Heka

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series On DJ

Magick in Dangerous Journeys

Introduction

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 DJ

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.

Defining Magick

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.

Psychogenic Powers

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.

Castings

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.

And Bonewitz

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.

The Laws

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.

  1. Sympathy: That which is favorable to the subject. The ordinances are…
    1. Similarity: That which are alike.
    2. Contagion: Once in touch always in touch.
    3. Evocation: That which brings to mind.
  2. Antipathy: That which is unfavorable to the subject. Here the ordinances are…
    1. Dissimilarity: That which are different.
    2. Opposition: That which are opposed.
    3. Repulsion: That which repels the other.
  3. Change: An alteration to the subject.
  4. Ritual: The matter of procedure.
  5. Emanation: The source of heka.
  6. Conduction: How heka travels from place to place.
  7. 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.

Finishing Up

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.

My Thinking

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series On DJ

But first please note that what follows is how I see things, you don’t have to agree with me.

Dangerous Journeys

Preface

This is a set of mechanics. Not for a game but for a guide. For I don’t see these as games, but as guides. Guides to adventure so I call them adventure guides. I know, so I’ll explain what I’m talking about as best as I can.

Here a guide is a set of written instructions on how to do a thing. In this case on how to present and run an adventure for a group of players. They and the Guide, the person running the adventure, are known as “participants”, and each has a role to play in the adventure. In the case of the Guide very often a number of roles. The AG (Adventure Guide) also presents a setting where the adventure takes place, and most often that setting is placed in a world where people live and events occur.

In a sense an AG presents a fictional version of the world we know. So you could call it a “virtual reality”. While what happens during an adventure isn’t really happening, you can pretend that they are, and since they are, sort of, you can treat what is going on as actually occurring within the context of the adventure. In a sense what you have here is a sort of imaginary life and not a story in any sense.

For unlike a story in an adventure guide events are not set down. In fact they haven’t even been done yet and won’t be done until they get done. And what happens depends on what the participants decide to do, how they decide to do it, and chance. Nothing is guaranteed, success or failure.

This is how I see things, we’ll get into further detail as this work continues.

Forward

I first encountered Dangerous Journeys in 1992. After delaying after too damn long I’ve decided to at least make the basic mechanics available to a general audience, in case there are those out there who would want to use them in one of their adventure guides. This is not presented as a game in any sense of the word, for DJ (as I like to call it) is just to damn busy to be any sort of game. As I understand the term, a game is really supposed to be something simple and straightforward, presenting a limited milieu where the options are limited, the playing pieces are limited, and events don’t take long to play out.

This is the core system reference document for adventure guides. As such it is rather basic and each guide that uses it while most often present an expanded version of the mechanics. As an example the Abyss AG presents a far future world where Humanity is poised on the brink of interstellar space and the intention is to present a space opera for the players to take part in. In contrast Unhallowed gives you a guide to horror adventures, in a world where ancient maladies are rising from whatever they were forced down into way back in the day. While both have magick, and both use the basic magick mechanics, how they work specifically differs between them, and how their worlds treat the subject differs as well.

Now to get into some detail.

Introduction

Dangerous Journeys is a set of mechanics for what I call adventure guides. I call them adventure guides because that Is how I see them. They are guides to adventure where one person, called the Guide, guides a group of players through adventures set in a world where adventures tend to take place.

The DJ system was designed to mode, emulate that is, the worlds of story where adventures take place. Only instead of you telling a story set in that world, you are having an adventure while playing the role of a person living in that world. Whether it is the Urth of Changeling or the Ærth of Mythus it is his home, and how he fares in his life and adventures is up to the person playing him.

His success is not guaranteed. Neither is his failure, and it is quite likely that what happens as a result of his actions will surprise him and his fellows. An enemy may become a friend. A friend may become as enemy. A traitor may become the savior of his people, while a hero can be later named a traitor.

Those who participate in a DJ AG assume a role in an adventure. The Guide presenting the adventure to the player very often plays a number of roles. How player or Guide participates is up to him, though I do hope they at least participate willingly and with some flair.

As I’ve noted before the worlds of Dangerous Journeys are meant to model the worlds of adventure stories, from the tales of culture heroes of the past to modern day entertainment. Only here what happens to the participants depends on what they decide to do, and on how the fates turn out for them.

The Players

For the players their role is to participate. To take part. To use what skills, knowledge, and abilities they have, whatever they have, in support of the others in the party. It may not be much, it may not even be entirely relevant, but at least do something for you never know just how you might influence events.

The Guide

The role of the guide is to participate, to take part as much as the players do. In addition, he needs to present the world the players are adventuring in.

But one thing he should never do is make any attempt to present any sort of balance. For reality is quite unfair and how one fares depends a great deal on how he handles the unfairness. All participants are encouraged to take advantage of their advantages, and to use those advantages to take advantage of the others. For an adventure guide is not a level playing field and how one fares depends a great deal on what advantages he has and how he uses them.

In Summation

Dangerous Journeys as a system reference document presents the basic system for use in adventure guides. It presents a model of reality, or of how things could work if they could work. The mechanics presented here are not entirely realistic, nor can they be realistic for very often what is possible in a DJ AG is not possible in reality. What you do, what happens in a guide such as Changeling depends on you, what you decide to do, and fortune. You may succeed, you may fail. You may be named a fool or named a hero. It all depends on what you do, on how it turns out. And on how others react to it. Load your pack, strap on the tool belt, and get ready for whatever happens. Adventure awaits, but before you start first make sure you’ve visited the facilities.

Definition

Adventure: A series of uncomfortable events happening to some poor schmuck a long ways away.

Alan Kellogg, March 28th 2019