Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On practical magic

One of the complaints about D&D magic seems to be that its not very “magical” well I guess thats true after a fashion, D&D magic is methodical and efficient to an almost scientific degree.

This really doesn't bother me though. Real world magic was mostly used for perfectly practical purposes (love spells, fertility , protection ) and it was scientific and repeatable at least in the minds of its practitioners. And I have no doubt that if it were possible to blast people with fire, our ancestors would be memorizing fireball at every battle.

The only real grumps I have is that fact that there really aren't enough “day to day” spells for my NPC's to use. I think such a supplement “Practical Magic” might be really fun for old and new school DM's


  1. There's no "almost" about it, D&D spells are scientific to the extreme.

    Like I've said to my girlfriend when on the topic, "Arthur C. Clarke said that a highly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and it's true in the reverse as well. Magic is just a technology in D&D."

    The problem is that it's not very exciting, and it doesn't fit the fiction very well, not particularly that it's got the wrong focus. We want our wizards to have arcane secrets, not arcane bullets.

  2. I can definitely appreciate your point there. Its not very exciting or arcane.

    I think its part of the charm myself but to each his own.

    Thanks for the reply BTW

  3. I personally dig magic systems that have a little bite to them, a little chance for disaster. (White Wolf's Mage games, Warhammer Fantasy 2nd edition, etc.)

    When running a one shot last year, I did use a magic system that allowed a certain amount of spell levels per day to be cast freely, after which spells cost a random number of hit points... magic was still predictable, but casters could push their limits at their own risk. I've jotted down a few simple notes on making spells more random or dangerous, but I haven't found anything I'd like to play test yet.

    Mythmere's Book of Eldritch Weirdness has some good ideas for introducing strange, dangerous, disturbing spells into D&D. (Well, Swords & Wizardry, but you get the idea) I'd recommend taking a look at that book for some good ideas.

  4. Wow...I sort of tangented in an epic fashion, didn't I?

    What about "cantrip" type stuff? AD&D1 had a system for cantrips, while AD&D2 created a sort of whole cloth spell for wizards doing little minor effects like sweeping a room or blowing colored smoke rings. Maybe you could just say wizards can do X cantrips per day, like level +3, minor stuff that has no effect on combat, etc.

    Sorry for the double post. Too much caffeine tonight or something.

  5. I am perfectly happy to have double posts. I enjoy risky magic systems too, GURPS and Buffy both do those well as I imagine Mage does, but my groups all seem to hate Mage so I've never played

    I've seen HP based casting before, works fine and in fact they use it in the really excellent minimalist searchers of the unknown rpg and in The Complete Psychic by Green Ronin

    I'll have to heck out the Mythmere thing

    As for Cantrips, my favorite method came from 2e era Dragon #221 The Little Wish It was a proficiency based system that anyone could learn but 5th level and up casters basically got unlimited use out of