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Save RPG magic by making every player character a mage?

Discussion in 'Codex Workshop' started by Dark Elf, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. eric__s ass hater Developer

    eric__s
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    Hey, sorry if this is hijacking your topic or whatever, if you want I could make a new thread for this but I've been thinking about some of the things I read in this topic and a really good post by CappenVarra and have had a few ideas. I think your goal with making magic divine was to limit it and I kind of want to take this further. What if divine magic was only capable of being used by avatars of gods - people literally like Jesus and Buddha, people chosen by gods and enlightened to the point where they're capable of altering reality by channeling the god's power?

    But this sort of requires that we define "god". I think the standard D&D gods, built on Greek and Norse models, are pretty boring. They're boring because they're endowed with human qualities - they're exceptionally powerful people with worldly agendas. The problem is that we understand them. I understand why they do certain things and why they're involved in the world and what they're trying to accomplish, and this makes the difference between god and mortal less drastic and meaningful. I'd like to see gods less as people and more as cosmic forces, inexplicable powers that govern (or not?) the universe and aren't attached to mortal politics or ideals or goals or even worlds. A god could look at a world or worshipper with the same nonchalance as a person flipping through channels on TV. Gods may or may not even be sentient things. The point, though, is that people don't understand them and don't attach the same human values to them. If there's a god of war, it's because the way humans interact with this god is through warfare. Warfare could just be one aspect of this god, or not an aspect at all and merely a means of communication. By giving gods domains (war, fire, chaos, whatever) we also give them agendas and purposes and I want to avoid that. The less we're able to understand how gods work, the better.

    People with divine powers have a connection with gods but I don't think they should be able to use their powers at whim. Maybe these powers are accessed with the system of self-mutilation I talked about earlier, or through ritual or cannibalism or asceticism or who knows what. I also don't think they should be capable of doing whatever they want, too. Magic is something they can create and practice, but not fully control or understand. I've always liked Gandalf because he wasn't a character who went around throwing fireballs or creating golems or whatever, he was just an exceptionally wise and willful person who could control forces that other people couldn't understand. Maybe this is how divine magic users could be.

    But I also think there should be magic unattached to divinity. I like the idea of shamans with clairvoyant and mystic powers that don't immediately manifest themselves. Do you remember how in King of Dragon Pass, you could never be sure if your magic was ever actually doing anything and if you sacrificed before a battle that you won, you weren't sure if you won because of your magic or because of your skill? Ritual magic learned through asceticism and self-denial and study of obscure occult texts could lead to a person coming to understand cosmic forces and drawing from them, but not necessarily in a coherent way. Maybe ritualists can gain strength from eating the hearts of other magic users or hurting themselves or extreme drug use or performing some weird function over and over.

    Maybe these two types of magic are just different avenues to the same thing. Either way, I think both of these systems limit magic use, make it something very special and encourage entirely new kinds of characters.
     
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  2. Norfleet Moderator

    Norfleet
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    I think if you want godlike beings with totally incomprehensible motives and agendas that humans cannot relate to at all, you should be playing Call of Cthulhu. Now there's a system with magic...and you don't want any of it on you.
     
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  3. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    Actually if you study it a bit, the greek gods, were like that, characterized as 'imanent' to their interrests. You would be 'possessed by apollo' if you did something pretty 'apollo like'.

    The subsequent personification and 'single-body-ism' is just popamole artistic license.
    Your ideas almost inevetably lead to it when people want to make a narrative where the gods are the focus (so don't do it), because as above, they're literally scenario or 'tools' for the writer to do what he wants to do (not that that doesn't happen anyway)

    This is not so different from D&D to be honest that tried to take both ends of the idea and turned out something i consider a bit stupid. You know, the way they 'adapt to the job'? And at the same time have 'avatars' and talk to people? And have preferred planes and follow a law-evil axis? And have enemies according to 'opposing concepts' (only sometimes the concept is not so opposing dumdudumdumdumdum). Then there is the other shit like warring for portfolios only to have their personality change if they 'win'. Bleh.
     
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  4. Hekateras Educated

    Hekateras
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    I tend to prefer the gods left as vague as mysterious as possible in stories. Face it, that's pretty much the only way to avoid making stupid mistakes when you try to go into depth and inevitably end up not making any sense - because the topic inherently doesn't make any sense. I think they tend to work well as vague and mysterious threats of a kind. Delving into too much detail runs the risk of blurring the boundary between mortal and god - which can be awesome, if done right, and with awareness, but can be boring otherwise.


    Back to the subject at hand:
    One thing I really like about BaK is how difficult it is to recover lost hitpoints (without swallowing gallons of expensive healing potions, that is), especially from a near-death state. It's note *quite* the injury mechanic one of the posters above was looking for, but it's close, and the Cast From Hitpoings mechanic in the game does allow for some genuinely awesome and tense dramatic moments, when you have to gamble with the chances of killing yourself to stop the enemy who is likewise trying to kill you and your companions. And then there's the spell Mad Gods' Rage which casts lightning bolts at all visible enemies until either they are dead, or the caster is dead. O_O
     
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  5. commie The Last Marxist Patron

    commie
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  6. Hekateras Educated

    Hekateras
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    What about a highly advanced form of technology? :P
     
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  7. Mother Russia Andhaira Dumbfuck Queued

    Andhaira
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    Not a good idea at all.

    Also @OP, you are wrong. A warrior can always swing his sword. A thief can always pick locks. But in 99% of all rpgs, a wizard cannot always cast spells due to limitations like Mana, Astral Points, Memorization slots, etc.

    Also, the last AAA+ crpgs where wizards were truly powerful, more so than any other class, was Baldurs Gate 2 (and yeah I guess IWD 2 as well and maybe arcanum, if you invest in the electrical school and get Harm as well). After that, all AAA+ games went to shit, and attempted to balance mages with other classes. I haven't played Dragon Age 1 or 2, but I hear it is the same in that (could be wrong though)

    (note: ToEE doesn't count because the characters are too low level for mages to dominate. Had the game gone up 2 20 levels then yeah mages would have rawked.)
     
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  8. Norfleet Moderator

    Norfleet
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    What are you talking about? Mages start dominating the moment they get FIREBALLS. As is quite apparent from my KOTC LP, few problems cannot be solved with more splode. Two mages can nuke an entire room to smoking rubble on an alpha strike.
     
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  9. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    Limit the mobile cannon radius. 2 characters wide, if you manage to funnel them, 3 with luck.

    Problem solved!
     
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  10. Princess Rage Novice

    Princess Rage
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    Soul Sacrifice. This is pretty much exactly what you described.
    http://blog.us.playstation.com/2012/08/24/hard-choices-inafune-talks-soul-sacrifice/

    I don't know if anyone gives a damn since it's for the Vita.
    Of course, I don't think magic should have to be something quite so "evil". How you play in Soul Sacrifice determines whether or not the player becomes what you described. I believe somewhere in that article, it says something along the lines of "The more that is saved, the more angelic the player becomes. The more that is sacrificed, the more demonic the player becomes. Sacrificing provides more powerful magic [it did mention some reward for not being a demonic douche mage though]", and I must say I get really hot and sweaty over angelic magic.

    As for magic being a divine thing, no thanks. This is one of the reasons I think clerics are lame-asses and white mages are awesome. I've always thought of magic as something that utilizes one's mental power, spirit, and/or intelligence, something attained through study and the like, not from worshiping random god X who thinks "oh, I like that guy, I guess I'll let him use magic".
     
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  11. Hollywood Educated

    Hollywood
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    Has anyone here played Mage: The Awakening because it's uncanny how much of what has been discussed in the last couple dozen posts mirrors it's own magic system. One that's rather apt in it's way of dealing with magic used in a modern and more realistic setting (one feature being that magic is subject to the power of belief; this leads to interesting scenarios and meta-plot). It creates a situation where magic was highly potent in bygone eras when practising magi could get away with a lot (usually making themselves out to be medicine men, shaman, prophets, oracles, messiahs, even dark sorcerors and alchemist) but in the modern day makes magic a dangerous force to exploit (even disguising oneself as a travelling magician -- or street magician, at that -- is met with scrutiny). It makes mages some of the weakest but also potential one of the most powerful characters to play as.

    I may have to make a thread about this in The Gazebo if one hasn't made already. Dealing primarily with nWOD, of course.
     
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  12. crojipjip Developer Übermensch

    crojipjip
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    more like RPG MUSIC
     
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  13. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    DraQ
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    Well, one of the ways to help alleviate the impact of magic on a largely luddite society that is actually used by Fantasy is making magic exclusive. Even in a relatively high magic setting you need a fucking wizard to actively use magic. You probably wouldn't be using electric lighting if it meant having to hire an engineer as your servant.

    Of course it doesn't explain tactics, weaponry, fortifications, medicine and myriad other things being glaringly untouched by presence of magic, but it can explain lack of common magical utilities.

    Not that I would mind seeing something along the lines of Mieville's Bas-Lag in a cRPG.
    :bounce:
    :salute: This.

    Now imagine your typical, highly intelligent dragon, with about a millenium of accummulated experience and possibly quite a bit of magical aptitude. Such dragons shouldn't be something for the heroes to defeat. Small, perfectly trained army maybe, provided situational advantage, suitable machinery and good magic support. Even then it would probably kill most people involved off, destroy large swathes of terrain and generally be far less preferable than periodically expending a virgin or some livestock, and maybe some interesting trinkets. Of course given that you don't live millenia by getting yourself killed at first suitable occasion such dragon would likely flee the moment things go sour, and then strike hard in unexpected place and time, driving home point that pissing off mythical equivalent of a strategic bomber is an ill thought out strategy.

    Shit, I would love such scenario in an RPG - party/hero arrives in city, learns of the dragon that requires periodic appeasement, and, if you seriously suggest getting rid of it, you get promptly hauled off to local dungeon because no one wants to risk turning the city into a WW2 Dresden or Warsaw (or Hiroshima). The situation generally goes on unresolved (unless you try, but then general fuckupitude ensues), and turns out irrelevant to whatever is main plot.

    Good way to kick heroic tropes in the 'nads too.
     
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  14. The Brazilian Slaughter Arcane

    The Brazilian Slaughter
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    I don't mind, but its very hard to balance.

    Brief suggestion: Modern-age magic, ditch the "Four elements" bullshit in favour of a system where the player makes a mess out of physics. I'm thinking magical schools like Chronomancy, Atomancy, Gravity and Eletromagnetic Magic, etc.
     
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  15. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    DraQ
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    Hell, why the fuck not?
     
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  16. Mangoose Arcane Patron

    Mangoose
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    I wouldn't mind a four element system that requires the "mage" to draw actual matter from around him. A la Avatar (cartoon). Or maybe Full Metal Alchemist (kinda). Basically make environment interaction the core mechanic of the character.

    Ex: The water mage could have a container of water slung over his shoulder, to use when there are no outside sources of water. But when he comes across a lake, he can cause bigger effects, depending on his training. Perhaps when he is more advanced, he can even draw moisture from the air.
     
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  17. Norfleet Moderator

    Norfleet
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    Well, there's an upside to having a water mage that works like that, anyway: No one will ever need to pee anymore. Not that RPG characters ever DO, and now we know WHY.
     
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  18. DraQ Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    DraQ
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    Using environment is almost always a good idea, so yeah. It doesn't actually have to come in the form of four element system, though.

    Another idea:
    If you're using elemental system, and traditional mana you can also use outside concentrations, exceptional forms of those elements to charge your batteries. This kind of system was used in Witcher novels and in Nali Chronicles SP mod for UT, that featured nicely thought out, use-based magic system in addition to some other neat stuff like simple, but well built alchemy.
     
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  19. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    tuluse
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    That sounds similar to what WoD does.
     
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  20. alkeides Arcane Patron

    alkeides
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    There was a good thread about this a few years ago: http://rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/realistic-settings-medieval-but-not-necessarily.40355/

    Historical traditions of magic on Earth were mostly regarded as divine in origin and serious rituals required long periods of retreats, practice and prayers. Smaller charms for controlling animals, changing the weather, etc could be much shorter, but the training to be shaman/witchdoctor/cunning man could take much time as well. I have no idea on how to put this into a game, but maybe putting magic in terms of probability shifts could work -- Peter Carroll's books go into more detail about this, although ironically his "chaos magick" is a non-traditional system not based on divinity.
     
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