What Do You Mean There is No Magic? Broadening Horizons Through Narrowing Choice

Today, we’re going to talk about how the absence of certain elements can define a setting as much as their inclusion. You might find this something odd for me to be discussing as the setting I design are often an amalgam of other things. RunePunk has magic, miracles, and technology. Iron Dynasty has magic, miracles, and technology. For the record, they are really nothing alike. Let’s look at RunePunk. While the setting is a sprawling, post-apocalyptic fantasy with lots of races, there is only one god who is answering, Umbriel, The Lady of Twlight. By restricting the pantheon to one, a goddess who is neither particularly good or evil, changes the complexion of the game with this choice which ripples throughout the setting. She is symbolic and reflective of ScatterPoint where most people, even the jobbers to some extent, by selfishness. Were other gods about to gift their disciples with power, many players and GMs might not give dear, shadowy Umbriel a second glance.

Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin has a complete absence of the Celestials, the greater gods, though kami still abound for those who can communicate with them. These raises many questions. In a world where the greater gods once imbued their followers with power, where have they gone? Furthermore, the makoto, those pure souls who can communicate with the kami, cannot heal. The ganso, the rising inventor class, on the other hand, can certainly heal. This suggest the gods have left there followers to their own devices, at least for a time. Or, possibly, could they be waning in power? By restricting the priest from the “has healing camp”, the texture of the setting changes in a subtle way. People are not so ready to automatically play a priest, instead being more inclined to play a ganso. Manipulating the rules in such a manner can drive players to go in directions the designer sets forth, rather than heavy-handedly allowing (or disallowing) a certain archetype.

There are numerous other examples out there, but I thought I’d let you chew this on a little bit[1. I have another I’ll bring up later on this week, in fact.]. What some may consider an omission may often be a deliberate choice upon the designer’s part. I know it is on mine.

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu.

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