RPG Maker Web posed an interesting – and valid – question on Twitter about the source of magic in game developers’ worlds.
This isn’t something I really thought about before, probably because I’m not that far in system development yet. I’ve focused mainly on story and plot, as well as character development.
So, I started thinking about the subject.
It’s one of those important things, after all, and one that merits consideration because in virtually every game there’s some kind of "magic" system in place. Most commonly, magic uses Mana or Magic Points (often abbreviated to MP), but some have their roots in spiritual energies or even in technology.
Game Magic Is Wide and Varied
Magic in fantasy comes from many sources. Where does magic in your world come from? #worldbuilding #indiedev pic.twitter.com/DkdIiRBBrS
— RPG Maker Web (@RPGmakerweb) July 6, 2016
In Final Fantasy I, for example, your spells have a limited number of uses, which replenish after resting. Similarly, in Baldur’s Gate 2, spells are planned in advance and, after an 8-hour sleep, are learned ready for use the next day. And in others, like Arx Fatalis, you "write" runes in the air to cast spells.
In a number of games, notably many in the Final Fantasy series, learning new spells or skills uses Ability Points (or AP). Once you have enough AP, you can learn new magic or upgrade existing spells.
So what kinds of magic would work in Otherworld and Gaia’s Dream?
Magic in OtherworldOtherworld is specifically a paranormal horror game, in a modern setting with some fantasy elements.
If I really think about an appropriate form of magic for Otherworld, the hackneyed MP-based system can’t possibly work. Instead, it requires something much more mundane. Since the game’s underlying concept is action and consequence, therefore, cause and effect, the magic system needs to be something that fits here.
Unlike in most MP-based systems, potions or rest heal MP, or it restores over time. While this might work to a degree, it still doesn’t quite fit because of the natural and supernatural elements in the game.
Early ideas concentrated on "mind powers" (conceptualized as "psionic energy" or "Psi Points"). Think about the X-Men, but without the physical forces involved. Each "spell" takes a toll on the mind, so the risks for mental instability – even insanity – are far greater.
Anna, for example, being non-corporeal, can’t interact in the physical, corporeal world, so "magic" requires something else entirely. She can manifest energy, including herself, in the physical realms by drawing upon and using her psyche (spirit or soul, or psi).
Obviously, this will have quite an adverse effect on her. If her Psi falls to zero, she then becomes a "twisted spirit" and will eventually fade into oblivion. There is no recovering from this state.
In certain areas of the game, spirits can enter a meditative stasis, which renews this psionic energy.
In the Novels
In the novels, the Otherworld is a physical reality for spirits, lost souls and other non-corporeal entities, an alternative dimension linked to the physical world by the Nexus. Travel between these worlds is relatively easy, but it still demands energy (psi) to do so.
For the physical, corporeal world, and the people living in it, magic has its roots in psychic abilities, specifically the "Clair Senses". Their foundation is the five physical sensations: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Each one has its psychic counterpart: clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairscent, clairsavorance and clairtangency. There are others, such as clairempathy and clairoprojection, which have their foundations in emotions, the mind and spiritual connection.
When combined, the psychic (or medium) has a very powerful skillset at his or her disposal. Specifically, these connect with the Otherworld to manifest things in the spirit or summon spirits to carry out certain tasks on behalf of the medium.
Magic in Gaia’s DreamMagic in Gaia’s Dream is much simpler and down-to-earth than in Otherworld.
Its magic system revolves around natural elements, of which everything is composed. We have yet to work out the details, but the basic system in place is broken down into three main tiers:
The Primary Elements are the four base elements: earth, air, fire and water. These are the building blocks for all other elements, from which magic is drawn, manifested and projected.
Each of these, when combined, produce different effects. For example, to create a "firestorm" requires fire and air. The fire ignites and the air fuels it; stronger currents result in more intense flames.
Secondary Elements – wood, metal, dark and light, electricity (and several others not decided upon yet) – are based on the Primary Elements, either used singly or in combination.
As an example, storms use water and air, and electricity.
The Tertiary Elements (the highest form) are ether, spirit and emotion.
So, to manifest or summon a familiar needs earth, any element from the Secondary tier, and spirit.
This is the basic concept for magic in Gaia’s Dream. We have some work ahead of us as far as figuring it all out properly. It’s not as much of a priority as it should be, but our focus is on the plot and comic-style cut scenes first.
Changing is Inevitable
Depending on how things develop as a whole, we may tweak these systems or change them completely over time. It depends ultimately on how well the systems integrate with the story and game itself.
I wanted to write this before my thoughts scattered to the winds. It not only gives some perspective on (probable) systems for our games, but also serves as something more concrete to work from.
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