Magick in Dangerous Journeys
Recently I was introduced to a new RPG, Quest, through Dave Newton, co author of Mythus. Quest is supposed to be for children, though I suspect it has elements adolescents and adults could find useful. I was also introduced to a neologism by dave, “hekatek”, which is his word for what others call “magitech”, or technology that uses magick.
Using the Word
It would seem that Dave has decided to use “heka” as the Egyptian for “magick”. As it turns out, he is not alone. According to this search page others use “heka” as the Egyptian for magick. The word itself is also the name of an Egyptian god, Heka, said to be the god of magick. He was also associated with such as Hu (the word) and Sia (perception). For it seems that in Egypt magick was associated with how one perceived, and in how one applied the authority of the word.
Under “hekau” (another search page) it is understood to mean “words of power”. It is also part of the name of another Egyptian deity, this one the goddess Werethekau (also Weret Hekau and Urtkehau). Her name is translated as either “great one of magick” or “great enchantress. You’ll note that the ancient Egyptians were big on authority and authorities, for the latter were seen as important in life and necessary to insure a good one.
In Dangerous Journeys Heka is seen as the force which powers magick. It is most often compared to the electromagnetic force, though in the case of Heka it is a force which can be manipulated through will to produce concrete results. Heka is said to be derived from “Hekau”, or “words of power”. At least according to Gary Gygax, designer of the DJ system.
A Note on Magic in RPGs
At this time we will have a look at how other fantasy RPGs handle magic (as they spell it). In adventure guides such as Ars Magica and Runequest, where magic is seen as an effective way of manipulating reality. As opposed to our existence where it really doesn’t. In so much as the Dangerous Journeys system overall has working magick (to use Gary’s spelling), it is therefor much like other fantasy systems where magick is concerned.
On the Soul
It can also be seen as a Spiritual matter, in that it seems to involve the spirit, or soul. With the Spiritual Trait having two Categories, Metaphysical (understanding)and Psychic (connection), we can see that magick in DJ involves how one understands and in how connected one is with reality. Coupled with the ability to manipulate Heka to produce the desired resulted the better one is in a Trait the better one can use magick on a day to day basis.
The Mental and Physical Traits
Note that the other two Traits, Mental and Physical, also come into play, in as much as the mind and body play a role in how well one can use magick. One’s ability to learn and reason, and in one’s physique, also have an impact on how good one is with magick. In the case of the Physical Trait think of it as being a matter of how strong one is, and in how healthy and agile.
For our purposes I’m going to describe magick as being the ability to produce a concrete result through desire or will, without the use of any physical agency. Speech in this case is as much a tool as any screwdriver or hammer.
Psychogenic Powers and Castings
There are two ways in which magick can be used by those with the ability.
A psychogenic power (also known as a psychic power, but Gary wanted each concept to have it’s own specific term) is an ability to manipulated matters through heka that is set. That is, through the power in question one may produce results such as a breeze, or mind to mind communication. But while you can get better and more effective at it, you can’t change how you use heka. That is set and you may not alter it. In other words, you are born with certain talents and you can’t change them.
With castings you can use heka to produce a variety of results. Of course, each casting you learn will have it’s own result, but you can learn other castings unless a restriction is placed upon the learning and use thereof. How you learn and use castings also depends on the milieu in question. In a module such as Mythus casting use is fairly open and flexible. In such as Abyss castings are extremely rigid, with the talent being restricted to a very few and applied through ritual instead of any other means of casting. In Unhallowed for instance all castings must be improvised and will not work when formalized. In short you have to ad lib what you want the casting to do.
You’ll note that the above follows the thinking of the late P.E.I. “Isaac” Bonewitz, who saw magick as being a type of psychic ability. Though that seems to be as far as it goes.
At least where castings are concerned it would appear that certain laws of magick apply. In magick there are 7 laws, these and their ordinances are.
- Sympathy: That which is favorable to the subject. The ordinances are…
- Similarity: That which are alike.
- Contagion: Once in touch always in touch.
- Evocation: That which brings to mind.
- Antipathy: That which is unfavorable to the subject. Here the ordinances are…
- Dissimilarity: That which are different.
- Opposition: That which are opposed.
- Repulsion: That which repels the other.
- Change: An alteration to the subject.
- Ritual: The matter of procedure.
- Emanation: The source of heka.
- Conduction: How heka travels from place to place.
- Obstruction: How heka is blocked.
Note that the laws in question really have nothing to do with the subject of the casting. Instead they have their impact on the caster, for it is he who needs to keep in mind whether he is doing anything sympathetic or antipathetic to the subject, or if it involves change or the flow of energy in the form of heka. Procedure (ritual) is of course important, for in magick getting it right is important. You need to know what you are doing and to be correct in how you do it. You get right down to it, magick is a conservative art and you need to understand what you are doing and to be right in how you do it.
And that is how I see matters, at least where magick in Dangerous Journeys is concerned. Oh, and then you have the matter of the Canons of Faith, which would appear to be associated with the Nine Grades of casting and what they are most concerned with. But that’s the subject for a later posting.