I Hate Magic

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Robert Rath:
Magic Works Through You, Not In You

Part of the problem is that games seldom contextualize magic as part of the world. For practical purposes, characters either regenerate their spiritual energy or buy it at the store. This tends to beg the question - if magic is a force in the world that a sorcerer channels, wouldn't that mean spellcasting should depend heavily on the environment? In that kind of system, a shamanistic mage that draws her energy from nature might be unstoppable in a forest but only have standard powers at sea, or a flame-caster might replenish his energy more quickly by building a campfire or walking into a lava field. Effects could be negative as well - with sorcerers who rely on the sun becoming gradually weaker when they adventure underground or earth mages finding themselves cut off from casting their most powerful hexes when in a tower. These sorts of boundaries are a staple of pen-and-paper RPGs, and they encourage creative thinking and foster a sense of connection to the source of a caster's power. It emphasizes that the mage isn't a battery of spiritual energy, but merely a conduit for a greater, more beautiful, and more elemental force.

Magic the Gathering pretty much does this with the colour system, a Pyromancer (i.e. red player) will be able to cast their fire spells (i.e. red spells) more effectively when in a mountainous/volcanic area (i.e. with lands that produce red mana...I love red decks...:D)

Ilikemilkshake:
Well said!
I'd play the crap out of any game with that level of depth to it's magic. Dragon Age: Origins is the closest I can think of. It had some really fantastic lore surrounding magic and mages but it's gameplay implementation wasn't terribly great, still better than most games though, Especially when it came to how you dealt with demons and blood magic.

I wouldn't say the exacution wasn't "terribly great" I'd go for "it was terrible". There is all this lore about the magic, and yet in game it's (figuratively) snapping your fingers and flashy stuff happening. There isn't any addictive property to Lyrium (sp?) potions, there isn't any downsides to using magic, there isn't any downside to using blood magic, either. Heck, nobody objects to you doing it - not even Wynne or umm whatever that templar guy was called, or even your comrades you steal lifeforce from. And you can even make Wynne a blood mage and she's like "K, cool, whatever". No, wait, she doesn't even react.

Anyway, there were some games I feel did cool stuff with magic - I'd like to recommend them to anybody wanting to have a look:
- TES: Daggerfall - if you're making a custom character, you can choose different advantages and disadvantages - among them are two that make you less capable or completely incapable of casting spells under sunlight or alternatively, in the dark (they reduce the magicka pool, going as far to draining it completely under heavy light/total darkness)

- Arcanum has a similar idea when picking background but it takes it further - there are variety of mage types not just night/day ones. Although they usually get bonus when "at their territory" and a penalty otherwise. But there are nature mages (bonus in nature areas, penalty in towns), Sky mage (outdoors/indoors). And there is a background which is a demon pact - you get a bonus to magic, but you can never be good (the karma meter is capped at -20 on a -100 to 100 scale) and people hate you more. There are also some more to do with magic - there is the Magic Allergy background which makes your character unable to use magical items at all. Also, Arcanum does a good conflict between magic and technology - a person who is good at magic will tend to cause technology to malfunction - technological gadgets may even plain not work for mages, depending on how poweful they are. Conversely, technology tends to disrupt magic - launching a fire bolt at a person wearing many technological trinkets may end up with the spell fizzling out. Also, that means that you cannot heal engineers effectively using magic (potions, spells), while they cannot heal mages using tech (medical cures).

- Arx Fatalis did a cool spellcasting thing - you have to draw runes on the screen. Simple spells require only one or two runes, more complex spells have more. You can memorise some for fast casting but only a few - character with a high spellcasting stat (I think Intelligence) can memorise more and more complex spells, while mundane characters are limited to only a rune or two making them able to only fast cast stuff like "ignite torch".

- Magicka - this game is so cool. The first that makes magick feel magick-y. Well, arguably Arx Fatalis also does a similar job but Magicka pulls it off better, IMO, so shut up. You have 8 elements (earth/fire/water/lightning/healing/arcane/cold/protection) which you can freely combine into spells and the different combinations work. Sometimes hilariously so. but don't try and combine opposing elements - fire cancels cold, for example and vice versa, however, combining fire and water gives you steam which can further expand your arsenal. Furthermore, you have few choices how to employ spells - you can launch them at enemies, cast them around yourself, or cast them on yourself (healing is good, but fire not so much), or enchant your weapon with them. fun and flexible. But aside from just messing around, with combinations, there are actual spells you can learn and do that break away from the basic elements - these include haste, calling rain, slowing time, rising zombies, etc. But my favourite must be "Crash to desktop" - kills a random creature on the screen, maybe even you, with a blue screen of death and a 56K modem sound. Which brings me to another point - magic is dangerous! It's powerful - you can easily mow down enemies but it's also not safe - it's not "point and stuff dies", it's very easy to murderise yourself or your buddy. It's hilarious to see multiple magicks flying around and wreaking havoc, even more so if there is an enemy mage around - the battles could either be prolonged and matching magical prowess, or they could end quite abruptly by one (or more) people just explode because, say, one was using a healing beam, while the other did an arcane one and they crossed.

And the rest of the post would be gushing about the PnP game Mage.

The dresden files handles magic the way you say it should. More evidence to why it needs a game franchise.

DoPo:
SNIP OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

That's very true... If the game had been ABOUT mages, like you HAD to pick a magic class, I feel the game would've been MUCH better for it. They could've spent so much more time fleshing out mechanics to fit the lore into the gameplay. Like you said the lore is incredibly rich but then none of that stuff is in the gameplay... I was basically just trying to be diplomatic when I said DA:O wasn't that great but yeah after thinking about it, it was awful.

Actually I feel like Bioware have a habbit of this, Biotics in Mass Effect basically get COMPLETELY ignored, when there's a reasonable chunk or lore surrounding it, it's almost as if they didn't expect anyone to pick the spacemage class.

Nehrim is the best example of magic done well, even though it was held back by the limitations of being built using Oblivion. Spells are limited to being found in dungeons or learned from special factions, as using magic is considered a serious crime. Even the mages guild treats magic harshly, violently maintaining that magical ability should not be used to rule, a view that has led to war with the strongest mages in existance - the gods.

Robert Rath:
I Hate Magic

Magic should be more than just power from a potion.

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So, could you elaborate on why you hate Magic: The Gathering?

You said you wanted magic to mean something, to not simply be inherent. You wanted the power to be drawn from somewhere.
In the card game mana, is not just a replenishing blue bar, it is physical land. Each spell cast (instant, sorcery,creature)
requires that the caster sacrifice the energy provided by that plot of land. Different types of spells require different types of land. Some of the most powerful ones require a combination of types. The sorcerer (player) who is casting their spells is calling on the powers of angels and or demons, forest spirits, or ancients of the deep. There are many times when a sorcerer will fail because he/she could not harness enough of the right kind of land. In addition, certain creatures will gain buffs from being around other creatures that either actively or passively complement them.

With the exception of hand symbols the card game seems to have much of what you claim to desire in a magic system... So why the hate?

I defiantly agree that magic could use more love and depth beside being a stat stick. I do however almost completely disagree on what magic is and should represent. Not that I think you are wrong or that their is not plenty of room for many iterations just putting different opinions out their. To me magic has always been the expression of human will over the physical, not them being a part of something bigger. Than again I don't actually believe in anything bigger than human will than expect possibly human wills so take that as you will. because of this magic should be deeply individual but also should build off of those how came before most of its not lost but passed down as living will. I also don't think this has to be personal that its possible for ti to become widely commercialized for many types that are in books and taught in schools, others may only work is crated on your own or passed down directly though. Also really tired of the whole past is better in video games we need more worlds that are getting better not ones who lost all the cool stuff in the past.

As a separate note its all game mechanics that tend to be under loved stat sticks, not just magic. Sword-fighting for example, is a art that people have dedicated their lives to and is insanely complex. With different swords fighting quite differently. In a game you are lucky if they have different reach and attack speed for you slow and heavy attacks.

What annoys me endlessly is not how magic is used by casters, but how it is used by EVERYONE.

Think about Skyrim. Every single racial power except the orc one is magical; even your magic hating Redguard can cast a magical buff to regenerate stamina, and most likely ends up with several healing spells during his career. Mass Effect? Half of the classes have biotic abilities and the other half is probably shooting biotic ammo or throwing lift grenades. Diablo? Hell, any ARPG that attempts to make melee combat exciting and gives them some sort of earthquake ability. Pretty much every class in an MMO is either a mage or a spellsword. Etc.

Not to mention how every zone transition is a portal. Portals are infinite kinetic energy if mounted above one another and once commercially exploitable will make all road transportation obsolete, but it never happens in games. Looking at you, GW2 and your stupid Asura gates.

--

Personally I'm okay with the fireball throwing kind of wizard because the "mysterious, powerful" Gandalf type doesn't work in a video game about direct combat (for a taster of what happens then, see Skyrim's master level spells. They're all variations on "stand still for 4 seconds casting, then win the fight" and it sucks). You can always explain it away as the mage spending a couple of hours precasting the spells at daybreak so he can finish casting them in battle with a click of his fingers.

I do prefer more physical magic though: to summon a lightning bolt, bring a thunderstone and throw it at the point where you want the lightning. Don't just call up a poison cloud, but a mass of crawling insects that emerge from the ground. Don't just let warriors slam the ground unless they follow an earth totem of some description. For a series that has no problems with throwing around magic, I appreciate that the Tools of Lorkhan in TES may well be ancient nuclear technology without a warning label that is now considered "divine" after a few misfortunes.

Imo magic that borders on being explainable (maybe that thunderstone is a natural capacitor?) is more interesting than just energy guns. It also isn't rocket science to implement and certainly does not come at the cost of gameplay, which the ideas in the article most definitely will.

Interesting, but I'm not sure I entirely agree. Having played a number of the (for lack of a better word) "positive" implementations you've mentioned, my own conclusion is that video games won't have the freedom or creative capability of their tabletop/pen-and-paper cousins, simply because of the intrinsic limitations present in the medium. At least, for the time being. Breath of the Deep is a wonderful spell in CoC because the process of envisioning your victim drowning on land easily gets the emotions flowing. It's a particularly cruel spell, due in large part to its specificity--but if the casting it in a game only amounts to a series of button presses, followed by an only partially randomized choking/drowning animation, that cruelty gets lost in the process.

IMO, truly deep spellcasting in games will have to come once we have all (or majorly) immersive virtual reality, and I'll give an example from one of my finest D&D moments to illustrate this.

Basic plot of the campaign: pseudo-Roman times, with "barbarians" and "Romans" in the west, and another, very enigmatic, culture in the east. The plot kicked off when escaped from the gladitorial pits, and in the process, discovered that there is a sinister plot in the works by an organization called (something I don't remember, but they're very fire-based.) I am a druid, one of the barbarians, and my clan specialized in fire and stone magics. Somehow, I ended up as the reluctant leader of our little band of barbarians and exiled Romans. Long story short, our trek took us to a mountain cave where some prophetic thing told us what we needed to do.

We come out on the other side of the mountain, and at the base, we're ambushed by a member of that fiery organization. We gear up to fight (the druids wildshape, which becomes important in a bit), our warrior goes in, and is quickly crippled by a torrent of fire. It's immediately apparent that he's going to wreck our shit, and that we need to run. We start to run to the nearby forest, and the fucker sets the forest on fire in response. Knowing that we needed time, I try and cast a water spell (Sleet Storm) on top of the boss and our abandoned comrade, hoping to hamper the boss enough to run in and drag our warrior out. But since my specialty is fire and stone, I fuck up. What was only supposed to be a basic sleet storm becomes a deluge, and there's no way I'm going to be able to get to the warrior, let alone drag his ass out of the storm.

By this point, the forest has started to blaze hard. Everyone else is already in the forest and trying to outpace the blaze. Regretfully, I turn and sprint my Dire Wolf ass to the forest--but as I approach the forest edge, my guilt becomes too much, and I stop and turn. I see a huge puff of smoke and steam from the center of the storm, and realize that the boss has blasted out the middle of the storm to unhinder himself. I steel myself, sprint back to the storm, and leap through the curtain of sleet. Warrior guy is already dead, and boss ready to rip my ass a new one. IDGAF, righteous anger says "fuck this guy, you're going to kill him." I know my fire spells aren't going to touch him, so what do I do? I start burning my prepared spells to use them for Summon Nature's Ally IV.

Now, the boss is almost surrounded by Dire Wolves and my Dire Wolverine companion. He starts to lay down fire, and then one of my Dire Wolves trips him with a Bite. Boss is down, and my wolves and I start literally mauling him. Of course, he's a boss, and still does a fuckton of damage even while hampered. I end up having to summon ~7 wolves over the course of the fight, losing each one in the process. At one point, I order my wolverine companion to run, because he'll take my stories back to the clan (tradition and all that.) At the end, I'm down to my last couple HP, but the boss is bleeding out and crippled. I wildshape into a badger to try and dig and hide, but boss gets a second wind from seeing me so close to death, and summons up one last fire spell and kills me.

Everything in blue is a player action that current games can't really allow for outside of QTEs, scripted/linear sequences, or cutscenes. Everything in red is a dynamic system response that is beyond the capabilities of current tech; they'd have to be part of the same scripted sequence that follows the blue actions. Now, not all of the things I highlighted were spells--but truly deep and dynamic spellcasting has to be part of a system with that same level of freedom and creativity. In pretty much any tabletop RPG, the success of any particular storyline hinges primarily on your DM (or equivalent), and their ability to quickly adapt to player choice in ways that can't be easily predicted by the players themselves. To a slightly lesser extent, the success is also determined by player creativity

The flip side of all this is the appeal to players. Not every game needs rich spellcasting, and not every game should. There are plenty of avenues to satisfy the itch for good magic, and once technology advances enough, more games will be able to accommodate good magic.

I've actually long felt this way about magic; that game developers have cheapened the stuff by simply turning it into superpowers. My dislike of magic also extends to other reasons (namely that I have trouble trusting or liking something as a plotpoint if it has no clearly defined rules), but I find that I could easily tolerate magic in RPGs if they would simply stop treating it like... well, like guns, I suppose.

If magic is rare and world changing like in berserk or conan, how would you use that as a game mechanic, for example, in a diablo game?
I don't see a sorcerer collecting frogeyes, mushrooms and the blood of a virgin reigning fire onto his enemies after a ritual that takes 1 hour translating into farming mobs at all.

dubious_wolf:
The dresden files handles magic the way you say it should. More evidence to why it needs a game franchise.

There is a PnP RPG. And it's good. Try and get a copy of it - Evil Hat Productions deserve your money, they are good people. It not only allows magic, but you can also play as any of the other types - vampires, half-vampires, lycantropes, even as just a mortal badass like Murphy, if you wish. And it works out. Furthermore, it features some gorgeous artwork:

Ilikemilkshake:

DoPo:
SNIP OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

That's very true... If the game had been ABOUT mages, like you HAD to pick a magic class, I feel the game would've been MUCH better for it. They could've spent so much more time fleshing out mechanics to fit the lore into the gameplay. Like you said the lore is incredibly rich but then none of that stuff is in the gameplay... I was basically just trying to be diplomatic when I said DA:O wasn't that great but yeah after thinking about it, it was awful.

Actually I feel like Bioware have a habbit of this, Biotics in Mass Effect basically get COMPLETELY ignored, when there's a reasonable chunk or lore surrounding it, it's almost as if they didn't expect anyone to pick the spacemage class.

I wouldn't call DA:O awful but it didn't manage to convey the magic very well. You do see demons, you hear people talk about them and so on but it just failed to make it feel properly dangerous. You're just being told it is.

But yeah, biotics in Mass Effect weren't as well done, IMO. I don't mean gameplay-wise, as it's actually OK for them to be...well, OK - you do manage to see them briefly in play, so there isn't much chance for them to fail. Still, you're not even told well what it is they are going through - the doctor remarks, like, once about some side effects of older biotics, the only squad member that has them doesn't display much discomfort. There was one scene with him being a bit silent (which made the doctor remark about him having headaches, I believe, and then mentioning the other side effects) and there is one time the group of...erm, activists, decided to spread word but it wasn't much of an explanation. They could have explored the side effects more than just waving in the air and saying "Yeah, it's bad". At least DA:O shows some of the nasty side of magic.

Someone should make a game about actual real life sleight of hand type magic, or maybe a cart life style thing about being a street magician. I think that could be cool.

Izanagi009:
If i might comment, could game companies turn to anime for ideas how to use magic better?

Toaru Majutsu no Index, for example, uses a collection of different Christian, Shinto, Norse and even Hindu mythology for the use of symbolistic magic. They use the theory that an item that copies an original magic item gains some of its power; this can be weapons, idols, even people.

Just something I wanted to comment on

(P.S. this is my first post so if the format does not work, tell me why)

That show weirded me out alot at first. I took many double-takes when I saw that a Protestant (Anglican specifically) was using Norse runes from the Elder Futhark to summon a creature with a Latin name. I kinda wish each group had a separate religion and magic (Norse Pagans use runes and volva priestesses use Seidr, Catholics use prayers and rituals, ect ect)

"Magical thinking is thinking that one's thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it." (Source: Wikipedia)

Magical thinking can refer to "associative thinking" -- for example, I wore my lucky under-wear today, so my favorite sports team won the match. Magical thinking can include the "like produces like" theory -- for example, if I make a tiny doll in your image, with pieces of your hair and skin, then if I poke needles in it, those needles will cause stabbing pains in your body. Magical thinking also includes the idea that anything rare or difficult has intrinsic value because of its rarity and difficulty -- for example, how you cited the Elder Scrolls quests, where performing difficult tasks earned unique rewards.

As you addressed with your core thesis, most "magic" in an RPG isn't the result of magical thinking. Instead, there's a "Flintstone effect", where medkits are replaced with potions, where guns are replaced with wands, where airplanes are replaced with flying mounts, etc. Magic is treated like technology, a resource that can be scientifically understood, and reproduced, without consideration of unique events and thus it can be mass-produced and sold.

The core problem with magical thinking is that, as a rule, a hard-core gamer isn't a magical thinker. A hard-core gamer buys game guides and reads web pages to learn the real mechanics behind a game -- after all, it's a computer program, at some point it's the crunching of numbers. We really haven't seen a lot of rewards for magical thinking since the days of Infocom and the like, where puzzles had to be solved by finding new ways to apply X to Y. (Look up the "Enchanter" series, or the really bizarre -- and magical -- "Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It.")

I wanted to post that the generally mediocre Ultima VIII excelled at two things: atmosphere (mostly thanks to the great background music) and the innovative and elaborate magic system. You beat me to it. ;)

Spiphisser:
I liked the article, I too have wanted to see more magic done this way. The only game I've ever played where magic was arcane and obscure like that was Ultima VIII: Pagan and I loved it.

The quest in Pagan was entirely about learning the four schools of elemental magic, and they each had distinct casting methods. It's been a long time since I played it, but I remember earth magic was cast by putting components into a bag, closing it, maybe saying some magic words, and when you opened the bag you'd have a token that could be used to do something like summon a zombie (earth school was necromancy).

The fire magic was especially complex, you'd place components like sulfur and candles at specific locations around the points of a pentagram on the floor and an item to be enchanted in the center. When it was all done you'd have charged up a wand to cast fireballs, or a medallion to summon demons (who if I'm remembering correctly were just as likely to kill you as your enemies).

One example I can think of is the GFs in FFVIII. It's not exactly that ingrained into the actual mechanics of the game, but within the context of the story it's a pretty interesting system. You obtain most of them by going to some crazy location, then by fighting the GF, but it's never like you actually beat or control them, the battle usually ends with something like "Oh you're pretty good for a human, I guess I'll help". It seems more like they're just allowing you to summon them for a bit of fun on the side, but don't really care.

Then later you find out that using GFs drain your memories, and have possibly all sorts of terrible side effects, but have to choose to keep on using them in order to be strong enough to keep fighting.

Lonewolfm16:

Izanagi009:
If i might comment, could game companies turn to anime for ideas how to use magic better?

Toaru Majutsu no Index, for example, uses a collection of different Christian, Shinto, Norse and even Hindu mythology for the use of symbolistic magic. They use the theory that an item that copies an original magic item gains some of its power; this can be weapons, idols, even people.

Just something I wanted to comment on

(P.S. this is my first post so if the format does not work, tell me why)

That show weirded me out alot at first. I took many double-takes when I saw that a Protestant (Anglican specifically) was using Norse runes from the Elder Futhark to summon a creature with a Latin name. I kinda wish each group had a separate religion and magic (Norse Pagans use runes and volva priestesses use Seidr, Catholics use prayers and rituals, ect ect)

You are referring to Innocentius i assume?

I agree with his critique in general, magic should be done better in modern games, but he failed to do his research and talked about Skyrim too much.

There's a plethora of games where the casting of spells was done in a way that he requested.

e.g. *Sacrifice *(Interplay) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERAOfr8at8g
The sorcerers wave their hands around and speak in a magic language.

e.g. Baldurs Gate 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6LbhhoOSIw
The sorcerers wave their hands around for a prolonged time, building the spell before they fire it off.

e.g. Neverwinter Nights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg8238Rv1MM (Video is from NWN2 but NWN did this as well)
The mages would always pronounce magic words and often use handsigns and runes.

e.g. Arx Fatalis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LueGiUasvFk
You would have to know the runes and draw them in first person view with your mouse in order to cast!

Vampires the Masquerade did a really good job of this, I think. Which isn't surprising since its origin as a tabletop.

'Magic' in its traditional form is only available to the pc if you play as Tremere, which gives you a number of trade offs in terms of abilities as well as being universally lauded by the vampire community for using blood magic, which is reflected during character interactions. This was even more obvious when you play as the Malkavians, whose unique magic of seeing the future makes them all go mad- something that everything character in the game you encounter remarks on. It was also an ability that the player had no control over.

Magic in the game is very much in line with the occult and was truely terrifying whenever you or your opponents used them, and they are perfectly contextualized in where your power comes from because..well...you're a vampire and your source of power, naturally, is blood. So the more magic you use, the more blood you need to consume to replenish it or run the risk of losing your humanity and going on a blood-thirsted rampage.

So yeah, I think alot of the things in the article were done pretty well in that game. Magic being rare and powerful, links to historic understanding of magic, comes with costs and dangers and inherently associated with evil and darkness.

Izanagi009:

Lonewolfm16:

Izanagi009:
If i might comment, could game companies turn to anime for ideas how to use magic better?

Toaru Majutsu no Index, for example, uses a collection of different Christian, Shinto, Norse and even Hindu mythology for the use of symbolistic magic. They use the theory that an item that copies an original magic item gains some of its power; this can be weapons, idols, even people.

Just something I wanted to comment on

(P.S. this is my first post so if the format does not work, tell me why)

That show weirded me out alot at first. I took many double-takes when I saw that a Protestant (Anglican specifically) was using Norse runes from the Elder Futhark to summon a creature with a Latin name. I kinda wish each group had a separate religion and magic (Norse Pagans use runes and volva priestesses use Seidr, Catholics use prayers and rituals, ect ect)

You are referring to Innocentius i assume?

Yes. I believe it is a reference to a saint/pope named Innocentius.

yamy:
Vampires the Masquerade did a really good job of this, I think. Which isn't surprising since its origin as a tabletop.

'Magic' in its traditional form is only available to the pc if you play as Tremere, which gives you a number of trade offs in terms of abilities as well as being universally lauded by the vampire community for using blood magic, which is reflected during character interactions. This was even more obvious when you play as the Malkavians, whose unique magic of seeing the future makes them all go mad- something that everything character in the game you encounter remarks on. It was also an ability that the player had no control over.

Magic in the game is very much in line with the occult and was truely terrifying whenever you or your opponents used them, and they are perfectly contextualized in where your power comes from because..well...you're a vampire and your source of power, naturally, is blood. So the more magic you use, the more blood you need to consume to replenish it or run the risk of losing your humanity and going on a blood-thirsted rampage.

So yeah, I think alot of the things in the article were done pretty well in that game. Magic being rare and powerful, links to historic understanding of magic, comes with costs and dangers and inherently associated with evil and darkness.

I'd like to expand on this since...I'm WoD nut and all. It's probably going to be boring for anyone not into magical systems in games, so skip it if you will. For the rest - I suggest my first post here as some extra reading. Anyway - VtM vampires also own and control magic however, it's different from the magic in Mage. Other Disciplines (the inherent supernatural abilities of vampires) are not, however, considered magic. For what reality cares, they are...inherent abilities. No more special than walking corpses who drink blood. And blood does fuel Disciplines, as well as the vampires, however in the PnP game, it's not always expended - a vampire who knows Dominate does not pay blood any time they use it, while, for example, Celerity costs Vitae to be activated for a short while.

Still, vampiric magic is different than that. It is a...loophole in the undead condition. In a way, that is. Blood magic works because it is fundamentally built on top of the vampiric curse and manipulates it into serving a purpose different than holding together a corpse. And because of this, blood magic always reflects the Curse in one way or another - it could deal with blood (in fact, you can see the Tremere wielding the Path of Blood in Bloodlines - stealing the enemy's Vitae and so on), or is otherwise corruptive and/or static, cold in nature. And it always consumes blood to enact - sometimes "normally" just making it disappear from the vampire's veins, other times blood needs to be worked into a ritualistic manner for the spell to work. At the end of the day night what it does is use the likeness principle to transfer certain properties of the blood (so, the Curse) into an effect into the real world fulfilling the will of the vampire.

Thaumaturgy is heavily based on this principle - it's called "sympathetic magic" - like produces like - an effect is enacted or mimicked on a smaller scale to be transferred and activated on a larger one. Mystical connections are often used to get the smaller scale - a lock of hair or a drop of blood still carry mystical ties to the human (or vampire) they originated from. Still, other connections can just be in symbolic likeness - one of the magical effects the Tremere know involves putting a live spider in the vampire's mouth which would allow them to move on walls similar to an insect. And so on.

It's important to note that Thaumaturgy is not, in fact, the only blood magic around. The Tremere like others to think so but that is not correct. The Giovanni (you also see them briefly in Bloodlines) are necromancers, for example, who learn actual vampiric magic, however, theirs carries more the stench of the grave, death, and corpses and manipulating those. It's not just raising zombies or strictly necromantic stuff (they can also summon ghosts, for example and affect them and so on) - there are other uses that still heavily revolve around the matter. There is also Assamite and Setite sorcery (no Assamites or Followers of Set in Bloodlines, though) which are an older form of blood magic but still operate somewhat the same as Thaumaturgy. The Tremere magic is more formulaic in nature, though, still they all employ the same principles of bending and twisting the Curse to affect the world. Then, there is Koldunic sorcery - one of the staples of (not all) Tzimisce (Andrei doesn't know any, though) it is...interestingly more tied to nature. Not something you'd immediately expect from the clan known to shape flesh like clay for shits and giggles and doesn't know what compassion or mercy is - they can also command the elements - the water, the fire, the air, etc. It isn't, however, that surprising, considering why they can do it - basically, there is a demon lord bound sleeping somewhere under the Tzimisce's homeland whose influence has seeped into the ground, the trees, the nature, and even into the Tzimisce (though not all) themselves. Using their "nature magic" is inherently tapping into the power of the demon. And then...there is Abyss Mysticism. Oh this is...not fun. The Lasombra clan's special Discipline is manipulating shadows and darkness. It's more than just absence of light, though, it's actually exerting control over a realm made entirely of darkness - the Abyss. And the Abyss Mysticism expands on that - it's actually about trying to exploit the Abyss. It is filled with things that have no shape or form but malevolence and hunger - the mystics can summon these or even command them and the Abyss itself into doing stuff. The realm, however, is completely inhuman and quite malevolent, in fact, holding many secrets but human and vampiric mind may not actually be able to handle them. It's sort of straight out of Lovecraft's stories.

There are actually more vampiric magical styles but these are the major ones. At any rate, vampires have mostly managed to tranform most occult practices into magic in one form or another - there is even vampiric voudun and so on. In fact, vampires can be granted magic from demons (aside from Koldunic) but...that's not exactly the same or common. Or safe. Anyway, from the Mage perspective, blood magic is closer to the mortal magic in that it's static in nature, i.e., vampires do not twist and bend reality, so there is no Paradox. They do need blood as a power source, though, which mages recognise as Tass (erm...think "mana" but outside of a mana pool. Like a mana potion) with inherent properties that are both corrupting (from the vampiric nature) and static (for they are walking corpses frozen at the time of their death).

All Magic (or any other interaction) can be distilled to a series of If...Then statements. What separates the authors "real world" examples from say magic in TES, or DnD, or whatever else, is two things: Fluff and internal consistency.

Fluff is just how the person performs the magic, whether its the "Will and the Word" from David Edding's Belgariad Series, Allomancy from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trillogy, or any Vancian Magic like in DnD. Essentially fluff is how you meet the Conditions for the If statement. Part of this comes from DnD 4th ed CharOp, since many abilities and classes just don't function in 4th ed. Instead of fluffing a character and then trying to make it able to defeat a rat in single combat, one would just make an optimized character then just fluff it how they want it to function. For instance if one wanted to make an Assassin type character, one would not pick the Assassin Class, but instead create a Ranger or Rogue and fluff it as an Assassin. The same can be done for any Magic. Mechanically there is no difference between a character slowed by a spell that causes vines to grow from the ground around a mob's feet, a spell that turns the ground to mud, or a spell that simply causes the mob to lose some control of his legs. In all cases the mob is slowed. The "how" is just fluff and can be pretty much anything. Skyrim's fluff is just the mage is a conduit to the aetherius, and takes many years to master his art. Of course if it took the player many years, no one would ever use magic, as the first players of Skyrim would just now be able to barely summon a scamp, while the mighty warriors would have slain everything that moved. Also it seems the Author does not know much of the lore of TES. http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Magic As an aside, game play wise it makes no sense to waste 30 seconds of the players time every time the player wants to use a spell. (I'm looking at you JRPGS.)

The other part is internal consistency. Internal consistency is how the magic relates to itself. For example, how are knotted ropes under a bed, and Dog spirits related? They aren't. Magic does not exist in the real world, so to base fantasy magic off of real world beliefs is just silly. In any world where what we would call magic exist, there would be people that study and MEASURE it. Even extremely random magics could be studied in the same manners we study Quantum Mechanics in this world. Further more inconsistent magics do not build verisimilitude. To contrast, a system like the already mentioned Allomancy have very well defined rules, well defined effects, and well defined cost. This helps prevent the random make crap up that less well define magics lead to. (see Star Trek, and the "USS Make Sh*t Up", for a poorly designed magic system, or for that matter Star Wars.)

Finally, games require rules. The more well defined a magic system is the easier it is to implement. Further more a well defined magic system for Pen and Paper games allows the DM to adjudicate on the results of strange cases. A video game can make you go to the bottom of the Chasm of Doom 3000, to get the ritual of OMG 5000, but that just fluff. What really matters is effects of the ritual, and the cost of those effects. The cost/benefit analysis can only be done in that system and in the end determines if the magic system worth bothering with.

TL:DR, learn to read

So... Dark Souls. You can get magic, miracles, and fire blasts, but you need to have specific items equipped and the right stats for them to work. You can buy some from merchants, but more powerful ones need to be found in the environment, and are often guarded well or hidden in clever ways.

For miracles one must have high faith, sorcery requires high intelligence, while pyromancies require one to offer souls to be improved.

As for the strongest of these abilities, such as Sunlight Spears, The Gravelord Sword Dance, Chaos Fire, and others, you actually DO need to pledge yourself to a covenant.

If you want Sunlight Spears, not only do you need to pledge yourself to the Warriors of Sunlight (in which you gain favor and upgrades by offering Sunlight Medals gained by helping other players) you need to offer the soul of a very powerful being. Chaos Fire requires joining the Servants of Chaos, and offering Humanity to gain stronger versions of the pyromancy gained. The Gravelord Sword Dance requires you to pledge yourself to Gravelord Nito, and offer the difficult to obtain Eyes Of Death, to get this ability.

The Eyes themselves are sinister as they are used to curse other players, and have more powerful enemies appear in their worlds. If you choose to walk the Path of the Dragon, you must pledge yourself to the last Everlasting Dragon, and by offering Dragon Scales, you may become part Dragon. The Darkwraiths invade, and kill other players, and pillage their humanity to gain favor.

Break faith with your covenant, and you lose these abilities until you regain their favor, and some covenants, such as the Forest Hunters, become openly hostile if you do betray them.

As for the good and evil part, Sunlight Miracles are only given to those who dedicate their time to helping others, while the Dark curses of the Gravelord Servants and the powerful lifedrain of the Darkwraiths are only given to those who actively harm others.

In order for these to work in combat, one must be holding a catalyst for sorceries, a talisman for miracles, or a pyromancy flame for pyromancy. Miracles actually require one to pray in order to cast! Pyromancy flames come from being at one with nature as Laurentius of the Great Swamp would tell you. Catalysts are awarded to graduates of the Dragon School of Vinheim.

So looks like Dark Souls gets it somewhat.

Izanagi009:
If i might comment, could game companies turn to anime for ideas how to use magic better?

Toaru Majutsu no Index, for example, uses a collection of different Christian, Shinto, Norse and even Hindu mythology for the use of symbolistic magic. They use the theory that an item that copies an original magic item gains some of its power; this can be weapons, idols, even people.

Just something I wanted to comment on

(P.S. this is my first post so if the format does not work, tell me why)

The funny thing about this is that the manga is serialized by Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan.

I don't really have an opinion on it. For me, Magic was for people who can remember shit like names of spells, & what spell is in what hotkey, & are good strategy, while my dumb ass prefers to use the Hulk Smash approach of using swords, blunt weapons, & arrows on the closest thing to me that moves (which is why I don't play multiplayer games with friendly fire).

I also have a beef about how magic is handled in most games, and I've written about it as well.. the way most games (including baldur's gates etc) handle magic, you might as well give the magic users Kalashnikov of Piercing +3 and be done with it.

Magic should be difficult and unpredictable. Powerful and dangerous. Rare and amazing. Unfortunately, balancing that with "fun" is tricky, as it can easily become frustrating.

Magic the quest for power sounds like an interesting game
Would buy

I feel like what the article is basically saying is that magic needs to be better contextualized? I mean you have all kinds of more creative and original types of magic out there that's not shooting fireballs, but it'd be hard to represent that in gameplay, and even harder to let players actually do that stuff.

Personally as far as gameplay goes, if they let you do cool, creative things with magic that can't also be done with a bow and arrow (like using magic in Magicka) then I'm good.

Filling a guy's longs to drown them on land sounds cool when you read the flavor text, but in a game I imagine it'd look just like he was taking some damage to his health, with maybe a couple water splash effects. Just saying.

This piece reminds me of what I read in the old 2nd Edition DND DM guide, it went along the lines of this;

Magic - how will you deal with magic in your world? Will it be a common everyday thing used by the many? Will mages be in every town selling scrolls and potions for all to use? Or will it be less common? Perhaps feared (because of being less common it is 'different' which leads to an anti-magic theme throughout the world.

Will the players be able to find a wand of fireballs easily? In a world where magic is commonplace the wand is a slight advantage. In a world where magic is rare it will be a game changer, the possessor of the wand can annihilate a good part of the opposing forces army with a single item.

I think the whole problem with magic in games is this -

EVERYONE wants to be a Jedi

Follow me here. Nobody wants to play a starwars game where you can NEVER have the power. Where YOU are on the FAR weaker side. We all want to platy our fantasy of force lightning-ing and chocking/pushing our enemies all over the place. It is too easy to attain too quickly, there is no respect for the power.
Some games put in a 'the power gets stronger as you play' mechanic - but this could also be said of weapons in games such as Fallout or spaceship combat. You get the big guns/spells later.

We have been fed a system where we use 'mana', the first game i can recall this is Diablo/Warcraft 2. Perhaps it was here before then, but I wasn't playing that kind of thing. DND games tend to balance the power much better (through slots) meaning casting is a bigger tactical choice then 'CAST BOOM x 10 > drink potion, repeat'

Magic has become an abstraction, trivialized, all flash no substance in many games. Only seen in combat and not IN the world.
To the author
I will point to Bioshock Infinite. The flying city. We accept it because the story talks about science the whole time, would you accept it if it were talking about the mechanics of magic?

marurder:
We have been fed a system where we use 'mana', the first game i can recall this is Diablo/Warcraft 2. Perhaps it was here before then, but I wasn't playing that kind of thing. DND games tend to balance the power much better (through slots) meaning casting is a bigger tactical choice then 'CAST BOOM x 10 > drink potion, repeat'

Actually, D&D's Vancian casting is a terrible way to balance things. Spellcasters get to throw nukes several times a day, while the "mundanes" get to throw sticks and stones all day long. Guess which one wins fights. Also, most of the times, when the spellcasters run out of spells, the group just rests until they recover them and then moves on. So the advantage of the mundanes of being able to throw sticks and stones (as opposed to pebbles and toothpicks from a depleted spellcaster) is none, as it doesn't come into play. Not to mention that spellcasters can usually still manage to find a way to throw bombs even after the slots run out - wands, scrolls, magic artefacts and the like.

While you could claim that spellcasters still need to choose their spells, that's also not an issue - there is reconessance to be done - going to the red hot glowing mountain McVolcano to fight some fire giants? Well, pick up fire protection and spells that deal with fire. Heading to the icy canyon of McIcyness - do the same with cold. If there is no information available, then they can still scry and stuff - there is an entire school of magic about making the DM just flat out tell you stuff. Well, the DM can lie but in that case, he may as well give up and remove magic altogether. Finally, there are just some spells that are universally useful. OK, unless the DM flat out starts dropping anti magic fields like spilled water, and dispels like mosquitoes, in which case the DM has just given up.

I believe it was Unearthed Arcana in 3e that introduced some variations of spellcasting that actually seemed interesting. Also, the Psionics in 3e offered an alternative casting system that was interesting and workable, too. But most of all, it's the Tome of Battle that actually made the mundanes more interesting and balanced to play by offering them stuff to do other than sticks and stones.

But D&D is just flawed - GURPS has even better systems for handling magic and powers. Namely, several of them, and you're also not inherently limited - it's quite possible that anybody would be able to sling spells - some better and more than others but still. Or characters can also just have other kinds of powers to compensate easily.

In fact, that's probably a better way to do it as a whole - just give everybody powers, similar to what D&D 4e did. After all, it does make sense - magic is supposed to be powerful and mysterious and shit but legends also have people conning gods or being mighty enough to shatter rocks with bare hands, cheating death - the literal personification of it, and so on. Being able to do extraordinary stuff without magic isn't that new a concept and the player character(s) are supposed to be the chosen ones and the heroes most of the time, so it does fit perfectly.

adding hand animations and some spoken words might help immersion slightly, but if you really want a more classical feel to your magic, the problem is in their effects. Any game with magic that manifests such overt and physical effects as bolts of lightning, physically summoned monsters, teleportation, and swords that cause enemies to burst into flame is going to have that video-gamey feel. You can't have it both ways - either magic is subtle, mysterious, and symbolic, or it has direct and overt physical effects. These styles of magic are basically mutually exclusive.

This fits in with my theory of "believability". It seems the movies, stories and themes that are most popular at an any given time match what people find more believable. The idea of Dracula and Frankenstein seem fairly implausible nowadays but the idea of people being satanic (Dracula) and the idea of reanimation and stitching up people was looking quite plausible in the 20s and 30s. Then the atomic age and the idea of UFOs made Superman and other "affected by radiation" heros seem more plausible. Computers led to robots and robotic powers in one form or another like the Bionic man. Terminator. Cyborgs.

Lately the themes seem to be Zombies, Batman and Spiderman, and the tail end of X-men. Zombies are nearly exclusively "virus caused" zombies. Batman doesn't have "magic" powers, and Spiderman and X-men are gene mutations. All things we find more plausible than gods, radiation and plain medical tweaking and machinery. It's also why I think Michael Bay was pushing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as aliens and not mutated humans.

Looking at the Marvel movies it seems that's where they've put the work in. Iron-man is fine and plausible, little change there. The Hulk is a bit harder but still based in gene manipulation. The odd one out is Thor from magic land. They change him to what? An alien? A being from another dimension that comes through a wormhole. Scientific explanation for a god.

People are willing to suspend their disbelief, but like Robert's argumets about magic, it's so much better if it taps into what we feel is right and makes more sense. At least that's my theory.

He was propubly overthinking about the concept of magic in most games. Some games don't want to use it as a way to expand their universe, but rather as a fun clechee that fits the fantasy theme and is rather fun. I mean, isn't burning skeletons fun?

But overall, I agree with magic being more sacred and therefor rare, but it overall depends on the designer. When thinking about the idea of exploring the world to find stronger items, I think of Terraria, magic is rather rare there and the player to earn the abulity to fry things has to go from the abuss to the castles in the sky and is something that is not given at first try.

Also about the spells being more creative. It would make a great game mechanic not to give the player the abulity to kill NPC's directly, but give spells like the one that summons flowers, it would be one of the first spells the player would get and would be completely useless in face to face, but at one of the stealth levels you would hear in one of the conversations between guards that one has allergy. Then the player would create some flowers next to him to make him move away from his post.

It is propubly a bad example, since making the spells situational is a bad idea, but something is a simmilar tone.

We don't need assalt rifles, we need portal guns. Items that are limited in direct combat, but are usefull if you use your head.

Also using magic to help the player explore the world.

Cool.

I like how magic works in most cases - I'ts a massive massive plus for me if they can justify the nature of it and give reasoning why this works as such. Dark Souls for example demands you to use a Pyromancy Gove as a tool to cast fire magic; there's a whole story behind why this exists and how it works - though what I dont get is they let you 'buy' the spells. Just like that. It sort of looks like a scroll but as far as I know they never explain why it is that if you need this in order to work with the pyromancy glove. The same applies for Miracles and Sorceries, both need a tool (Talisman, Catalyst) to operate. Especially for Faith, having to 'learn' a certain miracle is a little wonky to explain isn't it?

EDIT: moreover, these spells have certain charges. In order to cast them again after you've depleted the casts you first need to rest at a bonfire. While ths makes sense for the Pyromancy glove (rekindle the flame in the glove at a bonfire) - how does this make sense for miracles/sorceries?

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