Monday, May 5, 2008

Fantasy: Renaming Magecraft

Warning in advance: There aren't any mechanics in this post. It's just some idle musing, thinking aloud. Y'know, like a blog.

Like I said in my last post, I'm interested in an alternative to the name "Magecraft," not necessarily because of possible confusion with the Crafting skill, but just because it'd be good to have something a little more interesting. I'm not necessarily looking for something completely straightforward here -- if I could hit upon something that lent more weight and depth to the setting, that'd be ideal. With that in mind, here are a few options I've come up with:

Wizardry. This makes me think of the old PC game by the same name, but I'm sure the first thing most people will think of is that blasted Harry Potter guy. Either way, I'm not real hot on this one.

Sorcery. This sounds a bit on the sinister side to me, which is definitely not what I have in mind for this form of magic. Still, it's hard to argue with such a ubiquitous word, even if it's a bit... dull.

Galdr, galdor, or gealdor. These are Norse and Old English words meaning something along the lines of "spell" or "enchantment." According to the quick-and-lazy reference that is Wikipedia, "a master of the craft was also said to be able to raise storms, make distant ships sink, make swords blunt, make armour soft and decide victory or defeat in battles." Galdrs are magical songs or poems that follow specific, rigid meters. That sort of thing fits right in to what I'm thinking of for the form of magic currently known as Magecraft. The down side, of course, is that it's not exactly intuitive. However, that's also the up side, if you ask me.

Goetia. This normally refers to summoning angels or demons, but through the centuries it's had associations with sorcery or ceremonial magic. That kinda fits, but also kinda not. Magecraft isn't about ceremonies. It's about performance.

Stregheria or stregoneria. These are Italian words for a particular brand of witchcraft or sorcery. The first involves religious elements, but the second is more closely linked to sorcery. They're a little different and distinctive. Both have associations with Wicca, which is right out as far as this is concerned, believe me.

Thaumaturgy. Nice and fancy-sounding. It's generally associated with miracles and the workers thereof, but famed charlatan John Dee also used it in a purely areligious context, so it could go either way. I like this one. It's a little generic, but it just sounds magic, y'know?

Thelema. Do people really take notice of Crowley allusions these days? I don't want to get BADD on my ass or anything. Anyway, historically, Thelema refers to that old chestnut "Do what thou wilt" (pointedly leaving out the "An it harm none" bit) and the power of will. Those fit with magery, certainly. What's more, Thelema's also associated with the Hellfire Club, in which I have no small amount of interest.

Zos Kia Cultus. A relatively little-known 20th-century magical practice based on enforcing one's will on reality. That certainly fits the bill. I like how obscure and alien-sounding this one is. Zoskia? Man, that thing writes itself.

Esoterica. As per, "things understood by or meant for a select few." That works, but it isn't especially dramatic. Then again, Zos Kia Cultus is a tough act to follow.

Before anyone suggests Arcana, let me be the first to say "No." It's a neat word, but it's just overused. Which of these appeals most to you? Hit me with your suggestions.


Matt Sheridan said...

"Thaumaturgy" is definitely a cool word, but it's also worth noting that a lot of SotC players are likely to think of it by its Dresden Files definition, which is sympathetic magic.

I think I'd lean towards "esoterica", myself, but that really sounds like something that'd work more through Academics than Art.

I'm also a big fan of the term "willcraft" for magic (but, yeah, I'd still be bothered by the fact that it has no connection to the Crafting skill). I think "willwork" has basically the same intent, but just doesn't sound as cool.

What kind of performance, exactly, do Art-using mages do, anyway? Maybe that's worth looking at. Just as long as you don't end up with "spellsinging", anyway.

Mike Olson said...

I went with Art for Magecraft for a couple reasons. One, if casting a spell is a matter of saying the right words just so, and gesturing exactly like this, then the skill seet associated with Art seems to be the most appropriate. Two, I wanted to make what could easily be vanilla "magic" into something with a little more flavor. Mages aren't all doddering old men holed up in libraries poring over ancient tomes -- they're dramatic and flamboyant, even alluring. In fact, think "magician" rather than "mage." Less Ogeon the Mystic, more Dr. Orpheus.

(To be honest, I think they'd be pretty annoying to spend time with, but fun to play. I'm not sure I'd want to hang around a high-school theater geek with supernatural powers, but damned if I wouldn't want to play one.)

If we're going to put this in D&D terms, I don't want wizards -- I want sorcerers. A couple forms of magic, such as Magecraft and Summoning, are about exerting your will upon the world to accomplish the impossible. Where Summoning gets the job done through the blunt instruments of willpower and dominance, mages do it with flair, panache, and force of personality.

If you zoom out enough from those, they're the same, but the third reason I wanted Magecraft to be Art is that once I decided to spread the forms of magic around to different skills, I wanted to avoid doubling up where I could. At the time, Alchemy or Neromancy had Lore, and Art seemed like a fun alternative.

Jonathan Breese said...

I thought Theurgy was religious magic and Thaumaturgy was something else. Is Thaumaturgy just related to miracles?