Spirits and the Astral Plane
[Introduction ] [Spirit
Spells] [Origins of Spirits] [Means
of Interaction] [Spirit Powers] [Spirit
Services] [Sample Spirits]
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.
Duration: 10 minutes.
4 to cast; 2 to maintain.
to Cast: 2 minutes.
Level: 2. At Tech Levels 0 and 1, the casting time is 5 minutes and Trancing
is required (see GURPS Ice Age), but Astral Perception is the only prerequisite.
Prerequisites: Either Ethereal Body or 5 Necromancy spells, including Summon
Jewelry. Usable by mages only. Energy cost to create: 800. The user must
return to his body every 10 minutes to maintain the spell unless it also
has at least 2 points of Power.
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.)
Duration: 1 minute.
3 to cast; 1 to maintain.
Level: 2. At Tech Levels 0 and 1, the casting time is 5 minutes andTrancing
is required, but there is no prerequisite.
Prerequisite: Sense Spirit.
Staff, wand, or jewelry. Energy cost to create: 300.
Visual Manifestation (Regular)
Creates an illusion of the caster on the material plane, enabling him to
interface with the physical plane while astrally projecting.
Duration: 1 minute.
2 to cast; 1 to maintain.
Prerequisites: Simple Illusion, Astral Projection.
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.
Duration: 1 minute.
4 to cast; 1 to maintain.
Prerequisites: Visual Manifestation.
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
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.
Astral Combat (Physical/Average) Defaults to astral DX-6, any melee
skill-3, or any missile skill -6
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
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
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
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?).
Astral Navigation (Mental/Very Hard) No default
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.
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'
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.
Energy cost to cast: 500.
Prerequisites: Astral Projection, plus Accuracy or Puissance.
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!
Duration: 1 minute.
4 to cast; 2 to maintain.
(a) Sword pommel, without a blade. Energy cost to create: 1,000. (b) Weapon;
gives the weapon the ability to inflict Fatigue damage to spirits, equal
to its normal attack damage. Energy cost to create: 750.
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.
Duration: 1 hour.
Cost: ½ to cast (minimum 1), same to maintain.
to cast: 12 seconds.
Prerequisites: Astral Perception or Pentagram.
Can be cast on an area of floor or ground, or a rug or similar item. Energy
cost to create: 60 per hex.
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.
Duration: 1 hour.
Cost: 3 to cast; 2 to maintain.
to cast: 20 seconds.
Prerequisite: Astral Barrier.
Can be cast on an area of floor or ground, or a rug or similar item. Energy
cost to create: 100 per hex.
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.
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.
Eidetic Memory. Typical Disadvantages: No Sense of Humor, Truthfulness.
Typical Skills: Astral Navigation.
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.
Absolute Direction, Alertness, Allies (local human tribe), Animal Empathy,
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).
High Pain Threshold, Immunity to Disease, Military Rank (see p. H45), and
Sadism and other forms of Insanity.
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.
Any displayed by living members of the same race.
As above, but especially Dependents, Sense of Duty, and Vow.
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
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
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.
The spirit is a Communal Spirit based on a community of several species
and can animate the corpse of any of those species: +20%.
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
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
The plant's motion is fluid and graceful, with no penalty to physical skills:
The spirit is a Communal Spirit and can only animate a member of its community:
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.
The object's motion is fluid and lifelike, with no penalty to physical
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).
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.
The spirit can only animate viscous elemental material: 20%. The spirit
can animate material of one phase only: -30%.
The spirit can animate a solid object but not loose elemental material:
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.
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 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.
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%.
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
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.
The spirit is a Communal Spirit and can only possess species from its own
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.
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,
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
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.
The spirit retains the ability to see into the astral plane, even while
manifested bodily or physically, or while possessing an object or victim.
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.)
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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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