For the month of August I’m taking part in the blog carnival again. This month the subject is magic, and the host has put no real limitations on it.
That being the case I’m going to let my mind range wide, for as a subject magic can cover a wide range of subjects.
What is Magic?
That covers a lot of territory. In the real world magic is said to be a number of things, depending on the speaker. In a fantasy RPG it is more often said to be a particular subject, though how it is explained again depends on the speaker. For our purposes how magic works in an RPG can be said to be a tool used to shape the local environment, though the question of how it is used to do the shaping is not clearly handled.
For that is the thing about magic, you get right down to it we really can have no understanding of how it works because it really doesn’t work. We can claim that it works, but in all honesty the use of magic has no real impact on our world. You can make claims but in the end we have no way of understanding what we’re dealing with because we’re just dealing with your basic bafflegab.
You get right down to it, most any sort of gum flapping will do because they are all equally invalid. But we will engage in it for the reason that we insist that we have any sort of explanation for a subject, even when the explanation is a load of crap. For my part I like to think the most plausible description of magic is: The ability to shape the physical world without using any physical tools. And by physical tools I’m including such as sound, sight, taste and touch. Any sort of physical agency what so ever.
But aren’t words and such used in magic? Yes, they are, but not in that they do the work themselves, but in that they are used to focus the caster’s mind on the desired result.
In some circles magic is understood to be the manipulation of a force currently unknown to modern science. A force which really has no effect on the world unlike Gravity and Electromagnetism. For that is the thing about a force, it has an effect whether we use it or not.
Even more, were magic something we use, and which has an effect on existence, we would see that effect, see it having an effect. Gravity has an effect, the Strong Nuclear Force has an effect, but what reputed effect magic has on things can most often be explained as another effect entirely. If magic actually worked there woud be times when only magic could explain what happened.
Then there’s the matter of how we explain things. We like explaining things, explaining things is what we do to make us comfortable with a phenomenon. Explaining things is how we come to understand those things, or at least we hope. Science is a technique we use to help us explain a thing, and through that explanation come to understand it. Science is not prescriptive, science is descriptive, and as a descriptive tool science provides us with what we can use to, well, describe things.
But while science can be useful, it can also be harsh, for how we use science to describe our world can reveal matters we’d much rather not deal with. Falling a couple of hundred feet onto a rocky shelf hurts, and there is nothing you can do about it. Getting run over by a horse can kill you, and no game rule no matter how worded is going to change that.
I have my way of handling magic, you likely have yours. As long as your players enjoy what goes on in a session it’s all good. Keep it cool, keep it interesting, and remember that it’s the adventures that matter.