Magic in Terran Nations

Magic is a vital force in each culture on Terra, shaping and shaped by the people who use it. Though many of the basic effects are the same, every culture has a different style and some of them boast unique abilities. Not all spells are known, not all spells known are known widely, and these limitations will vary between regions according to the inclinations and resources of the people therein. Some otherwise unknown spells may be known to isolated researchers or have been discovered and forgotten in years past. Intrepid characters may themselves seek out likely new spells in order to gain academic renown, satisfy intellectual curiosity, or gain a subtle advantage over others.

Common Ground

Common to all cultures is a rarity of mages; not all small towns and villages have a resident capable of working magic. Those who do will almost always develop their abilities, even if on the side. Women in Tomos, for example, are discouraged from becoming professional mages, but girls with Magical Aptitude will usually be found and given some quiet tutoring from the nearest mage, often in spells useful to villagers, such as healing or plant spells. This rarity of mages means they are regarded as important resources; mages in Tomos and the Sanguine Alliance often end up working for the government on big, sponsored research or enchantment projects. In Vare alone do a tactically significant number travel with armies. Despite their utility, in all cultures, their small numbers mean their potency as a political group fluctuates with the charisma and skills of their current leading lights.

The use of many spells on unwilling subjects is legally an assault in all nations on Terra. The GM should use best judgment deciding what could count under this category; the obvious melee spells are included, but so are spells of mind control, for example.

Nowhere on Terra are there any spells that affect time itself; the concept is simply not a part of current thought. The spells Slow Time, Time Out, Accelerate Time, Suspend Time, Timeport, Timeport Other, Timeslip, Timeslip Other, and Summon Shade do not exist. A mage who even had the idea to create such spells would be an astounding genius, possibly to the point of seeming a bit mad. The Alliance, with its interest in the future, might hold such a mage. Certainly, anyone who knew such spells would have a great advantage over others on Terra.

"Holy" status is operational on Terra; the Bless and Curse spells are solely the province of priests, shamans, and other holy men. Personal traits like Disciplines of Faith and Clerical Investment are a good guide to this status, which is necessary for any spell for which "holy" status is an optional additional prerequisite, and sufficient for any spell for which "holy" status is an optional alternative prerequisite. The Curse spell is available to sufficiently unholy persons, as well.

Any Technology College spell -- even if it is also a spell in a different College -- is generally unknown on Terra. The world is not particularly machine-oriented at this time. Since physics is not sufficiently advanced to have integrated the concepts of heat and light, the spell of Infravision is also lacking, though interaction with certain beasts may start giving researchers the idea. The only spells of the College which might have the conceptual basis widely ready for research are Identify Metal, Shape Metal, Metal Vision, and Body of Metal. (There would be instant economic value to knowing such spells.)

The Lich spell, as in most settings, is rumored but largely unknown. Careful research will be required to discover any previous work, and personal rediscovery is probably the route most likely to bear fruit.

Each nation has its own preferred method of divination which is the one to be found almost exclusively in that region, as described elsewhere.

If any College is described as illegal or strongly frowned upon in a nation, it is reasonable to assume that any mage who knows such spells has unsavory Contacts, a criminal background, or similar associated problems. The (deliberate) summoning of demons and the use of demonically-assisted black magic is everywhere a crime, punishable by death -- which the mob is often all too happy to carry out.

A few particular spells are missing from Terra. The Sandstorm spell is not known: there are no large deserts there to give any researchers the idea. A mage who has experienced the storms of Scorch, Ice, or Glass, however, might have the idea. Breathe Air and Body of Slime are known only to the cephalopods of Water, although they might be studied as a curiosity by air-breathing mages. (Cephalopods have a large number of alterations to their spell knowledge which are to be discussed in detail in the section describing their culture.) The spell Rain of Nuts is lacking in Terran magical knowledge, though such rains are one among many odd phenomena reported by survivors of expeditions to the Wild Islands.

In general, assume any spell not otherwise mentioned in this section is vaguely known to exist, somewhere, by most professional mages; non-mages most likely would be familiar with the spells listed in Basic (Characters), and any in which their nation is particularly adept. Each region's section will describe such spells, as well as any area in which the region's general knowledge is lacking. In some nations are spells known only to them; these are detailed in each section. Within nations, it is reasonable to assume that mages from coastal provinces are more likely to know spells of Seek Coastline, Waves, Whirlpool, Current, and Tide, mages from hot tropical areas are more likely to know Shade than Warmth, etc.

Tomosic Confederation


The theory of magic has developed far enough in Tomos that Thaumatology is an academic skill and the usual GURPS colleges are taught with the standard prerequisite system. Literacy is required to learn spells in this tradition, though for a very few basic spells (Healing College up to Minor Healing, Plant College up to Bless Plant, and Weather college up to Rain, with their prerequisites) "rustic versions" can be taught without it. The most avidly-pursued colleges in Tomos are the Elemental colleges, of course, and the Gate College is much-studied. The government pays indirectly for the education of wizards in these colleges with its support of the Mountain Temples and the Academy of Displacement in Unitum, and employs them in important industries such as the network of gates to the Complex and the manufacture and working of orichalcum. Mages are too rare to risk in the armed forces, though weather mages travel on naval flagships.

Tomosic magic is heavy on the geometric figures and formal incantations. Gestures will probably include tracing regular polygons or polygrams, and spoken words probably numerical descriptions of desired results. It is theoretically possible to learn Tomosic magic without a solid grounding in math, but would really take more effort than the normal route. A mage who has gone through the Tomosic educational system will probably have at least one point in Mathematics.

Among Enchantment spells, Malefice and Homunculus are illegal to cast in Tomos, and dispersing the information necessary to cast them is regarded poorly. For the more usual illegal spells, Mind Control spells are particularly reviled in Tomos, even if they cause no lasting damage. Necromancy is legal, but not looked upon favorably; many of its spells are assaults, and animating the dead is legal only with prior written consent of the deceased. Even then, the results are considered a public health hazard and must be restricted to private property. For any of these spells, finding a teacher will be difficult. Large Weather spells are coordinated across regions by local Conventions, and sometimes the national Convention itself; personal use is not illegal, however.

The favored divination of Tomosics is numerology. It is used superstitiously -- that is, without the Divination spell -- as well as formally, and Tomosics take care to know their children's birthdays and other personal data, going so far as to provide a note with the information on a child left as a foundling. "Doesn't know birthday" is a Quirk in Tomosic society (this will restrict the character's access to most diviners with commercially available services).

Tomosic philosophers have found to their delight and vindication that sufficient dedication and understanding can awaken personal abilities of the mind. This makes psionics a learnable ability, but the schools only offer a limited selection of psionic powers. These are detailed under the extended discussion of philosophy in Tomosic culture. Some psionics find that self-denial and retreat from the world (various Vows and Disciplines of Faith) aid in clearing the mind, but this is not a strict requirement.

Unique Knowledge

The pride of the Tomosic Confederation in magic is its Gate network; the spells to Seek Gate, Control Gate, Scry Gate, and Create Gate are known only to wizards sworn to loyalty to Tomos, and a wizard requires a Security Clearance to learn them. Even among the more commonly known Colleges, Movement and Gate spells are Tomosic specialties; Earth is a well-regarded elemental College.

While most nations draw their magical traditions in large part from the experience of the farmers and other citizens which make up the bulk of their subjects, Tomosic academics have a tendency to snub particularly "Polloic," that is, countrified, magical pursuits. The Food and Plant Colleges are therefore not highly developed in Tomos, and a Tomosic looking for Food or Plant spells beyond the basics that a village mage would use -- Test Food, Decay, Preserve Food, and Purify Food from the Food College, and Seek Plant, Identify Plant, Heal Plant, and Bless Plants from Plant -- will be hard-pressed to find an expert.

Varen Union


Before the Enlightenment War, Varen mages used a system of rune magic. With the destruction of their inheritance in this field of knowledge, rune-enchanted objects may still be found but no one has the skills necessary to activate them if this step is needed. Sets of true runes for symbol-casting divinations are prized antiques but little more unless someone can unlock understanding of the true meanings of the symbols.

Academic magic is Vare is largely derived from the Tomosic tradition now; Literacy is usually required to learn most spells, but teachers are more common than in Tomos due to the lack of restrictions on women entering the profession, so not all mages away from the cities are literate. Church ceremonial forms have mixed with magical incantations, so that a Union mage will often speak his spells in Old Varen, in the tone of a priest pronouncing a rite. This often leads to having a point or two in Old Varen, spoken and perhaps written. Healers (which are by far the plurality of Varen mages) often lead their patients in prayer before and after treatment, a practice with which most patients have no problem -- unless the healer is a missionary in foreign lands, in which case interesting interactions often arise.

The rise of the Church of Oneness has influenced much of Vare's redeveloping magical tradition. Divinations in Vare now come from oneiromancy and gastromancy, the practices of interpreting dreams and trance utterings. Particularly skilled diviners may be regarded as prophets, especially if they are priests. A holdover from pre-Church days is a preference among elemental Colleges for the spells of Fire, quite natural in these cold lands.

The Church cracks down on spells it regards as "unholy": in addition to criminal status for the usual harmful spells, it is illegal to teach (and certainly to use) most Necromancy, any kind of Possession, or the spells Curse, Doppelganger, Malefice, or Homunculus.

Legally, necromancy is strictly the province of the Church, and spells to animate spirits or the dead are never used. Neither is Resurrection, and as a matter of religious beliefs most Varens would refuse such a measure. Demon-summoning and thus-assisted black magic will result in a painful execution! "White" necromancers, however, skilled in banishing spirits and fighting undead, are heroic figures in Varen lore. These are commonly involved with the Church, but need not be. White necromancers are a Varen export, much appreciated where their abilities are required.

They are needed with some frequency in the Union itself. The presence of the Church and the religious overtones of daily life in the Union lead less-savory magical researchers to turn their attention to body, spirit, and matters of life and death for their obsessions, so illegal "black" necromancers are actually somewhat more common in the Union than elsewhere.

Recently, whispered rumor suggests that Varen necromancers (on the subject of which kind, the rumors vary) are soliciting volunteers for conversion into wraiths to fight the "menace" of weres; these zealots would undergo conversion and serve for many unaging years before having the enchantment removed and living a normal life. The Church denies this, of course. On the other hand, some segments of the population point out that the idea isn't necessarily a bad one.

Unique Knowledge

The Wraith spell is only a rumor in the Union; if it is known, it is only known there, and only to a few researchers, either in the service of the Church or in the service of dark ambition.

While Bless (and, to a lesser extent, Curse) are known to mages with Clerical Investment in all nations, they are most commonly practiced in the Varen Union, which has distinct rituals for the purpose, including a Grand Blessing (the 3-point version), which requires gathering multiple skilled priests and Treasures of the Church (large Powerstones) from across the nation, and is a high holy affair typically undertaken upon order of an Emissary and led by Great-Grandfather himself.

On the other end of the scale, though, the ritual for the 1-point Blessing is taught by rote to anyone who cares to learn it, and the Church of Oneness has a "temporary investment" ritual, complete with a loaned 1- or 2-Fatigue Powerstone, for laymen who honestly wish to Bless someone they care for; you don't have to be invested to work the spell, but whatever powers govern such a thing seem to give some leeway to the clergy. Older citizens of the Union frequently pick up the ritual and try to look after their family thus.

The Union is the only region where geysers occur naturally on Terra, and so is the only place where the Geyser spell has been developed; it is not, however, home to any volcanos, and so a mage who wishes to learn this powerful spell will need to seek out foreign knowledge. Any spell of Shapeshifting, Transformation, or Transmogrification is likely to get a mage pegged as a were and run out of town if not hunted down; these spells are not generally known in Vare, nor are any Body Control spells which have Shapeshifting as even an optional prerequisite.

Mikraigai Chain


The population of the Mikraigai Chain is so small and divided that magical skills and theory are taught even to the non-mages in the shamanic tradition, so they can pass the techniques on to the next generation alongside Tomosic learning. Mikraigai mages are ritual mages, with their spells based on Ritual Magic (Mikraigai). The college skills most commonly taught are Healing, Water, Weather, Plant, and Animal spells.

The legalities of magic in the Chain are largely similar to those in the Confederation, though necromancy is entirely illegal.

To cast their spells, Mikraigai mages claim they invoke the spirits at large in all the world around them. Sweeping gestures seem to focus the power of the entire surrounding environment onto the mage's point of focus, and spoken phrases sound more like requests than commands.

The traditional Mikraigai divination formula is extispicy, divination from entrails. However, animals of the required size are vanishingly rare on the islands; instead, the querent or the diviner typically goes on an expedition especially for the purpose of catching a sufficiently large fish, often a shark, which is brought back to land and properly prepared. Generous GMs may consider a bonus to the spell for a particularly large catch or emotionally-involving hunt.

Unique Knowledge

The flexibility that ritual magic offers gives Mikraigai healers a reputation for curing tough diseases and strange ailments, including Earth-sickness -- since Cure Radiation is also a Healing spell, Mikraigai shamans can cast it! This is at default from their Healing skill, but fortunately this is a common area of concentration for Mikraigai shamans.

Despite intimate cultural familiarity with the Water College, Mikraigai shamans come from an equatorial region and have virtually no concept of ice as a substance; casting any spell involving such a thing is unlikely to occur to a Mikraigai mage, and explaining the concept will be difficult itself.

Sanguine Alliance


Sanguine magic is very modular and mechanical; an Alliance mage tends to be quite wordy in his castings. There is no effect on time of casting, but he will have practiced phrases and gestures that cover a large amount of detailed information quickly.

The spells of Making & Breaking are widely acknowledged as the strength of Alliance mages. Communication and Empathy spells are also popular, since the government employs these mages to coordinate its activities across the islands. Air is perhaps a slightly favored elemental college under the Sanguine.

Legalities concerning magic in the Sanguine Alliance are, for the most part, the common laws concerning the colleges and their use. Weather spells are more strictly coordinated than in most other places, however, and large Weather castings must be registered in advance with an island's government. Temporary restrictions in a region on castings of one college or another, lasting perhaps a week or two, are commonly handed down from on high. This is often explained by the astrological signs indicating significant problems attending such works in a particular region.

The favored divination of Alliance citizens is, of course, astrology, to the point of significant public investment, as described elsewhere. Like Tomosics, Alliance citizens generally know their birthdays. Unlike Tomosics, these are available in the public records for the use of government officials, and an enterprising thief or briber may be able to obtain this information for a divination regarding an enemy.

Unique Knowledge

The Sanguine Alliance is the only nation in which Tech College spells exist, and only a few of these: Seek Machine/TL3, Reveal Function/TL3, and Schematic are known, while Rebuild/TL3 is being researched. (Machine Control, when the researchers get around to it, will not require Lightning, since TL3 machinery is non-electrical, but will require a substitute for the machine's usual energy source, such as Shape Air, Shape Water, or Shape Fire.) Concern about the phenomenon of Earth-sickness has sparked groping research into Radiation spells, though what the Alliance mages are looking for they're not sure of yet.

The Alliance has come up with some unique enchantments which allow large-scale production of small enchanted items of limited use. These are networked and help them maintain well-organized administration of their territory. Cloud-Walking and Cloud-Vaulting are also exclusive specialties of the Alliance, whose couriers use them when possible to speed their errands.

The Sanguine Alliance is in the unfortunate geographic position of housing neither geysers nor volcanoes, and so neither spell is widely known here. Since its mages tend to be focused on application rather than theory, the Meta College is not well known here: only Delay, Suspend Curse, Remove Curse, and various Counterspells are in wide circulation.

Azarin League


The League had its own traditions of magic before Tomos arrived and has preserved much of them; it borrowed from new spells it had not known and worked them in to its own body of knowledge. The Azarin style of magic is very rhythmical and singsong, its gestures almost dance. These have been formalized, and both song mages and dance mages exist in the League. (How do societal forms affect a supposedly inborn advantage like Magery? Perhaps, as potential mages are growing up, their sense of how they can cast spells is shaped by their culture.) The latter tend to be leaders of ceremonial spells, for effects of use to a large community like Bless Plants.

Legalities of magic in the League are mainly the usual restrictions. They are, however, the only national entity to have legally forbidden Void magic.

The Azarin employ pyromancy for divinations. The herbs they use are harvested from the shores of the Ring Bay and preserved for sale throughout the League, but an Azarin diviner away from home and lacking a "dose" is out of luck. In desperate need, however, working with a naturalist or herbalist native to the area he is in, he may be able to reconstruct the necessary plant components from local herbs. (GMs who wish to allow the enterprise might consider this an easy form of magical research, starting from a known spell and adapting it to local conditions. The relevant skill would be Thaumatology, though Botany, Herbalism, or similar skills would also be important.)

Unique Knowledge

Bows work well in the open spaces of the Azarin League, and spells based on physical missiles have greater societal impetus there. Flaming Missiles, Icy Missiles, Lightning Missiles, Quick Aim, Cornucopia, Spell Arrow, Blank Spell Arrow, and Speed Spell Arrow were invented in the Azarin League and are primarily studied and used there. Their knowledge is no longer exclusive to the League, but someone looking to learn the spells will have the best chance of finding a teacher among the enchanters and war-mages of the League; any previously-enchanted items encountered in the course of an adventure are most likely to be of League make.

Mindful of old traditions and only cautiously assimilating the cultural influence of Tomos and the Sanguine Alliance, Leaguers have their own traditional means of crafting and have not relied much on spells of the Making & Breaking College, leading to a general lack of expertise in these spells.

New Magic

(This section is sketched for later fleshing-out.)

Essential Glass: Regular. This spell creates the magical essence of Glass, a strong, light, clear substance kin to Earth and Air. Essential Glass is transparent to all electromagnetic radiation, is not especially vulnerable to Sound attacks, and is completely impermeable to any acid, even Essential Acid. Essential Glass has 3 DR and 9 HP in a 1/5" thickness of plate. Glass is generally manipulable (Seek, Shape, etc.) with Earth spells at normal cost.
Duration: Permanent
Base Cost: 6
Time to Cast: 20 seconds
Prerequisites: Create Earth and Shape Air.

Essential Noun?

The profusion of "Essential (Object)" spells in GURPS 4e (Earth, Air, Flame, and Water are joined by Food, Wood, Acid, and Fuel/TL) gives rise to the possibility that more such spells exist. This would be a natural conclusion for ancient Greek philosophers, who supposed that every object and class of objects had an essence which captured all its important qualities. The addition of one or more such spells to each College could connect mage characters to the setting on a philosophical level.

An "Essential (Object)" spell will create some substance ex nihilo, like Essential Earth, or will turn existing material into its essential form, like Essential Wood. The substance or energy will exhibit an intensified form of the characteristics of its natural counterpart, which is presumed to be mixed with traces of all the other elements in the environment. Essential Light, for example, might reverse were transformations, be nourishing to plants, or even have a laser form.

Not all essences are so easy to capture. What would Essential Sound do? Do made objects have an essence? The spell "Awaken Craft Spirit" might be a generic "Essential Made Object" spell, or there might be a way to isolate and use Essential Swordness: sharper swords with tougher blades, or even turning a military unit into a disciplined fighting force. (This latter example is a shameless plug for Steve Jackson Games' In Nomine, in which such concepts are integral to the game.) Such questions would be of academic and possibly economic interest to alchemists as well as specialist mages.

Reincarnation (VH) : Regular. This spell removes a dead soul from the Terran afterlife and pushes it into a body being just now conceived. (In fact, the spell assists a conception that would not otherwise have occurred.) The caster has no control over the resulting body or its location anywhere on Terra, unless he also has a fertile human couple nearby engaging in suitable activities. If the caster is not within the afterlife inhabited by the target soul, or does not have most of the soul's last body available, the spell fails.
The powers that govern the Terran afterlife do not take kindly to such meddling in their jurisdiction. Gur, Devil of Earth and judge of the dead, is particularly displeased if one of his souls is removed. The caster should be prepared to justify his action to an emissary within the week.
The reincarnated soul will often have peculiar Advantages and Disadvantages related to their past life; a particularly good or evil soul ripped away from a deserved stretch in the afterlife may soon receive enhancements or scars via emissary attention, in lieu of further time in Heaven or Hell. There is no guarantee that the new body will look anything like the old, though this is the tendency.
Duration: Permanent.
Cost: 100. One try per soul.
Time to cast: 1 hour.
Prerequisites: Summon Spirit and Major Healing

Singularity: a Research College

Spells of this college ignited the Church of Oneness. They deal with high-energy magical phenomena and require enormous amounts of Fatigue for momentary, powerful effects. There is a home plane of Singularity, a "quaternary" elemental plane which combines all four elements in exactly equal proportions.

Void: a hole in the world

Mysterious mages have begun appearing on Terra working spells they call "Void magic." Their effects are invariably destructive and seem to draw on the power of deep vacuums and voids. They even claim that Void has a home plane, a "zero-ary" elemental plane. This seems impossible to Tomosic mages; even the math doesn't work out -- like trying to divide by zero. Varens find the concept in direct opposition to the Church. Void magic makes Tomosics and Varens alike very nervous.