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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How Magical Should a Setting Be?

I'm not asking if there should be magic in a setting. This is fantasy roleplaying, and magic items are the default there. Instrad, what I'm asking is "how much magic should there be/"

Obviously, this is a personal taste type of question, and the answer may change depending on the type of campaign one wants to run.

For me, it's whether or not you are going to embrace the idea of a "golf bag of magic swords." As a DM, you need to have an answer for that question before you kick off the campaign. As I am currently running Castle of the Mas Archamage with one of my two groups, the answer is simple. I (and my party) are embracing it. I might need to drop in a "golf bag of holding" while I'm at it, as the swords are accumulating for my party (although little else is - it may just be the paths they've chosen throughout the mega dungeon).

So, is magic "rare and magical" or "abundantly marvelous" or something in between in your campaigns?

18 comments:

  1. "For me, it's whether or not you are going to embrace the idea of a 'golf bag of magic swords.'"

    Is this even a thing in OSR games? I thought that idea started with 3.5, when they introduced different kinds (not degrees) of DR. In a system like 2e, where the damage resistance comes in units of +1 apiece (as opposed to types like adamantine or chaotic), you only need your best sword. Have some OSR games copied the 3.5 model?

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    1. if you run a published megadungeon, your party will acquire more low level magic items than they will know what to do with

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    2. It's a classic trope, actually, and has been lampooned since the early days. Take a look, for instance, at the AD&D (1E, natch) chart of magic swords. Four of the first five are: Sword +1, +2 vs. magic-using & enchanted creatures; Sword +1, +3 vs. lycanthropes; Sword +1, +3 vs. regenerating creatures; Sword +1, +4 vs. reptiles. Which would you carry, had you come across examples of all four? The chart goes on from there, giving many more options - Sword +1, Luck Blade; Sword +2; and so on (not even counting the long entry for the Flame Tongue sword).

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    3. Even with random magic item rolls, how many different magical swords are actually going to be found in a single campaign? It's up to the DM to keep things from getting ridiculous.

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  2. The answer is, of course, "it depends". I have a slight preference for low-magic settings and games, to keep the magic special, but I am not opposed to games and settings where heading on down to the local Magikke Shoppe to put in an order for a brand-new Broom of Flying and streetlights are lit with Continual Light spells is a regular occurrence.

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  3. I like abundant magic and the "golf bag of magic swords" didn't bother me. When I want "low magic" I run historical games.

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  4. A faoladh says "It depends". I think its more fun to bring the fiddly bits forward to make magic a busier part of the campaign with ink components, potion ingredients, and unusual materials being motives and noteable parts of treasures no matter how frequent magic is.

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  5. To be fair, the golf bag of swords is coming up because we've got two regulars who can use magical swords, and one (me) has a totally cool one, so the other guy gets all of the rest.

    I think he's going to want to sell or trade one of them, since it's been outdone by the newest sword.

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    1. I think the original idea in D&D was that excess magic items would be given to henchmen and retainers, both to make them more formidable in battle and to increase their loyalty. Sadly few players IME take advantage of the added power and prestige that comes from having NPC followers.

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    2. We've tried NPC followers, and it just hasn't worked out. Too weak to survive, too much of a pain to recruit them and deal with them when you play once a month.

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  6. I personally prefer a low-magic setting, at least in the style of Conan where it's rare and dangerous. But since I've been running published megadungeons lately (Stonehell currently) I'm just rolling with what the book gives them which is a lot more.

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  7. No one is going to carry a "golf bag of swords" if the DM enforces encumbrance.

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    1. And if he does, it'll be at the expense of food, water, arrows, oil, or torches. And a choice at the end of the successful delve to ditch the golf bag's contents to fill it with treasure or not.

      Unless it's a Golf/Sword Bag of Holding...a kind of portable arms locker. :)

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  8. hardly any magic, every item unique and special, wizards craft their own spells via research

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  9. Well,for a little perspective I say magic seems abundant to adventurers but remember most people stay on the farm or in the shop. Someone tried to pitch a scenario where everyone had a little magic and I did not like that idea. I also do like when you can simply sell your magic items in town. Too computer gamish.

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  10. If you're going to have a "golf bag of magic swords" you are going to need a caddy to carry it. And make suggestions...

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  11. Less is more. I'm preferring the odd techno item to mass magic these days.

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  12. This is another situation that truly is dependent upon the dynamic of the group. I have played in over the top Monty Haul campaigns where people felt left out if they didn't have a magic ring for each finger and had a blast. And, I have also played in a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign where only one player had magic, and due to the nature of the universe, he was hesitant to use it, and again, we had an absolute blast.

    I have always been a fan of magical worlds that have an economy that recognizes the presence of magic and allows trade and sale of magic items. But not worlds where you can treat magic item stores like a trip to the mall. Simple one shot magic can be more common, but more permanent gear still represents a large investment of time and energy to create. Therefore, pricing is set by the individual, not the rulebook. After all where is the challenge in figuring out the Big Bad's weakness, if you can go down the block and pick it up from the corner store.

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