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Author Topic: What Makes Rare Magic Rare?  (Read 2583 times)

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Offline Mourngrymn

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« on: October 31, 2005, 03:06:24 PM »
I appologize for the uninformed title of this thread but I really do not know where to start this thought. We are always putting up items of magic that are unique and powerful. Shocking in their concept yet always made in a world where magic is either in abundance or heavy enough to warrant a larger supply of items.

So I ask, in a world where there is a limit on magic. They have lost the formulas to create new magic items. How do you determine what the difference between a common magic item and a rare magic item when in fact they are all rare. Some just more so than others?

So what type of magic abilities would these less than stellar items have? I am not speaking of say, my Noose of Redemption or my Stonekin rings. Basic magic properties. Your assistance on this will be profoundly helpful. I am sure there are much more, I just thought of this.

Basic Magic Properties
Creates Light
Creates Darkness
Alters Vision - ability to see in the dark, etc.
Alters Speach - ability to speak or understand unknown languages.
Alters Stats - alters the characters attributes moderately. Nothing profound.
Creates Flames - wreathed in flames, shoots flames, does burning damage.
Encased in Cold - wreathed in ice, shoots or projects cold, does cold damage.
Increase Defense - increases wearer/ weilders defense/ armor rating.
Increase Speed - increase movement rate.
Heals - heals moderately, regenerates wounds, etc.
Creates Energy - shoots or projects energy (lightning), encased in energy, does energy damage.
Increase Combat Abilities - increase initiative, combat bonuses, damage, etc.
Cause Invisibility - wearer/ weilder can become invisible, affect others with touch, etc.
Alters Appearance - change the visual appearance of the wearer/ weilder.\
Fly - the weilder/ wearer can fly at moderate speeds.
Indentify - usually items that can identify magic, potions, effects, spells, etc.
Alter Size - alters the size of the wearer/ weilder or by touch smaller or larger.
Sonic - projects sonic damage.
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Offline Pariah

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2005, 09:27:50 PM »
I don't really know, but I'd think that in a world where magic knowlege has been lost the items with the flashier effects would be the most saught after.  I mean, it might be a sword -27 BUT it wraps you in flames and thus strikes terror into the hearts of your enemies.  In a world where the knowlege has been lost it isn't the effect the magic has on the world, its the effect it has one the people.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2005, 11:24:24 PM »
I don't think that there should be basic magic properties. Personally, all my items are made for a world such as you imagine, where most magic items are the creations of long-lost magic or the demonic aid.

I think that "basic abilities" is too clinical. Magic items should be so rare that their abilities are on a case-by-case basis.
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Offline Mourngrymn

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2005, 07:54:37 AM »
True CP, and to an extent I agree with you. But I started thinking last night while I was trying to fall asleep.

In a time when magic was abundant, the era of 1000 magics, it was probably very common to have apprentices create magic items, whether for progression or to practice their skills. These items would be of mundane properties of course being that they were made from the unskilled and untrained.

Now jump to reality. Think of our technology. Technology is a form of magic, its the fourth magic to be exact. Think of all the inventions out there today and over the past 50 years. All the infomercials you see with mudane crap that people make that only a few people buy. Why would their not be magic to fit that need as well?

So I guess, my question should be more geared to this. Should I make magic so rare in fact that there are no mundane items and only the items of such unique ability that they are even more rare due to the rich and powerful collectors? Or should their be the cast aways, as such, that are still sought after but only because they can never be duplicated. At least not yet. I don't want to flood the world with magic items no matter how mundane they are, but I don't want it to the point where the only way anyone would see one is to visit a nobles house or come into contact with their nemesis, who has such items and they do not.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2005, 05:31:40 PM »
Quote
So I guess, my question should be more geared to this. Should I make magic so rare in fact that there are no mundane items and only the items of such unique ability that they are even more rare due to the rich and powerful collectors?


This is what I advocate. In my worlds, even items having the "stock abilities" you made up would be considered unique and powerful.

Or, you could take this sort of approach... Think of relics during the medieval Christian period. Relics were items of faith, generally a portion of a saint's body or a holy object associated with a miracle (for instance, the Shroud of Turin, if it is genuine, and the spars of the True Cross). They were kept in cathedrals, in holy sepulchres. The faithful would make pilgrimages of hundreds of miles to simply see one of these relics. There was also a very thriving black market in "holy objects"- fake relics sold to cities which were looking for a boost in visitors, the bones of made-up saints sold to wealthy knights, peices of wood labeled as a piece of the True Cross or Noah's Ark.
With a little tweaking, you could put magic items in a similar situation.
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Offline Mourngrymn

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2005, 09:13:40 AM »
So how would you come up with a finate list of items that can be used and found?

I mean I really don't want to have ten pages of nothing but magic items in my manual listed as those being the ONLY ones in the world.
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Offline Strolen

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2005, 09:37:33 AM »
I think the problem is trying to categorize things to distinctly.

First, the question that kept popping in my head was, "Well, what is the magic system in your world?"

I think that is a basic question. If it is DnD then it doesn't matter, magic is magic and things just are. But if you are delving into the question of what makes magic rare, then you need to know the system on which it is based.

I always like the magic that requires a physical substance that is finite. In the old days there was lots, now not so much. So new items are very rare, but old ones can pop up from time to time and are jealously guarded.

If it some mystic force then knowing how it works will help you limit it. Ley lines can be disrupted, natural disasters can ruin natural magic hot spots, stuff like that. The rare could become ultrarare in those cases.

I always think most people take the easy way. So if magic is easy and plentiful, then there is alot. If it is plentiful but hard, the pull of power will still make it pretty popular. If it is rare and hard only the most hardcore will go after it.

And as far as a 'list' of magic items. I dislike the convention of lists and specific magics. The homebrew games I did run, magic was simply a source. They had their "favorite" things they could do with it but it was very freeform using the magic for the situation. It is more fun when you don't have a list of spells or magic properties to work off of, you can get much more fun and creative with it all...as long as you have a solid idea on what the nature of your magic is.

I guess none of that actually answers your initial question though. What effects should minor magic have? Your list seems to mainstream too me. I would think the common magic would evolve to be more helpful in day to day tasks then it would be used in combat.

Make the common magics:

Revive dead plant
Resist cold (very minor for working outside)
Create Light (minor, enough for reading)
Secure Door (want to be safe right?)
Area of Alert (alerts you to intruder when camping)
Create Mead (probably pretty popular)
Location Magic (misc stuff to find other locations without a map - made me think of a magic item I might create)
Mend clothing
Groom Horse (or other animal)
Clean something (or resist dirt)

You know, stuff that minor royalty might be able to afford. Not all magic is made for the adventurer. Anyting useful to an adventurer should be rare. Stuff useful to nobility or rich merchants would be the common stuff.

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Offline Nobody

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2005, 10:16:43 AM »
The best way to come up with a finite list, is to base it off of a monatary system. For example, you could get rid of all items worth 5000 or more in the old days, then multiply the value of those remaining items so that the ones that used to be 4,999 now cost 4,999,000 (just for simplicity). A nice factor of a thousand would really separate good from bad. Then it is a simple matter of creating your price table.

 Now, when ever you would normally give the characters a 5000 priced item, you give them what used to be a 5 priced item instead. Real simple. Also you should figure out a progression of what magic went first. Then by that you can multiply or divide values as you see fit. There might be a lot of fire items out there, but almost no invisibility items. You could cut fire by three or four, and multiply invisibility by five or six.

 Again, simple
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Offline Mourngrymn

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What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2005, 11:36:15 AM »
Thanks Nobody, but thats to much math. I was just looking for something simple. :) But the cost idea may work with some tweeking.

Strolen, that is a hard question to answer as the way magic works now is different from when it worked when they could still create magic items. The best term I can tell you is when they were able to create items it was a time of 1000 magics, cliche but useable. There were literally many different types of magic. Now it is all elemental magic based off of a spell crystal.

I think having a small list perhaps of properties would work best. Then a probability of items with multiple properties being unique.
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Offline Murometz

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Re: What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2008, 05:29:20 PM »
Bump. Interesting thread.
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Offline Kinslayer

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Re: What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2008, 04:55:51 PM »
I agree, it is interesting, enough so to warrant some thread necromancy. 

To build upon what Pariah & CaptainPenguin stated, I would handle things this way:  if you want things rare, make the good stuff so rare as to not exist. 

The only magic items that players will ever get their hands on will be the very minor, very specific, or very cursed.  A minor item would be a box that magically trims nails--just insert your hand or foot & the box manicures them.  A very specific item would be a shower head that both cleaned & beautified its original owner--unfortunately it was only 'programmed' for a single look, and the pc's aren't going to be her size or shape.  End result: make-up in your eye, in old-lady colours.  The cursed item in this theme is a compact mirror that applies whatever look is desired upon whomever uses it--it takes the image from your mind's eye & applies it externally.  It is also waterproof & smudge-proof.  Even alcohol doesn't dissolve it, so no more unsightly lipstick on glasses. Unfortunately, the magical make-up does its job too well.  It prevents the face from being altered in any way, such as showing expressions or even opening your mouth to eat... or scream...  As the make-up is unremoveable, your only way to change the set look is to use the compact again, further caking it on your frozen skin.

Anything of general utility, or that wasn't horribly screwed up, would be found only in myths.  The jade bird that sang beautiful lullabies was lost 300 years ago, the one that only plays the same bar over and over and over is still available, as is the jade bird that only makes crude jokes about your mother. 

Even something as simple as a glowing orb or a +1 dagger would be a marvel unknown to the 'modern' game world.  For added fun, make items unique--even if they were once mass-produced.  This limits their utility by clever players. 
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Offline Cheka Man

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Re: What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2008, 12:55:30 PM »
Maybe there are only a few magical areas on the planet, and too much casting could destroy these areas.

Offline Kinslayer

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Re: What Makes Rare Magic Rare?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2008, 04:54:48 PM »
That is similar to the path taken in Gurps Technomancer.  It is a modern earth setting where magic was brought back by the first test of the atomic bomb.  Too much magic in an area can use up all of the mana, or (more likely) aspect it in a negative way--killing a bunch of people via sorcery aspects that area to necromancy.  Further nuclear blasts unleash Hellstorm Events which are vast dangerous areas of uncontrolled power, with the second such exponentially greater than the first. Current thaumaturgic thinking is that any additional blast will weaken the magic field enough to destroy the world.  Even a nuclear reactor must have more shielding against magical forces than radioactive--each can act as a portal to Hell. 
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