The Demesnes - Magic


Magic is a known force in The Demesnes. It can be taught to anyone intelligent and patient enough to learn its secrets, but the training process is long and difficult. A good understanding of magical theory (a dry and technical subject) is required before spells can be cast effectively and safely. Few humans ever work magic, and fewer still become proficient at it. Elves more commonly make use of magic, whether by a greater affinity for it or greater study time afforded by their long lives.

The use of magic is dangerous and unpredictable. Simple spells sometimes fail or backfire for no apparent reason, while powerful magics are prone to Magical Disasters such as attracting the attention of demons or elemental forces. Used in moderation, however, it can be a powerful tool.

This document discusses magic in campaign terms. For specific GURPS rules, refer to The Demesnes - Variant GURPS Rules and The Demesnes - Variant GURPS Spells.


Magical energy, or mana, exists almost everywhere. It is concentrated in living things and, even moreso, in the earth. Normally a spellcaster will use the freely available mana in the earth to power the effect of a spell. This drains the mana from an area directly around the spellcaster - the exact size of the area will differ depending on how powerful the spell is and the local mana concentration. The area drained of mana slowly returns to its original concentration over a period of a day or so.

Mana is not so easily available on the open ocean or high in the air. This means magical flights are either very short or very low, and driving sea monsters or pirates off with magic is a difficult proposition. Spells can be attempted far from land, but the chances of Magical Disaster are high.

Mana can also be released from the spellcaster's own body if necessary. This is tiring however, and if too much mana is used the spellcaster can be injured. Some evil spellcasters will draw mana from other people's bodies.

Magical Disasters

If a particularly large amount of mana is needed to power a spell (or the area it is cast in is particularly low in mana), mana will be drawn in from a wide range (several hundred feet or more). This is risky, since the large mana flow can cause Magical Disasters. The wider the area drained of mana, the more likely and more dangerous the Disaster. This means a Disaster can be caused either by a single powerful spell, or several less powerful spells cast in succession.

A trained spellcaster can concentrate for a second and get some idea of how likely a Disaster is when a spell is to be cast. If the danger is deemed too great the spell can be aborted without consequence.

Ley Lines and Aspected Mana

Ley lines are lines of magical force which run through the ground, usually straight, for tens of miles or more. They are good places for magic since they will channel mana from a great distance easily, lessening chances for Disaster. Ley lines can be detected magically and also used to communicate and travel long distances. Temples and other sites of power are often built on ley lines, particularly where they intersect.

Some areas contain mana which is aspected in various ways. Such an area might make healing magic easier and necromantic magic more difficult, or vice versa. Other aspects, such as fire, water, good, evil, etc are possible. The aspect of mana is often related to the area in which it is found. Lofty mountain peaks might favour air magic, seasides water magic, battlefields death magic, and so on.

Clerical Magic

Trained wizards are not the only people capable of working magic. Clerics who are favoured by their gods may be granted the ability to cast certain spells on behalf of those gods. A theoretical knowledge of magic is not required since the ability to cast spells is divinely granted. Normally only magical effects pre-approved by the deity can be cast, but a cleric can petition his god through prayer if a different spell is required - the reason had better be good though!

The mana to power clerical magic may come from a variety of sources. Often the mana in the earth is used just as for wizards. Some gods supply mana directly via a holy object. Others empower their clerics to draw mana more freely from other sources, such as blood (for war or death gods), or water (for sea gods).

Amongst races of low intelligence, clerical magic may be the only magic available. Goblins may not have wizards, but their shamans have access to dangerous offensive spells!

Magical Items

The rarest form of magic is magical items. Potions and scrolls are the most common magical items, while permanent items are a rare and fortunate find. A seasoned adventuring party might average one permanent magical item each. Generally, wealthy nobles, ancient research wizards, and powerful church elders would be the only people to own multiple magical items.

Some magical items have mana infused into them when they are made, while others merely serve as a conduit to channel ambient mana into a useful form. The difference between these two is important.

Stored Mana Items

Magical items which store their own mana supply can be used without fear of causing a Magical Disaster, since the mana was acquired when the object was created. Such items are limited in their number of uses, since after a while the stored mana will run out.

Potions and spell scrolls are always stored mana items - their mana runs out after one use. Wands and staves also often store mana, but the item may be used multiple times as long as there is enough stored mana to power an effect. Such items may sometimes be "rechargeable", by gathering more mana and storing it back in the item. The gathering of mana during the creation and recharging of stored mana items is when Magical Disasters may occur. Also, if a stored mana item is broken in such a way as to break its enchantment the mana is released back into the surroundings. A large amount of mana released in this way may cause a Magical Disaster.

Mana Conduit Items

Magical items which do not store their own mana supply use ambient mana to power their effects. This can cause a Magical Disaster if too much mana has to be gathered. For this reason, users of such magical items should be aware of the risks and take care not to use an item too often or frivolously. Some wands and staves are of this sort, as well as many other sorts of items such as magic jewellery, clothing, etc.

Items having magical effects which are apparently always in effect are a special case. Often such items are not really "working" all the time. For example, a sword which magically does more damage than normal is only working magically when it hits. A sword which improves its wielder's skill is only working when it is swung in combat. An amulet which makes its wearer more attractive is only really working when the wearer meets someone. Items such as this use ambient mana only when they really need to. So a magical sword in its scabbard will not cause a Disaster, but one used in a pitched battle might drain enough mana from the area to have some effect. Such effects begin relatively small, but grow larger as more mana is used. The wise adventurer will drop his magical sword at the first sign of any unusual magical effects occuring spontaneously - as hard as this may be in battle!

A few items really are working all the time, such as an amulet which makes the wearer taller. Such items generally have effects which are quite low-powered compared to items which require mana only sporadically. They usually collect mana from the surroundings at a very low rate, which most places are capable of supplying continuously. If such items are however taken into regions with extremely low mana concentrations, Disasters can indeed happen.

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