Section 5 Magic

Magic is a powerful force manipulated using skills called spells. By casting spells, a wizard can direct magical energy – known as mana – to produce almost any effect. In Stellar Winds magic in the modern societies have been seen as

Learning Magic

Anyone can learn most spells although in some worlds, you must be a mage to use the spells you know. Some spells specify a particular level of Magery as a prerequisites: if you lack the required Magery level, you cannot learn the spell.

Each magic spell is a separate skill, learned just like any other skill. Most spells are IQ/Hard skills, but a few potent spells are IQ/Very Hard. Spells have no default – you can only cast spells you know.

Add your Magery to IQ when you learn spells. For instance, if you have IQ 12 and Magery 3, you learn spells as if you had IQ 15. In addition, reduce the time required to learn spells (but not the point cost) by 10% per Magery level, to a minimum of 60% the usual time at Magery 4; e.g., Magery 3 would let you learn spells in 70% the usual time.

The maximum level of Magery available in your world is up to the GM. Most GMs will want to limit PCs to Magery 3 or 4.

If you know more than a few spells, you may wish to make a “grimoire.” This is a list of the spells you know and your skill with each, along with the energy cost, time to cast, duration, etc. for each spell. This saves a lot of reference time in play!


Any spell but the most basic has one or more prerequisites: requirements you must meet in order to learn the spell. If the prerequisite is another spell, you must have at least one point in the prerequisite spell before you can study the advanced spell. Some spells require a minimum Magery level; for instance, “Magery 2” means you must have Magery 2 (or higher) to learn the spell. A few spells require a minimum basic attribute score, an advantage, or even a mundane skill.

Casting Spells

You must know a spell in order to cast it, unless you possess a magic item that lets you cast it (see Magic Items, p. 480). Tell the GM what spell you are casting, then take Concentrate maneuvers
for the requisite number of turns (see Time Required, p. 236). At the end of the last second of concentration, make a success roll for the spell.

Casting a spell works like any other use of a skill. Roll 3d and compare the total to your effective skill: your base skill with the spell adjusted by any applicable modifiers. Modifiers depend on the class of spell (see Spell Classes, p. 239). If your roll is less than or equal to your effective skill, the spell works. If it is greater than your effective skill, the spell fails.

On a success, mark off the spell’s energy cost against your FP or HP (see Energy Cost, p. 236). Its effects take place immediately. On a critical success, the spell works especially well. Details are up to the GM, who should be both generous and creative. Whatever else occurs, there is never an energy cost if you get a critical success when you cast a spell.

On a failure, the spell does not work. If success would have cost energy, you lose one energy point; otherwise, you lose nothing. (Exception: You must pay the full energy cost even on a failure for an Information spell; see Information Spells, p. 241.) On a critical failure, you must spend the full energy cost and the spell fails … badly! The GM may use the Critical Spell Failure Table or improvise some other “backfire” he finds amusing.

Different Kinds of Magic

There are many different types of magic. Spells fall into “colleges” according to subject matter and
“classes” according to the way they work.

College of Magic

Spells related by subject matter – e.g., fire, healing, or mind control –
belong to the same college. The basic spells of a college are prerequisites for the more advanced ones. Some spells fall into more than one college. For instance, Earth to Air (p. 243) is both an Earth and an Air spell. This is only important when counting prerequisites.

Most wizards specialize in only a few colleges. This is the most efficient way to learn advanced magic. However, you may learn spells from as many colleges as you wish.

Spell Classes

Each spell falls into one or more classes that define how it works in play. These classes are not mutually exclusive, except as noted below.

Magic Items

Enchantment spells allow wizards to imbue objects with magic powers. Some magic items permit the user to cast spells that he does not know; others have a spell-like effect placed upon them permanently; still others do various kinds of strange and wonderful things.

Most magic items are usable by anyone, but a few may only be used by a mage. The power of a magic item endures until it is removed magically, or until the physical item breaks or wears out, at which point the magic dissolves permanently.


“Enchanting” is the process of creating a magic item using spells from the Enchantment college. Enchantments must be performed using Ceremonial Magic (p. 12). Unlike most Ceremonial spells, however, enchantments can be performed alone (though most enchanters take advantage of the benefits of assistants). Lone enchanters cannot gain a skill bonus for using extra energy. To perform enchantments, the caster and any assistants must know both the Enchant spell and the specific spell being put on the item at an effective skill of 15 or better. Unskilled spectators cannot contribute energy to an enchantment.

Enchanting always requires time and energy. A particular enchantment might also require a specific item or material (e.g., a gem), or the expenditure of cash for “generic” magic supplies.

A given magic item may carry any number of spells. Each one requires a separate enchantment. The presence of an enchantment has no effect on later enchantments.

Using Magic Items

spell(s) they contain. Many give the user the power to cast the spell – perhaps only on himself, possibly on any subject. Some are usable only by mages; that is, they only work for users who possess Magery. If an item has any “mage only” effects on it, only a mage may use the item’s powers. A spell’s description will explain if it can be placed into a magic item. Unless specified otherwise:

• There is no ritual. The user just wills the item to work.
•Casting time is as described for the spell. High Power doesn’t affect this.
• Energy cost is the same as for a normal casting of the spell. High Power does not affect this (but the Power spell does – see p. 57).
• Determine success normally. Use the item’s Power as the caster’s base skill and apply all the usual modifiers for the kind of spell being cast. Power is at -5 in low-mana areas. A Resisted spell allows a normal resistance roll; use the item’s modified Power as the caster’s skill in the Quick Contest.
•Only one person at a time can use the item. If two people attempt to use it, only the first to touch it can use it. If one can’t use it – for instance, the item is usable only by mages and he lacks Magery – his touch doesn’t count.
• All other effects are as usual for that spell.

Buying Magic Items

The cash price of magic items is up to the GM. For a typical Modern Dark Age [TL-9], it should be possible to commission a magic item for about 33 CR per energy point. For instance, a sword with Accuracy +2, a 1,000-energy item, would cost 33,000 CR over and above the cost of the sword and any materials required for the enchantment.

This price, however, assumes that enchanters are using the reliable Slow and Sure method; low-energy-cost items could be mass-produced using the Quick and Dirty method. A talented enchanter with skill 20 and five assistants could pour 60 energy into an item easily, without the use of Powerstones or HP. The exact breakpoint is up to the GM, but the availability of Quick and Dirty Enchantment is sure to drop the price of minor magic items drastically.

Therefore, at the GM’s discretion, any magic item that a typical enchanter or circle of enchanters could produce with Quick and Dirty Enchantment (60 energy is a reasonable default) costs only 1CR per energy point. Thus, an Accuracy +1 arrow would be $25, and a magic staff would be $30, but that sword with Accuracy +2 is still $33,000.

In all cases, add the cost of the item to be enchanted and any special materials required to the cost for the enchantment itself.

These prices go upward as enchanters become rarer, of course. See Economics and Enchantment, pp. 21-22, for a more detailed treatment of how to figure out magic item prices in different settings.

The prospective buyer also has to find an enchanter capable of producing the item he wants – one capable of casting both Enchant and the spell(s) to be placed on the item. Some settings have shops devoted to magic items, which are likely to have done that work for him; if he must track down a competent enchanter, it may take a good deal of time and effort over and above the actual price to get the desired item.

In worlds where magic is unknown or secret, magic items have no fair market value. Each item is a one-of-akind treasure, and the seller can often name his own price!

Economics & Enchantment

As mentioned above, magic items bought new in a TL8 abundant-magic
setting should cost 1CR /energy point up to about 60 points, and 33 CR/point above 60 points. These figures were not arrived at arbitrarily; instead, they follow from the structure of the enchantment system and certain assumptions about the role and capacity of a typical enchanter.

Naturally, those assumptions might not apply in all settings. Thus, this section explains how to take different assumptions about the role of magic in a particular world and arrive at price points that are more appropriate for that world than the default.

Spell List

On the following pages are 93 spells, picked for their utility in a beginning fantasy or horror campaign. But this is only a glimpse of what magic can do – see GURPS Magic for hundreds more spells!

Name of Spell and the Class(es) it belongs to. A “(VH)” indicates an IQ/Very Hard spell; otherwise, it’s IQ/Hard.

Description: The spell’s effects, special rules, etc. If the spell requires particular items, assume it uses them up unless the description states otherwise.

Duration: The time the spell’s effects last. If you maintain the spell, it lasts for another period equal to this. Spells with an instantaneous effect do not list duration and cannot be maintained.

Cost: The energy (FP or HP) spent when you cast the spell. If given as Base Cost, this is the cost per yard of radius of an Area spell. Maintainable spells also give a cost to maintain.

Time to Cast: If no time is given, the spell requires one second of concentration and takes place at the end of your turn.

Prerequisites: Other spells you must know (have placed at least one point in the spell) before you may study this spell, as well as any Magery, IQ, or other requirements.


Alchemy is the science of magical transformations and transmutations. It is a mechanical process , using the mana inherent in certain things. Therefore, it can be studied and used by those without Magery – indeed, Magery confers no benefit on those studying alchemy! Alchemy is a science like any other – it just happens that its subject
is magical.

The chief effort of most alchemists is the manufacture of substances having magical effects. The general name for such substances is “elixirs.” Alchemy works normally in areas of normal and high mana. In lowmana areas, elixirs take twice as long to make and work for only half as long, though those with permanent effect work normally. In areas of very high mana, elixirs take only half as long to make, but any failure is critical. In no-mana areas, elixirs cannot be made or used.

The Alchemy Skills

Alchemy is an IQ/Very Hard skill; there is no default. Like spells, alchemy can be learned at only half-speed without a teacher. It cannot be learned in a no-mana area! Much of the skill has to do with experience in watching, hearing, and feeling the magical reactions proceed. A lone student can do this by experimentation – but only in an area where alchemy works!

Using Alchemical Items

All elixirs should be kept in sealed containers. They lose their power after varying times when mixed with other substances or exposed to air. Containers can be opened briefly and then closed again with no harm to the contents.

The method of use of an elixir depends on its form (see below). Multiple elixirs may be used at once, but multiple doses of the same elixir will be wasted except on very large creatures, which may require extra doses at the GM’s discretion. A new dose can be taken after the previous one wears off. GMs wishing to discourage
heavy use of potions may want to make it dangerous to take more than one potion at a time, or the same potion more than once per day.

When an elixir lasts for a variable amount of time, the subject doesn’t know in advance how long it will last – the GM rolls secretly. The subject knows it is wearing off 5 minutes before it ends. The exception is the Elixir of Invisibility, which wears off without warning.

Type of Elixirs

The elixirs are divided here into rough categories based on the effects they have.

Each elixir description begins with the generic name for the elixir and any alternate names by which it may be known in some locales. Next, it gives the details of the elixir’s effect. Finally, it gives the elixir’s duration, its retail price in common-magic and raremagic settings, and the time, cost of materials, and default penalty required to make the elixir.

Alchemical Charms

In some settings, alchemists may turn their abilities to the manufacture of alchemical charms – minor magical items that confer the effects of an alchemical elixir on a more lasting basis. Most charms either protect or enhance the wearer in some fashion. For game purposes, a charm with protective powers is called an amulet, while a charm with empowering abilities is called a talisman (not to be confused with the Amulet and Talisman meta-spells).

Alchemical charms are not appropriate to every campaign. If the GM is concerned about treading on enchanters’ toes, or about alchemists becoming overpowered, he should not allow alchemists to create the items that follow. However, charms can add scope and interest to alchemy, and bring more depth to a setting.

Exotic Preparations

Especially brilliant alchemists push the discipline to the very limits of possibility, creating strange and wonderful things. All these preparations are very rare – their formularies are almost never seen, and they may even be regarded as mere myths.

Magically Potent Materials

Alchemy relies upon objects intrinsically charged with occult power for its raw ingredients. The sort of objects that become impregnated with magical energy varies between worlds. In some settings, herbs have mystic potency; others rely on mana organs taken from the carcasses of exotic beasts; still others attach magical significance to various minerals.

In most worlds, the magic potential of an object derives from a direct or symbolic relationship to the desired subject or effect. For example: fire is red, and rubies are red; hence, rubies have a magical affinity for fire.

More powerful elixirs may also demand more exotic forms of an ingredient. A simple Healing elixir might be brewed from regular apples and ginseng, but a Resurrection elixir might demand the Apples of the Hesperides.

Magically charged objects have applications beyond alchemy; they may be used as ingredients for spells, or as components of enchanted items. For this reason, wizards and alchemists often compete over viable sources of these ingredients.

In general, magically useful materials fall into three categories. Consumable materials, such as herbs and other organic materials, are consumed in any arcane application, whether magical or alchemical. Reusable materials, like metals and gemstones, are usually not consumed when used as spell ingredients, but are used up in the manufacture of
alchemical goods. Objects are manufactured items whose magical power lies in their intended use rather than their material. These are usually used in spells and enchantments rather than in alchemy, and are not usually consumed in their use.

Some ingredients and their possible purposes follow. The purposes listed include most of the colleges and several common “verb” activities, like seeking, controlling, and transforming. Magical and alchemical processes may demand several types of ingredient, depending on the nature of the process.