Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Kind of Magic

Happy Holidays everyone!

It's that wonderful time of year where everything seems a little more magical. Remember being a kid and feeling all that excitement? Remember (most of you, anyway?) believing in Santa? And I’m sure we all remember when (spoiler alert!) we found out the truth about Mr. Claus. A lot of kids realize what’s going on before being officially told. And one big reason? Parents can't explain how it all works, and "it's magic" stops being a believable answer. In short, it breaks their immersion. :)

LARPing is similar (look at that tie-in! Okay, maybe a stretch... :) ). People never stop asking questions, and they never stop wondering how things work. We do our best to suspend our disbelief and go along with the “it works because it’s magic” idea, but it’s a lot easier to do that when there are some answers to our questions of how and why.

My sister sent me this link to a fantastic chart that lists some of the most popular magical worlds and their guidelines. Where does magic come from? Who gets it? How do you use it? These worlds usually have a system in place to answer those questions, either obvious to the reader or behind the scenes. Having that system helps to create atmosphere and build story – and you should consider doing the same for your LARP.

I’m not saying you should write an in-depth history of magic, or list out every rule precisely. But give the world a basic magical structure. Is magic given by the gods? The elements? Does it come from the land itself? How do people get it? Is it hereditary, or completely random? Is it caused by some kind of infusion of energy? Are people chosen to wield it? Is it different for different races or different types of magic? If you’re a player, you can work this into your character’s background – having this foundation can add a lot of role-play.

Now, you might be saying, wait, doesn’t having rules put limits on what I can do? Well, yes and no. If you’re anything like me, having a bit of information can actually spur creativity. Magic comes from a giant well? What happens if that well is blocked, or tainted, or siphoned off? You can still go pretty wild, but putting your plotlines in the context of the world setting can make it appeal more personally to your characters, and can add to the immersion of your game. It adds consistency as well, amongst both players and staff.

You might not be in a position to make the big calls. In that case, consider putting some local setting information down. Bug your plot people for details that you can use as your character – this might prompt them to work out anything they don’t have and make the game a little better for everyone :) Are there mage schools? How do they work? Do different groups/races in your area have different ways of learning? Are there multiple factions? Can players become involved in them, or earn ranks? Now just think of all the stories you can make out of that!

Having background of any kind makes the world come together. Even if you don’t use everything all at once, you can start dropping it in. Then later on when you do make a plot out of it there are those “ah ha” moments that every player loves and every plot person (I think) strives for. You can do that in part by having an established and consistent setting – and that means putting some guidelines down for that most non-logical of concepts: magic.

A little magical thinking for your holidays! How would you/have you built magical structure into your world or your background?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Karin. I'd like to add that it seems important to make the magic system a "living document" that is able to be expanded upon without too much difficulty.