The Modular Magician
by Matt Riggsby
The blessing and the curse of GURPS Magic, as with any other large catalog, is its size and scope. It contains spells covering a vast range of effects and power levels, letting you build mages who can do as little as produce an annoying noise or as much as level a city with an earthquake. The problem, if you're a beginning player, is that it can be difficult not just to find the spells you really want to be able to cast, but also to figure out what prerequisites you need in order to cast them. The spell prerequisite charts are one useful tool for figuring that out. This article presents another shortcut: spell "modules."
What You Already Know
This article assumes that you already have a vague idea of how GURPS' basic magic system works and are looking to start buying spells but don't know where to begin. If you don't, go read chapter 5 in GURPS Basic Set: Characters or chapter 1 in GURPS Magic first.
The modules presented here are lenses which can be applied to just about any character or template capable of casting spells. They contain pre-selected batches of spells grouped according to a functional theme, giving the magician basic ability in a particular area: healing, fighting, and so on. In addition to a few major "effective" spells, they contain a complete chain of prerequisites, so the character can be fitted out with a given set of spells and be ready to go.
The module cost assumes that all spells are bought at IQ + Magery - 2, or 1 point for each Hard spell and 2 for each Very Hard spell, indicated in the spell list with a (vh). For example, a character with IQ 12 and Magery 1 would, paying the listed cost for the lens, have skill-11 with all of the spells. Double the cost to buy a lens at IQ + Magery - 1 or multiply by 4 to buy it at IQ + Magery; after that, add another +4 points per spell.
In the interests of keeping costs low, these lenses do not provide comprehensive ability in any area. For example, the Utility lens doesn't include Manastone; although the ability to make one's own magical "batteries" is immensely useful, the spell requires a lot of largely unrelated prerequisites. Most of theses lenses, unless otherwise noted, won't make a character a master wizard, but if you say to yourself, "I don't want my character to be completely helpless in a fight/in the wilderness/if I need to run away," they'll give your magician something he can use.
Basic Fire (6 points)
This lens, containing a number of fire-related spells intended for offensive use, lets a magician stand in the back of a group and hurl destructive spells, usually past a line of warriors protecting him. It requires at least Magery 1, and remember to buy Innate Attack skills so that you can actually hit things with the Fireball and Flame Jet spells. The big spells here are Fireball (which will damage one target), Explosive Fireball (takes lots of energy, but damages an area), and Flame Jet (good for close-in combat). The others manipulate fire in less spectacular ways, which is good for starting campfires or making your way out of burning buildings.
Basic Air (7 points)
Similar to Basic Fire, this lens provides a slightly different flavor of offensive capability. In addition to direct damage-dealing with Lightning, the lens provides spells to push around or otherwise interfere with opponents, using Air Jet and Windstorm. It requires Magery 1 and, like the Basic Fire lens, be sure to buy Innate Attack skills.
Beastmaster (8 points)
This lens lets the magician communicate with and, if need be, control animals. The important spells here are Beast Summoning, which will call the nearest animal of a given type to the caster, (Animal) Control, which can let the caster control a nearby animal, and Beast Speech, which allows communication with animals. For (Animal) Control, the magician must specialize in one of five categories of animals (see Magic p. 29 for details). However, a magician may learn different variants as separate spells. To learn all five variants, increase the cost of the lens to 12 points and take (Animal) Control five times.
Buffing (16 points)
This lens doesn't do much on its own, but it allows the magician to increase his physical abilities or those of his companions. Might, Grace, and Vigor raise ST, DX, and HT and extended period, while the Boost spells, which are much cheaper to cast, raise their respective attributes for a single die-roll. The lens also includes a few sense-boosting spells, Haste and Great Haste (which increase the subject's move), and a few prerequisites which can be used offensively. It requires at least IQ 12 and Magery 1.
Great Haste (vh)
Craft (18 points)
This lens gives the magician spells which let him repair and even create mundane objects, with illusion and basic elemental skills as a useful side-effect. It requires at least Magery 2. The most powerful spell here is probably Create Object, which you can use to create a short-lived mundane object, but Repair is a great help in fixing things.
Create Object (vh)
Earth to Stone
Defense (10 points)
This lens provides a range of physical defenses. Missile Shield and Reverse Missiles eat a lot of energy, but they're excellent for defending against archers and gunmen, while Shield, Armor, and Iron Arm are good against melee attacks. This lens requires at least Magery 2 and DX 11.
Druid (12 points)
This lens allows the caster to deal with manipulate plants in a number of ways. A magician with these spells may not be terribly useful in the city, but hard to beat in the wilderness. Some of the more useful spells here are Animate Plant, Plant Speech, and Tangle Growth. It requires at least Magery 1.
Healing (5 points)
This lens provides spells appropriate for basic field medicine, patching up mundane wounds, though not stopping poisons or regenerating lost limbs. It's a good idea for every adventurer to invest in First Aid spell, but since a magician with these spells is likely to be a group's de facto medic, it's probably an even better idea to buy that skill along with this lens. It requires at least Magery 1.
Major Healing (vh)
Information-Gathering (12 points)
This lens lets the magician gather basic but important information about his surroundings. Requires at least IQ 12 and Magery 1. The Sense spells are good for instant spot-checks of the environment, while Seeker is good for a more concerted search for a known object.
Logistics (11 points)
This lens might seem tedious, but it allows the magician to sustain a small group of adventurers in the absence of a ready supply of provisions and help them get to their destination quickly. It requires at least Magery 1.
Stealth (9 points)
This lens contain spells which help the caster move around undetected. Blur and Mage-Stealth are good for moving around undetected, while Silence and Hide are good for remaining stationary.
Utilities (5 points)
This lens provides a number of unrelated but exceedingly useful simple spells which no magician should be without. It requires at least Magery 1.
These lenses provide more comprehensive abilities in their areas. Between the cost of the spells in the lens, prerequisite lenses, and required levels of IQ and Magery, these lenses represent a major specialization for most characters.
Great Healing (22 points)
This lens contains spells which will cure disease, wounds of any magnitude, and just about anything else short of death. It requires IQ 12, Magery 3, and the Healing lens.
Great Healing (vh)
Fire Mage (14 points)
This lens gives the magician broad powers over heat and fire. It's largely geared toward combat, allowing the caster to add a touch of fire to melee, missile weapon, and bare hand attacks, but provides some protection as well. It requires Magery 2 and the Basic Fire lens.
Seer (11 points)
This lens gives the caster the ability to look into the past and future, and delve deeply into the nature of magic. If using a crystal ball is inappropriate to the campaign, there are a number of other Divination variants, each of which has its own special prerequisites. This lens requires the Information-Gathering lens.
Shaper and Creator (20 points)
This lens gives the caster considerable powers over physical matter, allowing him to create and shape raw matter, and even create magical servants. It requires at least IQ 12, Magery 3, and the Craft lens.
Transform Object (vh)
Article publication date: August 24, 2007
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