Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

. It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

. Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character ListCharacter Creation PrimerCompiled Martial Arts.

. Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business WorldStar Wars

. Cumulative General Index. Continue reading

The Forge Of Souls – Time Travel In RPG’s

Time Travel is a complicated topic – but if you want to use it in a game, a lot of it’s “laws” are going to be set by the needs of the game, not by mere mathematics, physics, or logic. Still, you need at least some idea of what those rules are or your game will soon make no sense at all – and that’s not much fun, no matter how inherently awkward the topic is.

So how can you run time travel?

To start with we have two “degenerate” cases – where real mathematics and logic takes priority over allowing a freewheeling time travel game.

  • First up we have genuinely “realistic” time travel – which, regardless of the mechanism used for the actual travel, adheres to the self-consistency principle. All time travel involves stable casual loops. Anything you do was always a part of the timeline, you can’t actually change anything, and you can’t get off the train tracks – although you can discover alternative explanations for things that you hadn’t known about and solve various mysteries. Hopefully there will be plenty of such side-quests aboard the train available during your ride / tour because you aren’t going anywhere else.

This can be fun if you have cooperative players. The mission to get the secret formula from an agent on the Titanic before it sinks may even offer a few side-quests such as “save the historically unknown group of kids” and so on – but the game master has to be prepared to be pretty heavy handed about keeping history on track. The universe is much bigger than any player-character, and it hits harder. Keep trying to disrupt it, and you WILL be permanently stopped – very likely by being freakishly killed by some unlikely “accident”. And what’s happened stays happened – so the characters won’t be pulling much in the way of temporal shenanigans.*

Now if you don’t have cooperative players, or someone is waxing philosophical about “free will”, you may wind up having to hold a total party kill to get them to give up trying to change the past. Similarly, if you allow multiple visits to the same location in space and time, you may wind up with time-travelers tripping over each other as they accidentally arrange pretty much all of history.

  • Secondly, and generally unsuitably for most games, we have simple branching-timeline settings, derived from the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory and / or the notion that “each incidence of time travel splits off a new timeline”. This makes some logical sense – but it will quickly (and irretrievably) scatter the characters across differing timelines, cheapens everything – “Oh stop crying! It’s not like we can’t pick up another Bob…” – and can leave everyone in the game wondering why anything they do matters. For every world you “fix”, you inevitably leave behind at least one that’s still broken – and since people across the universe are multiplying timelines, there are endless copies of you dealing, or failing to deal, with exactly the same dilemmas. This just isn’t a lot of fun.

Now, to move on to the “unrealistic” options…

  • Next up we have “Train Station” time travel – the sort of thing that was used in the early episodes of classic Doctor Who. This style of time travel takes the characters to an exotic locale (that they may or may not know something about) to explore or carry out some mission. If they disrupt the timeline in what OUGHT to be a noticeable fashion there will be a handwavium “explanation” about how they didn’t really or how their “interference” actually led to later events happening exactly as they were “supposed to”. Any time travel that occurs during the actual mission will almost certainly be under the control of a game-master character, who will usually double as the cryptic mentor who provides prophecies, missions, and explanations. In any case, after the “mission”, the characters get back aboard the train, leave most or all of the consequences of their actions behind them, visit another station, and get caught up in some mission there.

If you’re using this version of time travel the characters might as well be traveling to alien worlds by stargate or starship, or be “sliding” between alternate universes, or be visiting universes which are highly similar outside of being a bit older or younger, or be taking an ancient subway system between the long-ruined cities (and the bizarre post-apocalyptic cultures which have arisen around them) remaining after some terrible war, or whatever. The “Time Travel” here is just an excuse to go to weird places, with a modest bonus of being able to use “stop so-and-so from changing the timeline!” as a McGuffin to get the characters involved. Again, games like this can be a lot of fun – but they really might as well not involve time travel at all.

  • Finally, of course, we have the big (headache-inducing) one – games with full-blown, player-character-controlled, can-alter-the-past, paradox-causing Time Travel. Whether the characters want to fix something, claim some advantage, block someone else, or prevent something, they just might be able to change the past to do it. To quote Doctor Who…

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.

It’s in these settings that you need to actually worry about the forces underlying causality and time travel. Here…

  • You CAN split the timeline, but it mostly only happens when the result would be “interesting”, tends to require major changes or interference at “critical points”, and it doesn’t seem to affect the rest of the cosmos beyond whatever solar system you’re operating in (leaving some VERY interesting questions about whether incoming visitors get a choice of worlds). This really makes no sense at all of course. Logically, if you can change the past at all, it should be frighteningly easy. Delay a man on his way home for a fraction of a second and you’ve just rerolled the dice on his future kids. What are the odds that the same sperm will be the one that makes it this time? And even if you can figure out what ten million things went wrong, how could you fix them?
  • Occasionally timelines will merge – either creating closed causal loops or simply leaving small contradictions behind (the tree is definitely gone, but some people say that it blew down in a storm, others say it went down in a weird explosion a week earlier). Really major mergers may leave all kinds of immigrants and artifacts from other timelines laying around with no rational origin in the “final” timeline.
  • Some split-off timelines are doomed and just sort of “taper out”… Oddly enough, they don’t really seem to come with aliens or much of the rest of the universe. Sure, there are stars – but unless the source of doom is an alien invasion, the doomed world won’t be seeing much in the way of visitors or assistance.
  • When you do manage to change the past, reality often gets back on track; someone steps in to replace Hitler and a very similar version of WWII happens anyway, leading to a pretty much identical outcome. When reality doesn’t get back on track… it turns out to be very hard to make a major change for the better (including repairing a foulup) stick, while changing things for the worse is all too easy. Similarly, you will often get visitors from really unlikely sounding terrible futures who want to change history, but you rarely get anyone from (likely far more populous and capable of time travel) nice futures.
  • Characters rarely (if ever for PC’s and important NPC’s) simply vanish when someone disrupts their history. They’ll usually know instantly – but if they don’t have some sort of “resistance to paradox” then it usually “takes a while” for such changes to “propagate” – giving the characters a chance to do something about it.
  • Characters traveling through time are strongly attracted to each other and to major events; if you go to see Dinosaurs, odds are that you will arrive just before or after that asteroid impact or some other notable event – and will likely run into some other time travelers.
  • Sometimes, for no apparent reason, time in an area will just keep looping until events there turn out “right” – however little sense that makes. Quite often, this seems to have something to do with love, which seems to be able to transcend space and time.
  • Your actual location in space has very little bearing on where you appear in the past or future after you move through time, but you can be sure that it will be an interesting place.
  • Something sometimes, but not always, enforces temporal equivalence, wherein if you spend a day in the past, one day passes in the present.
  • You can have “Time Storms”, “Fixed Points In Time” (events that cannot be undone), “Temporal Rifts / Gates” (holes through time that lock differing times together), “Anti-Paradox” or “Temporal Fixator” fields (that keep things from vanishing when their history is changed), Temporal Exclusion Principles (preventing repeated meddling, or too much meddling, or keeping people from meeting themselves – or providing quarrelsome evil temporal dopplegangers), “Temporal Rejection” (the timeline itself throws out people who annoy it), “Temporal Absorption” (people are gradually “fitted into” the current timeline and into their location in time, pick up and losing memories as they do so), “Time Reversals” (with very selective effects as to who and what is affected and to what extent), Age-Shifting (for no real reason), “Temporal Exemptions” for things and areas that exist “outside of time”, “Temporal Cloning” (wherein famous and recognizable individuals continue to be pretty much the same people in the same roles despite history being unrecognizable), and “Temporal Constants” (wherein particular people, items, relationships, or events show up even if they don’t really fit into a new timeline).
  • Sometimes you can’t take anything with you and sometimes you get mutually exclusive sets of grandchildren showing up to visit – and to lobby for which set of them will actually get to exist. 

Yes, you can have ALL of this under a single set of rules that actually makes at least some sense – thanks to a version of the Strong Anthropic Principle.

Within the lower worlds, the realms of matter and energy and time, souls may dance through a myriad times and sequences, living through experiences both wonderful and terrible as chance and their own whims direct. But their true existence lies elsewhere, within the higher realms – which may have their own principles of Will, Change, Sequence, and Separation, but which are not bound by Life, Death, Space, and Time.

Every soul has a certain amount of control over Life, Death, Space, and Time even within the constraints of embodiment in a lower universe. On the personal level, souls may cling to life, hang about as ghosts after death, arrive in the nick of time far more often than is rationally likely, experience moments of deja vu, distort time in emergencies, experience precognitive flashes, see into the past, and more – drawing upon their true existence within the Forge of Souls.

Love can indeed transcend time, for a true bond between souls is a thing of the higher realms.

Despite this underlying democracy, some souls can do more than others, at least in some times and places. Such souls are resistant to death and paradox, find their lives filled with strange and exotic coincidences, experience many interesting things – and so fill the ranks of heroes and great villains, time travelers, and other adventurers.

Still, everyone gets at least one vote – and people do NOT like being erased from existence, and they don’t really like being split between timelines too much either. Neither do they like having to revise their pasts. Thus…

  • The timeline resists splitting unless the resulting secondary timeline will be different and interesting enough to bring in enough local “Votes” to sustain its existence – at least for a while – despite the inconvenience. This is usually only local (a single planet at most), leans towards “critical point” splits because people find them easier to keep straight, and runs towards exciting disaster realms because killing off most of the population that doesn’t want to be bothered reduces the “no” votes resulting from people having to split their existence and provides excitement for the ones who do try it out. Timelines can merge because the past does not HAVE to be consistent if the people involved don’t want it to be; people tend to remember things differently from each other anyway. Visitors can come from (or flee) doomed timeline offshoots easily enough though – no matter how unlikely their offshoot timeline is.
  • It’s hard to change the past in the face of all the people who are used to it the way it is – but it does get done at times and the changes that the majority tend to keep are usually the ones that either improve things or make them more dramatic and exciting. Thus the “true” timeline holds many incredible coincidences – and if you DO manage to push a large change through, it is almost always for the worst because the timeline is already at least somewhat optimized. Similarly, it’s hard to really improve the world with time travel; most of the “easy” fixes are already in place.
  • Important people tend to already be on the high-end of time control abilities – and so will often manage to keep many of the details of their personal stories intact even if you do manage to change their pasts. Similarly, changes ripple up the timeline as consensus on them grows – creating perceived time between changes in the past and them taking effect in the future.
  • Major events get a lot of attention, and thus are more “real” and “fixed” than less distinctive moments – and so tend to draw in time travelers, Time travelers are drawn to each other thanks to their shared intent.
  • “Groundhog Day” temporal loops are basically a symptom of a local group of souls who cannot quite agree on how they want things to go – and so keep revising a segment of time until they find it satisfactory. Similarly, major authorial arguments can result in time storms, very popular scenes act as “fixed points in time”, “edit wars” manifest as time storms, powerful individuals can protect themselves from paradox through machines, talismans, spells, or simple willpower, overly troublesome characters may be “written out” (and may wander off to join other Wikis, or raid this one), and so on. The universe really DOES tend to follow literary conventions because – at it’s most fundamental level – it’s a multi-author novel being “written” and “revised” by the largest possible committee.

This explanation will not make the physicists (if any) in your group happy – but it will let you have some notion of how your Timey-Wimey universe functions. It’s a Wiki. Most souls settle for reading it and never log on to change anything, others tweak details they find personally important, and a few will really dedicate themselves to improving the thing. Some will have special privileges as editors or administrators, some will insert entire pages that don’t seem to relate to much, or throw in alternate “what if” versions of things, and a few will involve themselves in edit wars or wind up being banned.

And enough small edits… will generally result in some decent articles / segments of history.

Eventually – at least in terms of the higher realms of the Forge of Souls – the narrative, it’s side-passages, and everything about it – will approach a final form as souls lose interest and wander off to other projects, leaving the final meddling to a few diehard souls who will acquire the various administrative positions by default (and sometimes these elder ones will start to harass other projects…).

*I must admit that casual loops can be a lot of fun for the game master. I have greatly enjoyed maneuvering the players in appropriate settings into looping their characters without noticing it. The moment when they realize that they just set up their own prior adventures, or arranged for each others pasts, or rescued and planted the ancestors of the group that was so inexplicably helpful later on, is always a lot of fun.

Of course for that to work properly you’ve got to have a very large, long-term, campaign (otherwise the players tend to catch on too fast), work on subtly steering the players (so that their actions will be at least vaguely compatible with later history), make a habit of tying loose facts back into the game (thus making it look like you brilliantly had it all plotted out in advance), and be good at narrating exactly why whatever results you get “inevitably” led to the history the players are used to (fortunately the players will usually start helping out with this once they catch on).

Thus for example, I once threw in a throwaway fact; a newly-encountered species of helpful insect-folk in a quasi-oriental realm sold the characters supplies to help out on a great quest – but let one character have a bunch of stuff free due to some “ancient debt”.

As it happened, that character was a semi-immortal professional familiar, who drew a lot of his power and skills from a symbiotic relationship with another character – but when something happened to that character, said familiar simply picked another companion, dropped the abilities associated with the prior companion and added some new ones.

Some time later the players opted to take a break from the main campaign. They’d been looking at the campaign history and wanted to play a few adventures set shortly after the great cataclysm thousands of years before – exploring the wilderness and building new civilizations rather than negotiating a world full of ancient ones.

Most of them made new characters of course, but Richard was quite content with the semi-regular rewrites of his professional familiar – and his character had the lifespan, so he simply played a younger version. with a note that – if he got killed – presumably someone would bring him back over the next few thousand years.

In the course of exploring a network of interstellar gates, the group stumbled across, and rescued from a most unsuitable planet, some stranded swarms of intelligent insects who could re-design their forms to meet their current challenges. After some consideration of their racial nature, they decided to plant them on the continent with proto-oriental cultures that seemed compatible.

I had quite a laugh before they caught on and started counting up the number of ways they’d looped themselves or arranged for their own adventures later.

In the Champions game, the Lords of Time are senior site administrators who got in on that aspect of things near the beginning – and anyone who finds themselves ABLE to engage in major time manipulations has been granted some authority to edit sections of the cosmos. Of course, given that they’re operating mostly outside of time, and are very very old and powerful indeed… the motives of the Lords of Time can be pretty weird. The Lords of Time enforce the self-consistency limitation on the Celestial Dragons simply because they’re one of the few universe-spanning races and many of their past regrets have had very deep effects indeed. Allowing them to rewrite THOSE… would change far, FAR, more than anyone is really comfortable with.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CCV – A Forest Interlude

Because some weeks you just don’t have time for anything major.

Charles had made it known to his schoolmates and the mortals he’d invited to Aden so that they wouldn’t be endangered during calibration that he would be doing something quite important, and that he shouldn’t be disturbed except for serious emergencies – but not EVERYONE had gotten the message.

Especially not a few young women who’d already taken advantage of the fuss leading up to Calibration to slip into Aden. After all… Charles was endlessly kind and friendly, incredibly wealthy and willing to support hangers-on, was more handsome and appealing than most major gods, would get them away from their (rather weird) divine parents – and he understood humans just fine while still being rather naive… It would be hard to find more desirable qualities in one entity than THAT!

As it happened, Siranaya had been looking a little harder than most. Charles showed the quality that she valued above any other in a potential boyfriend – being completely unaffected by her uncontrollable poisonous touch. That meant that she could FINALLY get hugged, and cuddled, and have a little fun experimenting with pollination…

The palace (with all the guest rooms) and Charles’s major residence had been disappointingly crowded – but a few careful comparisons had revealed that Charles… was routinely in several places at once. That was a very good trick! And it also meant that he was also likely to be found in some considerably quieter and more… private… places!

She’d set off to find one.

Charles did have a semi-private retreat deep in one of the wilderness areas. The Kickaha liked to meet him in a less formal place – and he liked to mess around with small projects there. It wasn’t hard to find if you asked the Kickaha, but was pretty well concealed otherwise. There were trees growing a wide variety of fruits, herbs, and medicines (all on the same tree of course), small tree cottages, a few friendly Kickaha hanging about, some ice-caves, and lantern-birds (friendly birds that liked to follow people around. They had luminescent flesh and brightly-colored feathers in various artistic patterns. When it was dark they glowed like mobile stained-glass lanterns and sang like gentle flutes…

And everything was immune to poison, because it WAS Aden.

Siranaya had found her way there easily enough; the Kickaha saw no reason not to lead another girl with rather… transparent… intentions to Charles’s bed. A little sex was an excellent way to deal with stress! Charles had MORE than enough stress at the moment! Maybe they should lead girls to several more of his avatars? Even if THIS one was somewhat diverted by the opportunity to pet things without gloves and protective gear…

The birds glowed happily at her, and eagerly pecked up grains and seeds.

Although Siranaya waved at Charles quite happily when he turned up.

Charles, who had been trying to give squirrels matched to the trees advanced instinctive medical skills so that they could hand out the right medicines to passers-by, happily waved back! This avatar might be running on a background process in his Synergistic Overmind, but that was no reason to be RUDE!

(Charles) “Hello Siranaya! I didn’t know that you were coming to visit!”

(Siranaya) “You’ve been really busy lately, so I thought I’d find an avatar or something here.”

Charles was somewhat impressed! Most people didn’t yet know that he was using multiple avatars! She’d been paying attention or doing some investigating on her own!

(Charles) “Well, things are pretty busy – but there’s a little time until they need my full attention yet!”

(Siranaya) “Phew. That’s good… um, is everything OK? You haven’t sent one to school lately.”

(Charles) “Oh… well, there’s a big and urgent project underway, so I took some time off. The teachers didn’t worry much; I’m way ahead on pretty much everything anyway.”

(Siranaya) “OK! I was just worried about you, not that I think you’d get sick.”

(Charles) “Well, thank you! It is all right, but it’s always nice to have someone check!”

(Siranaya) “Um… (Hm… Charles must REALLY be busy! He seemed even stiffer than usual!) hey, I’m starving! Whey don’t we get something to eat!”

(Charles) “Good idea! Lunch? I’ve got all kinds of fruits and nuts and things here! The trees are turning out really well!”

(Siranaya) “Yeah, I saw! And they don’t bubble and rot when I touch them, so I can pick some for you, too!”

(Charles) “Well, toxins don’t really work around here – but they generally aren’t needed here anyway!”

(Siranaya, smiling) “Let’s see…”

She made sure to hold Charles’s hand while the two of them picked some lunch – and while Charles had no objections he now had enough experience to guess on where this might be going. He cheerily carried her selections, quietly leaving her more or less in charge of what to pick. He knew what the male role in “shopping” was! All the guides he was referencing said so!

It turned out to be a diverse selection of nuts, fruits, and some of the earthier vegetables – which made quite a good lunch, with nothing much to clean up afterwards. A VERY tiny bit of magic was quite enough to handle THAT.

Siranaya didn’t try to feed him any of the food – she didn’t want to chance being TOO forward – but she did sit fairly close to him. Charles… had engaged analysis mode! He offered HER some nibbles (even if they did tend to come with all kinds of details on them) and occasionally made small contacts to help judge her behaviors…

She was very receptive to contact – almost desperate for it, although she was trying to hide that. Pretty obviously touch-starved… That was rather cruel!

He “mistakenly” sat down in contact after getting up a bit to reach a fruit on the far side of the table for her.

(Siranaya) “Oh! Oops. Ha ha!” (She put both arms around him!) “I’ve got you now… It’s not often I get to hold onto people without gloves! Let’s see how soft you are!”

(Charles, cuddling back since she was obviously desperate for it) “Well so you do! I’m no leprechaun, but did you have a wish?”

(Siranaya) “Stay the week? Something big is happening, and Mom was probably going to send me here anyway. Is that OK?”

(Charles) “Oh certainly! I was inviting lots of people to stay during the event anyway…”

She did seem to be looking for the straight line. Evidently she thought that he was pretty naive – and it had been a while since he’d been at school. Well, why not?

(Charles) “There’s only one bed in this cottage though! Would you prefer to be alone?”

(Siranaya, with a wink) “Oh no! You can stay here too, right?”

Well THAT was fairly direct. And… her clothing was… ambrosial and a bit more revealing than usual, although not totally immodest.

And she HAD just invited him to share the bed with her.

Oh well! It WAS a pleasant diversion and relaxation! Charles offered an arm, pulled the curtains to show her the bed – and let matters proceed. Reading all the signals was a good deal more complicated than finding a couple of naked girls in his bed offering themselves (that had been really simple!) – but it was fun, and the fact that she blatantly knew exactly what she’d come for, and was only steering him through the motions of her “seduction”, was quite helpful. She’d even made sure to bring (and use) a contraceptive talisman…

And there was plenty of cuddling for several days.

Siranaya’s mother was only very mildly annoyed; her daughter could have TOLD her that she was running off with a schoolmate! She’d been trying to arrange a marriage among the medical and biohazard gods, given that Siranaya’s poisonous touch made her an awkward bride for anyone else! The fact that Charles was more than willing to send her lots of presents, and to make sure that her flowers were widely distributed and protected, on top of the fact that it would be hard to find her daughter a more powerful or obliging husband even WITHOUT her condition – was quite sufficient.

Champions – Planetman and Starman

Starman” and “Planetman” date back quite a while (to Champions II in fact) – and are exactly as labeled; They’re a star and a planet built as Hero System characters, using some really cheesy limitations to keep the point totals down to something reasonable. On the other hand, most of those points go into making these characters literal, permanent, astronomical objects the size of the earth and the sun, the star radiating vast amounts of energy and the planet hosting a biosphere – and, in both cases, being very hard to destroy.

Planetman is a standard earthlike world, with a breathable atmosphere, active plate tectonics, and various biological species, It possesses a modest power pool which can be used to add new species to the environment, deflect small meteorites, transfer specimens of endangered species to new habitats, grant visions, and otherwise gently meddle (a planet has to have a hobby, right?). It can also create four low-powered (but still more than human) thematic avatars to intervene on various situations. Adding or subtracting a few points from the Growth ability will easily create anything up to superjovian worlds or down to small – and for some reason habitable – asteroids. Still, Planetman is usually mostly content to drift along in orbit contemplating it’s various lifeforms and occasionally saying “Hi!” to other astronomical objects via telepathy.

Starman is a very similar build, but focuses on radiating immense amounts of energy; minor adjustments to the Stellar Fire power will cover everything from brown dwarves on up through red giants (most stars spend some of their experience points on getting ever-brighter; it just seems to be something they do). Going nova or supernova is a little more complicated however, but since it generally signifies the death of a star, details on the build really don’t matter much. Similar tweaks to the Growth ability will cover a wide range of stellar masses. Just like Planetman, Starman can manifest four “superheroic” avatars of intermediate power levels to use to make contact with the inhabitants of any planets it happens to be providing heat and light for. Like planets, stars are generally quite content to float along quietly, contemplating the wonders of fusing atoms together, for a few eons – but a few do take it into their core to meddle once in a while.

Conscious stars and planets are currently something of a rarity, but will become more prevalent billions of years in the future since they are capable of maintaining themselves for considerably longer periods than simple astronomical objects can. While proper maintenance by the Arith Vaya and Celestial Dragons can greatly extend the lifespans of non-sapient planets and stars as well, there are never enough of either to do ALL the maintenance that the universe could use.

 

Planetman

Value Characteristic Points
10/390 STR 0
5 DEX -15
25 CON 30
1/77 BODY -18
18 INT 8
20 EGO 20
25 PRE 15
10 COM 0
2 PD 0
5 ED 0
2 SPD 5
7 REC 0
50 END 0
4/80 STUN -15
Total 30

 

Points Powers END
45 Geosphere. Growth-76 (×72057594037927936000000 mass, ×42275935.1 height); Mass: 5,908,722,711,110,090,800,000,000 kg/12,999,189,964,442,200,000,000,000 lbs; Height: -33,686,893 cm/-13,262,556.30″; Extra STR: 380; Knockback Reduction: -76; Extra BODY: 76; Extra STUN: 76; DCV Penalty: -51; PER Penalty: +51; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Always On: -½; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Generic Limitation (Has massive gravatic side effects): -2; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (User becomes almost perfectly spherical, with no major limbs): -2; Independent (Earth and stone can be taken away): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Visible (Grotesquely so): -¼ 0
5 Elemental Control: Planetary Powers (22-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Linked (To Geosphere): -½; Always On: -½; Visible (Absurdly so): -¼
a-8 Atmosphere
(1) Doesn’t Eat, Excrete or Sleep
(1) Immune to Aging
(1) Immune to Disease
(13) Combined Powers Slot; Area Effect (Radius): 4000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(7) Need Not Breathe; Area Effect (Radius): 4000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: High Radiation; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
(2) Life Support: High Pressure/Vacuum; Area Effect (Radius): 1″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×4000, +3; Generic Limitation (Effect fades slowly with altitude): -½; Side Effects (Weather): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (Immunities are subject to upper limits): -¼; Always On: -½
b-27 Rocky Exterior / Armor (40 PD/40 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼
c-5 Really, Really, Large / Power Defense (35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
d-11 Thinking Big / Mental Defense (64 pts); Add to Total; Hardened: ×1, ¼
e-5 Eyes Everywhere / Flash Defense (Sight, 35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
f-21 Looking at the Neighbors / Telescopic “Vision” (Sight, +80 to PER)
g-8 A Really Big Guy / Damage Reduction (Physical, 75% Resistant)
h-8 A Really Big Guy / Damage Reduction (Energy, 75% Resistant)
i-5 Watching The Universe / 360-Degree Sensing (All); Transdimensional (All “nearby” dimensions): Group of Dimensions, +¾
j-12 8d6 Strength of the Earth / Aid Endurance (Fade/turn, Max. 48); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Charges: 250, +1 0
k-46 Create Avatars / Duplication (4 250-point forms); Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (All forms must be related to some sort of theme): -½; Champions Advantage (“Duplicates” are independently constructed. (The rules are messed up enough that I don’t know if this is required, but just in case).): +½.

Possible avatar “themes” include the “four elements” (Arising from appropriate areas), aspects of nature (EG – Beneficent/Wild/Mysterious/Oceanic or Mother Nature/ Curennos/Moon Goddess/Poseidon), entities that “embody” the four seasons, Warrior/Healer/Mystic/Crafter, and so on. While avatars may be entirely independent creations of the planet, some worlds opt to manifest this ability by “bestowing” the avatar’s power on local lifeforms…

82 Variable Cosmic Power Pool (60-pt Pool); Control Cost: 30; No Skill Required for Change: +1; Change Powers as 0 Phase Action: +1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Geology): -½; Linked (To Geosphere): -½
3 Mental Awareness
291 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
2 Knowledge: Biosphere 11-
2 Knowledge; Astronomy 11-
4 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

125+ Disadvantages
15 Distinctive Features (Continents); Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
10 Accidental Change (Major climactic and ecological shifts, per epoch) (11-)
20 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 14-); Skills: Normal, +0
20 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 14-); Skills: Normal, +0
10 Dependent NPC: Assorted Species (Normal, 8-); Skills: Normal, +0
20 Hunted: Minions of the Elder Ones (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
10 Watched: Assorted galactic empires, would-be colonizers, and other aliens (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
20 Gigantic Ball of Rock and Metal (All the Time, Greatly)
15 Plate Tectonics (All the Time, Slightly)
15 No Fine Manipulations (All the Time, Slightly)
20 Does not usually deal with mortals directly (Very Common, Strong)
15 Dislikes Pollution (Very Common, Moderate)
10 Public Identity
200 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
30 + 295 = 325 325 = 200 + 125

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
2 2 / 0 7 64 42/40 45/40 6, 12

Height: 50/2113796755cm (1’8″/69350287’3″), Weight: 82/0kg (180 lbs/0.00 lbs), Age: 4½, Race: Planet

 

Starman

Value Characteristic Points
10/480 STR 0
5 DEX -15
30 CON 40
1/95 BODY -18
18 INT 8
20 EGO 20
30 PRE 20
10 COM 0
2 PD 0
6 ED 0
2 SPD 5
8 REC 0
60 END 0
6/100 STUN -15
Total 45

 

Points Powers END
80 5d6 Stellar Fire / Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 4595; Damage Shield: +½; No Normal Defense (That does Body. Versus Radiation/Heat/Vacuum and Breathing Life Support, great thicknesses of ice and rock, or not being stupid enough to dive into a star.): +2; Always On: -½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Generic Limitation (Prohibits the use of any equipment): -1½; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Generic Limitation (Quasi-Explosive; the damage falls off according to the square-cube law (and gets worse “inside”)): -2; Generic Limitation (Eventually burns out and kills the “user”.): -1; Generic Limitation (Incredibly Visible; Detectable without a roll at ranges of thousands of light years.): -1; Area Effect (Radius): 8192000000″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×256000000, +7; Personal Immunity: +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
3 Elemental Control / Stellar Powers (22-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Linked (With Stellar Fire): -½; Generic Limitation (Huge gravitational side effects): -2; Generic Limitation (User becomes almost perfectly spherical, with no major limbs): -2
a-62 Growth-94 (×18889465931478581000000000000 mass, ×2705659852.4000001 height); Mass: 1,548,936,206,381,243,600,000,000,000,000 kg/3,407,659,654,038,736,000,000,000,000,000 lbs; Height: 0 cm/0″; Extra STR: 470; Knockback Reduction: -94; Extra BODY: 94; Extra STUN: 94; DCV Penalty: -63; PER Penalty: +63; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OAF (Vast amounts of hot gas): -1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; Linked (With Stellar Fire): -½ 0
b-22 Photosphere / Armor (50 PD/50 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼
c-3 Eternal Fires / Power Defense (35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
d-7 Cosmic Sentience / Mental Defense (64 pts); Add to Total; Hardened: ×1
e-3 Sunspot Eyes / Flash Defense (Sight, 35 pts); Hardened: ×1, ¼
f-13 Envisioning The Cosmic All / Telescopic “Vision” (Sight, +80 to PER)
g-5 I Laugh At Your Puny Comets / Damage Reduction (Physical, 75% Resistant)
h-5 Nearby Nova? Is That All? / Damage Reduction (Energy, 75% Resistant)
i-3 Watching The Universe / 360-Degree Sensing (All); Transdimensional (All “nearby” dimensions): Group of Dimensions, +¾
j-10 10d6 Fusion Flash / Aid Endurance (Fade/turn, Max. 60); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power, +0; Charges: 250, +1 0
k-9 The Main Sequence / Regeneration, Broad-Spectrum (1 BODY/Turn); Regenerate: From Death, +20; Champions Advantage (Affects all damaged attributes and abilities): +2
l-3 I Am An Environment / Life Support (total); Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½
m-41 Create Avatars / Duplication (4 300-point forms); Extra Time: 1 season, -5; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (All forms must be related to some sort of theme): -½; Champions Advantage (“Duplicates” are independently constructed. (The rules are messed up enough that I don’t know if this is required, but just in case).): +½

Possible avatar “themes” include astronomical objects, four states of matter, types of energy, and so on. While solar avatars are normally entirely independent creations of the star in question, some stars opt to manifest this ability by “bestowing” the avatar’s power on creatures that  (somehow!) draw their notice.

82 Variable Cosmic Power Pool (60-pt Pool); Control Cost: 30; No Skill Required for Change: +1; Change Powers as 0 Phase Action: +1; Generic Limitation (Only in deep space): -2; OIF (Corona): -½; Linked (To Stellar Fire): -½
3 Mental Awareness
5 Solar Flares / Extra Limbs (40); Number: 40
359 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
2 Knowledge: Astronomy 11-
2 Knowledge: Stellar Physics 11-
2 Knowledge: Galactic History 11-
6 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

125+ Disadvantages
20 Distinctive Features: Star; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Always noticed & major reaction, +5
20 Phys. Lim: Immense Superheated Ball of Plasma (All the Time, Greatly)
10 Phys. Lim: Does not understand chemically-based creatures very well. (Frequently, Slightly)
20 Psychological Limitation: Placid. Stars are normally quite content to just sit there and blaze away happily for a few eons. (Very Common, Strong)
20 Psychological Limitation: Feels responsible for providing heat and light for any planets that happen to be in the area. (Very Common, Strong)
5 Psychological Limitation: Likes the Celestial Dragons (Uncommon, Moderate)
5 Psychological Limitation: Dislikes the “Lords of Darkness”/”Great Old Ones”/”Elder Ones” (Uncommon, Moderate)
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation (14-)
10 Dependent NPC: Planets (Slightly Less Powerful, 11-); Skills: Normal, +0
135 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base Exp.
45 + 365 = 410 410 = 135 + 125 + 150

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
2 2 / 0 7 64 52/50 56/50 6, 12

Weight: 82/1548936206381243600000000000000kg (180 lbs/3,407,659,654,038,736,000,000,000,000,000 lbs), Race: Star

Amusingly enough, Planetman and Starman are at least as playable as a lot of the actual player characters I’ve seen. They may be almost impossible to get rid of, but you can lose them by simply going inside, they’re very slow, and the actual powers that they can manifest are simply not that impressive – at least not once you realize that they can only exert their strength via an earthquake or some such.

Guns versus Equestria

And next up we have a VERY silly question – but one that’s really all too common in one version or another. In this case it’s…

What if someone brought an equestrian dragon to Earth? It has to be very light to fly with those not-so-large wings, so it can’t be very dense or all that tough. Wouldn’t pretty much any kind of modern military weapon take it out instantly barring nonsense about super-tough polymers in their tissues or something? Even if their scales can take it due to some woo-hoo, the transmitted shock from a missile or tank gun should turn their internal organs into mush.

And I’ll answer it because “What if (fantasy/scifi monster of choice) was confronted by the modern military” is a popular question – and the answers are almost always subject to the same logic errors.

At it’s most basic, this question has a major underlying assumption – namely that earthly physics has something to do with fantasy creatures in general and Equestrian dragons in particular.

It doesn’t – and unless you go to a lot of trouble to come up some sort of compromise reality that adapts everyone who enters it to itself (in which case what various creatures can or cannot do, and how effective modern weaponry is, is entirely up to the rules you come up with and means nothing at all in any discussion) it won’t. Now if you just decide that cartoon dragons (or other critters) function according to their own rules, while the modern military operates according to the rules of conventional physics, then you can compare a few things.

Equestria does (very loosely) adhere to some rules about leverage and motion, since otherwise it would look really weird to the viewers. Ergo, it’s fair to guess that – since Spike is a dragon and Spike can hold quite a stack of packages out in front of himself – that he’s heavy enough not to tip over easily, giving Dragons a roughly normal-to-somewhat-high (possibly from eating rock?) tissue density.

Still, Equestria’s dragon’s don’t pay attention to conservation of mass-energy; they can gain or lose a great deal of mass simply because they got greedy or become distracted from being greedy. They can bite chunks out of rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and other gemstones, chew them up, and swallow them, without shattering the stone or injuring their tongues, palates, or throats. They have water-based tissues and relatively thin scales, but they can digest gems and bathe in magma without getting hot – violating basic thermodynamic principles. They breathe magic fire, or near-limitless amounts of smoke, with no apparent source for it. They (like pretty much every other flying creature in Equestria; just take a look at Bulk Biceps) pay no attention whatsoever to aerodynamics, lift, or weight-to-wingspan ratios. Any notions of “required wing area” are utterly irrelevant, as are ideas about how tough they are. After all, ponies say that Dragons are “almost indestructible”.

But just what does that mean?

  • Twilight Sparkle easily survived having a flower pot, a big anvil, a loaded hay cart, and a piano dropped on her head; she suffered rather minor injuries that vanished a little later from the incident (rather than winding up dead several times over like a human probably would). Yet she’s of the most physically vulnerable pony subrace, and is an unathletic bookworm with no combat training or physical conditioning.
  • Rainbow Dash survived performing a sonic rainboom directly through Applejack’s barn and into the ground. It’s hard to say exactly how fast she was traveling, but the writers and animators were fairly clearly trying to show her breaching the sound barrier and then achieving at least a two- to three-fold jump in speed – making it a minimum of roughly 2000 MPH. She hit the ground hard enough to throw up a mushroom cloud, produce the the sound of a massive explosion, and scatter debris to a depth of several feet over a radius of several hundred yards. What’s more, she can carry multiple ponies and execute sharp turns while traveling at such speeds. Evidently she can ignore inconvenient things like “inertia”, “conservation of momentum”, and “equal and opposite reaction”. She can generate lightning and create tornadoes.

And THESE are the creatures who describe Dragons as being “almost indestructible” and try to avoid confronting them at all costs.

Creatures from Equestria – like most cartoon and more than a few fantasy critters – get to opt out of physics in favor of plot, drama, and rule-of-funny. If you dropped a strategic nuclear weapon on one the result is going to be the same as it is in pretty much any other cartoon – a long shot of a great big explosion, widespread destruction of buildings and inanimate objects, and the creature at the center of the crater, blackened with soot, possibly furless if it had fur to start with, looking stunned, and blinking it’s (undamaged) eyes amusingly. In a scene or two it will be just fine again.

On the other hand, cartoon critters can still have trouble with a cloud of bees or shutting a door on one of their appendages. A sword fight may well work; it has plot, good visuals, and a good dramatic build up. A long range missile or a bomb however… will never work. They’re far too impersonal. Fortunately for the modern military, cartoon critters are often pretty ineffectual at attacking too – and can often be stopped by pies, policemen with whistles, or trash can lids – but barring such exploits, they will have quite a substantial advantage over conventional military forces.

Like it or not… reality is full of constraints. What makes things fantastic and wonderful is being free of those constraints. The more free of restraints a creature is – the less that is impossible for it – the closer it comes to omnipotent godhood.

Cartoons are a LOT less restrained than the real-world military. The only real chance of victory over such a foe is to find something that restrains THEM to exploit. Sure, “cannot ever catch the Roadrunner” isn’t likely to be THAT useful in a military sense – but “always waits for the dramatic speech to finish” may well allow a few thespians to hold off an entire cartoon army by simply continuing to talk as they relieve each other.

And that is why the answer to “X versus Y”, when X and Y come from different, and incompatible, settings pretty much always comes down to “what assumptions are we throwing in to allow this interaction?”. Are we doing Galactus versus Sheriff Andy Taylor from Mayberry?

  • Well, Galactus has vast cosmic powers, while Andy Taylor is a small town policeman who relies on being understanding and reasonable. If they meet in the Marvel Universe, Galactus wins – barring some absurd exploit during assistant editors week anyway. But those are generally out of continuity, and don’t count.
  • On the other hand, the only way that Galactus can exist in Mayberry is as one of Opie’s bad dreams – in which case Andy wins through some heartwarming father-and-son bonding moment and Galactus will be relegated to the trash can with the other upsetting comic books. The rules of Mayberry are the rules of a family sitcom.

It all depends on what assumptions you make. Once you start changing the rules that characters operate under, and putting vaguely-defined abilities against each other with no way of knowing how they’re going to interact, it’s come down to your personal opinion anyway. And it will remain your personal opinion, whether you get really elaborate and use a system like Eclipse or Gurps or the Hero System to build “faithful reproductions” of the characters to pit against each other or whether you just pick a winner.

D20, Divinities, and why Nuking Makes Me Thor

Today we have a question…

How much damage does a d20 nuke do? Will it kill a d20 god?

Now nuclear weapons really are pretty impressive. They’re by far the most powerful weapons yet developed by human beings. Of course, d20 characters… are really not very human. The basic problem here is that, all intuition to the contrary, “damage” in d20 is not linear.

Lets take a standard 20 heavy mace: sized for a 5’6 human being. It does 1d8 damage and weighs 8 pounds. Well and good.

Now lets make it a colossal mace, for a (minimal) colossal creature twelve times that size – 66 feet tall. That’s twelve times as big in each dimension, giving it a weight of 13,824 pounds – and it has to be swung around at twelve times the speed of the basic mace, since it gets swung around in the same way and hits at the same frequency while having twelve times as far to travel.

Kinetic energy is what does the damage when a mace hits – it gets expended crushing flesh and bone, tearing tissues, and otherwise doing unpleasant work on the victim – and our colossal mace carries (12 x 12 x 12) times the mass x (12 x 12, velocity squared) times as much energy as the basic one. All of that energy can get expended on some poor character when it comes down on his head, since being hit will not move a d20 character an inch. So… our Colossal Mace can deliver 248,832 times as much kinetic energy to the target as a normal mace.

Ouch.

That makes some sense; If I get several tons of steel moving at high speed coming down on ME, I must either get out of the way or be turned into a puddle of goo.

Yet the rules tell us that our colossal mace only does 6d6 damage. An average of (21 / 4.5) = 4.67 times as much as a normal one. That’s a damage adder of (+3.5). Still ouch, but certainly not nearly two hundred and fifty thousand times as much ouch. It’s not even enough damage to bother most mid-level characters all that much.

Like it or not, neither hit points nor damage are linear things in d20. They’re logarithmic.

So we’ll be generous on behalf of damage and take the simple calculation; each factor-of-ten increase in the delivered energy equates to a +1 damage multiplier. That would give our colossal mace a damage rating of 6d8+2, but that’s close enough to what the rules give to pass.

According to the d20 (Modern) rules, a standard, roughly half-pound, stick of dynamite does 2d6 damage. Dynamite is actually about 25% more powerful than TNT, but – in d20 terms – this makes very little difference. For our purposes, we can treat them as being pretty much equivalent.

There are special rules in the d20 modern SRD for small bundles of dynamite – giving it a maximum damage of 10d6 and a maximum radius of 20 feet (exactly like a standard fireball) no matter how much dynamite you use, but we’re interested in very large quantities, so we can just extrapolate this calculation instead.

  • One ton of dynamite (4000 times as much, for a +3.6 damage multiplier, rounded to +4) will thus cause 10d6 damage – albeit in a considerable radius.
  • One kiloton of dynamite (4,000,000 times as much, for a +6.6 Damage Multiplier, which I will gratuitously not round off so as to get an easy result. gets us 15d6 damage – albeit with effects spread out over a VERY wide radius.
  • One megaton of dynamite (4,000,000,000 times as much) will, of course, get us up to a +9.6 damage multiplier – and either 20d6 (for easy steps) or 21d6 (for more accuracy) damage – and an immense area of effect.
  • The Tsar Bomba – we’ll be generous and call it an even sixty megatons – gets a multiplier of +11.3 – giving us a figure of 25d6 damage – equivalent to the direct damage that can be caused by a ninth level spell, albeit over a far larger area. Yes, that’s a coincidence – but it’s an interesting one isn’t it?

We can get pretty much the same results by applying the weapon damage chart to small/medium/large/etc explosions – which makes some sense; these are just bigger weapons after all.

Now we’re certainly justified in adding some special effects – perhaps a fortitude save to resist radiation sickness (not that d20 characters have anything equating to “genes” to be damaged since they can have kids with ghosts and creatures who don’t even have material bodies), another to evade blindness (not that sight in d20 necessarily has anything to do with having eyes), yet another to avoid deafness, a knockdown/back effect, and more. We could add a reflex save (to represent being behind cover, which will help considerably) and double the base damage to compensate (although this raises the possibility of characters saving for no damage) – but we’ve got a good lower bound for the use of nuclear weapons in d20.

And, in general… nuclear weapons will not kill a standard d20 god, or most high-level characters, even barring the use of evasive spells, immunities, and other special defenses.

Of course, what we’ve really demonstrated that the d20 mechanics are not that consistent, reliable, or rational – and get worse as you start getting away from the baseline medieval muscle powered weaponry it was designed to work with. After all, the d20 mechanics describe a world where characters can wade through lava up to their armpits and take a mere 2d6 damage – which remains the same as long as at least one finger is sticking out. Now, if you want a plot device, you can go ahead and give your weaponry completely arbitrary effects. If you want something that’s more or less playable, there’s a rather long list of absurdly overpowered weaponry over here – most of which does fit these calculations fairly well.

Gaming Harry Potters World, Part II

In which we discuss common spells and the nine problematic spells – Avada Kedavra, Expecto Patronum, the Fidelius Charm, the Fiendfyre Curse, the Imperius Curse, Portus, Taboo, Draconifors, and the Hour-Reversal Charm.

Next up, we have the magic of Harry Potter – and here again we have a bit of information from the author to clear things up. While it’s blatantly obvious that most of the magic in Harry Potter is purely mechanical – you might as well be pushing buttons on your remote control to activate pre-defined programs – the three “Unforgivable Curses” and the Horcruxes have muddled discussions with moral dimensions for years.

So what makes the three “unforgivable curses” so special? According to the author…

The Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus Curses were made illegal by the Ministry of Magic in 1717 and classified as Unforgivables at that time via legislation, “with the strictest penalties attached to their use.” (Tales of Beedle the Bard – Page 142 – Collector Edition)

OK, that’s sensible enough. Even if the Cruciatus Curse calls for active malevolence on the part of the caster to work properly, these are just spells. Their “unforgivable” status is the result of a legal definition, not of any particular moral force.

The creation of Horcruxes demands the murder of a victim and intentionally damaging your own soul. Presuming that the soul is regarded as something inherently precious and never to be violated and that murder is generally regarded as wrong, there doesn’t need to be any actual inherent evil in the magic itself. People generally agree that using a knife to save someone who’s entangled in something underwater is good, while using that same knife to skin a screaming child alive is bad, without arguing that the actual knife has to be inherently good or evil The same seems likely to go for magical energy.

So what are the actual rules for (human) magic in the Potterverse?

  • Per the author, it calls for a wand or some magically-similar focus. You can do poorly-controlled, weak, and semi-random tricks without a wand, but you need a wand to do really good magic.
  • There really isn’t any limit on how much you can use. New schoolkids can practice charms for hours without a problem. There isn’t any “running out of magic” in the Potterverse, although the sheer physical strain of a long battle or repeating a spell over and over again may get to you.
  • There aren’t any otherworldly powers involved. There are no demons, elementals, angels, or gods to summon. There are ghosts and poltergeists and various magical animals – but all of them seem to be a part of this world, even if souls go on beyond it. Similarly, we never see anything being summoned except for normal animals.
  • Most potterverse spells are fairly low-powered, at least in terms of d20 games or the Hero System or similar role-playing games. They’re reasonably versatile – but no one is summoning armies, creating new kinds of life, teleporting to other planets (or even all that far normally), or similar stunts.

What we actually see in the books, games, and author notes, are spells that provide…

  1. Biomanipulations. This group of spells can repair or regrow bones, change moods, heal small injuries, wake up unconscious people, possibly make someone expel their entrails (there is a possibility that this is a medical spell that treats poisons and/or intestinal blockages rather than an attack; the information on it is ambiguous), grow hair or fur, cause terrible pain, make someone’s body explosive, remove minor, magically-induced, ailments, and inflict various injuries with no apparent source.
  2. Conjurations. These spells produce things from nothing. As weapons they can produce sprays or bolts of water, fire, ice, wind, and so on, entangle people in ropes or nets, create slashing blades or barriers of force, and generate modest explosions. Less directly, it can produce normal animals (swarms of bugs, dozens of birds, and large snakes), create splints and bandages, planks, bunches of flowers, pumpkins, really good glue, light and darkness, smokescreens, blindfolds, room-sized weather effects, and drink refills. Interestingly, both amplifying and dispelling magic fall into this group of spells. So do spells that make (worthless) copies of items. In general, all conjurations are very temporary; conjuring money or food is basically ineffectual – and money is quite illegal to boot.
  3. Divinations. These spells obtain information – detecting intruders or nearby humans, revealing the last spells a wand was used to cast, revealing an items exotic or magical properties, detecting magical disguises, locating true north, and identifying creatures. Annoyingly enough (if quite conveniently for mystery stories), any divination beyond the simplest and most immediate seems to become increasingly unreliable. Thus probing minds rarely works very well at all while things like prophecies, auguries, astrology, and clairvoyance are erratic to the point of near-uselessness.
  4. Enhancements. These spells boost the natural properties of things – providing enhanced senses, making objects tougher or near-unbreakable, adding strength or endurance, enhancing the user’s grip, making doors capable of stopping all eavesdropping, creating “magical” swords, making a promise unbreakable, and even letting a container (or room) hold far more than it should. As a rule, enhancements applied to living creatures are strictly temporary, while those applied to objects can last for weeks, months, or even many years.
  5. Illusions. While these spells don’t require a lot of power, most of them appear to be highly complex – perhaps because making something “look right” requires immense amounts of fine detail and it’s almost impossible to envision something that well in the time it takes to recite a few words. On the other hand, Potterverse Illusions seem to affect inanimate objects just fine; evidently they manipulate actual light and sound. Thus you don’t see multiple-image spells (despite how useful they’d be when the death-curses are flying), you see vague translucent images, amplifying and muffling sound, fireworks, people writing “flaming letters” in the air, changing the color of objects, and inducing vague daydreams. On the upper end of illusions you get reasonably effective invisibility and (for the clever) keeping burglar alarms from going off.
  6. Inflictions. These spells disrupt the operation of the victims body and mind, causing all sorts of problems – uncontrollable babbling, rapidly growing teeth, pain, boils, hair falling out, knees working backwards, paraplegia, muteness, full paralysis, confusion, loss of memory, rashes, stings, stunning, nausea, dancing, laughing, being unable to speak of specific topics, deafness, inducing hostility, uncontrollable sneezing, and incredible ticklishness. In general, these are quite temporary although – due to the constantly-rewritten nature of memory – disruptions there can indefinitely bury or even replace memories.
  7. Telekinesis. While these spells lose effectiveness as the targets get bigger, more “alive”, or more magical, they are still quite general and useful. You see them moving objects around and even bringing them from or carrying them to specified places, pushing people and objects violently away or pulling them to the caster, making people drop things, pulling down moveable stairs and barriers, holding a bubble of air to breathe, slowing things down, packing luggage, flying (usually using a focus), ripping out chunks of things, putting up tents, tripping people, opening pits, and dangling people in the air (or countering that).
  8. Teleportation. These spells work best with small objects and relatively short distances – but the limits seem to be easily boosted with boosting items, prepared locations, and other aides. These spells are often used to clean things, remove trash, summon items, escape problems, switch two objects locations, serve food, and – with one or more boosting effects – for intermediate range travel. Oddly enough, House Elves seem to be a lot better at this than magic-users.
  9. Transformations. There are a lot of these spells, but they seem to tend to be both highly specific and quite temporary save when they’re repairing things or making simple physical changes. Many or most of them are simple convenience effects. Thus we see spells being used to repair objects, turn them back to normal after they’re transformed, open doors sealed by normal locks, make fires burn cold, “weld” things together, warm and dry things, animate statues or suits of armor (although this may involve prior enchantments), change something’s color, lock doors (and seal them against magical opening), turn into specific animals, get rid of footprints (and presumably other traces), make objects (or their insides) larger or smaller, cause an unfortunate individuals nasal mucus to harass them, break holds and bindings, put out fires, force Boggarts into silly forms, turn staircases into ramps or slides, turn water into rum, grow plants quickly, turn small items into rabbits, and link objects together so that they can be used to communicate.
  10. Wards. These spells are basically defensive barriers, possibly with alarms attached. They can sound alarms when someone enters an area, help keep an area safe (the exact effect is never defined), keep kids out of areas with a magical barrier, prevent teleportation (and presumably other types of magic) in an area, provide rather limited protection from magic for a person or small area, reflect minor spells, make minor magical attacks on those who attempt to pass them (as usual, these are very effective against nameless background characters, but rarely do much to named characters), subtly steer muggles away from magical places, and prevent cheating on exams (fair enough in a school, if of limited usefulness otherwise).

For the most part… these spells have (in d20 terms) effects of up to level two, occasionally level three. In difficult fields the effects are mostly level one, sometimes up to level two. The Potterverse, like many other fantastic realms, has ubiquitous magic – but not magic that warps the world to the point of unrecognizability.

That leaves just nine spells on the “problematic” list.

Avada Kedavra: This magical attack cannot be blocked by any magic save for self-sacrifice or hosting a secondary life force, although interposing a physical barrier, or dodging, or hitting it with another spell before it hits to throw off the targeting, or magically-assisted dodging (using some spell that moves you out of the way of incoming attacks or to precognitively alert you or some such) all apparently work. In addition, having a Horcrux, or a phoenix’s self-resurrection ability, will let you recover. Also, of course, we’re told…

Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it – you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed.

-Barty Crouch Junior (when disguised as Alastor Moody).

Although what, exactly, that MEANS is open for debate. There are several mentions of some magic-users being “more powerful” than others – but it’s never really clear whether that means that they know more spells, use them more quickly, are more clever about using them, are better able to break through resistance, have more innate magical knacks, have better fine control, boost the potency of their spells somehow, can have more spells going at once, or some combination of those and other possible ways of measuring “power”. For all I know they’re talking about reputation or political influence or something and that somehow affects their magic. How would that work you ask? How should I know? It’s MAGIC.

Of course this particular quote also directly contradicts the “no one has ever survived it” bit, since otherwise how could anyone know that it took “a powerful bit of magic” to make it work? The only way to know that is for people to cast it and have it NOT work.

Personally I suspect that – given that physical barriers work – really thick armor or scales or a thick layer of mud or really dense hair might also work, as – presumably – will being a vampire, ghost, or other only quasi-living creature, or being highly resistant to magic like dragons or dementors (after all… if the spell worked against such creatures, would they be so feared? There are penalties for using the unforgivable curses against people, monsters aren’t really mentioned – and if they were, there are exceptions for Auror’s using them against Death Eaters, so why not for against monsters?)

Still, barring all of THAT… it if connects it causes instant death! That’s pretty powerful!

Or is it? The Potterverse runs on realistic injuries – and there don’t seem to be any healing spells that work quickly enough to deal with damaged aortas, bullets through the brain, arrows or crossbow bolts through the heart, decapitation, massive hydrostatic shock, having your chest blown out by a sniper rifle, sufficiently large explosions, cut throats, or being incinerated, brained, cut in half, or smashed by a couple of tons of falling rock. All of those, and lots of other injuries, are pretty much instant death – or a few moments of unconsciousness followed by death.

So… can’t be blocked by magic and kills as effectively as an accurate .shot from a light handgun. Honestly… if you had a choice between “Fireball” and this, it would be a tough choice. There are things to be said on both sides. Potterverse magic-users don’t seem to have a lot of passive defenses – so if you can squeeze a trigger or blast the area (so they can’t just dodge) faster than they can cast something they’re in deep trouble anyway. Besides, couldn’t you put spells on your ammo to keep it from being blocked by magical defenses? Why not?

Expecto Patronum: This conjures an animal made of light that can drive back creatures of darkness and carry messages for you. That’s a weird dual function, but in D20 terms… When you cast it you can choose between Circle of Protection From Evil (with a short duration and a very conspicuous manifestation) and something akin to Whispering Wind. (Or, if the world had Archons or we rule that you’re manifesting a rough equivalent, this could be a specific Summon Lantern Archon spell, at about L2, trading more duration for some strict limitations on the actions it can take). Overall… this simply goes under Conjurations.

Fidelius Charm: This spell hides a particular piece of information within the recipients soul. No one else can obtain that information unless the secret-keeper gives it to them. If he or she does not share the information, it vanishes forever when they die. If the secret-keeper does share the information before dying, upon his or her death everyone it was passed to becomes a new secret keeper. This has been canonically used to hide the Potters residence from Voldemort and to hide one house in a set of row-houses in London.

Wait, what? The bit with hiding a house on a public street shows that information can be hidden this way, even from other magic-users, and even if the information was widely known, publicly visible, and not in the control of the caster at the time of casting.

Hey, Joey! Can you keep a secret? I’m going to hide the location of Lord Voldemort’s butt so that he can’t find it to wipe properly any longer!

So why didn’t Dumbledore hide the information on how to make a Horcrux long before Tom Riddle could ever get a hold of it if it was so nasty? Why not put Hogwarts out of business by hiding where it is so no one who’s outside can find it again? Why not hide Voldemort’s wand from him? Why not hide the Sorcerer’s Stone this way? Why not eliminate the Avada Kedavra spell by hiding IT? If you’re jealous of Harry Potter why not make sure that no one will ever recognize him again? Why not wreck the world by hiding the existence of FIRE? (What mysterious undetectable force is destroying our cities and forests? If only we could figure out what it is! And how were these engines and power systems supposed to work anyway? And how did people used to cook? All these things are lost secrets of the last week guys!).

This kind of thing WOULD explain villain incompetence, but it really goes too far. Voldemort isn’t LITERALLY unable to find his ass with both hands… I think.

Forget this one (unless you just decree that it was used to hide all the other really problematic spells and then itself). It has “Ill-thought out Author Plot Device” all over it. Stick with ordinary antidivination and concealment effects or, at most, allow such effects to be made semipermanent through the use of this spell. Allowing characters to simply wipe out inconvenient information will wipe out the game once the players get to thinking about it.

Spellweaver recommends that casting this spell requires that the information must be known only to the ones doing the casting. The spell then prevents said information from being acquired by magic, but not through mundane means. This won’t work like it does in the book, but nothing that makes any sense will.

Fiendfyre Curse: OK, this conjures up a nearly-inextinguishable mass of flame that can destroy mighty magical artifacts, burn almost anything, shape itself into creatures, and actively goes looking for targets to at least some extent. Judging from the ability to destroy magical artifacts, fire protection spells won’t do much good either. Perhaps you can get it off someone with one of the telekinetic effects?

OK, it’s hyped-up napalm – an ongoing fire spell – with a “spread itself” animation on it. It trades in a lot of control and pretty much all the safety precautions (thus giving it a major risk of killing or injuring the caster) in exchange for extra power – thus becoming a one-shot mass-kill effect that stupid teenagers can use. Hopefully even most of THEM will not be stupid enough to actually do so. Overall… this really isn’t all that useful to anyone. Suicidal moves may be potent, but it’s a bad idea to use them outside of really dire necessity.

Imperius Curse: This places the victim in a dreamlike state wherein he or she will obey the caster’s orders. The victim can still cast spells and function normally in almost all other ways – including putting the Imperius Curse on other people. It can be resisted by the strong-willed with practice with the extent of control and the specific duration being vaguely dependent on the will and “power” (whatever that means) of the caster. While it needs to be regularly renewed for long-term use, it leaves no detectable traces and you need only point your wand (or similar focus) and whisper the incantation under your breath…

Well HELLO to the magic-users date-rape spell of choice! Lets see now… “whenever you see another magic-user cast the Imperius Curse on them as sneakily as possible, If there’s more than one target available, choose at random. Then pass on these instructions”. That gives us global chaos in the magical world in less than thirty-five words – and may mean mass death in a couple of weeks depending on how many get stuck in loops doing nothing else but casting the curse at each other.

Honestly, putting any effect that can set up a self-perpetuating pyramid scheme with a few careless words into a setting is a bad idea – and even if someone was watching, and can prove that you used this spell… you can just claim that someone else used it on you. Worse, if “he or she said so!” is enough proof of it’s use… why aren’t people simply accusing their enemies of using it whether they did or not? And if it’s not… most cases can never be proven. Every available method of actually determining the truth has it’s counter-effect. With this spell… you can look at someone down the street and make them steal, embezzle, commit sabotage, play suicide bomber, or assassinate anyone you please. Essentially tracelessly, and with no real chance of being caught at it. After all, the magical government can’t manage to keep tabs on far, FAR, more flagrant lawbreakers.

So, to turn this into something that works for a game… if you want it to last for more than a few minutes, you must give the victim a talisman, which is magically linked to you. You can only bind a limited number of such talismans to you at any one time, and any talismans your victim’s bind count against your own total. Keep working on someone for a few days and you can brainwash them into your service quite effectively – but otherwise this is limited to suggestions, mild hypnosis effects, and the equivalent of d20’s “charm person”. That’s still quite troublesome, and lets a villain control a set of hapless minions, but it won’t wreck the world.

Portus: This turns an item into a teleportation talisman, allowing travel between a set of specified locations. It apparently goes off as soon as you try to move the item in question – thus acting as a sort of “secret door” between separated locations. At a guess, the caster has to work the spell at both ends of the prospective trip. How many times such an item can be used remains unknown, as do the upper limits of the distance traveled, the limits on weight or number of persons to be transported, and so on…

Personally, I would count this as an enchantment-boosted teleportation with a very limited number of uses and similar limitations – including what seems to be a fairly short range under normal circumstances.

Taboo: This lets you enchant a word or name so that you will instantly be aware of when and where it is spoken. Even better, when it’s spoken it will destroy any protective enchantments around the speaker – such as concealment effects or wards.

So… this spell can overcome thousands of other spells, including some that are supposed to be impenetrable, all at once, and with no ongoing attention from it’s caster. I’d guess that the user can cancel it – if only in case he or she gets interrupted or something and accidently says “What?” instead of an appropriate name or wants to get some sleep someday – but otherwise there seems to be no counterspell. Couldn’t you put it on “The” for an hour or so and take down almost every protective enchantment in the world?

On the law enforcement side… why not put it on the words for the three Unforgivable Curses? And perhaps on a few of the other spells, like the Dark Mark? Wouldn’t that be really, REALLY helpful? Why yes, yes it would!

OK, you’d be notified about people discussing them as well – but not only is that a subject of interest anyway, the Ministry of Magic demonstrated that they could detect the unshielded use of a charm to float a cake – and making the right words a Taboo will eliminate any protective spells, thus automatically making any use of the actual spells unshielded and detectable.

For that matter… put it on a few phrases like “Lord Voldemort” and “Malfoy” too. After all, wouldn’t it be kind of interesting to see if the names of several major suspected Death Eaters kept turning up together in places where they weren’t supposed to be? Sure, it might just be them being talked about… but it might be a meeting and with all the privacy spells down you can find out which it is easily enough. What if those names keep turning up in close association with the words for Unforgivable Curses? Or you find that someone is regularly using the Imperius Curse in a particular household or other location?

Wait… wouldn’t this leave quite a lot of Death Eaters without their excuses, reveal some notable impersonations, and otherwise wreck some major plot points? Why yes, yes it would!

That is the trouble with introducing major elements at the last moment.

Besides… to work as described this thing has to have a global area of effect, be capable of distinguishing between very similar sounding words (in every existing language) while still sorting out all the odd ways the people can pronounce things, is extremely difficult to detect while still being capable of overpowering an unlimited number of other spells, and can apparently still be defeated by handing out stupid nicknames… Shouldn’t there be a tradition of that if this spell exists anyway?

“So… how are we going to defeat Moldyfart?”

Given that this little monstrosity is far, FAR, more powerful than any other piece of magic mentioned in the entire saga – and there’s no practical way to weaken it while retaining what it’s supposed to do – I would drop this one entirely.

Between the videogames and other secondary sources, there are two more spells on this list – Draconifors (which turns the caster into a dragon) and the “Hour-Reversal Charm” which is used to make Time-Turners.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got enough information on Draconifors to really be sure – but I suspect that it’s like most of the other video-games “transformations” I’ve seen in that it basically lets you trade one strategy (casting spells and using a weapon) in favor of another (being really tough and using a natural weapons and fire breath) – both roughly equivalent (or you’d almost always want to use the transformation) but each better suited to particular challenges. This probably isn’t all that powerful – and is even less attractive in an RPG, which can be counted on to offer a much wider range of options than a video game anyway.

The “Hour Reversal Charm” is behind Time-Turners. It can let you travel up to five hours into the past – although what happens if you try to send someone who belongs in the time you are visiting five more hours back remains unknown. According to the author, trying to go further always results in weird disasters, such as numerous people vanishing because they were never born and, after that traveler into deep time returned… “the Tuesday following her reappearance lasted two and a half full days, whereas Thursday shot by in the space of four hours. The Ministry of Magic had a great deal of trouble in covering this up”.

I would think they would, since – if a single witch could damage the flow of time across the entire solar system (think about what would happen if earth’s time was out of sync with that of the sun or moon) – there’s no reason to think that it didn’t affect the entire universe.

Yet all the actual activity ever shown observes the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle. Evidently time travelers have a choice; they can travel up to five hours and be held to a self-consistent history (I.E. Their actions cannot actually change anything) or they can travel further and automatically eliminate themselves in some form of time-disaster.

In terms of what this actually accomplishes… this spell gives you three options.

  1. You may (accidentally or on purpose) commit a spectacular temporal suicide by going too far, by announcing that you are attempting to actually change the past, or because the spell is unstable and went wrong. If so, all you can do is hope that the game master will decide that the world is somehow improved by your horrible death.
  2. You may propose an explanation involving yourself time traveling for something weird that happened in the last five hours of game time. The game master may then tell you what actually happened when you attempted this. No, you do not get to play it out – that would not work with the self-consistency principle – but the game master might decide that you acquire something (information or an item that had vanished mysteriously) if your explanation is sufficiently clever. Of course, you might also die. That may not be LIKELY, but it is certainly possible.
  3. You may announce that you are going back to obtain something from the past five hours – information that was available but that you missed or something that might have vanished mysteriously – and ask the game master to narrate the result. No, you do not get to play it out and yes, once again, you might die.

What we wind up with is a spell that certainly implies vast power – but which doesn’t actually fulfill that promise. Instead, just as in the books… about all you can do with relative safety is squeeze a few extra hours of work or study into your day. It can still produce some excessively-potent results, but it doesn’t actually do the caster much good. I would still rule it out on the grounds that it requires too much power – but it probably won’t hurt your game much if you don’t; it’s just too dangerous to use for what you can actually accomplish with hit.

Gaming Harry Potters World, Part I

Quite a few people want to play games set in Harry Potters universe.

The trouble there is that the books really don’t provide all that much detail on anywhere but Hogwarts and on any events save those immediately surrounding Harry Potter. That’s more or less to be expected of course – but Harry Potter shuts down the only major villain who gets more than a brief mention, AND eliminates most of his henchmen, AND seems to get the government straightened out along he way. All is well. What does that leave for the player characters to do?

We really need a little more detail on the world and some explanations. Fortunately, the author HAS provided a few very important background details to extrapolate from.

First, and by far the most importantly… we have an authors estimate for the total number of witches and wizards in Britain. It’s about 3000. Roughly one wizard for every 21,000 muggles.

That number tells us a LOT.

After all, we know that witches and wizards can live long healthy lives – far longer than muggles with the right magic (for easy calculation, lets call it a hundred years). The Weasleys show us that they can have large families – although we also see quite a few one-child families. Magic can quickly heal many conditions that muggle medicine cannot, it lets you escape most ordinary dangers with ease, it can help you obtain food, shelter, funds, transport, and many other basic necessities with little difficulty. It can even extend your life. Magic users pop up in the muggle population “fairly commonly”. Non-magic users (“Squibs”) rarely appear in magic-user families. Magic use is thus at least partially hereditary and certainly appears to be a hugely advantageous trait; magic-users can do almost everything a muggle can and more – even if magic use seems to interfere with electrical devices (which is a very modern problem and unlikely to prove overly hazardous to life and limb).

Yet magic-users are on the verge of extinction. Their numbers are so small that a single school – apparently taking in twenty to forty students a year – (thirty kids x seventeen years to adulthood = 510 or so students) can reasonably teach all the magic-user kids in Britain. Yet, as a percentage of the population, magic-users must have been far more numerous in the past. Hogwarts is supposed to be more than a thousand years old. If wizards and witches occurred at the same rate to muggles in 1000 AD then there would have been about a hundred and fifty of them in all Britain – and an average of one or two kids a year. Even with a seven year program and cutting down the lifespan (perhaps to 50 years?) to double the birth rate that’s not going to call for much of a school.

*It’s noted that a quarter of the stadium, numbering about 200, was supporting Slytherin at a Quidditch match – but this number may well include alumni and parents.

So we know that muggle populations have been soaring (up by a factor of twenty) while magic-using populations have been – at best – holding steady in raw numbers and rapidly declining as a percentage of the overall population. And that’s DESPITE muggles having magic-user children and thus making an ever-increasing contribution to the magic-user population. That alone neatly demonstrates that the magic-users have not been breeding successfully enough to maintain their own populations.

At least that neatly explains why so many of the “pureblood” houses are near-extinct and why even the “healthy” ones rarely seem to have more than a dozen members. It also neatly explains why so many important magics are more or less things of the past; it’s because a smaller and smaller population will toss up fewer and fewer major talents.

Given those numbers, being a magic-user in the modern world must actually be hugely disadvantageous in terms of survival or reproduction compared to being a muggle – and yet it doesn’t seem to be for older kids and adults. That leaves only one real possibility; an awful lot of magic-user infants and/or smaller children die of magical complications early on – whether that means accidents with their own magic, attracting magical menaces, or weird magical illnesses that older magic-users cannot cure.

Why does every magic user go to Diagon Alley to shop? It’s because, with a population that small, it’s likely to be the only real wizards market in the country – and even IT is centered on a goblin institution. That’s also why there’s only one magic-user hospital mentioned (and it seems to serve as a lunatic asylum too), why Hogsmeade is the ONLY all magic-user village in Britain, and why few other locations even get a mention. Why does the Knight Bus run all over the country? Perhaps because a single bus per shift is enough to handle the entire magic-using populations mass transit needs.

Why is the Ministry of Magic so… ineffectual and easily manipulated? Perhaps because most of those “employees” are constructs and because the pool of administrative talent it draws on is too shallow to have a wading section? When you’ve only got about 2500 adults – including the elderly and retired, the ill, the insane, and the ones in jail – to pick from you won’t have very many who can handle any particular specialized job. Especially with a Hogwarts education. The place teaches magic, not statistics, logistics, administration, engineering, or a lot in the way of practical management skills. Even if we throw in some speculative post-graduate courses this is a culture where the vast majority of the kids complete their educations at seventeen.

Why is the wizard government so stuck in the past, obsessed with precedent, and uninterested in current events? And why is it so large? After all, we’re told that the Wizengamot has “around fifty members” and there seem to be other bodies. That’s a LOT of government for a population that would barely make a small town even if most of them do nothing but talk.

Wait… “Nothing but talk” and “focused on the past”. Doesn’t this behavior sound familiar? Rather a lot like… one Professor Cuthbert Binns. And it’s not like the magical government had a lot to do in the first place, or that a population of 3000 is going to produce dozens of would-be bureaucrats clamoring to replace them. Quite a lot of politicians try to hang onto office until they die. Perhaps most of the magic-user government is made up of ghosts? It’s not like hanging onto their office at all costs is unfamiliar behavior for politicians and petty bureaucrats. Why should mere death stop them?

Why is magical Britain’s entire monetary system run by goblins? Perhaps because it’s actually the GOBLINS monetary system, and they’re simply allowing the wizards and witches to use it? They certainly don’t seem to give the witches and wizards any great level of respect. Importantly, the goblins also seem to be able to do currency exchanges – and they haven’t allowed their economy to be swamped by modern mining techniques or things like synthetic gemstones either through direct exchange or by some muggle-born wizard cleaning out Fort Knox or De Beers. It’s likely that the goblin cartel quietly provides magical security for the crown jewels of England and Fort Knox and similar hordes of the few things which both magic-users and muggles see as “treasure” all over the world in exchange for such considerations.

Why is a small clique of nasty wizards a threat to the entire country? After all… it’s clearly shown that even not-too-bright and generally ineffectual wizard kids can unleash virtually inextinguishable fires, death spells, and hideous curses. Why aren’t serious magic-user fights all essentially quick-draw contests decided by who shot first? Nobody can win those ALL the time – but if there ARE only a hundred or so combative magic-users in the country… twenty or thirty well-organized and trained ones are a pretty major threat.

Why aren’t ethical wizards out there curing diseases, solving problems, and otherwise helping out the muggle population? It’s because there aren’t enough of them to make any difference – and likely because most of the tiny magic-user population is too isolated from muggle society to have any idea what is going on. Why else have “muggle studies” instead of going out and looking around?

Why are the witches and wizards so reclusive and set on hiding from the muggles? It’s because the muggles could readily wipe them out if they were aware of them and got upset. Yes, magic is nifty – but when you’re outnumbered thousands to one, can’t maintain your own population without recruits from the “enemy” camp, and your enemy has nifty tricks too… you can’t afford to make yourself a target. Sure, Voldemort may have wanted to rule the muggle world too – but no one ever said that that was a PRACTICAL ambition. Maybe he was just upset and frustrated about that? Or maybe he just didn’t think it through. It would hardly be the only thing that he didn’t understand.

Why are witches and wizards so mired in the past in technological terms? It’s because they separate themselves from the general population and there aren’t enough of them to advance independently. You’ll note that wizard trading cards, and trains, and many other items are distorted copies of muggle innovations – probably brought in by muggle-born witches and wizards.

Why is Hogwarts basically a fortification anyway? And why does no one object to sending their kids to a boarding school for much of each year? A lot of parents like to see their kids more often than that! Is it because those rare magic-using kids who survive long enough to go to school are considered worth protecting in every way possible? Was Harry Potter fostered with muggles both to protect him from his enemies and to give him the best chance of making it to school age by suppressing his magic as much as possible?

Magical creatures – dragons, basilisks, phoenixes, giant spiders, and many more – are very hard to stop, even for Wizards. And they seem to have sustainable breeding populations – almost certainly outnumbering the magic-users, since they can’t adopt magically-active muggleborn children. With only a few thousand adult witches and wizards in Britain there aren’t enough witches and wizards to restrain them all, or to cover up something like a dragon attacking London – yet that kind of thing never seems to happen. In fact, dragons can be shipped to reservations and will stay there. Unicorns don’t wander off either. The Forbidden Forest is full of monsters, but they stay there instead of wandering off to terrorize the muggles.

So what confines them? No one seems to be actively doing it, so evidently there are some places where magical creatures can be put and where they will simply instinctively stay. Moreover, you don’t get muggles taking snapshots of them. Evidently the muggles know where to stay away from without being taught – in other words, by instinct. It looks like magical plants and creatures stay in magical areas unless forced to go elsewhere – while muggles stay out of magical areas unless forced into them.

And that’s how magic-users and magical creatures can stay out of the way. All they have to do is run off, confuse, divert, or kill the occasional really DETERMINED muggle, and they’re home free. They can be as lost as isolated as they wish (a small amount of high-level official contact – likely trading magical services for special considerations – is almost inevitable), even as the muggles utterly dominate the world.

That also tells us that once magic was far, FAR, more important, if only because it was far, far, more common in the population. Magic-users could deal with magical monsters, were the only effective sources of medicine, and were the only ones who could help in bad years. Any muggle child who showed signs of magical aptitude could expect to be sent to the magic-users for training.

But the world changed. The growth of technology made magic less of an advantage, provided a lot of the services that once only magic had been able to provide – and let the muggles take effective stands against both magical menaces and magic-users. From the timing… early firearms may have been the last straw for the age of magic. Now targets as much as resources, the magic-users fell back on the patches of enchanted land that the muggles instinctively shied away from, unknowingly purchasing safety for their adult population at the cost of exposing their magical children to far greater magical hazards and of abandoning many potential muggle-born recruits. The muggle population boomed, while the magic-user population… stayed static or declined, fell behind, and became almost irrelevant.

Today it’s become near-impossible to hide without the cooperation of the major governments. Sure, you might be able to throw up concealment spells to stop satellite surveillance – but would most magic-users even realize that it was necessary? Can you catch ALL the cell-phone videos before they get a million views on youtube?

Fortunately… that cooperation has been there for a long time. That was only “almost irrelevant”. When a muggle government or organization had a problem with a stray ghost, vampire, dementor, or similar horror, or needed something to keep a renegade magic-user from teleporting into their vault and making off with half their treasury, or some such… allowing small magical communities to do their own thing in exchange for occasional magical services looked like a pretty good deal.

And that’s how “3000″ gives us a world of small, hidden, villages who’s children are threatened by magical horrors, where secretive organizations and government agencies employ small cadres of magical agents in secret battles and missions, where a handful of heroes or villains can change the fate of the world, where it is near-useless to turn to the hidebound magical government or it’s ineffectual agencies (even if they aren’t part of the problem to start with), where wealth is gold, gems, and flickering electronic transactions, where wizard-gunslingers do battle with dark near-immortals (this isn’t a kids book; a few murders is a CHEAP price for coming back from death), where magic-user children who were never found and trained grow up to be poorly-controlled psychics and self-taught mystics, where occasional magical monsters sent into muggle areas must be caught and covered up, and where the occasional bit of magical espionage or theft leaves the common muggle authorities flummoxed and sends the handful of magic-users that deal with magical crimes in the muggle world running across the country.

OK, I think this world may have room for some player characters after all.

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