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Old 02-23-2016, 01:58 PM   #21
ericthered
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Well...that's wrong. Because even if the characters believe in the magic, the players won't.
Ahh, you've got to get the players to believe their is magic in the setting.

It really is an important distinction though. And it can be hard for a GM to pull off.
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Old 02-23-2016, 02:44 PM   #22
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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Originally Posted by Wavefunction View Post
There have been some really interesting and very helpful responses so far, ones that I think have probably covered that topic as much as it can usefully be covered. So I thought I'd change the question slightly: What does magic do for a setting that superpowers don't?
There's a lot of "magic" that is superpowers. For example the "magic" in the Mistborn or Grimnoir series consists of comic book superpowers that are called "magic". So I'm going to rewrite your question:

"What does spell casting do for a setting that superpowers don't".

The essential difference between a spell and a superpower (as I imagine them) is that a spell consists of knowledge that lets you exploit a set of hidden commands somehow built into the universe. Without study to learn these commands you can do almost nothing. It's possible that you were born or initiated with a kind of "sys op" status that gives you access you wouldn't otherwise have, but still you can do little or nothing without learning or developing the "codes".

A superpower on the other hand, is an ability to do something impossible for normal humans that you gained at birth, by accident, or through deliberate exposure to something that changes your body into something not quite human and not in an entirely predictable way. While it is possible to gain skill with your super power, you can use it without any skill at all. You'll just be clumsy with it. Shooting energy blasts out of of a body part just by wanting to (or perhaps accidentally) is a super power. Hitting what you aim at is a skill.

So being a spell caster is about what you know. Being a superhuman is about what you can do. So to be a good spell caster in theory you have to invest a lot more study in developing your powers. A superhuman child can charge right out and start committing havoc on the streets the day after they get their powers. A spell caster who has just started study will usually be able to do very little.

Now spell casters are potentially far more versatile than a typical superhuman. With more skill a superhuman can come up with more applications for their powers, but ultimately they are stuck with with whatever their genetic lottery or super soldier serum gave them at the start.

Some consequences of this are:

1. Superhumans generally have less potential for economic impact than because they get whatever they get, regardless of whether there's a market for it and their abilities are usually more individual. You can't usually train an entire class of superhumans in "helping plants grow" or "finding ore". As a result when spellcasters exist in a world that is otherwise like our own, they tend to exist in secrecy, perhaps a hidden culture of their own, because otherwise they wouldn't live in a world like our own. "Occult" means "secret".

2. There is less of a correlation between age and capability with superhumans. The most powerful person in the world could be an adolescent...or a toddler. There also less of a correlation between being studious and being dangerous.

3. Spellcasting tends to have more unpredictable consequences when it goes wrong because miscasting a spell can be the same thing as casting the wrong spell.

Last edited by David Johnston2; 02-23-2016 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 02-23-2016, 04:08 PM   #23
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Well...that's wrong. Because even if the characters believe in the magic, the players won't.
You could present the campaign as a low magic setting and then never actually produce any genuine magic - perhaps have the PCs on a hunt for genuine supernatural events as Houdini style debunkers.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:47 PM   #24
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
Well...that's wrong. Because even if the characters believe in the magic, the players won't.
Assuming that to be true only the GM has to know. In fact the players can roleplay characters that believe in magic like anything else.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:49 PM   #25
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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You could present the campaign as a low magic setting and then never actually produce any genuine magic - perhaps have the PCs on a hunt for genuine supernatural events as Houdini style debunkers.
I was thinking more in line of a historical character who would believe in magic in the context of their character.
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:32 PM   #26
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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I was thinking more in line of a historical character who would believe in magic in the context of their character.
Sure they can. But that will not create a mystic feel, just as playing a paranoid delusional character won't actually create a conspiratorial layers within layers feel.
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:45 PM   #27
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Default Re: What does magic do?

While you will have players who don't believe in the magic of a game world. You can have players that understand how it works and what rules it is built on.
The sign of success is when the players use the rules regarding magic to come up with something you as the gm never thought of but still fits.
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:47 PM   #28
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Default Re: What does magic do?

Magic does healing better than any realistic scientific or technological medical treatments could in any future I'd find plausible. Or, from a storytelling/worldbuilding perspective, magical healing isn't as straining on suspension of disbelief to bring characters from a wounded state to a fit state or from a dead state to a living state as powers which claim not to be supernatural doing the same.
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Old 02-24-2016, 03:05 AM   #29
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Default Re: What does magic do?

Okay, so should we answer about what magic can do or what can bookish spellcasting do?
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Old 02-24-2016, 12:34 PM   #30
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Default Re: What does magic do?

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Okay, so should we answer about what magic can do or what can bookish spellcasting do?
It's possible to have an in-between breadth of category. Some RPG systems calls it "arcane" magic". It doesn't have to be bookish in order to be that subset of the supernatural which is secular and associated with learning and wizards, as opposed to being innate or religious (or in weird cases both innate and religious).

It's my guess that the OP may specifically have "arcane" magic in mind.
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