Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Narrating Magic

I like magic, almost any time I've played an RPG I've been some kind of magic user. It's unsurprising then that Lycadican has a very rich magic system. In fact, there is an entire philosophical framework behind how magic works, but the Cole's Notes version is basically that there is an energy field that permeates all things and represents all potentialities simultaneously (like a quantum particle.) Specifically this is all of the potentialities of things which already exist within the current environment. Something that is completely from out of left field or doesn't exist at all, while a possibility, would be be extremely unlikely to manifest and therefore much more difficult to accomplish. In my mind I see the mage reaching into a flow of those potentialities and using his skill and talent to select the version of reality that is most likely and closest to what he wants and increase its potential until it manifests.

Well, last night that got me thinking. If magic represents this slight warping of the potential possibilities of this reality how would it actually manifest? How would you are a GM/DM/RM describe spell effects to the players?

For one, the spell effects should almost never originate with the caster. They should originate in the environment around the caster. So, if we take for example the very venerable 'lightning bold' spell, instead of this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and make the arcane gestures; Bolts of lightning emanate from your hands and fly towards the gibbering goblins electrocuting them and singing their green skin"

you'd have this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and your mind pierces through the fabric of reality calling forth the energies of nature. You feel united with all things and pour your energies in calling down the energies you feel gathering in the storm clouds above you. When you open your eyes your notice your hair standing on end, you can feel the air charging with ever greater amounts of static electricity. Then you loose your focus on the charging goblins and bolts of lightning burst as if rent from the air itself to electrocute them, leaving their green skin singed and smoking."

It's not that the lightning couldn't originate from the Wizards hands, but that's far less likely and as a result would be far more difficult to accomplish, requiring a much more powerful character.

How'd that work for a fireball? Well, instead of a ball of fire that emanates from the caster and flies towards his enemies you could instead have a nearby tree spontaneously combust, bursting and hurling fire and shards of wood at the enemy with great force. Or, perhaps as in the previous example the tree was hit with lightning, igniting in flames with explosive force and injuring the enemy.

What if there isn't a tree nearby you ask? Well, then you move to something that is less probably, spontaneous combustion, or a small meteor fragment, or perhaps the sword or arrow of a fellow adventurer bursts into flame somewhat explosively as it hits your target. Perhaps the sword or the arrow are redirected to your target instead of its originally intended target...

There are a lot of possibilities for a creative referee, and it goes well with the current magic system which, as it happens, contains no pre-generated or pre-defined spells. Only a framework to quickly create magical effects during play.