Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Evolution of Magic

OK - Since I don’t know how I would ever get this into a book, I have to publish this here. Just stay with me for a little bit: What if magic were new, like technology in the modern age? What if sorcery had only been invented 75-100 years ago? So, in your battle mage’s grandfather’s time, magic was wearing garlic to fend off the evil eye curses from witches - You know, just superstition. The enchanters and alchemists are a new phenomenon. The world and the world’s cultures are just now starting to burst forth with magic. Why does it matter? Well, I’ve always been a little antagonistic to the idea that some people have massive amounts of magic (think the adventurers not only decked out in magic armor with magic swords and wands, but also casting magic and fighting hugely magical creatures) compared with the peasant farmer who is no more advanced than Europe’s peasant farmers just before the Black Death. Does that make sense? If magic has been around for thousands of years, why is it only in the hands of a few? Don’t give me that stuff about secrets. Look at technology. How long did it take from the invention of the transistor to the proliferation of cell phones? Magic is easily as powerful as technology. Think about it this way - About 90 years ago, some guy in some university figured out that you really could make a philosopher’s stone and change lead to gold. This began a surge in the ideas of magic and was quickly followed by illusionists creating magical lights and conjurers summoning odd beasts. (Skipping an enormous number of evolutionary steps here.) Fast forward to today in your fantasy campaign and magic works as indicated in your game rules, but has only been at this level of sophistication for 5-10 years. Here’s what this brings - good and bad: There shouldn’t be a plethora of old/ancient magical items. Anything enchanted is relatively new. People and governments would just now be starting to consider the ramifications of magic in war and trade. Since relative few of us protect our campaign castles and cities against the common magics, it seems more reasonable that magic is new and the defenses are only being considered in the present campaign time. This also allows the player characters to be on the forefront of magical “science”. Sort of like James Bond is always just that extra touch ahead of us on technology. Stealing magical secrets and using new enchantments (that may or may not work exactly as planned) seems great for any fantasy campaign. And it settles the peasant farmer issue. Magic is still being developed in the magical universities and has not yet filtered out to the poorer and/or more rural folks. I’m still developing the next application of this concept in my head: I think it would work if one continent had been “mundane” until trade opened up 100 years ago, so there would be a fully magical continent and a newly magical continent. It might work for magical elves and newly magical humans, but then the elves would have truly needed to have been isolated until that recent point in history. I think it also works that some type(s) of magic were around but kept secret. Necromancy comes to mind. Maybe the necromancers have been around for centuries, but because they were so hated, they kept their magical secrets to themselves. The whole thing really screams for witch hunters too. There would have to be some cultural push back, where magic was all seen as necromancy or just plain evil, and needs to be eradicated.

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