thread: 2009-04-30 : Magical Magic

On 2009-05-01, GB Steve wrote:

I wouldn't say that Mortal Coil does it every time but I've played in several games where is has worked very well. Flaming Taft was possibly the least magical game of Mortal Coil I've played although we had a wonderful game.

MC magic works in several movements. There's the set up of the theme document which creates the initial aesthetic and then when anyone creates a magical effect there's a discussion of what the price will be.

The magic works best if you front load on the the theme document because if you do that, the price discussion is usally quick, and more to the point, spot on.

For Flaming Taft, the realisation that the magic was stolen from the Man at the crossroads was the "Yeah" moment, and the game was more about keeping the magic going than using it.

In Twisted 50s, it was about magic always turning out bad in the long run, so the prices were inventive and damaging and really drove the game. Some of the individual uses really had their "Woah" moments from the doctor whose syringe never missed to the prostitute whose baby girl act pulled heavily on men but meant she needed more drugs. And she did it because she wanted to need the drugs, not the other way round.

We did the Tarot thing in a game of Over the Edge and it worked very well, although at the time I didn't tell them it was creating reality, that was part of the mystery.

AD&D almost had the right idea about the cost of magic, with its choice of components, but Cthulhu does it better, Malefices perhaps even more so. Spells aren't just like using the internet, they're an event that affects the participants as much as the target.

And look at Unknown Armies or Kult, magic implies a denial of reality and that is madness. It's a strong choice, and possibly easier to implement than other denials of reality like surrealism. Faith works well though. Clerics are often stronger characters than Mages in AD&D.

We've had magic in Dogs, but only when it was established beforehand. And when it happened just once in a game it was surprising and horrific. Fort Lemon, at the very end of the game, demon possessed woman gets a Dog on his own, pulls down his trousers and lifts him off the floor, strangling him with one hand. He shoots her. Then the dogs split over what had happened, attempted rape and murder or self-defense. The ensuing conflict was extremely intense and pretty much destroyed the unity of the Dogs.

So, yeah, magic works when it taps into the underlying aesthetic and when the person creating it nails it. It doesn't have to be the GM, but it often is, partly because players are used to following a lead, and are good at it.


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