Bill Heron: Gaming in Edinburgh and other RPG stuff
  
  
  
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Archive & Ideas Dumpster

This is where I shove the random ideas I’ve had, projects that were ultimately dumped, and schemes that never came to fruition!

NovaGamesBanner

At one point, a friend (Dave Westwater) and I formed a Play-By-Mail games partnership, called Nova Games. This lasted for several years, but the two of us found that it was getting harder and harder to manage that and our regular jobs. We created a number of Play-By-Mail games.

2halvesBanner

2 halves was a football (soccer) management simulation run as part of Nova Games. Created by Dave Westwater, this ran successfully for some years, written in C and running on an Amiga! I did most of the graphic design work and helped out, and it was a nice little earner for a while, until Dave’s computer packed in.

Glorytothelance

RPG of knightly chivalry inspired by the Pendragon RPG and Arthurian legend. This PBM was Dave’s hand-moderated (i.e. no computer automation) game, run as part of Nova Games.

Portal

The Milenya Chronicles were to be a large computer-moderated series of epic games where players could run characters like Dragons, powerful wizards, city overlords and the like (nowadays this would be very much like an MMORPG, or World of Warcraft), developed as part of Nova Games.Originally four games were planned as part of Nova Games:

  • Blood & Fire, where you play a Dragon
  • Blood & Steel, you take the role of a warlord
  • Blood & Honour, you become a heroic knight and warrior
  • Blood & Mana, you are a master of the arcane arts, a wizard and mage.

Dave and I had a number of games planned, all of which would merge together. It was ambitious – too ambitious – we managed a playtest of the Dragon game, Blood & Fire, but it became clear that the complexity was beyond us at that time. Some of the prose was pretty purple too, as you can see below.

Here’s the blurb from the old Nova Games website (the vortex was created by Jason Paul Macartan of MindShift Design):

Where are you? What happened? Clouds of blue green mist swirl around you as you try to make sense of where you are, and more to the point, who you are. Then you hear it. A cold, but eerily beautiful voice that echoes down deep into your very soul.

Greetings, my friend. Thou hast journeyed far through the Æther. I sense that thou wilt travel farther still before thy journey is complete. Thou seeks knowledge? Of what is to be? Ah, but the key to the portal of knowledge lies in the past. See, already the Æther knows thou. Tarry a while. Time means little here, for we are the Milenya, and thou may be the One to assist us in what is to come.

“From the Milenya came the Realms of Life. From these Realms of Life, the Milenya created the Worlds. Lost in the joy of their creation of the Realms, the Milenya became careless and less vigilant. In their celebrations of creation, they attracted an Evil from within the Void. For It the Realms of Life offered a gateway – an escape. It issued from whence It had been imprisoned since time began, and had consumed entire Realms of Life in its unending, insatiable hunger.

“Shocked at what had been wrought, the Milenya resolved to forever keep It locked away using their very beings. Their energies formed the walls of the prison, giving up their existence to the perpetuation of creation. Their light shines still upon the Worlds of their creation. Timeless and eternal, the Milenya look upon their creation from their starry prison with sorrowful eyes. One by one their glory fades from the Void.

“Follow thy destiny, traveller, for thou art part of what is to be. What is to happen is yet to be Chronicled. Whatever path thou chooseth, and whatever manifestation, follow thy heart. To thineself be true.”

The voice is gone. You suddenly have the feeling of complete solitude. The blue-green mist called the Æther, curls around, caressing your face. Its touch brings knowledge. Swirling away from you, it illuminates a world, shining like a jewel in the night, and you are carried inexorably towards it. The sense of loneliness disappears, as you somehow recall the name of the world.

Darcosia.

As you travel towards it, you are changed. Into what can only be guessed at. At your approach, a shadow falls upon the world, extinguishing the light. And in the Void something laughs… and waits…

Welcome to the world of THE MILENYA CHRONICLES

In most games you begin the game weak and defenceless – but not these ones! Unlike many other generic fantasy games, you’ll need far more than a magic sword or fireball spell to defeat your opponents in our world. Raw cunning and skills in diplomacy are ranked particularly highly on the list of requirements to survive, but a little prayer to Lady Luck may help more than you think.

The Milenya Chronicles are our inter-linked series of games set in the mystical land of Darcosia. These games are a new concept for PBM games, and our intention is to bring the great fantasy epics to life. The Milenya Chronicles offer you the chance to play incredibly powerful entities, all with their own goals. We challenge you to come up with any other PBM game that allows you to play Dragons, Wizards, Warlords or Knights within the same game. Picture this:

Another player attacked your city with his army last Turn. You’ve called on a few favours with some of your player allies. Now, a Dragon, a Mage, two Knights, and three armies are out to teach your would-be attacker a lesson he will never forget. And in the background, your politicians are already at work, negotiating with mercenaries and your opponents enemies.

So, behold the world of Darcosia and plunge straight in at the deep end. Cutting-edge technology and Artificial Intelligence brings the world to life. Each being has its own distinctive personality – their own abilities to love, hate, plot, hoard and even breed. On Darcosia, attacking that small band of goblins could be a BIG mistake. They may be allies of the Great Wyrm Cortelus and the city-state of Argak. Both of whom have very long memories, and some very powerful allies.

In Darcosia, there are only two types of people: the rulers and the ruled.

Which will you be?

MandragoraOld

At one point I was quite an avid Play-by-mail gamer. These games are played by sending in turns by postal mail or email (PBeM). Inevitably, I decided to run a few games of my own as part of Nova Games (see the FAQ).The first game I created, the Mandragora series: Shadows Lengthen, was a single-character hand-moderated game that was incredibly time-consuming to run (during 2002-2003), and I eventually had to shut it down after a few months. It is worth pointing out that most hand-moderated PBMs do fold – the time involved is considerable if you’re not doing as a full-time job. Even then, the financial returns tend to be minimal. The original blurb is reproduced below:

The Mandragora series is a role-playing game set in the island kingdom of Lonaraban, a place of intrigue, treachery, and dark magic. In it, players take the role of one of the inhabitants of the Isle, the Mandragora.

The Mandragora are a race magically created centuries ago to participate in a devastating war, by the War Wizards of the Etruscan Empire. With a need to create highly magical yet tough soldiers, the spell-casters turned to the most feared and magical creatures on the planet: the Dragons. The creators were wiped out in the War That Shook the Earth. However, their creations, the Mandragora survived, and in the years of famine and war that followed they roamed the lands searching for a place where they would no longer be persecuted or slain by a human populace that feared and mistrusted them. Eventually, their travels led them to the island of Lonaraban, a heavily forested isle of steep cliffs and towering mountains. As their SpellWind craft skimmed into the bay, the Gold Mandragora Matriarch leading the expedition named it Kal’ashiraah, or Bay of Hope, in the High Mandragora speech.

Over the years their culture developed and cities were built. Their numbers increased, and each sub-species found their own caste. With the Gold Mandragora as their leaders their society flourished – and their Dragon heritage became more apparent. To this day, greed ambition, and treachery define a Mandragor’s standing in their society.

Choose from a variety of different roles – from the deadly Black Mandragora TunnelRunner to the mystical Silver Sacred Ones – and experience a whole new world…

This is the world of the Mandragora Series.

The series is a new type of play-by-mail game, split into months-long ‘episodes’. Each player takes the role of a single character, leading to a far more in-depth and detailed development. The world is dynamic, and your character’s actions can affect future episodes in a variety of ways.

The second game I designed was Ties of Blood. Having learnt my lessons from Shadows Lengthen, I made this a more controlled game. However, despite planning everything so well the playtest never took off as few people took me up on the offer.

Both game  manuals and game materials available for download.

TOBbanner

Ties of Blood was a more carefully planned game than Shadows Lengthen. I’ve given some thought to converting it to a board game.. The original blurb is reproduced below.

Ties of Blood is a fantasy PBM game of politics and intrigue, “the Great Dance”, in the island kingdom of Lonaraban, the home of the Mandragora. In Ties of Blood, players have the opportunity to take the leadership of the main political power bases of Lonaraban – the Imperial and Noble Houses that vie for power. A number of the game materials are available for download.

The objective of Ties of Blood is simple: to win the Imperial Throne of Lonaraban, by any means necessary. To become Empress will take skill, diplomacy, and cunning. The current Empress may be old, but misses very little and your Matriarchs (the leaders of your House) will need to use all their resources at their disposal to elevate the Head of the Noble House to this exalted position.

The only way to do this is to get the Three Hundred of the Shirr’haim to pass a motion of no confidence in the Empress, and thereby impeach her House. The Three Hundred comprise the Shirr’haim, which translates to human speech as “Place where items of great import are spoken of”. Not only is this the name of the Senate, it is also the capital city: both are the same.

This game will feature a huge number of political manoeuvres (including dirty tricks such as blackmail, arson, inciting riots and outright warfare), a notoriety score used to define how long a house “can get away with it”, rules for magic use in politics – including Dark magic!

The Ties of Blood Boardgame

I decided to start work on developing Ties of Blood as a board game.

The objective of Ties of Blood is simple: to win the Imperial Throne of Lonaraban, by any means necessary. To become Empress will take skill, diplomacy, and cunning. The current Empress may be old, but misses very little and your Matriarchs (the leaders of your House) will need to use all their resources at their disposal to elevate the Head of the Noble House to this exalted position.

The only way to do this is to get the Three Hundred of the Shirr’haim to pass a motion of no confidence in the Empress, and thereby impeach her House. The Three Hundred comprise the Shirr’haim, which translates to human speech as “Place where items of great import are spoken of”. Not only is this the name of the Senate, it is also the capital city: both are the same.

This game would feature a huge number of political manoeuvres (including dirty tricks such as blackmail, arson, inciting riots and outright warfare), a notoriety score used to define how long a House “can get away with it”, rules for magic use in politics – including Dark magic!

Much of the features of the original PBM will feature, although I will have to make quite a few modifications obviously! I planned to:

  • Convert the map of Lonaraban to a board suitable for the game.
  • Create playing pieces to represent Mandragora Scions and other personalities.
  • Cards that represent random Events and Advantages.
  • Create a Notoriety score-keeper.
  • Create a House record sheet.

Downloads

Wargames

Warhammer 40,000 (WH40k) Planetary Invasion

This was one of my best, and worst ideas. After reading the the Chapter Approved supplement for Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader (the 1987 edition, not the Black Industries RPG), I decided to run a game that dealt with a planetary invasion by Eldar.

At the time, Chaos was hated by all the players so it would be Eldar vs. the Space Marines of the KIL Chapter (not my choice of name). I built up an elaborate number of scenarios, from attacks on defence laser emplacements, to street fights. However, exams interfered and we never got a chance to play.

Looking back now, I was a bit overambitious, but it would have been cool.

Bleak Midwinter setting for wh40k

This was eventually shelved, but it wasn’t a bad idea at the time. (Bill, October 2014)

Bleak Midwinter was an idea that I’ve had percolating around in my head for a while (and I’ve mentioned it before): a proper crossover campaign, set in the Warhammer 40,000 (wh40k) universe. I’m not talking about just a couple of games involving Space Marines from the Deathwatch RPG, and an Inquisitors cell from Dark Heresy. Oh no, I was thinking bigger than that (possibly even involving characters from Black Crusade, and Epic scale as well!).

Here’s the plan – a series of wh40k RPG games running at ORC and elsewhere, together with a series of wh40k battles, perhaps being run at Edinburgh League of Gamers (aka [elg]). Ambitious? Very much so. And that’s why I’d need some help with it (see below) – I’d need folk to run and play the games, but also to organise the tabletop battles as I’ve no direct contact with any of the Edinburgh wargame clubs. I’m thinking I could organise things so we could probably start running the games in January 2012!

My concept is that Bleak Midwinter is set within the Midwinter Expanse,  a nebula known for its White Dwarf Stars. It would feature Space Marines, Rogue Traders, as well as Acolytes of the Inquisition as the plot gradually develops, leading to large scale battles as the events unfold (each battle or adventure spins off a new plot or battle). We could see large scale space battles, hive worlds erupting into violence and a whole host of things happening that would make a fantastic campaign for all involved.

However, I’d need help. While I appreciate that Games Workshop (GW) would probably jump at the chance to help, I’d rather Bleak Midwinter remained in the hands of the gamers as it were, rather than become a marketing tool. This is a pretty ambitious project, so for obvious reasons I’m going to need some assistance. Here’s how I’m seeing things, breaking them down to their simplest requirements:

  • Writers to help create the adventures.
  • Volunteers to help plan the battles.
  • I’d d appreciate some help creating the campaign itself.
  • Someone to approach the Edinburgh Wargaming clubs to see if they’d be interested.
  • GMs to run the games.
  • Volunteers to run the battles.
  • Someone to keep track of what is going on.

Obviously, I’ve got a major plot arc for Bleak Midwinter in mind, but there’s no reason why events have to follow it. Note that I’m not planning to make money off this; the only donation I’m looking for is time! :)

RPGs

I’ve run a lot of RPGs over the years, but not all have worked out.

Babylon 5 RPG Campaign

Being a lifelong fan of Babylon 5, I made the decision to run a short B5 campaign at ORC. I obtained the Mongoose Publishing B5 RPG (2nd Edition). There were a few sticking points:

  1. Character creation in the Babylon 5 RPG takes ages. It took so long that we were still getting ready to play 90 minutes later.
  2. The Babylon 5 background is so detailed that the RPG is only really suitable for die-hard fans.
  3. The d20 system is a bit of a pain to use with B5.

It was a good idea for a campaign I had (or seemed like it): the PCs are assigned to an ultra-secret division of ISA Intelligence tasked with preventing the misuse of technology gleaned from the Shadow War. This would mean travelling around and coming into conflict with the Drakh and hostile alien governments.

The idea for the first game was that someone was using a hunter-killer to kill certain people on Babylon 5 – the Drakh agent concerned was trying to conceal the location of a de-activated Shadow cruiser near Coriana 6, where the great battle between the ISA, Vorlons and Shadows occurred. A Drakh fleet were on their way to collect it, but the agent was covering his tracks.

The hunter-killer was one of my better ideas. A tiny biological chameleon that flew to its target then detonated a mini-bomb; it was untraceable to bomb sensors, and coded to a specific DNA sequence. Naturally when the PCs found that the victims were being killed by something that was out of phase they started thinking that there were Shadows in the room…

When the PCs arrived at Coriana 6, the plan was for the Drakh ships to arrive at the edge of the system, giving the PCs little time to find and destroy the Shadow Cruiser…

The game went OK, but I don’t think it would have worked out as a campaign.

Raunia RPG

The Raunia RPG was a gestalt of different systems: Fighting Fantasy, my own and a system that a school mate, David Tynan had sketched out. I’ve still got the original notes from the late 80’s, with some of the maps. I cringe a bit when I look at them now. It never really went beyond a couple of games with my then gaming group – we were going through a WH40k Epic scale Adeptus Titanicus/Space Marine phase.

Marvel Superheroes RPG

This has its own page here. One week in and half the players couldn’t bothered turning up.

RPG retrospective 2013

RPG retrospective 2013 is the latest in what has become something of an annual tradition for me. I’ve let the GMs and players over at ORC speak for themselves on the ORC website, but its been quite a year for me.

Personal achievements

I’ve not written so much on this blog this year, as to be quite honest I’ve not had time. What content I have put up has hopefully been of some use to anyone using the site. I hope to try and blog more over the next year, but will try to include more quality content, both specific gaming content, and otherwise.

Games I’ve been running this year included PathfinderAD&D and WFRP, and Wildfire’s new RPG, The Void (part of the Cthulhu Saga, a review of the game can be found here). The Pathfinder game I ran was part of the Ronin GM idea I had. I used the Sands of Time setting I made up (some of the places are detailed on the ORC wiki here), an Egypt-meets-Cthulhu, style setting. I only ran it for five or six sessions and although it proved a lot of fun to run, I didn’t really achieve aims I had for my role as  “Ronin GM”, although a few people that had never played RPGs or Pathfinder got the experience! I’ve described the Void RPG elsewhere, but it has potential.

AD&D has been something of a cathartic experience. It’s nice to have a simple dungeon bash that doesn’t challenge GM and players yet remains considerable. I’ve run it using AD&D before and its surprising how easy it came back to me, and even new players find it fairly intuitive over 3.5/4e. It also had the first PC fatality I’ve had in a game for quite a while. The group has finally got a full complement after a few folk dropped out during the year, and the new mage seems to even the score a bit. Expect a more detailed description on how I’m running the mega-scenario “The Temple of Elemental Evil” in a future post, or posts.

WFRP has gone from being bleakly grimdark (and po-faced) to something that hopefully has been fun to play and run – after my mistakes running Shadows over Bogenhafen (detailed here), Death on the Reik has been a joy to run. A number of fantastic experiences have been had by the players and the Queen of the Reik (under Captain Priscilla) now feels like home to the party. Heart of Chaos and Legacy of Praag were two of the encounters I came up with to spice up the adventure. I’ve chosen to skip “Something Rotten in Kislev” after Power Behind the Throne, choosing to run Drachenfels instead. SRiK isn’t a good module, and I got bored just reading it.

EDIT: I also ran Fires of Perdition, and, although it ran for a short time, was immense fun to both run and play. This was a mash-up of the Only War rules with the PCs as members of the Adeptus Arbites. Set in the Hive city of Perdition, on the world of Crucible, it was pretty much a knock-off Judge Dredd setting (more info on the setting here). If I ran it again, I’d definitely try to be little less epic – the players said they enjoyed playing a “street level” judge without the whole Chaos-warp-doom that pervades so much wh40k.

Other achievements? My freelance work on demons (and the artist’s interpretation) finally appeared in the supplement: Fragment 1: The Way of Tree Sword, & Flame, working alongside designers such as: George Strayton, Logan Bonner, Tony Reyes, Thomas Reid, Bill Smith, Ptolemy Slocum, Ron Corn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Curtis, John Adamus, Steve Winter, and Jim Ward. I recently appeared on Hazard Gaming’s Penny Red podcast, as part of their “Inside the Roleplayers Studio” series. I was recently interviewed by playbymail.net about my part in the Nova Games PBM partnership, for Issue 2 of the new PBM magazine “Suspense And Decision” (yet to be published).

I’ve backed a lot of RPG Kickstarters over the year (and other games). I’m especially looking forward to getting Deadzone setup and running (although I’ve a few gripes about the mini construction). Also the “Horror on the Orient Express” boxed set for Call of Cthulhu and “Rise of the Drow” Pathfinder campaign are due for release next year.

RPG plans for 2014

As well as running WFRP and AD&D, I’d like to get cracking on my novel idea. I’m not having troubles with ideas of the plot, it’s the actual linking them together and getting the words out of my head 🙂 .I’ve also decided to run a game session on Sunday evening called Survival Sunday; where we play Shadows of Esteren, The Void (the Stygian Cycle in all likelihood), CthulhuTech, and of course, Call of Cthulhu. Once “Horror on the Orient Express” arrives I’ll be running that.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

William Heron’s 40, ‘K?

It was my 40th birthday earlier in the week. The last twenty years seem to have passed so quickly, but its quite a long time when I think about it. In that time I’ve changed careers form Audiovisual to Computing – I probably wouldn’t have been the best AV guy anyway given that I was diagnosed with a sensorineural hearing problem. I’d probably had it for years, perhaps when I had the mumps or a fever as a child. Basically, it means that I can’t hear mid-range frequencies like human speech as easily a normal person, but the rest of my hearing is pretty good. I’m definitely not the same person I was 20 years ago. Hard times make for hard lessons, but I’ve managed to stay upbeat over the years. I’ve stayed relatively healthy, although I think my sanity has undergone a stress test occasionally. All things considered,  despite a few bumps in the road recently, I’m pretty good. Plus I still have all my hair – and also 100% free of preservatives, colourings, or additives.

I’ve travelled around a bit. I’ve never felt the temptation to go backpacking, but I do like arriving in a new city, and more often than not getting lost in it. I’ve been to both sides of the Pacific,  but never crossed it. I’ve been to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Tokyo, Antigua, Prague, and Rome so far; and I’d love to visit more, in the EU and elsewhere. As usual, as is so often the case, its expensive!

Speaking of new experiences, I’ve done a lot more gaming in recent years, as this blog illustrates. I’ve not been much of a console gamer, but do own an X-box 360, although that’s largely consigned to running DVDs these days. I prefer the cooperative kind of game, where you can work together – or short arena games with friends, like Left4Dead or Halo. Loved Batman: Arkham Asylum too. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t want to play Batman…

Ironically my two RPG campaigns that I’m running these days are from the 1990s. The Enemy Within campaign for WFRP, and also AD&D 2nd Edition. You’ll find some of my suggestions for running these elsewhere in my blog, too. Its ironic that these games still work well for modern players, despite today’s insistence on catering for munchkins and power gamer style games. In the last ten years I’ve run a lot of other RPGs too: D&D (both 3.5 and 4e), Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhutech, Marvel Superheroes, Pathfinder, the Wh40k RPGs, and Star Wars (both D6 and Star Wars). Some I’ve enjoyed more than others, some my players enjoyed more than I did!

The biggest problem I find these days is time: I’d love to run games like Shadows of Esteren, The Void, Eclipse Phase, Star Wars Edge of Empire, Werewolf, and 13th Age. I’d love to play these too, but as well as the time, its often the case that I can’t find someone to run. It takes a time commitment to be a GM, and to be honest, not many folk can do that. I’ve seen it happen a lot at ORC unfortunately. Someone starts a game, then can’t find the time, or they find themselves over-committed. For this reason I try and tell folk to keep to 1 or 2 games a week, be they a player and/or a GM.

I’d hoped to start writing a novel this month, but although I have a notebook of ideas, and hoped to start using the Scrivener software to get it organised. I’ve failed to begin NaNoWriMo again! Having said that, some of my stuff has been published, in THE SECRET FIRE RPG, and the first supplement, THE WAY OF TREE, SHADOW, AND FLAME. That was also the first time I did some proper freelancing. I also did some voluntary proof-reading for ACHTUNG, CTHULHU! from Modiphius Entertainment. Proof-reading maybe the way forward for the time being, as the time needed to develop my own games just ain’t happening. If I can get the custom, it might also be a good earner.

I’ve no idea what the next few years will be like. There’s nearly always something for me to do. There’s likely going to be a few DEADZONE, BATTLETECH, and possibly even BURNING SUNS games in the pipeline. I’m not much of a boardgamer, but reckon I should be able to get into those games without too much hassle. WH40k is too expensive! I suspect I’m going to be busy over the next few years, so things are going to be interesting! I’ve been a gamer for over 25 years now. Gonna keep rolling those dice for at least another 25 with any luck 🙂

Reaper Minis Assemble(d)!

Years ago I was something on a miniatures gamer playing wh40k mainly and Warhammer Fantasy Battle ( I never had a chance to field my 5,000 point Undead army though). I’m kind of drifting back into it although I’d prefer Deadzone over wh40k these days (after being involved in that Kickstarter!). Months back I got involved in the Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter too. Today I got around to assembling the minis – and there’s  a lot of them. I’d read up on the materials you need a little and I learned the following:

  1. Use Superglue or other cyano-acrylate glue to assemble the larger pieces (see below), not normal model glue – the plastic is different apparently.
  2. You may need to straighten some of the straight edges such as sword or staffs where miniatures have been compressed in transit. Carefully use boiling water to straighten them.
  3. check how the parts fit together before assembling them, there are no instructions on the bigger pieces.

The minis are all good quality with hardly any flash (residue from the moulding process). I went for three of the larger models – Cthulhu, Kaladrax Reborn, and Nethyrmaul the Undying.There were a number of smaller models that needed assembly: the tail of one of the demons was particularly annoying, extending below the base of the mini. Other than that, only a half -dozen of the minis need straightening.

  • Cthulhu was easy to assemble, although fitting the legs to the base was a struggle. They eventually fit and the rest was a breeze for this piece.
  • Neythrmaul was a nightmare. I should have assembled the head first. There’s two jaw pieces and the tongue – which isn’t immediately obviously form the box. The two shoulder sections didn’t quite align properly until I applied considerable force to click them together and there’s still a slight gap in the rib cage.
  • Kaladrax is a big heavy piece, but was fairly straightforward – the tail (in 3 pieces) was tricky and is likely to come off if knocked – it didn’t fit together so well. I had to carefully check the picture to check how the hipbone pieces fitted. I built the dragon’s (or dracolichs) torso, head and claws first, mounted it on the base then added the wings and tail. It’s bloody massive.

Anyway here’s the complete lot.

Reaper Minis - Bones Kickstarter

Reaper Minis – Bones Kickstarter

Magic and Technology in RPGs

Magic and technology in RPGs are usually unhappy companions. Allowing players to get their hands on technology can often unbalance the game. Occasionally, technology is little more than a kind of MacGuffin and plot device, like in the D&D adventure, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or the Legends of Skyfall gamebook, The Black Pyramid. Fiction like the Shadows of the Apt series merge the concept of magic and technology well in a steampunk fashion, but the concept of magic is largely ritualised. The Dresden Files series has wizards unable to use complex electronics or technologies: light-bulbs explode, computers fizzle, and mobile phone reception dies. In Shadowrun, cybernetics interfere with the body’s aura, reducing magical ability.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C Clarke

However, what happens when magic is the technology? Babylon 5‘s Technomages use science to give the appearance of magic, through cybernetic implants created by the Shadows, but that’s not the same thing. Don’t get me started on genetics, and the midichlorians, in the Jedi of the Star Wars prequels. I’m talking about when magic sees everyday use.

Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom will feature characters of varying levels of magical ability. Even those without any magical skills will be accustomed to seeing its use in daily life. As I’ve mentioned before its likely that I’ll use the FATE system (Fantastic Adventures in  Tabletop Entertainment). I’m relieved to hear that in the new version of FATE (which raised funds at a near-astronomical rate on Kickstarter) will feature a new magic system as an extra – it is a bit confusing in the Dresden Files RPG as it currently stands.

Back to the original focus of this blog, and that’s the use of magic as an everyday technology. I’ve broken it down into concepts as to what magic might be used for.

Magic as a tool. A magic-culture is likely to use magic everyday. Water Elementals keep the streets and sewers clean, stone-shaping spells are used to work minerals and strengthen walls. Spirits or demons are bound into compacts or agreements that bind them to a family line for protection or favours. Magical constructs and items are commonly used by artisans or craftsmen.

Magic as a plot device. More for GMs, lost magical devices or knowledge can provide a significant hook for PCs. It certainly appears to be magic anyway – a lost device, cursed item, sword that will save the realm etc.

Magic is outlawed – those who practise magic are persecuted and even actively hunted by society. This may the “wrong” kind of magic, a misguided view of magical purity, or there are very real dangers in casting spells or using powers (like warp entities in WH40K!).

Magic as science – there’s very little difference between a golem and a robot (or Terminator!). Streets are lit by continual light spells. Magical fire is used to forge metals into far stronger alloys, burning far hotter than forge’s fire. Research carries on into making magical spells more effective and theory becomes reality. universities teach magic as part of their syllabus.

Magic for defence – do not mess in the affairs of wizards, particularly when they are organised. A high-level wizard is a nightmare on the battlefield, able to deal with a force many times larger than himself. If your entire nation of wizards and magic users are given military training then it is unlikely weaker nations will pick a fight (no one wants to wake the dragon!).

Magic for decoration – illusionary artwork, magical tattoos, cosmetic appearance – all these can be achieved using magical spells.

Economy of magic – it’s quite possible that magic itself can have an impact on the economy. Wizards that can transmute gold can devalue the coinage. Travel spells render normal land travel obsolete for the shipping of goods or people. Precogs can advise on investments.

Social status – magicians are the nobility or cultural elite, especially in feudal states. This “Pureblood” outlook often creates a cultural elitism that can itself springboard into an adventure.

Magic for travel – as well as mentioned under “Economy of magic” above, states that make heavy use of travel spells like teleport or Elementals will be able to move far faster than normal. They can also move people and objects quicker, including armies.

It is fairly easy to come up with ideas once you have concepts like this in mind!

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