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"I Hate Magic"


This article got across something that has been bugging me a bit about the use of Magic in most games and something I think people get very right sometimes on Andrune:

I Hate Magic - The Escapist

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Kedri Senderthen- The Spring Storm
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


Having just read this article, I can say that I agree whole heartedly. This is basically a point that I have been trying to get across to other roleplayers for years: magic has important roots in culture and cosmology, and should not be treated as a simple game mechanic. But then again, neither should any aspect of a well played character.

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Creator of A Tale of Bone and Steel.

Cloak and Dagger
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


I agree with most. Personally I am not a big fan of magic user classes, in all games.
I prefer Sci-Fi settings, but I play high fantasy too.

But I believe that the reason that magic is so commonly liked is because players (especially RPers) like characters who are larger than life. Who wants to play a normal boring character whose looks and backgrounds are based on their supervisor or their teacher?

Truth is:
Most players would love to have a ninja samurai commando wielding dual katanas who can fire two UZI at the same time, a character who can ice a dragon with frost magic attacks before breakfast, severe an enemy's head with a headshot from a sniper rifle, while doing a back somersault, and slicing two demons in half with an energy blade with one hand, while swinging like Spiderman, and manages to save the damsel, and still look cool.

But, no one wants characters like this, because if everybody has super uber awesome characters, then the game loses its flavor.

The solution: give the players what they want: in action games, give them Tank, DPS, AoE, Ranged, Interrupt, Support, Healer, just to name a few. In roleplay games, give them fighters/warriors, magic users, and rogue/thief/assassin classes.



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Snacks are of course incredibly important to the roleplaying experience. Being part of a balanced diet, it's essential to have representatives of all four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat, and caffeine. ~Irregulars - January 02, 2011.
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


Having just finished my thesis on the subject of magic in the middle ages, this has been on my mind quite a lot lately.

I agree quite strongly with Mr. Rath - The archetypal implementation of magic in high fantasy is frankly terrible. This is one reason why I can never stomach playing on Forgotten Realms servers for very long - magic isn't supposed to be a commonplace thing. It isn't supposed to be a profession any random farmer's son can get into, and one that doesn't make anybody bat an eye. And it sure as hell shouldn't be so strongly divorced, as it often is in high fantasy commercial settings, from the rich magical tradition of real human history.

Well-implemented magic should be a rare, mysterious litany of wonders and secrets. It exists outside of society, feared by non-practitioners and viciously opposed by the orthodoxy for its inevitable themes of subversion and daring humanist inquiry. Most fantasy settings fail terribly to deliver on even a fraction of that promise, and it's always a shame.

Last edited by Valyndyral, 4/27/2013, 12:24 pm
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


quote:

Valyndyral wrote:

Having just finished my thesis on the subject of magic in the middle ages, this has been on my mind quite a lot lately.




Is it overly geekly that I really want to read your thesis?

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Re: "I Hate Magic"


Objectively, yes. But you're in good company, I think we're all fans of magic here. emoticon

Last edited by Valyndyral, 4/27/2013, 1:11 pm
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


Nope.
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


Its an interesting read, much of which I agree with. But the fact that he has a background in religious studies is kind of framing his argument. Does magic in a fantasy setting serve the same purpose for characters in the world as it does for ancient cultures? Is the webster's dictionary definition of "magic" really suitable? I don't think so.

Magic in most fantasy worlds, as we play them, is akin to science and technology more than anything. While we understand the world to be made up of 109 elements, fantasy characters understand it to be composed of four. And while we understand gravity, magnetism, electrostatics etc. to be the major forces at work in our world... to fantasy characters its the movements of stars, other planes, and the weave that make things happen. Engineers on earth manipulate these natural phenomenon to do things, and wizards in fantasy worlds do the same with those that they understand.

It may be called magic but its serving the function of technology.

This is excluding the kinds of powers you see gods, demons, faeries and whatnot use - which retain more of the mystique the author of the article was trying to shoot for.



Last edited by Numos, 4/27/2013, 2:00 pm


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Re: "I Hate Magic"


quote:

Numos wrote:

Magic in most fantasy worlds, as we play them, is akin to science and technology more than anything. While we understand the world to be made up of 109 elements, fantasy characters understand it to be composed of four. And while we understand gravity, magnetism, electrostatics etc. to be the major forces at work in our world... to fantasy characters its the movements of stars, other planes, and the weave that make things happen. Engineers on earth manipulate these natural phenomenon to do things, and wizards in fantasy worlds do the same with those that they understand.


That's actually one of the driving concepts behind White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension roleplaying game (along with with its little brother, Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, which is basically Mage: The Ascension set in the Renaissance).

So the two leading factions in Mage are the Council of Nine and the Order of Reason/Daedalites (who become the Technocracy by the time our modern era rolls around). It all began back in ancient times when humans first started coming out of the caves, building thatched huts, sharpening rocks and maybe smelting some lead and bronze. Some of those early people attained an unusual degree of enlightenment and insight, and they realized, "Hey, this world is made up of spirits and elemental forces that I can manipulate to change the world around me." Others among those early people attained the same enlightenment, but they realized, "Hey, this world is shaped by fundamental forces and materials which I can shape and manipulate to change the world around me." So the former set about discovering and improving means to shape and control reality through mysticism and spirituality, while the latter set about doing the same thing with science and technology.

But the kicker to that game's universe is that both of those types of people are mages, and they're all working magic. The former are your archetypical wizards, witches, shamans and faith healers who are endlessly working to improve the arts of magic over the ages; they started off summoning ghosts, now they're summoning dragons and eldritch horrors. And the latter are Arthur C. Clarke's Axiom incarnate, who since the beginning have been developing technology that was decades, centuries or even millennia beyond what was commonly available; they started off making death rays out of lenses and power cells back in the Middle Ages, now they're star-jumping at FTL speeds.

Of course, both types of mages are ultimately human. And being human in nature, each is convinced that the other's approach to magic is wrong. So as the two have been improving on mysticism and high science, they've also been fighting each other all the way, which has led to such battles as witches conjuring gargoyles out of cauldrons and sending them up to attack dirigible gunships which are bombarding their medieval villages with metamorphing mutagen gas. Pretty zany stuff there.

But both approaches boil down to the same thing: Perform Action X while understanding Principle Y to attain Result Z. And whether you're using eye of newt or unstable cavorite alloy, it's pretty much the same thing, just filtered through two different paradigms. And the common man finds both of these approaches to magic to be mysterious, incomprehensible and powerful.

But that being said, I think that all three installments of The Sims games have had richer and more interesting approaches to magic than your typical Final Fantasy game does. Wanna become a master magician? Better be ready to spend plenty of hours reading tomes, stooping over cauldrons and collecting the right reagents; you're not going to beat up your eighty-fifth Mutant Chocobo and spontaneously realize, "Hey! I can cast triple fireballs now!" emoticon

Last edited by The Wids, 4/27/2013, 5:11 pm
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Valyndyral Profile
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Re: "I Hate Magic"


quote:

Numos wrote:

Its an interesting read, much of which I agree with. But the fact that he has a background in religious studies is kind of framing his argument. Does magic in a fantasy setting serve the same purpose for characters in the world as it does for ancient cultures? Is the webster's dictionary definition of "magic" really suitable? I don't think so.

Magic in most fantasy worlds, as we play them, is akin to science and technology more than anything. While we understand the world to be made up of 109 elements, fantasy characters understand it to be composed of four. And while we understand gravity, magnetism, electrostatics etc. to be the major forces at work in our world... to fantasy characters its the movements of stars, other planes, and the weave that make things happen. Engineers on earth manipulate these natural phenomenon to do things, and wizards in fantasy worlds do the same with those that they understand.

It may be called magic but its serving the function of technology.

This is excluding the kinds of powers you see gods, demons, faeries and whatnot use - which retain more of the mystique the author of the article was trying to shoot for.




Actually, magic of antiquity on through to the Middle Ages and even, to an extent, the time of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the Victorian period was very much protoscientific in its scope.

It was the empirical inquiry, study and manipulation of the world - just a world you thought happened to be heavily metaphysical, a world where it was accepted that god(s) is real, and there are things you can't see with your eyes on a daily basis.

His academic definition of magic is perfectly in line with this understanding of magic as protoscience, and indeed Isaac Newton, father of physics, always considered his career in alchemy to be his most important pursuit and contribution to the world, to which his work in the natural sciences (physics) was a distant second.

In antiquity, the Persian mages or the Hermetic sorcerers of Greco-Egypt were basically just scholars and astrologers. People assumed what they did was magic because most people lacked their level of education. The same holds true into the Middle Ages - nearly all magicians of the period were clergymen, who had the advantages of literacy and access to the totality of written knowledge within the continent of Europe, all of which was contained within monasteries. They studied what we'd think of today as science side-by-side with how to raise a soul from the dead, or communicate directly with God, and there was no difference between these disciplines to them. These men were the direct predecessors of men like Erasmus, Newton and Galileo.

Your assertion, "magic served the function of technology," is quite compatible with the article author's perspective, and the actual reality of magic's purpose well into the modern era. The thing is, and this is what I think Mr. Rath is lamenting (and which I certainly lament) is that this is completely compatible with the rich tradition of our real magical history, and yet people mistakenly think it isn't, and then make their own magic which ends up feeling like a sterile, mechanical system and, well, unmagical.

His background in religion frames the argument pefectly, I think. It equips him with the necessary context and information to realize not that the way we've been using magic in fantasy gaming is wrong, persay, but rather that we haven't been using it to its potential because there is the mistaken perception that it is fundamentally different than a system of tools for manipulating the universe (when, in fact, that is all it is).

Last edited by Valyndyral, 4/27/2013, 9:42 pm
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