We should be so lucky…
If you aren’t already reading Bradford C. Walkman’s blog, then hie thee to his place and fix thine ways ere you succumb to the forces of storytelling gaming. He’s the brainiac behind the Mech Pilot analogy for players who mistake rules for character traits. It’s all a part of the modern, third-rate community theater reject style of RPGs designed to maximize player options by hammering the square dregs into ever smaller holes. It’s the old “that which is not allowed is forbidden” method of selling players abilities instead of the “that which is not forbidden is allowed” method of selling everyone a thin, 64-page rulebook suitable for running an infinite number of monkeys through an infinite number of settings.
There’s just no margin in the latter, but ol’ Uncle E. Reagan ain’t here to milk you for cash, he’s just here to show you a better way. And when he finds a wise guy with wise words, he loves to share the wealth.
Which brings us back around to Walkman’s recent missive, entitled Easy Magic Turns Everyone Into Magneto, Not Gandalf, itself a response to something written by fellow bigbrain, Dyvers.
Dyvers gets all foofy and storyteller by asking:
So how do we fix this and make magic more meaningful?
He answers with a bunch of yah-yah about backstory and setting and costs and God I’m already bored. It’s a strong attempt. He took some risks. French judge gives him a 9.3.
Walkman, on the other hand, takes the ball and runs with it:
The result is exactly what you expect: magic-use becomes little more than myth-flavored super-powers, and users little more than superhumans.
Bingo. Upping level one spellcasting, you just made magic mundane. Way to ruin the game, Wizards!
Which is why it’s not Gandalf that you get when magic is too easy. Gandalf has to be wise to win. Magneto doesn’t, and easy magic doesn’t prompt players to cultivate wisdom- just power. It’s not surprising, therefore, to see Raistlin Majere retain his popularity despite all the shit he brings upon himself.
They completely screwed that pooch with the feminist haircut of Fourth Edition, which made everyone a spellcaster with unlimited spell slots, and that produced the worst possible version of the Grand-Daddy of them all. Fifth Edition walked it back, but couldn’t resist making sure that magic-users had lots and lots of powerful stuff to do. They compensated fighters for their loss by making them nothing but standing bags of hit points meant to stand there and do nothing but bleed while the wizard got stuff done and the thief plinked away with a short bow for massive amounts of damage.
A short bow.
But really, the big issue here is that everybody wants to be the star every combat round, and nobody wants to earn real ultimate power. Nobody wants to put in the effort to earn the XP to build up to Elric levels of god-murder, and nobody wants to have to think about tactics beyond, “Which button on my character sheet should I press this round? Magic Missile again? Okay!”
Well, the high-T menfolk do, but in this world of plasticizers and Comedy Central and bubble-wrapped playgrounds, we macho dudes who don’t need to grow a scraggly beard to hide our low-T values just aren’t as common as we used to be.
Even at the gaming table.
Thank God there are manly men with bulging pectoral muscles and meaty brains like B-Walk to show us all the way to stand up to our wives’ boyfriends and demand they run B/X instead of Pathfinder this week. Without them, we would be lost.