The High Cost of Magic

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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Daeruin
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Daeruin » 12 Sep 2014, 23:33

Agamemnon wrote:I think you and I are on the same track, in a lot of ways. I'm definitely more fond of magic being taboo, if not illegal (either by secular or church law). I'm very much attracted to the idea that even learning it is a forbidden and dangerous act - making the search for that knowledge a conscious choice that goes back to the premise of the game itself: how far are you willing to go to get what you want?
Daeruin wrote:About magic being evil. Historically, magic has been seen as both evil and good, never just one. Every culture has both sides. Take voodoo, for example. The stereotyped version of voodoo we know from popular culture is always bad. But in reality, voodoo is a huge spectrum of beliefs and powers, and it includes both white or good magic and black or evil magic. Naturally, the magic that YOU practice is generally good magic, and the magic that the neighboring tribe or rival ethnic group uses is almost always black magic. It's the same in Christianity. Prayers are basically spells, priests had spell books that contained good magic, they carried magical talismans (the cross, the bones of saints, holy water, etc.) and the main difference between all of that and black magic was whether or not it happened to be approved by the church or not. So if you're going for anything remotely historical in feel, you would want to keep that in mind.
Agamemnon wrote:I never actually advocated magic being evil. I advocating it being dangerous, which is an entirely different thing. Ideally, I would like to see it be entirely morally neutral (despite what the church might say), but with the mechanics as such that the path to power is easier through nefarious means than to stay on the more moral path. The question should always be "what are you willing to sacrifice? How far are you willing to go?"
My apologies. You actually said something about magic being taboo, and I took it further. But the same point applies. If you want magic to be historical, just recognize that there will always be some kind of magic that's morally approved along with some that's taboo. The line between approved and taboo is largely cultural.

The reason I was harping on and on about magic fitting into the setting is because I think that has a huge impact on the cost of magic. If you want the effects of magic to be subtle, then the cost has to be equally subtle. No less dangerous perhaps, but subtle enough that you could never be sure if it was just coincidence. That would fit pretty well into a quasi-historical setting. But if the cost of magic is immediate and terrifying, then that will have a much bigger effect on your setting and how people view magic, and it will take your setting further away from historicity.

Something else to be aware of with subtle magic is its effect on the playability of characters. There needs to be a certain level of reliability to my character's abilities if I'm going to invest in them at all. If I have a priest who dabbles in magic but I'm never sure if anything he does actually works, then I probably won't enjoy playing that character—especially if it takes a lot of time, effort, and/or XP to learn magic. If the magic stuff isn't costing me much and is more part of the atmosphere, that might be different.

I just realized that I'm kind of restating Sanderson's First Law of Magic:
An author's ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.
In other words, if the reader doesn't understand the magic and you use it to solve a problem, then you've just resorted to deus ex machina—which is really annoying to readers. Likewise, if my priest can't rely on his magic abilities, then the results of magic will be based too much on randomness or GM fiat, and that's annoying.
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Daeruin
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Daeruin » 12 Sep 2014, 23:41

Marras wrote:I have to disagree with you about Voodoo. Although I am by no means an expert the difference between black and white Voodoo is not about who wields it but for what purpose. If you use the Voodoo to heal someone, it's white but if you put a curse on someone it's black.
I admit that I'm not a voodoo expert. Everything I know about voodoo comes from the podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (episode 92). The point they make is that there are huge cultural influences in voodoo. Certain curses might be morally acceptable to one culture, as a form of revenge or something, but not to another. You could be right though.
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Daeruin
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Daeruin » 12 Sep 2014, 23:51

Agamemnon wrote:So far, I'm playing with these as possible outcomes:
☻Some kind of fatigue based mechanic - the idea that using that kind of power is physically/emotionally draining. Think tax/strain/whatever
☻A backlash style mechanic, wherein using the power is not only draining, but could cause physical injuries up to and including death
☻Psychic backlash as some kind of limiting mechanic - the abuse or misuse of one's abilities leading anywhere from migraines, to sanity loss, to brain death.
☻More narrative, occult style repercussions - using your power may draw attention to you from more dangerous forces, attract psychic predators, disturb local spirits, or simply create some kind of negative karma.
☻More cinematic garbled transmission style effects - the spell goes off, but because you are incompetent, it has an entirely different effect, plays monkey's paw with your intentions, or maybe simply has collateral damage.

Anyone think of anything good to add to the list? Does anyone have strong feelings about any of them over any others? I would like to avoid the Warhammer Fantasy version of "miscast spells cause fireworks and holes in spacetime," as it goes the more realistic vibe of the setting, but playing with some of the above could be fun.
So, I'll stop harping on more generic considerations and actually address some of your questions.

Fatigue = boring. Fatigue is usually represented by a generic penalty to actions, and it's boring to track. It only becomes interesting once it stops you from doing things you need to do. Same in combat. If you can think of a way to spice it up, I might be more interested.

Backlash = more interesting. If it can cause me real physical injuries, especially if they are visible, I'm more interested.

Psychic backlash = meh. If it's not visible, it just doesn't feel real. I don't think I'd have fun roleplaying a character who has a migraine. Insanity might be fun to roleplay depending on how it was implemented. If it's just a statistic, that would be less interesting. If it comes as increasingly crazy flaws, it would be more interesting.

Narrative repercussions = very interesting. I like the idea of the danger coming from actual beings who can find me and hurt me. I like it a lot. Negative karma sounds potentially boring, although it could be fun to watch your karma score drop lower and lower, while you're just waiting for something awful to happen.

Garbled transmission effects = interesting. I always enjoy it when spells screw things up instead of helping. It adds to the drama, and that's always fun.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by hector » 12 Sep 2014, 23:59

Narrative repercussions could work well enough; perhaps something similar to the old idea that what you do with magic will also affect you; perhaps something along the lines of using magic for personal gain will bring you bad luck at some point in the future - at a point outside of your control (perhaps working in a way similar to the flaws). That would also give people a reason to avoid being around people they think use magic - such people are unlucky...
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 13 Sep 2014, 18:05

Higgins and I were musing on this today. Magic's always been a bugbear of mine. I love it in concept, but I never see games that do it justice. It never really feels like magic to me in games. So doing this right (at least to fit my own picky tastes) has been a big issue for me. We've already proposed and scrapped a couple system ideas, though after the beta we may well wind up releasing them to the forums later for you guys to tinker with if you're so inclined.
Daeruin wrote:My apologies. You actually said something about magic being taboo, and I took it further. But the same point applies. If you want magic to be historical, just recognize that there will always be some kind of magic that's morally approved along with some that's taboo. The line between approved and taboo is largely cultural.
It really depends on the time and place, and mostly it has to deal with the stance of the church at the time. Alchemy as a practice is usually seen as okay, but during the true middle ages (say, 1100-1300?) the church (and thus most of society) was very much anti-magic. On the other hand, during the renaissance, magic becomes back in vogue in certain circles. Hermeticism is actually seen as being some kind of pagan prophet who "anticipated the coming of christ" and in certain schools of thought it made it valid cannon. You've also got Kabbalah. coming up as a thing right about this time as a kind of ritual magic. Then the pendulum swings again and with the wars of religion, things get kind of ...burny and heretical.

That said, I feel like what you're actually rehashing the "when its your people doing it, its god, when they do it, it's magic." I.e. when a saint lays hands and heals someone, they have performed a miracle.. when the crooked old crone does it, she's a witch. You have a valid point here, but I'm drawing a (perhaps arbitrary) line in terminology. Generally speaking, when I'm thinking about magic in context, I'm thinking about ritual evocations - western esoteric tradition kind of stuff. I perform these actions to get these results. One can argue that prayer is a kind of magic, but lest we intend to rule that praying has mechanical effects (which it does in, say, Runescape) we have to narrow our scope some.

I'm perfectly fine with the idea that "wise old prophets" in our setting may actually be practicing sorcerers who believe that their powers are a gift of god, and they may even lead people to believe that the things they do are spontaneous miracles, but what they are doing mechanically is still magic for us..the same kind of magic the rat cultists are using down the road to invoke the powers of the Great Nibbler, or whatever. The difference, as we've discussed, is how people react to it, and that really isn't about what you're doing, but how you're selling it. People can get away with just about anything if they can convince people that it's god's will.

That said. I need to run for a bit. I'll respond to the rest of the posts when I get back. Stay tuned.
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hector
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by hector » 13 Sep 2014, 18:47

I think the point he's trying to make is that miracles from God or the exceptionally holy could theoretically be considered a different branch of magic.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by GilbertoCarlos » 15 Sep 2014, 21:14

Some options:

1) Magic is a negotiation, you have no power, you buy it from demons/elementals/gods, and they demand something in return, the stronger the spell, the bigger the price, some options is sacrificing a dove for a small spell, or a dozen virgins for a strong spell, and if a player abuse the same spell, the demons know he really needs it, and will start increasing the price.

2) Magic let's you TRY to make really powerful things, but there is only a small chance that's hard to reduce, imagine in TROS something with TN 10, sure, you can try, but you'll probably fail, and as this TN increases, it get's even harder, so, you want to explode the city? sure, TN30.

3) Magic creates danger, imagine a setting where gods get power by draining the souls from powerful wizards, if someone start casting as if was nothing, the gods would drain his soul.

4) Mana is scarce, imagine a world where you need months or years to recharge your "Mana", you would only cast if you really need to.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Arrow Odd » 16 Sep 2014, 11:30

GilbertoCarlos wrote:Some options:

1) Magic is a negotiation, you have no power, you buy it from demons/elementals/gods, and they demand something in return, the stronger the spell, the bigger the price, some options is sacrificing a dove for a small spell, or a dozen virgins for a strong spell, and if a player abuse the same spell, the demons know he really needs it, and will start increasing the price.
I like this idea of a world where humans have no magical ability of their own. Different "spirits" will have different 'spells' to offer and require different rewards (in advance or promised).
Angels are probably content to know that the priest has performed his devotions to God, but a Saint may like specific prayers. Half the skill in dealing with nature spirits will be knowing what they actually want as rewards. I'm sure there are plenty of imps and demons willing to offer all kinds of magic.
4) Mana is scarce, imagine a world where you need months or years to recharge your "Mana", you would only cast if you really need to.
Time is one the major constraints on magic users in the C&S world. All that enchanting stuff for use as components, let alone the time spent in mastering spells.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Mozusuke » 16 Sep 2014, 14:59

Wow - another C&S user - hello!

Anyway, I really like the 'negotiation' strand above. And narrative consequences. Some form of debt, either to paid in advance, or over a period of time, and a form of 'interest/escalation' if not paid. With real repercussions when the debtor loses patience - doom, damage, fate what have you,.

and by the way, the 'negotiation' would be easier, would it not, if the effect you were seeking somehow advanced the causes of the lender, and so were in some way to their advantage as well! Might affect the 'price'...

Blood. Task. Gift. Personal sacrifice. Political act (may be a special type of task) All possible components of price.

Probably 'effects' are split into 'regular' for whch there is a 'standard' price, and exceptional for which a real negotiation is required, with a serious price to be determined.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Marras » 17 Sep 2014, 05:14

As much as I like the idea of "lending" magic from demons, spirits etc. I must wonder how it works in practice. I think something similar was in use in Elric! that I own but I never put to real test.

My fear as a lazy GM is that I have to suddenly come up with all kinds of important NPCs just because someone wants to cast a spell. For this to work in practice the caster must have perhaps at first only one patron demon/spirit etc. that can grant him the power to cast spells and then the GM can actually design that entity to give it objectives etc. Or you must have some sort of table to use to generate these objectives on the fly. The third option would be more or less fixed "costs" based on how powerful the cast spell is.

Like I said, I really like this kind of magic as it sort of allows sorcery and theistic magic with the same system and in the end it is up to the setting to define if there is a difference.

A variation to this is a sort of leeching where magician can leech magical power from other entities be it demons, spirits or normal beings like humans and animals. This assumes that even normal people have some amount of magical property (heck, this would explain why fiction and history is full of sacrifice of living beings).
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by higgins » 18 Sep 2014, 17:19

Marras wrote:As much as I like the idea of "lending" magic from demons, spirits etc. I must wonder how it works in practice. I think something similar was in use in Elric! that I own but I never put to real test.

My fear as a lazy GM is that I have to suddenly come up with all kinds of important NPCs just because someone wants to cast a spell.
That is the exact issue I ran into when dabbling with concepts from Sorcerer a while back.

Then again, spell lists are even worse. The only magic system I ever use is extremely freeform and lax. Too freeform for any kind of publishing, in fact.

That said, I tossed a whole new mechanic at Agamemnon a few days back and throwing it back and forth, I'm getting pretty excited about the magic system now.

The new proposed mechanic:
- Integrates more mechanical concepts from the rest of the system than the previous version.
- Allows improvisation from players.
- Often doesn't require GM input at all when players are making up spells.
- Rewards out-of-game research into herbs and occult mysticism, as the players can readily bring all that info into play.
- Actually makes it sensible for players of magic wielding characters to keep spellbooks... with realistic notes and ZERO game mechanics in them.

Paint me giddy. I didn't think I could be as excited for adding magic! :)
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 18 Sep 2014, 17:57

higgins wrote:Paint me giddy. I didn't think I could be as excited for adding magic! :)
Yeah. Getting Higgins to like magic may be my proudest achievement. It brings a tear to my eye.
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Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Marras » 19 Sep 2014, 01:45

higgins wrote: The new proposed mechanic:
- Integrates more mechanical concepts from the rest of the system than the previous version.
- Allows improvisation from players.
- Often doesn't require GM input at all when players are making up spells.
- Rewards out-of-game research into herbs and occult mysticism, as the players can readily bring all that info into play.
- Actually makes it sensible for players of magic wielding characters to keep spellbooks... with realistic notes and ZERO game mechanics in them.
If you can really pull this off and even describe it the way I can understand it, all I can say is that "it's magic".
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by hector » 19 Sep 2014, 02:01

That should certainly be interesting. Here's hoping it goes as planned.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by higgins » 19 Sep 2014, 04:12

Marras wrote:If you can really pull this off and even describe it the way I can understand it, all I can say is that "it's magic".
Well, as the central concept is based on an existing mechanic, pulling all that off shouldn't be a problem. As Agamamnon grasped the idea in less than a minute (a definite record time for us to land on the same page), explaining it shouldn't be hard either. The difficult part is to model the auxiliary elements such as the power level of the forces you're trying to bend to your will, how your knowledge and ritual tools contribute to the effect... and the cost of it... in a way that adding up all those factors and more wouldn't end up being a mathematical nightmare.

That said, wording out the issue is a great tool for overcoming problems. I think I have a couple of ideas on slimming things down already. *Clicks on Google Drive bookmark* :ugeek:
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