Saturday, August 25, 2012

What is magic?

Every GM needs to at some point think about what the nature of magic is on/in his world. Usually it comes at some point when a world threatening use of magic is about to occur, and the GM really needs to think - Is this how magic works? For a lot of game worlds, magic is controlled by the gods - not in the priestly way, though that happens too. More in the way that the gods allow magic to function. I never liked giving gods that much control. Some fantasy book worlds claim that magic is conscious, some sort of super entity or the blended consciousness of all things. I think this misses the point. I think that magic is the sub-conscious blending of all living things. Some of the Legend Quest books (Book of Wishes magic supplement mostly) refer to magic as being a vanetil source of power, eternal and replenishing. The source is stated as life, and as long as there is life on a planet, there will be magic. In some ways, this is a chicken and egg debate, but I think life first, then magic. If you read between the lines of the Legend Quest magic system, you’ll see that magic resistance comes from trying to keep the world “right” by your perspective. Same as using magic - You are trying to bend the magical power sources (various depending on the type of magic) into doing things that aren’t “normal”. But this normal is completely one person’s perspective. Back to the slightly more concrete discussion - If magic is the blending of all sub-conscious thought in the world, what does that do to it? Well, it establishes the way that people resist magic, as previously mentioned. It means that while gods and other super beings may have more sway over it, they do not have complete control over it. It means that most magic shouldn’t work on the moon - effectively a dead planet - but some magic (spell singers come to mind first) control magic from the spell’s target, so they might not be affected. You might also have to let some magic function if the spell caster is enough to power the spell - likely at some fairly serious restrictions. Maybe it’s more important to ask - What doesn’t it allow? Well, the spirit of magic cannot change the rules of how it’s power is used; it is not a conscious entity. Any spell that would affect the entire world would presumably be resisted by the entire world, and thus nearly impossible to cast. (Not impossible - just nearly so.) LQ utilizes “natural spirits”, basically locational elementals. If the water spirit Naumoui controls that river, then that river has some manner of subconscious, as opposed to the natural power of water simply residing in the river. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but this means that simple manipulation of elements is really the manipulation of some manner of thought. If you think this is complicated, you should see how I determine weather patterns on Fletnern as a combination of science and the will of various weather divinities. I don’t know if I made a point here - Other than to suggest you figure out where all that magic comes from. Obviously, your game rules will help dictate, but you’re the GM - add your own color and style to it.

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