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The Ritual Magic System

Source: M. A. Lloyd

As written Ritual Magic is tied to the Shadow War and Initiation levels. This is unfortunate since at its core it is much better than GURPS Magic for simulating traditional magic - from real world systems to fairy tales. Fortunately it is not difficult to cut the links to Initiation. GURPS Voodoo also claims a psychic theory of magic can be used, and then babbles on about spirits where it is not necessary, simply ignore references to spirits outside of rituals that target them directly.

Advantages, Disadvantages, and Skills


Mystic Initiation: 10 points

Unless the GM decides otherwise, this advantage is required to use Ritual Magic. It can take many forms - a formal initiation, a vision quest, the result of a severe illness, something learned through difficult training, or simply something one is born with.

In the Shadow War setting it is not required. Anyone may attempt a ritual, but those without initiation suffer a -5 to skill, and for unclear reasons have the modified success roll capped at 12.

Resistance to Rituals 2 points/level

Adds to resistance rolls against ritual magic. Unlike the mutual exclusivity of Magery and Magic Resistance, in GURPS Voodoo this is compatible with the ability to work magic - indeed it is a feature of Initiation level.

Skills and Maneuvers

Source: Jonathan Lang
In some settings, ritual magic will depend more on focused will and sincere intent rather than precise ritual; in these settings, Ritual Magic, Paths, and Mysteries should be based on Will instead of IQ.
Ritual Magic[tradition] (IQ/Very Hard): Defaults to other Ritual Magic -5

Knowledge of the magically effective rituals and incantations of a particular tradition. There may or may not be other effective methods, but each requires a separate Ritual Magic skill. Magicians must specialize in a particular tradition (e.g. Kabbalism, Wicca, Voodoo) but the principles are similar in all traditions, hence the defaults.

Thaumatology[tradition] (IQ/Hard): Defaults to IQ-6 or Ritual Magic -2

You are familiar with the magical forms of a particular tradition. On a skill roll, you can determine the intent of a ritual, what entities it invokes, or what the symbols mean. Note this skill does not allow you to actually work magic.

In religiously based traditions Thaumatology also defaults to Theology [tradition] -2. In secret magic settings replace the IQ-6 default with Occultism-6.

Theology [faith] (IQ/Average) Defaults to IQ -5

You are familiar with the beliefs, traditions and ceremonies of a faith and can appear to be a pious member of it. Skill rolls are appropriate to recognize cult icons, quote scripture and so on.

The default is to your childhood faith.

Path of [specialty] (IQ/Very Hard): No defaults

Prerequisite: Ritual Magic

Paths are domains of magic analogous to the Colleges of GURPS Magic. Rolls to produce magical effects are made against the Path skills of the magician.

Instead of a Ritual Magic prerequisite, the Shadow War setting allows all Paths to default to Ritual Magic -6, applies the rule of 20 to those defaults, limiting them to 14, and caps all Path skills at Ritual Magic. This forces magicians to be generalists, which is appropriate for some traditions, but has odd effects on relative costs. Adjust limits and defaults to taste.

A list of possible Paths is available below.

Ceremonies [type] (IQ/varies)

The ability to organize and perform a class of formal or ritual activities. On a success the ceremony goes flawlessly. Normal failures indicate a technical flaw a skilled observer will notice but normally let pass without comment. Only a critical failure is an obvious slip. The skill allows you to perform the ceremony convincingly; Clerical Investment or Legal Authority may be needed to perform it legitimately.

Skill difficulty depends on how complex and varied the ceremonies are. Individual ceremonies are usually Average (e.g. Ceremonies [tea ceremony], an oriental art, or Ceremonies [formal wedding], the professional skill of wedding chapel owners). Related groups such as the daily rituals of a faith (Ceremonies [parish priest]), or political office (Ceremonies [royal court]) are Hard. A large group of complex ceremonies (e.g. Ceremonies [High church] or Ceremonies [Aztec sacrifices]) are Very Hard.

Only purely symbolic ceremonies - births, namings, initiations into adulthood or the faith, betrothals, marriages, funerals, formal oaths, confessions and absolutions, ordinations, anathemas and routine worship services - use this skill. Anything with a magical effect uses a Path skill, though the GM may wish to create a Path of [Deity] rather than force them into the normal Paths.

Source: Jonathan Lang
Optionally, Rituals could be learned and performed as Ceremonies (probably VH); this would result in a system more akin to the one found in GURPS Old West, Second Edition.

Common religious Ceremonies default to Theology [faith] -5 or Ritual Magic [faith] -5, Savoir Faire defaults are also common for some ceremonies.

Ritual of [effect] (Hard maneuver): Defaults to Path at various penalties

Rituals are the results the magician can produce - spells if you like. Specific rituals can be improved as maneuvers once you have points in the Path skill.

The listed rituals by no means exhaust the possibilities. In the standard system if the magician wants to do something not covered by an existing ritual, let the player write one and compare it with these to assign a difficulty modifier. The alternative, constraining the magician to spells he has practiced, gives a very different feel, but appears workable.

Voodoo charges two points per +1 to a Ritual; but maneuvers are more consistent with the rest of GURPS, and the difference is small. Voodoo also caps rituals at Path skill, but I prefer allowing any level (to cancel penalties) and capping the actual skill roll.

A list of possible Rituals is available sorted by category or alphabetically.

Mystery [type] (IQ/Very Hard)

Prerequisites: Appropriate Path(s) at 20+, Trained By a (mystical) Master

Mysteries are extremely powerful effects, often unsuitable for subtle magic campaigns, but appearing in some stories. Learning a Mystery should never be simply a matter of spending points. If the GM decides the Mystery exists at all, and that PCs can learn it, he should make sure the process is a memorable event in the campaign. Perhaps the search for a teacher or a difficult vision quest to discern the principles must be played out.

Unlike rituals, Mysteries are not based directly on Path skill; each one must be learned as a separate spell. They are associated with one or more Paths though, which must be known at 20 or better to comprehend the Mystery. Mysteries are the equivalents of cinematic skills, and may require a 40 point Trained by a Mage advantage to learn.

Mysteries tend to have restricted casting conditions. A ritual can be cast at a penalty under unfavorable conditions, but a Mystery usually will not work at all. Most Mysteries can only be cast at certain times (at dawn, under a full moon, 'when the stars are right') require specific components (now for this we'll need a black bull sacrifice, the hand of a virgin murdered by her younger brother, and 6 fresh albino pineapples...) or only work at places more unusual than 'consecrated ground' (within stone circles, on former battlefields, beneath a gallows at midnight on All Hallows' Eve). The GM may set any conditions that seem appropriate.

A list of Mysteries is included in this document.

Symbol Drawing [tradition] (IQ/Average) Defaults to Ritual Magic-4 or Thaumatology-4

The art of drawing mystical symbols helpful in conducting magical procedures. For every two points of success margin with a preliminary Symbol Drawing roll, add 1 to the ritual magic success roll. The method of drawing the symbols depends on the tradition, they may be drawn with chalk, made with sprinkled powder (often grain or flour, or colored sand), etched in the floor, painted in human blood etc. Non-traditional methods may be used, but the bonus is reduced to 1 per 3 points of success margin. A roll is required before each ritual to obtain the bonus, though in the case of permanent symbols it is to reconsecrate them rather than to draw them. The Verver Drawing skill in GURPS Voodoo is Symbol Drawing [Voodoo]

[Adverse Condition] Training (Hard maneuver)

See Sword and Sorcery Casting.

Conducting a Ritual

There are two sets of modifiers to ritual success rolls. One is the Difficulty modifier, consisting of the inherent difficulty of the ritual and any modifiers for tailoring the effect - special options in the description, number of targets, area, and duration. The other is the Casting details modifier - preparation, casting time, target definition, components and symbols used. The Difficulty modifier may be anything, but the Casting details modifier cannot exceed +15. See Combined Efforts and Self-Sacrifice for ways to compensate for high penalties.

I disagree with several of the Voodoo modifiers, which manage to be mathematically ugly and yet still tightly enough defined to interfere with the magical feel. When computing modifiers feel free to approximate; magic isn't rigorously deterministic or perfectly consistent, within one or two points is close enough.

Apply both modifiers, reduce modified skill to Path skill if it is higher, and roll for success. On a critical failure use the disaster specified in the description if there is one; otherwise invent one - improperly dismissed spirits attack the magician's dreams that night, he fails to ground properly and falls unconscious for two days on leaving the warded ritual space, a candle is knocked over and incinerates his expensive altar cloth and so on.

Difficulty Modifiers

Duration. The default duration is 1 day. Shorter durations will give a bonus, +1 for part of a day (commonly until sunrise, sunset, midnight, moonrise etc), +2 for an hour, +3 for a minute or less. For longer durations use -2 per doubling; -6 for a week, -10 for a month, -13 for a season, -17 for a year, -30 for a century. Durations are accurate to a few percent; if an effect must last a precise interval add a -4 penalty to get exact timing.

Number of Targets. The default is a single target, but many rituals can be cast on any group the magician can clearly define. The modifiers in GURPS Voodoo have no detectable pattern, but either -10 x log (number of targets) or -1 per target up to 10, and -10 for each factor of 10 above that is reasonably close.

Area of Effect. I dislike the Voodoo modifiers, and think there are two kinds of areas.

Rituals that target an actual area have no penalty for up to a 5 hex radius, and add -2 per doubling (-9 for a acre, -17 for a mile, -34 for a typical nation, -46 for a planet). Remember the PCs are seldom the only magicians on the planet. A nationwide or global spell is likely to bounce off some patriotic mage's protective spell or be quickly dispelled by someone unknown to you.

Rituals that target individuals cast to affect everyone in an area are much harder. I prefer -1 per hex radius. Use the normal resistance procedure for each target in the area.

Casting Details Modifiers

Working Space. Rituals are best performed in a space somehow set apart from the ordinary world - phrased as consecrated ground in some traditions, warded space in others. Rituals are at -5 in unconsecrated space. A quick ward (5 minutes and a Ritual Magic roll to erect) reduces the penalty to -1, a properly consecrated space (4 hours and a Ritual Magic roll) negates the penalty.

Sites remain consecrated indefinitely, but irreverent use eventually dissipates the effect. Active desecration requires five minutes a roll against Ritual Magic. Often an obvious procedure will work. For example drenching the altar in human blood desecrates most Christian sites; but without the Ritual Magic roll there is a small risk it was dedicated to a saint who died that way (and is now paying very close attention), or worse is just what is needed to revive the Bronze Age consecration of the site to something else.

Places that have long been sacred give a bonus up to +5. Note the criterion is use, not age or impressiveness. Places used breifly and abandoned, such as the Pyramids are less valuable than the village church built on a hilltop sacred since the Neolithic. Holy sites are almost always reused; many churches and mosques sit on millennia old (+5) sites.

Timing. Most traditions have a sacred calendar, astronomy and horary. Rituals begun or completed at particular times are more or less effective with modifiers ranging from -3 to +3. A curse cast at midnight on the dark of the moon is more likely to work than one completed at dawn on Easter Sunday. It should not be necessary to wait more than a day for no penalty, but +3 comes along only a couple times a year.

Personal State. In most traditions magicians do something to prepare to work magic. This can be meditation, prayer, fasting or special diets, baths and ritual cleansing, changes in sleep patterns, or an avoidance behavior - of blood, speaking, sex, your reflection.... The default assumes the magician is well rested, has not eaten heavily or engaged in ritually impure activities that day, and has a few minutes to relax and meditate on the ritual before he begins. A few hours of preparation allows a +1, a few days a +2, a few weeks +3. If the magician is tired, ritually unclean, just came from a feast or orgy, or in a hurry, apply a penalty, up to -3 if he is totally exhausted, intoxicated, furious, in immediate danger or otherwise not focusing properly.

Casting Time. By default a ritual requires an hour. Taking 4 hours or more gives a +1, each day at least an hour is spent on the ritual adds +1/2 or +1 if 4 hours or more are spent on it that day. Ordinarily the +15 cap limits the useful time, but the GM may lift it for the occasional incredibly powerful ritual requiring years to cast successfully.

Shorter times impose penalties, -2 for 2d+10 minutes, -4 for 1d+2 minutes, -6 for 1 minute, -10 for 1d+2 seconds, -12 for 1 second.

Rituals also have an onset delay between the completion of the casting and the beginning of the effect. This is out of the caster's control, but will not ordinarily exceed the casting time.

Ceremony Complexity. Standard rituals require considerable ceremony - formal prayers, stylized gestures and manipulation of symbolic components. Dispensing with this increases the difficulty, use -1 for a simplified but still noticeable ritual, -3 for pure mental visualization. Obvious rituals (loud music, ritual chanting, dancing and convulsions) provide a bonus: +1 for something that could irritate the neighbors, up to +3 if incredibly blatant (running down the street naked, except for the blood drenching your body, screaming and striking targets with a sacrificed chicken).

Target Definition. A ritual must somehow designate the target. If the target is present and can be handled during the ritual (or painted with symbols etc.) +3. If the target is within eye contact (three hexes) or represented by a part of itself (blood, hair, a pinch of soil from the target area) +1. If the target is visible, or something with a history of significant contact with it (well worn clothing, a favorite toy, a weapon that wounded it) is available, no modifier. For a target represented by photos or good quality art -1. For verbal descriptions and approximate directions -2. For nothing but a name -3. If the target is not visible and you do not know what it looks like, where it is, or what it is called you cannot work magic against it, though it is hard to see why you would want too.

Ritual Tools. Objects ranging from bundles of grass to precision instruments are used to symbolize the desired effect or show the authority of the magician. Modifiers range from -3 (for nothing) to +3 (for fine art icons, or tools handmade by the magician). A couple dollars of gear from the local occult bookshop or assembled from household supplies is enough to avoid actual penalties.

Some typical symbols include everyday tools (axe, broom, distaff and spindle, knife, mortar and pestle, needle, sickle), containers (brazier, cauldron, chalice, cup, ewer, font), flames and light (candles, lamps, mirrors, prisms), garments (headgear, masks, sashes and belts, vestments, in particular colors, of particular fabrics) or alternately nudity, incense fragrances and smoke, jewelry and ornaments (bead strings, knotted cords, pendants, rings), noisemakers (bells, bull-roarers, drums, gongs, rattles), rods (scepter, staff, wand), swords, water or wine, writing tools (ink, paper, parchment, pens, quills, chalk), boundary markers, packets of symbolic objects (amulet boxes, charm vials, mojos, root bags, spirit bundles) and other objects of purely symbolic significance (altars, ankhs, crosses, icons, pentacles). Some supplies - water, wine, oil, paints, ink, parchment, salt, incense, soap, candles, thread, charcoal for your brazier - will need to be replenished periodically.

Sacrifices. Sacrifices made during a ritual can provide a small bonus, +1 for minor offerings (food, libations, incense or small animals), up to +3 for really major sacrifices (a large chunk of your income, or something dangerous like a human). An inappropriate sacrifice (lives when calling on a beneficent power for example) can provide a much larger penalty.

Detecting Modifiers

Some modifiers, particularly working space, timing and sacrifice suitability, are invisible. In most traditions anyone with Mystic Initiation can 'feel' the total modifier to within a point or two before beginning a ritual. For an exact value, the contribution of a particular detail, or the modifier for a hypothetical case, roll against Ritual Magic to make the necessary tests and calculations. Other skills may be partly effective - a Meditation roll may determine if a space is consecrated, an Astrology skill linked to the tradition can be used to calculate the timing modifier an so on.

Sword and Sorcery Casting

It is possible to work rituals on the GURPS tactical scale if you are very very good. An hour duration is plenty (you can recast it later if you really need more) and one target is the norm, so the difficulty modifier is +2. Casting details are the killer. It is not likely an auspicious time -0, you aren't in warded space -5, you are under distracting stress -3, you need it right this second -12, you haven't time for anything but abbreviated ritual -2 or sacrifices +0, though you might make a hostile gesture with your weapon (minimal gear +0) and can probably see the target +0; for a total of -22. If you are standing on holy ground, or have skills around 30 it becomes worth considering.

The simplest method to prevent anybody from working magic in combat is to set a minimum casting time of several minutes.

A good method of allowing more Sword and Sorcery style effects without handing out incredible skill levels is to follow GURPS Martial Arts and create penalty offseting maneuvers:

[Adverse Condition] Training (Hard maneuver)

These maneuvers allow the magician to reduce the penalties for a particular type of casting detail or difficulty modifier. Rolls are not made against the maneuver, instead each level offsets one point of the applicable penalty. This can never result in a net bonus; it may only be used to offset penalties. This is the same mechanic as Ground Fighting, Hit Location or Off Hand Training, worded a bit differently.

The GM decides which adverse conditions can be offset. Magicians who don't care about personal state or don't need ritual tools are fairly common; offsets that make the area of effect unimportant would be a lot stranger.... The GM also sets any prerequisites; various access restrictions can create styles of magic with rather different feels.

There may be a maximum limit for offsets against open ended penalties - for example hit location penalties can go arbitrarily high, but the Hit Location maneuver cannot be purchased above +3. And there is no point in purchasing training to a higher level than the largest possible penalty for the situation.

Resistance and Backlash

Ritual magic resistance works like any other resistance roll, a quick contest of skill against the resisting attribute; intelligent targets can choose not to resist if they expect the ritual. Voodoo has slightly different rules for beneficial rituals. Ignore them. Use the normal procedure whether a ritual is nominally beneficial or not. Voodoo also has a complex system for resistance of multiple targets. Ignore it too. Not only does it make no sense, it fails to answer the vital question: were the PCs affected! Make a normal resistance roll for each member of the target group. If you need to know the fraction of a large group resisting, subtract the success margin from the average resistance score (usually 10) and look that up on the Probability of Success table (p.B45)

Backlash is distinct from resistance. Hostile rituals tap truly dangerous forces; regardless of the outcome of the casting, a second skill roll is required to protect the magician (and his clients if he is not working the ritual of his own initiative). If it fails, the ritual targets the magician! If resistance is allowed, use the failure margin of this roll as the 'success margin' of the backlash attack, and treat a critical failure as a critical success. It is possible for a good first and a poor second roll to result in both the intended target and the magician being cursed. Backlash checks are made at casting, not when someone is targeted. In the right circumstances a charm or area ritual can backlash and then expire without ever threatening anyone else. Some traditions have a concept of threefold retribution - the GM may require 3 rolls against backlash and use the worst or otherwise increase the risk of working hostile magic in these traditions.


Ritual magic has no physical cost, but most traditions permit some form of self-sacrifice. GURPS Voodoo allows a +1 per 2 HT spent (up to 2 x HT), and calls for aging rolls when you do this. At minimum insist on natural healing only for sacrificed HT, and remember HT sacrifices can force death checks. I prefer the lasting injury scheme to aging rolls: make an HT roll as for a crippling injury (B129), on a lasting result the wound takes an extra 1d months to heal, on a crippling result it takes 1d months to heal and 1 HT is lost permanently. Self-sacrifice can manifest as stigmata, spontaneous bruising or nosebleeds, or simply leave you weak and ill for no outward cause. In other traditions it may involve bloodletting, or having yourself flogged, branded or crucified, and is likely to leave scars.

Bonuses can be permitted for other types of sacrifices. Significant long term fatigue (at least 5 points) is worth a +1, +2 if you spend enough to drop to less than 3 FT, +3 if you fall unconscious. More permanent sacrifices are possible, but usually exchanged for more than a short term bonus.

Combined Efforts

Magicians can work together to produce more powerful effects. In a collective ritual, divide the Difficulty modifier by the number of participants. Casting detail and Self-sacrifice modifiers still apply separately, and may be different for each caster. The participants need not be in the same place, but they must be working at the same time, and there is a -1 penalty if they are not in communication during the casting. All the participants must make a skill roll, any failure causes the ritual to fail, otherwise the success margin is the average of all the margins. Any participant can automatically cause the ritual to fail; GURPS Voodoo also allows them to cast a hostile ritual at the other participants with no resistance rolls allowed, but I wouldn't permit that.

Sensing Effects

Many rituals have subtle effects; it is often unclear if something worked. Anyone asked to make a resistance roll feels something, but in a secret magic setting most people dismiss it - geese walking on my grave. Anyone familiar with magic recognizes it as a magical attack, and knows if it penetrated his resistance, but not what it was supposed to do. Subtlety works both ways, the magician knows what he wanted to happen and if he made the success roll, but nothing about resistance.

Ignore the discussion in Voodoo about seeing the spirits invoked. And while people who know they are cursed should be encouraged to role-play the psychological stress, assigning disadvantages is no more appropriate than doing the same to anyone facing other forms of stress.


Many rituals, particularly blessings and protections, involve a charm - a small token which serves as a focus for the effect. Many charms are articles of jewelry or small pouches containing symbolic items, though they could be anything. Voodoo is unclear on just what a charm does, but I suggest the following options:

The charm stands in for a specific target. The ritual is cast with the bonus for having the target present and involved, but onset is delayed until the target is given the charm, at which point resistance is resolved and the duration begins.

The charm stands in for a general target. The ritual is cast with the bonus for having the target present and involved, even though the true target has not been decided. The first person to make direct skin contact with the charm becomes the target, at which point resistance is resolved. The duration begins as soon as the charm is created though. The flexible target choice is offset by the risk someone unintended will touch the charm. If combat magic is desired, a variation might create a charm that transfers the effect without actual contact.

The charm is the center of a movable area. This applies only to area effect rituals, the ritual roll is at -2, and the duration begins running immediately. Typically this allows an area effect such as Dream Sanctum to protect an individual.

The charm imposes the effect on anyone wearing it. The ritual roll is at -2 and the duration begins running when the charm is created. Resistance rolls are resolved each time the charm is put on. Cursed charms are possible, but since the curse only works while the charm is worn, the victim could recover immediately by removing the it.

Miscellaneous Concepts

Enchanted Area. An area can be enchanted to cast a ritual on anyone performing certain actions within it. Popular triggers are passing through a doorframe or set of pillars, drinking from a particular source, invoking a saint or god, speaking a specific word, or carrying a weapon into the area. This can eventually affect a large number of people without a prohibitive multiple target modifier, but there are substantial limitations. First you must take two duration penalties, one for the area, and one for the effect bestowed. Second the area boundaries must be physically marked during the casting. And finally the trigger must be something anyone could determine - it can't exempt particular individuals or work only on people with type A blood, as identity and bloodtype are not sufficiently obvious.

Termination Conditions. Many storybook enchantments have conditions under which they end early - when touched by the light of the sun, when the victim confesses his crimes, or is kissed by a princess. A magician can add such a clause to any ritual and offset part of the duration penalty determined by the GM. Even an obscure condition is good for a +1; a simple traditional one like a kiss might reduce the expected duration (and hence penalty) to near zero. After all everyone knows that one, surely anybody serious about removing the enchantment would try....

Range. Range is not normally an issue except as it limits the ability to define targets by pointing at them. If you want it to matter, it is simple enough to make it another Difficulty modifier using either the Long Distance penalties (B151) or the Speed/Range Table. You may want to reduce the difficulty of some rituals to compensate for the often significant range penalties this will impose.

Mind control. Spells for controlling thoughts and actions are treated oddly in traditional tales. Total control over animals or supernatural beings is not unusual (use the Paths of Nature and Spirits respectively) but spells controlling humans are much rarer and always seem to have serious drawbacks. Some limits follow almost automatically from splitting human conciousness among 3 paths (Dreams, Passions and the Dead for the soul); other typical limits include only working on a single target, requiring the presence of the target or something once a part of him, extreme literal mindedness or outright stupidity when carrying out orders, fragility to strong emotions - the sight of the victim's true love or appeals to his patriotic duty break the spell, and producing changes obvious to anyone who knew the victim, or sometimes to everyone - mechanical movement, dead flat voices and faintly glowing eyes arouse suspicion.... Mind control spells often behave oddly when broken or when the caster dies. In some traditions the effect ends cleanly, but in others the thralls continue to obey standing orders, or become slaves of the master's slayer, or of the first person to give a forceful command, or, particularly in automaton variants, have suffered permanent damage and stand still and starve to death.

Magicians who use mind control spells extensively may be required to pay the points for the social advantages this effectively grants them. Enemies (rival mind mages and/or heroes dedicated to slaying the evil magician) may offset part of the cost though.

Maintaining Spells. Unlike GURPS Magic spells, ritual durations are set at casting and cannot be maintained. If you are using both systems it is more difficult to work rituals while maintaining spells. There is a -1 if a spell draws fatigue while you are casting the ritual, and a -3 for the distraction if the spell requires ongoing attention.

Power Sources. Ritual Magic is independent of the GURPS Magic spell energy system, but a lot of effort has gone into clever fatigue sources, and some may be interesting enough to import. The same ratio discussed under Self-Sacrifice, 5 fatigue per +1 to ritual rolls, could work here if you want to do this.

Rejected Rituals

I recommend simply removing one Voodoo ritual: Spirit Searcher. Of course spirits can explain anything, but that is no reason to add an effect to the Path of Spirits. If you want a spirit to search for something, summon one and use Mastery to order it to go searching.

I also recommend not using the Plague ritual found in various Voodoo expansions on the net. It is basically a dodge around the existing rules, use Malaise with multiple targets instead.

The Paths

I consider the Paths in Voodoo inadequete, though the catchall nature of Luck and the option of explaining anything as the work of spirits can cover a lot if you are determined to use them. I like the set of Paths below, but there is nothing fundamental about it, and no reason magic can't be divided along other principles entirely. Some likely alternatives include the elements ('spells dealing with light belong to the Path of the Aether'), the planets ('commerce with the dead, the nervous system, and transmutation of the elements fall under the dominion of the Principle of Mercury'), the Zodiac ('the Sign of Aquarius rules the magic of dissociation, the loosing of bonds, the decomposition of physical forms and the cycles of nature'), somebody else's Zodiac (the Constellation of the Crossed Spears deals with...'), or a particular set of animals ('The Way of the Hummingbird allows the magician...'), plants (Cf GURPS Celtic Myth), or gods ('the Songs of the Archangel Raphael...'). Each tradition could even have a unique set of paths, though if you do that make sure all have about the same number, or traditions with fewer paths will be more cost effective. I do suggest using more than Voodoo, 8-15 seems a comfortable range.

I recommend you create all of the paths and define a handful of rituals in each when you create the tradition, and decide where any rituals from traditions the players know about belong. Difficulties may be altered for rituals particularly closely or marginally related to the theme of the path, compare the examples in multiple paths below. It is possible to create new paths or assign difficulties on the fly, but it will require more snap judgement calls.

The Path of the Dead deals with both actual corpses and mortal spirits, including spells working directly on living souls. In traditions where the dead are considered spirits the Path of Spirits may also work on them, but often (virtuous) mortal souls are immune to such treatment.

The Path of Dreams allows the manipulation of dreams and access to the Dreamworld. It includes other forms of altered consciousness, particularly the powers attributed to hypnosis or ESP. Much of the path is fairly modern, linked to Victorian era spiritualism, mesmerism, and the development of psychiatry; but many traditions do use drugs to induce altered states, and the Dreamworld is similar to some traditional spirit worlds. As magic is regarded less as something worked by gods and spirits on the external world and more as something worked by the will on the magician himself the Path of Dreams becomes more important.

While GURPS Voodoo assumes the Dreamworld is a real place, none of the rituals actually require this. If the Dreamworld is entirely subjective the only difference is encounters with characters other than the target or the magician are provided by their imaginations and will not have any effect on (or necessarily behave as) the person they appear to be.

The Path of the Elements manipulates the basic stuff of the physical world producing effects involving the wind, fire, floods, the weather and geology. Flashy effects occur in some tales, but high penalties keep fireballs rare while allowing the occasional summoned storm, eternally clouded mountain tower, or maiden surrounded by a ring of fire. There is some overlap with Nature, but Elements is more about raw power than organic subtlety.

The Path of Fate is magic that ordains the future. Blessings, curses and a wide range of more ambiguous taboos, geasa, quests and tests can be laid with this path. It is also the path of 'prophecy' in the sense of setting rather than forseeing the future. It is common in RPG circles lately to think of magic as probability manipulation, but this is unrealistic - probability is a modern (18th century) idea alien to most magical traditions. The Path of Luck is a valid alternative name, since traditional concepts of Luck have little to do with chance. Indeed the concept of luck denies chance can even exist - the lucky always win, but the modern inversion of cause and effect to associate it with chance is hard to ignore.

The Path of Glamoury is the magic of deception and illusion. Be careful about the concept, glamours are considered almost physical - mist is a common metaphor. Subjective reality and psychological deception are modern ideas, and belong to the Path of Dreams.

The Path of Health is magic that manipulates the life force (pneuma, vis vitalis, chi, or kundalini energy). The principles apply equally to healing, inflicting harm, and subtler alterations of the body. Beneficial health rituals usually involve the laying on of hands and herbal preparations (potions, oils, herb bandages, or at least aromas) though some modern traditions depend on light and crystals.

The Path of Journeys is concerned with travel and movement, both in the physical and supernatural realms.

The Path of Nature deals with the living world - animals, plants and the vital force (anima) behind them; the harvest and the hunt; and rhythmic natural cycles. There is some overlap with the Path of the Elements, particularly in the manipulation of the weather.

The Path of Passions manipulates the affections and humors - primarily the emotions, but also some aspects of behavior and thought. There is overlap with Dreams, but Dreams focuses on the causes emotion while Passions is concerned with immediate feelings.

The Path of Protection averts, deflects or mitigates dangers, excludes influences, or prevents undesirable events. There is some overlap with every path and a closer similarity to the Path of Fate.

The Path(s) of Spirits deal(s) with true supernatural powers - monsters, the fey, demons, and gods. This is the path of summoning and banishment, exorcism and control of demons, conjuring up monsters and creating undead. It is regarded differently than the other Paths in many traditions, as the dangerous knowledge marking a sorcerer.

The Path of Transformations deals with shapeshifting. Shapechanging is a common theme in magical tales, and transformation into a totem animal is probably one of the oldest forms of magic. It is presented as a Path here, but it is also possible to increase the difficulty of the rituals and attach them to the Path of Health, or make them Mysteries. Don't overlook the possibility of using one of the GURPS wereform rules for magicians with only a few alternate forms. It's probably also possible to mix wereforms and Spirit Warrior - Totem Spirit sensibly, but I'm not sure how.

The Path of Visions is information gathering magic. Sensory enhancements are rare in traditional sources. Scrying and binary tests are more common, but many supernatural information sources are essentially verbal, providing complete, if not always understandable, solutions or prophecies.

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