*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 20, 2014, 05:09:42 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 69 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: 1 [2]
Print
Author Topic: Agrippa's magic  (Read 5399 times)
The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Member

Posts: 16


2.
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2004, 12:16:48 PM »

Chris, you seem to be making an odd choice if I understand you right: an historical game that would allow Walker’s “spiritual magic” as real or operative, but disallow “demonic magic”.  I don’t get that.  Alternately, if you are saying that someone might legitimately practice the former and not the latter: well, maybe, but so what?  And magicians trying to prove that they are legit and the other guys are not is a classic engaged in by Heinrich and Trithemius and all those folks (the Trithemius-Bovillus debate is a game set-up right there).

Another good game premise: can you be a wizard and not slide into demonic practices?  Where do you draw the line between manipulating astral rays and pacting with astral demons?

On RPG.net, there is a discussion going on about gaming Renaissance Florence during Lorenzo the Magnificent.  The fellow starting the thread wanted to do an historical game i.e. no magic, and concentrate on artists struggling for patronage and success.  I suggested that ignoring magic in this setting was not historical; Marsilio Ficino is under Lorenzo’s patronage.  Scholar-translator-magicians would fit into the game he was suggesting perfectly (better than artists IMHO since I find the Cult of the Artist boring).  I imagine that there must have been real nasty debates between magician-scholars, boasting of the texts that they had translated and how badly their rivals had done so: “my talismans are better than yours for you have failed to take Iamblichus into account, my supposedly learned friend!  Oh, you haven’t translated Iamblichus?  Ah!”

I also suggested that it might make for an interesting game if there were magic, but no magic system.  I was thinking of Chris’ comment that early modern magic is pretty tame stuff (if you discount the necromancy, witchcraft, Kabbalah, and the highest levels of Hermetic practice) and might be boring to game (no fireballs).  What if magic simply increased/decreased personal traits?  A Martial talisman that helps stamina or a ritual that decreases your rivals perceptions?  That could be very historical and still interesting.  You could go even further and say that “magic” is just a social skill, used to convince people of things or impress/scare the Hell out of them?

There’s just so much gaming potential in magic that is never, ever considered.
Logged

I have this wonderful plan for world domination. Pretty much. At least in theory. Or some ideas, at any rate.

O.K., I've got nothing.
talysman
Member

Posts: 675


WWW
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2004, 02:12:05 PM »

Quote from: The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
And Fantasy Wargaming is surprisingly good, considering that it ought, by all rights, be D&D again.  The system does force some thinking about magic and that can be more heavily emphasized in game.  Who were those guys and what happened to them?


they were Bruce Galloway, Mike Hodson-Smith, Nick Lowe, Bruce Quarrie, and Paul Sturman, although only Galloway is mentioned on the cover and title page. I don't recognize these names from anything recent in gaming. I did a little searching and found this article in an SF zine by Nick Lowe, and I note that Bruce Quarrie apparently went on to write other stuff, but not necessarly RPG-related.

Ralph may actually have something to say about this; I think I found a detailed comment he made about Fantasy Wargaming sometime in 2002.
Logged

John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Piers
Member

Posts: 72


« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2004, 04:25:13 PM »

Quote from: The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Chris, you seem to be making an odd choice if I understand you right: an historical game that would allow Walker’s “spiritual magic” as real or operative, but disallow “demonic magic”. I don’t get that. Alternately, if you are saying that someone might legitimately practice the former and not the latter: well, maybe, but so what? And magicians trying to prove that they are legit and the other guys are not is a classic engaged in by Heinrich and Trithemius and all those folks (the Trithemius-Bovillus debate is a game set-up right there).


I find it interesting, that the discussion has been concentrating on the academic end of Early Modern magical activity.  Of course, it is the most comprehensively theorized area of magical activity, but just as there was continual contention amongst learned magicians defending the licitness of their activities, I don't think that any of the other less formalized magicians would be any happier to be labelled simply as engaging in 'demonic magic.' Bodin might be quite happy to label them as worshipers of Satan, but with a few exceptions, they would have claimed something quite different.   And it is that sort of ambiguity on so many levels that I find attractive about magic during the Renaissance.

Rather than wandering off into the contentious territory of the Witch Trials, maybe the best place to talk about ambiguity is in the Books of Secrets, and the sorts of issues they raise.  

For a start, they make the sort of high/low magic dichotomy I constructed above very problematic, when you consider that some of the most popular Books were written by the likes of Cardano, Scaliger, Della Porta, etc.  But in addition to all the erudite material draw together from Classical and Biblical sources, there is a great deal of essentially traditional material, drawn from folk sources, from crafts, as well as from observation.  Now much of this material is reinterpreted in terms of theories derived from Classical magical sources, but if it is practiced amongst the comon folk, then it is easy to argue that at least some of their magic must not be demonic.  Some of it probably is too.

I want to be able to bring in curing cows, rain-bringing, and worshiping bleeding hosts, and still ask:

Quote
can you be a wizard and not slide into demonic practices? Where do you draw the line between manipulating astral rays and pacting with astral demons?  


Heck, I want to be able to ask if it is heretical too.

Second, in deriving (often very common) material from the 'maker's knowledge' tradition, Books of Secrets point to the line between crafts and 'mechanical magic'--the variety of automata, fountains, etc. that were displayed in cabinets of curiosities and at courts.  here we have something that is 'obviously' magical (the statue speaks), unlike the effects of amulets, and yet the sort of distinctions we might make between magical and no-magical have real trouble here.  How do we make system where the beginning of magical activity and the end of ordinary activity is almost indistinguishable and still make the activity of magic important? (Medicine would have to work in almost the same way.)

Finally, the dubious nature of the contents of the books, points to the prevelance of fakers and tricksters of varying dubiousness: the land of Charlatani, of Chaucer's Nun's Priest's tale, Cellini's Autobiography and so on.  In particular, the existence of widespread dubiousness of certain magical practices as fake, alongside belief in magic and even the same magical practices in different hands (No, that alchemist is a fake, but yes, you can make the Philosopher's Stone).

The last case, is of course, one of the aspects in which Ars Magica is far superior to Mage.  The contrast between the difficulty of working out when magical activity is going on in ArM, compared to the overwhelming amount of information in Mage completely changes the tone of the games.

It is all these sorts of complications that make me interested in how magic might work in game in the same way as Chris--because of the way they point towards some sort of coherence that Renaissance magicians were able to see vaguely in the distance, but were unable to bring completely together.  And that really does give the motive force to drive a game.
Logged
Alan McVey
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2004, 08:09:48 PM »

Quote from: The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
might be boring to game (no fireballs).  What if magic simply increased/decreased personal traits?  A Martial talisman that helps stamina or a ritual that decreases your rivals perceptions?  That could be very historical and still interesting.  You could go even further and say that “magic” is just a social skill, used to convince people of things or impress/scare the Hell out of them?


I like this idea, and was considering something similar.  Say you take a system like Heroquest and assign a planet or a constellation to each of a person's traits, so that you get something like Swordsmanship (Mars), Loyalty to Family (Jupiter), and so on.

Magic can then be used in one of two ways: the first is the one that you describe; a magician enhances or counters an ability by drawing the influence of the appropriate planet to bear on the target.  The second is to keep the ability the same, but replace one planetary influence with another, changing the "flavour" of the trait.  Loyalty to Family (Jupiter) suggests that the character will want to see the family thrive in the political and social sphere, but if that's nudged over to Loyalty to Family (Mars), then the emotion would take on more violent characteristics, while bringing in Venus could make it downright unhealthy.

I'm using an idea here from Giordano Bruno's work on bonds, De vinculis in genere, where he describes everyone and everything being influenced by invisible bonds that cannot be severed, but that can be transformed in quality.  I'm not sure how you'd apply it to physical abilities, but I do think that this could capture some of the subtlety of early modern magic.

-A. McVey
Logged
clehrich
Member

Posts: 1557


WWW
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2004, 11:05:10 PM »

I'll get back to some of the more difficult questions when I have a minute -- I'm grading a stack of papers -- but I did want to mention that the text Alan refers to, Bruno's De vinculis, is available in a good translation.  The volume is:

Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle and Unity, and Essays on Magic, trans. and ed. Richard J. Blackwell and Robert de Lucca (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998).

There is also an ongoing project to translate all of Bruno's works into Italian (those that aren't already) and French, under the direction of Nuccio Ordine, but they haven't gotten very far with the Latin works.  Last time I spoke with him, Nuccio was very gung-ho, but I think the project has stalled somewhere.
Logged

Chris Lehrich
redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2004, 09:33:44 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
The "how and why" aspect is something that is under-represented for several reasons IMO.

[snip]


4) Really what we are talking about here is an ideology or doctrine of reality - the very thing conspicuous by its absence in RPG.  This partly due to the habit of deference to the customer and the unwillingness to 'dictacte' to the players, and partly becuase western thought largely considers itself to be non-ideological (ha ha) and doesn't really grant it much importance.

5) The habitual reluctance of those few who DO hold to genuinely alternative doctrines about the nature of the world to commit to any meaningful statement.  Thus we have debates which refuse to define magic on the basis that this 'limits' magic or similar; the net result is that nothing ever solidifies enough to become a tangibly useful mechanism.  I take it some groups work around this at the social contract level, but it is very poorly represented in game design despite the disproportionate representation of alternative lifestyles in RPG.


You make excellent points.  I will only take time to reply to some of them.  I note in passing that I also like Mage, but I have enough objections to it to write a "fantasy heartbreaker" that fixes the problems I see with Mage.

Much of the popular occult press is entertainment.  They know they can sell books that inpire occultists with vapid sentiment.  They print those books, they sell those books, they take their money, and they don't care when their credibility sinks into the gutter.

Considering the occult non-fiction is so corrupted by entertainment over substance, it's not surprising that occult fiction lacks substance.

As to the reluctance of those who are committed to make "meaningful" statements, I protest that.  

Suppose someone starts out with an interest in paranormal faculties of the human body, starting with radionics, telekinesis, and acupuncture.  Eventually he gets so committed to the quest for scientific proof that he drops his other researches and concentrates on acupuncture.  He learns statistics, medical law, the Chinese language, etc.  He is concerned with the details of vindicating acupuncture and silencing the mockery of allopathic physicians.

Such a man is committed, and his research is meaningful to medical researchers, statisticians, insurance companies,etc.  He has narrowed his message to the medical industry and it is very hard for him to say things that are interesting, intelligible to the layman, and non-trivial.  That is a consequence of his commitment to a narrow field of study.

Such a man might have a lot of opinions on broader topics, but be unwilling to take the time to justify them to specialists in other fields.  Inside his own field, he can show his resume and say, "Look at my track record and then trust my opinion."  Outside his field, no one will appreciate his accomplishments.

Such a man might be well acquainted (for example) with the literature surrounding Idries Shah and the scholarly controversies that flared during Shah's life.  That does not mean he is able or willing to take the time to defend Shah's scholarship from (e.g.) a historian.
Logged
The Fiendish Dr. Samsara
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2004, 10:48:32 AM »

Quote from: Alan McVey
Say you take a system like Heroquest and assign a planet or a constellation to each of a person's traits, so that you get something like Swordsmanship (Mars), Loyalty to Family (Jupiter), and so on.

Magic can then be used in one of two ways: the first is the one that you describe; a magician enhances or counters an ability by drawing the influence of the appropriate planet to bear on the target.  The second is to keep the ability the same, but replace one planetary influence with another, changing the "flavour" of the trait.  Loyalty to Family (Jupiter) suggests that the character will want to see the family thrive in the political and social sphere, but if that's nudged over to Loyalty to Family (Mars), then the emotion would take on more violent characteristics, while bringing in Venus could make it downright unhealthy.

I'm using an idea here from Giordano Bruno's work on bonds, De vinculis in genere, where he describes everyone and everything being influenced by invisible bonds that cannot be severed, but that can be transformed in quality.  I'm not sure how you'd apply it to physical abilities, but I do think that this could capture some of the subtlety of early modern magic.

-A. McVey


1. That’s a really nice idea.  I was thinking the same thing more or less (which must be why I like it).  You could categorize the skill/attribute list by the seven planets.  Or the twelve signs, I guess, but I think the seven planets would work the best.  I was thinking of this with my Contest Check mechanics because things such as Connections and Patronage and Motives are all stats and thus would fit right in to the system.  How Machiavellian to concoct an image which damages your rivals Patronage stat or improves you own.  

Incidentally, deciding what stat goes under which planet would tell you a lot about your gaming world.  And then again, some might be variable as you suggest: passions might fit under any planet depending on their nature.  Actually, you could possibly expand that to all stats if you wanted to complicate things.  

It seems so obvious that “Swordsmanship” is a martial skill and maybe should be so as default, but what might “Venerean” or “Jovial” swordsmanship be like?  Mercurial swordsmen might be faster than the norm, while Saturnian might be immovable (a decidedly weird style of fighting in the Renaissance).  Anyway, just a thought.

2. Redwalker—I wasn’t meaning to knock Shah as an esotericist.  I’m just saying that he’s no historian, so that his historical assertions are not that useful.  But an esotericist doesn’t need to be an historian.  Indeed, the fundamental assumptions of an orthodox historian may be antithetical to a functional esotericist.  The latter often operate through a Law of Similarity in their thinking that mainstream historians find ridiculous (ask me sometime about the Richard Kieckhefer-Carlo Ginzburg witchcraft battles).  As someone who has operated on both sides of the divide, I would suggest that neither has any superior claim to “correctness”.  But that’s just me.

3. Here’s another idea for a game: the War of the Roses(the 17th century French affair, not the English Civil Wars).  John Kim (I think) brought up the Rosicrucians.  What if the characters are initiates or wannabe initiates in Paris attempting to locate other initiates but without any idea of how.  It’s a kind of conspiracy game.  Everybody is trying to find Brother C.R.C.’s wonder-tomb (complete with tape recording of Yahweh!), but no one knows where it is.  Or recalling Frances Yates’ one-time suggestion about Bruno and the Rosicrucians, what if the characters are traveling around creating secret societies?  To what purpose?  To find the true initiates?  Or to hide themselves from their antagonists?  Or, if we bring in Eco, maybe you are trying to create a secret society that will really know what is going on so that you can then join it (bearing Groucho Marx’s  dictum in mind).
Logged

I have this wonderful plan for world domination. Pretty much. At least in theory. Or some ideas, at any rate.

O.K., I've got nothing.
Matt Machell
Member

Posts: 477


WWW
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2004, 12:58:12 PM »

People who have an interest in Hermetic settings for RPGs would do well to check out some of Mary Gentle's books: Sundial in a Grave and Rats and Gargoyles. They are both strongly influenced by "real world" approaches to magic and mysticism.

-Matt
Logged

contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2004, 01:00:30 AM »

Quote from: redwalker

As to the reluctance of those who are committed to make "meaningful" statements, I protest that.  


I fear you took my remark as applying more generally than intended.  I meant, with the RPG 'community' such as it is.  We have no shortage of adherents of seriously alternative, non-mainstream views, but we never seem able to translate these worldviews into actual mechanisms.  I fully agree with your diagnosis of the 'occult press'; my remark was intended to convey that much the same problem permeates RPG in my view.
Logged

Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
BPetroff93
Member

Posts: 114


« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2004, 11:02:33 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
We have no shortage of adherents of seriously alternative, non-mainstream views, but we never seem able to translate these worldviews into actual mechanisms.


I think the problem is a matter of perspective.  From the "normal" viewpoint magick is a specialized skillset utilized for certain limited activities.  From the magician's point of veiw, it is a universal skillset that everyone is forced to intereact with all the time.  I think only two games have really addressed this framework albeit to a very limited extent, Mage and Herowars/Heroquest.  CoC's occult suppliments also have their moments but are too heavily geared towards the original source "flavor" to be considered realistic by any stretch (not that there is any problem with that)

Bringing a truly magickal perspective to game design would be very difficult without making the game focused on that one area.

I find Contracycle's comments on page one are especially on the nose.  Also the question he brings up about whether or not such "realism" is even desireable outside of a sim CA is particularly relavent.  However, there is the possibility of a universal magick system, as the underlying reality of the game world supporting premise or step on up, similar to TROS's use of its combat system.  

The question really is why we find current game magick systems unsatisfying.  A desire for "realism" is difficult to advocate because most of us have very little background in the construction and execution of magick rituals, and even those of us that do could spend years arguing the correct interpretation of magickal theory.  I think the call for realism in an RPG setting is really more about a desire to make magick MAGICK, something that has value and meaning and power, rather than just another set of mechanical rules.  There are enough gamers with at least a breif introduction or association with the art that we think we know what it should feel like.  I propose that when we want "realism" we are really chasing after that "feeling" we have associated with the word.
Logged

Brendan J. Petroff

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under Will.
redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2004, 04:17:39 PM »

Quote from: The Fiendish Dr. Samsara




2. Redwalker—I wasn’t meaning to knock Shah as an esotericist.  I’m just saying that he’s no historian, so that his historical assertions are not that useful.  But an esotericist doesn’t need to be an historian.  Indeed, the fundamental assumptions of an orthodox historian may be antithetical to a functional esotericist.  The latter often operate through a Law of Similarity in their thinking that mainstream historians find ridiculous (ask me sometime about the Richard Kieckhefer-Carlo Ginzburg witchcraft battles).  As someone who has operated on both sides of the divide, I would suggest that neither has any superior claim to “correctness”.  But that’s just me.


Don't mind me, I'm just complaining about how little time I have to pursue such issues and how frustrating it is to have to narrow one's focus in order to navigate social hierarchies.  So if I grumble, I'm just being a grognard, pay me no heed.

Some other time, probably in some other forum, I would like to ask you about Kieckhefer and Ginzburg.  But that will doubtless spiral into epistemological issues, so I shouldn't write about it on a gaming board.
Logged
redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #26 on: May 07, 2004, 04:28:32 PM »

Quote from: BPetroff93


The question really is why we find current game magick systems unsatisfying.  A desire for "realism" is difficult to advocate because most of us have very little background in the construction and execution of magick rituals, and even those of us that do could spend years arguing the correct interpretation of magickal theory.  I think the call for realism in an RPG setting is really more about a desire to make magick MAGICK, something that has value and meaning and power, rather than just another set of mechanical rules.  


Well, I am a firm believer in the Sim perspective.

I think even a dry, mechanical magic could have value and meaning and emotional resonance.

Let's take a situation that has great emotional resonance but doesn't display Hermetic symbology.

Suppose an athlete does many push-ups every day because she is motivated to compete in the Olympic games.  The push-ups can be called a magical sacrifice.  The goal of Olympian competition has great emotional resonance.

If she came to a point in her life where it was clear that she would not have a chance to compete, her whole world might be overthrown.  She might commit suicide, for example.

If, for example, your system puts numbers on what percentage of time you spend doing push-ups, and you had to spend effort points to fight off distractions and do the work, a mechanical rule system could allow players to game the experience of the athlete, who is emotionally committed.

Suppose the player builds the character with an understanding of the rules.  The player says, "Look, I want to have more enthusiasm points to make sure I don't fail my willpower checks for daily training.  I want to be totally committed.  In fact the character will attempt suicide if she doesn't get to the Olympics.  I want to be able to funnel as much of her willpower as possible into the goal."

I assume that everyone recalls Levi's claim that "All Magic is in the Will."

If a system of rules can simulate the workings of human willpower, then that system can simulate Levi's idea of magic -- even if there are no rituals, no Neo-Plationism, no Hermetic symbols.
Logged
BPetroff93
Member

Posts: 114


« Reply #27 on: May 10, 2004, 08:08:31 PM »

Hey Redwalker, thanks for the response.  I agree with your point that you can construct meaning from a "mechanical" system that does not include hermetic symbolism.  I wasn't saying that you could not, just that when we look at hermetic symbolism or ritual with an eye towards it's RPG useage that it is the emotion charge we (as gamers) assossiate with the concepts that is most relevant and how we wish to see that charge in action rather than the desire to "accuratly" mimic real world occultism.
Logged

Brendan J. Petroff

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under Will.
Pages: 1 [2]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!