Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ritualized Magic in RPGs: Danger versus Reward

This is how I picture summoning magic: Dangerous, rewarding, and a lot like real work. I'd like to see more ritualized magic of this sort in gaming. DCC has a good outline of how such magic might be undertaken, but the Lamentations of the Flame Princess' spell, "Summon", most clearly signifies for me the possible consequences, intended or unintended, of such a risky practice. I'm from the old school of Howard and Leiber, where only the desperate or the insane practice magic and such rites can, and most likely will, go horribly wrong. It's a far cry from "I cast magic missile" . . . 

I'll admit that I like "gritty" settings better than "heroic" settings, but only if the gritty setting has a risk/reward differential where the stakes and consequences are potentially devastating and SUPERnatural: Succeed, and you win big, fail, and you fail utterly. I also prefer low-magic environments, for the most part (of course, there are exceptions I rather enjoy - give me a dose of old Arduin Grimoire once in a while, for an example of ridiculous high magic). Magic should be uncommon, if not rare, thus preserving its, well, magical nature. It shouldn't just be a cheap substitute for technology, in my humble, Luddite-esque opinion. I'm also a fan of making characters work for their bread, really puzzling things out and making them happen, thinking their way around issues and having to do some investigation, some study, and some investment to get around problems. Since magic is another way of bypassing problems, it should not be without cost. Mess with the laws of reality, and expect to be messed with, says I. What systems have you played in or game mastered that reflected the difficulty, cost (monetary or otherwise), and danger of ritualized magic like this? What did you like or dislike about the system itself?


4 comments:

  1. We have just started using Wonder & Wickedness, and some of the stuff in there feels more like the LotFP summon spell. For example, one of my players can raise the dead. However, there's a chance that when the spell wears off, they open a permanent portal to Hell.

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    1. That's what I'm talking about! Great stuff, and I keep hearing about Wonder & Wickedness. I'm going to have to pick up a copy.

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  2. The Summoner from 1st Ed. Palladium FRPG was my favourite, and the whole Runes-system. But that was a long time ago, I'll have to re-read it now and see if it still holds up.

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    1. Curious to hear how that research pans out. I've never played Palladium FRPG, though I've played TMNT and Mechanoids (a long time ago).

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