Magic and the Law
For general rules on the LC for magic, see The Control of Magic in GURPS Fantasy page 71-72. General guidelines on CR and LC can be found on B506-507.
Much like driving a car or operating heavy machinery, it is illegal (and immensely unsafe) to cast spells or otherwise use magic while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance.
Independent (small time) merchants usually only sell charms, elixirs and personal services – out of van, if they ain’t got the License and can avoid police attention.
Invading the privacy of someone with magic – mind reading, divination, scrying, post-cognition, etc. – is prohibited by law unless sanctioned by a government authority, typically for a police investigation or espionage, just as with a wiretap or a hidden camera. The appropriate Permit will need to be issued before such magic can be used in sanctioned circumstances (typically, if your government job requires it). Similarly, outright mind control of a human being (not animals) is considered a severe criminal offence, except to defend human life or prevent mass property destruction. A witness in court may be subject to a Truth Teller spell to stymie perjurers, but this is fairly controversial. Fear and hatred of magical mind control is widespread and occasionally violent. Permits allowing regulated use of Mind Control spells are not easily earned.
Animating corpses into non-sapient undead (zombies) is usually illegal, although authorisation for such magic (a Permit), typically for manual labour, can be given by magic-friendly governments. LC 2. Magic that turns a person, living or dead, into a free-willed, sapient (and dangerous) undead monster (vampire, lich, ghoul, ghost) is illegal, with punishments as harsh as those for an attempted murder or arson charge. It is unknown exactly what kind of circumstances are necessary to get authorisation to use such magic, and nobody seems keen to find out. LC 1. Binding the non-sapient undead to your will is a less clear-cut matter (LC 2), but destroying or banishing the undead with magic is normally a more socially acceptable action (LC 3). Warding against the undead is perfectly legal, and unnervingly common.
The summoning and binding of daemons – spirits of vice – is a serious crime that is reviled everywhere. The common term is “Diabolism”, and it is considered horrifically dangerous to the public health because spirits of vice are dedicated, literally with every fibre of their being, to the corruption and harm of Humanity. It’s a rare scenario, indeed, in which trafficking with an universally sadistic alien intelligence is an acceptable solution to your problem. LC 0.
Time travel is banned. Only top secret government experiments under extremely controlled circumstances are permitted to try travelling through time. LC 0.
Teleportation is restricted/regulated. The less distance travelled, the less Johnny Law is gonna hassle you over it. No-one is gonna kick up a fuss if you put gates in your living room and kitchen, so you can grab a beer without getting off the sofa. Putting up spatial gates crossing the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War, on the other hand, meant decades in jail or ten seconds of sustained gunfire. True teleportation (not through spatial gates, but “blinking”) requires the Warp magical power (temporarily granted by a ritual, perhaps), and is practically illegal anywhere near federal property. LC 2 or 3.
Resurrection, if even known to be possible, is regulated. Paperwork and official oversight, including on-site supervision by the police, is necessary to legally bring someone back from the dead. And it does not happen often. LC 2.
Draining life from the land to power a ritual (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic page 21) is an illegal act on par with widespread environmental pollution, used by callous military forces and terrorists as a scorched-earth policy. LC 1.
The most common casual term for magic deemed unacceptably immoral and illegal to use or learn – typically, Diabolism – is “Left-Handed”, what earlier slang would call “black magic”. Whole magical styles are labeled “Left-Handed” when they centre around the practise of “malefice”. If it is possible for someone to gain a Permit for any Left-Handed magic, the government-issued sanction usually only allows for using Left-Handed magic in purely academic research or official military acts of war, and even that will carry the justified stigma of “evil” magic, regardless of special permission or benevolent intentions.
Police investigations (in a nation where magic is legal, at least) into a magic-related crime will most likely use rituals to analyse previously casted spells (Lesser Sense Magic) to see who casted them. Rituals do leave behind traces that can be detected by other rituals, much like how handling a knife barehanded will leave your fingerprints on that knife. Smart magical criminals will use a ritual to wipe these traces afterward (Lesser Destroy Magic, the GM may model this as a penalty to an investigator’s ritual, a quick contest of rituals between perp and investigator, or simply automatic failure for the investigating ritual), and it should be noted that these traces can be faked or altered (Lesser Transform Magic). Recorded traces of casted spells can be, and are, used as evidence in a trial.
Learning magic is typically done at a special university – the one-on-one apprenticeship (by family or local hedge wizard) is less popular than it used to be, due to recurring issues with student abuse, fraud, unsafe classroom conditions and substandard instruction quality. It is possible to learn the Ritual Adept advantage, and higher levels of Magery, through study. Magical styles can be learned any number of ways. In the West, it is a popular tradition for an archmage teaching Thaumaturgy to adopt a title with a Latin or Classical Greek surname (e.g. Professor Agrippa, Professor Cato, Professor Theophilus, Professor Pythagoras, Professor Aelianus, etc.) as an use-name when instructing. Scholars of Thaumatology invent new Grimoires for the open markets, grad students with Magic degrees often create a Grimoire for the first time as part of their thesis or dissertation.
Buying and Selling Magic
Wizards can be hired to cast spells, of course. The service costs cash per spell casted equal to what a charm of the same skill and energy would be worth. Keeping a wizard on retainer to cast spells or consult on Thaumatological matters on request would have costs within the Comfortable Typical Monthly Pay range ($4200 to $7200 at TL 8) per month, similar to hiring a servant with special skills.
Paying people to sacrifice HP and/or FP (not to mention lending their mana reserve) to power a ritual is also a part of the magical market; settlements in the outer planes have given tax breaks to citizens who regularly volunteer energy for magically-powered civil utilities and defences (garbage disposal, drinking water, weather domes, wards, force walls, farming aid, and so on). In emergencies (natural disasters, monster attacks, disease outbreaks, etc.), citizens may be ordered to contribute energy to rituals that protect the community. On the open market, the cost of magical energy contributed is one percent of Average Typical Monthly Pay ($26 at TL 8) times the FP contributed to the ritual, double that rate for HP contributed, and triple the cost for points of mana reserve. Example: at TL 8, buying 13 energy from someone’s mana reserve, 6 FP and 2 HP means a total price of ($26×6 + $52×2 + $78×13) $1274.
Buying magical stuff of any kind, learning magic and similar stuff requires a background check and magical examination – people with mental illnesses or anti-social tendencies often get black-listed or put under probation. LC 2 or 3.
Places of Power and Ley Lines may be rented out to spellcasters if the area is legally owned by the government or a private individual. The service costs $ (1/20 of the Average Typical Monthly Pay for the TL) times the skill bonus (for a place of power) or one-fifth of the percentage cost reduction (for a ley line) per spell casted with use of the facility. For example, renting a +2 Place of Power or -20% Ley Line in order to cast a ritual at TL 8 would mean a charge of $260 (2600/20 x 2) or $520 (2600/20 x 20/5), respectively.
Likewise, alchemy labs and charm workshops are also available for rent – universities, magic shops and certain private individuals make money off charging for these services. The typical cost is equal to the price of the equipment divided by 100, rounded to the nearest cent, per spell casted.
Depending on local laws, these rental services may also need a Permit, safety requirements met, proper paper trails logged for every customer and other hassles. Naturally, this leads to shady under-the-table deals when the customer wants less red tape…or “privacy” from the police.
Options: Assisting Spirits, Places of Power, Ley Lines and Sacred Architecture
Assisting Spirits (although daemons use the Corruption mechanics for diabolists with Spirit Contract), Ley Lines (which reduce spell costs by a percentage) and Sacred Architecture are all extra options in play, see Pyramid 3/66 page 7.
While it is very common for settlements in the outer planes to be either near places of power and ley lines or even directly integrating such features into their city layout, this is not without risk. It is a documented fact that both places of power and ley lines will occasionally (more frequently in the outer planes than mundane Earth) “flare up”, acting as a magnet for unnatural phenomena, including monsters and manastorms.
Sacred Architecture is a less controversial matter; it is normally used to augment the casting of a certain spell or category of spells that the building’s purpose would favour. Hospitals have boosts to healing rituals, water treatment plants prefer boosts to Purify Water, mechanics have augmented object repair rituals, anti-surveillance wards are common for both government agencies and private dwellings, and so on. See the rules on Pyramid 3/66 page 7 and Thaumatology: Urban Magics page 21-23.
Involuntary Sacrifice (“Ritual Murder”)
Murdering a human being for the purpose of powering a ritual (Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic page 21) is a serious crime everywhere, tolerable only in the case of either a dire life-or-death(s) situation, or if the sacrificed person gives informed consent and the successful ritual is worth killing someone over. Even using such methods for fighting a war is banned by the Geneva Conventions and is considered an atrocity, a crime against humanity, regardless of who is sacrificed or why. The magical benefits of human sacrifice have added a horrifying new element to people trafficking and kidnapping rings. The legal punishment for being convicted of committing involuntary sacrifice of a human being is directly equivalent to Murder One, at least. LC 0 or 1.
Sacrificing animals for magical energy, however, is unsurprisingly far less criminalised, although still somewhat taboo in the West. In the first world, national laws against cruelty to animals or harming endangered species restrict ritual killing to certain beasts (wolves and ravens may be sacrificed, but not tigers or anyone’s pet dog) or insist on painless, humane killing methods (tranquillisers and bolt guns, for instance). The informal social cost of frequently sacrificing animals for rituals is often a Bad Reputation. LC 2 or 3.
As noted on Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic page 21, some people are worth double or half their usual energy output when ritually sacrificed to power a ritual. Some possible conditions concerning that are below.
If any of the following conditions apply and the GM approves, the victim is considered Ritually Pure – each such victim generates twice as much energy when sacrificed.
- The Opposite of What Happened to Voldemort: the sacrifice willingly dies to power a spell that would benefit something or someone the sacrifice is in favour of, typically their child or a political cause.
- The Hands of a King are the Hands of a Healer: the sacrifice is an important leader or creator of a place or organisation that the spell would benefit, and is willingly dying to help the subject.
- Virgins, Duh!: the sacrifice is a virgin.
- Love Hurts: the caster deeply feels positive emotions about the sacrifice as a person, and is exceptionally saddened by the death of the sacrifice.On the other hand, the GM may declare the sacrifice Ritually Impure (half energy generated) if any of the following conditions are met;
- Horrible, Deadly Irony: the sacrificed victim hates magic (appropriate Traits include Intolerance, Manaphobia, Fanaticism, Higher Purpose (Witchfinder), Paranoia).
- The Body is a Temple, Sacked by Barbarians: the sacrifice is an drug addict weakened by the long term habit, has cancer, is hideously diseased, is suffering from radiation sickness, is really dirty, seriously neglects long term hygiene or is otherwise horribly deformed.
- Born Under a Bad Sign: since birth, sacrifice was mystically prejudiced against magical influences and may possess certain Traits (Magic Resistance is an obvious one).
Option: Symbolic Materials
Invoking the Decans of Hermetic Astrology to reduce the energy cost of casted spell works just as per Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic page 35-37. It is a common practise for government-sponsored magicians to reduce the energy costs of rituals that provide large-scale public utilities (water, electricity, garbage disposal, etc.) through invoking symbolic trappings.
Openly gathering huge qualities of these symbolic trappings for a powerful ritual attracts attention from local authorities or the public, who will naturally be concerned about your magical activities. While laws limiting the stockpiling of symbolic trappings are rare, except in sufficiently paranoid and anti-magic countries (Saudi Arabia, for instance), it is nevertheless common for law enforcement to monitor the bulk sales of symbolic trappings.
It is common amongst magi to wear clothing or jewellery that doubles as symbolic materials to invoke, of course. A successful roll against Thaumatology or Savoir-Faire (Magical) identifies what would be good symbolic trappings for what Path – security guards, take note: a person carrying a lot of magical resonant stuff may be a Mage about to cast a spell. If such trappings are hidden in some way (such as by the Holdout or Smuggling skill), a roll against Observation or Search skill will be needed first.
License and Permits
A License to learn and cast magic can be bought with cash (the average cost being $(1d x one tenth of Average Typical Monthly Pay ($260 at TL 8))) or with a single Character Point as one of your Magic Perks (most magical styles taught by the corps or universities consider License one of their style perks). It is necessary to sell magical stuff, including charms, elixirs and just casting spells on demand. If you buy your License with money rather than a character point, the GM should give less “Plot Armour” for the License – it may be lost because of criminal charges, dysfunctional bureaucracy or shifting laws. Paying for a License with a character point and a magic perk slot will make only a special campaign event, with permission from the player, capable of taking it away. The assumption is that if License is one of your style magic perks, your fellow stylists cover for you. If License is one of your general magic perks, it’s assumed you managed to demonstrate enough competence with Thaumaturgy to get special treatment from the government or other authority.
License is also a non-magical Perk when qualifying a character for other things, like working as a mercenary, teacher, bounty hunter or doctor.
Permit is typically required to legally cast certain types of spells in most circumstances – Mind Control, Invasion of Privacy (not just mind reading and scrying, but also Divination, hacking computers and so on), Necromancy, Battle Magic and Curses.
To be continued…