The Ultimate Wizard's Get-rich Scheme

by john "evil, but rich" karakash

[This was John's answer to an article on the GURPS newsgroup. I must admit that I haven't seen the original posting, but it was something on the lines of "what spell would be the most useful if you could have only one, with no prerequisites required". It has spawned numerous responses, but this one is very detailed. The title is mine, though. -- Incanus]

Wealth can either be created (through actual creation or by making things worth more through effort) or it can be gotten from people who have wealth. Of the two options, it is much faster, and usually much easier, to separate people from their wealth. By not giving fair return for the wealth, you can usually get it much cheaper and much quicker.

The richer the person (or organization), the greater the potential for profit. But there is also a much greater potential from a danger-to-the-wizard standpoint, so safety must be considered. Banditry is quick and easy but exposes the wizard to far too much risk.

Less confrontational robberies also have enormous opportunities for profit but a) the wealth is likely to be guarded... and the power of the guardians will, in most cases, be proportional to the amount of wealth, and b) you have to find where the wealth is hidden.

No, the best way is to convince the owners of the wealth to give you the money or to retrieve information that is worth money. In the long run, it's probably better to simply grab the cash and run, so we'll concentrate on those ideas.

The basic outline is:

  1. Get as much wealth from a person as you can.
  2. Kill the person in a plausible and non-suspicious way.
  3. Repeat 1-2 until you have soaked an area as much as you think prudent.
  4. Move to a new area.
  5. Repeat 1-4 until you are ready to settle down.
  6. Become politically powerful in an area using previous wealth and special knowledge.
  7. Parlay such power into ownership of wealth and sources of wealth (businesses, land, tax base, etc).

Possession is my favorite for the grander things while Control Person (a pre-requsite for Possession) is good for "quick and dirty" deeds. Possession does require a high skill in order to offset the amount of ST it requires. At IQ15 and Magery 3, you need 36 points to bring the maintenance cost to 1ST/minute and 56 points to make maintenance free. But it's well worth it. Possession gives you full access to a person's skills, powers, spells and knowledge. Just the last thing alone makes this spell a treasure!

Steps 1-3 are quite simple with Possession. In some cases you don't even have to kill the victim because local law-enforcement (or seedier elements) might manage it for you. You can do anything from becoming the sole heir of elderly merchants to having wealthy people simply give you money and then swallowing poison. People often commit suicide after losing their entire fortune gambling, for example... Use your imagination, but make sure that no one can trace it back to you. Also remember that governments are the biggest thieves around and will have more money. Kings' money and national treasuries are ripe for the taking.

Step 4 is not difficult, but taking your wealth with you might be. Always try to get transportable forms of wealth, even if you take a licking on the conversion rates. Getting away with a sack of gems is better than having to abandon a wagon of gold. Try to make sure that, except for the person who finally brings you the loot, that no one is connected diretly to you. Make sure to kill the person who delivers the gems to keep the trail cold. Teleportation and Gate spells can come in handy here, but aren't essential. Remember that even the messenger doesn't have to see you; you can pick up the loot while the locals are chasing down your messenger (i.e. fall guy).

Most mages can be well-satisfied with only this, but for those with some gumption will want enormous riches... and this is only possible if you control income-producing things like businesses or land. Remember how easy it is for decisions to go your way if the occasional proper person dies or if you always have all the information you need on your rivals. You will gain a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and a competent businessman if you use your powers subtly. Remember not to foul your nest with too many bodies! You want your peers and lessers to admire and respect your strength, not grow fearful of the mysterious deaths and robberies.

Through blackmail, careful bargaining, and the occasional vital decision going your way, it should be easy to rise as high as you want. For even greater wealth, becoming the only child of a ‘childless' noble (that dies of natural causes or in a plausible accident) is an excellent stepping-stone toward the throne of a kingdom. Your ability to destroy your foes within your kingdom and to undermine enemies in the kingdoms you conquer should give you the ability to slake the greed of nearly any wizard.

Notes: For those who don't feel level 30 in Possession is reasonable, check out Permanent Possession. It's harder to safely kill the people you use, but very fatal poisons that will give you enough time to ‘escape' are an option here. The casting cost is quite a bit higher, though. Also Magery 3 is not strictly necessary for Possession, so you can get by with less Magery and more points in the spell for a cheaper CP cost. To become King, Exchange Bodies could be very, very useful in the long run, but isn't necessary. For this essay, efficiency = wealth gained/(effort and cost). While the effort and cost are high, the total wealth possible is much, much higher!