Magical Mondays: I Don’t Know How It Works   Leave a comment

Wizard of Oz

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m back from Gen-Con!  I have so many wonderful tales to tell, and plan on doing a full write up of the days I spent at Gen-Con 2014 soon (and one event may have inspired me to write a piece of creative nonfiction that I feel kind of good about.)  Unfortunately, it’s also 1:20 AM (2:20 AM if I go on Indianapolis time, as I did while at Gen-Con), and I’m drained.  I don’t have a very long Magical Mondays today, but I do have a topic that I’d like to ask you to ponder: how else might a character’s magical abilities manifest?  Do you know how they manifest most of the time?  Do you, in fact, know “how it works”?

Like the Wizard of Oz, it’s not too hard to imagine someone with unexplored or seldom used abilities being unaware of how they function in all circumstances (though this analogy falls apart the closer you look at it.  Again, 1:20 AM.  Or… actually, 1:23 by now.)  This topic came to mind when I discovered myself at a City of Heroes gathering on Saturday night, comprised of dedicated former City of Heroes players who gathered to talk about how great the game was.  I asked everyone if they thought that there might have been an in-lore connection between psychics and dark energy since most psychics in the game appear to draw from both sorts of power.  Their response was an almost instantaneous no: City of Heroes had many fine points, and one of them was the way that it refused to give a definite explanation for how a certain class of abilities might work since any suggested lore would definitely contradict someone’s in-game lore.  The different psychic enemies drawing from both styles of power was like just a programmer using a similar build or developing into a pattern of evolutionary convergence based on the needs of a particular story or villain group.

This is a design choice that’s often noticeable in City of Heroes after the fact.  The game once said that there were eleven methods of time travel, and when a list of those methods was finally presented, one space was reserved for whatever the player of the character could come up with.

As an exercise, I suggest finding different methods of explaining the same mechanical effect in the game.  Case in point, consider the fighters who have magically enhanced strength through standard spells, others who drank an alchemical mixture prior to the scenario, and some who receive a spiritual training regimen and a week’s montage to prepare for the big day as they simply learn how to hit better, knowing that they can’t keep up the pace forever.

Try to create two rival organizations who create the same spell in different ways, and begin plotting for how your players can discover this subtle difference.  It may lead them to an unknown vulnerability, or might just be a curious lore tidbit.

Anyway, that’s all for this week.  Sorry it’s so short, but I doubt I’ll stay coherent much longer tonight.  Until next week, have a truly Magical Monday.

Update: It’s a good thing I stopped there.  In the light of day and after a long, long sleep the article is even shorter than it seemed last night when I was writing it in a Denny’s, the only place in town with 24 hour wi-fi.  Fortunately, not too many typos that needed editing after the fact.

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Posted August 18, 2014 by John Little in Magical Mondays

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