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OneShot? RPG

The laws of Magic.

Scenario:
The mighty mages of a world meet to forge its destiny.
Or: Who would win, Elminster or Gandalf?

Realising that unfettered magic will lead their world surely to ruin, the mightiest mages hold a grand council.
Their stated intention: To agree upon a set of laws that will govern magic and keep the world safe.
Their real intention: To ensure that a loophole exists which will allow them to rule all of creation.

Setup:
Each wizard is described primarily by the types of magical laws they would like to see enacted.
Each player is heartily encouraged to bring their own wizard from any game system they can think of.  They would like to make the laws of magic as similar to that system as they can.
They should also each be given the same small number of items of power which grant them power and can be traded.  Use index cards. (Each player should have the same number - the example characters have three)


Play:
The GM takes the part of Trianoma - an apprentice, of no grand power in her own right, but a persuasive organiser who happens to be completely immune to the powers of others.  She set up this meeting, and will ocasionally act to put it back on track.

The meeting itself takes place in a wholly malleable realm - each speaker may reshape it as they see fit.

Mainly, the idea is to let the players make speeches and argue.
But sometimes you'll have to bring the discussion back to the topic at hand.

Start the game off with the contentious proposal: "That no magick may be greater than the wielder"

Do the discussion and voting and so on.

End by revealing rules 5 and 6.

Rules:
1. If a law of magical is supported by all the players, then it becomes a true physical law of the universe.  Written in runes of fire upon the codex of creation.  It can not be rescinded.
2. If you can't get quite enough votes to make it unanimous - try bribery.  Sell your items of power for the support you need.
3. Whilst a law is under discussion, you can bring a motion of pun-pun.  If you can show that, by using the law, a mortal can achieve total ultimate power and godhood then you have the flaw and can propose an additional law which blocks this path.
4. If an issue cannot be peacefully resolved, then the opposing sides nominate champions.  These champions then compete by naming the magicks they throw at one another, in a fashion similar to the naming game.  If one champion falters, they may either concede, or their side may burn an item of power to keep them in the game.
{ game of names, for those unaware of it: First player names an effect, the other player names a counter - and so on.  You're not allowed to repeat yourself - doing so is a concession.  Eventually one player or the other runs out of ideas. The original is a game of shapechanging, typified in the Disney 'king arthur' cartoon film. }
5. When the time is up, each player gets to name their path to ultimate cosmic power - under the chosen rules.  Of those who can do so without getting booed down, the one with most remaining items of power wins.
6. Second place, however, goes to whomever has the rules most similar to their desired rules - and the one with most items of power, in case of a tie.


Some sample mages:

Gandalf the White, of the Maia.

Items of power: The white stallion of Rohan.  Orcrist the scrying stone.  The one ring.

Desired laws of magic:
1. That magic shall be granted only by the gods.
2. That evil intent shall rebound upon the caster.
3. That magic shall require great study.

Slow to rouse to anger, but mighty, Gandalf likes to pose as a somewhat innocuous messenger.
(Tolkien, of course)


Sparrowhawk.

Items of power: The name of a mighty dragon.  The wish stone.  His shadow.

Desired laws of magic:
1. That magic shall be a power you are born with.
2. That using power incurs risk.
3. That magic shall require great study.

Foolish sparrowhawk.  The mightiest archmage of his generation; he who binds dragons - released his shadow and was pursued to the edge of the world.
(Ursula le Guinn, 'A wizard of Earthsea')


Elminster.

Items of power: A stupid floppy hat.  A pocket gold dragon.  The blue goddess of magic (also in his pocket)

Desired laws of magic:
1. That anyone can learn magic.
2. That magics effects be precisely defined.
3. That magic should be controlled by a band of enforcers who all wear floppy hats and play the harp.

Complete git, total Mary Sue, fond of throwing around blue fire.
(DnD?)


Merlin.

Items of power: Excalibur.  Camelot.  King Arthur.

Desired laws of magic:
1. Magic belongs to those born of it.
2. Magic can only be used in the service of others.
3. Magic incurs great cost.

(Le Morte d'Arthur)

Nice!  Shades of ElementalOblivion.  The items of power seem more similar to Anchors in Nobilis than actual items (for instance "Photocopier: this item can duplicate one other item each vote.").  The laws seem to more or less fall into the categories <who may use magic>, <the price they must pay>, <restrictions on what can be done inherent in the nature of magic>, which does seem to limit the number of votes.  Your examples are all hero or neutral magicians - would you allow villains?  Would having each mage have a secret tragic flaw or vulnerability, or allocating one (perhaps an item or category of item that others have) add anything?  Is the resolution mechanism (the game of names) one of the things that may be changed by unanimous resolve or is the council being held in a pocket universe floating above the universe whose rules they are actually setting?  If it is ruled that only those with a floppy hat item can cast any magic at all, does that stop all others being mages and being able to vote?  You might want to make more explicit the background - eg heinlein's multiverse where fantasy worlds are just other dimensions, and our world is probably someone else's fantasy. (perhaps worlds are brought into being and powered up by the belief of others, councils of mages such as this one are actually hooking up subsets of the beliefs of those out there in the multiverse to create a new and consistent plane of existence - they therefore would like it to be similar to their own, because the beliefs of the new people will in turn support the reality of their own home dimension).  Just some thoughts --Pallando
Whoa!  Lots of reply.  Ok, let's see.
  1. The items are intended to just be tokens.  Spend them to not-lose a contest, trade them as bribes.  They weren't intended to have any mechanical effect inside the game (though players are supposed to talk up their powers beyond the confines of the game when negotiating trades)
  2. I was mainly just trying to think of system-exemplar magi.  The only villain-such I can think of is 'Haplo' and his system is a bit too obscure to explain quickly.
  3. The mages were assumed to be in a pocket realm, re-writing the laws of the real realm.  Other play is certainly possible, but I'd prefer to try the simplest first.
  4. Adding a flaw "Cannot do <x>" would probably break the game - either it gets known about and exploited, or stays hidden.  Adding a layer of 'flaw and secret you know and can trade' is interesting, but seems to add too much complexity.
  5. I don't see why the resolution can't be changed, but trying to do so is just being obviously sneaky and should get voted away immediately.
  6. You're trying to make this gamist.  Stop it.  This is a silly fun little one-shot where you get to go "Yeah!  Gandalf kicked elminsters ass!  And magic now requires the colour purple!"
1. Yes, that's what I thought.  Just wanted to clarify.
2. The problem with having villains in your council is explaining why the heros are talking to them rather than fireballing them to death.  Can you really imagine Gandalf and Sauron sitting around a table, cooperating to get the same  ruleset through?
3. Yes, I agree the pocket realm version is simpler.  Again, I brought the issue up in order to clarify it.
4. Or it gets guessed at.  Did Gandalf falter and lose that contest because he couldn't think of a counter, or because his code of honour (flaw) requires that he couldn't hurt a woman so couldn't counter?
5. I'd suggest keep your resolution mechanism something already written on the core of the POCKET universe and therefore not changable during the meeting.
6. *grins* But Vitenka, you KNOW I like coming up with long long consistent backgrounds that the players never discover :-)


Pallando's further thoughts: here are some other categories that 'laws of magic' might contain...
<how the potential to learn to use magic is gained / granted / allocated>
  1. No restriction
  2. Granted by the gods
  3. Destined at birth
  4. Inherited
  5. Magic Initiation <Passed on by an act of magic by other mages>
  6. Non magic Initiation <place, item, traumatic event>
  7. Restricted by gender
  8. Restricted by race or species
  9. Magic can only be cast while a virgin or teenager

<price paid to learn or use>
  1. Long training
  2. Difficult training
  3. Dangerous training
  4. Scarce or expensive training
  5. Another must die
  6. Another must be eaten, mind, body or soul
  7. Pacts with a power
  8. Corruption of own mind, body or soul
  9. Consumption of own mind, body or soul
  10. Great physical pain or mental angst
  11. Blood or life essence (shortened life span)

<how common is magic>
  1. Over 10% of the world's population use it
  2. 1000s use it
  3. Only a handful may use it

<how mages combine>
  1. the resulting magic is only as strong as the strongest individual mage
  2. the resulting magic is a bit stronger than the strongest individual
  3. the resulting magic is the sum of the contributors and far stronger than an individual
  4. the resulting magic is greater than the sum of its parts
  5. mages in the same region reduce the magic available for each to use

<how fast is magic>
  1. quick as thought
  2. as quick as you can describe or gesture what you want to happen
  3. magic requires careful casting or some prior preparation
  4. great works require months to rehearse and happen on special nights of the year
  5. enduring magic is the work of ages, built up and intensified through years of rituals or growth

<limitations of magic>
  1. Magic can't unmake things
  2. Magic can't create anything new
  3. Magic can't be used for pure good or pure evil - action and reaction, it will do both
  4. Magic can only be used for good ends
  5. Magic inevitably leads to evil results
  6. Magic can't bring back the dead
  7. Magic can only affect the obvious physical (eg move things, heat them, etc)
  8. Magic can ony affect the non-obvious (minds, luck)
  9. Magic can't change what's already happened (time travel)
  10. Magic can't affect the wielder (eg no self-healing)
  11. Magic can only affect the wielder
  12. Magic can't survive the wielder's death
  13. Magic only lasts while being cast or concentrated upon
  14. Magic can't be embodied as items for others to wield
  15. Magic can only be used once embodied in items

<the nature of magic>
  1. Magic is the will of the wielder
  2. Magic is the will of the gods
  3. Magic is the knowledge of the true nature of reality or of the true names of things and beings
  4. Magic is in the voice and song or spoken words
  5. Magic is a physical force of nature, just one not widely understood
  6. Magic is in the drawn runes and diagrams
  7. Magic is a power lent by spirits, demons, the dead, the trees
  8. Magic is in the forging of the metal
  9. Magic is in the mind of the beholder
  10. Magic is beauty is truth
  11. Magic is the world loving you enough to change to aid you

<the mark of the magician>
  1. You couldn't tell a magician if you walked by one (no mark)
  2. Magicians are men, but heros among men, obvious by their greatness and vitality
  3. Magicians are physically marked for all to see (eg hair bleached white with power or golden eyes)
  4. Magicians dress funny (robes and pointed or floppy hats)
  5. Magicians carry specific gear (wands, orbs, amulets, staffs)
  6. Magicians live funny (stuffed aligators, astrolabes, isolated towers crackling with blue light)

<the crowd of the magician>
  1. Magicians stand alone
  2. Magicians are accompanied by small party, including a theif and a warrior
  3. Magicians are accompanied by their sidekick or lackey
  4. Magicians are accompanied by their loved partner or family
  5. Magicians are accompanied by hoards of minions
  6. Magicians are accompanied by grateful villagers and children with hoops of flowers
  7. Magicians are accompanied by the animated corpses of their victims
  8. Magicians are accompanied by animals (black, talking and sarcastic optional)

That's a good set of suggested rules.  It might be worth handing them out on cards to create new characters.  (And using the artefact generator to create their bennies).  I actually originally had a set of rules and an agenda, but thought that would make the game too long.  (Unspoken assumption - 4-6 players, 3 hours)  --Vitenka
Heh, a BNF 'create a mage / system of magic' generator sounds fun. See also: [Magic/HowItWorks], [Magic/Breakdown], [Magic/Research]


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