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Steffan O'Sullivan
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robbbbbb wrote:
Some players really like the feeling of control, and using a magic system that has non-transparent variables could be frustrating for them.

This sums it up nicely. I've always wanted magic to feel more magical and less rote in a game, but very few players can handle that. People in general want power over things, and want that power to be consistent.

One of the things that always irritated me in GURPS Fantasy is that the mages were almost always less creative in combat than fighters. GURPS has very detailed combat rules with lots of options, and those playing fighters (in our games, anyway) were always trying new things. But players of mages? "Flame jet!" every single combat round.

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I think it's possible to run a magic system that is mysterious and unreliable, but if you're going to do that you need to make it a major focus of the game. And you're going to need to either introduce your players to a new game system or modify a known game to handle it.

It's a very difficult task. I've tried to write such magic systems into Fudge numerous times and never succeeded. If it can be codified in game rules, it loses its "magic," so to speak.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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The game Shadowrun I believe uses a mix of science based and different laws of nature depending upon the spell. Shadowrun makes some of those spells logical and believable.
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sos1 wrote:
If it can be codified in game rules, it loses its "magic," so to speak.


I've mostly played D&D or variants thereof. In most outings I've used a two tier approach. The "magic" in the rules is a school or practice or common understanding and expression of learned, studied forms. It is an application of a fundamental force of the universe.

But the world is also full of expressions of the same force that go far beyond or above the limited practice available to players. That's the real Magic, of which their's is usually a pale, limited thing.

Planet or dimension crossing portals, creating exotic life, molding the landscape, or generally wondrous things or places are the expressions of the fuller richer Magic. Forests raised, moons drawn closer, deathless sleeps, beings drawn from the Beyond are things that the real Magic makes happen.
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Science is a technique of studying things in order to understand and explain them. So if magic exists, it can be studied via scientific methods.

Whether or not magic IS understood and explained within a game depends totally on the game.

And sometimes the explanation may be "you contact an entity from another dimension and hope like crazy it'll do what you want".
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I'm surprised Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game hasn't come up. Spells have rules, but any given casting can have wildly different effects. And there are at least two ways for exotic effects when failing, which is not uncommon. Suddenly growing antlers or no more spells until you convert a sincere adherent to your faith are examples.

This presents magic as a barely grasped dangerous force; it might have rules, but you are too small, frail, and ignorant to truly master them.
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StormKnight wrote:
Science is a technique of studying things in order to understand and explain them.

Non-scientist that I am, I do understand that.

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So if magic exists, it can be studied via scientific methods.

Except that I want magic to be defined as something that *can't* be studied via scientific methods. I want it to be something like The Journal of Irreproducible Results - but not a gag!
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StormKnight wrote:
So if magic exists, it can be studied via scientific methods.


There's a lot of great gaming to be had in that pursuit. Why should physics have all the fun with their high energy colliders? Chemistry doesn't own mixing exotic reagents to test the outcome!

Pursuing the nature of magic can be as epic as the pursuit of anything in our world.
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sos1 wrote:
I want magic to be defined as something that *can't* be studied via scientific methods.


You mean like gravity? devil
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GeoffreyB wrote:
The game Shadowrun I believe uses a mix of science based and different laws of nature depending upon the spell. Shadowrun makes some of those spells logical and believable.


Shadowrun does, indeed use a mix of science and magic. The game fiction even makes a point of saying that laboratories can't measure the amount of mana in the area, and that it can't be "studied" like technology can.

Then the game system goes and puts a whole bunch of rules on it, which completely systematizes the casting of spells and the use of magic in the game world. The magic system completely defines magic and makes it into a reliable, functioning technology. A lot of game systems and worlds are like this.
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cosine wrote:
sos1 wrote:
I want magic to be defined as something that *can't* be studied via scientific methods.


You mean like gravity? devil

More like anti-gravity.
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rebuscarnival wrote:
ctimmins wrote:
This is the flip-side of students asking each other if they "believe" in natural selection and evolution. No, of course they do not "believe" in it - nor does anybody else, because it is not a belief system. It's a theoretical framework upon which our understanding of the natural world is constructed, supported by masses of data that are statistically reliable.


I think a lot of people believe in it and do not understand the scientific foundation of the theory. I think this is true of almost all lay-person's understand of science. We have just replaced the preferred authority figure with a phd.

Present company accepted, of course.


A little off topic but I had a friend ask me once how I knew the world was round. I was able to counter this argument but it really wasn't that easy of a question without a strong physics background really. We both "knew" the earth is round (he was playing devil's advocate) but being able to prove it is entirely a different matter. If the theory is purely from memorization and not from the learning of the concept itself, then logically this is really a belief in an authority, whether or not the theory is sound.
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ultramafic wrote:
Depends on the system and GM. I imagine magic as a fairly predictable art not science.
This. yes.

I like it when magic can arbitrarily fail in spectacular ways, but is generally useful most of the time.

I like especially how, in L5R 5, you sometimes have to make a choice to either succeed with big and unpleasant side effect, or fail but be able to retry.
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Mallet wrote:
"unknown variables (1)": well, games like Fluxx, Cosmic Encounter and Magic: the Gathering thrive on the concept of game rules that change as the game develops, so in theory a RPG could integrate such an approach to the governing magical sub-system. It remains to be seen if such a "collectable RPG magical system" would become popular or not.


Hm. How about 1000 Blank White Cards as a model? That is, the rules (as the PCs understand them) are transparent on the table, but they can be modified at any time. Perhaps by GM fiat. Perhaps by player assent. Perhaps when the players discover how some rule of magic actually functions.
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sos1 wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Science is a technique of studying things in order to understand and explain them.

Non-scientist that I am, I do understand that.

Quote:
So if magic exists, it can be studied via scientific methods.

Except that I want magic to be defined as something that *can't* be studied via scientific methods. I want it to be something like The Journal of Irreproducible Results - but not a gag!
If it can't be studied, it can't be learned. So it would need to be all innate.

And, in most fantasy traditions, magic is a studied item, often with a requirement for a non-studied element. Not everyone can be a wizard, but those who can need to study to do so.

Likewise, even fickle results can be replicated and studied. This is why science uses correlation studies. When testing for effects of X and results on Y, we usually have some element of Z (a set of items not tested for) creating some level of apparent randomness in X to Y relationships.

There is a correlation, for example, between poking a person (x) and getting punched in return (y). z includes their moods, the force of the poke, the prior relationship, local laws, local customs... In small groups, the results are fickle. in large enough groups the level of random can be worked out.

On a game scale, that's easily done by abstraction - roll a die, on a 1, the magic goes awry. Then roll on table I for which kind of awry
1 additional target, who is closest to original
2 Targets one ally of a target instead of the intended
3 targets one opponent of an intended target instead of the attended
4 increase the power
5 decrease the power
6 roll twice

Many games make magic fickle and able to be studied... now, the ability to science it doesn't mean it will be widely scienced, either.
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Azukail wrote:
I think there's a spell in Lamentations of the Flame Princess that, if it backfires, drowns the entire planet. Now that's a backfire.

I dunno, seems to have worked out OK for Noah.
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Inkwan wrote:


If the theory is purely from memorization and not from the learning of the concept itself, then logically this is really a belief in an authority, whether or not the theory is sound.



Actually, it is a belief based on the necessary division of labour in society, and also based on the confidence that most people in charge of their area of specialty will be using a sound and reproducible methodology to arrive at their conclusions.

Naturally, it would be cool to live in a country where they teach to all the citizens in minute detail the scientific laws that explain all the natural phenomena that a person could encounter in everyday life.

Maybe in a few hundred years ...
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robbbbbb wrote:


Hm. How about 1000 Blank White Cards as a model?



Well, that would drive down the costs, at least.
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Inkwan wrote:
A little off topic but I had a friend ask me once how I knew the world was round.

On the Great Salt Lake's southern shore, quite near to the State marina, Kennecott Copper has a huge smokestack with flashing lights on the top. Sailing due North, it's easy to observe the smokestack disappearing from the bottom up, the farther you get. When the lights wink out, you're about parallel with the northern tip of Antelope Island. The positional tip isn't very useful because if it's clear enough to see the smokestack lights, it's clear enough to see the Antelope Island marina lights to starboard. Coming about and going home, the smokestack then begins to grow up out of the horizon until so too does the land that it sits on.

While much science (especially modern medicine) is embraced due acceptance based on trust in professionals, the world/round hypothesis actually is fairly easy to demonstrate for yourself by simple observation of curvature. Carried on, you can deduce the spherical results.

Alternately, you can refer to a quality pendulum's rotational disposition. But that one takes some additional math to render proof.

This does, of course, start with the assumption that the earth is a sphere, which we all "know" to be true. If you start with the assumption that it's flat, probably there are other ways to interpret the data.

Heh.
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I tried to arrange all my thoughts on this subject. Now my head hurts.

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If you perform a ritual or cast a spell correctly, you have a reasonable certainty of obtaining the desired outcome. However, the whim of a deity, the actions of another practitioner, or an innate quality of a mythic beast or sacred location can impact your results in unpredictable ways.

This is fundamentally different from the interactions of physical objects with the 'natural' forces in the universe. In mundane-space, you can't burn incense and chant over a leather jacket to stop a bullet from passing through it.

Magic is a way to interfere with causality. Because it 'breaks the laws', it won't yield its secrets to the Scientific Method of analysis.
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bobcatt wrote:
In mundane-space, you can't burn incense and chant over a leather jacket to stop a bullet from passing through it.

You also can't predict (or repeat) how the incense's smoke will ascend while you do that. Does the inability accurately to model turbulence make it magic?
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ctimmins wrote:
bobcatt wrote:
In mundane-space, you can't burn incense and chant over a leather jacket to stop a bullet from passing through it.

You also can't predict (or repeat) how the incense's smoke will ascend while you do that. Does the inability accurately to model turbulence make it magic?

No, it's just an annoying question on the Computational Fluid Dynamics exam.
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How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Pete (counters)
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bobcatt wrote:
If you perform a ritual or cast a spell correctly, you have a reasonable certainty of obtaining the desired outcome. However, the whim of a deity, the actions of another practitioner, or an innate quality of a mythic beast or sacred location can impact your results in unpredictable ways.

This is fundamentally different from the interactions of physical objects with the 'natural' forces in the universe. In mundane-space, you can't burn incense and chant over a leather jacket to stop a bullet from passing through it.

Magic is a way to interfere with causality. Because it 'breaks the laws', it won't yield its secrets to the Scientific Method of analysis.

Hardly. If it's patterned enough to work formulaically at all, it's patterned enough to do reasonable experiments with. It's just multivariate analysis with unknowable factors. And multivariate analysis isn't exactly new...

So one can analyze the controlable factors vs results - something which even the ancient greek philosophers did to a degree, and the antikithera mechanism's creators clearly had done on metalwork. Did they understand the chemistry of alloying? Not on the level we do. But they tested different mechanisms, and made a device that basically survived a thousand years in the mud, using high-quality alloys of copper (bronze and/or brass). Alloys developed by formula and trial and error, not by knowledge of the molecular interactions of copper, zinc, tin, and antimony.

You don't have to understand how it works to use it. You don't have to understand how it works to improve your use of it, either, just a willingness to make controlled tests.

Someone had to develop the formula in the first place.
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Perhaps I can best explain what I want in a magic "system" by using Myers/Briggs psychological terms. For those who don't know it, it breaks down the population into 2^4 different personality types based on four different polar opposites.

Everyone has access to all traits, but most people tend to be stronger in one side or the other in each of the four dimensions, even if only a little bit.

For this purpose, only two of the dimensions are needed: the Sensation/Intuition dimension and the Thinking/Feeling dimension.

Anyone can follow scientific procedures, but those who do it best are the ST types: Sensation Thinking personalities. (I doubt there's any advantage to either I/E or J/P.)

So what I want in a magic system is one in which NF (Intuition Feeling) types have an advantage over the more scientifically minded ST personality types.
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