly. It can support rituals of up to eight or 10 people in the back, and the vehicle sports air conditioning. The interior radiates an aura of goodwill. At the GM's option, rituals performed within that harm the subject are at -1, and those that help, +1.

Ritual Modifiers: Sanctity +1

What effects did they decades of touring have on Furthur?

"I like traffic lights, but only when they're green."
-- Monty Python, I Like Traffic Lights

Path of Travel

Traffic Flow -- Defaults to Path of Travel-1 or Path of Luck-3

This ritual is designed to help long-distance driving and getaways. It can only be cast with a minimum duration of 30 minutes. The ritual creates a pool of points that the subject can use before the duration runs out.

The caster only knows if there are points remaining, but not how many.

The subject can "Spend" points of success as bonuses to long-distance driving rolls and Area knowledge rolls while in a vehicle for at least 30min (Max +5 at a time to a roll). The GM must make these rolls as spell failure when creating this "pool" results in negative points applying instead of positive ones. These bonuses help one to "coincidentally" have all automatic intersections and systems help one along, but not humans (such as a parade, funeral procession or motorcade).

Creative uses can also include speeding up library research and internet searching. This can only work when real and virtual travel (such as many websites or large libraries) or multiple rolls are required, and takes a minimum of one hour to complete.

Enhances Senses/Piercing Obscurity -- Defaults to Path of Travel-2 or Path of Knowledge-2

It cancels environment penalties to the senses equal to the Degree of Success (minimum 1, maximum modifier of +9). This can be applied to mechanical senses, such as microphones and cameras.

There is rumored to be a variant that cancels penalties to driving skills . . .

(Except for specialist (Travel) rituals, all defaults listen in GURPS Spirits are still available.)

From Path of Health

Dose (Inanimate): Defaults to Dose-2, Path of Travel-1 or Path of Health-5; counts as maintenance, a Critical Success or Success by 10+ recovers lost HT

Succor (Inanimate): Defaults to Succor-2, Path of Travel-5 or Path of Health-8; recovers 1 lost HP per roll

Malice (Inanimate): Defaults to Malice-1, Path of Travel-5 or Path of Health-8; resists with HT

Evil Eye (Inanimate): Defaults to Evil Eye-1, Path of Travel-7 or Path of Health-10; resists with HT instead of Will

From Path of Nature

Hasten Mount (Travel): Defaults to Hasten Mount-1, Path of Travel-4, Path of Health-7, or Path of Nature-6 : Increases vehicle speed by +10% instead of +1 Move.

From Path of Luck

Gremlins: Defaults to Path of Travel-2

Loyal Item: Defaults to Path of Travel-5

Here are some other rituals recommended by the adepts of the Path of Travelers:


Path of Cunning: Obscurity
Path of Luck: Chaperone
Path of Protection: Curse Sanctum, Ward


Path of Cunning: Hallucination, Scry
Path of Protection: Ghost Shield

"Black magic operates most effectively in preconscious, marginal areas. Casual curses are the most effective."
--William S. Burroughs

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Article publication date: April 28, 2006

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