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Old 07-07-2018, 06:21 PM   #21
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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Originally Posted by scc View Post
Magic doesn't exactly have the best rep, some of it deserved (Not really updated from 3e) and some not (It's too cheap), but I think I've figured out a real problem it suffers from: No Meta-physics.

There's no attempt to explain HOW any of the spells work and that's rather important. Now this may sound silly or folly but it's actually rather important because it informs you how magic itself works and what it's limits are. And lack of definitions here may have carry on effects.

An example of this problem is how the College's are organized, they work along themes rather then appearing to work on fundamental (magical) concepts, which can result in spells that would logically go together not, or very weak colleges (Food).

Now while the various other magic systems lack the same level of definition, given that they don't have pre-determined lists of spells it less of a problem.
Honestly, Magic does far more to explain how the spells work than is usual for an RPG magic system. The prerequisite chains are far more systematic than is normal and give you a clear idea of the basic knowledge you need to master before moving on to more advanced applications. As for the colleges, I find them rather unimportant.
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Old 07-07-2018, 06:45 PM   #22
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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I don't see that as a problem, because it is a generic system (so has to work in settings with servitor angels and settings with magic as an energy field), and because the odds are that your players have no idea why magic works either, any more than the average electrician really understands subatomic physics. D&D magic does not come with metaphysics either. I still think that the two main problems are:

- There are too many common spells which let a single character break a 'typical fantasy RPG setting' (the Unofficial GURPS Magic Faq has an OK list). Many of them are basically boring spells too ... in most settings we don't want mages replacing barbers and masons.
- The implicit assumptions about how (not why) magic works which held up to GURPS (3e) Magic (about 10 FP and powerstones, repeated small, short-ranged castings to create major effects, int14magery3, mana levels, combat spells are either about as effective as a crossbow or can take one opponent out of the fight at the cost of all your FP) faded away, leaving a bundle of spells which is not very flavourful and takes too long to organize

About 10 years ago, David Pulver suggested that the solution was to regroup around a list of about 100 spells suitable for a ghost story, horror novel, or medieval legend, another list for flashy fantasy novel magic, another for technomagic, another for 'please don't call it psi' ...
I like this view. Magic style templates, with notes on how to twist the template, make sense to me. In some settings, magic should be spooky and mysterious in others it is a nine to five job.
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Old 07-07-2018, 06:57 PM   #23
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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This goes beyond mere 'seasoning', and really isn't something the GM should be doing, when you pick up a book like Magic and except that the spells inside it form a cohesive whole, not a couple of hundred spell ideas, for an example of the problems as I see them:

Elemental seems to be treated as both something naturally occurring AND things created by mages, they can't both be right.

Lend Vitality would suggest that a world where it is used requires something like the elthric doubles from Katherine Kerr's Deverry novels, so why isn't there a spell that reverses the effect that damages the double, which would bypass all physical defenses and likely only be heal-able by magic.
A clear and logical metaphysics of magic would define the game world. I love the magic systems for Ars Magica and Mage: the Ascension but neither system is suited to Yrth or Technomancer. The Path/Book spell system is wonderful, but again, if you focus on the metaphysics in the magic system, you limit and restrict the nature of the campaign worlds.
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:35 PM   #24
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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Elemental seems to be treated as both something naturally occurring AND things created by mages, they can't both be right.
Why on earth can't they be? Many things that are naturally occurring can also be artificially produced.
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Since the rules assume that most mages have an Average job, doing things like casting Q&D enchantments which leave them falling-down-tired fives times a day, that is a way better career! They can devote the rest of their time to whatever pleases them.
This seems like overreach from the (admittedly curious) baseline calculation of enchanted item costs.

That said, certainly many sections of published GURPS material address how magic integrates with economics, so it's certainly not a 'don't look behind the curtain' subject.
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Old 07-08-2018, 01:03 AM   #25
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Honestly, Magic does far more to explain how the spells work than is usual for an RPG magic system.
GURPS Magic treatment seems to me to be more systematic than D&D for example.*

An important if simple metaphysical component is the concept of mana: a defined and necessary energy source that must be tapped to provide the wondrous effects. This implies a form of conservation of energy so that magic isn't purely "magical."

Also, spells drain energy from casters or other sources. This is a metaphysical imposition not found in D&D.

Of course, I understand that the desire in this thread was for an even more sophisticated model.

* I decided to compare with my D&D 3.5 book on the economic dilemma of shaping earth considered above. It appears to me that this is less of a problem in D&D as the spells seem to mostly adhere to temporary durations.
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Old 07-08-2018, 01:28 AM   #26
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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More like it was never updated from 3e
More like... a simple reading of both 3e and 4e show this to be false.

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How interesting does a Mage who can only cast Food spells sound?
I played a Wizard in an adventure and the most effective pair of spells I cast were Food spells.

They weren't her only spells, but considering that because of them our haul for that mission was doubled (and none of her offensive spells ever managed to do anything) the Food spells were very impressive.
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Old 07-08-2018, 05:08 AM   #27
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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You know, this "Continual Light will completely transform a medieval economy" argument is true of nearly every spell system invented for any RPG. There are some threads in an RPG you simply don't need to follow to their logical conclusion. Just let wizards be wizards and stop worrying about simulating a fictional economy.

I know that sounds like just pushing it under the rug, but you really don't need to explain things like where all the gold that adventurers dig up goes, or how that tribe of orcs manages to find enough food to live in that cave, or why wizards don't Continual Light their way to transforming the world's economy. If you like that sort of thing, by all means make something more to your liking. But that's not to say the magic system is unbalanced or illogical. It's just not designed to deal with such simulation. All it's trying to do is let wizards cast spells, because a lot of people seem to want to do that in an RPG. What level of impact that has is up to you.
GURPS Magic carefully defines an economic framework for wizards (daily wages for enchanters, job charts), it carefully lays out spells useful in daily life, it carefully focuses magic on small local effects, and it carefully encourages smart players to focus on 'utility' spells over offensive or buffs that just make sense in game-mechanical terms (you don't need GURPS rules to understand what Invisibility or Might does, you need D&D mechanics to understand Bless or Prayer). Complaining that players and GMs, gasp, follow those invitations is perverse.

In contrast, D&D magic gives you a list of spells focused on adventuring and encourages you not to think about how low-level spells affect the world ... some recent editions even remove the practical spells like Tenser's Floating Disk or Create Food from the normal magic rules. In D&D, dream-castles are build by archmages in a few days, not by a dozen journeymen over several months.
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Old 07-08-2018, 06:44 AM   #28
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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GURPS Magic carefully defines an economic framework for wizards (daily wages for enchanters, job charts), it carefully lays out spells useful in daily life, it carefully focuses magic on small local effects, and it carefully encourages smart players to focus on 'utility' spells over offensive or buffs that just make sense in game-mechanical terms (you don't need GURPS rules to understand what Invisibility or Might does, you need D&D mechanics to understand Bless or Prayer). Complaining that players and GMs, gasp, follow those invitations is perverse.
One economic framework, it presumes that mages are relatively common and knowledge of magic generally available. The same book makes it clear that changing the rules changes the economics. As GURPS has a bent toward simulation, you're invited to alter the rules to simulate the kind of story you want.

Many low level GURPS spells are great for a small party traveling in a wilderness. Spells like Shape Earth and Earth to Stone can be the salvation of a small party of adventurers.

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In contrast, D&D magic gives you a list of spells focused on adventuring and encourages you not to think about how low-level spells affect the world ... some recent editions even remove the practical spells like Tenser's Floating Disk or Create Food from the normal magic rules. In D&D, dream-castles are built by archmages in a few days, not by a dozen journeymen over several months.
D&D is about telling one type of story. Mainly the kind of Sword and Sorcery tales being reprinted from Weird Tales in the 1960s with a certain Tolkien influence. Neither Tolkien, Howard, nor T.H. White, saw magic as an everyday thing. However, even Le Guin, who has Ged raised by the village witch, moved magic more into the everyday world. In Earthsea, mages could be hired. Neither Tolkien nor White would have a Wizard for hire. Howard might have a wizard as a member of the court, but not in worlds where anyone got a pay envelope. Heck Dunsany has wage mages in his stories as does Baum and Nesbit. It's about the flavor of the setting. Too many metaphysics baked in, and too many worlds are excluded.
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Old 07-08-2018, 06:55 AM   #29
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

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Originally Posted by Stormcrow View Post
You know, this "Continual Light will completely transform a medieval economy" argument is true of nearly every spell system invented for any RPG. There are some threads in an RPG you simply don't need to follow to their logical conclusion. Just let wizards be wizards and stop worrying about simulating a fictional economy.
The only problem is more then the fictional economy the wizards will be changing. Culture and technology are as going to affected which in terns will effect what goes on.

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I know that sounds like just pushing it under the rug, but you really don't need to explain things like where all the gold that adventurers dig up goes, or how that tribe of orcs manages to find enough food to live in that cave, or why wizards don't Continual Light their way to transforming the world's economy. If you like that sort of thing, by all means make something more to your liking. But that's not to say the magic system is unbalanced or illogical. It's just not designed to deal with such simulation. All it's trying to do is let wizards cast spells, because a lot of people seem to want to do that in an RPG. What level of impact that has is up to you.
Trying to explain things like that makes the world feel more "alive". Sure you can have an inn in the middle of nowhere for the adventurers to learn about what is going on but that raises a lot of awkward questions.


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D&D is about telling one type of story. Mainly the kind of Sword and Sorcery tales being reprinted from Weird Tales in the 1960s with a certain Tolkien influence. Neither Tolkien, Howard, nor T.H. White, saw magic as an everyday thing. However, even Le Guin, who has Ged raised by the village witch, moved magic more into the everyday world. In Earthsea, mages could be hired. Neither Tolkien nor White would have a Wizard for hire. Howard might have a wizard as a member of the court, but not in worlds where anyone got a pay envelope. Heck Dunsany has wage mages in his stories as does Baum and Nesbit. It's about the flavor of the setting. Too many metaphysics baked in, and too many worlds are excluded.
Actually due to its origin as Chainmail, D&D owed more to H. G. Wells' 1913 Little Wars then the actual Sword and Sorcery coming out of Weird Tales. OD&D was for all practical proposes a miniature war game with RPG elements awkwardly slapped on.

The first thing an army needs to even remotely function is supplies. The ability to replenish units in terms of health and spell power between battles means potions...lots and lots of potions. Sure they may be rare in the average town but they have to be common enough to be used in the average war or tourney going on.

One of the more famous articles back from the old days of Dragon magazine was "Gandalf was only a Fifth Level Magic-User!" (Dragon #5 March 1977) showed just how quickly things went pearshaped with D&D in terms of magical power. Clerics in many respects were worse.

Last edited by maximara; 07-08-2018 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 07-08-2018, 09:34 AM   #30
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Default Re: The Problem With Magic

Paradoxically, the rarer the magic, the wealthier the mage (OTHC). In a low mana world, a mage with Continual Light-21 (which would be Continual Light-16 after mana penalties) would end up providing high quality light for the nobility and would likely earn a Very Wealth income. In a rare magic world, a mage with Continual Light-16 would end up providing high quality light for royalty and would also likely earn a Very Wealthy income.

My main problem with highly skilled wizards having Average income is that it would not reflect economic reality. Average income should be the province of wizards with a utility spell at skill 12, Comfortable income should be the province of wizards with a utility spell at skill 14, and Wealthy income should be the province of wizards with a utility spell at skill 16. Apprentice wizards (skill 10) should earn Struggling income as should ceremonial assistants.

The job of ceremonial assistant would be suitable for children, disabled people, elderly people, etc. I could imagine a fantasy society with few beggars, for example, because the majority of the people who would have been beggars make a better living being a ceremonial assistant than they would as a beggar.

You could have traveling magical bazaars, consisting of a group of five mages with skill-16 and one hundred ceremonial assistants. With that many ceremonial assistants, a mage could cast Instant Regeneration without any effort, though the cost to the recipient would probably be $200 (two weeks' salary for a TL4 serf). I imagine that a Manor lord would actually pay the bill though, as a serf with two arms (or two legs) would be much more productive than a crippled serf.

The most common working would be Shape Earth though, as every locality could probably benefit enough from the movement of massive amounts of earth or stone for the local elites to pick up the tab (around $120,000 a month or $8,000 a day [assuming one day of travel and rest between each locality]). One-half of the tab would be going to pay the salaries of the mages and their assistants while one-half of the tab would be going to pay for the support staff (cleaners, cooks, drivers, guards, prostitutes, etc). Adventurers could attach themselves as guards for such a travel bazaar and earn a living defending them from bandits and the like.
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