Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am currently reading through all the rules used for the Alchemy skill.

It says (I quote from GURPS Magic, p. 210):

It is a mechanical process, using the mana inherent in certain things. [...]

Alchemy is a science like any other – it just happens that its subject is magical.

And it then goes on to describe which mana type environment does what, specifically stating that performing alchemy in a no-mana world is not possible. But since it all just depends on the ingredients, it should (in theory, at least) be possible to use the alchemy process on magical ingredients, even if the world surrounding it isn't magical?

Say, in your low mana world a worldhopper comes by and sells you all the ingredients you need, most of them coming from a normal mana world; how do you rationalize that it isn't possible to convert all that magical, stored energy into something else, thus creating your desired elixir?

share|improve this question
I suspect this is effectively a duplicate of your other question? – mxyzplk Feb 17 '14 at 16:53
Well, this question focuses explicitly on the alchemy aspect of the rules. There is probably also no good answer to it, and the situation will have to be resolved with player-GM interaction. – tschoppi Feb 17 '14 at 16:55
up vote 7 down vote accepted

GURPS takes a very "laws of physics" approach to mana. In some worlds the laws are different, so much so that magic is real.

It comes down to the way the world's meta-magic rules are designed. And often these questions don't come up in campaign settings as the characters do not often traverse world settings. I do not recall GURPS Core or Magic covering characters who travel between worlds.

  • If your meta-magic setting ruling say that magic is non-functional, then the outcome is simple. It does not work, because mana is one of the ingredients required and it is not present. Like trying to make a cake without a key ingredient.

  • If the ruling allows that the materials themselves have a "stored potential" then perhaps there is an option to say it might work. e.g. The character who walks between the worlds is carrying a powerful gryphon claw into 1920s New York setting. The claw is inherently otherworldly, but so too is the character. The game has allowed an alchemist to get there, so why not the claw? Tricky.

I thought from previous editions of the GURPS rules that zero mana worlds did not allow magical items (and therefore alchemy too) to function as they were required to draw ambient mana from the world around them. The laws of physics do not allow for mana, so it is non-functional, as is everything which depends on it.

I'd argue in a no-mana world the ingredients are just "plain" materials. They do not perform any quasi-magical function because it is in contraction to the World setting. This is a significant disadvantage to the alchemist/magician player character, so I'd question that character's role in the no-magic setting.

In a low-mana setting (which is in the description, but different to the question title) the alchemy would work, with a proportionally reduced effect. The world lacks the normal magical energy to make the ingredients react in the proper "high magic" way. Like trying to boil water when sufficient heat is not present.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.