You Think Too Much

A cosmology of magic for GURPS

In a world that uses this cosmology, magic is a power of ineffable mystery. It is grasped by leaps of faith and intuition, not by logic and study. Indeed, any attempt to reason out the principles of magic nearly always ends in failure. Magic cannot be bounded or described; it twists about as if deliberately to frustrate anyone who tries to lay bare its mysteries.

In game terms, there is a maximum IQ that a character can have if he is to acquire any given level of Magery. A mage with Magery 1 can have at most IQ 14; a mage with Magery 2 can have IQ 11 at best; and a mage with Magery 3 can do no better than IQ 9. In campaigns with Extended Magery, the max IQ goes down by one point per level of Magery. Magery can be acquired after character creation up to the maximum permitted by the character’s IQ.

Such a state of affairs leaves a novice mage with an interesting choice to make. He can choose to take the path of the mind, studying to increase IQ and spell skills, or to take the path of the heart, pursuing further insights into the mysteries of Magery. A mage pursuing the path of the mind becomes very adept at his chosen discipline, but the great powers of magic will be forever closed to him. His counterpart walking the path of the heart, however, may eventually be able to twist time, space, and reality to her will, but the way will be long and difficult, every spell a new and bitter challenge. Such mages may well gravitate to opportunities to learn spells by initiatory ordeal rather than by study and research — see my article The Labyrinth of Oukoss for one possibility.

There could be a schism between mages of mind and heart. If this happens, the brilliant but limited mages with IQ 17 but no Magery tolerate their less gifted brethren with Magery 1, but they see unsophisticated yokels with Magery 3 as totally unsuited to wield powers like Great Shapeshifting and Great Wish, and seek to restrain them. Conversely, the intuitive casters with Magery 3 see more intellectual mages as pretentious fools fiddling with a force they don’t understand. This divide rarely breaks into violence, but both factions try to interfere with the other’s recruiting. The mages of the mind try to isolate and control people with Magery 3 or the potential for it, while the mages of the heart try to persuade particularly smart children that magic is not for them. Generally speaking, the mages of the mind have the best of it; they’re better at persuading people to join them, and they have better resources. Their consistent and smooth use of useful magic makes them attractive to bright students, and they generally have little trouble getting hold of Magery 3 youngsters to employ in the kitchens and keep out of trouble. However, from time to time, when the mages of the mind get out of hand, some hermit will come down out of the hills and rearrange the landscape around the nearest mage school. It tends to set back the mind-mages’ reputation for a good long while.

Some spells are difficult or impossible under such a system. Soul Golem is actually impossible; it requires Magery 3 and IQ 13+. Great Wish is extremely difficult, requiring Magery 3 and a combined DX and IQ of 30 or more. Any mage who manages to accumulate all Great Wish’s prerequisites with an IQ of 9 or less and who has a DX of 21 or better is not to be trifled with.

This page contains material intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. It is not official, nor is it endorsed by Steve Jackson Games. GURPS is a registered trademark of Steve Jackson Games. All rights are reserved by SJ Games. This material is used here in accordance with the SJ Games online policy.