Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: rituals

Ridden By The Loa

(Inspired by 3rd edition GURPS Voodoo, the “Totem” spell from Pyramid #3/56: Prehistory, and this post at The Ongoing Campaign.)

One of the things that voodoo is particularly known for, in the world of “Pirates!”, is inviting spirits to possess volunteers. These spirits are called loa. Each loa is a distinct being, with its own attributes and powers, which it shares with those it possesses. A person who is possessed by a loa is said to be a “horse” who is “ridden” by that loa.

The simplest versions of this kind of ritual might be nothing more than elaborate divination, inviting a loa to momentarily possess a person to answer questions or give advice. The full version, presented here, allows a ritual participant to take on more of the loa’s power.

Given that these examples are the most famous and powerful loa, it should come as no surprise that the rituals are costly. These aren’t quick buffs. They’re some of the most elaborate rituals in the voodoo arsenal. They’re going to be performed with all the elaborate ritual trappings, powerful grimoires, and potent places of power that can be brought to bear. Even so, it’ll likely take a non-adept an hour to perform these rituals.


Ridden By The Loa
Spell Effects: Greater Strengthen Spirit
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Trait, package based on specific loa
Greater Effects: 1 (x3)
The possessed person gains the package of abilities associated with the loa for ten minutes.
Typical Casting: Greater Strengthen Spirit (3) + Altered Trait, loa-specific package (varies) + Duration, 10 minutes (1).
Loa ability packages:
The Guede Triad – Baron Samedi, Baron Cimitie, Captain Zombi:  +4 ST [40], +1 DX [20], +3 HT [30], +3 DR [15], Haggard and Gaunt Features (-2 reactions) [-10], Kleptomania (12) [-15], Compulsive Behavior (Lying) (12) [-15], Odious Personal Habit (Filthy Language) [-5]. 192 energy (64 x 3).
Chango: +2 ST [20], +1 DX [20], +1 HT [10], +3 DR [15], +8 DR vs. burning attacks [24], Bad Temper (12) [-10], Lecherousness (12) [-15]. 204 energy (68 x 3).
Damballa: +2 ST [20], +2 DX [40], +1 DR [5], Flexibility [5], 4 pts. of Climbing and 4 pts. of Swimming, Cannot Speak [-15]. 201 energy (67 x 3).
Erzulie:  +2 DX [40], +3 Charisma [15], +1 DR [5], 8 pts. in Dancing, 8 pts. in Sex Appeal, Lecherousness (12) [-15]. 195 energy (65 x 3).
Legba: +5 ST [50], +2 DR [10], 8 pts. to Lockpicking/TL, Quirk “Seems Older Than He Is” [-1]. 213 energy (71 x 3).
Obatala:  +2 ST [20], +2 HT [20], +2 DR [10], Resistant (Immunity to Sickness) [15], Quirks: Compulsive Cleaner, Always Wears White [-2]. 201 energy (67 x 3).
Ochosi: +1 ST [10], +1 DX [20], +1 HT [10], +2 DR [10], +2 Per [10], 4pts. each in Tracking, Stealth, Survival (Jungle), and Throwing [16], Overconfidence (12) [-5], Impulsiveness (12) [-10]. 195 energy (65 x 3).
Oggun: +4 ST [40], +2 DX [40], +1 HT [10], +4 DR [20], 8 pts split between one or two weapon skills that are appropriate at the time, Bloodlust (12) [-10], Overconfidence (12) [-5], Odious Personal Habit (Constant Swearing and Profanity) [-10]. 291 energy (97 x 3).


A duppy is a spirit, usually evil, from Caribbean folklore. Like a lot of spirits from folklore, they’re somewhat ill-defined. Some traditions say that every person has two spirits within them: one that’s good and flits off to the afterlife at the point of death, and one that’s evil (or at least troublesome) that hangs around on earth to do mischief. The latter would be a duppy. On the other hand, a duppy might be an evil spirit that never was a human.

GURPS Voodoo (3rd edition, but awesome) describes duppies and loa as the same, varying only in power. It goes so far as to explain that the duppy of a famous and revered person might go on after the person’s death, feeding on the belief of their fans, and grow into a worshiped loa. Like, say, Elvis.

GURPS Undead (also 3rd edition, also awesome) mentions that one might call a duppy from a grave to inflict sickness on one’s enemies. They sound more like an explanation for the special effects of a spell, rather than distinct personalities.

One of the possible origins for the name “Davy Jones” says that it’s a corruption of “Duppy Jonah“, with “Jonah” being a reference to the Biblical fellow who drew down a storm on the boat he was on, got pitched overboard for it, and was helpfully swallowed by a big fish. “Duppy Jonah” would then mean something like “the spirit that brings bad luck to sailors”.

There’s a Jamaican saying, “Duppy know who to frighten”, meaning a ghost isn’t going to waste its time trying to scare a brave person. Folks don’t start fights with people they know are stronger.

Call A Duppy To Bring Sickness To My Enemies
Spell Effects: Lesser Control Spirit
Inherent Modifiers: Affliction
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

This ritual is meant to be cast at a distance of up to ten miles, to afflict a target who fails to resist with Retching. (See GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns, page 429, for details.) As a rule, the ritual will be cast over a grave, calling forth the dead person’s duppy, to get a Traditional Trappings discount.

(The campaign’s cosmology expects there to be a small duppy, capable of doing the job of carrying sickness, at hand just about anywhere. If this is not the case, the ritual might also require a Create Spirit effect, to bring such a duppy into existence.)

Typical Casting: Lesser Control Spirit (5) + Affliction, Retching (10) + Range, 20,000 yards (10 miles) (24) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs (3). 42 energy (42 x 1).


Rituals for Pirates: Gunplay

By request from Dirty’s player, some Path of Matter rituals involving guns.


More Bullet
Spell Effects: Lesser Create Matter
Inherent Modifiers: Bestows a Bonus, to damage
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

Generally cast as a charm on a projectile, this spell causes the projectile to grow in flight, adding +2 to damage. Like an All-Out Attack (Strong), this bonus may be converted from +2 to +1/die when cast on a large projectile, like a cannonball.

Typical Casting: Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Create Matter (6) + Subject Weight, 10 lbs (0) + Bestows a Bonus, +2 to damage (2). 13 energy (13 x 1).

Hardened Bullet
Spell Effects: Lesser Transform Matter
Inherent Modifiers: Armor Divisor (2), +50%, on pi+ damage
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

Often cast as a charm on a bullet, this ritual briefly changes a lead bullet into a much harder metal. When the bullet is fired, the attack gains a (2) armor divisor. The typical casting is scaled for a pi+ attack of no more than 3d damage, like a typical flintlock pistol. To put the same charm on a cannonball for a 9-lb ship’s gun (as found in GURPS Low-Tech) would cost 41 energy.

(Based on suggestions from this forum post.)

Typical Casting: Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Transform Matter (8) + Subject Weight, 10 lbs (0) + Damage, External, Large Piercing 3d (Armor Divisor (2), +50%) (10). 23 energy (23 x 1).

Bokor’s Fast-Draw
Spell Effects: Greater Create Matter
Inherent Modifiers: None.
Greater Effects: 1 (x3)

This ritual creates a loaded flintlock in the caster’s hand. It is almost always prepared as a conditional spell.

If the caster cannot make a successful roll against Armory (Small Arms) at -4, the flintlock will not be operational. It might even be dangerous to the user, with a bad enough roll.

The created flintlock exists only for a short time, just long enough to use it to threaten someone. If in doubt, the pistol uses the statistics of the Flintlock Pistol from page 278 of GURPS Basic Set: Characters.

Typical Casting: Lesser Control Magic (5) + Greater Create Matter (6) + Duration, 10 minutes (1) + Subject Weight, 10 lbs (0). 36 energy (12 x 3).

Bokor’s Reload
Spell Effects: Lesser Create Matter
Inherent Modifiers: None.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

Generally prepared as a conditional spell, this ritual instantly reloads a personal firearm. The weapon does not need to be readied, but the caster must touch it. If not used within 10 minutes, the summoned powder and shot will vanish quietly away.

Typical Casting: Lesser Create Matter (6) + Subject Weight, 10 lbs (0) + Duration, 10 minutes (1). 7 energy (7 x 1).


Playing With Dolls

For the “Pirates!” game, we’re using Ritual Path Magic, mainly in the form of Hollywood Voodoo. In Hollywood Voodoo, if you’re not raising the dead (or convincing living people that they’re really dead), you’re committing various atrocities against dolls. The way it works in the cartoons is, you make up a little doll, incorporating the hair or fingernail clippings or what-have-you of your victim, and it gives you power over the person it represents.

What kind of power varies. Most often, it’s dealing out damage at a distance. Sometimes it involves controlling the victim’s actions, while leaving them able to talk for comedic effect. Other times, it’s inflicting sickness, or flying the person around the room with telekinesis, or paralyzing them, or making them crave beer. (Yup, beer. The Simpsons, “The Joy of Sect“.)

In the RPM system, rituals are defined by their effects. The important thing isn’t the magic words and the mystic gestures, it’s what happens when the spell goes off. Crippling a person’s leg is one ritual, lighting them on fire is another. Thus, there aren’t any grimoires for the “Voodoo Doll Ritual”, since there isn’t just one.

The business with the doll isn’t the ritual, it’s an example of Traditional Trappings (GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, page 19). A standard ritual can be cast with very little ceremony, nothing more than a word or a gesture (page 14). Anything more elaborate gets a discount in the energy cost, up to -25%.

Even a weak attempt at sympathetic magic should be worth -5%, or a discount of 1 point for every 20 energy in the spell, for “a clear link between the trappings and the spell”. Even simple measures that “embod[y] the spell so well that anyone watching
could probably guess what the spell was designed to do” are worth -10%, or 1 per 10.

Pat together a crude figure out of mud, tell it “Your name is [target’s name]”, and poke it in the chest with a sharp stick. If it’s a heart attack ritual, I’d allow -5%. If it’s a ritual to deliver impaling damage, I’d go for -10%. More expensive dolls built to creepily resemble specific targets could rack up even more discounts.

Extra points for drums and make-up. Obviously.

As for the bit about scrounging up the target’s fingernail clippings, that could be an effort to boost the “bother” and “coolness” values under Traditional Trappings, but it’s more likely to be a way to provide a connection to the target. A caster without the appropriate subset of the Ritual Adept advantage who cannot see or precisely locate their target will suffer a -5 penalty to their rolls without such a connection. Of course, a determined caster could offset this penalty with an expensive grimoire and a potent place of power, as easily as a lock of hair…


Voodoo Doll (Stick ‘Em With A Pin)
Spell Effects: Lesser Destroy Body
Inherent Modifiers: Damage, Internal, Impaling (Selective Effect, +20%)
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

This spell causes 1d+2 imp to any target within a 10 miles radius who fails to resist. The caster can choose to target a particular hit location.

Typical Casting: Lesser Destroy Body (5) + Range, 20,000 yards (10 miles) (24) + Damage, Internal, Impaling 1d+2 (Selective Effect, +20%) (8) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs (3). 40 energy (40 x 1).


Voodoo Doll (Burn ‘Em Up In The Fire)
Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Body
Inherent Modifiers: Damage, Internal, Burning (Incendiary, +10%)
Greater Effects: 1 (x3)

This spell causes 6d burning damage against any target within a 10 mile radius who fails to resist. The Incendiary enhancement changes the flammability class (see GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns, page 433) of the target, as described in GURPS Power-Ups 4: Enhancements, page 19. This means human targets who take 10 or more points of damage will start to burn.

Typical Casting: Greater Destroy Body (5) + Damage, Internal, Burning 6d (Incendiary, +10%) (20) + Range, 20,000 yards (10 miles) (24) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs (3). 156 energy (52 x 3).

Rituals for Pirates. Also, grenades.

“This one has more scars… more fights.” (nods towards the other) “You’ve got a better chance against this one.” — Captain Flint, “Black Sails”, season 2, episode 1

Detect Warrior
Spell Effects: Lesser Sense Body + Lesser Sense Mind
Inherent Modifiers: None.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

This spell allows the caster to examine others’ auras for personal combat ability, so as to pick out the most powerful fighter. It is used to answer such questions as “Which one should we hire?” and “Which one should we shoot first?” Combat readiness is measured from the condition of the subject’s body and mind, weighing several factors. Among these are: current ST and Hit Points, including any natural modifiers, such as the effects of wounds or disease; Advantages and Disadvantages, such as Combat Reflexes or Cowardice, that reflect upon one’s readiness to do battle; points in combat-related Skills and Perks. There are many tactically-significant factors that the spell ignores. Importantly, it says nothing about how one is armed or one’s tactical circumstances. For example, it might point out the world-class wrestler, tightly bound on the deck of another ship, while skipping over the sniper in that ship’s rigging.

Typical Casting: Lesser Sense Body (2) + Lesser Sense Mind (2) + Range, 200 yards (0). 4 energy (4 x 1).

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion
Spell Effects: Lesser Strengthen Body + Lesser Strengthen Mind
Inherent Modifiers: Area of Effect + Bestows a Bonus, to Seamanship
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

Many rolls against Seamanship are against the crew’s average skill. This spell gives every member of a ship’s crew a bonus to Seamanship for a day, raising that average.

Typical Casting: Lesser Strengthen Body (3) + Lesser Strengthen Mind (3) + Area of Effect, 20 yard radius (12) + Bestows a Bonus, +2 to Seamanship (2) + Duration, 1 day (7). 27 energy (27 x 1).


Dapper Me!
Spell Effects: Lesser Restore Matter
Inherent Modifiers: None.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1)

As requested by one of the players:  Usually cast as a charm, this spell cleans and performs minor repairs on an outfit of clothes worn by the caster.

Typical Casting: Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Restore Matter (4). 9 energy (9 x 1).

And, as promised, grenades.

As far as I can tell, there are no official, published examples of small TL 4 grenades. There’s mention of them in GURPS High-Tech, but the earliest example from that book given stats is the TL 5 grenade à main. Coming at it from the other side, GURPS Low-Tech has several TL 3 versions, using serpentine rather than black powder, and a couple of larger TL 4 bombs.

Historically speaking, I’m finding references to hand-held “grenados” from the late 1600’s. Maybe a trifle late for our 1657 starting point, but close enough. After all, who can resist little round iron bombs with honest-to-goodness fuses sticking out of them? Anyway, if I don’t provide stats up front, some PC will surely start pouring powder into a hollow gourd during play.

So, for simplicity, we’ll say that the TL 5 grenade à main is the equivalent of a TL 4 iron grenado. Any improvised version made from gourds, empty rum bottles, or the like will take the stats of the TL 3 paper bomb from GURPS Low-Tech, page 85.


Rituals For Pirates: “Keep Your Powder Dry”

Keep Your Powder Dry
Spell Effects: Lesser Control Matter
Inherent Modifiers: Bestows a Bonus, to offset Malf. penalties for wet conditions
Greater Effects: 0 (×1)
When cast upon a TL 4 firearm weighing no more than 10 pounds, this spell acts to offset the Malf. penalties for wet conditions under “Water and Firearms” (GURPS Low-Tech, pg 90), for one day. The given bonus is enough to keep a pirate’s frizzen-equipped flintlock dry in a hurricane. It can’t stand up to full immersion, though!
Typical Casting: Lesser Control Matter (5) + Bestows a Bonus, +3 to offset Malf. penalties for wet conditions (4) + Duration, 1 day (7) + Subject Weight, 10 lbs (0). 16 energy (16 × 1).

Zombies, Two For The Price Of One

Before the last campaign, the apocalypse campaign, I swore a mighty oath that I would include no zombies. (… with the caveat that I could include things that weren’t zombies, but looked like they were, like sick people and zombie walkers.) The reason why was, one of my players has been talking for a long, long time now about starting up a true Zombie Apocalypse Game, in the Walking Dead tradition. I want to play in that campaign. I didn’t want to steal his thunder. So, no zombie apocalypses for me.

I didn’t promise any such thing about the pirate game.

Really, given the genre and the presence of Hollywood-grade voodoo, you’ve got to expect some kind of zombies. In On Stranger Tides (the book, not the Pirates Of The Caribbean movie), there’s evidence for two different kinds. One is a corpse, animated by magic. The other is a living person who has lost control of their will to a ritual magician.

Word is, one of my players is set on playing a bokor. Clearly, I need to cook up some zombie-creating rituals.

(Caveat: I’ve read through the GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic pdf a couple of times, I’ve read a lot about it on the forums and on different blogs [cough Ravens N’ Pennies cough], but I’ve never before used the system in a real, live game. Your mileage may vary, or the vehicle might go up like a Roman candle, I just dunno…)

(Note: I’m using Christopher R. Rice’s “Summoned” modifier.)


Raise Zombie

Spell Effects: Greater Control Undead + Lesser Create Undead

Inherent Modifiers: Summoned

Greater Effects: 1 (x3)

This spell animates a nearby corpse as a zombie. The starting materials must be mostly intact. The result will use the Reanimated Corpse template from page 100 of GURPS Zombies. Unless the duration is extended with a subsequent ritual, the zombie will return to its natural state after a week.

Typical Casting: Greater Control Undead (5) + Lesser Create Undead (6) + Summoned, 25% of total (4) + Duration, 1 week (9) + Subject weight, 300 lbs (3). 81 energy (27×3).


Dominate Thrall

Spell Effects: Greater Control Mind + Greater Transform Mind

Inherent Modifiers: none

Greater Effects: 2 (x5)

This spell overwhelms the will of a touched sentient target, making them a mostly-willing servant of the caster. The target will follow orders, though some commands (the obviously suicidal, those that threaten loved ones or deeply-held beliefs) might trigger a new resistance roll, possibly at a bonus. In the absence of orders, the target will do whatever seems to them to be in the best interests of the caster.

If the effect is not maintained regularly, the target will regain control of their mind in a week. When the effect ends, the target can remember the entire ordeal.

Typical Casting: Greater Control Mind (5) + Greater Transform Mind (8) + Duration, 1 week (9). 110 energy (22×5).


Enslave Thrall

Spell Effects: Greater Control Mind + Greater Create Mind + Greater Sense Mind

Inherent Modifiers: none

Greater Effects: 3 (x7)


An improved version of Dominate Thrall (inspired by comments here). This version creates a copy of the caster’s mind within the mind of the target to keep an eye on them. Thus, when presented with a situation outside of their orders, the thrall will do whatever is in the best interests of the caster, as defined by the caster, not the target.

Typical Casting: Greater Control Mind (5) + Greater Create Mind (6) + Greater Sense Mind (2) + Duration, 1 week (9). 154 energy (22×7).


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