Sunday, 15 November 2009

Practical Magic

I was reading through the Magic Burner tonight and am wholly intrigued by the idea of practical magic. For those who've not read it, these are rules that let you incorporate magic as an everyday thing, as something that most people use and that is mostly used for mundane things. Rather than making a cake, it's a magically tasty and magically nutritious cake. Rather than just forging a plough, the plough can magically cut through the strongest roots and dislodge stones in the soil.

It made me think of technologies like steam power, internal combustion and electricity. A long time ago people knew about steam and fire and electricity, but had no idea how to make it practical. Eventually we reached a point at which it was ubiquitous in daily life, but not quite beyond the understanding of most people. Particularly, I think of internal combustion engines. The basics of that engine have been understood for decades and there are people all over the world who tinker with it in sheds and garages every day.

So what would an RPG setting with this feature look like? One option is that practical magic became so widespread that technological innovation would never take place. The problems solved by steam, petroleum and electricity would be solved by magic. But imagine the governmental approach to it: a magic utility company, funded through taxation and with the mandate to ensure that the magic is available, regulated and safe. Or consider the free market, in which magic items are not potions of invisibility, but potions of stain remover. If magic were principally practical and mundane, it would feature in a game in an entirely different way to other fantasy. It would almost be invisible, but it would give such flavour to the game setting.

I want to play this.

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