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Why Magic World Failed


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I really liked Magic World.  It was my fervent hope that somehow, Magic World would become the "default fantasy game" instead of yet another edition of D&D.

MW scratched the itch for a generic fantasy game that I could use for various purposes, specifically as a way to patch any holes in the eras for Cthulhu Through the Ages.  I love the book.  It isn't perfect, but as an intro to BRP fantasy, what more could people want?

As for Chaosium, I am grateful that the company is still here and hopefully will be for a long time.  Chaosium makes products I like and so I buy them.  I am a loyal fan.

-STS

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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 s

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 beca

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 lo

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On 1/26/2021 at 5:14 AM, Rick Meints said:

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. 

Since you wrote "on offer" does that mean that they could be published in one form or another (preferable for one of the D100 games out there) at some point?

I would like to hear more about this four projects... maybe you are willing to share the working titles of these works?

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47 minutes ago, AndreJarosch said:

Since you wrote "on offer" does that mean that they could be published in one form or another (preferable for one of the D100 games out there) at some point?

I would like to hear more about this four projects... maybe you are willing to share the working titles of these works?

Rick obviously can speak to exactly what was available to Chaosium at that time.

As a free lance contributor, I was aware of a monster / creature collection (I had some entries in that); a Chroniclers book; also a mini-setting plus adventures in the Southern Reaches (again I think was in layout); plus Kevin Ross’s Xyserderon and there had been discussion of a more general “Companion”, styled after the old Cthulhu / Stormbringer companions (albeit iirc that was at the “kicking ideas around stage”).

I also had / have a port of Richard Watt’s “Curse of Chardros” adventure (originally included in the Elric! GMs kit) to the Southern Reaches I originally pitched to Ben Monroe as a possible web freebie or similar, but things changed before anything happened with that and I’ve always assumed that it’s not something Chaosium would be interested in anymore.

Nick

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It would be good to have a Community Content for the less-supported Chaosium products like Magic World. obviously, things like Elric and Stormbringer wouldn't suit due to licensing issues, but having a site for various odds and ends would work.

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On 1/25/2021 at 2:06 AM, 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.

I think you are the only person who loved Bland World as a name, and most people don't want to/have time to create a world from effectively zero.

So you are in a very small minority.

Both the books and the world feel very dated, Elric feels very of it's time. If you distil it down, the Eternal Champion has some great ideas and great characters, but the world[s] feel a bit flimsy compared to a lot of top notch fiction, fantasy has moved on, for the better?

Edited by Orlanthatemyhamster
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I think, taking on board that almost every game published still manages to accrue some fans regardless, any statement of ‘failure’ has to be qualified. Some people liked it. 

Anyway, the quick summary for why it ‘failed’ is: 

1) It wasn’t the original ‘Magic World’ from Steve Perrin. The rules and setting details were different. 

2) It felt semi-generic, which amounts to being bland for some people. 

3) It was published largely because Chaosium felt they needed an entree into the fantasy rpg market - which is generally cited as the biggest selling genre. They did this at the time because Chaosium no longer had a fantasy IP - having lost the Stormbringer/Elric one - so they essentially released the same game minus Moorcockian references, relabelled it with the 'Magic World’ moniker, and included a formative fantasy setting in the back.

When Chaosium had its management takeover, and brought back RuneQuest as an IP, Chaosium ceased to have a marketing purpose for Magic World. It wasn’t worth putting in the time and resources to develop Magic World, and build a fanbase, when RuneQuest/Glorantha already had an established fanbase and was a better investment.

 

Edited by TrippyHippy
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On 1/29/2021 at 6:02 AM, Orlanthatemyhamster said:

I think you are the only person who loved Bland World as a name, and most people don't want to/have time to create a world from effectively zero.

So you are in a very small minority.

So you felt the need to repeat back to me what I'd already said?

Also, I'm not so sure about your assumption about people not creating their own worlds though... I certainly see plenty of homebrew settings in local games around here, and in the gaming blogs I read. I'm not sure it's a mainstream part of D&D these days though.
Magic World's 'Southern Reaches' setting is distinct from Moorcock's so I'm not sure what you're on about there. There's not really enough to it to judge it 'dated'... which seems like a lazy term to use for such things anyway. Maybe just not your taste?

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You could give a different flavour to your D&D homebrew setting and nothing would change. BRP is a different kind of monster, is flexible, every nuance in mechanics, magic systems or cultures means a lot. It’s  suit better to differents approaches to fantasy role playing.

Generic has never been a proper term to brp based games. From my point of view brp represents mechanics potential to serving the game or setting. RQG design or CoC7 are great examples.

Maybe a new game is not great business, but a huge History of Basic Roleplaying tome would be of great value for homebrewers or people interested in rpg history.

(Sorry for my poor english)

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30 minutes ago, albesias said:

You could give a different flavour to your D&D homebrew setting and nothing would change. BRP is a different kind of monster, is flexible, every nuance in mechanics, magic systems or cultures means a lot. It’s  suit better to differents approaches to fantasy role playing.

Generic has never been a proper term to brp based games. From my point of view brp represents mechanics potential to serving the game or setting. RQG design or CoC7 are great examples.

 

I see it just the other way around: I have no trouble at all to adapt most d100 systems to different settings, because they are - as you mentioned - pretty flexible, and they also tend to make sense on a fundamental level. It's easy for me to understand how BRP and its relatives work and what the implications are if I change something. That makes it pretty easy to adapt a more generic BRP Fantasy ruleset like Magic World or OpenQuest to all kinds of settings by modifying the elements you need modified. MW has a small sidebar on modifying magic to fit other settings, for example, and that really goes a long way with very little effort.

Now try adapting any edition of D&D to your own fantasy setting - you'll have to deal with its highly idiosyncratic magic system, which I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to modifiy without breaking it, and from 3rd edition on you'll have to deal with tons of class features that don't necessarily make sense in other settings - classes like Druid, Monk or Paladin are really pretty narrow in their definition. Also, not all settings take well to stuff like the extreme Hit Points progression of D&D: Hell, by now, D&D is its own genre, and a quite different animal from most fantasy settings that I can think of from, say, literature. With D&D, I'd say you're usually best served to not even try to adapt the system to the setting - you'll just have to adapt the setting to the system, so if someone wants to play a druid, you have to have D&D druids in your setting, with all its implications. But using something like MW or OQ (or probably also the Big Golden Book), you'll have a much easier time to make the rules fit the setting.

To my mind, BRP is actually better equipped than D&D to present a generic fantasy ruleset than can easily adapted to any kind of fantasy setting. Both Magic World and OpenQuest do just that, they just lack in marketing and visual design.

I'm just curious to see if OpenQuest will be able to do what MW didn't really get the chance to do: Become that simple, flexible d100 fantasy ruleset that will enable people to adapt it to whathever worlds and scenarios they can think up.

 

EDIT:

@Orlanthatemyhamsterand @SimlasaOh, and for the record - it seems there are at least two people in the world who actually like the title "Bland World", sorry, "Magic World"; one of them would be me.

Edited by Jakob
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Make that 3 people who like the title. 😎

I have to agree with Jakob that one of the strengths of BRP is that it is trivially easy to adapt to any genre. I know, because over the years I have used/played it in settings including (but far from limited to) Greyhawk, Mystara, Dark Sun, Tekumel, Blade Runner, Aliens, Time Tunnel (an entire multiverse in itself), Spaghetti Wild West, Karl May Wild West, Mechwarrior, Traveller, Traveller 2300, Star Wars, A Plague of Demons (Keith Laumer), Mythago Wood leading to 4th Age Middle Earth, Biggles, Conan, Lankhmar, Outworld, various near-future STL SF campaigns, fantasy Rome in the Domitian era, WWII special agents, Macross, post-atomic, post-War of the Worlds, post-Gauda Prime (points for knowing this one!), Belgariad, and others I can't recall off the top of my head. I even remember playing in Glorantha back in the days when everyone was saying how unsuitable the BRP system had been and it was a good thing the setting was finally freed from its RQ shackles and translated into the freeform system it always should have been. 😉

It is actually very difficult to take settings far from the core system of D&D without some re-writing of those core systems. The d20 flood demonstrated that quite clearly, with dozens of poorly-adapted settings for every game that successfully married the d20 system to a new setting. BRP, on the other hand, is a piece of cake to bolt stuff onto, even more so than GURPS.

And yes, I'm one of those people hoping for bigger & better things for OQ3.

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On 1/29/2021 at 6:14 PM, TrippyHippy said:

I think, taking on board that almost every game published still manages to accrue some fans regardless, any statement of ‘failure’ has to be qualified. Some people liked it. 

True. Plus a lot of games only "fail" because somebody pulls the plug on them. The various Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings RPGs comes to mind. Most of those were fairly successful but failed due to licensing issues.

Some of us ol' timers still play a lot of "failed" games for one reason or another. A "failed" game isn't necessarily a bad one, just one that for some reason or another isn't available. RuneQuest and Pendragon were in the "failed" category for a number of years. 

 

On 1/29/2021 at 6:14 PM, TrippyHippy said:

Anyway, the quick summary for why it ‘failed’ is: 

I'll add: 

4) Because it was Strombringer 6 with the Young Kingdoms stuff cut out, so to anyone familiar with SB, it was always going to look like a lesser version of "what might have been". That is showed promise only exacerbated the issue for Strombringer fans. It will probably always be looked at as the best version of Strombringer that almost was. 

 

 

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On 1/29/2021 at 8:40 AM, soltakss said:

It would be good to have a Community Content for the less-supported Chaosium products like Magic World. obviously, things like Elric and Stormbringer wouldn't suit due to licensing issues, but having a site for various odds and ends would work.

Yeah, but the question is how much could such a site contain?

Since most of the D100 stuff is compatible between games (i.e. stats for RQ port over fairly easily to RQ, CoC and Magic World), just how much could fans put up without stepping on Chasoium's toes? Could we do up a community bestiary? Or would it have to be made more generic? 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah, but the question is how much could such a site contain?

Since most of the D100 stuff is compatible between games (i.e. stats for RQ port over fairly easily to RQ, CoC and Magic World), just how much could fans put up without stepping on Chasoium's toes? Could we do up a community bestiary? Or would it have to be made more generic? 

Well Chaosium has allowed a good bit so far. And by the way there is a huge beastiary available for MW on this site called The Big Damn Book of Monsters  by Chris Tooley.

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2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah, but the question is how much could such a site contain?

As much as people want to write.

We currently have a Community Content area for Call of Cthulhu and Glorantha (RuneQuest, QuestWorlds and 13th Age Glorantha), with one for Pendragon planned, I think.

For other minor lines, such as Magic World, Worlds of Wonder and so on, it wouldn't be worth having one for each line, but might be worth having one for "All the other Chaosium games".

2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Since most of the D100 stuff is compatible between games (i.e. stats for RQ port over fairly easily to RQ, CoC and Magic World), just how much could fans put up without stepping on Chasoium's toes?

Doesn't matter.

The beauty of these is you can write pretty much anything.

Chaosium brought out the Red Book of Magic, with over 500 spells for RuneQuest; I brought out the Book of Doom in the Jonstown Compendium, with over 500 spells for RuneQuest. I brought out Secrets of HeroQuesting; Chaosium will bring out a book on HeroQuesting at some point. There are three books on the west in Glorantha with two very different approaches.

So, there is a lot of overlap and people seem to be OK with that.

2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Could we do up a community bestiary?

Yes.

2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Or would it have to be made more generic? 

It could be, but doesn't have to be.

 

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Precisely the point is a Community Content Program operates by allowing a publisher to clearly and narrowly define what they allow, and a platform for fans willing to comply with its requirements to publish material for their favourite games with a reach and profile they would not otherwise get. And both publisher and fan get a modest return.

I can’t conceive of any CCP that would allow tBDBoM in its current form (my recollection is that there’s stuff that plays to loose with copyrights in a way that a purely informal fan work can get away with, but that sort of thing will not wash with a CCP), but the success of the existing CCPs shows that it’s an entirely viable option.

The issue of course is that setting up and running a Community Content Program, even with two already running, is a non-trivial exercise that requires resource from the publisher. I can only assume that Chaosium, at least until now, have calculated that the  returns / benefits to their business of a generic BRP (let alone a specific MW) CCP do not warrant the resources required to set one up, modest as one may infer they ought to be given they have two running already.

A program that says you can refer to the BGB (and maybe a few other key texts, e.g. the Magic Book, plus the monographs the Creatures Book and Gamemasters Book) and nothing else, and that specifically precludes any currently or previously published Chaosium setting IPs (no Cthulhu, no Ringworld or ElfQuest) and no IP that belongs to anyone else (no Delta Green, no Forgotten Realms, no Earthdawn etc etc) looks, from the outside entirely feasible. From within Chaosium, one assumes things look somewhat different. 

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54 minutes ago, NickMiddleton said:

and no IP that belongs to anyone else (no Delta Green, no Forgotten Realms, no Earthdawn etc etc) looks, from the outside entirely feasible. From within Chaosium, one assumes things look somewhat different. 

This, I suspect, is the  core point. Given the broad spectrum of the genres and settings potentially involved, it would require very close monitoring of what fans produce (costly), or accepting the risk of someone infringing someone else's copyright on a Chaosium owned marketplace (risky). Neither option seems counterbalanced by foreseeable returns, in terms of sales.

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Chaosium's existing  CCP's have a simple explicit clause prohibiting ANY "Products that infringe on the intellectual property of others", as do other CCP's with much smaller libraries of content than Chaosiums.

 

 

Edited by NickMiddleton
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True. But, assuming that Chaosium can prove that they were unaware the licensee was in infringement of someone else's IP, one thing is having an infringement with your "open gaming" logo slapped on it, and one thing is having it appear in a section of your marketplace on DTRPG. In one case you can easily argue that you cannot [pre-empitively] police everything people publish with their open licenses, in the other case it is less credible to say "we were not supposed to verify the legality of the contents we hosted". At the very least, it would be immensely embarrassing.

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5 hours ago, RosenMcStern said:

one thing is having an infringement with your "open gaming" logo slapped on it, and one thing is having it appear in a section of your marketplace on DTRPG.

Probably true. That's why I feel that it might have been best to make the rules part of MW part of the BRP OGL, giving those who want to publish generic fantasy scenarios something meatier to work with.

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On 1/24/2021 at 10:04 PM, kross said:

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.

I was saying in a different thread, I think MW would be even better if it were updated to the 7E CoC rules/mechanics. I've been playing  mini-Dreamlands campaign, and I cobbled together a combat flow chart for sword and shield fights, which would easily work with MW. But I love how easy it is to design and play MW compared to 5eD&D. It would be awesome if there was more stuff published. 

Edited by GothmogIV
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On 1/29/2021 at 1:40 AM, sladethesniper said:

I really liked Magic World.  It was my fervent hope that somehow, Magic World would become the "default fantasy game" instead of yet another edition of D&D.

In Sweden, this is exactly what happened with the original Magic World (the one that was part of Worlds of Wonder back in 1982). It was licensed, got onto its own dev track, spawned other BRP games, and so on, and become the standard fantasy RPG and BRP the go-to RPG system for decades. Games as diverse as Mutant: Year Zero, Trudvang Chronicles and Forbidden Lands can trace their roots back to it in different ways (even those that now run under a different system).

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4 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

In Sweden, this is exactly what happened with the original Magic World (the one that was part of Worlds of Wonder back in 1982). It was licensed, got onto its own dev track, spawned other BRP games, and so on, and become the standard fantasy RPG and BRP the go-to RPG system for decades. Games as diverse as Mutant: Year Zero, Trudvang Chronicles and Forbidden Lands can trace their roots back to it in different ways (even those that now run under a different system).

Really?  That is great to hear!  

-STS

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On 1/31/2021 at 6:27 PM, Atgxtg said:

4) Because it was Strombringer 6 with the Young Kingdoms stuff cut out, so to anyone familiar with SB, it was always going to look like a lesser version of "what might have been". That is showed promise only exacerbated the issue for Strombringer fans. It will probably always be looked at as the best version of Strombringer that almost was. 

 

That's exactly why I didn't buy it. Plus, I wasn't really a fan of the technical choices made for Elric! in the first place.

However, after reading comments by Ben Monroe on rpg.net, it appears it was not exactly SB6, as the game introduced skill modifiers, and a method to assign skill values inpired by the FATE "pyramid", with IIRC 1 skill at +60, 2 at +50, etc.

Not sure it would jhave been sufficient to make me like the game, though.

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On 2/4/2021 at 7:27 AM, Mugen said:

That's exactly why I didn't buy it.

It's one of the three reasons why I didn't buy it (at first). Tae others being that I wasn't aware of it at first, and that when I was made aware of it I thought it was an updated version of  the Worlds of Wonder Magic World, not an updated version of Strombringer.

On 2/4/2021 at 7:27 AM, Mugen said:

Plus, I wasn't really a fan of the technical choices made for Elric! in the first place.

I know the feeling. While I liked the revision to the demon rules, I wasn't fond of how attributes got nerfed, all PCs being weapon masters, or the grafting of RQ's battle/sprirt magic system into SB. 

On 2/4/2021 at 7:27 AM, Mugen said:

However, after reading comments by Ben Monroe on rpg.net, it appears it was not exactly SB6, as the game introduced skill modifiers, and a method to assign skill values inpired by the FATE "pyramid", with IIRC 1 skill at +60, 2 at +50, etc.

I'll have to look mosre clsely at my copy. I don't recall any of that, but then I have only skimmed through MW.

On 2/4/2021 at 7:27 AM, Mugen said:

Not sure it would jhave been sufficient to make me like the game, though.

I think that like many such Chaosium products of that era, it probably would have been nice to have as a way to get ahold of the rules if you didn't have them, but less nice to those who already did.

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