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Old 08-24-2019, 01:48 PM   #1
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Using Black Magic [Thaumotology/Horror]

Black Magic (BM) is one of the key elements of a number of fantasy and/or horror settings, but I find that it is rarely done well. It generally ends up being campy or silly, with practitioners of BM generally failing spectacularly due to their own incompetence. In RPGs, it is usually so useless or so dangerous of a practice that few PCs will explore it, when folklore tends to suggest that BM should be useful and safe enough that anyone could use it to be a threat.

In GURPS, BM tends to either be Spiritual Assistance (see Thaumotology) or Corruption (see Horror). Spiritual Assistance basically means that a practitioner has an arrangement with a spiritual patron to provide magical energy in exchange for servitude (such as the classic 'deal with the devil'). Corruption basically means that a practitioner taps into a more impersonal force that slowly twists them into something fell (such as the Dark Side from the Star Wars Universe).

In my own modern horror settings, BM is as ubiquitous as it is secretive. The wealthy and powerful members of every society use BM to eliminate threats to the power and to protect their families from harm (or are puppets of those who use BM). Both forms of BM exist, with practitioners who share the same patron through Spiritual Assistance forming secret societies while practitioners who use Corruption are independent mavericks who buck the system. Since the magical system uses modified RPM rules, BM practitioners are quite powerful if they are willing to take risks.

If you use BM in your campaigns, how do you treat the subject? Which magical system do you have it modifying? Do you allow PCs to use BM or are practitioners of BM only NPCs?
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Old 08-24-2019, 10:29 PM   #2
Plane
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Default Re: Using Black Magic [Thaumotology/Horror]

I see BM (along with blood sacrifice) as being widely used by beginning enchanters who want to use the "Quick and Easy" method.
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Old 08-24-2019, 10:59 PM   #3
(E)
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: Using Black Magic [Thaumotology/Horror]

I use black magic with a modified sorcery system. Black magic is basically acquiring "evil" disadvantages to gain CPs for magic. Sacrificing a person might give "Secret, murderer" and a percentage of the points from that secret are now spent on new abilities. Because you can't have the secret twice, I've ruled the specific ritual only works once.
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Old 08-24-2019, 11:42 PM   #4
starslayer
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Default Re: Using Black Magic [Thaumotology/Horror]

Black magic in my own setting comes in two flavors.

One focuses on the manipulation of souls, it is a variant of incanting that sees much improved returns for involuntary sacrifice, the ability to extract a soul for later use, but losses the ability to make hanging rituals, or use components (stored souls work as a mobile energy source which allows pretty dynamic casting on the fly). Processing souls requires the use of torture. Since it is incanting based in a primarily RPM based world it avoids the greater/lesser divide. It is the primary magic that demons and dark elves employ, but someone looking for a shortcut to power may learn it.

The second dark magic is injury based, (called blood magic). It is normal rpm but it loses the ability to use fatigue or other outside energy sources in exchange for being able to tap any injury inflicted near the caster at 2 injury = 1 energy rate. The setting is aware of ways to exploit this and siege Wizards who use this school often have a 'splatterpault' a catapult with a fixed cage that swings into a bed of spikes loaded with prisoners or slaves to provide massive surges of energy for devistational combat spells. It is the primary magic of orcs and significantly shapes their battlefield tactics (basically no traditional siege weapons, lots of high speed raiding tactics that are built on disrupting enemy blood casting while capturing foes to use in their own (cause there are only so many slaves/prisoners you can drag along with a military force before they become a liability). Many 'battlemages' learn this variant because it synergizes well with being in the midst of combat, but the temptation to 'do it like the orcs' and engage in wholesale slaughter in exchange for big surges of power is always there for someone willing to walk that path.
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:47 AM   #5
AlexanderHowl
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Using Black Magic [Thaumotology/Horror]

In folklore, BM is usually superior to normal magic. If it was equivalent or inferior, the thinking is why would anyone except for a fool deal with it (in traditions where all magic is forbidden, practitioners of BM tend to be ludicrously powerful and yet vulnerable to rather simple things). Practitioners of BM in folklore though are usually quite powerful and are only defeated by the chosen one(s).

For example, in my modern horror settings that I mentioned above, the Spiritual Assitance Pact Perk allows practitioners to purchase a Magery up to one-half of their Occultism (rounded down) and grants them a spiritual assistance threshold equal to twice their Occultism that automatically empties every dusk. Each patron also grants one unique method through which their servants may empty their spiritual assistance threshold. Thus Spiritual Assistance potentially grants practitioners vast amounts of magical power with minimal effort (practitioners still suffer spiritual distortion as normal, though their descent is moderated because the amount that they can borrow is limited by their spiritual assistance threshold).

Corruption (which is accessed through the Corrupted Soul Perk) allows practitioners to purchase Magery up to one-half their Meditation (rounded down) and grants them a corruption threshold equal to twice their Meditation that automatically empties every dusk. Every person has a personal sin that they may indulge them that empties their corruption threshold. Like spiritual assistance, corruption potentially grants great power (practitioners still suffer corruption as normal, though their descent is moderated because the amount that they can borrow is limited by their corruption threshold).
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