November 13th, 2008

Voodoo Dolly
  • tashiro

Magic in Game Design

Talking with someone who is working on a game system for online play, and ran into a disconnect which brought my enthusiasm to a halt. The setting is futuristic and involves magic and technology. Technomancy exists, which is good since I love the blend of science and magic.

So, one of the first things I asked was 'what traditions exist in the setting?' I hate generic magic in a roleplaying setting ... if magic isn't built into the culture or philosophy or religion of the setting, I've no interest in the setting. It took me almost 20 minutes to get them to understand the question -- they kept breaking magic down into 'types' (fire, earth, water, wind, holy, unholy, and rarer versions). Then they kept mentioning 'sides'. Finally, I got them to say 'yes' to the fact actual traditions and philosophies existed. I really had to wonder if that was an afterthought or not.

Second, we discussed technomancy. Yes, they said, such a concept exists. They had earlier said you could blend magic and technology together, so I was looking forward to this. I mentioned some of the concepts, and they said 'no, that's too hard'.

My response was, isn't that what technomancers do?

Well, apparently not. Technomancers are people, it seems, who like casting temporary spells on objects to get it to perform a limited magical effect. So a technomancer is someone who 'casts fire on a sword' to make the sword burn for a short while.

That's it.

Ah, and magic is genetic, so to be good at a certain type of magic requires you to be born with the gift. So, if I made a 'technomancer', someone innately good at blending technology with magic, but I decided to, say, follow the path of a shugenja... for some reason I'd not be able to talk to the elemental spirits natural to that philosophy.


Isn't that sort of defeating the entire idea of philosophy and religion with magical traditions?
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