I Hate Magic

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I'd argue that Magicka pulled this off quite well. It's hardly the serious kind of dark sorcery tapped from the unknown places of the world, but it sure does convey that you're meddling around with powerful forces you can't control.

Captcha: "abra cadabra". I lol'd.

In D&D 2nd Ed (anything after that can Bite Me), you only got new spells by copying them from an existing source and trained in it's usage by a higher level mage. But in the pen and paper games, the DM didn't make you go through with the actual VSM (it's a 2nd ed term) every time you wanted to cast Magic Missile. And unless you were significantly high level and/or had enough wands to make Greenpeace come after you for deforestation, you generally had only enough spells for a single encounter.

These mechanics won't work in a computer game, not anymore, not really. We have become addicted to the 'fast paced "Press X for Fireball" spam' types of games.

Now while Fus Ro Da may have been magical the first couple of times you used it, I imagine the charm would wear thin somewhat quickly having to "Press X for Fireball" three or four times a minute.

I could never play a magic user in Baldur's Gate. They ran out of steam too quickly.

I actually like elemental magic... but mostly when it's done Last Airbender style. There we have symbolic movements that actually do something. I, in some cases, hate magic which are arbitrary human made symbols. Why would the arcane fabric react to some made-up words and/or symbols? I could go with the dragon shouts in skyrim and with symbols invoking magic... if it was magic that created those symbols and that by recreating these "natural" symbols one would open a channel to the arcane dimension, or somesuch. The dragon speech is walking a fine line for me in this case. Burried dog spirits, I could go with that, knots under beds? Yeah, no.

While I also like spellcasting in skyrim I really dislike the ease of getting it and learning it, instantly. I doesn't give a sense of reward, unless you go through the quests which give you those high-end spells.

The Sorcerers and Sorceresses (and witchers) in Witcher universe lose something quite important and that is the ability to have children in exchange for great power and long life, also they are not very well liked and most of the ordinary folk do not trust them. So I guess the magic in the witcher books is done well according to your standards.

Magic: The Gathering and the original Guild Wars did magic the best in my opinion. Then again, it's no surprise that I play a mesmer or necromancer.

...Or Black/Blue.

Irridium:

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)

I'd really love to see a game use the principles of Alchemy from Fullmetal Alchemist. Mainly the "you can't create something out of nothing. Everything requires something of equal value" part. I think that could make things pretty interesting.

My m8s and I have been using their magic system in one of our campaigns for about a year now, and it is very fun. The best part is that it encourages learning. If you don't know what chemicals do what or what compounds do what, you will be very limited in your magic.

You must hate friendship too, because friendship is magic.

You monster.

Loved the article but can anyone actually give me any examples of games that aren't table top RPG's that handle magic in this way? Because I would love to play one.

I completely agree. I've been yearning to see a game that truly captures the cultural implications of magic.
Look at films like Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away or even many of the better movies made about the Arthur legends (like Mists of Avalon): that's how magic is done.

Today games just seem to put magic in there as an excuse to show off "cool" special effects and feel "badass". Personally, I am less and less impressed with that kind of thing when there isn't a meaning, a valuable tale behind it all.

I don't disagree with the article, but at the same time I don't see why magic should be the one thing you hate. What about melee fighting? Typically if you want to swing a melee weapon you equip it and hit the attack button. No effort is put into becoming proficient with the particular weapon you chose, and the method of attack (read: button pushes) is the same regardless of the weapon.
And crafting- usually we just select the ingredients we want to use and press the craft button. I can't think of any games where in order to craft we have to find the right materials, tools and facilities, and manually handle all three in some hyper-complicated ballet that could all fall apart if we didn't pump the bellows enough or use the correct cross-stitch to sew our pouch together.
Magic as it is used in games is a mechanic, and the only place it has to be as complicated as described in the article is games which cater specifically to gamers who want it to be as such. That is not to say said games wouldn't be off-the-chain fantastic, but imagine an RPG with all of the class abilities being that involving. It would be a niche game at best and, I imagine, a bastard to develop.

I agree with this very much. I want to play as wizards in games, but I just know that their spells are going to be the incredibly boring power trio that is fire, ice and lightning. It feels like such an unimaginative waste. The only thing these games bother to do to make their magic unique is to give the word "magic" a ridiculous spelling (Magik, Magicka, Majic etc.)

In my opinion, the games that do magic best are the games that don't even call it magic. Vampire: The Bloodlines has "thaumatology", which lets you boil people's blood in their veins. Bioshock: Infinite's vigour's are totally unique, potent and bizarro powers, even despite being mechanically alike. Even Stalker's magic artefacts (yes, I'm calling the game's pseudoscience "magic") are compelling and mysterious. It feels like games do a much better job at approaching magic whenever they aren't trying to make magic in the first place. The games just want to give the player "powers" for their non-typical RPG setting, and end up creating a far more interesting analogue to magic in the process.

What about Journey? It has a very simple magic system that follows very basic rules and is completely embedded in the plot of the game

Read this carefully, it will likely be long.

This article pretty much defines the differance between magic in horror and magic in fantasy which is why they tend to be seperate generes. To put things into a PnP RPG context, something like Call Of Cthulhu uses more of a basis of real occultism for some of the "general" stuff, but real power tends to come from dealing with dark forces that generally exact a huge toll on the person casting the spells. Solutions in fighting the supernatural with the supernatural tend to revolve more on invoking one being or power to counter another, with the caster being destroyed body and mind in the process as a matter of course. Such a concept of magic doesn't play well with the sword and sorcery "magic is just another power to be used" school so such RPGs tend to be kept very seperate. The horror of say CoC is that humanity is irrelevent supernaturally speaking, and the idea of people with their own powers plays havoc with the concept. This is why when you see crossovers Cthulhu and company just become another demon to be punched/blasted when you start seeing characters who are powerful in their own right. That said when it comes to RPGs, either computer or PnP the reason why you don't see too much in the way of "historical accuracy" especially in games trying to be dark, is fear of offending someone. Personally I don't give it much credence and think most other people shouldn't either, but basically when you consider dealing with things that some people consider real, it's offensive for everyone else to label them as fantasy and say "it's fun to play a game where we pretend this is real". Not to mention the whole can of worms that is the political correctness movement, and the whole new age thing, getting into Witchcraft alone can start some nasty arguements given that today people like to embrace the new-age re-invention as the truth and pretend the Celts, Gauls, etc... were all a bunch of hippies dancing around in the moonlight. When you get into the Native American stuff, that can get pretty gruesome (I worked for two differant Indian Tribes) but again, it's not PC, it goes to a similar place
as the New Age.

That said regular fantasy is not a genere for everyone, personally I like it, but I've met more than a few people who share the sentiments of the article writer. Other than Call Of Cthulhu there have been several "Dark" Fantasy games that have tried to get into low magic settings, or ones with hugely dark and evil spellcasting systems that generally screwed the caster (or put them in jeopardy), without getting into real history as a basis to avoid offending anyone. One recurring example is attempts to do Michael Moorcock's writings as an RPG, there have been a few differant editions of "Stormbringer", which has also seen incarnations as "Elric!", and even D20 printings of things like "Dragon Lords Of Melnibone". To put it bluntly in that setting being a spellcaster means pledging yourself to chaos, and needing to deal with demons (the stuff of pure chaos) to get them to assume the form of items and such. The backlash involved can be epic to put it lightly.

Overall though most of this comes down to "deconstructionism" and like most deconstructionist arguements it falls apart rather quickly when you try and assert it as some kind of logic, rather than personal preferance. To be brutally honest the standard "fantasy" version of magic very much has it's roots in lore along with all of the religion and ritualism. Stories about people lighting fires at a whim, commanding the weather, levitating and flying, moving objects, deflecting objects, etc... have existed all over the world, oftentimes without much in the way of a nessicary entity of evocation behind it. This is a point made by a lot of people who do paranormal research in real life. As nerds we like to increasingly draw a line between psionics and "magic" but as far as belief and superstition went, that's a fairly recent distinction. This is to say nothing of things like alchemy. In the real world most of this stuff was tricks, and you can see stage magicians do a lot of the same stuff for shows nowadays, and how some of these tricks have been done (there are various methods) have been exposed over the years. The point being though that in fantasy we're saying there was no trick involved, and that the guys doing this stuff have real powers. It should also be noted that the idea of power being attached to bloodlines is also an old one, albiet in certain cases that can blur the disctinction between magic and faith beause it comes with claims of distant divine lineage. The idea that a Pharoah carries a divine bloodline for example, and that his power is passed down to his male heirs. Such was the logic behind inbreeding to preserve certain bloodlines. The biggest real world example I can think of this happening now was Kim Jong Il (Kim Jong Un's father) who claimed he could control the weather, he and his son pretty much claiming to be bona fide demi-gods.

At any rate, the thing is that in fantasy games once you are acknowleging that this stuff is out there, the rest of it follows more or less naturally. If it's a skill/knowlege you'd expect people to treat it a lot like a profession, get together to form mage guilds, and similar things like you see in most high fantasy worlds. We've even seen it IRL among people claiming to have powers, forming covens, communes, and cabals. Aleister Crowley's "Golden Dawn" and Hitler's "Brotherhood Of Thul" being two modern examples, on a pseudo-religious front we have Scientology (which is about applied knowlege, replacing a "god" with alien space ghosts holding back our potential), and groups like now defunct "Solar Temple" and "Church Of Claire Prophet" The thing is that in fantasy if these guys really have powers and are thus not shy about using them, such organizations are going to be a lot more than just the power of their lawyers, bank accounts, and the number of criminally prone psychos with guns they can claim as members.

On the bloodline aspect of things, a number of fantasy worlds tie magic specifically to that. In many cases the idea being that some slutty deities wound up with mortal progeny who in turn had kids, and thus the gene circulated allowing some people to use magic depending on how active it was for them. Even in cases where it's tied to a specific blood lineage, all it takes is for a few uncontrolled generations of royal bastards and you could wind up with thousands or tens of thousands of magic users within a couple of centuries.

The biggest problem with magic in fantasy usually is when it's a fantasy game. In books it's possible to make magic rare and special by focusing on a handfull of characters and having the rest of the world play straight for them, and having their adventures stand out. In a gaming enviroment though where the idea is for the players to be heroes (as opposed to the uncool crowd that happen to be stuck in the prescence of cooler people) it creates an issue because you usually wind up with multiple people all equivilent to a book protaganist walking around together, requiring extreme threat levels to be an adequete challenge. Even if magic is rare in the world, the nature of a game pretty much means that tons of it is going to be thrown at the player characters (either PnP or in a video game) non-stop. Even if like one in every couple hundred thousand people is supposed to be capable of magic, and only one out of every hundred of them manages to be trained, to keep things challenging pretty much every band of brigands that shows up is going to
have a mage or two with them.

The idea of spell points and such is again gamability in action, when your doing a game you want to get the players to be fairly careful with their resources as opposed to simply doing the most powerful thing possible again and again. Without some kind of measure of fatigue, energy, or whatever, you rapidly wind up with "Captain Marvel" as opposed to a fantasy wizard. That is to say that "Captain Marvel" is magical but he wanders around with all of his stuff going constnatly and uses it "at will" without limitation. Being pretty much a giant collection of "always active" stat increasing spells, flight, and lightning powers, conveyed by a duration free spell, as opposed to a situation where in a fantasy novel a wizard is supposed to do a bit of magic here and there, and be capable of incredible things, but doesn't nessicarly do his "drop meteor on enemy" spell every time he runs into a mugger.

The point here being that when you follow the logic chain you wind up back in pretty much the same place.

I'll also say that one of the very earliest distinctions in fantasy gaming was between "Clerics" and "Mages" to diffentiate the two. Clerics being the ones who use invocations and have magic work through them, where Mages are the ones who know alchemal type formulas, or have "knacks" of their own. While there was early on a distinction in games (for purposes of teamwork) between support vs. offense, that decayed long ago. Even in D&D you saw Clerics and Mages being able to do what the other side normally did with the right spells/builds/kits/specialties as early as 2E. It wasn't all that horrorific though because unlike "Lovecraftian" horror, for every evil, entropy-obssessed demon, or alien entity out to wreck reality, there was some good god of equal or superior power opposing them... with the ensueing celestrial slapfights being the cause of all the crap that spills onto the mortal planes which adventurers have to clean up.

Some world do a better job setting up their magic systems, backround, cosmology, etc... than others. Games and game worlds have come and gone in VAST quantities though because a lot of them don't stand up.

That said, fantasy, even dark fantasy and horror, isn't for everyone. If you don't like magic, there have always been some games on the fringes like Palladium's "Ninjas and Superspies", TSR's "Top Secret S.I." (not sure if it ever got re-done after the WoTC buy out), or even "Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes" which famously inspired "Wasteland".

I like the way DF approaches magic, in that it is virtually unobtainable and only a select few have it, but the ones that do (bloody necromancers) are insanely powerful.

I'd like to see a magic game where you actually took energy from the environment around you, and had to fulfil tasks without completely running out of energy/pissing off nature so bad it counter attacked.
It would explain why the undead are found in dead forests.

In oblivion i wanted the option to BE a necromancer. You could raise dead but it didnt count because they were "summoned" not raised and that wasnt necromancy. I wanted to uncover the forbidden knowledge. I wanted to walk into town and rip the dead from their graves as people watched in horror. It should have been an option to independently study the dark arcane and overthrow the mages. I wanted to tear the living skeleton from the arch mages body.

This adds another element to the magic. Some magic like healing is accepted by all societies except the most extreme magic hating. Although the lore and knowledge might be lost or extremely difficult to study you knowing and practicing it will result in joy and awe from others. Society will praise your work and effort to bring healing and other more acceptable magics to light. Sharing the ability to summon water with other mages will earn you renown. Conversely the forbidden and disgusting knowledge that results in awful sacrifice or pain will leave you shunned. The lesser transgressions, like raising a dead animal will lead to digust. People will ward you away. Blood magic too will rub everyone except the most open and dark societies. Using the baser powers like ritual sacrifice and raising the human dead like ghosts and skeletons will result in outright hostility. People will try and burn you and wont allow you into town unless you sneak in.

Some more desperate lords will be willing to trade your awful terrible power for money. Keeping it a secret from their people they are willing to traffic in the forbidden magic for personal gain or revenge. It will tinge them with regret and often end badly for them. You should be able to make your way across the land deceiving and beguiling your way to fortune. Corrupting and destroying peoples lives with promises of the arcane and power while undermining their wishes at every turn.

It would add so much depth to add a sense of culture to what magic is unique to the world. Some magic is treated as evil, some as good, some as a wonder and some as a sham or waste of time. It was always stupid in skyrim that i could rip a horror terror from the void in front of people and not have themselves shit themselves in fear. Even in battle where the context makes sense having a living breathing raging demon suddenly appear should make your allies uneasy unless they are used to it. And even then it should create a sense of distrust. The common people usually view magic, unless obviously positive, with distrust and unease.

As others mentioned, the principle of Fullmetal Alchemist "magic" is pretty great. I love how there are specific rules and consequences to using it or misusing it, such as rebound.

The worst example of magic I've seen is in Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition where barbarians randomly flung out magical energy through their attacks. It pissed me off to no end and is the reason that I gave up on the whole system(even though there were some nice rules to make the flow of combat go quicker and more smoothly).

Magic is a weird balance in general, especially in P&P systems, where it's my opinion that they should be equivalent to whatever physical class there is. This is where I disagree with the article; I believe that magic should be allowed to come out of nowhere and be a tool that's considered as normal as technology.

People who are very strict about this tend to be a type of player and person that I avoid, because they want everything to be according to their perception and not out of any logical sense or balanced approach. Usually they're close-minded and are hard to convince to let things slide or give a bit of leeway to use abilities or magic to do something different than the clear description of the spell.

i recently had an experience similar to the wants and desires of the author.

i've been playing Dragon Age: Origins as of late, and ever since i learned what it was, i had been dying to track down the Reaver sub-class for my scrappy warrior elf. for those who don't know, Reavers get stronger and heal themselves as things die, which fits the version of my elf i have in my head (he has a Napoleonic complex and seeks to crush and intimidate everyone is his path to earn their fear and respect. if he gains dark powers, everyone will have no choice but to respect the little guy. it's cute.) anyway, after some major dungeon crawling and chopping up more than a couple of people, i finally managed to desecrate a sacred relic in order to achieve the sub-class of my dreams. i was so happy, i skipped on back to camp, merrily chopping off the heads of everything that stood in my way and absorbing their tasty, tasty souls for health. i was as happy as something very happy in an even happier place (keep in mind that my elf is not a bad guy by any means, he just makes somewhat questionable decisions when faced with the opportunity of gaining strength).

as it turns out, certain people take exception to you pissing on their beliefs for your own personal gain. people like, say. . . my goddamned healer!! upon returning to camp and using some of the ashes from the sacred relic i plundered to clean up some vomit from my dwarf, my healer confronted me about my decision to tarnish the remains of her female jesus and promptly left forever. and that was my only healer.

at first i tried to shrug it off. i can fair without her. no biggie. except that i can't. i have five warriors, two rogues, and now only one mage who can't be re-spected into healing (because bioware is poopy at times and makes very poor game design choices). i have no idea how i'm going to recover from this. there aren't enough health potions in the world to keep my boys alive through some of the shit they go through. the bottom line is, attaining my power came at a heavy price, one that i am now almost certain i can't afford.

alas, it is too late for me. i must hope my future endeavors contain legions of enemies, that i may use my dark power to keep myself alive.

Eh, one irrational force is as good as another.
If it's good for the mechanics and usability, I don't really have a problem with it.
(Magicka employed a set of Elements to fantastic complexity without really touching on the mythos. And it fit.)

Though at the same time, I'm not opposed to seeing a few games go deeper into its own mythos with magic.

Great article and i agree fully. I always felt that most games have the same typical magic in them and is usually badly implemented. (mages are always weak characters who have to sacrifice all of their stats in exchange for using magic and then the magic is further limited with stupid MP systems)

The main problem with magic is that unless the prtoagonist's magical powers are a core element, it's inevitably constrained by the need to make it no more effective than a bow or sword.

Screw balance, I want to be AWED.

Do you think he would like 40k psychic stuff? I mean, every time you use it, you risk being consumed on the spot by malevolent daemons made of emotion and dragged into a quite literal hell.

If you're interested in delving into the world of fantasy books there are some brilliant magic systems out there.

The Lightbringer trilogy by Brent Weeks does something very similar to your last paragraph, whereby colour is the factor that determines not only what kind of magic/abilities are usable, but also if it can be used at all.

And Brandon Sanderson (the guy they got to finish the Wheel of Time series) is a master of creating magic systems that are original, complex, awesome and extremely logical within the confines of each world. I recommend the Mistborn series for a very interesting metallurgy based system. There's even a game in the works too! http://www.mistborngame.com/

Loved this article, i dislike playing magic users in most games for the very reason that magic isn't particularly magical.

Dunno if you heard of a game called Academagia year 1 (its basically a harry potter esque game where you play a student in 1st year of magic school) but methinks OP would like that game, its an rpg(well rpg/life sim i guess) that has most of OPs ideas in some form, right down to a forbidden school of magic (gate magic where you open portals to other dimensions...can be used from anything to summoning nefarious demons to teleporting to your class straight from bed so you aint late...but make sure no one sees you!) or secret and hard to get spells that require adventures to earn them.

EeviStev:
I don't disagree with the article, but at the same time I don't see why magic should be the one thing you hate. What about melee fighting? Typically if you want to swing a melee weapon you equip it and hit the attack button. No effort is put into becoming proficient with the particular weapon you chose, and the method of attack (read: button pushes) is the same regardless of the weapon.
And crafting- usually we just select the ingredients we want to use and press the craft button. I can't think of any games where in order to craft we have to find the right materials, tools and facilities, and manually handle all three in some hyper-complicated ballet that could all fall apart if we didn't pump the bellows enough or use the correct cross-stitch to sew our pouch together.
Magic as it is used in games is a mechanic, and the only place it has to be as complicated as described in the article is games which cater specifically to gamers who want it to be as such. That is not to say said games wouldn't be off-the-chain fantastic, but imagine an RPG with all of the class abilities being that involving.

I kind of agree here. It's awesome to get more involved in magic, but you can't let it feel like an unbalanced chore either. Tabletop rpgs aren't the greatest example. D&D/pathfinder spells can be bought or just given to you. It's all on how you make the game feel and whose running it.

Some of us aren't Christians. Therefore, we actually prefer magic the way it is in games right now. Everything this article destribes is Christian, not actually generally magical. Many cultures did not see "Magic" or "Sorcerors" as evil at all.

I for one am glad that the Christian idea of what magic is is not used in Videeogames. It makes them playable for non-Christians.

You know a game that did what you wanted? Ultima 8, to the letter.
Everyone hated that magic system for a reason. And that's why games use a better way to handle magic, the way we have now.

Loved the article and I must admit that it was something I had been pondering, though not quite so eloquently, for a while.

As an issue of semantics (because I am exactly the kind of person to bring this up, insufferable git that I am), the three kinds of magic arr Witchcraft, Wizardry and Contract. Witchcraft is comprised of rituals, like poking a voodoo doll, Wizardry is words and hand gestures and Contractual magic is bargaining with supernatural creatures. (sorry for this paragraph)

The main issue is the fact that this is a system that would be very difficult to impliment in a game, so it ends up being simplified into the fireballs and mana approach.

zefichan:
Some of us aren't Christians. Therefore, we actually prefer magic the way it is in games right now. Everything this article destribes is Christian, not actually generally magical. Many cultures did not see "Magic" or "Sorcerors" as evil at all.

I for one am glad that the Christian idea of what magic is is not used in Videeogames. It makes them playable for non-Christians.

You know a game that did what you wanted? Ultima 8, to the letter
Everyone hated that magic system for a reason. And that's why games use a better way to handle magic, the way we have now.

You'll note that "evil magic" was only one section of the article. I'm not christian either, and it is very clear to me that this comment stems from willing ignorance of most of the article. In most of the world, Witchcraft ("simple ritual", I think he called it) is codominant with Summoning magic, both of which were very important to the article. In fact, Wizardry (words and gestures) is the only thing he touched on that is a purely western invention, and this is the magic you seem to support.

As for Christian magic making videogames unplayable? Utter bull. Leaving aside for a moment that Wizardry is very much "Christian Magic", the Christian mythos can be very interesting if handled right. If a game involved ghulls, afrti and djinni would it be unplayable to non-Muslims? Of course not! It's like saying a game can't contain tea and crumpets because then only British people will play it!

Falseprophet:
snip.

I think it depends on the RPG system you use (D&D is not the only one). I for one play DSA (The Dark Eye) and the magic there is more of a science where every spell can be broken down to basic formulas. Not only that but even the application differs extremly from character to character.

In this system there are applications of magic that are forbidden but anyone with the ability to store astral energy in his body can become a mage (there 3 types from full mage, half mage [mostly someone who was not taught at an academy] and quarter mage [in many cases not knowing he posseses magical powers and thus he has a very limited arsenal]).

Dude....you are way over thinking it. And for the love of all deities get over it while you are at it....

PS:Magic is suppose to bend the rules anyway.

Very good article. Reminded me of the Celestial Brush in Okami and how you paint symbols on papyrus to channel magic.

Firstly - the author is combining/confusing religion and magic. Some real-world religions mention magic, but in most fantasy settings the two are usually (often very pointedly) separate things. Myself, I like it that way - real-world religion is a touchy topic (including with myself) that just doesn't need to be in games (and its inclusion is risky at the best of times).

Most of the arguments here actually seem to be complaints about typical settings. The author seems to be saying that he doesn't like high-magic settings. Whatever floats your goat man, that's your opinion. Your OPINION. Myself, I quite like high-magic settings. But sometimes a low-magic setting is cool too. Variety is what we need, and that is the point the article should be making - that there are not enough low-magic settings in games - rather than "high-magic settings are bad".

As for the symbolism argument, the lack of verbal/somatic components (can you tell I'm a D&D player?) to spells in games is often a result of limitations of time (or sometimes effort) on the devs' part. In a game like Skyrim, magic is not the focus - in a mage-centric game (quite rare, let's face it) this should be different but in a game where magic is one of MANY options, that a not-insignificant proportion of players will rarely use to any extent, pouring vast quantities of time, effort and money on animations and voice actors to create unique verbal & somatic components for each and every spell (of which there are hundreds), wouldn't make sense. Other times V/S/M components of spells are presumed to be there, even if they aren't specifically shown, for simplicity or technological limitations' sake. Just like there's more to swordfighting than "pointy end go in other man", despite what the animation shows.

Myself, I usually play casters but I also like the option of playing a warrior/thief/other type; I enjoy playing good or neutral characters, I don't want to be be forced into evil alignment because of my class choice; I like high-magic settings because 2 years of hospital rehabilitation kinda slows the plot right the f*ck down when the alternative is buying a bottle of red liquid. And as such I wouldn't complain about a bit more variety in settings, I generally love how magic is done in games.

Also, I didn't appreciate the misleading, inflammatory title. Stop that.

I'll admit, I don't normally read Critical Intel, but I found this one a particularly compelling read. I completely agree with that sentiment as well. In Dungeons and Dragons, in order to get the ability to do anything really cool, you had to pump days of play into the game with your friends. If you wanted to do things that truly were awesome, like going to other dimensions and such, you had to interact with PCs and NPCs, fight monsters and people, and do skill checks (so many skill checks. You work for those cool things, you spend the time having fun (hopefully) with friends. By the time you get there, you will have inside jokes, stories, and those great moments of "Hey remember when we were searching for the key on that ship?" "Yeah, you mean when they found us so you set the captains quarters on fire . . . with us inside?" (Yes I was the guy that set us all on fire.). Games like that, you have to work for every moment like that, they don't just happen. That's where the true magic is, in those moments.

I guess the author would be interested in playing a game based on the pen and paper role playing game Ars Magica. The entire game is based around working and inventing new ways to manipulate magic.

He speaks about having to pay for your magic. In Ars Magica, any person who has the gift of being able to use magic is constantly surrounded by a sense of unease and foreboding which seeps into anyone around them, making them fear and despise the Magus, just because he happens to stand around them. This makes any and all wizards highly ostracized even before they start chanting their spells. Any spell that is sufficiently powerful also required expenditure of a highly rare magical energy that must be harvested from dead magical beasts, or distilled from places of magical nature, which takes 3 months.

Now, gestures and incantations. Each and every Magus has to invent their own way of channeling magic, making up their own incantations and gestures for each and every spell they know. If they are taught a new spell by someone else, they still need to invent their own version. Lastly, their own personality seeps into their magic and every spell they do is changed superficially in a way that is unique to each magus. For example, each of your spells might incorporate the color green, or the smell of lemons, a particular symbol, extreme attention to detail or unwarranted chaos.

There was a Kickstarter for an Ars Magica game, sadly it didn't reach its goal. I'm hoping they can still make their game somehow as Ars Magica is my favorite RP so far. Fairly simple to learn and play, yet ridiculously deep and flexible. And you don't have to roll 23 ten sided dice each time you want to attack something like Exalted.

TheKasp:

Falseprophet:
snip.

I think it depends on the RPG system you use (D&D is not the only one). I for one play DSA (The Dark Eye) and the magic there is more of a science where every spell can be broken down to basic formulas. Not only that but even the application differs extremly from character to character.

In this system there are applications of magic that are forbidden but anyone with the ability to store astral energy in his body can become a mage (there 3 types from full mage, half mage [mostly someone who was not taught at an academy] and quarter mage [in many cases not knowing he posseses magical powers and thus he has a very limited arsenal]).

Agreed, I myself am not Christian either, yet I have no problem with someone actually borrowing from the mythology to use in a game or show.It's like Norse mythology, a lot of people like it.But I doubt most of the people who saw Thor in theatres were Norse pagans.As long as the material isn't actually trying to convert and is instead trying to entertain, I don't see anything wrong with it.

As some posters pointed out, the really deep, complex treatment of magic that the author wishes for might be difficult to implement for game play reasons, and I agree. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't strive for improvements. And many things that would improve magic in games are not that hard to implement. And the author already mentioned a few of them, and I'm only summing up here, for the most part:
- Explain how magic works (or how it is believed to work) in your universe. And do so in a way that every player learns it, not bury it in some books or something that most never read.
- Create more interesting spells. It is magic, after all, so there are few limits - why does it always have to be the fireball? With modern games visual fidelity, it should be possible to make spells like the "filling lungs with water" or "crumbling weapons" visually distinct.
- Make casting magic mechanically more interesting. Perhaps you have to use button combinations, mouse gestures, some action reliant on good timing, or whatever - actual game designers should have better ideas than I do. Very complex mechanics might not fit to a game's gameplay, but it should be possible to create something more intriguing than "press A".
Sometimes, you have to position, block, dodge and time well in melee combat, position well aim carefully with your bow in ranged combat, and with magic, you just have to press a button, it's the easiest thing. That doesn't feel right.

- Give magic negative consequences. This can be done in numerous ways. On a very basic level, gameplay-wise: Give magic the possibility to backfire (perhaps if you don't execute a spell well) - damaging the caster, no damage at all, summon hostile instead of friendly monsters or whatever). If you're using necromancy, blood magic or some other "dark" magic, and this magic is granted to you by higher beings in the game world, eventually the "responsible" higher being might demand some meaningful, painful sacrifice from you in a story. Using a lot of magic - if it is somewhat "dark" magic - could change the look of your character, negative consequences could affect NPCs you like, decidedly change the reaction of some NPCs towards you, letting the mage lose control over himself for a short time, or whatever.This all works even if magic is not the main theme of your game.
- Make the use of certain kinds of magic conditional on player (character) behavior. If some spirit, good or evil, grants you his magic, you can only use it as long as you behave according to this spirits moral values. A paladin may not be allowed to use poison. Or, if you can have sex with NPCs, like in your typical BioWare RPG, some warrior-monk can only use certain abilities as long as he's chaste.

All that stuff would not be so hard to implement, and would (or might) make these games more interesting. Sure, there'll always be more lighthearted games where magic should feel about as simple as bullets, flamethrower and grenades, but that's not the feeling that games like Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age or the likes aim for, I think.

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