Tag Archives: mage: the awakening

Game Magic (Looking for Image Sources, Post # 2)

One of the topics at the heart of my forthcoming book, Game Magic, is the underlying logical flow of a magic system. Developing a magic system requires the designer to be able to express precisely the sequence of processes that a player must perform to cast a spell. Does the player need ingredients to cast a spell? Do they perform gestures or recite incantations? Will the spell draw energy from a mana pool? What happens if the player overspends mana? The answers to all of these questions can often be most effectively represented in a flow chart, which displays visually the branching logic, feedback loops, and input-output relationships of a complex system.

The two images below are excellent examples of flowcharts that clearly communicate the complex, sophisticated, and flexible logic of spellcasting in the tabletop role-playing game Mage: The Awakening (part of White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe).  I would love to reproduce these charts in my book.  The only problem is, I can’t find contact information for the charts’ creators.  True to the mysterious universe of World of Darkness, these authors have disappeared in a labyrinth of dead links and untraceable aliases.

Here are the clues that I have. A credit on the first chart reads, “This chart was created by Angelus Michaels of Morningstar Studios.  It is available on Liber Noctus. and copies found elsewhere are taken without permission. www.geniocracy.net/libernotus.ht”  Liber Noctus appears to have been a fan site for World of Darkness, but its host domain (geniocracy) now directs to a Raelian website.  (The Raelians are a religion based on belief in UFO’s.  While they are right at home in this trail of clues, they have nothing to do with the Mage chart.  These are not the droids I’m looking for).

Searches for Angelus Michaels and Morningstar Studios are equally fruitless, despite the intriguing Luciferian reference in Morningstar.

The plot thickens with a second, remastered version of the chart.  The credit on this version reads “Original Flowchart by Angelica M. of Morningstar Studios.  Flowchart remastered and remade by Dianna. A.V.”  The chart is visually crisper and easier to read, but the trail of its origins is murkier.  Angelus Michaels has become Angelica M.  The mysterious figure Dianna has been introduced, evoking echoes of Agent Dale Cooper’s tape recorder, followed by the abbreviation “A.V.”  Are these the initials of a username or alias?  A Latin abbreviation?  An allusion to the WoD universe?  I’m not sure.

At any rate, I would love to use these flowcharts in my book.  They are great illustrations of rigorously representing the logic of a complex magic system.  But I don’t have contact information for either Angelus Michaels/Angelica M. or Dianna. There are a few forum threads that link to these charts, so I will continue to investigate through those channels, as well as doing more web research.  But, if you are one of the creators of these charts, or you have an idea as to how they could be contacted, please post a comment and let me know. Thanks!

Magic Systems and Meaningful Scripting

Runes in Eternal Darkness

Runes in the Magic System of Eternal Darkness

One of my next projects will be an article comparing the magic systems of various games, both conceptually and in terms of their underlying quantitative mechanics, as one example of how interactive symbolism can be programmed. As readers of Quests know, I regard programming as a form of procedural, interactive writing, which unfolds according to a set of rules that both constrain and facilitate player actions and interpretations. For example, the magic systems of role-playing games (tabletop, single-player, and MMO) comprise rigorous, quantitative rules for altering the physical and sometimes mental reality of a particular game world. Because these systems often involve glyphs, runes, and incantations, there are opportunities to encode meaning into a core game mechanic, as in the tabletop game Mage: The Awakening or the elaborate cosmology of Eternal Darkness.

Questions for research include:

  • How have different table-top RPG’s, CRPG’S, action-adventure games, and MMO’s implemented magic systems?
  • What are the origins of magic systems in fantasy novels? For example, the convention of having magic users memorize spells that are then erased from their memory after being cast derives from Fritz Leiber, but not from Tolkien (who eschewed direct references to the concept of magic in his work).
  • What is the relationship between game systems of magic and real occultist systems? (This treads on difficult ground, because of many gamers’ understandable discomfort with the association by fundamentalists of Dungeons and Dragons with black magic. However, Gary Gygax himself encouraged dungeon masters to consult encyclopedias of the occult as reference works, and Silicon Knights did thorough research into actual historical arcane systems in order to build the elaborate spell-casting system of Eternal Darkness. The table-top role-playing systems Nephilim and Mage: The Awakening both embrace mystical lore as metaphors explored through their game mechanics.)
  • Most importantly, as relates to programming practice:
  1. How did the World of Darkness mod (WoDMod) script the magic system of the Mage tabletop game into Vampire: The Masquerade Redemption?
  2. How do custom NWN scripters make their own spells?
  3. How could we as designers learn from past design of magic systems in order to make our own games’ magic systems both more fun and metaphorically resonant, so that we invest this aspect of fantasy with all its potential for symbolism rather than reducing it to the glitz and glamor of flashy visual effects without substance?