Spirits and the Astral Plane

[Introduction ] [Spirit Spells] [Origins of Spirits] [Means of Interaction] [Spirit Powers] [Spirit Services] [Sample Spirits]

 True love What is a spirit? Every GURPS sourcebook seems to have a different answer. In GURPS Magic, skull-spirits are vulnerable to fire and can be blown around by air but are nigh invulnerable to weapons, while demons are hideously substantial. In GURPS Horror, demons prefer possession to physical manifestation, while ghosts can appear visibly, solidify, or even animate a corpse. Ghosts in GURPS China can also manifest physically, until they disintegrate into Hun and P'o, their good and evil halves. In GURPS Japan, even swords and mirrors have spirits! Although in most respects GURPS lives up to its name, its treatment of spirits has not been generic.

Before this situation proliferates, I would like to propose a spirit framework which unifies the various myth's so far described in various GURPS sourcebooks, one which contradicts foregoing material as little as possible and which is flexible enough to accommodate further research.

So what, by least common denominator, is a spirit? GURPS Ice Age avers that a spirit is an entity made of mana. This is a good start, but it is less than satisfactory because the nature of mana itself is obscure and varies between campaigns. Furthermore, mana is not a prerequisite for the existence of spirits, as demonstrated by the Astral Projection power in GURPS Psionics. Now we're getting somewhere, though. Like the astral psi, spirits from every GURPS worldbook are capable of an existence "somewhere else" than the normal, physical world. That `somewhere else' is the Astral Plane. In order to know the nature of spirits, we must first explore their medium, the astral plane, and to do that, we'll need a special collection of spells from the college of Necromancy:



1. Spirit Spells

Project Spirit (Regular)

Enables the caster to dissociate his consciousness from his body and roam the astral plane. Project Spirit cannot be cast on others, but a mage might attempt to summon a spirit capable of acting as an Astral Guide (see Part II of this article). While its spirit wanders, the caster's body lies unconscious and cannot be roused under any circumstance. Furthermore, it has no resistance, except innate Magic Resistance, to possession. In an ultra- tech campaign, an absent wizard's body could theoretically operate under computer control.  

Astral Perception (Regular)

Allows the caster to look into the astral plane. He can see astral characters and other spirits, and he can cast spells on them at no penalty. (Sense Spirit does not specifically locate a spirit, so spells cast with no better means of target acquisition suffer a -5 penalty; see p. M10.)  

Visual Manifestation (Regular)

Creates an illusion of the caster on the material plane, enabling him to interface with the physical plane while astrally projecting.  

Full Manifestation (Regular)

Enables the caster to interact with the physical plane while astrally projecting, just like a skull-spirit. The use of these spells will be more fully described below, along with the Movement spell Ethereal Body. When a wizard first casts Project Spirit, he notices little change at first, except that he can catch the twinkling of any other spirits present, and he will shortly notice his own unconscious body beneath him, connected to his astral body by a glowing, silvery `thread'. There is no `astral geography' to see, only the geography of the adjacent physical plane, which is everywhere contiguous. In some cases, the image will seem more intense than mundane experience, for what the astral being experiences is not actually vision, it is just a sense. In fact, for spirits, hearing and vision are the same sense, so a forest filled with night noises will seem to `glow' to a spirit, and other spirits themselves often appear luminous. Spirits have no sense of smell or taste, nor have they any tactile sense of physical objects, although they can touch one another.

As the new initiate begins to walk, he will find that his anatomy functions normally in this regard. In fact, it may function better, as if the wizard were young and vigorous, for his astral Move is a function of his astral DX and astral HT (see below). Astral Running skill is separate from but equivalent to normal Running, but based on astral HT. In fact, it is only the wizard's belief in walking that makes it function; in the astral plane, there is a better way to go. As the wizard focuses his concentration on his goal, he may find himself moving faster than he could possibly walk, just by concentrating! Movement by this method is equal to 4, plus 4 times the spirit's level of Magery (or equal to its level of psionic Astral Projection, whichever is higher). This is astral `running' speed; Dodge is not unaffected. Furthermore, a spirit can travel in any direction, even straight up, even down through the earth, for the fact that an object occupies the adjacent space in the physical plane does not bar astral passage. However, a spirit `inside' an object will not be able to see, unless the object is transparent, and will not be able to hear except for sounds loud enough that they penetrate the solid.

When a wizard projects his spirit into the astral plane, he is free of the limitations of his flesh. Instead of his physical form, he displays his aspect, a form derived from his personality and self-image, and reflecting his mental strength (this is similar to the aspect of a powerful psi, see p. P20). Usually, this aspect will be a youthful, idealized version of the wizard's body, wielding his favorite weapon. A PC mage should be allowed to design his own aspect, consistent with his astral attributes, as follows: Astral IQ equals normal IQ, and astral DX equals IQ, but astral ST and HT equal Will. The mage's aspect will thus change as he matures, or he may alter it temporarily with Illusion Disguise.

Astral combat takes place essentially as normal melee combat, but simpler. In fact, physical force cannot be transmitted on the non-physical plane, and astral `melee' is simply a symbolic representation of a battle of Will. It uses the following skill:

Since the individual determines his own physical appearance on the astral plane (much like a Cyberpunk netrunner) he can use any melee skill as a default for astral combat. For example, a fencer can appear on the astral plane as a swashbuckler, complete with rapier! Remember that in astral space, IQ substitutes for DX, so a character with Fencing at DX, DX 10 and IQ 16 would have a default Astral Combat skill of 13: skill -3 based on an attribute of 16, not 10. Missile weapons make poor metaphors for astral combat and provide an inferior default. Aim Jet and Spell Throwing skills may be used as defaults.

The imaginary weapon serves as a metaphor for his attack and enables him to default astral combat to a well-understood physical skill, but in fact, all astral combat takes place at `close range', and all attacks inflict thrust/crushing damage based on astral ST, not modified by the `weapon'. All damage applies directly to total hit points; aspects do not have specific hit locations. Whatever armor the mage appears to be wearing, his astral defense is based on Magery alone: 2 points of PD and one point of DR per level (not cumulative with bonuses for the Astral Projection psi power, p. P10). Damage to the astral body has no effect on the physical body, and vice versa. Thus, a sorely pressed mage could return to his body restored to perfect health, but when he returns to the astral plane, he may find his astral body still in need of healing.

When traveling with Astral Projection, a mage trails a glowing, silvery `thread' leading back to his body (p. P10). If the mage is knocked unconscious by damage or fatigue loss, or if he is reduced to zero astral hit points, this thread snaps him back to his body, instantaneously. In this case, the mage will remain unconscious for a length of time appropriate to his astral injury, or until awakened by spell or mundane means, even though he is not physically harmed. If reduced to zero hit points but not knocked out (roll against astral HT), the mage may act on the following turn, in his physical body, only if he makes a Body Sense roll (p. M94). An injured mage may not return to the astral plane with a non-positive astral fatigue or hit point score. A conscious, healthy mage may also utilize the instantaneous-return function of the silver thread, or he may follow it home at a more sedate pace. Again, if he snaps back, he must make a Body Sense roll or lose a turn.

Astral characters are immune to physical attacks from the physical plane, but they may be affected by spells which affect the mind or spirit, and these they resist at -2. Astral characters maintaining Visible Manifestation or Full Manifestation may be targeted normally; otherwise, the hostile mage has a more difficult task. By means of the Sense Spirit spell, the mage can sense the astral character, but he still attacks with that -5 penalty. A hostile mage using Astral Perception is not hampered in this way.

Spell casting takes place normally in the astral plane if the subject is also astral, except that matter and energy cannot be evoked. Thus, most elemental spells have no effect, but Mind Control spells do, and Body Control spells affect the astral body of the target. Against physical targets, astral characters cast spells at -5, a form of `distance penalty' that applies even if the spirit is overlapping the target. Full Manifestation overcomes this penalty and is necessary to use those spells which require touch or any other physical interaction with the target, including jet and missile spells. (It also allows the use of any psionic power, not just Antipsi, Psychic Vampirism, and Telepathy.) An astral mage can always maintain spells cast on his own body before he became astral (indeed, he must maintain Project Spirit), and these spells cost physical fatigue, not astral fatigue.

The astral plane appears to be a high mana area; in fact, it is a mana super conductor, so that it remains at equal mana potential no matter what the conditions on the adjacent physical plane. Spells cast on physical targets are not affected by the mana level of the target, except that no spell may be cast on a target in an area of no mana at all, and the spirit may not use Visual or Full Manifestation in such an area. The -5 penalty for cross-planar spell casting makes the astral plane seem like an area of low mana to experienced wizards, but even spirits without Magery can cast such spells as do not require Full Manifestation; with Full Manifestation, the wizard does become subject to rules of mana on the physical plane at that point.

In order to interact with the physical world, the projecting mage must cast either Visual Manifestation or Full Manifestation. Visual manifestation is a mere illusion which allows the caster to be seen by and speak to a physical audience, and it is unaffected by physical attack. The visual image is that of the mage's aspect or Illusion Disguise. To have any real effect on the physical world, though, a mage must use Full Manifestation, a spell which partially returns him to the physical world. This allows him to cast spells on the physical plane, but leaves him vulnerable to attacks by fire, air jet, or magic weapons (see Skull Spirits, p. M107, for details). The fully manifested spirit has no physical strength, but he has twice his astral hit point score: Every 2 real hit points of damage cost 1 astral hit point. Dexterity is equal to astral DX. In either form of manifestation, the spirit can still interact normally with other astral beings and is vulnerable to astral menaces.

Travelers in the astral plane have observed two `levels' to it, referred to as the outer plane and the inner plane (pp. P51-52). Speed in the outer plane is determined as for normal movement or by Magery, as described above, but there is a faster way to travel. An astral character may attempt to enter the inner plane by rolling at -5 against his spell skill with Astral Projection (or Ethereal Body, see below). If he succeeds, he ceases to pay the cost for maintenance of the spell which brought him there, until he returns to the outer plane.

The most notable characteristic of the inner plane is its distortion of time: for every 10 seconds which pass therein, but 1 second passes in the physical world! Thus, travel through the inner plane occurs at jet speeds, making it ideal for long-distance scrying. An Astral Navigation roll (see below) is necessary to find the proper egress point, but a critical success allows the character to make use of an astral discontinuity, a short-cut which takes virtually no time to cross. Once at his destination, the mage must return to the outer plane to view the physical world, so he resumes paying the fatigue cost for astral projection.

The second useful feature of the inner plane is its contact with other dimensions, from small `pocket dimensions' of artificial origin to parallel planes with as much complexity as our Earth (or any other game world). Reaching one of these other planes also requires an Astral Navigation check, this time at a penalty of -5 or more. If successful, the mage can attempt another use of Project Spirit or Ethereal Body to enter the outer astral of the new plane. Normal rules for the outer astral apply, except that the spirit has no silver cord leading back to its body. Actually, the spirit does have a cord, but it disappears immediately into the inner astral. If slain on the alien plane, the spirit seems to disrupt; that is, it disappears back into the inner astral under the tension of its silver cord.

This skill is used to find one's way in the inner astral plane. Time and space are distorted there, so normal Absolute Direction and 3-D Spatial Sense apply no bonus. The astral equivalent, Astral Sense, is a 10-point advantage which does give a +3 bonus to Astral Navigation and to attempts to cross the interface between the inner and outer planes. Astral distances between planes vary, and some worlds are astrally isolated, with especially steep penalties to reach any other plane. The occupants of such a world may not even be sure that the inner plane `goes anywhere'. By making his world astrally isolated, a GM can keep his campaign from developing a parallel universe focus: the demons know how to get here, but humans don't know how to leave. Of course, an astral traveler cannot attempt to reach a dimension he doesn't even know about. He may find such a place only by blind chance, on a critical failure of his Astral Navigation roll (got any GURPS worldbooks you haven't used yet?).

An astral traveler may encounter spirits (again, see Part II), other mages (or psis), or, in the inner plane, constructs of his own subconscience. The more power a visitor has, the more likely he is to meet something, either because he attracts attention or because he creates whatever he meets. The GM may wish to roll for encounter every ten (subjective) minutes: roll 5 or less on 3d, +1 per level of Magery. Those actively searching for someone roll every five minutes.

Use of the Ethereal Body spell differs in some respects from the material above. The ethereal character actually brings his physical body with him, so he retains his normal physical appearance and attributes. Ethereal mages do enter combat in the same manner as other astral characters, however, but since they can bring only their clothing into the astral plane, they must use an unarmed attack skill as the basis for any Astral Combat default. Like other spirits, ethereal mages gain astral armor and movement bonuses based on Magery (but not Psionics) as described above. Should an Ethereal character travel through the inner plane to another dimension, he cannot end his Ethereal Body spell and manifest physically on that world unless summoned by a native. Note, however, that a critical spell failure on that plane can result in accidental summoning.

Several spells may have a slightly different interpretation under the rules above, and other new spell logically follow from this material. First, possession, in all of its various forms, consists of the spirit of a mage inhabiting the body of the victim. There is therefore a silver thread running through the astral plane between the victim and the unconscious body of the mage. With Astral Perception, a detective can detect the possession and locate the helpless body of the culprit. Should the intruder project astrally, he automatically frees his victim.

Second, the pentagram spell prevents spirits from crossing the region of astral space contiguous to the pentagram. However, an astral creature could enter the inner astral plane outside the pentagram and then return to the outer astral plane within it, provided of course that his astral navigation is adequate, for even a short hop through the non-linear inner plane can be tricky.

Ethereal Armor

The details of the spell used to make Ghostmail (p. MII22) are not known, but in addition to its ability to transport the wearer bodily into the astral plane, this armor provides the protection of chainmail while on that plane: PD 3 and DR 4, with no particular vulnerability to `impaling' weapons.

Astral Weapon Enchantment

This spell gives a weapon an astral self, so that if the wielder projects astrally, he can bring an astral copy of the weapon along. The type of weapon makes no difference in astral combat (see above), but the wielder gets the benefit of any Accuracy or Puissance also cast on that weapon. This spell may not be cast on missile weapons, for such weapons do not function in the astral plane.  

Mindsword (Regular)

Similar to the Telepathy skill of the same name (p. P23). Creates a visible blade of mental energy, used with Force Sword skill. The weapon does thrust/impaling or swing/cutting damage based on the wielder's Strength, ignoring armor and Toughness, but damage applies to Fatigue, not Hit Points. The Mindsword can neither parry nor be parried, except against another Mindsword, but it can affect spirits which are not physically manifest (see Part II). Astral PD and DR count!  

Astral Barrier (Regular, Area)

Creates a barrier around the area of effect in the astral plane only, and seals off the adjacent astral plane from the inner plane, so that spirits cannot `go around' the barrier. Physical objects can freely cross the barrier. If cast on each hex individually, the spell creates a honeycomb of cells each astrally barred from the other. Cast on the whole area at once, the spell creates a bubble within which spirits can move freely, although they cannot cross its border.

Fly Paper (Area, Resisted by astral ST)

Creates a `sticky' zone in the astral plane around the area of effect, as well as along the interface between the inner and outer astral plane within the area of effect. Any spirit which attempts to enter or leave this area will become ensnared if it fails its resistance roll. Repeated attempts are allowed every turn, costing 1 point of fatigue and suffering a cumulative 1 penalty per attempt. While attempting to free himself, the spirit may take no other action. The trapped spirit is accessible from either side of the boundary; i.e., one which attempted to exit into the outer astral plane may be attacked from either the inner or the outer plane. The trapped spirit can neither move nor dodge, but he is not otherwise incapacitated, so he may grapple and pull any attacking spirit into the trap with him. Hence, Fly Paper is usually enchanted with appropriate limitations to exclude security personnel. A spirit is, by definition, any entity capable of existing in the Astral plane. This broad definition is in fact the most specific possible statement about spirits as a class. Most spirits consist entirely of pure mana, but some, such as demons, have material components as well. Most spirits are associated with a life form on the physical plane, but elementals are the spirits of inanimate matter. Some spirits interact with the physical plane directly; others grant magical powers to human servants. Finally, spirits manifest a range of intellect even greater than men, from imbecile to genius, from depraved to immanently logical, from comprehensible to alien. In this article, I will essay a taxonomy of Kingdom Spiritus, though I can surely but scratch the surface.


2. Origins of Spirits

The first aspect to consider when designing a spirit is its manner of origin. Most of the spirit's personality traits, advantages and disadvantages, and special powers will follow logically from this decision. Nature spirits, for example, will be dedicated protectors of the ecology, with a complement of spells from the Animal, Plant, and Elemental colleges.

Astral Native

A spirit can arise spontaneously in the astral plane, just as protein molecules can, by random chance, give rise to life in the primordial soup of the physical plane. Like their analogs, these primitive astral entities have little or no intelligence. Those with no IQ are the astral equivalent of plants, while those with IQ 1 are astral bacteria. More advanced entities have also evolved, but they are just that: `entities'. Humans have more difficulty understanding the passionless psyche of the advanced astral entity than they do the most depraved demon. These beings seldom have any means of interacting with the physical plane at all. However, they have an intimate knowledge of the astral plane, which they may impart to anyone who can figure out what they want in return.

Typical Advantages:

Eidetic Memory. Typical Disadvantages: No Sense of Humor, Truthfulness. Typical Skills: Astral Navigation.

Communal Spirit

Non-sentient creatures do not have spirits of their own, but they may generate spirits in aggregate. (Of course, sentient beings generate spirits in this way, too.) A communal spirit may be associated with a single-species population, or it may be associated with an entire ecology. Further, there is no conflict with a single life form serving as part of the basis for multiple communal spirits. For example, every buffalo in a herd contributes to the existence of a herd spirit, and every buffalo on the plains contributes to the Great Buffalo Spirit. Further, the buffalo all contribute to the local prairie spirit and the Great Prairie Spirit, along with the birds and the wolves and the wildflowers. In this way, all life on Earth contributes to the spirit of Gaia, or Wakan Tanka (pp. OW30 and 69). Lesser communal spirits are known as nature spirits, greater spirits are known as Totems.

While the individual members of a community are mortal, the community itself is not. In its long existence, the spirit of that community may develop a high order of intelligence and great magical skill. Each successive generation adds to its power. The present health of the community does have an impact on the health of the spirit, but the spirit of an ancient population is far stronger than the spirit of a new population of the same size. Conversely, young spirits are usually more energetic and active on the material plane, or perhaps they are just less subtle. The level of mana also affects the power of the spirit; the more mana, the more active the spirit can be. When the power basis for a strong spirit dies out, that spirit may yet endure, slowly waning, trying to restore its ecology.

Communal spirits display the personality traits of the communities from which they arise; this is particularly true of single-species spirits. The beaver spirit is playful and curious; the wolf spirit is loyal and fierce; the forest spirit is silent and thoughtful. Communal spirits are inherently territorial and will seldom be found outside their native habitats. In part this is because they are strongly motivated by the needs of their respective communities, of which they have an instinctive grasp. The buffalo spirit from the example above knows that some degree of predation is healthy for the herd as a whole; while the wolf is the `natural enemy' of the buffalo, the buffalo spirit and the wolf spirit are not enemies. Large-scale hunting by sportsmen is likely to draw a quick and angry response, however.

The variety of powers which communal spirits manifest in defense of their communities rivals that of demons. Possession is common; by possessing (or animating) a member of its community, the spirit can cause it to use its natural abilities with intelligence. In the case of a bear, for example, that natural ability is prodigious. Alternatively, the spirit may manifest physically in the form of a member of its community, like the Lesovik (points. FB42). As previously stated, older spirits often develop sophisticated magical repertoires, made even more threatening if the spirit has a focus (see below). Finally, a communal spirit may cooperate with the local humans or other sentients. The humans act as custodians of the spirit's community, and in return, the totem blesses a few children of each generation with advantages appropriate to its nature. For example, a child of the buffalo totem will become a warrior of great strength. If the spirit is capable of granting magical powers, it becomes the totem of the shaman.

Note that spirits of cities and farms are `nature spirits', in that they are communal spirits arising naturally from communities of which man is a part. Although they have personal spirits of their own, sentient beings generate communal spirits far more readily than lower forms of life; even a small family will generate a communal spirit in its own home. Some scholars suggest that more abstract human institutions, such as markets and political alliances, could also give rise to communal spirits.

As a final note, the health of a communal spirit is contingent upon the health of the environment. Pollution harms the community, and that harms the spirit. In addition to possible decline in power, the spirit could exhibit a decline in mental health. At the least, it may take drastic measures to stop further pollution, with no respect for collateral damage. At worst, it could become sadistic or masochistic. Sometimes, the toxic spirit actually grows in power, at least temporarily, as it profligately consumes its resources in pursuit of vengeance. This is particularly true of a spirit whose community has already been wiped out. In a sentient community, hate and despair have the same detrimental effects as chemical pollution.

Typical Advantages:

Absolute Direction, Alertness, Allies (local human tribe), Animal Empathy, Appearance.

Typical Disadvantages:

Mute, Pacifism, Sense of Duty. Typical Skills: Area Knowledge, Naturalist, spells of the Animal, Elemental, and Plant colleges.


By least common definition, a demon is any creature native to an alternate physical plane. A human mage questing in Outer Pfrongjolia would be a demon to its inhabitants. By this definition, even an angel is a `demon'. Whereas most alien parties who wish to interact with our plane are motivated by self-interest, and whereas that self-interest is seldom coincident with the interest of the natives, demons as a class have gotten a bad rap. Often, their motivations are so inscrutable as to seem insanely malicious. The term `demon' has thus taken on a negative connotation, with the rare altruist or visiting scholar routinely excluded. Most demons come from species which have evolved some form of astral access as innate traits, so demons with a large repertoire of other magical abilities are mercifully rare. Unable to interact magically with our world, they manifest physically by either bringing their bodies with them or by possessing a native. (A world where everyone has the ability to possess another's body must be confusing.) In addition, demons often have special abilities such as those listed on page M103. Some demons also exhibit the ability to grant spells and other powers to human priests (p. M85).

Typical Advantages:

High Pain Threshold, Immunity to Disease, Military Rank (see p. H45), and Rapid Healing.

Typical Disadvantages:

Sadism and other forms of Insanity.

Typical Skills:

Combat Skills and Social Skills. Demons also demonstrate extra-ordinary powers and weaknesses such as those detailed in GURPS Supers, typically including Invulnerability to magic resisted by IQ (p. M103).


These spirits arise when a mage stimulates the potential for life in inanimate matter (pp. M30 and M104). Elementals are the most uniform of spirit types, but perhaps this is because they have all been created by the same spell. No elemental is known to have arisen spontaneously, but sometimes another type of spirit will manifest by animating matter, seeming to be an elemental but displaying powers which true elementals do not possess. (Nature Spirits are the usual culprits.)

Elementals invariably exhibit Bodily Manifestation with the limitation that they appear only when summoned. Modern science understands that the four magical `elements' are in fact the four phases of matter: Earth is solid; water is liquid; air is gas; and fire is energy. Thus, a mage could create an `earth' elemental out of crushed ice. The next summer, he could summon it as a water elemental. (Whatever the substance used to create an `earth' elemental, it must be viscous to some degree, like sand, gravel, and genuine earth.)

The actual chemical basis of the elemental determines its physical properties. An elemental made of stone or metal instead of ordinary earth will have high PD and DR; an elemental made of gasoline instead of water will be highly vulnerable to fire. While gasoline is the same as water for the purpose of creating or summoning a liquid elemental, they are not the same from the elemental's perspective. If a mage attempts to summon an elemental from a pool of water, and a gasoline elemental is the only liquid elemental present, it will not be affected by the summoning.

Solid elementals inflict thrust/crushing damage based on ST. Fire elementals also inflict thrust damage based on ST, for ST represents the intensity of their flames. Gas elementals inflict twice the swing damage for their ST, but this is good for knockback only. Liquid elementals also inflict swing damage for knockback (not doubled). Other effects may be appropriate depending on the actual substance; e.g., true water elementals inflict real damage against fire elementals and solubles. No true elemental can use the elemental Jet spells.


The most common sort of spirit encountered in the outer astral plane, a ghost is the spirit of a sentient native which has yet to find its way to whatever afterlife its culture anticipates. Alternatively, it may have been there and returned. Usually, the ghost has a mission yet to accomplish on the physical plane, but sometimes it is merely confused. In either case, the new existence of the ghost is no more static than was its previous existence. A ghost with a strong ego will continue to develop as an individual, learning new skills and mastering the possibilities of its new form (i.e., magic). A weaker personality may disintegrate, until it is nothing more than a program displaying the obsession which keeps it bound to the physical plane. (Refer also to the Chinese Hun and P'o, pp. CH119-120.) Conversely, a ghost, or part of it, may become the nucleus for a communal spirit, such as a voodoo Loa (pp. H116-117). Eventually, the individual identity of the ghost will be indiscernible. Note that a strong ego is not the same as Strong Will.

The means of interaction displayed by ghosts vary by culture; these are presumably genetic traits. A Western ghost can make its presence known by Materialization (p. H47). This is a spell essentially similar to Visual Manifestation, except that it is easier to learn and harder to cast. That is, it has no prerequisites (other than being a ghost), but it costs 5 points of fatigue per minute. A more powerful ghost can also learn to Solidify, creating a physical body with its astral attributes. This costs 50 points for the first minute and 10 points per minute thereafter. Some ghosts also learn to possess people or to animate corpses (usually their own). Most ghosts draw the necessary energy from a focus (pp. H47-48, and see below).

Oriental ghosts do not materialize but instead display bodily manifestation, although they too may resort to possession or animation of a corpse. Chinese ghosts manifest in the physical form they had when alive. If this form is slain, the ghost reforms in the Nether World, where it will serve as a slave for 1d centuries (p. CH118). Japanese ghosts have a similar set-up, except that they manifest with 5 more points of Strength than they had in life. They are also more prudent, for if a Japanese ghost takes a single hit point of damage, it returns to the Spirit Realms for healing, and does not return for 1d hours (p. J104).

Most Oriental ghosts are not native to the physical plane. Upon death, they are naturalized in the Nether Realms. Any which return are therefore subject to Banishment back to their new native plane. Western ghosts often are native to this plane, however, for they have not yet made their way to their version of the afterlife.

Typical Advantages:

Any displayed by living members of the same race.

Typical Disadvantages:

As above, but especially Dependents, Sense of Duty, and Vow.

Typical Skills:

As above, plus Materialize, Solidify, and other spells (voodoo Loa always know Share Strength). Members of a non-sentient species may achieve sentience on an individual basis, especially in the presence of loving humans. Ghostly dogs and horses, for example, will have advantages and disadvantages appropriate to their species, such as Alertness and Primitive

Sympathetic Spirit

When a sentient being experiences a deep emotion for a prolonged period, within a small area of normal or greater mana, the local mana field takes on an imprint of that emotion and, to some extent, its underlying personality. A communal spirit is essentially a sympathetic spirit that is sympathetic to a large number of life forms; only a sentient being experiences the depth of emotion necessary to create a sympathetic spirit single-handed. Note, however, that the sentient spirit of a non-sentient community is capable of generating a sympathetic spirit.

While a communal spirit forms over a long term and is motivated by the needs of its ecology, a sympathetic spirit is dominated by the short-term emotion which produced it, not necessarily benign. Indeed, the most common type of sympathetic spirit is the poltergeist, formed when a child is sent to his room to sulk. Poltergeists are mischievous at best, malicious at worst, and not very bright in either case. They can seldom manifest in the physical world, but they affect it by telekinetic magic. Another common spirit, the Gei-ryo (pp. J102-103), manifests the pride, love, and jealousy that a crafter has for his work. These spirits can manifest physically, but they usually slumber within the object whose creation inspired their existence.

Typical Advantages:

Alertness, Appearance. Typical Disadvantages: Fanaticism, Impulsiveness, Jealousy, Stubbornness. Typical Skills: Any Craft, spells of the Making and Breaking, Movement, and Sound colleges.


3. Means of Interaction

As varied as the spirits themselves are their means of making their presence known, and felt, upon the material plane. Most of these mechanisms resemble recognized spells, but they are not spells and in general cost no fatigue. The spirit uses these abilities with a skill equal to its IQ, or at a minimum of 12, although the spirit may improve these abilities like any skill. Alternatively, some spirits (especially astral natives) have no means of interaction, except of course the ability to cast spells or use Psionics. Thus, these spirits could still speak and act directly with telepathy and telekinesis, or indirectly with illusions and shaped elements. The means of interaction listed below assume some level of mana; interaction with an area of no mana is possible only by psionic means.

Player characters with the Astral Entity disadvantage may know some of these means of interaction, so point costs are included for their purposes. Spirit familiars (see below) may also have these powers, and the point costs of their means of interaction will impact their value as allies. Many of these abilities have optional limitations, but no limitation can reduce the cost of a power by more than 75%.

Most of these means of interaction are expensive, for the ability to animate or possess a body, be slain, and then animate or possess another is an ability that resembles the Resurrection advantage of GURPS Supers. However, any spirit which can only interact if summoned by a native and which cannot leave until its body is slain more nearly resembles a normal human. Hence, these limitations have a combined modifier of -75%, so that when the means of interaction so limited is balanced against the Astral Entity disadvantage, the net cost is almost nil.

Animation (Corpse) 140 points

The most common form of Animation is Corpse Animation, usually practiced by ghosts. Some ghosts can animate their own corpse only, as the P'oh of Chinese myth (see Ch'ing Shih, p. CH117). Other ghosts are less discriminate and can animate any corpse of their own species. Communal spirits may also be able to animate corpses of former members of their communities. The spirit animates its corpse with ST equal to its astral ST, DX equal to its astral DX, and Move equal to its astral Move (do not use the `astral running speed' based on Magery or Psionics). These attributes are of course limited by the physical properties of the corpse: A former necromancer may animate his spindly skeleton with his astral ST of 17, but its brittle bones would break were full strength exerted. A corpse in good condition probably has an effective limit 50% greater than the score it had in life, while a skeleton has a limit identical to that it had in life. HT is unaffected by Animation. The animating spirit uses any of its own skills with its effective attributes, and it may also use the physical skills of the corpse at their original levels (-1 or more if the corpse is in bad condition, but +1 for a skeleton).

Unlike most means of interaction, Animation does cost a point of Fatigue to activate. Every time the animated object takes damage, the spirit loses another point of Fatigue, but it does not lose Fatigue from actual labor. The spirit must leave the object only when it is utterly destroyed (i.e., takes 10 times its total hit points; see p. B126), although it may wish to leave a paraplegic body much sooner.

While animating a corpse, the spirit resides within it, not on the astral plane. It cannot be seen or attacked on the astral plane, but it can be detected with Aura and Sense Spirit. It remains vulnerable to spells which affect the mind (including Mindsword, see Part I) but does not suffer a -2 penalty to resist them. It can be Exorcised (p. M27) and Banished (p. M65) as usual, but it does not leave the corpse when knocked unconscious by Fatigue. If the spirit can cast spells of its own, they are affected by the local mana level on the physical plane. If the corpse has decayed beyond the potential for speech, the spirit may use only those spells which it knows at a level of 18 or greater.

Special Enhancement:

The spirit is a Communal Spirit based on a community of several species and can animate the corpse of any of those species: +20%.

Special Limitation:

The spirit is a Ghost and can animate its own corpse only: -20%.

Animation (Plant) 110 points

The second most common form of Animation is Plant Animation, described under the spell Animate Plant (p. M67). Communal Spirits can often animate plants of their originating species; the spirit of a whole ecology would be able to animate any plant within that ecology. The effects of Plant Animation generally resemble those of Corpse Animation, except that a tree usually has a very high maximum ST and any other plant has a very low maximum ST.

A spirit can animate a plant in either of two modes. More commonly, it will animate only the portion of the plant which is above ground, so that it can attack but not move. It can also animate the whole plant, pulling up its roots and walking, but it will be limited to a smaller plant (about half the size of what it could animate in the first mode).

While animating a plant, the spirit can freely use any of its mental skills, but it will have difficulty using its physical skills, for the motion of the plant will be jerky. A flexible plant, like a vine, will impose a skill penalty of but -2, while a rigid, woody plant will impose a penalty as great as -6. This penalty also applies to spells which require ritual.

Special Enhancement:

The plant's motion is fluid and graceful, with no penalty to physical skills: +20%.

Special Limitation:

The spirit is a Communal Spirit and can only animate a member of its community: -20%.

Animation (Mineral) 150 points

Some spirits can even animate inorganic material. If the material is viscous, the spirit becomes an elemental for all practical purposes. If the material is a solid object, the spirit causes it to become flexible and articulate. Thus, chairs can walk and ropes can slither. With a flimsy object like a rope or scarecrow, the spirit may not be able to bring its full astral ST to bear, but with a hard substance like stone or metal, it may not be able to use its full astral DX and suffer a penalty as great as 8 to all physical skills. Otherwise, this ability resembles Corpse Animation.

Special Enhancement:

The object's motion is fluid and lifelike, with no penalty to physical skills: +20%.

Special Limitation:

The spirit is a Ghost and can only animate a statue, photograph, or portrait in its own likeness: -30%. The object will be articulated in a manner appropriate to a living being (i.e., it can bend at the knee, but not in the middle of the shin).

Special Limitation:

The spirit is communal and can only animate a statue, photograph, or painting made in the likeness of one of its constituent species: -20%. The object will be articulated in the manner of a living being.

Special Limitation:

The spirit can only animate viscous elemental material: 20%. The spirit can animate material of one phase only: -30%.

Special Limitation:

The spirit can animate a solid object but not loose elemental material: -10%.

Manifestation (Visual) 5 points

Visual Manifestation is the most common means of interaction exhibited by spirits. It exactly duplicates the spell of the same name (see Part I). The spirit can be seen and heard but cannot otherwise affect the physical plane, and he remains vulnerable on the astral plane.

Special Limitation:

If the astral entity is always visible while not using some other means of interaction, this is a further disadvantage worth 10 points. If the entity is detectable by a faint shimmering (or odor, or hum) requiring a perception test notice, the disadvantage value is only 5 points.

Manifestation (Full) 10 points

Full Manifestation also resembles the spell of the same name (see Part I). The spirit can attack using spells or special powers which require touch, but it cannot otherwise exert physical force. It is vulnerable to wind, fire, and weapons. Magical weapons do full damage, and other large metal weapons inflict 2 points each. However, the spirit takes but one point of damage from every 2 inflicted. All astral attributes apply, and the spirit remains vulnerable on the astral plane.

Manifestation (Physical) 120 points

Some spirits actually generate a body on the physical plane which reacts normally to the physical environment. This means of interaction is rare, usually exhibited by demons. No spirit with a silver thread can manifest physically; i.e., it cannot have two physical bodies at once. A spirit using Physical Manifestation is neither vulnerable nor visible on the astral plane, but it is subject to local mana conditions.

The physical forms of the spirit may be mundane or unearthly, beautiful or hideous, and may exhibit inhuman adaptations such as wings, claws, natural armor, or multiple limbs. According to myths, spirits often appear as deformed or hybrid animals. According to movies, they may appear as blobs of ectoplasm. A spirit which can manifest physically does have discreet values for physical ST, DX, and HT, but only its astral attributes apply on the astral plane.

Damage to the spirit's physical body remains in effect even if it goes astral and then re-manifests. However, the `physical' body can heal even while the spirit is astral. This usually occurs at a rate of 1 hit point per day, more with Regeneration (pp. FF22 and SU44). Damage to the spirit's physical form and astral form are separate, though, and magical healing spells cast upon the astral spirit do not heal its physical self. If reduced to 0 hit points, the physically manifest spirit dissolves back into the astral plane and cannot re-manifest until its physical form heals completely.

Manifestation (Bodily) 100 points

Like a mage with the Ethereal Body spell, the spirit may bring its body along when it enters the astral plane. The disadvantages of this method are that the spirit can be physically slain on this plane and that it cannot use any other means of interaction while so encumbered. (Were it to attempt Corpse Animation, for example, it would superimpose its own body over that corpse, and die.) A spirit which actually brings its body into the astral plane uses its physical attributes on that plane, rather than using substitute attributes calculated from IQ and Will.

Materialization varies

Materialization is a form of Visual Manifestation unique to Ghosts, as explained under their description above. This means of interaction is not an innate power but a spell, the prerequisite of which is that caster have had a physical body, but have one no longer (i.e., be a Ghost). It costs as much to learn as any other spell. Similarly, Solidification is a spell form of Physical Manifestation, the prerequisite of which is Materialization. The solid Ghost has the same physical attributes that he had in life.

Possession 130 points

This ability works just like the spell of the same name (p. M27). As with the spell Possession, a spirit which can cast spells draws upon its host's energy to do so. Having successfully possessed that host, the spirit need not exert dominance but may remain dormant pending an opportune moment. With this means of interaction, the spirit actually enters the physical plane and is neither visible nor vulnerable on the astral. As usual, the spirit becomes subject to the rules for the local mana level.

Special Enhancement:

The spirit is a demon and retains its own ST, DX, and Fatigue scores, although HT and Hit Points remain at the victim's true level (p. H45). If Magery is a physical advantage in the campaign, this enhancement lets the demon use its own level of Magery, not the host's, to cast spells. Demonic Possession causes much wear and tear on the borrowed body, and the GM may advance the physical age of the host accordingly: +25%.

Special Limitation:

The spirit is a Ghost and can only possess members of its own family: -30%.

Possession (Pestilential) 15 points

Weaker demons have an alternate form of Possession by which they cannot suppress the consciousness of the host, but may still enter the body and cause disease (effects according to taste, or generic, p. B133). Normal magical and medical cures will have no effect until the demon is Exorcised or Banished.

Possession (Beast) 50 points

This ability works just like the spell Beast Possession (p. M22). As with Possession, the spirit actually enters the physical plane and is neither visible nor vulnerable on the astral.

Special Limitation:

The spirit is a Communal Spirit and can only possess species from its own community.

Possession (Plant) 5 points

On the whole, this is not a very useful ability, except that it does afford a hiding place from astral foes. It does not otherwise provide the same benefits as Plant Animation, however, for the only motion that the possessing spirit can direct is that motion which is natural to the plant. A spirit could direct its host plant's direction of growth, for example, but it would be otherwise unable to cause perceptible motion, unless the plant actually had motile members (as a few carnivorous and magical plants do). The advantage of this means of interaction is that very few plants are able to resist.

Possession (Mineral) 10/25 points

In addition to people and animals, some spirits can actually possess mineral objects. A spirit which possesses an object can cause it to function in its intended manner (opening hinges, rotating wheels, and so forth), but it cannot otherwise animate or telekinese the object. If the object is a computer tied into a communications grid or security system, though, the spirit can have devastating effects. Also, a spirit within a magical object can utilize the spells of that object, paying its own astral fatigue if necessary. It can also turn off functions which are `always on', like the Puissance of a magic sword, and it can use its own Sword skill, if any, with a Dancing Sword. For these reasons, Object Possession costs 25 points in a world where computers or magic items are common.

General Limitations

Accessibility Limitation varies

This is a catchall limitation. The means of interaction or other power functions only under certain conditions. Several examples appear on p. SU52. An ability useful only half the time (say, at night) would cost 20% less. An ability useful only in water would cost 30% less (see Apophis, p.FB9).

Cannot Interact Unless Summoned -25%

This limitation could apply to most of the means of interaction listed above. A spirit cannot use the affected power unless invited into the physical plane by a mage with an appropriate spell (i.e., Summon Demon). Unfortunately, mages sometimes stumble across the formula by accident(critical failure). This limitation is especially common among demons.

Cannot Leave Unless Destroyed -50%

With this limitation, a spirit which Possesses or Animates a creature or object cannot leave the physical plane by its own volition until its host is dead or destroyed respectively. A spirit which demonstrates Bodily or Physical Manifestation cannot leave until its physical form is dead or has a non-positive Hit Point total, also respectively. Banishment and Exorcism still apply, however.

Takes Extra Time -10%/level

Means of interaction and other spirit powers are instantaneous unless otherwise specified. One level of this limitation increases activation time to one second, and each additional level doubles it.


4. Spirit Powers

In addition to magic, Psionics, and other character advantages (not excluding racial or even super advantages), spirits may have special powers which are unique unto them. If an ability requires touch, then the spirit must be able to enter the physical plane in order to use it on a physical being; i.e., the spirit must have Animation, any type of Possession other than Pestilential Possession, or Bodily, Full, or Physical Manifestation. As with means of interaction, these abilities do not typically cost any fatigue, and they are executed at IQ or DX, as appropriate, with a minimum skill of 12.

Astral Guide

Some spirits act as a catalyst for astral projection; they can conduct a character's spirit into the astral plane. Once there, the character is equal in every way to a mage using the Astral Projection spell, except that he probably won't know what he's doing. No problem, the astral guide will have a high skill in Astral Navigation.

The demon's version of this ability is to force the subject's soul out of his body and possibly hold it prisoner, accomplished by a contest of Will. The demon rolls at -5 to steal a soul, once per day if it perseveres. To then hold the soul prisoner, it rolls a contest of Will each day at no penalty. If not a prisoner, the soul can immediately return to its own body, but most characters will not know how (IQ-10 or Astral Sense required to figure it out). Instead, it will hopelessly wander the astral plane while its unconscious body withers away (p. I35). No normal means can cure the body until the spirit returns, but any mage with Astral Projection can follow the victim's silver thread and rescue him.

Astral Perception

The spirit retains the ability to see into the astral plane, even while manifested bodily or physically, or while possessing an object or victim.

Cause Disease

The spirit has an innate ability similar to the spell Pestilence. The spirit may cause disease either by touch or by Pestilential Possession, as described above. (Communal spirits sometimes have the ability to inflict an appropriate form of lycanthropy by Pestilential Possession.)

Chilling Touch

This is the attack power of skull-spirits (p. M107). By touch, the spirit can inflict 2 points of damage; armor and Toughness do not protect.


With this power, a spirit can store extra energy in a physical object (see p. H48 for examples). Only a spirit native to this plane (a communal spirit, sympathetic spirit, or ghost) can have a Focus. To build up a Focus, the spirit must roll against his IQ with a penalty equal to half the current strength of the focus. Adding a point to the Focus takes one month, minus a number of days equal to the amount by which the roll was made by. To build up a large focus, the spirit may spend more time on each point, every additional month reducing the penalty by one. For example, a ghost with a 10-point Focus would normally take about a month to increase the size of its Focus by one, with -5 to its skill. It could instead take 4 months with a penalty of only -2. It must always take enough time to have a chance of success of 4 or better. If the Focus is destroyed, the spirit may build up another one, but it may have only one at a time. A spirit can draw power from his Focus only if he is within a number of yards of it equal to its strength. Focuses recharge at the same rate as powerstones.

Fright Check

The spirit's aspect or physical form is so hideous, by human standards, that anyone seeing it must make a Fright Check. Especially loathsome demons may require a penalty to Will.


If the spirit has Physical or Bodily Manifestation, it can assume one or perhaps many other shapes (as per the Lesovik, p. FB42).

5. Spirit Services

A rare spirit has the power to bond a human servant, granting magical power in exchange for furthering the spirit's goals on the physical plane. If the spirit is extra-planar in origin (a Demon, under the broad definition, or an Astral Native), it is known as a deity and its servants are called priests. If the spirit is a native spirit (a Communal Spirit or a Ghost), it is known as a Totem or Guardian Spirit and its servants are called shamans. The latter term, `shaman', is less rigorous and may also be applied to mages with fetches (see below). The material which follows is an elaboration on the treatment of clerical magic on p. M85.

In order to receive the powers described below, the priest must be `bonded' to his deity. This usually consists of a ceremony, the exact forms of which vary by religion (see pp. OW69-71 for examples), and a Will roll or some other abstracted test. If successful, the candidate sacrifices a portion of his life force (i.e., character points) for the abilities that the spirit offers. This `bonding cost' may be reduced by rituals which usually include an oath of obedience (to the deity and/or its religion) and adoption of a Code of Honor consistent with the spirit's philosophy or goals. Sometimes the ritual is just a formula which strengthens the ties between spirit and priest for abstract metaphysical reasons; in this case, the ritual must be repeated regularly to maintain its effect. These recurring responsibilities of the cleric, whether a matter of ritual or of lifestyle, are collectively known as strictures. When a cleric breaks a stricture, his tie to his deity weakens. Remember, the stricture was a substitute for sacrificing life energy; breaking a stricture is equivalent to not having sacrificed enough energy in the first place. Restoring the bond requires another ritual, known as atonement, whose nature varies by religion and circumstance, after which the stricture is once more in force. (Until the cleric atones, reduce his granted powers by a point value equivalent to the disadvantage value of the broken stricture.)

A spirit can bond a finite number of servants. Worshipping a spirit enhances its power (this is an example of the sympathetic effect that creates Communal and Sympathetic Spirits), so that it can, among other things, bond more priests. Hence, one of the primary functions of a priest is recruiting worshippers, and another is attending to the needs of those worshippers, so that they remain happy with the religion and continue to worship. This is why a priest receives his power. Since the spirit cannot grant power to every worshipper as an inducement to worship, it grants power to a delegate from each body of worshippers.

Conversely, any number of spirits can bond the same priest, although many spirits require exclusivity of worship. Sometimes, however, one of these exclusive spirits will allow his servant to bond one of his minions also, perhaps as a spirit familiar (see below).

Granted Advantages

Spirits can grant virtually any advantage, although super powers and special racial advantages may also require an Unusual Background. (Otherwise, Granted Advantages cost just as much as advantages acquired through mundane means). Spell-like abilities may be subject to the vagueries of local mana.

As stated above, Communal Spirits often form mutual protection pacts with a local human population. Each Totem grants an advantage or two to a member of the tribe, usually at his adulthood ceremony. For example, Owl would grant Night Vision, and Boar would grant High Pain Threshold. The cost of these advantages is reduced by a Sense of Duty to Nature. Because the Totem will select a tribesman who resembles it in personality, that character may demonstrate other psychological disadvantages appropriate to his totem.

The most common magical advantage granted by a spirit is that of being `Blessed' (or Very Blessed, pp. M85-86). Alternatively, the blessing may take the form of the Bless spell, except that the spell can be renewed whenever the character is within the presence of the spirit (or empowered priest). This advantage adds 5 points (+1 bonus) or 10 points (+2 bonus) to the cost of the spirit or religious organization as a patron; it is essentially a cost for `equipment' provided by the patron. (This cost is a little low for an advantage so powerful, but it is consistent with the low cost for an actual Bless spell. If you hike the price of Bless, raise the price of this advantage, too.)

The most common mundane advantage that a spirit can grant is that of a Patron: The spirit is the patron, a single powerful or extremely powerful individual, possibly more expensive because of extraordinary abilities, and modified by frequency of appearance. Technically, any spirit which grants advantages is a patron, but most have no frequency of appearance: as long as the servant follows his religious tenets, his powers continue to work, and these powers are paid for separately. Note that the religious organization which ostensibly serves the spirit may also be a patron, separate from the spirit itself. Usually, a deity with a large congregation is the personal patron of its top priests, while the church is the patron of lesser priests.

A powerful spirit may also be able to grant protection from ethically opposed spirits; i.e., the character has `holy' status as defined by that spirit. Holy status is a prerequisite for several spells, and it also allows the character to banish demons. (If the character receives `holy' status from a demon, he can banish angels.) A demon must roll a contest of Will vs. the Holy character's patron spirit in order to attack, and thecharacter can also banish the demon, by command, with a similar contest. Demons which manifest physically use ST+IQ instead of Will. The patron spirit need not be present in order to protect its priest. Holiness costs nothing in terms of points, for in order to achieve it (GM's ruling), the character must follow a strict Code of Honor in such exemplary fashion that it more than balances the benefits of holy status. These benefits, incidentally, include a +1 reaction bonus from members of the same religion, cumulative with any bonuses for Blessedness and Clerical Investment.

Note that Clerical Investment is not a Granted Advantage; society is the arbiter of that status. When a priest demonstrates Granted Magery, below, society clearly must acknowledge his clerical status, but religious bodies can and often do invest clerics who demonstrate no magical ability whatsoever. Conversely, characters who receive ordinary Granted Advantages, even Blessed or Holy status, need not also take Clerical Investment.

As described above, a spirit has a limited bonding capacity, and it therefore limits itself to bonding priests, who then use their powers for the good of the congregation as a whole. Where possible, many spirits prefer to grant powers directly to each worshipper, on the theory that a more concrete benefit will secure their loyalty more surely than indirect assistance through the priest. A deity cannot hope to bond every single worshipper directly, but some deities are capable of bonding spirit minions as well as humans. These minions are then capable of bonding several worshippers each. Under this scheme, the deity bonds his priests personally with Granted Magery and the associated Clerical Investment, while its minions bond deserving worshippers with other Granted Advantages. The deity retains the dominant position since he alone can grant magical power, which is the most tangible and compelling benefit of religion from the worshipper's perspective. The minions of a deity will usually be sympathetic spirits created by that deity, while the minions of a Communal Spirit will be the spirits of its subcommunities.

Granted Magery

This is the defining power of the priest or shaman. The recipient can cast spells from one, two, or three colleges, or from a customized spell list. This ability costs 5, 8, or 10 points, according to the number of colleges granted, plus 5 points for Clerical Investment. (This is listed on p. M85 as 10, 12, or 15. I deduce that Clerical Investment is included because access to three colleges with no skill bonus is inferior to the 15- point advantage of Magery 1. Also, the cost of access to two colleges should be the average of one and three, rounded up according to standard GURPS practice.) Since the recipient neither receives a bonus to spell skill as does a true mage nor can innately detect the presence of magic, `Granted Magery' is in fact a misnomer, but it may suffer the same limitations as true Magery (see p. M93), excluding One College Only. However, Granted Magery does fill all Magery prerequisites for spells in the granted college(s).

Some spirits may come from magically advanced planes, and may thus grant spells beyond the Tech Level common to the recipient. The cost of this benefit is half the cost of general access to that tech level. (Cost for TLs above the campaign standard are given in GURPS Aliens as 20 points for +1 TL, 50 for +2, and 100 for +3.) For example, a shaman with two levels of Primitive has a totem which grants spells one TL above the default for the campaign; he must pay 15 points for the privilege (ten plus twenty, quantity halved). Priests and mages cast advanced spells with a -1 penalty per Tech Level above their own. Ignore this advantage if your magic system is not affected by Tech Levels.

Magery Bonus

The recipient of this power gets a bonus of +1 to +3 with all spells of a single college; if the spirit also has Granted Magery, that college will be one which it grants. This ability costs the priest or mage 2 points per level for the college of Healing, 5 points per level with any other college. As with Granted Magery, the cost of a Magery Bonus may be reduced by limitations other than one college only.

In order to grant spell ability, the spirit must be capable of using those spells itself, and the same is true of other Granted Advantages. With Magery Bonus, however, the spirit acts as a catalyst for a particular college, much like aspected mana, and need not be magically proficient itself. If the spirit can use magic, its own spells will of course be affected by its Magery Bonus. Nature spirits commonly grant a bonus to Animal, Elemental, and Plant spells, while demons and ghosts commonly grant a bonus to Necromancy.

Power Reserve

American Indian Totems grant their shamans power reserves (p. OW30). A power reserve is like a huge, disembodied powerstone that does not recharge (until the shaman sacrifices more of his life force - character points - to buy this advantage a second time). The cost of the power reserve depends on its size: 5 points for a small power reserve with 35 to 45 points of energy (33+2d), 15 points for a reserve with 5 times as much energy, and 25 points for a reserve with 5 times that. The shaman will not know exactly how much power remains in his reserve, but he will lose all powers granted by his Totem when it is gone. He will not get his power back until he sacrifices more character points for a new power reserve, and he may not buy the new reserve in advance.

A shaman with a mana reserve may `burn out' (lose his power) if, in one day, he draws a number of points from his mana reserve greater than or equal to twice his HT. Once he exceeds this limit, he must roll against HT each time he attempts to draw more power, with a +1 bonus for each level of Magery. Successive attempts accrue a cumulative -2 penalty. Failure indicates that the shaman cannot cast any spells at all (even if he is also a true mage) for a number of weeks equal to the amount by which the HT check failed.

The Totem grants the power reserve from its Focus, or from the Foci of its minions. This is why only shamans, not priests, may have this advantage. A shaman who profligately wastes his power may not be granted a new reserve until his Totem has had an opportunity to rebuild its Focus.

Alternatively, a character can purchase part of the power reserve from another shaman, by whatever terms they can agree on (p. OW72). The supplicant performs a ritual similar to that required for bonding, and makes his Will roll or other test. If successful, he receives as many points of power as the shaman gives up; otherwise, he receives half as much. Even with a power reserve, the character must still have some means of casting spells, either Magery or Granted Magery. The supplicant usually bonds to the shaman's Totem at the same time as he receives the power transference, although he may not receive the full spectrum of benefits and strictures.

Spell Supervision

A spirit patron or its associated religious body may provide easy access to spell training in any spells it knows, up to the levels it knows them at. This resource increases the value of the patron by 5 points. Some spirits are by their very natures attuned to a certain college of spells (the same ones for which they might grant a Magery bonus). A mage studying an appropriate spell with the assistance of such a spirit learns it as if he had supervision from a more experienced spell caster. This is true even if the spirit cannot cast the spell itself; although it may know nothing of spell execution, its theoretical knowledge is limitless. The priest or mage with such spirit assistance also gains a +3 bonus to research or improvise a new spell in the appropriate college. Spell supervision of this sort is a 10-point advantage.

Bonding Capacity

As stated above, each spirit has a finite bonding capacity (zero for most spirits), which is why most pure religions have been geographically proscribed. As the spirit acquires more worshippers, its power grows, and it can bond more priests, who will proselytize in adjacent regions. Thus does practice of the religion spread. Unfortunately, lay members of a religion, especially merchants and explorers, tend to fuse and diffuse other religions with which they come in contact, diluting the quality of worship all round. (In the case of Christianity, for example, we have a Mithraic format and pagan tradition grafted onto Hebrew doctrine.)

With modern telecommunications technology, physical geography is even less of a barrier to information, but political geography is. Religions tend to spread demographically rather than geographically. For example, the bonding capacity necessary for total control of a small ancient nation would today be sufficient to bond a priest on several college campuses, who would tend to the needs of a small subset of that campus, such as Political Science majors.

Bonding Limitations

As stated above, Granted Advantages can come with accessibility limitations just like true Magery. Some advantages may be limited to the region in which the spirit holds sway. This can reduce the cost by as little as 10% if the region is a whole continent, where most of the campaign takes place, or by as much as 75% if the region is as small and specific as Stonehenge. The limitation may also set a prerequisite for use of the advantage. By far the most common prerequisite for Granted Magery is the need for a prop, a `holy symbol', which reduces the point cost by 10%.

Some spirits suffer limitations themselves, such as the inability to bond with non-mages (except in high mana areas). This does not reduce the point costs of the granted advantages, but it does affect the appeal of the religion. If the spirit has special needs, these will be reflected in its strictures. For example, if the spirit needs extra energy to provide granted abilities, it will require its priests to Share Strength with it on a regular basis, probably as part of a worship ceremony.


A familiar is by definition a spirit (p. M105) which can bond only to a mage. The standard GURPS familiar is a demon (under the broad definition), which exhibits Bodily Manifestation with two limitations: It cannot interact unless summoned and cannot leave unless slain. The main difference between a familiar and a very minor `deity' is that a familiar can bond only one character and ostensibly has a subservient role.

There is no theoretical reason why a familiar should not have various advantages, skills, and even spell ability just like a mage. In particular, "animal" familiars are often made of tougher stuff than true animals and may have Extra Hit Points as an individual advantage. Present rules for familiars are not consistent with GURPS as a whole. A familiar is essentially an ally which is always present, yet although it is usually extremely vulnerable, the cost of an intelligent familiar is exorbitant, especially to a character who has already invested in Magery and high IQ. I suggest that the cost of a familiar be equal to the advantages it provides its master, plus its value as an ally or dependent, always present. (Treat a demon familiar as an enemy, but still count the advantages it provides in the wizard's favor.) Calculate the point cost of the familiar's species using the rules in GURPS Fantasy Folk, then add any individual traits. To prevent abuse, levy an Unusual Background on a mage with a familiar which can speak or use spells. A familiar cannot have an IQ or a total point value higher than its master's.

For example, an owl familiar, like Merlin's Archimedes in Disney's The Sword in the Stone, would have base ST-7 (-60), DX+4 (45), IQ-6 (-50), HT+2 (20), Acute Hearing +5 (10), Acute Vision +5 (10), Animal Empathy (5), Talons which inflict 1d-2 cutting damage (equivalent to 55-point Claws), Common Sense (10, owls have a reputation for wisdom), three levels of Enhanced Move Flying (30), one level of Telescopic Vision (6), Winged Flight (30), Fragile (-20), Inconvenient Size (-10), Mute (-25), No Fine Manipulators (-30), Reduced Hit Points -4 (-20), Reduced Move -2 (-20, total Move 2 groundbound, 18 airborne), and innate Flying skill at DX+2 (4). Owls see as well in darkness as humans do in sunlight, but they see as poorly in sunlight as most humans do at night, a special effect with no net point cost. The racial cost of an owl is -10, but just having normal human intelligence (IQ 10) increases this cost by 60 points, and buying back the Reduced Hit Points costs another 32. Add a few skills (like Hunting), and you've got a familiar with a base value of 5, tripled for availability, to 15 points.

A `spirit familiar' is any familiar which does not exhibit Physical Manifestation. The term is unfortunate, since every familiar is in fact a spirit. The summoning process for a spirit familiar is essentially similar, game mechanically, to summoning a physical familiar. Possible spirit familiars include Astral Natives, Demons, Nature Spirits, and fetches, which are Sympathetic Spirits. Being an astral entity is a 25 point disadvantage for the spirit, which will impact its value as an ally.

Various means of interaction mitigate its condition, as described above. Alternatively, the spirit can learn spells which duplicate the effects of Possession or Manifestation. This will be much cheaper in terms of points but more expensive in terms of fatigue. Because the spirit familiar can act as an invisible, invulnerable spy, it requires an Unusual Background worth at least 20 points. Think of this as extra life energy that the mage must sacrifice in order to attract such a powerful entity.

A fetch is a Sympathetic Spirit modeled on the mage's own soul. He can thus invest it with up to his own IQ and any of his own mental advantages, disadvantages, and skills. The drawback of a fetch is that it cannot provide the mage with any advantages he does not already have, although it may have the abilities of Astral Guide, Sense Link, Telepathy, Spell Maintenance, and Visual Manifestation. Creating a fetch is slightly simpler than summoning an ordinary spirit familiar, requiring only a 10-point Background/sacrifice.

Astral Guide 5 points

This spirit power has been described previously. Only a spirit familiar can act as an Astral Guide, for it must be astral to do so. The Guide automatically has Astral Navigation skill equal to its IQ.

Body Watch 5 points

If a mage has a spirit familiar capable of Possession by spell or natural talent, he must pay 5 points for the protection this gives him. Should such a mage travel astrally, his familiar can temporarily possess his body. Any attempts by a hostile force to possess the wizard may thus be resisted by the familiar's Will. Should danger approach, the familiar can `tug' its master's silver thread, alerting him to return forthwith.

Extra Fatigue 5 points/level

Only a normal, animal familiar can share fatigue with its master, for it must be in physical contact to do so. In keeping with GURPS Fantasy Folk and GURPS Supers, the cost of this advantage should be 5 points times the amount of fatigue that the familiar makes available to its master; i.e., one less than the familiar's ST (p. M105, Mages Can Draw Strength from Familiars). The novice mage may set an artificial limit on the amount of energy he can borrow; until his familiar's ST is reduced to 2, for instance. In this case, he can subsequently spend points to improve transfer up to the familiar's maximum capacity.

Fright Check 5 points

A demon familiar may have such a horrid aspect that it causes all who see it to make a Fright Check. This costs the mage 5 points but saves his familiar 20 points for the Hideous Appearance disadvantage.

Magery Bonus varies

As described previously under Spirit Services, the spirit provides a bonus to skill with spells of a particular college. This will usually be necromancy for ghosts, but it could be anything if the ghost was formerly a mage.

Sense Link 5 points

The mage cannot see through a spirit familiar's eyes, but he perceives what his familiar perceives on the astral plane, if applicable. This ability takes 3 seconds to activate and costs 3 points of fatigue from the mage

Special Abilities varies

Spirit familiars can grant advantages just like normal familiars. In particular, nature spirits often grant the ability to assume animal form.

Spell Maintenance varies

After casting a spell, the mage can give it to his familiar to maintain. He actually places the spell under the familiar's control, so that he need not personally spend fatigue or concentration to maintain it. The familiar must be overlapping the mage on the astral plane in order to take control of the spell, and it may not take control of any spell which requires physical interaction with the target (such as any elemental jet spell). Most spirits can provide this ability for only one college (the same college as their Magery Bonus, if applicable), but fetches can maintain spells from any number of colleges. This function costs 10 points, or 5 per college for a fetch.

Spell Supervision 10 points

The familiar can oversee its master's learning within a particular college, the same college as its Magery Bonus or Spell Maintenance, if applicable. Of course, the familiar can always teach any spell it knows personally, a service which costs the mage nothing except for any Unusual Background the GM wishes to impose for having such a clever companion.

Telepathy 5 points

A spirit familiar cannot speak on the physical plane without Visual Manifestation, but it can use Telepathy from the astral plane, with its master only, at a cost of 1 point of energy to both mage and familiar (no cost to maintain).

Unusual Background varies

Certain powerful advantages cost a familiar little, but because they are rare, they place an Unusual Background requirement on the associated mage. Any animal familiar which can speak requires a 10-point Background, for this makes it eligible to cast spells without extraordinary skill. If the familiar actually can use magic, the Unusual Background costs 10 points more. The same is true if it can use Psionics.

Limited Range

Most spirit familiars cannot go beyond 100 yards of their masters. If ordered to do so, they cease to be familiars. In this case, the base cost of the spirit is halved.

Limited Time

If a spirit familiar can only spend a certain amount of time with its master, and otherwise must be "elsewhere", reduce the cost of the advantages it provides by the percentage of time it is gone, and reduce its value as an ally accordingly. Nature Spirits, for example, must return regularly to their communities to recharge. Obviously, spending time away from the mage is not compatible with remaining within 100 yards of the mage.

Physical Trace -5 points

Although astral, the spirit familiar with this disadvantage is perceptible on the physical plane with a sense roll. Perhaps it smells faintly of rotten eggs, or perhaps it just causes a prickly feeling up the spine.

Always Visible -10 points

A more severe form of Physical Trace. This spirit automatically has Visual Manifestation, but cannot turn it off.


6. Sample Spirits

The best way to deal with a spirit encounter is to have a carefully crafted spirit in reserve. This way, the spirit is appropriate to the power level of the campaign and to the particular situation. Nonetheless, a random spirit generator follows. In addition to the samples below, several entries in GURPS Fantasy Bestiary are likely spirits, including the Chonchon, the Kekeko, the Kelpie, the Kilin, the Lau, the Otoroshi, the Plat-eye, the Pooka, the Rolling Rock, the Sag, the Samhainach, and the Tltos Horse. A Ccoa is the minion of an unseen spirit capable of granting Magery, and a Gryllus is a group of Sympathetic Spirits created in resonance with the Communal Spirit of an ecology. Most legendary Chinese and Japanese monsters are also spirits, including Fong, Gei-ryo, Hengeyokai, Jade Women, Oni, and Oriental Dragons.

Astral Parasites

These minute entities are an astral traveler's worst nightmare. Their aspect is so insignificant that they often go unnoticed (IQ+Magery-10). With an astral attribute of 1, the parasites can scarcely move under their own volition, but if a traveler passes through a cloud of astral parasites, from 1 to 6 will hitch a ride. Each parasite has an innate ability to Steal Strength, at skill 12. Each attempt takes an hour, and most mages can Recover Strength faster than a small group of parasites can drain it. If only the group would remain small! With each successful feeding, a parasite will reproduce by fission. By the time the mage realizes that he has a problem (when his Fatigue reaches 3 and his Move is reduced), he will be the host for a whole colony. At this point, he may begin attacking himself, but he will hit one of the minute parasites only on a critical hit. The best way to kill the parasites is with some kind of area spell Sterilize (which may also affect the mage, but he should be able to take it better than the parasites can). Unfortunately, some strains are magic resistant.


This Communal Spirit of the forest is conspicuously absent from GURPS Fantasy Bestiary. It usually manifests (bodily or physically) as a Beautiful humanoid female with substantial magical powers, usually from the colleges of Mind Control and Plant. It supplements its power with a Focus usually located in the largest tree in the area. Typical attributes are ST 8, DX 14, IQ 14, and HT 12, depending on the age of the dryad. Occasionally a dryad will fall in love with a handsome human male and Charm him to stay and be her lover. Other nymphs have properties similar to dryads.


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