Friday, 19 December 2014

It's oh so quiet

So very quiet. I've not posted here for a while but there's been good reason. I'm in the middle of moving, not from one side of town to another, but from one side of the country to another. 

So please forgive the blog silence for now. 

Buuuuuuut watch this space. I'm moving to Brisbane, home of Go Play Brisbane! Woohoo!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Hidden rules are the worst

You've probably noticed that I've been toying around with Mobile Frame Zero a little lately, especially with my two children. They're both young so they're into whatever I'm into. We kludge together a few mechs and then set them up on the floor to play.

The older one sometimes plays War! Showdown or Pirates! Showdown on my iPad so he grasps the point of a wargame. The abundance of dice around the house probably also helps him along a bit.

But as you might imagine, young children don't usually have an interest in understanding the rules before starting play. Instead, they like to make up rules as they go along. It's like play-storming but without anyone writing anything down. For my eldest, every turn is an opportunity to make up a new rule about something.

"I rolled a 3. If I roll another 3 now then that makes 6 and I get to capture that weapon tower."

"How many 6s did you roll in the game? If you rolled enough then you get to repair your robot without having to go back to the start."

"If you capture that tower, you can put it on your robot and move seven spaces instead."

You get the idea. It made me realise something I don't especially like in gameplay: the hidden rule. I played a game of Warhammer 40K with a more knowledgeable friend one day. Everything was going just fine until I made a move and he said, "And now I get to… " Follow this with the total destruction of my Tau army.

Oh. Do you think I would have made my move the way I did if I knew that?

You might say that I should have known the rules before I started playing. True! I should have absorbed that massive fifth edition of the WH40K rulebook before I even considered playing. OK, so I kid a bit. The point is that there were surprise rules. I didn't know them all and suddenly there were more of them.

In game design I think this requires a special audience, or perhaps a better game design. When I think of a game that avoids this neatly, I'm immediately drawn to Lady Blackbird. All the rules are on the character sheets. It's great because it's simple enough to fit on a single sheet without being crowded. It even has exception based rules on each sheet, but they're also few in number.

With all that I've just written, perhaps you think I'd hate the mother of all exception based games: Munchkin. But it's just the opposite. I like that game because the exceptions are the expectations. The game is specifically about those exceptions. Players don't have to memorise them all, just be able to play them as they come up. In games with hidden rules you have to memorise them all and that drains the fun out of the game for me.

So in short:
- Games with easily presented rules are good.
- Games that include exception-based rules are good.
- Games that punish players for not memorising the encyclopaedia of rules are bad.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Brick Battles

The urge to make games is strong in this family. I've just finished playing our own customised-for-a-five-year-old version of Mobile Frame Zero, although it was probably closer to Brick Battles than anything else.

Every time we finished the turn for a mech, a new rule appeared. Tough mechs. Fast mechs. Repair stations. Respawning. The list of rules just kept coming! Somehow they all meshed together well enough for us to play.

I'm glad I bought Brick Battles. Yes, I bought the little booklet! Totally worth it.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Frames! Frames! Frames!

I finally got my copy of the Mobile Frame Zero rule book after procrastinating about it for too long. Inspiration hit the Lego tub this afternoon and this is what came out. 





It's been said over and over again but the Mixel sets are brilliant for this game. So many useful pieces. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

From the news: Four hour siege

Just this week there was a siege situation that reached the news. Here's a snippet.
Three people from the same family were shot dead and a man was arrested after a four-hour siege in central Victoria following a "minor neighbourhood dispute", according to police. (full article)
The police have become involved only after the first victims were killed and in this case they haven't used lethal force. This is unlike the basic setup for the Siege story game. The game always assumes that none of the Hostages are dead.

If you want to use a setup like this in your next game of Siege, you will need to change the special rules for the Police. Rather than a rule which authorises them to use lethal force when the Captor has started using lethal force, the Police can only use it in self-defence or if further deaths happen.

-

I also want to say that even though I use stories from the news to trigger games of Siege, I'm doing so with a purpose. When you play Siege, you are involved in desperation. "Being reasonable" might not be an option for someone who feels desperate. When guns become the means of persuasion, someone's world has spun out of control.

Siege is a game that puts you in that position. From there you have the opportunity to understand the dilemma, the predicament, the desperation - all without the actual tragedy that comes from these events.

If you've played Siege and it's taken a turn to the tragic, I'd love for you to leave a comment. Tell me what happened and how your gaming group responded to it.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The game grows and grows

Some quick notes on my latest game development activity.

It has a name
The more I wrote, the more I realised that this game is set against the intersection of power and religion, for society and for the individual. Religion is a commitment; a life-changing devotion. With that in mind I've taken to calling this game SacredVows. The player characters are monks and monks take vows. Keeping and breaking those vows will be part of the games' rules, and will drive story. Vows are restrictive. Vows liberate.

I'm writing it with a dodgy layout
A few years ago I was talking with Nathan Russell about how he designs games. At the outset he creates a layout template and writes it in that. With the rudimentary layout and art he is always looking at something that encourages the feel of the game. In turn, that influences his writing and keeps him on track.

Sadly, I'm crap at layout. However, I've taken a default template from Apple's Pages and am typing in that. I've even peppered it with some art from deviantart.com. It's having an interesting effect; one that it not far from what Nathan said happens to him. Having a picture in sight, and a layout that roughly resembles a gaming book… it's remarkable. It feels like I'm writing a game. Three cheers for the dodgy layout.

More play testing
Once more to the table! Yes, it's play test time again. This Friday night I'm taking the lessons from the previous session and running this thing again. I hope my players don't get sick of my play testing. We have only a few more game sessions left in the year so I want to make the best of them. This might be the last play test for 2014.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

gamewithnonameyet Play Test Report

The play test went well. I managed to test all the things I wanted to test.

But what's the result? Well, the basic rules work nicely. Characters can interact with the world and with each other and an uncertainty is introduced. Some challenges weren't actually challenging, so I need to work the maths to make it harder. Some consequences weren't threatening (in fact, that was the word one of the players used… such good feedback).

I call that a successful play test. I went in with specific things to test and I came out with answers.

Now, back to the lab.

Also, I've almost settled on a name for the game. Won't take long to finalise that now.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Car Wars 6th Edition

I'm so excitement! There's a sixth edition of Car Wars in the works!

I grew up on this game. Finding players was tough and I think I spent more hours designing than playing. Oh the spreadsheets! Oh the miscalculations! This was the height of my crunchiness in gaming. Nothing has ever been quite like Car Wars.

To compare it against something like GURPS, for example, would give you an idea.

GURPS has a point-buy system. Everything has a point value. Physical attributes. Relationships with key individuals. Memberships in guilds. Its creation economy has a general equivalent: the point.

Car Wars has dollars. There's a limit for each event. Every item on the car costs something.

Car Wars has weight. It's an encumberance system that affects acceleration and collisions. Almost everything has a weight. My favourite overpriced weightless object was the advanced targeting computer. That +2 didn't seem like much at first.

Car Wars has space consumption. Every vehicle has limited space to fit in all those guns and ammo. Thankfully armour doesn't have space consumption. Just dollars and (oh noes!) weight.

Should we talk about ammo? Lots of games have that. In Car Wars even the ammo has weight. I don't remember designing anything that was so borderline as to warrant a recalculation part-way through a duel, but I'm sure it's possible.

What about fuel? Duels never lasted long enough to run out of gasoline, but if you wanted to burn your opponents with laser fire, you needed to count the Power Units per shot.

So crunchy. Designing for and playing that game was well and truly down the rabbit hole for me.

Can't wait to see what sixth edition will have!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

newgamemumbletitlenothingyet Playtest!

It's time to test the basic rules. My usual design process has that first step of bullets. Almost as many bullets as the NRA. What's the game about? When do you roll dice? What are key elements in the setting?

Besides all that, this playtest is likely to be disjointed. I have some specific targets in mind.

1. Character creation.
Seems like an easy one. I'm trying to find out how easy it is to create a character. I want to know how easy it is to present an interesting character - especially one which can be created in a short enough time for a convention. I adore convention gaming but it needs rapid character creation. The information has to be simple, meaningful, and quickly understood so that the players can decide without delay.

2. Individual conflicts.
At first this will be just some simple tests between characters, probably between PCs and GMCs. If things go well, I might even try some PvP. It'll be important to test all the attributes so that I can see how each one drives story. Fighting is easy (punch! success! broken nose!). Let's see how the rest go.

3. Team conflicts.
This is a game that takes team efforts into consideration. Just like the individual conflicts, I'm hoping to run several team conflicts.

4. Gaps in the setting.
The players will undoubtedly want to do things in the setting. They might decide to visit the shaman, or skulk about on the docks. But are there any shaman? What kind of sailing vessels are used? It's hard to see what's missing until someone pokes at it. Let them poke, I say!

Looking forward to it.


Friday, 26 September 2014

Siege by the Long Beach Geeks

Do you want to play Siege?

Do you live near Long Beach?

Do you like geeks?

Then it seems that you're in luck! Someone is running it. Find out more at their meetup page: Long Beach Geeks.

And if you played in the game, drop a comment below and let me know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What's another name for magic?

I have a game in the works that is about warriors who must share their mystical energies while fighting the forces of tyranny and darkness. I'm drawing inspiration from a few places, mostly from console games and anime. As you can imagine, I'm at the early stage where I'm working through key concepts in the setting as well as some core rules. My head is running over with statistical models and dice!

Also high on the agenda is the setting itself. Although it sounds like a minor detail, one part of the puzzle is what to call the magic of this setting. I could call it magic and be done with it, but I want more flavour. It should be something evocative, something memorable. It's at the heart of the world, so it'll be something that the characters will talk about. I want my players to be able to say the word and feel the importance of it. That means it also can't be clumsy, unpronounceable, or cheesy.

I started brainstorming and put this list together. It's a list of all the magic-esque words I could remember from other settings and stories. Magic, magik, chi, qi, mana, focus, power, spirit, psyche, charm, the force, glamour.

I thought about using Scrabble tiles of these words and pulling them out of a bag to see what words came out. When I did this, I ended up with the most ridiculous options. Really, you don't want to know. So… scratch that.

This time I went to German (as you do). There's a word that the German philosopher GWF Hegel used: weltgeist. It means "world spirit." I like the "geist" part, as a word for spirit. I also like the word uber, meaning "over." The ubergeist would be the overspirit, the power that a team of mystic warriors could share, in addition to their individual heists.

And then back to English. Perhaps there's nothing wrong with merely using "spirit" or "ghost" for this. By imagining the table talk, the answer becomes clear.

"I take a die from the ubergeist pool to boost the spell."
"I need something from the overspirit to succeed this roll."
"I use one from my geist, one from the ubergeist, and two from my ability."
"I cast the spell, using two from my ghost and one from my ability."
"I boost the spell with another die from the spirit pool."


Ghost has a nice ring to it.

How about you? What's your favourite word for magical power and which game or story is it from?



Image credit: Magic, by Cruenta

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Another game idea in the works

Things have been quiet on the blog but not in the creative engine room. 

Another game is in the works. I plan to release it as a crappy PDF by the end of November. But it ought to be fun to play!

Inspiration is coming from RWBY and games like Final Fantasy. Make of that what you will. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mobile Insect Zero

Maybe it's just the pieces I have. Maybe it's where my design brain is at the moment. Either way, today's concept build is an insectoid tank. 


I call it a concept build because I'm still working with the ways that pieces can join to look like robot joints. MF0 frames are probably only evocative of actual joints, and they let us do something that resembles a giant fighty robot. Short of building one with a Mindstorms kit (ooh! idea! quick, do a kickstarter!) we'll always just have representations.

Later the same day I dipped into my son's Lego tub just to see what came out of it.


The source bricks have such an effect on the frame. If I'm going to build more humanoids, I'm going to need to change my supply.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

From the news: Siege Criminals

In most games of Siege I've played, the Captor tends to be the misunderstood type. They have some kind of sob story that's finally driven them to violence. But when I read this story I get a sense of something different.
On June 14, Lawrenceburg police were called about a man shoplifting at the Walmart on Locust Avenue. When they officers arrived the man was leaving Walmart and led police to the CVS Pharmacy on Gaines Street.
The siege began because someone was running from the police because of an earlier petty crime. As they say, "Well, that escalated quickly."

So, some ideas for your Captor character:
- Just like the article, you started with a smaller crime that got out of hand and now no one wants to back down.

- You just want the money. Lots of it. In fact, you're on a kind of Joker-esque spree. This thing hasn't finished escalating yet.

- This is a gang initiation. You had to break into someone's house and demand money, but before you could get away someone called the cops.


Go play it. Let me know how it went for you.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wyldstyle in Lego FU

It's time for another character from The Lego Movie to get Lego FU stats. As always, you might change it a little as you see fit, but let this be a starting place.

Wyldstyle (a.k.a. Lucy)
Concept: Master Builder on a quest
Description: A feisty and driven Master Builder, Wyldstyle wants to be the one to find the Piece of Resistance and restore wild creativity to the Lego worlds.
Body: Acrobatic
Mind: On a mission
Edge: Batman is my boyfriend
Flaw: Insecure
Gear: Hoodie, Blaster, Relic Detector



Image credit: From the Lego.com website




Friday, 4 July 2014

Emmet Brickowski in Lego FU

The Lego Movie has just come out on DVD and Blu-Ray, so I think it's a perfect opportunity to start posting some character stat blocks for Lego FU. At least, these are just one way to represent those characters. You might change it a little to emphasise different parts of them, but let this be a starting place.

Emmet Brickowski
Concept: The Special.
Description: An ordinary minifig. Very ordinary. So ordinary you don't even notice him. But he is really the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. He works on construction sites, follows the rules, and hasn't had an original thought his entire life.
Body: Construction Worker
Mind: Orderly
Edge: The Special
Flaw: Use the instructions
Gear: The Piece of Resistance, Instruction Books, Double-decker Couch

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Besieged!

I'm pretty happy to be playing Siege again this week. My regular gaming group has asked for it and I'm not about to disappoint. It's always a nice feeling to have my own work in demand.

And as a casual call-out, if you're a character sheet designer please get in contact with me. I'd love to have some top quality character sheets for the game available for download.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mobile Frame Zero

I like Lego. I like tabletop games. No surprise, then, that I have a copy of Mechaton: Giant Fighty Robots. Also no surprise that I'm part of the g+ community for Mobile Frame Zero.

Last weekend I bought a Lego Mixel set. Now, the Mixels themselves don't interest me but the parts sure do. There's enough in each Mixel to build at least one, sometimes two, Frames. And that's exactly what I did with this Mixel. Unfortunately I only had a red background at the time so the images aren't clear.



A Battle Frame, complete with close combat blades, shoulder gun, and arm blaster.


A Recon Frame, with emphasis on speed and sensor array.

Both of these came from the one Mixel set, and I had some parts left over. If for nothing else, building the Frames was great fun. I think the challenge is to make something that looks like a mech, has features for the game, and which can stand upright on the play space for the duration of a battle.

With a few more kits (like I need an excuse to buy more Lego?) I could create enough for a game. I'm also thinking about how creations like this can be part of Lego FU. But that's for another blog post!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Go Play, Brisbane (at Go Play Brisbane)

Through the wonder of community spirit, Go Play Brisbane is back on again! And now it has more than one day. Day 1 is tabletop. Day 2 is LARP.


Yes, LARP! It's the lovechild of story games and cosplay.

Hat tip to John Reid for the amazing work he does to organise these events.

Friday, 23 May 2014

From the news: Ideas for your game of Siege

From the news this week:
A man who was holding a woman hostage has been taken to hospital after being shot by police during a siege at a house in Liverpool.

Officers were called to a property in the Dovecot area of the city, at 7am on Thursday after reports that a woman was being held hostage by a man known to her who was believed to be armed with a knife and a gun, Merseyside police said. (from The Guardian)



Taking some ideas from this news story for your next game of Siege, your captor could have any of the following motivations.
- Arguing for custody of the children, especially threatening the mother of the children.
- A drunken argument gone wrong, with no one backing down.
- The woman is his daughter. He's holding her hostage to force his wife to drop her property claims in the divorce.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Thus says Robin Laws

Perhaps it's because I've been listening to KARTAS for so long. Or perhaps it's because Robin Laws is a clever cookie. Either way, I'm taking up some vocabulary from him and swapping it as part of the Great Leap Forward that our hobby is in the middle of.

There shall no longer be the NPC, there will be the GMC.

He mentioned GMC in passing and didn't explain it. The context was enough for me to get it. I might be well behind the curve in adopting the term but I'm definitely an enthusiastic supporter.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Religious Nutters

I've been watching Orphan Black and in the second season we start seeing more of a faction that has a religious interest in the clones. It makes for a good story element and provides plenty of conflict and choices for the protagonists. 

But it makes me think that groups like this are always the religious nutters. Doesn't matter if it's the X-Files or Supernatural or whatever, they're cast in that light. 

In gaming it's probably quite similar. I think of exceptions like Warhammer or Dogs In The Vineyard, though. Those settings put the religious nutters as established religion so they don't count as fringe groups any more. 

With all of that rattling around in my mind I've taken an interest in playing a religious nutter, steeped in cult language and motivations. I'm not sure if the urge will have gone by the time the opportunity comes but I'll just have to park the idea. 

Have any of you out there had experience playing these characters? How did it go for you?

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pocketmod Games

I have a couple of minor games (Nobles and other ideas in the works) that might never make it to full publication. They seem like the right size for Pocketmod publication, however.

Until now I've not really considered the format, despite Michael Wenman's enthusiasm for them. However, for small idea games they might be precisely what I need.

They don't need loads of competence in layout, they just need succinct rules. The real skill is in the writing, not in reducing the font size.

Watch out for a couple of them to become available for download in the coming months. I'll put them on my games page.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lego FU is Awesome!

Why yes, I have seen the Lego Movie. I couldn't wait any more to see it and can't wait to take my kids to see it.

I got to enjoy it on lots of levels, including the Lego FU hack. As players of Lego FU might know, I based that FU hack heavily on the Clutch Powers movie and the TT Games range. I was keen to see if there would be anything new about the ideas of Lego, or how "the Lego Universe" might work. Lego isn't something with a canon so I was open to something new.

But here's the thing about Lego. It's about recreation and re-creation. It's about building on what someone else already did. Even though Emmett is in a different world to Clutch Powers, or Batman, or the Hobbitt, or the Power Miners, etc., the same principles apply.

And what does that mean for Lego FU? It means you can play the Lego Movie with the existing Lego FU hack with only a teeny, tiny, difference for flavour. Running out of creation spark takes your minifig out of the game but makes them a minifig who always follows the instructions, including the overpriced coffee.

Now go and build your story! Lego FU is awesome!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

amgsmith.net has been revitalised

If you're the curious sort of person who has clicked around this blog after reading a post then you may have found my personal page at amgsmith.net

After a lot of mucking about, I've redesigned it to trim the fat and just because I like the kind of mucking about that goes into making something new.

I've copied my games' pages over to there, but will maintain a link to them from this blog.

We now return you to your normal programming.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Getting ideas for your games

My five year old son said to be the other day, "dad, imagine if there was a prison that was made by bad guys and in every room was treasure and the bad guys were guarding all the rooms in the prison."

Apparently you can invent dungeon crawling when you are five.

Monday, 24 February 2014

No Con, No Cry

I think the Perth convention season has started, but I can't be sure. Gaming cons seem to be poorly advertised around here, or there aren't many. And to be honest, I've struggled to find the space for something like Go Play. Tactics is cool but the space is too small for a crowd of story gamers. Good Games looks like a big gaming space …for card games and minis games.

Candidates for my limited dollar this year are Swancon, Comic-con, and Supanova. You know, the regular stuff. Not sure if they're all on the agenda, but let's see what happens.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

F20 Golf

What if hit points (F20 style) didn't decrease with each hit, with the possibility of death at zero? Instead, what if they started at zero and accumulated? The player with the lowest score at some milestone is the winner!

Everyone's a tank. Everyone can leap headlong into battle and not worry about dying. You get to keep playing your character. The reward is something else; a magic item, the glory of victory, the singing of songs, extra XP, whatever.

You might like to add something to account for toughness. Maybe fighter types can reduce incoming damage by some amount, whereas less physical characters take the full force. Do it if you think the armour rules you have aren't working well enough.

It'll be just like golf. Lowest score gets the blazer.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Supermen, an adventure idea

I had an idea for an adventure but I don't think I'll get around to running it any time soon so I'm putting it out there for you to use instead. Use whichever system you like but for the sake of this discussion I'm going to use FU.

Create Characters
These have to be ordinary people with no powers and no special occupations. No special forces or police, no security guards. Accountants, plumbers, shop assistants, and the like are all good candidates. The one thing that each of them must answer is their opinion of Superman. Is he a hero? An alien who can't be trusted? A god? A freak that should be registered? Any opinion is good, and it's even better if your group has a diversity of opinions about it.

For the FU version of this, create characters as normal but only allocate one Gear slot for something from that character's mundane life.

Share Powers
Something happened to Superman. Our player characters don't know what it was, let alone who did it. Maybe it was Brainiac, or maybe Lex Luthor. Whatever it was, Superman has lost his powers and can't be found. His powers aren't gone, though. They've just found new homes in the bodies of our player characters. Assign the powers randomly to the player characters but each character gets only one of them. I like to think of Superman as having the following.

  • Super strength
  • Super speed
  • X-ray vision
  • Heat vision
  • Flight (also super speed)
  • Invulnerability
You might end up with unallocated powers. Create NPCs for those.

The characters have a psychic link with Superman. From time to time they get flashes of what he's experiencing. This should be enough to give them clues as to his whereabouts.

For FU, each of the powers counts as two Gear slots.

Make the characters aware of time
Without Superman around, the super-villains are starting to rise up. They're more bold. The rest of the JLA is good, but Superman has always been the heavy hitter. GM, get the villains to start affecting the lives of the individual characters in some indirect way. That is, the villain won't come after the character, but their employer might have a factory which now has to be retooled to make war robots, or the villain declares an independent nation and this affects civil liberties, or a host of other things.

Secondly, give the players the feeling that the power transfer might be permanent if not negated soon. You decide what "soon" means. A day, a week, a month. Tailor it to the speed of play. The point is to help drive the characters to action.

What's this game about?
It's about a couple of things. The characters will have to figure out if they even want to help Superman, or if they would rather have one of his powers for themselves. If they want to help, they'll need to go find Superman and then figure out how to give him his powers back. If they don't want to help, they'll either keep their powers quiet (and boring) or they'll attract attention from somewhere. Will it be from the police, from criminals, from super-villains, or from the JLA who want Superman back?

Ultimately this story is an opportunity to explore what the ordinary person would do with just a glimmer of sudden power. The story ends when you want it to, but probably if Superman actually gets his powers back and (like most super heroic comic stories) everything is restored to the way it was.

If you play Supermen, leave a comment here and let me know how it went.


 


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Two Drivers for Magic in your Setting

I've grown up with the standard approach to magic in fiction: pseudo-mediaeval society, before the industrial revolution, with knights in plate armour, and wizards in towers. This is the kind of setting where magic seems to be the domain of the few with the exception of the player characters. I understand why this makes for a good story, but what would happen if we add a revolution into the mix?

Before I go any further, I want to say that I haven't googled any of this so I don't know (a) if anyone has done this before (probably have) and (b) I'm not so fussed about that because if I don't get this written down it'll go around and around in my head until I'm a crazy old cat man. Now back to the speculation.

When I think about the industrial revolution I think about how clever engineers devised machines to increase productivity by saving the amount of labour required to produce commodities. I'm thinking about machines like the steam engine, the archimedes screw, and the cotton gin. Machines like these dramatically increased the output of factories and made the industrialists rich.

In the classic fantasy tropes, magical knowledge was available only to a few just like engineering knowledge. On the other hand, from the little fantasy I've read I didn't see people turning it to labour saving uses for the masses. Wizards seem hellbent on keeping the knowledge to themselves, to benefit themselves. So let's imagine that a fantasy nation, from as early as we can imagine the combination of magic and invention, doing what actual humans have done in history.

Invent machines for war and work.

War is the easy one to imagine. Fireballs, lightning bolts, golems, and enchanted weapons are just the tip of the iceberg. With a magical arms race in full swing by major economic powers, the possibilities for magical warfare are diverse. Our modern warfare has bayonets, small arms, grenades, anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, rockets, bazookas, mortars, tanks, artillery, fighter jets, bombers, spy planes, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear warheads, chemical weapons, computer hackers, and drones. Plus other things.

It could be added to the setting in two ways. One is to just make magic versions of the same devices. And that's boring but serviceable. The other is to make a magic weapon that does something functionally similar. An ICBM is a long range explosive. Imagine a magical weapon that traverses continents, hits a target with reasonable accuracy, and explodes. Or would it simply be a teleported fireball? Or a remote earthquake spell?

The point is that warfare drives part of our own technological innovation (GPS, radar, etc.) and it should also drive the development of magic.


The other one to imagine is work. Imagine if a Merlin type character, in a post-Roman Britain, worked for a merchant or an agricultural lord rather than King Arthur. There's no need for serfs to till the soil if a spell can do it for less bread and in less time. So the serfs move on to other occupations, including magical studies. I think about it in the same way that today there are countless more people studying engineering (and other industrial disciplines) than there were before Stephenson built the Rocket. Instead of farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and so on, imagine a myriad of schools of magic where students learn how to use it for civilian purposes.

Today's economy includes products and services, for consumer and industrial markets. What would a magic economy produce? What would the market demand? If all this development took place a thousand years before the European industrial revolution would our ancestors have been interested in iPods and smartphones, albeit the magical equivalents of them.

If it really happened in history, it makes for great story fodder. I think that the political and economic drivers of war and work would significantly change a fantasy setting if only the wizards could be turned to those purposes.

Which fantasy settings do you know that use magic this way?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Wait til you see what most people clicked on in 2013!

The last couple of years I've started the new year with some stats about this blog. I'm sparing you this year, gentle reader. 

But I'm also thinking about titling every post with clickbait techniques.