3/05/2011

For this weeks Saturday Sorcery I would like to ask  our readers a couple of questions. I am always curious to hear how other people treat pivotal things like magic in their campaigns.

Here are the questions...

What is the standard magic level in your campaign, and how is magic viewed?

For me I like to keep the magic relatively sparse in my campaign. There aren't a lot of wizards in my worlds, and magic scares the shit out of most sensible people. The wizards that do exist are a very secretive bunch that have unknown agenda's and esoteric interests that few beyond their ilk understand, or care to understand. They're a lot like Freemasons, if Freemasons weren't actually lame, and really did the stuff that conspiracy theorists think they do.


What is the frequency and power level of magic items in your campaign?

In my campaign world the magic items are rare, but usually powerful. Most magic items were created for specific purposes, like; A magic sword made to kill the troll king of the direwoods, or something like that. They are very powerful for their chosen purpose but not so much for anything else. There aren't really any +1 swords just lying around, magic items are special and have a history and reason for being created.


What are your thoughts?

16 comments:

  1. Book_ScorpionMarch 05, 2011

    I'd in most of the games I have played in, the level of magic was fairly low, not something people took in their stride when it happened and also not something you could learn easily.

    In the Deadlands campaign we're running at the moment, magic must be kept secret anyway unless you want to take it up with the Texan Rangers The group doesn't really trust the Huckster (especially since his hexes occasionally misfire and have been known to hit members of the group) and while the miracles the nun can do are useful, most characters in that group is still a bit (or a lot freaked out by the whole thing.
    The same goes for magical items. They do exist, but they are rare and they definitely have a history that should be explored. It's usually the hook for a story.

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  2. TrollsmythMarch 05, 2011

    Typically, I go the "low magic" route. Magic is rare and viewed with suspicion. In my current Labyrinth Lord games, I've reinforced that by giving each spell a residual effect that can manifest just from having the spell memorized. Most of these are more annoying than dangerous, but it does lead to folks adopting a NIMBY attitude towards sorcerers.

    The 2nd edition D&D game I ran in college, however, was the opposite; magic was common and everywhere. Most major intersections and the homes of all but the meanest peasants were illuminated by continual light pebbles, potions were regular features on shopping lists, and even the captain of the town guard had a magic sword. That game was very different, and did eventually adopt a heavy scry-and-pounce style to problem solving.

    In my current games, however, in keeping with their themes of magic being rare and dangerous, most permanent magic items are uncommon and involve a nasty side-effect or handicap. Potions, however, are still readily available from alchemists and witches, and can generally be relied upon to work as advertised.

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  3. JsalvatoriMarch 05, 2011

    I've played both types of worlds, but ours tend to be more on the "lots of magic" side. A few people in our group (especially me) like to play the more fantastical type players, hurling balls of energy, teleporting from place to place, etc.
    As long as the world is consistant with it's rules for magic, it doesn't really matter which way you go with it.... Hmmm intersting idea - start a game where everyone can use tons of magic, and it's no big deal - then send the party on a quest to another continent where there is no magic and the people there freak when they see it. Would make for some complex and challenging roleplaying to have to hide your magic abilities suddenly.

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  4. This "lame" Free Mason prefers low rare magic. I, though those I game with don't, like dark fantasy with limited magic. I am fond of the E6 rules and always push to limit what I consider 'suspense of believability spells' in the games I play.

    Now, off to guard the treasure...

    The Bane

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  5. My current campaign is consciously high magic, partly as a reaction against my previous two campaigns which were both low magic. But I hardly flood my campaign with magic items and I try to make them all at least interesting if not unique.

    Magic is accepted and, in most places, common. Most towns have a local wizard or alchemist, fortune teller and, perhaps some priests who can work minor miracles. Cities definitely have these and more. Flying ships and beast are common enough to be looked for, if not always seen.

    Basic magic items, self-lighting lanterns, +1 swords, potions of healing, are fairly easy to come by but even those will carry markers marks or potential quirks. Powerful items are still fairly rare and have a story (or legend) attached to them.

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  6. To be honest, I like the concept of magic being a rarity. I have played many systems, and two systems I really enjoy are Dark Sun (in which magic is shunned, but psionic magic is commonplace) and a little known post-apocalyptic game called Gamma World (in which the peoples of a shattered world sift through the scraps of the ancients- you and I).
    Magic can be commonplace, or very mysterious and scary. Honestly I go for the latter. It gives magic the mysterious factor, and a rare thing is something to be respected, not abused.

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  7. CDGallant_KingMarch 05, 2011

    While I like the idea of a low-magic world, you have to carefully build the campaign for it to work. A long time ago I ran a campaign where magic was supposed to be scarce and rare, but the problem was there was a magic-user in the PC's party, and I let him use the standard rules for the class. At low-level it wasn't a big deal, his sleep spells and cantrips were seen as scary, maybe a little dangerous, but once he started learning stuff like fireball it totally threw the world out of balance. When everyone knows that you can wipe out an entire town with a wave of your hand and there's nothing anyone can do about it, the players really take on a whole new role in the game universe.

    Now I just play with the standard, base-level magic suggested for the edition of D&D we're playing. I try to give magic items some history and character to make them feel more real, but otherwise I figure if the good guys have magic, then so do the bad guys.

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  8. Most of my friends and family are Freemasons, so I often poke fun at them. I guess we just don't live in an area large enough to hide the Templar treasure, so they mainly just have barbecues and eat ribs.

    I'm not really familiar with the E6 rules, I'll check it out though.

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  9. I haven't really checked out Deadlands, but it looks like a pretty awesome game. Anything that combines the old west with magic is cool in my books.

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  10. I apologize to Trollsmyth, his comment did not show up for some weird reason (I blame wizards), so I've copied and pasted it here...

    "Typically, I go the "low magic" route. Magic is rare and viewed with suspicion. In my current Labyrinth Lord games, I've reinforced that by giving each spell a residual effect that can manifest just from having the spell memorized. Most of these are more annoying than dangerous, but it does lead to folks adopting a NIMBY attitude towards sorcerers.

    The 2nd edition D&D game I ran in college, however, was the opposite; magic was common and everywhere. Most major intersections and the homes of all but the meanest peasants were illuminated by continual light pebbles, potions were regular features on shopping lists, and even the captain of the town guard had a magic sword. That game was very different, and did eventually adopt a heavy scry-and-pounce style to problem solving.

    In my current games, however, in keeping with their themes of magic being rare and dangerous, most permanent magic items are uncommon and involve a nasty side-effect or handicap. Potions, however, are still readily available from alchemists and witches, and can generally be relied upon to work as advertised."

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  11. I have played in a few high magic worlds, but I always get bored with them after a while. If everything is super-fantastic and magical all the time, it loses some of the magic, at least to me.

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  12. Low and high magic worlds need rules that are appropriate or at least adaptable to them. D&D is designed for "average" magic worlds (whatever that means), and is also not a very adaptable system unless you want to eradicate a bunch of spells etc. I find D&D to be a very poor system for low magic worlds.

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  13. I'm not a huge fan of high magic settings, but I like the idea if the GM can pull it off and keep it interesting. What system are you using?

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  14. I'm a fan of magic being a rarity. I've never read Dark Sun, I'll have to check it out.

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  15. Originally D&D 3 then 3.5 and now Pathfinder (with a foray into FATE along the way). I think the secret to high fantasy, which is a better term though it is a high magic (as in magic is potentially everywhere) setting as well, is that even though there are fantastic things like fish trees and water falls of snow and winking diamonds, people are still people. Which means they will knife you in a dark alleyway for the price of a sandwich even if there are flying ships and mothlion riders overhead.

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  16. Joe NelsonMarch 10, 2011

    I've played in both high magic and low magic settings, and am currently running two different games that use both to good effect.

    In my B/X game, magic had, at one time, been common, but was now mostly forgotten and scary. It's fairly easy to run as I have players who devour the older pulp fantasy stories where magic was always practiced by scary bald men in dark robes who cursed everyone they met and were often insane.

    In my Pathfinder game, however, magic is quite commonplace, with people not even flinching about little cantrips being cast. I chose this route for that game as two of my players wanted to try out spellcaster classes so I figured it would suit better to have more magic. It has worked like a charm because I've balanced it out with a lot of the major "civilized" areas enjoying a healthy dosage of magic, while the little towns and borderlands find it fearsome and potentially evil.

    As for magic items, I've never taken to 4e's ideal that magic items should be commonplace and without purpose. I always spend a couple extra minutes to write up a little backstory for each and every item, even a lowly +1 broadsword. I've got a whole text document devoted to these little one-or-two paragraph stories, so I can always toss one out whenever I need to.

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