These pages deal with the concept and implementation of magic into a fantasy game, highlighting the problems of magic implementation in the traditional MMORPG manner.


One Response to “Magic”
  1. thread necromancer says:

    After reading the related posts, I feel I can make a general contribution, perhaps pointing out some simple solutions to the stated issues. I go by this by pointing out examples from real-world mythologies and folk tales, and the ways they dealt with magic. As modern fantasy ultimately derives from these tales, their example should prove quite useful.

    First of all, magic need not be a black box. There’s usually no independent “magic” force in myth, arbitrarily wielded by various “chosen one”s – scratch that notion to the idea of blood nobility that feudal overlords used to justify their existence. Instead, anyone could access the favor of gods and spirits, offering corporeal sacrifice for divine assistance. Rituals didn’t just work on their own, but were to draw the attention of the helping spirit. In an RPG, that could translate to aspiring magic users having to do a lot of legwork and spend plenty of their hard earned coin to facilitate the assistance of the gods. Frequently going on certain quests to appease them is also a good idea, and not just having a random magic-starter mission.

    For keeping magic “magical”, ancient cultures had a very different idea of what magic was – to them, *everything* was magical. There was no difference between Heracles’s ginormous strength, and Circe’s transfiguring potions. So, MMOs and the fourth edition of D&D actually do run with this logic in mind – the wizard’s Magic Missile is functionally identical to the archer’s Legendary Flurry of Arrows (or something to that effect). The difference is in flavor alone, and that’s not really a bad thing. What’s left is the traditional issues of balance, but any game has those. And going from the above point, a swordsman carefully presenting his kill to Ares would gain the same divine favor as the witch sacrificing dogs to Hecate.

    In a way, ancient warfare *did* see magic users on the battlefield, side by side with common soldiers – it’s just that nowadays we call them medics and grenadiers. A Greek Fire pot is for all intents and purposes a D&D fireball spell. But it requires a very specific set of ingredients and skills to use properly, while bows and arrows literally grow on trees. Having a blaster-type mage need to prepare and fiddle with his hazardously explosive spell inventory could work rather well in limiting how trigger-happy he can be before he blows himself up. Then again, since the above point covers the perceived advantages of magic users, such a disadvantage may not even be necessary.

    As for mages in literature – for one, both Gandalf and Merlin are actually closer to angels than human magicians. Merlin is of fairy lineage, while Gandalf is explicitly a messenger of god. However, their role as advisers and wise men can translate as adding various buffs to the party (“I know this creature’s weak spot”) , making them effective in RPG terms as well. Not every offensive spell need’s to be described as a grenade equivalent. The difference between *lore* (the skill’s in-universe description) and *effect* (the ingame number crunching) can be pretty wide, without losing magical flavor. I’d take “Knowledge – Anatomy” over “Power Word – Harm” any day.

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