Magick in the Game World

In designing his game world, the GM needs to think about the non-physical aspects, also – in other words, the magickal and the miraculous. In case the GM’s concern is a justification for the presence of magick, the natural laws discussed previously don’t apply to magick or affect its presence. Magick is “meta-physical” or beyond the physical laws, encompassing and able to override them. It is an addition to the natural laws, as explained in the Introduction of The Grimoire, the laws that all of the worlds of the GM’s who run RoM are likely to have in common.

Magick in RoM is viewed as an expression of a power called “mana”, which both defines and is defined by a group of laws that encompass but also transcend the normal physical laws with which all are familiar. Normal physical laws apply as expected except where the power of mana has been invoked and transformed into a magick designed to modify or suspend them in some way. Wizards and their brother practitioners of magick are postulated to have gained the knowledge necessary to manipulate, suspend, or subtlely alter the physical world about them in limited areas for certain periods of time, sometimes permanently, by manipulating the mana of the world around them.

This premise and those trades are discussed in great detail in The Grimoire. The GM may accept this premise and the laws of magick and the system it supports, or change it to suit his own concept for his game, as he wishes. Some sort of reasoning or rationale should be determined to take its place, however, to explain the presence and workings of magicks, unless the GM has no wish to include magick in his fantasy game at all. This would not at all be recommended , for what is fantasy (especially medieval fantasy) without magick? Magick was historically a great part of the spiritual and folk life of the people of the period of the game, and it just isn’t much of a Swords & Sorcery game without the sorcery. Fantasy is inherently magickal in nature, practically by definition. To exclude Wizards and all their ilk along with all their works of magick from the game would be cutting out the juiciest bits of the meat of the folklore from medieval fantasy’s medieval soul.

The GM should consider the relative place magick occupies in the gameworld, how rare or common it is, what the common reaction to its use or presence is. To rely too heavily upon it cheapens it and weakens the mystique and air of reality of the GM’s world. If the GM over-uses magick, allowing it to be a common factor everywhere, a Witch in every village, a Druid in every forest, a Wizard in every tower, even if they are only Hearth-Witches and Hedge-Wizards, the GM is likely to find that magick quickly loses its cache, its special-ness, its air of mystery and even danger. The players soon lose their sense of wonder regarding it, and eventually start treating it as casually as modern folk do electricity, taking it for granted. In the gameworld at large, the PC’s as well as the NPC’s lose much of their skittishness towards magick as its capabilities become more familiar, as it begins to become a known quantity in game terms (at least in outward form). Due to the flexibility allowed in its application during play, reaching that point may take a while. Because of its basic wild nature and occasional unpredictability, some may even decide it is more trouble than it is worth, and write off those who use it right along with it.

On the other hand, to make magick too scarce or limited robs the world of an essential part of its charm, make the game just a bit TOO gritty and mundane. This has the unfortunate side effect of weaning the players away from the fantastical aspect of the game so that they have trouble believing in those magickal elements the GM does choose to include from time to time.

In the end, it is a balancing act with which the GM can only master by trial and error. The goal is to maintain the mystery of magick and make it rare enough so it is always treated as precious and handled with respect by all, regardless of trade or social background. Unless the GM decides otherwise, there are NO factories where practitioners of magick churn out standard items all imbued with the same magickal power, all with the same amount of POT, one after another, whose powers last to be used over and over again through the years until the object or dweomer it carries is damaged beyond repair or restoration – nor manufactories of alchemical substances of magickal effect. In RoM terms, each enchanted item created to last in this manner requires the investment of a part of the creator’s life force. In two out of three cases, this can be healed back and recovered over the course of time, but only slowly. Thus, each such item is truly unique and VERY highly prized. Most practitioners who gain sufficient power to even consider making such an artifact, worthy to keep or gift to a great personage or deserving ally or hero, isn’t likely to be making more than a handful of them in their lifetimes, if that many, howsoever long they might live. Even practitioners of lesser power making lesser items are going to be just as loathe and careful about making such items and aren’t likely to make many in their lifetimes. And of those who gain the knowledge to do so, how many of them make enchanted items in such a manner that the common run of ignorant mortals can use them, as opposed to being solely of use to themselves or other practitioners like themselves? The entire process and the standards by which the enchanted items are broken down and defined are all detailed in The Grimoire.

Aside from the debilitating physical cost in health, there is a danger inherent in making such items in the fact that, should another man of Power come into possession of it, that item automatically provides a very strong tie of Resonance that can be used to cripple the maker’s defenses (provided he is still among the living, but also placing his spirit in jeopardy). Of course, that item cannot be attuned so as to tap its power if it is to be kept for use as a bond of Resonance in this way.

Because of the inherent vulnerability to the maker such items represent, the true nature of many such items is generally concealed by the maker, especially when created by one of lesser power which by their very nature do not attract as much attention, and when gifted only given to those with no magickal talent of their own, or only given to deeply trusted friends and allies whom they are assured fully intend to claim them and attune themselves to them, thus breaking the tie. Because of this, many such items get passed down through generations without ever being known for what they are, although those who possess them generally feel particularly attached to them, feeling that they are special, but thinking it is only the generational bond to their blood. Many of these items end up being interred with one of the owners at some point, taking them out of circulation completely, sometimes permanently.

All this serves to establish the relative rarity of such items in circulation in the majority of gameworlds, and explains the reason why the incidence of magickal or enchanted items in the Booty Generation rules is so low.

When going through booty to evaluate and inventory the take (assuming they have time to do such a thing in the first place), the GM is only allowing a 1 in 100 chance for finding magick, presuming he is following the guidelines for generating Booty provided in this book. This 1 in 100 incidence of occurrence is only for consumables, too, 4th Order stuffs. The good items (3rd, 2nd and 1st Order) are only 1 in 100 from among the 4th Order things they come across, unless the GM has specifically placed one of those greater items in a given location for a definite reason. Enchanted items of any real power should (almost?) never be “stumbled across” randomly, unless the GM then goes in and works up a good back story to explain it of which the PC’s are ignorant but may choose to dig into and perhaps uncover at length. This could then turn into the centerpiece kicking off an entire new leg of the campaign! The “chances” of encountering them as described here is merely to give the GM an idea of the sort of frequency of use they should see. If the GM is using dice to guide him, however, and they indicate such an item, it might provide just the source of inspiration for a new twist in the storyline he was looking for. Why is the item there, how did it come to be there? Who did it belong to? Are they and/or their heirs still looking for it?

And off we go!

Enchanted items, in general, should be rare enough that when the PC magicker lays his hand on it and he sees the glimmer of dweomer as the item is uncovered and/or feels the thrill of magick tingling across his fingertips as he gently touches it he says to it, “ ’Ello, my lovely … what are YOU doin’ ‘ere?”

It should be a special surprise, well and truly a treasure.