Though our group has dwindled from nearly 15 to only two players, representing no less that 35 player characters who have lived, loved, fought and died in Earinna’ar’s © moldering tombs and sparkling palaces over a space of almost 20 years (holy-moly!), the quality of our experience and the pleasure we take in our company has suffered not a whit! Brothers and sisters-in-arms…how precious you are to me.
While gaming—pen-and-paper, table-top, true-RPG only; if you please, LOL!—has ever been an inspiration for my writing, I have never been even remotely tempted to render a game session or campaign into prose-fiction. I was not impressed with Laura and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles (the first trilogy anyway) and though I read them, they are one of the few fantasy books I read that I ever ended up giving away. In my opinion RPG mechanics do not lend themselves to good fantasy fiction. The game world, its plots and the system foundation upon which they are built are designed for purposes at odds with the ultimate goal of fiction. Though RPG and fiction hold many traits in common and can inform each other, a direct translation from one the to the other is problematic. That being said, my campaign world setting was created more for fictionalizing than for gaming, and its environs are indeed where my stories take place.
For the last couple of gaming sessions, the dynamic duo of Ashkenkar/John and Thillis/Skip have test-drove, discussed and debated a portion of the magic system I’ve been researching and putting together for the fictionalized version of Earinna’ar ©. I’m happy to report that though there were continuity rough spots that needed to be smoothed, exploitive holes that needed to be filled, overall the engine functioned well—that is, the explanation of how and why magic works is viable if not altogether sound and complete.
Much work is left to be done before I’m completely satisfied. “Sanderson’s First and Second Laws of Magic” offer the best advice for developing viable and exciting, as well as working, magic systems. I’ve consulted quite a few other sources for advice: Card’s now classic How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy; the wonderfully informative “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference; volumes one and two of “The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy and Steven Harper’s Writing the Paranormal Novel. An excellent RPG cross over reference was Expeditious Retreat Press’s A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture. All of these were great reading, and thought provoking, but they concentrated more on what a writer needs to be mindful of when creating a magic system than describing a method for creating one—not a complaint, just an observation.
In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that what I’m looking for in terms of help doesn’t really exist. Each and every fantasy author’s system, hard or soft, has to come from within, whether it kants on the old or invents something new. The above references are helpful in warning me of the pitfalls associated with magic system creation, but ultimately there is no ‘method’ for creating such a system, only good advice.
Back to my tomes, tablets and testaments.
Originally posted in The Salamander’s Quill 1.0 now deleted.