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Sean_RDP

Five (5) Things Essential to a Magic World setting

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1. Being part of a multiverse.

2. Ambiguous view on sorcery in the game world .

3. Fantasy tech; not higher than renaissance, not lower than early iron age.

4. Various intelligent, playable species.

5. Seafaring!

 

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Here are my 5 suggestions

  1. Fey influences building to a crescendo ... can the PCs stop it?
  2. Shadow wars between the Houses ... I've always liked a bit of espionage and assassination
  3. Orcs found their own kingdom and disrupt the power balance ... The orcs have been reduced to primitives and this isn't fair in the eyes of a 40K Greenskin player ūüôā
  4. A Rime Isle (Fafhrd and the Mouser) location just off the southern edge of the map ... where planes and planets intersect
  5. Parties, balls, galas and feasts ... as an excuse to let the characters' hair down

Colin

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Interesting question, assuming you wanted to build a world that highlighted MW's biggest subsystems like Seafaring, Allegiances, Advanced Sorcery magical traditions, etc. and not leave anything out. 

  1. A range of human cultures/lands from primitive to civilized, and at least a few sapient non-human cultures or creatures.
  2. Some in-setting explanation for the divisions between various magical traditions: Deep Magic, Rune Magic, Fey Magic, Sorcery etc.
  3. The presence of an "Otherworld" and/or higher and infernal powers; spirits, demons and elementals have to come from somewhere, right?
  4. A world large enough to make exploration non-trivial by either ship, or horse
  5. Conflict and challenge built around the tension between shadow and light (and whatever those forces represent in your setting): Intrigue, spies, agents, assassins, dark warlords, bastions of knowledge, demon-haunted wastelands, etc. 

For inspiration and tone, think Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards, & "Fire & Ice," or Ridley Scott's "Legend." Also, books like Roger Zelzany's Amber novels, Le Guin's Earthsea stories, or even Jack Vance's Lyonesse novels.

Edited by Nick J.
spelinnng
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7 hours ago, Nick J. said:

For inspiration and tone, think Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards, & "Fire & Ice," or Ridley Scott's "Legend." Also, books like Roger Zelzany's Amber novels, Le Guin's Earthsea stories, or even Jack Vance's Lyonesse novels.

There is also this British author who wrote about a concept called The Eternal Champion.... :P

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1 hour ago, Thot said:

There is also this British author who wrote about a concept called The Eternal Champion.... :P

Sure, but if I was going to do that, then I'd just run Elric! or Stormbringer.

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13 hours ago, Nick J. said:

Sure, but if I was going to do that, then I'd just run Elric! or Stormbringer.

That's the point. If you are using Magic World in Moorcock's worlds, you are.

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On 6/18/2018 at 11:15 AM, Thot said:

That's the point. If you are using Magic World in Moorcock's worlds, you are.

I gotta remember that a hint of sarcasm on the internet doesn't always translate. (Yes, of course I remembered Moorcock, but I thought it was a little too on-the-nose to reference his multiverse stories because I assume most people around here are already intimately aware of the origins of Magic World.)

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Couple things I want to circle back to, but on Moorcock.. I think it is okay to say "Hey, make it Moorcockian" (like saying Dickensian?) and legitimate.  But, stepping away from that to some extent is good and I hope folks keep bringing their thoughts.

Sailing - what is it about Sailing that people feel is so wrapped up in how we want to have our Sword & Sorcery? 

Multiverse - Why is this important? I am not saying it isn't, just curious as to what the thought process is. Just nostalgia OR does it add an important element to the game?

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5 hours ago, Sean_RDP said:

Couple things I want to circle back to, but on Moorcock.. I think it is okay to say "Hey, make it Moorcockian" (like saying Dickensian?) and legitimate.  But, stepping away from that to some extent is good and I hope folks keep bringing their thoughts.

Sailing - what is it about Sailing that people feel is so wrapped up in how we want to have our Sword & Sorcery? 

Multiverse - Why is this important? I am not saying it isn't, just curious as to what the thought process is. Just nostalgia OR does it add an important element to the game?

For me incorporating frequent ship travel into my settings has made it out of the ordinary for my players. You can just do loads with it!

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On 6/22/2018 at 2:33 PM, Sean_RDP said:

Sailing - what is it about Sailing that people feel is so wrapped up in how we want to have our Sword & Sorcery? 

Ships are great adventure bases. A home they can take with them, and a fragile one, should the need arise to destroy it. A way to reach faraway lands. And in and out of combat, a reason for the players to engage in even more teamwork, and character interaction.

On 6/22/2018 at 2:33 PM, Sean_RDP said:

Multiverse - Why is this important? I am not saying it isn't, just curious as to what the thought process is. Just nostalgia OR does it add an important element to the game?

A multiverse is incredibly useful for an RPG campaign. You can add new lands, species, history and magic whenever you need it, and without breaking your existing game universe. Should some other player want to take the GM's role for a while, he can do so in his own world. .

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The world of the game should make the most of what the game offers. The word essential for me indicates the core book only, which is a stand alone game. Though we know Magic World’s history there is no reason to consider Moorcockian tropes essential, Chroniclers can ignore that history no problem.  With that in mind my 5 is: 

1: A gritty settting compare to some other fantasy games

2: Dangerous and tactical combat 

3: Some representation of the forces behind the allegiance rules even if most of the worlds inhabitants are ignorant of the three forces.

4: low-key magic and no divine magic. All spellcasters use the same streamlined rules and there built in limits to stop magic becoming too common or too potent.   

5:  Iron age to early medieval pre-gunpowder technology. Believable because the effect of magic on culture is minimal.

The authors actively encourage you to build your own world adding or subtracting material to taste. 

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1. Magic to be powerful rare and not universal, making it dramatic. 

2. Combat has to be dangerous.

3. Questing: As in, I want to go from point A to point B across a rich magical mythological landscape for a really good reason. 

4. Empires: whether Germanic or Romanic, I want the myth surrounding European history played out.

5. And seafaring, which probably means little or no teleporting, as that would defeat the whole point of getting on a ship, braving sea monsters and terrible storms in the first place.

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I'm not sure I think anything is 'essential'... but the settings I want to aim Magic World at seem to share certain features:

1. A magical world with generally mundane people. Kind of like how, in fairy tales, there is a feeling that the world is highly magical... but you don't see wizards throwing fireballs, or streets lit by magical gems, or floating cities (unless built by supernatural beings). No 'magic shops' selling real magic, but a virtuous princess might matter-of-factly bestow a charmed ring on a worthy servant.

2. Dangerous combat... if only to encourage characters to seek out more interesting solutions. Running away from things is often the wisest option.

3. Nature is dangerous... weather, wolves, bears, disease. Stick to the road, stay out of the wild forest. No need for a troll when a bear will do just fine.

4. A general level of beauty, even in the scary bits. For whatever reason, a lot of my mental pictures for Magic World come from old Disney movies... how pretty they can be, even when showing scary witches and mountainous demons waking up. Another visual reference for me is World of Warcraft... at least its earlier incarnation, it had a 'cartoony' aspect... very pretty in places, but even the most evil/dangerous places had visual appeal. It ties back to wanting a 'magical world', and that magic comes through to the senses of the characters.

5. Governments, religions, guilds, families... all vying for a character's loyalties. Reputations and oaths being very important.

Edited by Simlasa

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I'm not sure I could. MW is meant to be a relatively generic set of rules. Although there is a sample setting, it is not tied into the rules. Like any BRP system MW is modular and things could be left out or changed without breaking anything, but there's a whole variety of game worlds you could create just from the core rules even if you used them all and didn't add anything else. I think, however,  the identifying characteristics of MW are possible to list (though 5 is an arbitrary number, I think the first 3 are key):

  1. Magic is everywhere but only a minority of people can really use it.
  2. Allegiance has physical effects in the world.
  3. Adventuring is dangerous no matter how good you are.
  4. The world outside civilisation is alien and perilous.
  5. At some point you will get on a ship. Maybe a lot.
Edited by Vile

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It's interesting to ponder - as Vile says, the rule set was intended to be generic, and the "sample" setting was a discrete thing in its own chapter... But Elric! was a game intended to capture the wild inventiveness and imaginative flair of Moorcock's Elric stories  and there is a tone and feel the reader infers from the "voice" any text is written with. For Magic World  I would argue that voice (originating from Lynne Willis, Richard Watts, Mark Morrison, Jimmie Pursell and Sam Shirley's original work on Elric! and refined and polished by Ben Monroe in Magic World itself) is pragmatic, favouring clarity and immediacy over elaboration and intricacy. Whilst Magic World strives to give the Chronicler and players all the tools they will need, it doesn't seek to build a comprehensive system that models everything - the "Spot Rules" architecture in particular strongly implies to me an expectation that groups will improvise and adapt when confronted with novel situations not covered in the existing rules.

My own list of identifying characteristics would be similar to Vile's above:

  1. Magic pervades the world but actual spell casters are rare and strange.
  2. Allegiance matters - it affects the world in both the general and the specific. Characters get mechanical effects, it shapes the feel of the world.
  3. It's a BRP game in the classic mode - whilst default PC's are distinctly more heroic than in some BRP games, violence is a dangerous option and the feel tends toward the gritty and brutal.
  4. The world is fey and strange and varied - no race is _explicitly_ "evil", any creature can plausibly be a PC, or at least an ally.
  5. Ships feature heavily.

One of the missed opportunities of the line never getting off the ground was the possibility of explicitly expanding its horizons - one of the things I noodled away at one point was a series  of alternative settings - worlds that one could run with Magic World alone and which still cleaved to those core characteristics but were quite different from the Southern Reaches.  Ah well.

Nick

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16 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

My own list of identifying characteristics would be similar to Vile's above:

  1. Magic pervades the world but actual spell casters are rare and strange.
  2. Allegiance matters - it affects the world in both the general and the specific. Characters get mechanical effects, it shapes the feel of the world.
  3. It's a BRP game in the classic mode - whilst default PC's are distinctly more heroic than in some BRP games, violence is a dangerous option and the feel tends toward the gritty and brutal.
  4. The world is fey and strange and varied - no race is _explicitly_ "evil", any creature can plausibly be a PC, or at least an ally.
  5. Ships feature heavily.

One of the missed opportunities of the line never getting off the ground was the possibility of explicitly expanding its horizons - one of the things I noodled away at one point was a series  of alternative settings - worlds that one could run with Magic World alone and which still cleaved to those core characteristics but were quite different from the Southern Reaches.  Ah well.

Nick

 

I agree with those 5. I've run an Elric!/Magic World campaign set in Fritz Leiber's Nehwon for many years, a classic sword and sorcery setting. That setting fits all but one of the list above (no.2) perfectly. There are many gods in Nehwon but none of them are very powerful. There isn't really an obvious good vs evil or law vs. chaos. But I really like the Allegiance system so I use it anyway.

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On 3/3/2020 at 11:09 PM, Simlasa said:

2. Dangerous combat... if only to encourage characters to seek out more interesting solutions. Running away from things is often the wisest option.

I completely agree, Which is why in my opinion, combat has to be dangerous, otherwise we just chisel way at our opponents hit points, or wait for an unlikely critical while doing 1d6 damage points to an adversary who has 6 points of armour. If combat isn't dangerous players, are always willing to try it.

I like the idea of guilds and factions but let's not have cults. There is another very popular Chaosium Bronze age game, just full of cults, (it's also very good), so if we want them we can just play that game instead.

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51 minutes ago, Rich Tom said:

I like the idea of guilds and factions but let's not have cults. There is another very popular Chaosium Bronze age game, just full of cults, (it's also very good), so if we want them we can just play that game instead.

I'm fine with including cults as well. They're just the factions that focus on religion... not the invention or sole territory of any particular game/setting.

Edited by Simlasa

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But, in reply to the OP, would you say that cults are an essential part of a MW setting? I would argue they are not.

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1 hour ago, Vile said:

But, in reply to the OP, would you say that cults are an essential part of a MW setting? I would argue they are not.

No... but like I said, I'm not sure I think any element is 'essential'.
I am drawn to the 'cult' setup for various factions in BRP games... regardless of what they're called in the setting.

 

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1. Combat has to be always dangerous, and with a range of varied tactics. Or else I'd use a different game system. 

2. Multiple forms of magic in the game world. 

3. 'mortal' scale is the default. Beings significantly above human scale might exist but not dominate, playing as a skilled and magical mortal can be a significant player. 

4. Set a base tech level and stick to it for major cultures, anything from renaissance to bronze age. 

5. Moral ambiguity within the rules at least (and my personal style is heaps in the setting). If there are things like Law vs Chaos in the setting, neither should be objectively the 'good' one at least philosophically - but I'd mostly keep that for explicitly Moorcockian games or D&D, and just have factions and cultural beliefs. 

 

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