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Why Magic World Failed


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Looking at it, it seems to be a solid rules set, but, the art is from a earlier time frame, ie the 90s and early 2000s.  Also the name is awful.  This game is what 6th Edition Stormbringer was suppose to be. Unfortunately the product was thrown together during the near death of chaosium, and was givin a terrible name.  That said im liking what I'm seeing so far.

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Is the thread title a statement or a question?

I agree with all of the points you make in its favor, and the several that aren't.  It was a repurposed product released with little or no promotion, typical of many releases from turgid-era Chaosium.  It's also semi-generic, which didn't reach out and grab a wide audience, following the explicitly generic BRP Big Gold Book, which kind of stole what little wind it had in its sails.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
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I just ordered it, and have been skimming the book., I saw it for sale and picked it up for a steal.  Honestly trying to pass it off as a generic game, while at the same time failing to push it, hurt the games chances.  Despite being another fantasy game, it fills a different niche than runequest.  Honestly I can't wait for Chaosium to open the BRP repository/ Jonestown library equivalent.

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Magic World is my favorite game and has excellent rules but the name, production values and lack of promotion doomed it.

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Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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I seem to be the only person on Earth who LOVES the name. To me it's near perfect for a generic fantasy game that's not aiming super aggrogrimdark (Mork Borg) or super cutesy anime (WOTC D&D? HAR!)... the name leaves a whole lot of interpretations and possibilities wide open.
Are people ragging on Apocalypse World for its name? Dungeon World? Not that I've seen.

It's not the name that failed it... it was Chaosium's lack of promotion and support.
But then, seeing where they've gone since the Nu-Chaosium crew took over I am sort of glad Magic World is a 'dead' game... if Nu-Chaosium did it... well, for sure it would be prettier... but that's the least of my concerns.

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42 minutes ago, Simlasa said:

I seem to be the only person on Earth who LOVES the name. To me it's near perfect for a generic fantasy game that's not aiming super aggrogrimdark (Mork Borg) or super cutesy anime (WOTC D&D? HAR!)... the name leaves a whole lot of interpretations and possibilities wide open.
Are people ragging on Apocalypse World for its name? Dungeon World? Not that I've seen.

It's not the name that failed it... it was Chaosium's lack of promotion and support.
But then, seeing where they've gone since the Nu-Chaosium crew took over I am sort of glad Magic World is a 'dead' game... if Nu-Chaosium did it... well, for sure it would be prettier... but that's the least of my concerns.

You are certainly NOT the only person in the world who LOVES the game. There are a lot of us out here, myself included. It's just that Magic World is a dead game, abandoned by its publisher when it failed to sell well enough. And it failed for the reasons you stated: lack of support, lackadaisical layout, no promotion. That's just the way Chaosium was in those days, sadly. There were a number of supplements planned, but Moon Design decided to go in another direction (RuneQuest) when they took over the company.

For my part, Magic World is the "sweet spot" for BRP/D100 fantasy. I'm not a fan of hit locations and armor by location, so MW's Major Wounds offers just the amount of pseudo-realistic injury for my tastes. I like the openness of the magic system, though I'd have done a few things differently there. Character creation is nicely streamlined with the "add 60 points to 3 skills, 40 points to 4 more, and 20 points to another 6" (or whatever the exact figure is) -- saves the hassle of computing large quantities of skill points and then having to distribute them among the skills, agonizing of how much to put where, and whether you should put any in this/that skill, etc. Character creation is much more streamlined here, for instance, than in Call of Cthulhu (any edition) or RuneQuest. So I'd agree that Magic World IS near-perfect for a generic fantasy game.

In short, yeah I really wish Magic World had caught on too. Not least because one of those abandoned projects was my big ol' semi-Lovecraftian sword and sorcery setting.

As for the name, it was called that as a tip of the hat to the original Worlds of Wonder box, which offered rulebooks/settings for Super World (superheroes), Future World (science fiction), and Magic World (generic fantasy). It was an affectionate nod, but yes, one that probably didn't help sell copies.

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2 hours ago, Simlasa said:

Are people ragging on Apocalypse World for its name? Dungeon World? Not that I've seen.

I've just been too polite to say anything about them.  Consider them both ragged!

45 minutes ago, jackleg2010 said:

I thought the title 'Magic World' came from that supplement 'Worlds of Wonder.'

It did, originally.  Then rather like SuperWorld, it was eventually spun out into its own game...sort of.  It was an amalgam of several of the different magic rules that were out there under the Chaosium imprint, most notably from Stormbringer/Elric! and Hawkmoon, (but also notably, not RuneQuest).

!i!

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I think MW mainly failed because it fell short of contemporary production standards, and the fact that there was little to no support for it from Chaosium - one extra book is not enough. It needed to have example settings, adventures, all that kind of thing.

Even if it had any of that, it also needed not to look like it was stuck with production values that were a generation out of date. I don't think it attracted many eyes in the bookshelves of game stores, and I never actually saw it in any game stores.

Chaosium simply didn't have any wind in the sails of it's own boat.

So that's why I think it failed, and it was a shame that it was such an anti-climax. It's BRP and a good game to play, so no fault there with the system.

MW feels like a very clean set of rules compared to RQG, so I think it would encourage a different style of game play.

It is obviously the preferred version of BRP for those who played Stormbringer over RuneQuest, although new players may be too young to remember the Stormbringer game.

I think the vibe of the MW core book hints at a dark fantasy setting, but this needs to be better presented and elaborated upon. I always felt that if Magic World could be rebooted with more of a Grimm Fairie Tales flavour, then it would be something different to attract newcomers.

I'm thinking of a setting like Dolemwood, WFRP's Old World, and The Witcher. I would prefer it a bit whimsical, fable-like, with dark woods, supernatural threats, kind of a dark Red Riding Hood kind of place. Full of evil child-eating hags, shadowy villains off the roads etc. Grimm Tales meets The Witcher sounds cool to me.

Then the title 'MagicWorld' takes on a different flavour entirely. It would definately fulfill a different niche to RQG, and I think it would gather interest if it was produced with the same quality standards as the current Chaosium books 

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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For me, Magic World is interesting but goes down a BRP path that does not appeal to me. Having random armour and no hit locations just doesn't do it for me.

Sure, it had a nice little setting, but without support it was always going to be another niche product, unfortunately.

It's a shame, as it was a good book and had some interesting ideas.

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Why did Magic World fail? Personally I think it was a perfect storm of things. It took the (very good) Stormbringer rules and dropped them into a bland and unmemorable generic fantasy setting that had nothing to tie it together (unlike Stormbringer). It had an utterly forgettable name. And its production values were low. Greg and I had zero interest in it, none of the rest of the team had any connection to it. And its sales were minimal. Given the bandwidth that any product line takes up, why would we devote resources to a game that we didn’t have any interest in and didn’t generate enough revenue for us to do it anyways?

If you have fond memories of Magic World or disagree with my assessment of the book, that's totally fine. This stuff is subjective after all (except for the sales data - that is what it is and Magic World did not even reach mediocre sales). But that's why it failed from my perspective.

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33 minutes ago, Jeff said:

If you have fond memories of Magic World or disagree with my assessment of the book, that's totally fine. This stuff is subjective after all (except for the sales data - that is what it is and Magic World did not even reach mediocre sales). But that's why it failed from my perspective.

No one buys a game if they don't know there's a game to buy. Magic World wasn't promoted or supported in any significant way. So why would sales be anything but low? Most of us only knew about it because we were already BRP fans and tuned in... so I don't think there's a case for saying it really got a fair chance.
Anyway, it's not a failure on my end... since I'm playing it. Your loss is not mine.

Edited by Simlasa
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6 hours ago, kross said:

You are certainly NOT the only person in the world who LOVES the game.

I said I felt I was the only one who loved the NAME, not "game"... but I DO love the game as well. Even its sketch of a setting is interesting to me... has potential. It sets up a interesting situation, with some mystery and conflict and plenty of room for exploration/discovery. Oh well...

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5 hours ago, jackleg2010 said:

I thought the title 'Magic World' came from that supplement 'Worlds of Wonder.'

Despite bearing the same name, both "Magic World" were in fact completely different games.

The first one was one of 3 sample settings in the Worlds of Wonder boxed set, with specific rules for typical medieval fantasy settings. The second, as @Jeffsaid, was basically a new edition of the Elric!/SB5 rules with another name and another settings.

The most notable difference is in the way magic is implemented. In short, the first game used the "Magic" system from the Big Gold Book while the second used the "Sorcery" system.

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AS Ben has pointed out - the original plan as far as he was aware was to produce a low cost entry game, comprehensive and concisely laid out (channelling the games fore-bear Elric!, rather than the loose, flabby Stormbringer 5th edition) to hit an appealing price point, and then follow up reasonably rapidly with support to diversify its appeal and support actual play.

The then Chaosium management changed that plan at the 11th hour, insisting on a layout that pushed up the page count (thus "justifying" a higher price point) but skimped on production resources (Famously not paying enough attention to make sure the most up to date errata had been included in the files sent to print) and then never followed up...

RPGs live or die on their support - the great paradox of RPG publishing has always been that, despite the received wisdom that adventures are the least profitable / most risky product category, every substantially successful RPG with any degree of longevity or market persistence has done so in part because of a substantial library of support material, in particular adventures...

Settings, despite what my legion of fellow home-brewers endlessly crafting our elaborate creations at home for years on end think, are themselves not the primary thing that gets people to buy RPG books: what brings games and settings to life, makes them compelling and appealing, is material that makes them accessible (easy to understand, easy to use at the table). RuneQuest has Cults of Prax, but it also had Pavis & the Big Rubble; Call of Cthulhu had Shadows of Yoh-Sothoth (and Masks); (A)D&D had the G series (and many others)...

Were the name and re-used art fatal strikes against Magic World? Not necessarily, but combined with the page-count inflation, sloppy over-sight of production and poor follow through, they made it easy to dismiss and forget, and clearly harmed its impact. Unlike Jeff I like Dave Ackerman's Southern Reaches for what it was: a sample sketch of an initial premise, for a Chronicler and group to shape to their tastes in their own games. And I thought it had real potential, as much as the sketchy settings in many other early core fantasy RPG books had done. But for the game, and setting, to succeed they needed that initial release to be followed up with support, with material that showcased the strengths of both, that built on the promise and potential of the Southern Reaches and the Magic World rule set.

And, yes, I believe that could have outweighed the negatives of the name and the poor production values of the core book, if done well...

Ah well, the road not travelled.

Edited by NickMiddleton
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1 hour ago, Akhôrahil said:

Oooh, I'm intrigued - tell me more? Did you roll for armor absorption each time instead of having a fixed value?

Armour in Magic World is rated by a die value. So if a blow lands (and is not a sufficiently exceptional success to by-pass armour entirely) after the weapon damage has been rolled, the defender rolls their armour dice and subtracts the result from the weapon damage. The remainder is the damage actually inflicted, and if it exceeds half the characters total hit point it is a Major Wound, which can immediately take the character out of combat and or have long term consequences (ranging from a major scar to permanent characteristic changes etc).

So, Mail with a coif provides 1D8+1 protection for example.

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As Jeff said, it is a game that suffered death by a perfect storm of death by a thousand cuts.  Its a shame too, the magic systems in advance sorcery, the ship rules, the foundation was as solid as you could ask, but it was a house made of straw.  Would I use the game, yes. I do plan on running it.  

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@NickMiddletonAnother apparent paradox is that generic fantasy games sell less than those created to play in a rich and detailed world, but the undisputed champion in terms of sales is D&D, which is a generic fantasy game (except for its very specific zero-to-superhero experience system).

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17 hours ago, kross said:

Not least because one of those abandoned projects was my big ol' semi-Lovecraftian sword and sorcery setting.

Hmmm... Semi-Lovecraftian? Sword and Sorcery? Developped enough to be released through the BRP licence perhaps?

Edited by DreadDomain
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I still feel that chaosium missed the opportunity to use MW as a "Fantasy SRD" for BRP. It is a pretty clear and concise set of generic fantasy rules that is easily applicable to all kind of home-brew settings (as opposed to RQ or CoC). The current BRP SRD really isn't really helpful as a set or rules - you basically have to develop your rules from it.

I don't know why MW failed, but it could definitely fill an important gap in the chaosium line-up as a system that makes it easy for everyone interested to just use it as a complete and self-contained fantasy rule-set for a homebrew world without having to do any of the heavy lifting in terms of rules. Basically what OpenQuest does for the "Mongoose Branch" of BRP.

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4 hours ago, Jakob said:

I still feel that chaosium missed the opportunity to use MW as a "Fantasy SRD" for BRP. It is a pretty clear and concise set of generic fantasy rules that is easily applicable to all kind of home-brew settings (as opposed to RQ or CoC). The current BRP SRD really isn't really helpful as a set or rules - you basically have to develop your rules from it.

Absolutely agree. I feel this is how Chaosium could have reused MW. MW did not succeed as a line but it would be a much more complete SRD than the current one. It would have needed a bit of cleanup which could have been as simple as cutting sections (the Southern Reaches, Seafaring and Allegiance maybe) to cutting down the word count is some section, to revisiting some design choices but I have a feeeling it could have been used 90% as is.

As others have said, I was at the time thrown aback by the ugliness of the book. That being said, I never minded the name. I knew why it was called like this and to be honest, OpenQuest sounds way worse to me.  And is it any worse than Fantasy AGE? Dungeon Fantasy? At the time MW add to compete against RQ6 and putting aside rule preferences, RQ6 looked much better and add the benefit of name recognition.

Cover: Good. I always liked the cover even if it wasn't necessarily something that would grab you and incite an impulse buy.

Interior (layout, template, etc): Bad. Some of the art with ok but generally the book looks a bit bland.

Content: Good. Everything you would expect from a generic fantasy game plus Alleagiances, plus Seafaring, plus a mini setting.

Rules: Good. Solid and complete. I liked some addition like simplified skill categories, cultures.

Setting: Neutral. The setting did not grab me at all (too generic fantasy for my taste) but there was a mini setting and it had the potentially to grow into something interesting.

Price: Bad. The price was too high for a cheap, impulse, entry level product. It would have been ok for a slick package with better production value.

Support: Bad. Not only it wasn't followed with quick supplements, but said supplements were looking as ugly and MW

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Here are some of my thoughts on Magic World. Most of its launch, support, and marketing efforts predate the current Chaosium management team. You can refer to us as "nu-Chaosium" if you wish, but it seems that those few who cling to that term use it in the pejorative. I can't really speak about what was done before mid-2015 because I wasn't involved in business decisions, and although I followed much of what Chaosium has been up to since about 1979, I can't remember anything related to Magic World showing up in my in-basket, social media, or similar. When I became involved with deciding what Chaosium was going to publish in mid-2015, the Magic World line was in a state of flux. We had 4 manuscripts (in various states of completion) on offer, yet no money to spend on them. That sucks when you want to give creatives a fair return, but we had to make payroll at the end of the month and also print thousands of books for the CoC 7th edition Kickstarter backers who had already spent over 600K of their money. When a Magic World book typically sold 500 copies in a year, paying a fair and decent rate for a forthcoming manuscript meant spending all the money we could probably expect to earn in the first 6-12 months of sales of that book, at best breaking even. That was money we didn't have to spend. Trying to boost the prominence of Magic World could not be a priority. Saving the company and fulfilling the Kickstarters was. In the end, I think we did ok.

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Hope that Helps,
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Thank you for this clarification.

I know that speaking about the future is something that is best left for professional prognosticators and not forum-postings that suddenly become sworn vows to fans who take everything as gospel, but wondering if there might be some small life in this line as a form of Fantasy SRD or small POD line. I know that the immediate answer for the POD is likely "we still are paying to store current unsold inventory" but it feels like this was a good idea that never got its due that could have a comfortable life inspiring future folks who love BRP and fantasy but want to tweak it outside of established Chaosium properties.

No answer needed; just some rambling thought of someone who felt this candle could have burned brighter than it did.

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