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That Old Black Magic

Rutaq of the Broken Skull

My gaming group and I have been playing in a very different campaign world, experiencing a very different sort of campaign. Whereas we are normally in a high-magic world where magic items are not that hard to come by, we are a group without much punch in the magic department. In fact, aside from our cleric, the only magic-using cohort is a sorcerous NPC. As I have reflected over the campaign, I have been thinking about the concept of magic in modules and persistent world settings.

I know there is a good mix of world-views out there on magic. Some worlds want to keep magic items to a minimum, though characters are not limited in any way, save for those towns that want to discourage magery. Some worlds are intent on high magic, as it seems to permeate the fabric of the world they have devised. I am split on the issue and will be very interested to read your ideas on this subject. Here is how I am digesting this issue at current.

If your module, campaign or world is going to have a high magic level - in other words, if your PCs will fight a large number of NPC mages, priests and aberrant magical creatures - then you should make sure your players are given ample chances to obtain a fair arsenal of magical devices. My reasoning comes from our latest adventures - we have been primarily fighting goblinoids and such, a few odd underdark monsters here and there, and they have been of a level adequate to our party. However, with only minimal casting ability and few magical devices in the group, we are coming to understand that even low-level spells can present big problems.

If such a low-magic adventure is what you have planned for your playthings…er…players, then you don't need very much magic at all and can make use of a great deal of specially-crafted items or really make mages stand out beyond their normal complement to an adventuring party.

In either setting, if you want to avoid the dreaded "Monty Haul" pitfall that many DMs fall victim to, make your magic personal. Add fewer wands and relics to the game and add items that grant specific feats, combat skills, skill enhancements and personal protective devices.

Whatever the case, make some historical sense in your setting for the boon or bane of magical energy. If you have a magic-rich environment, make sure your players understand why magic is so prevalent. For low-magic areas, do the reverse. Trust me, telling the players that your world just doesn't have many magic items because you don't want magic abused is not going to go over well. Devise, and further, reiterate through hooks and small scenarios, the role of magic in your adventure imaginings.

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