Posted in Uncategorized

Mages Are Radios: Tuning In To Magic Frequencies

Here’s a quick setting and magic system for a rules-light game like Fate Core or Fate Accelerated.

In a nutshell, there are spirits in various towns or islands that emit unique magical frequencies, and mages are like radios, able to tune into those frequencies.

The game is set on an archipelago where each island has a genius loci (spirit of the place) that emits a magical frequency of a particular type (fire, water, birds, the dead, illusions, strength, etc.).  Mages are attuned to the island spirit from where they were born. That spirit’s frequency is strong even when the mage travels far away from their birth island.

Usually, however, the closer a mage gets to an island spirit, the more easily they can tune in to its magical frequency. Island spirits each have a token: an item, substance or ritual that acts like an antenna for mages. Use the token and the mage can access the spirit’s signal even from afar.

This creates cool quest fodder for mages. Say a mage is born on a water-attuned island and then travels to the island of a fire spirit. All the local mages on that island have some sort of fire power and the animals and environment are even attuned to the local spirit. And in comes the water mage, able to strongly access water (though not as strongly as at home). She might be feared or hated or an object of fascination on the fire island.

Add to that the spirit quest: if water mage could be there seeking out the fire spirit’s token. Obviously that is a quest in itself. If they gain the token, then they gain fire power. Which could be useful in their travels. It could also let them make steam, by combining their powers.

You could even add to this the idea that spirits can commune with attuned mages. What if all the ice-attuned mages suddenly felt compelled to journey back to the frozen island to witness a great event that they don’t yet understand.

Islands in between other island have an overlap of powers too. So, maybe not every island has a powerful spirit, and a small island between the fire and water islands is ruled by a small steam spirit.

Finally, the technology of the setting: with the analogy of spirits and mages being like frequencies and radios, it makes sense that radios would exist in the setting itself. I imagine dirigibles in a Lady Blackbird sort of setting, tuning the ship’s radio into distress calls, weather forecasts, even spirit forecast with islands moving like planets: “Vulcanus is moving in toward the Elysian island. Beware of high fire danger in the surrounding areas”.

This is  just an idea I came up with organically, but I think there’s potential here. Feel free to use the ideas and if you do, I’d love to hear about it.

Posted in Musings

X-Mage: Magic as Mutation

In some settings magic is treated as an inherited or natural ability. What if we took this idea further and called ‘magical ability’ a mutation? In X-Men: First Class, Xavier talks about Neanderthals who saw Homosapiens as mutants but were wiped out by these more evolved kin. Accurate or not, this idea intrigued me. Much like the mutants in X-Men, spellcasters and mages are often feared for their power and because they are ‘other’. Let’s look at a fantasy world where mages are not just the ‘other’ but are the next step in human evolution.

In this world magic is a mutation and it carries with it a heavy stigma. Mages usually develop their abilities, often a single supernatural trait or a related set of powers, at a young age. Unless brought up with other mages – which is uncommon, as the inheritance of these powers is not predictable – a developing mage has nothing to work with, no indication that anyone else in the world is like them.

Parents often disown children showing the mutation and sometimes young mages accidentally kill their parents while trying to come to grips with their powers. Even those with non-destructive powers often unnerve their family, friends and neighbours enough that they can never stay in the same place for long.

Mages often use their powers to make a hard living, stealing and intimidating others, leading low lives scraping to survive. In this world there are no established magic academies, magical tomes or magical weapons. There are mythic stories, but there is no true heritage or history of magic.

“Normal” humans don’t understand these powers or their wielders. Regular folk usually react with fear, anger or both when confronted with a mage’s power. Mages are ostracised and most feel very much alone. Governments and high-level organisations see mages as living weapons and incredible threats… or tools. Mages are hunted and killed, all discreetly, while useful mages that appear controllable are used to fight wars and capture and kill their own: one of the only times mages realise there are others like themselves out there.

Mages sometimes become aware of the existence of others of their kind. In some instances this leads to rivalries: short and violent or long and smouldering. In some rare cases the mages band together and rise up against the humans that fear them and have made them outcasts.

One way to begin a campaign in this world is to start on the precipice of the rise of mages. Some intelligent, charismatic individual has discovered other mages and has seen the injustice that their superior kind is relegated to a hunted second class forced into hiding. This leader speaks of an uprising, speaks of mages not as abominations but as the next step in human evolution. What happens when humans realise that evolution is leaving them behind?

Another idea, that could go hand-in-hand with the above, is the first Mage Academy. Operating in secret this school is intended to bring mages together and help them harness their power to be used for good, with the ultimate goal of coexistence with regular humans.

Can these mages struggle against the oppressive, fearful governments and people who mark them as demons. Can these heroes painted as villains save those who would see them wiped off the face of the world? Can they change the hearts and minds of humanity? And can they do it while the other faction of mages who speak of progress and evolution tarnishes their good works with their acts of terrorism and leads some of their most powerful members astray?

Can homo arcanum and homo sapiens co-exist? Or is one destined to disappear forever?