(Oh, before I forget, because I’m bad at self-promotion: I’m running a sale on House of Cards in honor of Indie+. $20 hardcover, $15 hardcover, free digital copy as always. Runs through July 15, just like Indie+!)
So, I sat down for a protracted brainstorming session yesterday afternoon. I still haven’t found a way to mediate between the actual in-fiction and in-mechanics implementation of magic as simply an omnipresent tool and the sense that magic should be something BIG. It’s common in a lot of genre fiction to emphasize that magicians don’t just use magic for everything, and so when they do, that implicitly signals an escalation of the situation. A stake-setting mechanism, with a direct tie to actions explicitly designated as “magical”, could go a long way to creating the proper feel, but I’m not quite that far along yet.
Instead, where I am now involves looking really closely at dF in a symbolic way. The + is a positive outcome, of course, and has a very straightforward translation to in-game results: you add it to your total to see if you succeeded. That’s true of mundane actions and magical alike. What’s intriguing me is a symbolic resonance when we get to the idea of applying the results of the dice to situations when magic is involved: just as mystical philosophies will often categorize the absence of something as its own distinct quality (dark magic is not just magic that doesn’t use light, for instance, but usually calls upon a tangible “darkness element” for its substance), the dice imply that there are perhaps two or even three different magical forces at play. The easiest to comprehend is the positive force that drives magic, the one that thaumaturges call upon by name and in concept. Coexisting with that positive force, though, are the suggestions of a null quantity (the 0 or blank face) and even an actively negative force that opposes magic or exists as its antithesis (the -). Already we’re getting into larger metaphysical fields here: calling upon magic is an attempt to wrestle not one, but three forces into obedience through the application of will and arcane procedure. A successful sorcerer is able to extract the one she wants, the positive force, while mollifying or quelling the two other forces.
As I’m typing that, I can see the possibility for three broad species of magic that characters might specialize in, but that starts to divorce us mechanically from the simple and elegant resolution method previously devised, which is just to roll and apply the total with one’s relevant trait rating. To create a separate system for magic would help us make it feel BIGGER, but would also make it seem like a separate and specialized thing, not a technology to be called upon (albeit an esoteric one).
Still, there are some threads I think I’m going to pursue in these musings. I’m still trying to nail down what the fundamental traits would be for characters in this milieu, and figuring that out will let me start conceptualizing how magic applies to character capability.