Modifying Enchantments

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:

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:

Any enchanter may choose to use limitations; it takes no special talent or study to make an inferior product.

Explanation of Notes

1 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.

Example Devices

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:

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.

For example:

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:

Article publication date: May 5, 2006

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