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Modern Mythras - It's A Kind Of Magic

Alex Greene


I thought I wouldn't get into magic systems in my Modern Mythras blogs, but recently I've been watching some old classic movies such as The Devil Rides Out and The Wicker Man, and they reminded me of something which can have its place in a modern Mythras setting.

The Occult.

Here's the thing. Magic systems in all roleplaying games suffer from one plain, boring fact.

They aren't magic.

I mean it. Nothing since the original TTRPG has ever come close to the heart stopping terrors of real world occult practices. It's all just been a list of "spells" which might as well be comic book superpowers. Your "magic man" is just someone who's carrying a list of special effects, which might look good if this were a Hollywood movie with a big SFX budget and a couple of supercomputers to whip up the CGI.

But this is a roleplaying game, and real magic comes from the imagination. So should the magic in these games.

The Occult And Horror

Magic comes from occult sources, and the occult is serious business. If it isn't scary, it isn't magic or you're not doing it right.

The Occult and Power

Magic should be a tool used by people who seek power, whether as protagonists or as antagonists.

Magic and The Magus

The four pillars of magical practice, the Four Powers of The Magus, are - To Know; To Will; To Dare; and To Be Silent  - or Velle (to Will), Audere (to Dare), Scire (to Know), Tacere (to Keep Silent) in the original Latin.

To Know acknowledges that Magic is a process of self-knowledge. The goal of the Magus, Witch, or other practitioner is Knowledge, because Knowledge Is Power.
To Will means to have the wherewithal, the desire, to apply the magic to the world.
To Dare means to go beyond what people are expected to do, to transcend the ordinary experience in pursuit of the extraordinary.
To Keep Silent means to keep one's counsel and secrets, and not just blurt out everything to every rando.

Magic and Lifestyle

To be a magician doesn't mean that you get to fling around fireballs. Magic is an unconventional lifestyle. It means being an exceptionally knowledgeable nerd type who dresses weird, often has bizarre dreams, and plays musical instruments like ocarinas.

Magicians don't go along the roads that magical characters do in fantasy novels - there are no "ice sorcerers," "darkness sorcerers," "machine mages" or "shadow witches" in the real world, only practitioners. Some may style themselves witches, sorcerers, but a lot call themselves occultists. Few people actually take on official titles such as wizard, vitki, magus, druid and so on, and these are usually of cultural significance.

Magic and Mystique

With a practitioner, there is usually something a little bit more to them. There's always something up their sleeve. You cannot be better than a half-assed thaumaturge if you show everybody your tricks.

WHether your magician is a protagonist or an antagonist, there has always got to be a sense of something hidden behind the scenes; something concealed; something they don't want you to know. If, at any time, a magician is completely exposed, they instinctively wrap themselves in the shadows of ignorance to cloak themselves from too much scrutiny.

Magic and Mental Toughness

Magicians and other occult practitioners tend to look unflinchingly at the reality of the world. It shows in their eyes. There's a light burning behind them which is usually only a reflection of what they are seeing.

That makes them less likely to feel ordinary levels of fear. Fear of death, public speaking, nudity - they never seem to bother practitioners.

Not even bad dreams bother them, which is a sign of something. What it is a sign of, I leave you to imagine.

Magic and Mind Control

The Power of Suggestion is always a powerful tool at the disposal of practitioners. Hypnotic language, gestures, use of spiral patterns, mandalas, even herbs, music or mystical arts: whatever is at hand, magicians will learn to use with great effect.

Easirt to convince a person to run indoors because they believe it is going to rain, than to spend hours unbalancing thermal columns of rising air over a nearby body of water to actually induce rain.

Magic and Mundanity

Practitioners may find that their magic works along the most boring, ordinary, mundane lines. Demons do not pop up out of thin air into that magic circle; streams of rainbow coloured lights do not fly from the mage's fingers; and walls of fire don't pop up at the snap of the fingers. Yet they still accomplish strange, often beautiful, and frequently terrifying effects through sheer coincidence: a mist might descend over an area to obscure the magician and their companions, or lightning strike the exact tree under which the magician's enemy was hiding.

Magic and Modernity

Modern practitioners do a lot with little nowadays, and what they can do is astonishingly impressive if they are attuned to the modern milieu and expectations. A practitioner could use a mobile phone to cast a spell ("Like to charge; retweet to cast") or to carry around their grimoire of known, rote-codified spells. Rituals can be held online, to great effect because they can involve masses far greater than one can squeeze physically into a tiny little room.

Magic and Modern Mythras

To see what sorts of spells, workings, charms, talismans, divinations and so on can be incorporated into a modern Mythras game, tune in next week where we will be opening the Grimoire of the Modern Mage for Mythras.

Edited by Alex Greene


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