Friday, April 4, 2008

Fantasy: The Promise of Magic

Apologies for the delays between posts -- what with one thing (work) and another (Vegas), I just haven't been able to get out that post on magic I'd promised before. But there's also the fact that I'm now strongly leaning towards eliminating "Magic" as a skill altogether, and spreading out the various magic-related stunts among some of the other skills.

Here's the problem, as I see it. I think a generic "fantasy" system is incompatible with a strong, vibrant setting. For the latter to really work, it needs to incorporate the former, and vice-versa. In short, some forms of magic, such as SotC's Spirits, simply don't totally fit in the setting (I jokingly refer to it as "The Unnamed Lands") as it stands right now, so I'm not going to try to shoehorn them in, even if they make sense in other settings -- and even if that means leaving out a part of SotC that I otherwise like. I'll still work on them, but they're not a priority. Instead, I'm prioritizing the forms of magic that specifically belong to the setting we're creating.

The good news is that those forms of magic -- alchemy, artifice, "magecraft," necromancy, and summoning -- also work for a generic setting. The bad news is that some people may want more magic "coverage," but of course the good news to that is that it's on the way. Just... later. I'll also include the option for using a Magic skill (or whatever you want to call it), for those who'd prefer that.

Speaking of which: What's the advantage of not having a Magic skill? For one thing, it adds some personality to magic. Using Art to achieve something supernatural is clearly going to result in something different from using, say, Resolve. And the implication is there that Art-using mages are different from Crafting-using artificers, which means more flavor for both characters and the world. Another thing the separation accomplishes is to lessen a mage's reliance on a single skill. If all forms of magic are stunts under the same skill, then it's all-too easy for a character to make Magic his apex skill, then spend all his stunts on every form of magic available. I don't really want characters who are so totally universal. I just think it's more interesting to play a character with a definite forte instead of one who can do it all.

(Kindly note that I'm staying away from the term "niche protection." That's not what this is about -- it's about interesting characters. Niche is secondary.)

On a somewhat related note, I'm expecting some subtle tweaks to a couple of other skills as a consequence. Medicine is likely to be renamed (I'm leaning towards Physick), the function of Empathy will likely be expanded somewhat to cover some of Mysteries "sixth sense" schtick (and to include the Fortuneteller stunt), and so on.
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