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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    How little magic can a magician actually use, and still feel like a magician when you read about/play as them?

    That is the question this thread is based around. I have often seen people require a certain amount of actual magic usage for a magic using character. Which does make sense except it seems to be a bit higher than I expected. In some extreme cases there seems to be an assumption that using a spell will be the only way (or the base of any method) a magician will solve any problem.

    On the other hand I've been building a system where it is kind of assumed that the primary magic user won't even be using magic every day, even if the whole day is spent on screen. (No they are not useless the rest of the time, character have a lot of different skills in this system.) And although the system is still in development, so far it seems to work.

    But what do other people think? How little magic can a magician actually have/use and still be a magician? How does frequency vs. power effect it? Does the type of magic change it (discrete spells vs. free form vs. summoning vs. enchanting vs. ...) or how direct it is change that requirement? Does adding related skills (such as the non-magical identification of magical things) help?

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    Spoiler: Is this is a caster/martial thread?
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    Sort of. It does fit into the large caster/martial debate in that reducing the amount of magic casters have comes up a lot in those conversations. In fact, one of those conversations is what sparked this idea.

    However, this is NOT about the general caster/martial debate, nor is it only about how this question relates to the caster/martial debate. It is mostly about getting the feel of the magician right. We can relate that back after, but that is after.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Probably the minimum that I've seen someone be strongly magical and use very few spells was a face spellcaster along the lines of John Constantine. Infrequent and low level magic use but it added just that extra touch that was needed and defined the character. I don't quite think it's what you're after though.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Game of Thrones does low magic pretty well imo, where things are always ambiguous to whether it was magic at all. But that doesn't really mesh well with a game where the players want control and whatnot.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    At minimum I'd expect to see magic performed at least twice during a campaign, for effect. It's a very loose minimum in all other ways; freeform magic will do it, summoning will do it, fairly flimsy spells will do it as long as they get something done. The one factor that does matter is having some sort of choice in the matter - happening to have a prophetic vision alone doesn't really qualify as performing magic by my book. Deliberately inducing a prophetic vision absolutely does.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    In non-game media, what makes a magician or magic-using character for me is how often he uses magic in relation to the rest of the world. Take Gandalf, for example; in the LotR universe wizards are incredibly rare, so even though Gandalf appears to use magic very rarely when he does it's a big deal. But, take Gandalf and place him in Faerrun and all of a sudden he becomes incredibly underwhelming since there magic is much more common.

    Now, if I'm playing a "magic-using character", one the other hand I expect magic to represent a significant part of my character's problem solving ability. It doesn't necessarily need to be flashy or the best way to solve every problem I encounter, but I do expect it to at least factor into how my character approaches most of the games challenges.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    John Constantine [...] I don't quite think it's what you're after though.
    {Looks up character.} That's actually surprisingly close to the archetype I'm going for. A John Constantine analog might fit right in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alabenson View Post
    Now, if I'm playing a "magic-using character", one the other hand I expect magic to represent a significant part of my character's problem solving ability. It doesn't necessarily need to be flashy or the best way to solve every problem I encounter, but I do expect it to at least factor into how my character approaches most of the games challenges.
    Is that actually using magic, or would using a related skill count? To use a D&D example, does Knowledge: Arcana help get the feel across?

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Here’s the actual magic Gandalf uses in roughly twenty years.
    Fireworks in the shire.
    Tells Bilbo, “Do not take me for conjurer of cheap tricks,” while conjuring a cheap trick.
    Loses a staff duel against Saruman.
    Says something to a moth, and waits for an Eagle to pick him up.
    [In the book] Fights Nazguls at Weathertop.
    [In the book] Enchants Butterbur's beer.
    [In the book] Adds fire to the horses in the flood at the Ford of Bruinen.
    [In the book] Causes his voice to go menacing and harsh, a shadow to pass over the sun, the porch to grow dark, and everyone to tremble in the Council of Elrond, by speaking in the tongue of Mordor.
    [In the book] Casts some fireballs against some wolves.
    [In the book] Starts a fire on Caradhras pass.
    [In the book] Blesses Bill the pony to go home safely.
    Lights the top of his staff by magic to lead them through Moria.
    [In the book] Uses some kind of magic against the door in the Chamber of Mazarbul.
    Wields the flame of Anor against the Balrog, where he dies.
    Fights the Balrog all the way up the Endless Stair.
    <he is resurrected, but that's not his magic>
    Uses magic against Gimli’s, Legolas’s and Aragorn’s weapons.
    Defeats Saruman in Theoden’s head.
    Breaks Saruman's staff.
    Shoots a blinding beam of light against the Nazgul, to save Faramir.
    Stands firm against the Nazgul’s black breath (multiple times).
    [In the book] Communicates mind to mind with Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Personally I think a magician should have magic be something that a magician can use to solve at least one common problem the magician faces, or something that can be considered to be used consistently for multiple issues. Otherwise the magician just turns into someone that, while they know magic, loses all the magician feel for me.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    For me: it's going to depend on the reliability and power level of the magic within the game system which also usually translates inversely to the character's ability to contribute without magic.

    If a magician can cast a spell and be assured of a powerful effect (or have a reasonable chance of an overwhelming effect) then you can get away with using magic perhaps every other game session1. The power level I'm referencing here is low level early editions of D&D, where a Sleep or Charm spell can make or break an entire encounter or three. Of course this is also predicated on the character being able to function without magical abilities for much of a game session. As the pre-WotC versions of D&D were heavily player skill based, the lack of non-spell game components in the wizard class was relatively unimportant.

    At the other end of the spectrum you have systems that give a magician character lots of magic to use but make it pretty ineffective. Pathfinder, 4e, and 5e D&D all tend to take this path. A magician can use magic every minute of every day but the effects are all pretty tame relative to the power level of the game. For example; the character may be able to shoot fire or lightning all day but it is at such low damage, relative to the HP of the enemies, that using magic to win a fight is the same as just punching and kicking. Alternately magic may have so many failure points that while it works well when it works the player can't rely on it. To-hit roll, initial save, save at the start/end of every round, automatic negations, allies allowing additional chances to break effects, etc., all reduce how often a magician can use magic with enough of an effect to be effective in an encounter.

    An important part of the equation is how effective the character is allowed to be without using magic. Just having a skill/stunt/stat roll system doesn't say anything. It's generally assumed that all characters will have access to that system and can interact with it equally. Additionally it's quite possible to structure a system so that characters cannot meaningfully participate. In 3e D&D after a certain level skills are essentially binary, either the character has it as a class skill and has full ranks (success) or they don't (failure). In 4e skills beyond stealth and perception were very strongly devalued in relation to class powers, and stunts were normally strength/dexterity based with attack and effect rolls thus making magician style characters unlikely to be able to use them effectively. In 5e bounded accuracy drives the system towards having the dice roll be more important than the character's abilities or the player's skills (a 6 Int ape has about a 5% change to beat a 20 Int, 20th level wizard at an arcana knowledge roll).

    1. I'm assuming a 4 to 6 hour gaming session with the occasional pause, but no significant breaks.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    The answer to your question: no more magic than exists in real life. The feeling of magic and mysteriousness doesn't require any objective presence of the supernatural. I can look at people like Alesteir Crowley and say "that's a magician allright" with no faith in them having any functional, effective supernatural powers at all.

    If you ask me, the desire for a magician to have fuctional, effective supernatural power is 50% power fantasy and 50% unwillingness or inability to realize that being a magician is a different ball game entirely than looking at one. Like a stage magician could tell you, once you know how a trick is done, the magic goes away.

    Once you can rid yourself of one or both, a solution will quickly present itself. Like, if you realize the feeling of magic is nonsense anyway and you really just want to blow stuff up WITH YOUR MIND whenever and where ever you like, you can focus on making a game where you can do that whenever and where ever. If you realize that the role of a magician doesn't have to have jack to do with power and it's about how other people perceive you, you'll realize the question "how often to use magic?" is a gigantic red herring and will be able to portray that role even when a game or setting offers you nill supernatural power.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Well I'm of the mindset that I just want to blow things up with my mind and don't care about the nonsense, so I'm squared away there.

    the "presentation of magical power without actually being magical" though is interesting. I guess I could see someone with enough knowledge, showmanship and tools to replicate magic without actually being magical. basically a con artist whose con is making it look like he is a wizard and thus making money off of showy tricks, convincing people talismans and amulets actually do something when they don't and it was the psychological power of your belief making you more powerful all along, and throwing bombs designed to look like fireballs somehow. I do like playing people who can lie and trick their way into success after all. I think I once tried that character concept in Ironclaw, but the game never got off the ground, so I never got explore its full potential. would like to try it someday again I guess. just some guy who goes around uses all the cunning and props he can to trick people into thinking he is the most mystical wizardly guy ever so that they listen to him, get his Bluff score through the roof, the works.....
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    i think my pf inquisitor spent the first 3 sessions without casting a single spell, relying only on a few of his passive abilities (detect alignment and judgement, mostly, one which is an at-will sla), and his superfluously large skill pool. after 7 sessions, i think i've only used 2 spells above cantrip strength.

    everyone in my team considers me a spellcaster as able as the full-casters in the team nonetheless. i just tend to forget to use my spell-list until i remember i need to act like the "anti-evil" spellcasting machine i am.

    plus, even my cantrips used correctly make it seem like i'm a friggin' high-op caster. i don't know if that tells more about my team than it should, but remember: just because you can cast a spell doesn't mean you have to (unless it's to waterboard somebody for 6 hours in the middle of a desert. "create water" is almost mandatory for that stunt).

    then, there's also the fact that by being an inquisitor, i ping pretty high on the "detect magic" rating even without my gear. that's my playing style, that was influenced by a very "anti-magic sphere" trigger-happy dm and how to rely on cleverness and less magic to survive a few years ago. your cleric becomes a lot more than just a healbot or buffer when you can't cast anything.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    How little magic can a magician actually use, and still feel like a magician when you read about/play as them?
    How you define 'magician' matters a lot for this purpose. Historically the overwhelming majority of people believed to have supernatural powers were religious figures. Most of them did not perform overt rituals on any sort of schedule but they were still clearly held apart based on the abilities they were presumed to have. Even later practicing magicians who believed they derived power from a non-divine source - like Alesteir Crowley - tended to function as cult leaders as much as they were 'magicians.' And of course a stage magician or mentalist or the like can earn a living performing a bunch of clever tricks and bits of slight of hand.

    So is the question, say, 'how much supernatural power do you need to earn a living off of it?' Is usually, almost none, depending on the type of power. Divination, for example, can turn you into a practicing spellcaster in a snap. A fortune teller who has even the slightest bit of actual ability to foretell the future would do extremely well. Whereas someone who had the power to through around bolts of fire would at least need to be powerful enough to ignite things. It really doesn't take much.

    In D&D terms, the ability to cast a single 1st level spell once a day (possibly even once every few days depending on the spell) is enough to make it as a spellcaster.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    I think you can still get pretty magical if the only magic power is to contact spirits and barter with them for services.

    Bit of a cheat, as the possible services could replicate pretty much every spell imaginable, but it still limits the personal magical power considerably and makes magic much more time consuming and unreliable to use. You're probably not going to do it if it's not something really important and all simpler options have been exhausted
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    {Looks up character.} That's actually surprisingly close to the archetype I'm going for. A John Constantine analog might fit right in.
    If you do go this route, keep in mind that while he does have legitimate magical power, Constantine’s effectiveness comes as much from being a con man as it does a magician. In RPG terms he’s almost literally a diplomancer, bluffing and tricking his way into defeating opponents that could crush him like a beer can in any rest of strength.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Lapak View Post
    If you do go this route, keep in mind that while he does have legitimate magical power, Constantine’s effectiveness comes as much from being a con man as it does a magician. In RPG terms he’s almost literally a diplomancer, bluffing and tricking his way into defeating opponents that could crush him like a beer can in any rest of strength.
    Indeed. Most days he uses his magical ability more as a telephone allowing him to contact entities so that he can talk to them, since supernatural creatures in the world have to follow rules he is more like a con man mixed with a lawyer. The second most frequent use is mind and luck magics influencing mortals for gambling and increasing his formidable charisma. Third would be using the magics on artifacts which he acquired through #1 & 2. On the rare occasion that he uses his magics in a directly offensive action against a mortal they are rituals which usually take days to execute. A pissed off mortal with a baseball bat will generally best him, which is why he normally keeps a meat shield around to handle them.
    Last edited by Tinkerer; 2017-12-22 at 12:51 PM.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    No magic? No magic.

    Fundamentally, what do we want when we play a spellcaster? We want to change the rules of the world. We want to ascend beyond the "mundane"--that's why we aren't playing martial classes (this game). The most prevalent (and obvious) way to do this is by casting spells.

    But there are other ways of altering the rules. For years we as a species hunted and gathered. Then what happened? We changed the rules. With science. There are fantasy universes that argue that magic isn't anything more than another layer of science, like physics or chemistry. Or alchemy.

    Imagine a player who can grant their teammates tremendous strength, or create holes in solid stone. Who can immobilize opponents in a pile of goo. Starting to sound like a wizard? All of this and more, possible with non-magical chemistry which, at the time, would've seemed identical to magic. And if you aren't opposed to spicing up regular science with a touch of magic, more possibilities come out.

    And how would this character play? Well, you'd scout out the problems then spend some time crafting brews, collecting recipes, and doing research. Finding solutions from your multiple options at hand.

    No magic.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    If you ask me, the desire for a magician to have fuctional, effective supernatural power is 50% power fantasy and 50% unwillingness or inability to realize that being a magician is a different ball game entirely than looking at one. Like a stage magician could tell you, once you know how a trick is done, the magic goes away.
    Come on now, how many stories have ever really explained magic? Besides that I suppose I am more interested in the looking like a magician, but I don't want them to be con-artists, so I am interested in having them be magicians as well.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Come on now, how many stories have ever really explained magic?
    Heaps and heaps. It is a subgenre of its own in detective stories and mystery novels where the apparently magical or supernatural turns out to be a trick after all. Baskerville's Hound is pretty much an archetypal example by now. It is another subgenre of such stories as well as magical realism where a natural explanation is offered, but not confirmed, leaving in a possibility that the supernatural was involved after all.

    Then there's subgenre of speculative fiction which leans hard on Clarke's third law, showing how sufficiently advanced science may appear like magic to us, or how our science may appear like magic to sufficiently unadvanced observer.

    In TV Tropes speech, this is often called Doing In the Wizard, so you can go fish for more examples that way if you really want.

    And that concludes my non-rhetoric answer to your rhetoric question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Besides that I suppose I am more interested in the looking like a magician, but I don't want them to be con-artists, so I am interested in having them be magicians as well.
    That's a distinction without a difference.

    Magic is a feeling and a practice. It's not a phenomena. It's not synonym for supernatural, anymore than science is synonym for natural, despite people often erroneously using it as such.

    People who know what they're doing and who don't want to evoke the feeling, don't call what they do 'magic'. That's for people who don't know what they're doing and to whom the practice feels like magic because of that.

    People who know what they are doing and want to evoke the feeling, know that there is a layer of deception in it, because the feeling of magic is caused by obscure or obfuscated causality. That's why most stage magicians, mentalists etc. in the real world tend to acknowledge that they are, fundamentally, con-artists, in their private persona at least. And it's also why stage magicians tend to make for some of the hardest skeptics.

    And that's where we come back to the fact that being a magician and looking at a magician are different things. The magician when viewed from the outside only feels like a magician because you don't know WTF the magician is doing and how. The magician rarely, if ever, feels magical to themselves.

    Like, let's take Yora's example magic system of dealing with spirits under scrutiny. Suppose I was the magician in that system. Yes, I would possess supernatural knowledge and have real supernatural power at my beck and call...but fundamentally, what I'd be doing would be the same I'm doing now, as pertains to you: BSing people to get them do what I want, using some combination of logos, pathos and ethos. The only thing that'd honestly make me different from ordinary people would be that I have Satan's phone number (etc.) on my phone. The only trick (and I'm not sharing) is how it got there, and once you know it... the magic goes away.

    Strip the level of obfuscation, and I'm just calling in a friend for favors. No magic there.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    I'm running a Mythic Europe where 5 out of 6 character have something special about them, most don't deem it to be magic.

    1st is Roberto, he has the fools luck, this he gets in the form of rerolls. Nobody considers this magical.

    2nd is Luzio and he's a of a slayer order based losely on the witchers. The idea is that St. George and Merlin cooperated after St. George had slain the dragon and made a simple magic system based on signs. In the myth George marks him self with the sign from God to protect him before he charges the dragon with his spear/lance Ascalon. St. George is the founder of the slayer order. So the Slayers have access to simple elemental and protective signs to aid them in battle. Nobody considers Luzio to be a magician or a sorcerer even though he can shoot lightning from his fingertip or use a concussion blast or an flaming weapon.

    3rd Osmund a 300 year old viking that the group picked up when traveling in Tír na NÓg (the faerie world). He has can enter a berserker rage that makes him supernaturally tough and strong. Nobody considers his character magical.

    4th Alma, a warrior maiden with faerie blood. She has taken up the mantle as the knight of winter and has faerie magic that allows her to deck herself in armor made of ice and use a icy weapon spell, when she loses her temper her eyes will shine icy blue and tempetrature around her will drop. Even though the church has branded her as a witch and tried to burn her at a stake at one occasion nobody in the group considers her a witch or a sorceress.

    5th Johannes. He's the only one who is considered a magician in the group even though he only knows 2 spells, the rest he uses improvised magic for. He rarely uses magic just so he doesn't get into trouble with the Church and Ordo Arcanum (the order of mages) as he isn't a member and it's a join or die membership.

    So it's hugely a matter of perception.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    I can think of two books that had limited magic, for two different reasons.

    Secret of the five magics (I think thats the name?) The last two magics were ones a magician would want to never use. One was powerful magic, but spells were fueled by your lifespan. And no way to get those years of life back. The other was demon summoning, contest of wills required every time, but the demon comes closer to winning every time.

    Now the Black Company series. You had super-wizards in the Taken, but they felt more like beings of magic. Impossible to kill, but limited use of magic magic (lessee, one had shapeshift as an ability, one enchanted a table and pile of gold, one made flying carpets. The tornadoes were only mentioned in passing). It is also a very magical world.
    But at the Company's level, the magic-users were more about being bizarre enough that you knew they were magicians, while using very little or very low-level magic. Silent using magic to pacify a hornet's nest until he could throw it. Magic missile (I mean golden hammer). Shadows improving the concealment of a hiding place. Really, most of Goblin and One-eye's stuff was enchanting items. Plenty of possible weird effects, but no spellslinging in combat; 99% of the time no magic, just weird crazy guys that everyone is slightly scared of.

    One thing that strikes about low magic or offscreen magic users. The magical senses are what gets all the screen time. Someone who looks at a symbol and says "yup, thats a lightning ward. Everyone get rid of anything metal". Add a cantrip-level "minor spooky things" and you've got a magician.


    Re: Constantine. I've had a teeny tiny exposure to him, but enough to see him as a weak-ish magician who uses deception as a force multiplier. You never know what dirty magic trick is in his back pocket. In a Gaiman spinoff comic (child of magic or something? something about a trenchcoat brigade?), winning a staredown with "how sure are you that I don't have the power to destroy you?". And a couple episodes of the TV, where his thing was magical senses, defenses, and countermagic judo (you attack me, I do something to turn the attack back at you)

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Strip the level of obfuscation, and I'm just calling in a friend for favors. No magic there.
    Yeah, I have an artificer hobgoblin in an eberron game, they speak all their incantations for their spells in draconic. to everyone else this is mystical sounding. to her, she is just speaking programming code, because draconic is the programming code of the Eberron universe, after all the entire world is made of three dragons, the Draconic Prophecy is basically entirely in draconic, therefore to her the entirety of the world runs on Draconic OS and she is just inputting commands to make the system do things she programs it to do.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    I haven't finished reading the thread yet, but I have a few answers.

    As you know, I have a preference for running mages which feel Magical. I prefer mages who use magic constantly, like a modern technolophile uses tools. One for whom, if they have to resort to a mundane answer, such as using their feet to walk, they have failed as a Wizard. Moving? Yeah, there's an app a spell for that? Bathing? Breathing? Having babies? Yup, spell for that.

    But, that's not the thread topic. What is the minimum amount of magic a mage must do, and still feel like a mage? Well, none. And, believe it or not, I've run this character. There are several ways to accomplish this.

    The first way involves subterfuge. Just like about half the characters I run are actually deities come down in mortal guise (or otherwise just pretending to be something that they're not), nothing keeps a Wizard from pretending to be mundane. But the internal experience, viewing it from the PoV of the Wizard (or god or whatever) playing the mundane stats changes the experience. Now, from the outside, the character doesn't seem terribly magical - and, in fact, even people who know what to look for have difficulty noticing the difference.

    From the PoV of "The Story", the minimum is once. I bring this up now, because it ties into my next "Wizard who never uses magic" - magic that is powerful but difficult to control, or magic which comes with (too great a) price. A Wizard feels very magical, to me, when he is constantly, desperately trying to find ways to avoid having to use his magic. Sadly, the easiest example to describe has nothing to do with magic - my berserk felt very much the Warrior, despite doing everything he could to find peaceful solutions to problems. But "The Story" only needs the Wizards to use his magic once, at the dramatically appropriate time, to feel magical. Better stories, IMO, usually have the Wizard do so at least twice - once to establish that he is magical, then the second time to resolve whatever dilemma he was added to the story to resolve in the first place. Need I remind people, though, that I would generally hate games structured "for the story".

    A character can also feel very much a Wizard, to me, by having a magical past to draw upon and discuss. If my epic Academia mage, for whom this account was named, were to hang out with a bunch of 1st level characters, his experience (and appearance, I suppose) would still make him feel like a mage to me, even if he never cast a spell. Theoretically, I suppose, someone could play such a character, where that magical past was all "backstory", and then never cast a spell in game, and still feel magical.

    But none of these techniques are particularly satisfying if the player expects something Magical. Properly setting expectations is key.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    If they're very charismatic, none. A character can fell like a magician via magic tricks, bluffing, and arranging events (and unless you're hitting major levels of power most legitimate 'casts spells' magicians well rely on all of those to a greater or lesser extent, Constantine is a perfect example).

    Otherwise, the minimum level of magic is one spell. It doesn't even have to be useful, it just has to do something with no simple rational explanation. It generally helps of it's not a passive ability, but it's not a strict requirement.

    The lowest I've personally used is four spells, three of which I was legally allowed to use ('Compel Demon', 'Banish Demon', and 'Ward Area'). Another had about six spells, and used about three in the entire campaign (on the other hand he was very good at identifying magical effects without casting spells, which was useful). It's never stopped characters feeling magical, because in all honesty most players seem to fall back on the same ten spells most of the time anyway.

    In a setting with any level of ritual magic, powerful magicians well tend to be intelligent, and intelligent magicians well realise that using magic effectively will require a lot of interfering with others. They won't always do it themselves, but unless they're purely interested in magical research they'll spend time arranging events directly or indirectly, tending not to use as much magic as they could due to spending more time doing other stuff.

    In a setting with quicker magic (especially if it's innate) magicians will have to spend less time arranging events and can just fire off a spell. This means they can use magic more often, and might feel 'more magical'. However they eventually feel like superheroes, not magicians, as they're blowing stuff up with their mind instead of working.

    And to me that's key, magicians have to work to succeed. Of you can just fire off an effect it feels more like technology (which is fine, bit it doesn't feel magical).
    I prefer science fiction to fantasy, and generally play in the former genre. Due to this, I generally expect the laws of physics to apply to games, and work from that perspective.

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    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    As you know, I have a preference for running mages which feel Magical. I prefer mages who use magic constantly, like a modern technolophile uses tools.
    A couple have touched on this matter but I'm going to quote you just out of respect for magical. The mysticism put up as a veil to stop people from realizing what was actually happening has a particular feel to it. A feel I'm trying to recapture while putting something real behind the curtain. So low magic with some non-magical "force multipliers" seems to be the way I'm doing it. I hadn't thought about it in those terms before this thread, but it works.

    Also I agree with Anonymouswizard on the difference between superheroes and magicians. Which is why I tried creating a character with less magic in the first place. I guess I was just wondering if others would make it feel magic that way. So in the style of a true revelation, I got the answer I didn't even realize I was asking. Not that we have to stop talking about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Magic is a feeling and a practice. It's not a phenomena. It's not synonym for supernatural, anymore than science is synonym for natural, despite people often erroneously using it as such.
    Magic is a word that means too many things by too many people to pin down to one definition, as inconvenient as that is. Still by my own "most correct" definition (I've got at least 3 others for different situations) I would agree with you.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    One thing a magic user can do is to be simply knowledgeable. To not so much work magic as to know magic and strange occurrences, and be able to explain it.

    Someone mentioned Gandalf before, and how little magic he actually used. But what to me defined Gandalf as a wizard was his knowledge about ancient, mysterious and evil things.

    If you look at witches and other Wise Women™, spells and curses are important, but also the knowledge about what counters curses, cures diseases, and scares of various creepies and crawlies. Their ability to turn someone into a toad is no more or less important than knowing how to deliver a child.

    Granny Weatherwax is a wonderful example of a magical character who doesn't need to, or likes to, use magic very much at all, while still being indisputably magical.

    So if you want to make a character who doesn't really cast spells, make the character who knows about magic, and knows the non-magical means of dealing with it.
    Last edited by Concrete; 2017-12-24 at 01:13 PM.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Yes, a key thing is that, with the exception of a few works most magicians will generally not use magic, even if they're able to solve the situation. But they can still either solve the problem or tell you how to solve it. As has been said Granny Weatherwax is a great example of this (as is Nanny Ogg, who just takes a different nonmagical approach), who uses headology to get people acting as she needed.

    Sometimes this can be due to risk. If magic revolves around summoning things then magicians might not want to risk them breaking free, even when the risk is small (even of they have multiple minor spirits already bound). My two favourite systems for Fate act like this, where you do a ritual and summon a spirit, which might be animalistic or might be of equal or greater intelligence than the summoner, and extract services from them (in one the repayment is implied to be the ritual components). A Storm Summoner might have a couple of Wisps following him, and a Voidcaller might have a couple of Lightning Worms ready for an attack, but wouldn't summon a powerful elemental or creature without knowing exactly the task they want.

    But it can also be down to just not wanting to rely on magic. A magician who walks hadn't failed as a magician, they're simply one who doesn't want to put in the effort to fly when going to the bakers (or to the next kingdom over). They're a magician who's head isn't in the clouds.
    I prefer science fiction to fantasy, and generally play in the former genre. Due to this, I generally expect the laws of physics to apply to games, and work from that perspective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Concrete View Post
    One thing a magic user can do is to be simply knowledgeable. To not so much work magic as to know magic and strange occurrences, and be able to explain it.

    Someone mentioned Gandalf before, and how little magic he actually used. But what to me defined Gandalf as a wizard was his knowledge about ancient, mysterious and evil things.
    Magic users in society were generally drawn from the elite. Whether that's as shamans in an oral tradition or as Daoist mystics in ancient China, or as landholding nobles and Catholic priests experimenting with alchemy in Medieval Europe. Since in pre-industrial societies the margin between the educated elite and the peasant classes was so impossibly vast, the masses had little understanding of how the elite knew what they knew, which led to supernatural explanations. Since this obviously suited members of the elite classes, the association was maintained over the long term - even to the present in some areas. This sort of association even served to protect the elite - especially the effete literati - from reprisals by the warrior classes in some cases.

    In your average medieval fantasy scenario 99+% of the population, including figures who may be rather highly placed, will be illiterate. In such a scenario being able to read, and beyond that having a formal education is a sort of magical power in its own right. The Maesters of ASOIAF are the most prominent contemporary example. Game settings tend to elide this issue by allowing almost everyone to read, despite such a thing being ridiculously unlikely.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Concrete View Post
    One thing a magic user can do is to be simply knowledgeable. To not so much work magic as to know magic and strange occurrences, and be able to explain it.

    Someone mentioned Gandalf before, and how little magic he actually used. But what to me defined Gandalf as a wizard was his knowledge about ancient, mysterious and evil things.

    If you look at witches and other Wise Women™, spells and curses are important, but also the knowledge about what counters curses, cures diseases, and scares of various creepies and crawlies. Their ability to turn someone into a toad is no more or less important than knowing how to deliver a child.

    Granny Weatherwax is a wonderful example of a magical character who doesn't need to, or likes to, use magic very much at all, while still being indisputably magical.

    So if you want to make a character who doesn't really cast spells, make the character who knows about magic, and knows the non-magical means of dealing with it.
    Picture a D&D campaign with no spellcasters and no spell-like or supernatural abilities. One of the party members is a Rogue with the Educated feat, and maybe the ACF that trades sneak attack for fighter feats.

    When you're wandering through ancient ruins, he can sense the magic of ancient wards and unravel them so that his companions can pass safely. He has knowledge on many arcane topics, including history, mystic languages, and the denizens of other planes. He likely carries a magic wand or staff that's powerless in the hands of the fighter or barbarian, and his understanding of the craft is such that even if handed an elven item that were designed to prevent humans from using it, he can still bend its power to his will. Added to that, he's a mysterious sort who has a habit of stepping out of nowhere or pulling off a disguise to reveal he was watching you all along. He's very perceptive, has a silver tongue, and every time someone's tried to capture him he's disappeared within five minutes.

    Such a character is more than entitled to call himself a wizard. It's just that D&D's actual wizard class is operating on a way higher power level.
    Last edited by Prime32; 2017-12-24 at 10:06 PM.
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    Default Re: How Low Can You Go: The Minimum Magic Required

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    Magic users in society were generally drawn from the elite. Whether that's as shamans in an oral tradition or as Daoist mystics in ancient China, or as landholding nobles and Catholic priests experimenting with alchemy in Medieval Europe. Since in pre-industrial societies the margin between the educated elite and the peasant classes was so impossibly vast, the masses had little understanding of how the elite knew what they knew, which led to supernatural explanations. Since this obviously suited members of the elite classes, the association was maintained over the long term - even to the present in some areas. This sort of association even served to protect the elite - especially the effete literati - from reprisals by the warrior classes in some cases.

    In your average medieval fantasy scenario 99+% of the population, including figures who may be rather highly placed, will be illiterate. In such a scenario being able to read, and beyond that having a formal education is a sort of magical power in its own right. The Maesters of ASOIAF are the most prominent contemporary example. Game settings tend to elide this issue by allowing almost everyone to read, despite such a thing being ridiculously unlikely.
    While that sort of illiteracy might be factual in any particular fantasy setting, it wouldn't be based on historical precedent.

    Turns out that "almost everyone was illiterate before the modern era" is another of those things that "everyone knew" that probably wasn't true. Current estimates place the illiteracy rate of Western Europe at its high point between the Roman Empire and the modern era at no worse than 40%.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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