On Magic p. 19, the wording in the first paragraph of "Using Magic Items" is unclear.

If an item has any "mage only" effects on it, only a mage can use the item's powers.

(emphasis original)

It's not fully clear whether this refers to a "mage only" entry in the "Item" part of a spell's description, or to spells that require Magery 1 or higher to cast. Specifically, the question has arisen in the play-by-post game I'm in (a hybrid of GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy and DFRPG with some grandfathered vanilla GURPS), whether a non-mage character could use a wand enchanted with Lend Energy to cast the spell.

The desired application is a little cheesy; it allows non-mage characters to act as "batteries" for mages, to some extent, effectively tiring themselves to restore the casting "fuel" for the party's mage(s). We've got the GM saying no, one would need to be a mage or have Empathy (the alternative prerequisite for Lend Energy), and the resident rules lawyer saying using magic items has never required the user to be a mage.

Which is it in this case?


3 Answers 3


This is a genuine ambiguity in Magic. They're sadly common. The GM gets to decide, and given the low cost of a wand of Lend Energy, he has a good case for the wand requiring Magery or Empathy. Not that he needs it: GURPS is a Rule Zero game, and his authority is absolute if he wants it to be.

The resident rules-lawyer should be reminded that the GURPS rules are written in informal language and not intended to support legalistic interpretation.

A useful question and answer on GURPS rules interpretation is here.


Rules-as-written, enchanted items that can't be used by non-mages say so in the Item description. There are several Items which explicitly say "Usable only by mages" or other limits (e.g. the healing spells on GURPS Magic p.91). There are other spells which, like Lend Energy, require Magery to cast, but whose items do not say they are limited to mages (e.g. the Reshape spell on GURPS Magic p.117, or the Command spell on p.136).

So I think it is clear that, as written (unless there is errata to the contrary), that yes, a Lend Energy item would be usable by non-mages, but also I agree it is "a little cheesy" (and so useful it would be a common technique, and affect how magic tends to be used) as a way to be able to get not-mages to dump power into a wizard.

Fortunately, it's entirely normal, even encouraged, for GMs to tweak spell descriptions to taste. I routinely go through the spell lists and modify or remove most of the spells from common knowledge in most parts of most of the GURPS Magic gameworlds I've run (ever since I tried not doing that for a while...).

(One place to start might be a house-rule that does assume magic items are limited like the spells unless the GM rules otherwise.)

As a GM, I would definitely modify the versions of Lend Energy item enchantments known in my game worlds to require Magery or Empathy, unless I wanted a game world where wizards frequently made a point of having at least one such item and passing it around a group of servants to they can multiply their available mana.


As the question pertains to DF, I just checked the DFRPG Magic Items book, which simplifies it as follows: anyone can use a casting item, those with the appropriate empowerment (power Investiture, magery, etc) get to add their level of power to the skill roll, which is generically 15 at standard cost. The proposed item, a wand of Lend Energy, is not, however, a DF item, but with this as a basis, I would accept the item. Now, for your characters to find someone who sells it...

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you cite the relevant page number/section of the rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 8, 2019 at 22:25

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