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Actor, Author, Director: three Spheres of Magic and more!

Started by J B Bell, April 06, 2002, 04:15:22 PM

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J B Bell

My understanding of improvised magic systems (and Champions' various power pools) as a way of exercising Author and Director power occurred only recently with a fuller understanding of what the heck the three Stances are.  As someone who struggled with, and eventually mostly abandoned, trying to create the Perfect Magic System, I still find this an interesting puzzle.

First, technical questions:  I understand the Stances now, I think, but their relation to "power" is not quite clear.  E.g., there is talk about Author and Director Power, but not Actor Power.  Is this mainly because everyone is assumed to have that last, or might there be a subtle nuance I am missing?

Assuming I'm not doing the ideas serious violence, it seems as if A and D power represent the true "spheres" of magic in many ways.  D-power spells are generally much more expensive.  Aha!    In D&D, D-power spells cost in a D-power way--literal years of a character's life!  Very interesting.

And this leads me to another question--in games with explictly allowable A- and D-power for all players, what is the point of magic at all other than Color?

Pardon my thinking out loud; I suspect this can lead to some interesting places and make for more coherent designs of improv magic systems.

"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes

Ron Edwards

Hey JB,

"Power" is actually not a formal term in the theory; X Power is best read as shorthand for "privileged to do X during the game." Thus Author Power is pretty much the agreement or acknowledgment that a person can exercise Author stance and not get criticized or be working against the system or whatever. We do use it pretty loosely even then, and some people confound Author Power with Overt Narrativist or stuff like that.

Balance of Power, though, is a term in the theory (courtesy of Hunter Logan), and refers to the distribution of any authority of "what happens" during play across the people involved.

As for the whole Magic thing, I mentioned this on another thread, but check out the Magic System discussion from the old mailing list archived at the Sorcerer site. There are tons of ideas there, mainly about how good fantasy authors make and use magic in their stories, as opposed to how fantasy role-playing games do it.



Read the discussion, some interesting stuff.  I like the implied proposition of writing a spellbook backward - allowing players to actively compose spells as a representation of what is to the character list-like.  My only concern about created-on-the-fly magic is that it makes the magic system largely incapable, in the text, of painting the game settings colour - that has to be established elsewhere.  I mean, part of the utility of lists is showing off what magic can do.  

I do think that when we are talking about *magic* systems, we are explicitly NOT talking about "mystic technology" - if it looks like technology, walks like technology, and sounds like technology, then it is technology.  Magic is explicitly about metaphysics and religion; it is a proposed deep understanding of the world and its underlying causes.  It may stand in a social space, in terms of problem solving in the broad and our world model, analogous to our use of technology, but a magic system which merely duplicates our relationship with technology seems to me
pointless.  I think the distinction between the two lies in the fact that magic and mysticism incorporate a moral element.

In mythology, magic is often symptomatic or indicative of an entity or persons definition in theological terms, of their place in the mystical order of the world.  The beings are not defined by their powers, their powers emerge from their identity, and the role they play in the moral/metaphysical description of the world.  Magicians are by their nature unusual in that they have undue or at least unusual access to this deeper layer of reality, and I think that this usually implies something in moral terms too - insight or consequences.

Incidentally, I had some trouble goinf back in my browser while looking at the sorecer site.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"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