Trading Energy for Speed and Skill

One way to introduce more flexibility into standard spellcasting is to allow casters to exchange extra energy for special benefits. Below are two examples; see Adjustable Spells (this page) for an additional option. All such rules give magic-workers who have lots of spare energy (high personal FP, piles of Powerstones, etc.) a considerable advantage. [...]

Faster Casting: Wizards can reduce casting time by one second per 4 extra energy points spent. This option can’t reduce casting time below a second, and isn’t available for ceremonial magic. Increased Effective Skill: The energy-for-skill tradeoff of Ceremonial Magic (p. B238) applies to all castings: +1 to skill for 20% extra energy, +2 for 40%, +3 for 60%, +4 for 100%, and another +1 per additional 100% of the required energy. Such skill increases affect the roll to cast the spell and the Power of enchanted items, but they don’t reduce casting time, energy cost, or ritual requirements. A further option for Missile spells is to give +1 to the attack roll per extra energy point spent.

[Source GURPS 4th Edition Thaumatology p.39]

Does this mean that if a Spell costs 1 to cast and I have skill 20 which reduces casting cost by 2 that I can "virtually" spend +100% on the spell (i.e. 2FP - 2FP = 0FP) to get the +4 bonus to the effective roll?

The question could also be formulated as: Is this extra energy part of the casting cost?


2 Answers 2


It seems this is an valid interpretation of the rule as written.

But it worth noting that this is an option, which is specifically an example for GMs wanting to give casters a way to use excess energy. All of the options and suggestions in Thaumatology should be considered carefully by the GM before including them in his or her game, and this is mentioned several times throughout the book.

From the introduction:

As with any toolbox, you shouldn’t try to use everything simultaneously – and by “you,” we mean whoever is responsible for designing and maintaining the campaign, usually the GM. Pick and choose only what suits your purposes. Not every concept belongs in every game; if you try to use it all, you’ll probably go crazy and, worse, your campaign will collapse! All of Thaumatology is one big suggestion. For example, the point costs for abilities reflect the author’s views of effectiveness and balance – but as the GM, you’re free to disagree and change the numbers(...)

But if the GM decides that a section or even a chapter doesn’t apply, then that’s final.

-- GURPS Thaumatology, p. 4

And at the start of the Minor Spell Variants chapter, it is stated (emphasis mine):

What follows are some suggestions for minor changes to standard, spell-based magic(...)

-- GURPS Thaumatology, p. 19

The implication is that not everything in Thaumatology necessarily balanced, and might even be broken under certain circumstances. The side-effect of giving players with high skill free skill bonuses doesn't really seem in the spirit the option, although probably not game-breaking.

Personally as a GM, I would rule a minimum 1 point of energy per +1 bonus if I were to use this option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a benefit to bumping your skill to 24 since you can get rid of the distance modifiers in regular and area spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yolgie
    Apr 25, 2012 at 8:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Yolgie Good point. I was certain the energy cost reduction was based of effective skill, it is in fact based of base skill. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2012 at 12:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Yolgie Rewrote the answer, expanding it and removing the incorrect statement about high effective skill having no benefit. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2012 at 13:16

I would like to add to Jo-Herman's answer, which I believe to be good and valid by itself already.

According to GURPS Magic, page 8:

Energy cost

[...] Energy is still going into the spell, but your skill lets you draw it from the surrounding mana instead of supplying it yourself!

So, the spell is supplied with required energy regardless of its origin. The answer to the original question will depend on how GM sees the spell working in their world and how the Energy-for-Speed rule should work, if it indeed does work:

  • If the extra energy supplied is poured into the spell itself, like how one can connect a lightbulb to an excessive voltage supply to make it shine brighter, then it could be drawn from the environment as well. If your spell is that cheap by itself, then being able to enchance it for free should be quite a valid reward for investing so much character points in learning it, or magic skills in general. In this case - yes, this is a valid interpretation of the rule.
  • If, however, the extra energy is used up in other ways, by enchancing the mages' abilities or powering auxilary spells that support the casting framework - conjuring temporary mana conduits, weaving heavier arcane patterns with thicker energy threads, quicker breaching through the leylines and any other countless ways magic could be working on the inside in a particular world - then that energy might have to be supplied by the caster, from their own personal sources!

Personally, I'm in favor of the first option. After all, energy is energy, and the caster is drawing it from the local mana for the casting anyway. Besides, Magery is what reflects the "generic" proficiency of someone as a mage, so it's quite likely to be governing such advanced spellweaving skills - and it already adds directly to any spell's effective level, which quite possibly might result in a spare energy point available for its further enchancement!


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .