for GURPS Fourth Edition
by Demi Benson
"Did you find the famous enchanter you were looking for?" asked Meirkar.
"Oh, yes!" said Vahri, "You should see the devices he makes -- a magic cloak to keep the rain off, a fire-starting wand . . ."
"A normal cloak will keep the rain off, and I've seen dozens of fire-starting wands. There's nothing special about them."
Vahri gave her friend a piqued look, "But these were cheaper than any I've seen. Cheap enough for a tradesman to buy. Cheap enough that I bought a fire-starter on a whim. I don't know what this enchanter's secret is, but I bet the Mage's Guild would kill to find out."
* * *
The enchantment system as described in the GURPS Basic Set and Magic books does not allow for much variation -- GMs and players are limited to different Power levels and quirks. This article uses the enhancement and limitation system found in pages 102-116 of the Basic Set to add variation and customization options.
Many of the modifiers are suitable for changing the energy cost to create enchanted items. All these modifiers should be vetted by the GM as some combinations would not make sense either game mechanically or thematically.
Enhancements (pages 102-109 of the Basic Set) may be used to expand or improve the capabilities of an item for an increase in the energy cost. Such items would likely be of higher quality than the standard, or custom ordered. No enhancement may be taken that mimics another spell effect or enchantment. A Critical Success during the enchantment process may optionally add an enhancement worth 5% at no extra energy cost. Appropriate enhancements are:
- Accurate: +5%/level. 1
- Armor Divisor: +50%, +100%, +150%, or +200%. 1
- Cone: +50% +10%/yard of maximum width. 1 4
- Damage Modifiers: Double Blunt Trauma (+20%), Double Knockback (+20%), Explosion (+50%/level), and Fragmentation (+15%/die) might be suitable. 1 4
- Delay: +0%, +10%, +20%, or +50%. 3
- Drifting: +20%. 3
- Guided or Homing: Variable cost. If it requires a specific sense, the caster must naturally possess that sense or enchant the necessary sensory spell into the device. 1
- Increased Range: +5%/level or +10%/level. 1
- Link: +10% or +20%. Linked attack spells should be modified to have identical ranged attack stats.
- Low or No Signature: +10% or +20%. For non-attack spells these give penalties to magic analysis spells such as Identify Spell and Analyze Magic.
- Overhead: +30%. The attack either arcs to arrive on top, or it pops up at the very end. 1
- Ranged: +40%. 3
- Underwater: +20%.
Each enhancement must be learned as an Average Technique of the base spell with a default of -1 per 10% cost, round fractions away from zero. e.g. Damage Modifier (Explosion level 2) is a +100% enhancement -- as a Technique it defaults to the base spell -10; Damage Modifier (Fragmentation level 1) is a +15% enhancement, its separate Technique defaults to the base spell -2. All of these Techniques may be raised until the penalty is bought off.
For the final enchantment roll, add up all Technique differences associated with the desired enhancements and use that as a modifier for the enchantment. e.g. a device will have Explosion level 1 (+50%) and Overhead (+30%), and the enchanter knows the Techniques at base -2 and base -1 respectively, then the enchantment is at a -3 penalty.
Reverse Engineering Existing Devices
Some enchanted devices already fit into the above scheme. For instance, a Fireball wand costs 800 energy and an Explosive Fireball wand costs 1,200 energy. From the description of Explosive Fireball, we see it is equivalent to a regular Fireball with the modifier Damage Modifier (Explosion level 1) for a +50% energy to create and use (the 2 energy per level of effect is 1 energy times 1.5, rounded up to 2). In cases like this, since the enhanced version fits perfectly into the base version plus modifiers, it should be possible to create an Explosive Fireball wand based on an enhanced version of the regular Fireball spell. This new wand could even have a different level of explosive effect.
Limitations (pages 110-116 of the Basic Set) may be applied to enchantments to reduce the energy cost. These must actually be limitations -- enchanted armor with Reduced Range is not really limiting -- as always, GM's call. Appropriate limitations are:
- Accessibility: Variable cost.
- Always On: Variable cost.
- Armor Divisor: -30%, -50%, or -70%. 1
- Bombardment: -5%, -10%, -15%, or -20%. For direct-fire attacks, the effect is that the attack tends to spiral or veer off target. 1
- Costs Fatigue: -5%. This represents an additional FP cost that is unrelated to the energy cost of casting a spell through the item. This is not a magical Fatigue cost and it may not be reduced with the Power enchantment (page 57 of Magic).
- Costs Hit Points: -10%. A device fueled by life-force could consume HP instead of or in addition to FP.
- Damage Limitations: No Blunt Trauma (-20%), No Knockback (-10%), and No Wounding (-50%). Any of these are suitable for a weakened weapon, but not all of them are applicable to every magical attack item. 1 4
- Dissipation: -50%. For Area spells or Cone attacks, the spell's effect drops off with distance. 2
- Emanation: -20%. Area spells or effects must always be centered directly on the item.
- Emergencies Only: -30%. Full Power in Emergencies Only (-20%) means the user pays the full FP or energy cost, but the effects are halved. 2
- Environmental: Variable cost. Many spells' effects already require some level of this Limitation. To make it more restrictive, use the difference in modifiers' rarities. e.g. Common (-10%) to Rare (-40%) would net a -30% modifier.
- Inaccurate: -5%/level.
- Limited Use: Variable cost. Enchanted items that already have a "uses per day" as part of the enchantment cost (e.g. a Create Food pot, page 79 of Magic) may not have this limitation intentionally. For any Temporary Enchantment, any level of this is only worth -10%, and it must be at least one fewer than the number of uses the item will possess.
- Melee Attack: Variable cost. 1
- Maximum Duration: Variable cost.
- Minimum Duration: Variable cost.
- Nuisance Effect: Variable cost.
- Preparation Required: Variable cost. This can represent fiddling with knobs, aligning crystals, mystically "tuning" the device, an activation procedure, or bending it to your will. Weakened Without Preparation is also suitable. 2
- Reduced Range: -5%/level or -10%/level. For non-attack spells, such as Regular spells, multiply the actual distance by the Range Divisor before finding the skill penalty for casting at range.
- Self-Only: -25% or -50%. The device can only cast the spell on (or otherwise affect) its own contents. Must be a container of some sort. Use the smaller value (-25%) for items already specified as affecting only the wearer. 5
- Specific: Variable cost.
- Touch Only: -40%. The effect occurs directly on the surface of the device and cannot be cast at any range. Not available for items already specified as affecting only the wearer or spells that require a direct touch. 5
- Takes Extra Time: -10%/level.
- Takes Recharge: Variable cost.
- Unreliable: Variable cost. This is an extra activation roll. Any energy cost must be paid before this activation roll. If the second activation fails, the full energy is lost.
- Visible: -10% or -20%.
Any enchanter may choose to use limitations; it takes no special talent or study to make an inferior product.
Explanation of Notes1 These enhancements or limitations are only suitable for items that allow an attack spell to be cast, not for enchanted weapons. 2 For these limitations, the GM should be harsh with judging whether a spell can even have a reduced effect; if the effect cannot come in a reduced version, the GM decides whether the outcome is a trivial effect instead (e.g. a weak fizzle of sparks, a warm feeling) or nothing at all. 3 The GM should be especially careful when allowing these, as they have a strong potential for abuse. 4 Because they change the damaging effects of attack spells, these modifiers may be suitable for altering the energy cost to cast a spell in addition to the energy cost to enchant. For fractional energy costs, round up. 5 These limitations are new, but follow from the progression of Reduced Range and Melee Attack.
- An Ice Sphere wand (400 energy to create) enchanted with Damage Modifier (Fragmentation, 1d, +15%), Armor Divisor (0.5, -30%), and Inaccurate -1 (-5%) for a net -20% would cost 320 energy to create. The effect is a brittle icy ball that shatters into sharp fragments on impact. The wand would not be as good in single-combat, but might work well as massed suppressive fire.
- A Season spoon (150 energy to create) with Preparation Required (1 minute, must be dipped into several pots of spice, -20%) and Limited Use (once per day, -40%) gives a net -60%, for a final cost of 60 energy. This Seasoning spoon would be affordable by many more people.
- A Lightning staff (800 energy to create) with Homing (using regular vision, +50%), Reduced Range (1/2D range only, x1/10, -15%) for a net +35% for a final cost of 1080 energy to create. With a successful skill roll, the user would have a bolt that travels at 5 yards per turn for up to 20 turns and strikes with a skill of 13 (base 10 + Acc of 3). With such a low speed, the target might escape by moving faster than the attack.
- The Power enchantment may be given Limited Uses or Preparation Required. If the conditions are not met or the user elects not to use Power with a spell cast through a device, then Power does not modify the casting cost of the spell.
A fleshed-out example:
A Thunderblast staff made by linking together (using Link, +10% for each) the Concussion spell (1000 energy, 1/2D 20, Max 40, Acc 1) having Accurate +1 (+5%), Damage Modifiers (Double Knockback, +20%; No Blunt Trauma, -20%; and No Wounding, -50%) with the Thunderclap spell (300 energy) having Ranged (+40%, gives 1/2D 10, Max 100, Acc 3), Increased Range (1/2D only, ×5, +10%), Inaccurate -1 (-5%), Reduced Range (×½, -10%). So far the device costs 650 + 435 = 1,085 energy. The GM fiddles with the stats and decides that for an extra 115 energy to create there are slight synergistic effects -- the stunning and deafness effects have the same range (10 yards, or 20 yards in an enclosed space) and resistance number (HT -1/level of effect), and the resistance roll is +1 per yard further away. The final combined stats are:
- 1,200 energy and a $400 onyx to create.
- &fract12;D 20, Max 40, Acc 2.
- Energy cost per level of effect is only 1 instead of 2 because the total Damage Modifiers come to -50%. This is fair since the spell does no direct physical damage whatsoever.
- The stunning and deafness effects occur to anyone within 10 yards, or 20 yards in an enclosed space. Resistance rolls for these effects are at +3 beyond 1/2D range.
- Stunned people roll versus the same penalty every turn to recover, at +1 per turn. Protected Hearing grants +5 to HT.
- Deafened people roll versus the same penalty every hour to recover, at +1 per hour. Protected Hearing negates this effect.
- Energy cost to use is 2 points plus 1 per 1d×2 knockback damage and -1 to resist side-effects; the mage may add incremental levels up to Magery-level per second, for up to three seconds. Knockback damage is explosive (see page 414 of the Basic Set).
This Thunderblast staff would have a terrifying effect -- bowling over animals or people and leaving them stunned and deafened, scattering equipment and detritus (see Incidental Fragmentation on page 415 of the Basic Set), and might even knock out doors and windows. A wielder with Magery 3 could build the spell for three seconds and launch an attack doing 9d×2 explosive knockback and a HT-9 roll versus stunning and deafness for a cost of 11 points of energy!
Quirks acquired during enchantment or in play may be selected from the limitations list or the effect may be the removal of an enhancement. A minor quirk could be a Nuisance Effect, any -5% limitation, or removal of 5% worth of enhancement. A more severe quirk would be worth a -10% limitation or removal of 10%. The addition of new quirks could either add new problems or increase the value of existing problems.
Optional Rule: Appropriate Materials
Enchanting a function into a device that already performs that function reduces the enchantment cost. This optional rule alters the "item" categories for many enchanted devices. The GM should only allow new items that are thematically related. This rule is intended to reduce the cost of common, everyday equipment -- devices that do not need a roll to use; it should never be used to reduce the cost of attack or defense devices, weapons, or resisted spells. If the players devise clever ways to use non-combat devices, that's good roleplaying.
Remember that Appropriate Materials give a discount for a reason. Discounted devices must be limited by their form; objects must be used in the mundane manner and limitations of the object apply to use of the spell.
- Umbrella (100 energy) cast upon a pendant costs the normal amount, but cast on a long coat gives a -10% reduction in cost, a physical umbrella would give -20%, and a fully waterproof, fur-lined ankle-length oilskin poncho with a hood would give -80% since the device provides nearly the entire benefit of the spell. The downside is that the enchantment is only effective on parts not covered by the material -- a ripped poncho would let rain through the rip.
- A tea kettle or samovar with Boil Water (200 energy) might be worth a -50% reduction for Self-Only; adding in an Accessibility (Only when heated) would be good for an extra -20%. Final cost is 60 energy. The reason to have such an enchanted tea kettle is mainly convenience -- water is boiled in 10 seconds and produces enough steam to make tea for large groups.
- A microscope with Small Vision (400 energy). Since the spell's item specifies "only affects the wearer", the Self-Only (-50%) and Reduced Range limitations cannot be used. However, the spell only affects objects inside the microscope, so the -25% is allowed. Final cost is 300 energy.
- A cigarette lighter with Ignite Fire (100 energy). Touch Only would give -40% reduction, and appropriate materials (the mundane lighter) would add -20%. Final cost is 40 energy. The lighter would have to be lit since that action is part of the appropriate material, but when additionally casting the spell, the flame is windproof and can produce heat equivalent to burning magnesium.
- A feather duster with Clean (100 energy). Appropriate materials and dusting all surfaces would be good for -30%, Accessibility (only to remove dust) would give another -20%, and Limited Use (2 times/day) for another -30%. Final cost is 20 energy, low enough for Quick & Dirty enchantment. A set of cleaning instruments to polish, dust, scrub, and shine could be had piecemeal and cheaper than buying a single multi-use device.
Introducing Modifiers to an Ongoing Campaign
Bringing enchantment modifiers into a campaign can be as simple as the opening vignette -- the group finds a shop selling magic trinkets at bargain prices only to find that the trinkets are quite limited. Or any of these others:
- A magic weapon far more powerful than the standard versions is acquired, e.g. Armor Divisors or Increased Range. The device could be a family heirloom that someone inherits, a piece found in a ruined castle or ancient dungeon, loot from a defeated foe, or a cutting-edge new McGuffin to be kept from the enemy.
- A scouting force for an invading army has been defeated either by the heroes or defending soldiers. It comes out that all the invaders had magical gear: Umbrella cloaks, Create Water flasks, Ignite Fire wands, Preserve Food sacks, and so on. Regular enchantments of these types for this many would be very expensive but it seems nearly all of the invaders possess them. How can anyone afford so many? Once the secret -- Quick & Dirty casting of limited enchantments -- is discovered, the defending realm will try to supply their own soldiers with cheap magic goods. The ensuing arms race keeps enchanters too busy to deal with adventurers.
Article publication date: May 5, 2006
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