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Old 02-17-2016, 08:38 AM   #2
The Colonel
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Default Re: What does magic do?

This is surely the primary (high level) question that any creator needs to ask themselves shortly after deciding that they are going to have magic in the first place.

The following is culled from The Arcana Wiki's cover page on magic:

A setting designer needs to ask themselves the following questions when adding magic to their world:

•Where does magic come from? Can it be stored, blocked or re-directed?
•Who can use it - and how often?
•Who knows about it? How much of what is widely known about it is true? How much of what the experts known is true?
•How commonly does it appear? Is it an everyday part of life or something most people only see at work once or twice in a lifetime?
•How is it used? How much preparation and activation time is required?
•What does it cost (in all terms from physical exhaustion to required training)?
•How much control do users have over it?
•What can magic do - and what can it not do?
•What laws does it acknowledge? How far does ontological inertia apply? Are there side-effects and if so, how significant are they for the world in general?
◦Are "magic" and "science" different things? If so, how do they interact?
•What are a non-user's options when confronted with magic?
◦If there is such a thing as "magic resistance" is it something you do reflexively or something that takes decision? Can you suppress the reflex (if any)? What factors make you more (and less) resistant?
•How are most people likely to react? Accept it as "something that happens"? React with wonder? Suspect fraud or trickery or be horrified?
•Are there multiple forms of magic - and if so, how do they relate to one another? Are they different front-ends on the same thing or radically different phenomena? Are "secular" and "divine" magic the same thing or radically different (if either exists and/or if there is a distinction)?
•Can most people tell the difference between any multiple forms of magic? If so, how do their reactions to different forms vary?

Once these questions have been answered, the setting designer will have a good idea about where magic fits in their campaign. If that picture doesn't match the one they want, they will either need to adjust their baselines or fit some kind of adaptor (for example, magic is actually quite benign in absolute terms, but is not much used because it got really bad PR after the Great Wizard War). creator's magic can vary a great deal from another's. In literary terms, compare the magical traditions of say, Jack Vance and Jim Butcher...
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