Tuesday, 25 August 2009

spare me: ye olde magick shoppe?

An oft-repeated 'requirement' of certain fantasy games, the magic shop greets those with excess coin to burn with the cheery glow of pixellated candles and the promise of kewl powerz out of the necessity of explanation from computer RPGs. Lame and lamented, the presence of 'ye olde magick shoppe' makes it convenient to gain items of power essential to continued survival of your character. Convenient and cheesy.

Think carefully. Going down this route is making magic a commodity with all it implies. I have no problems with the cunning magician making an enchanted weapon for a hero. What I object to is his selling it onto the inscrutable shopkeeper. What kind of relationship exists between the two that making a magic item becomes commonplace enough to become a stock commodity; can you imagine the shopkeeper shouting about the fact his magic swords are selling like hotcakes?

And when did a magical sword become cheap or obsolete? Free Excalibur with every kingdom? "Ah but!" the objectors cry. There's time-honoured traditions behind these things. Making the magic sword obsolete first appears in Beowulf (book only) when Beowulf shatters his sword on the hide of Grendel's mother and it forces him to use the shiny magical sword in her hoard which then melts due to her blood. Spring that on a player sometime and see what happens. :-)

So no room for Ollivander then? In the right setting, yes. Most heroic fantasy treats magic with a bit more... mystery. Shopping isn't heroic (even for magic swords) yet. Being given weapons by a mysterious benefactor (including your father-in-law) or the Gods to perform deeds is. Maybe having to do the hard work first is much more appropriate don't you think? Of course this may give your game a bit more of a mythic quality than McMagics.

Convenient and cheesy. Something you want in your game? Spare me!

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