The "Create Object" spell

There's a very curious spell belonging to the school of Illusion and Creation, "Create Object", which allows the caster to cheaply conjure a simple artifact (cup, robe, sword, etc) of his choosing out of thin air, without a fixed duration or maintenance cost. Naturally, it is a very powerful spell in the hands of a creative player, so there are some major limitations in place to prevent abuse: objects only persist so long as they are very close to a living, thinking being, the created food will only appear nourishing without actually being such (there's a separate spell in another school for creating actual food), you must possess related crafting skills to conjure complex objects and you cannot create information you don't know. Furthermore, I've read that GMs tend to forbid applications that can be replicated by spells from other schools - for instance, one can't Create a lit torch (~Fire spells, "Ignite Fire") or a quantity of radioactive metal (~Energy spells, "Create Fuel/TL").

Consuming Created food

Let's say, an apprentice illusionist gets hungry during his studies, so he conjures (with Create Object) and eats a sandwitch to quench his sense of hunger until the proper lunchtime. The food eaten remains "close" to his body, so it doesn't merely "vanish" at any point in time, and there's nothing in the spell description suggesting that its biochemistry would differ in any significant way from a "real" sandwitch - so it should get digested by his stomach, broken down into "fake" nutrients and spread through his bloodstream.

Why the created food is not truly nourishing, then, if it's so similar to the real kind, has the same mass and consistency? I can think of many possible explanations, but that goes beyond the scope of this question. For now, I think it can be safely assumed that it simply breaks somewhere within the body after too many divisions and alterations.

The "Transform Object" spell

So far, so good - not too much of an abuse potential. However, I've recently stumbled upon yet another fascinating spell called "Transform Object", which belongs to the Making and Breaking school and is similar in a lot of ways. It reads like so:

Transform Object (VH)

Changes an object into another object of the same weight. The change can be anything – a gun could be turned into a rag doll, for instance. As with Create Object (p. 98), anything the mage brings into existence must be something he is familiar with. To turn something into a functional object, the caster must have the appropriate skill for making a similar object; the rag doll mentioned above will be a pretty poor rag doll unless the caster has Sewing skill, and if he wants to turn a rag doll into a gun, he’d better have Armoury skill.

An object held or worn by someone resists with its owner’s Will.

Duration: 1 hour.

Cost: 1 to cast for every pound the object weighs (minimum of 1 pound). Double cost to change to (or from) stone, triple for metal. Same cost to maintain.

Time to cast: Equal to cost, in seconds.

Prerequisites: Magery 2, Reshape, and at least four “Create” spells.

Unlike with Create, the Transform spell has a fixed duration - and once it's over, the object transforms back into its original form.

The problem

So... What exactly would happen to an object, heavily altered during transformation, once the transformation over?

Suppose we take the rag doll from example in the spell description, tear its head off (sorry, poor doll) and put both pieces on separate surfaces. What will they change back to?

  • Two deformed pieces of metal?
  • Two accurate piles of components?
  • Perphaps, one piece will simply vanish while the other reform into the whole and pristine gun - the "master molecule" theory?
  • Something else?

And things get even more confusing when I start considering other applications for various objects and the questions that arise.

What would happen if one were to eat a gun transformed into a pudding?

  • Will the metal dust reform in body cells?
  • Will it reform whole and pristine inside the stomach (leading to quite a painful condition) or maybe even in a blood vessel?
  • Heck, would the metal somehow "reinforce" the skin, perphaps providing an additional DR factor? This would, perphaps, fit a "silly" campaign, but not if GM is aiming for realism.

What would happen if one were to burn the said rag doll and breathe some of the smoke?

And what poisoning rules should apply in the pessimistic cases like inhaling or digesting the would-be metal dust? Could GM use HT rolls to determine what happens in each specific case, and what kind of rolls? A clever player could use this in place of a lethal poison - so... should GM forbid such cases outright because there are separate spells for poisoning food and the whole art of Alchemy, as well as the balance concerns?

Naturally, undocumented matters like these lie in the discretion of the GM. But surely there some guidelines one can use?

"Mr. Potter, suppose a student Transfigured a block of wood into a cup of water, and you drank it. What do you imagine might happen to you when the Transfiguration wore off?" There was a pause. "Excuse me, I should not have asked that of you, Mr. Potter, I forgot that you are blessed with an unusually pessimistic imagination-”

"I'm fine," Harry said, swallowing hard. "So the first answer is that I don't know," the Professor nodded approvingly, "but I imagine there might be... wood in my stomach, and in my bloodstream, and if any of that water had gotten absorbed into my body’s tissues - would it be wood pulp or solid wood or..." Harry’s grasp of magic failed him. He couldn't understand how wood mapped into water in the first place, so he couldn't understand what would happen after the water molecules were scrambled by ordinary thermal motions and the magic wore off and the mapping reversed.

McGonagall's face was stiff. "As Mr. Potter has correctly reasoned, he would become extremely sick and require immediate Flooing to St. Mungo’s Hospital if he was to have any chance of survival. Please turn your textbooks to page 5."

-- "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

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    – V2Blast
    Jan 29, 2020 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is one reason I use Sorcery in my campaigns. GURPS Thaumatology Sorcery. \$\endgroup\$
    – NomadMaker
    Jan 29, 2020 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


Like quite a few spells in GURPS Magic, the spell descriptions do not specify all details and consequences, and it is left up to the GM to decide, for each spell, what exactly each spell does and how it works and so on. Having GM'd some games where I didn't think very hard about what spells to include or how they worked, I long ago became vastly more cautious and conservative and/or creative about whether each spell is known in my games, by whom, and what variations and limits I might want to apply to them. (Meanwhile, some other GMs are vastly more liberal even than the full Magic spell list, and enjoy that - which is partly why such questions aren't specified, so the Magic system can be used for all sorts of settings and play styles.)

i.e. For many spells in GURPS Magic, it is up to the GM to determine those sorts of details, and yes there are definitely potential pitfalls and consequences of their decisions which may not be obvious at first, especially if you have clever and creative players. But different GMs in different games consider different things pitfalls or problems, so details are often left up to the GM, especially when the list of questions could be endless, and there could be fun (subject to taste and perspective) in different kinds of answers.

Transform Object is a very powerful spell in any case, and yes it implies being able to destroy any object you can successfully cast it on. Also for the lesser spell it requires, the Reshape spell. When/if I allow those spells to exist, I carefully consider what the cost and resistance should be like for objects I might want to be able to resist such a spell, and modify the spell descriptions accordingly (often if I even include the spell at all, I limit it to one particular type of thing - e.g. Transform Wood Object).

But yes, the GM needs to answer all your questions (well, at least as soon as they come up during play), and different GMs may have very different answers in each of their game worlds. Some may even have random tables that give different results each time you try the spell, or from which capricious spirits pick whichever sort of result suits their fancy.

Transform Object is a spell with so many possibilities for things it could do, and so many ways a GM could rationalize and handle each of them, that it is what this site guidelines probably think is "too broad" to answer on this Q&A site. But an effective general approach is to think of what you want the capabilities and limits of a spell to be, and then picking a theory of how the spell works that fits that.

So for example if you don't want the spell to be able to destroy any object, or if you don't want to be able to kill people by turning a sword into food and then feeding it to them, then you might say that what the spell actually does is more like Create Object, and when it wears off the form vanishes and the old form appears intact, and if it was split up and/or embedded in some other object, it instead re-appears in its old intact form separate from any other object.

If you DO want the spell to be able to do that, then you may need to hit the GURPS forums or GURPS Discord and ask people what mechanics there are (or that they can suggest mechanics for) for various cases of food poisoning and objects materializing inside people and objects.

Oh, and as for being able to eat food transformed this way and have it remain edible, you might want to consider the Essential Food spell, which specifically lets you turn anything into great food. So if you DO want to allow people to eat objects transformed by Transform Object and NOT have problems (or to have an improved version of the spell that has that benefit), you might want to add a prerequisite of Essential Food, or maybe better: prerequisites of the same prerequisites that Essential Food has (since Essential Food is similar but different and better for that purpose, since Essential Food is permanent and doesn't spoil).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but, while this is a good reply (voted it up) and an interesting opinion, I don't think it answers the question. Yes, I agree that it's up to GM to decide such matters, as I've mentioned in my reply, but I'm asking for guidelines for such decisions! Some hopefully solid, immersive mechanics for the GM to appropriate which would hold under scrutiny of the more creative players and give similar results for a wide variety of potential experiments. Should I clarify my original question somehow? Sorry, I'm a bit new to this. >.< \$\endgroup\$
    – DeFazer
    Jan 28, 2020 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DeFazer I can give you some guidelines, but this site fanatically defends it's guidelines about what's on topic or not. It would help if you edit your question so that you say what kinds of possibilities and limits you would like for your campaign - then I could suggest mechanics to add to the spell based on what you're looking for, hopefully without the moderators deciding we've broken a rule. ;-) For instance, I usually don't want anything to be destroyable by Shape Object, hence my suggestion. For digestion, you could go comic or look for medical rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dronz
    Jan 28, 2020 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for updating your answer, now It's just what I was asking for! Happy to mark it as accepted. <3 \$\endgroup\$
    – DeFazer
    Jan 30, 2020 at 22:59

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