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Posted by Charles Rice on 2009-03-30
I believe magic systems in games should have "rules" or "laws" like any other force of nature. This prevents Dr. Strange Syndrome (DSS) from setting in where magic can be your deus ex machina.

So with that in mind, here are the rules for magic in Voyage of Discovery.

Voyage of Discovery’s “rules” of magic: The magic system here is not intended to be 100% comprehensive. It is the goal of this book to provide a foundation for the game master and players’ vision of Terra, not one handed down to them to which they must conform. As such, much is left unexplained and unexplored. Still, there need to be a few “rules” to provide a feeling of consistency. The reason these are “rules” and not Rules indicates that, like all good rules, they are made to be broken. But when they are, it should mean something. Everyone should realize that what’s happening is not normal.

Rule #1: Magicians are born not made.

Magic is not science. It is not learned. Even with the arrival of tattoo magics from the New World, magic is something harnessed by man, not something he creates or controls. Some people have magical power, most don’t and no amount of wishing or hard work can change that.

Rule #2: Magic is an invisible force that alters the physical world.

Magic does not deal with spirits, invisible energies or the soul. It is a power that changes the physical world and violates the law of nature. So a new magical discipline focusing on intensifying or dampening sound would be fine.

One focused on telepathic communication would not. One is magic changing the physical world, the other is sharing invisible thoughts. So while a gift might allow a magician to silence everyone in the room so that only he could speak, it would not allow him to talk secretly with someone in the room, without them noticing anything was going on.

Rule #3: Magic has a cost.

Using a magical gift is never free or easy. It’s like being a human conductor for electricity. The toll it takes on the body is immense. In general this means the magician in question will suffer some physical or mental side effect during or after the use of her abilities.

Rule #4: Magic has consequences.

Just as magic takes a toll on the gifted, it has shaped the society of Terra irrevocably. One obvious and quite striking form this has taken is the role of women in society. Women serve in high government office, onboard naval vessels and even in the army, enjoying a status that would be unheard of on Earth.

While it is true that very few women have gifts, the presence of those that do has shaped the society around it, even for ordinary women. This means that a woman without magical gifts would also not be totally out of place in a military unit or on a naval vessel. The fact that some women wield raw power has shaped the perceptions of all women.

Similarly, the presence of healing gifts has changed the type of access people enjoy to advanced healing techniques. While this generally means that the rich are much better off, it has also served to reduce or eliminate plague in Terra’s history.

Similarly the presence of their new and powerful magics has shaped the relations between the explorers from the Island Kingdom and natives of the New World.

Anytime a new magical discipline is introduced or discovered, think about how it will change those who encounter it, or who have encountered it.

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Posted by Paul King on 2009-03-31 10:38:15
Does this mean that telepathy is not going to be available?
Posted by Michael Lafferty on 2009-03-31 12:11:00
so - - what are your inspirations for the magic in VOD?
Posted by Charles Rice on 2009-03-31 15:50:26
Paul: I don't see telepathy as being a good fit for the setting generally. As I say though, rules are made to be broken *sometimes*.

Basically, and this feeds directly into Mike's question, I see magic that affects the physical world and that for the most part obeys its laws as a magic system that fits with the Age of Enlightenment.

In other words, I want magic that fits in with an age of great discovery about the laws of the natural world, not something that completely circumvents it.

So as fingerprints are being discovered, magic might be found to have applications for police detective work.

As opposed to, say, contacting the spirit of the deceased and asking who killed him.

So the magic in the setting is looking for a sword and sorcery feel, but one that also ties into an age of great interest in the natural world and its properties.
Posted by Michael Lafferty on 2009-03-31 19:25:27
so you want a system that fits in with the laws of the natural world, can (on occasion) violate them but does not circumvent them outright.


This concept _kind of_ reminds me of the element based magics in Avatar.
Posted by Paul King on 2009-04-01 02:29:30
Looks like I shall have to create the magical device known as "cell phone". :)
Posted by Benjamin Sullivan on 2009-04-05 02:05:21
I'm not too big on the first rule, but but I LOVE the rest especially Rule #2.
Posted by Charles Rice on 2009-04-05 21:29:34
Well, Rule #1 to me gives the magic a feel more of sword and sorcery than a modern discipline, or magic as seen in epic fantasy such as Tolkien.

You might be the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, for example, born with a special birthmark denoting your special magical power.

That's a staple from ancient times, through Conan, even Harry Potter.

It gives magic a mysterious feel that I like.

That also ties into the other rules. I don't think magic should be able to do ANYTHING. In fact, I think if it can, it's less cool.

Posted by Paul King on 2009-04-07 13:52:38
"I don't think magic should be able to do ANYTHING"

Do you mean ANY or EVERY?
Posted by Charles Rice on 2009-04-08 00:14:29
Paul- Anything as in "anything you want", so yes, everything is a clearer way of saying what I was saying ;)