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Unfinished Business

MA Lloyd (
Last modified 15 Nov, 1999 by Jonathan Lang (


Shamans are religious professionals skilled in dealing with the spirit world. In cultures with animistic or totemic religions, including many primitive societies, they are the primary religious leaders. They are often marginalized by the priesthood in more complex religions, but you can still find them - Christian exorcists and New-Age mediums fill the same role. The shamanic magic system on R116-125 is not quite compatible with the GURPS Voodoo spirit system, but could be used easily enough. Alternately you could give shamans an assortment of Spirit Magic powers and let them use Ritual Magic (possibly limited only to the Paths of the Dead and Spirits) instead of the World Sight and modified fatigue based spells.


Spiritual Combat

The Geography of the Spirit World

The Gates of Death and other Places

Spirit Allies


?Raise Zombie?

Capture Image
: Path of -

Trickery Deceit and Special Effects

In a subtle magic setting, one can be a successful magician with no supernatural abilities at all. Many otherwise intelligent people can be fooled by psychic or spiritual powers. Nor is the principle limited to outright fakes, if magic is difficult real magicians will often try something else first, and when magic fails completely it is nice to have a backup that will let you look like you did something. In many traditions wizards spend their lives going places and learning things nobody else does and a perfectly ordinary skill is 'magic' where it's unknown, especially when used by a known magician. When the little old lady hurls Sir Boris to the ground, the outlander absorbs information from a book in seconds and without moving his lips to read it, or the witch-girl fails to drown when thrown in the pond what else could it be but sorcery? Well, other than Judo 10, Literacy 14 or Swimming 6.

Historically there is a lot of overlap between magicians and entertainers, and that is likely even where magic works if magicians travel a lot and they often share the road. The most useful skills to a fraudulent magician are probably Fast Talk and Sleight of Hand. Other good skills include Acrobatics, Acting, Disguise, Escape, Fireworks, Fortunetelling, Interviewing, Lockpicking, Occultism, Pickpocket, Stage Magic, Stealth, Ventriloquism and Voices. Knife Throwing, which doubles as a stage trick, and Staff, which is a traditional prop, are the most common weapon skills. Advantages like Appearance, Charisma and Voice are valuable for impressing your audience. Alertness, Double Jointed and Manual Dexterity are good for pulling off many of the impressive feats.


GURPS has been through a number of versions of rules for meditation and trance states. I like the following set:

Hypnosis and Mesmerism

Hypnosis (IQ/Hard) No default

Hypnosis! (Will/Very Hard) Defaults to Path of Dreams -4,

Alternately called Mesmerism.

Language, Writing and Symbols

Languages and Literacy

There are two broad traditions of magical learning and theology in general.

The charismatic tradition holds that true learning is revelatory, it comes from personal contemplation, wells up from the emotions, or appears in flashes of inspiration from direct contact with the divine power. It can't be taught, though a master can hint by example or suggest things the student should meditate on. Since nothing important can be taught the language of instruction is not very important. There may be texts, but the best use of them is to read them for general feel and throw them away. If it wasn't clear to you, you are probably better off with your own personal misinterpretation that you would be trying to follow someone else's path anyway. Magicians working in these traditions need not be literate, and often have only their native language.

The scriptural tradition holds true learning comes from meticulous study of the holy scriptures and the commentaries of prior masters. It is deeply rooted in the written word, preferably in the original language and assumes texts have levels of meaning beyond the superficial reading that become clear only on careful analysis. Magicians working in these traditions must be literate, probably in more than one script and language. The languages of the scriptures and early commentators are naturally the most important - Hebrew, Greek koine, classical Latin, Syriac Aramaic, classical Arabic, Sanskrit, Pali, literary Tibetan....

Grimoires in these traditions are typically ridiculously cryptic, changing languages in the middle of sentences, heavy with allusions and symbolic meanings, and sometimes written in actual codes. One can spend days teasing the meaning out of a few paragraphs.

Symbol Drawing [type] (IQ/Average)

Mysticisim and Writing

Wizard Mark 1 point

A wizard mark is a personalized symbol which acts an extension of the magician.

A wizard mark may be drawn in any way the magician likes, and lasts as long as the mark remains intact. It can be engraved, written in ink, tatooed on skin, even drawn in the dust if the magician doesn't mind sacrificing a point and suffering a little agony for something that temporary. The mark need not be visible to work. Colorless paints are a fairly common method, a high tech wizard might try microlithography.

The magician always automatically knows the direction to any of his. If it matters he is simultaneously inside and outside any effect or barrier separating one from him. Any ranged powers he possesses can be used with ranges computed from the mark. He can feel things through the mark, as if it were part of his skin, and by entering a trance and making a Path of Visions roll can see and hear through it. This sounds lika a Ritual for the Path of Visions. Finally he may make the decision not to make resistance rolls for anything on which the mark is drawn. You can draw the mark on a living creature - some magicians mark their apprentices to spy on them and enchant them without worrying about resistance.

On the downside a Wizard Mark counts as an attached part of the magician's body. Rituals may be worked with the mark which allow the full bonus for having the magician present and participating. This is a drawback to the apprentice mark method, a sufficiently determined apprentice could amputate the mark, recover his resistance ability, and use that bit of skin to attack his former master. And a magician will always know when one of his marks is destroyed; the wave of searing pain which leaves him mentally stunned tips him off.

Bind Charms
Runes for drawing powers
Substitute for components

The Shaper's Duel

The Dreamworld

Enchanted Areas.
Rituals that do target individuals can be cast to affect everyone in an area currently, or spending the onset time in it later. This is much harder, for balance against multiple targets it could be set at -20 x log (radius in hexes), but I prefer -1 per hex radius. Ignore the text in Voodoo about separate rolls; use the normal resistance procedure for each target. Note backlash checks for hostile rituals are made when the ritual is cast, not when it affects someone. It is perfectly acceptable for a ritual to backlash and then never even get a chance at anyone but the magician because it expires before anyone wanders into the cursed area.

Omitting Targets

Exemptions - Maze, Mageward


Duel of Wills
Dark Vision
Mysteries Dreams
Mysteries Nature Passions Protection
Past Lives
Tattoos and Sacrifice
Theology - mysticism, other faiths
Etiquette (Church)
Tireless running
Occultism =/= magic
(treat Herbalism and Alchemy together)
(Astrology would be useful for determining the best times to attempt rituals of a given nature for the chosen magical tradition, as well as for divination)

Balancing Initiation GURPS Voodoo allows various levels of Initiation to alter the ritual magic system. If you want to keep the level dependent modifiers make Mystic Initiation a leveled advantage I suppose. I dislike the entire concept of difficulty change by level as unGURPSlike, the drop in component penalties is handled fine by increasing skill levels allowing you to absorb a larger penalty anyway. Voodoo also allows Initiation to add to Will for resistance purposes.

Knacks, incl Shapeshift/Lycanthropy

Sustenance (and vitamin deficiencies, starvation cures)

Gesture codes

Weather token - color shift

Lifetoken, clouds from evil, fades with illness, mostly red stones

Give up smoking

Detect fear

For erection

Sexual potency

Sex organ anointment, joyful love, cure impotence

Repel fleas

Remain awake

Divination thru observation of natural shape, fall of dice sticks arrows flour stones, dousing rod, dreams, drugs, pendulum, dactylomancy and ouija boards, bird pecking, bibliomancy conversation fragments and random reading, random cracks flash cooled metals organ shapes.

Reawakened 10 points

Is a specific instance of Unusual Background. You can remember skills learned in a past life. These skills must be purchased normally, the Reawakened advantage simply allows you to have them without having learned them in your current life, and is a good excuse for ignoring the age limits on points in skills. This does not include memories of the details of the past life.

Resistance to Rituals

Adds to resistance rolls against ritual magic. In GURPS Voodoo this is compatable with the ability to work ritual magic - indeed it is a feature of Initiation level, unlike the mutual exclusivity of Magery and Magic Resistance. The initiation bonus extends to spirit contests? cf Channeler

Spirit magic

consider combining this section with the Knacks concept.

Spirit magic is in some senses the ability to work rituals from the Path of Spirits instantly, without rituals.

Summon Spirits

If you know the name of a spirit, you can command it to appear before you. In GURPS Voodoo all spirits have the ability to hear their names spoken and may chose to appear, this ability allows you to compel them to do so. It does not compel the spirit to do anything but appear for a few seconds. In Voodoo all Initiates with this power also have Command Spirits, but there is no reason that is necessary.

Command Spirits

You can attempt to control spirits directly, by winning a contest of Will

Dissipate Spirits

By winning a contest of Will against the greater of the Will or Fatigue of a spirit, the magician damage the spirit. Each point by which he wins the contest inflicts 1 point of damage. If the spirit is reduced to -HT, it is destroyed, ceasing to exist altogether.

Channeling 10 points

You can enter a trance and allow spirits to speak through you. Reaching the trance state requires several seconds of concentration and a Will or Meditation roll, after which any spirit in the immediate area can enter your body and use it to communicate, speaking with your voice or writing messages. While possessed the channel is unaware of anything, including what the spirit said. Spirits using someone else's voice often sound somewhat different than the possessed individual, sometimes this is just a change in accents, in others it is virtually indistinguishable from the voice of the spirit, but do apply the limitations of the Voices skill - the spirit voice will not be close enough to the original voice of the spirit to convince good voice recognition software.

Spirits accepting an invitation and then violating the deal can try Possession on the channeler, but he resists at +5

Spirit powers



Instant Travel (Spirit or Dreamworld)

Alter Probability

In GURPS Voodoo all spirits have an ability to alter probablity. Ignore it. It occurs in no traditional magic system and is nearly impossible to implement fairly and preserve game balance.

Spirit Advisor varies

The character has an intangible ally that shares information with him. This can be a spirit or ghost, or a personality from a previous incarnation. It is incapable of doing anything but providing information. The Spirit advisor should be built by the GM like any other NPC. The base cost is 10 points, modified by the frequency of appearance (B23). An advisor with extremely unusual and valuable skills, or an IQ far in excess of your own may be worth a base 15 points at the GM's option. The cost assumes the advice is generally good and offered at useful moments. Though it may be colored by the frame of reference or prejudices of the advisor - asking a neolithic warrior spirit for advice about dealing with an administrative error concerning your bank account may produce seriously bad advice from the context mismatch. People are plagued by spirits that give bad or actively dangerous advice, can be treated as suffering a form of the Voices disadvantage.

Alternatively, treat this as the Contact Advantage, where the contact just happens to be a spirit.

Spirit Ally varies

Spirit Ally Group varies

If a spirit ally or ally group is completely devoted to you, to the extent of being willing (or forced) to risk distruction in your service give the spirits the Fanatic disadvantage.