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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

High Spirits: Magic in Braunstein!

Modern gaming has promoted the idea of magic as some impersonal force, like electricity, that can be harnessed and controlled for a variety of useful purposes.  However, actual history differs considerably here, seeing magic and witchcraft as summoning and binding spirits to service.  Braunstein! is a historical adventure game, so it assumes the latter case...

The Witch of Endor, Kassandra, and Propspero all worked magic by conjuring and commanding spirits.      

To keep things simple, spell-casters roll 1d6 to summon spirits, being anything from ghosts to demons (Christian) or animistic and elemental (pagan) entities.  This also represents the amount of personal LUCK the character uses, but likewise, the duration in rounds that such spirits actually linger.

Oh yeah, and spirits perform at twice normal human capacity for feats of strength and intellect, etc.

Is this limited as compared to traditional systems?  Certainly, given that most games feature overtly powerful effects of an almost divine nature at times.  But commanding spirits, in all its simplicity, still produces a wide variety of powerful and useful effects in demand by most adventurers...   

Spirits may be commanded to do any of the following and much more, on behalf of the summoner:

(1) Answer obscure questions.  This is divination in its simplest form, and because spirits operate at twice human ability, they actually possess quite a bit of this and travel through realms most humans never glimpse.  So enough said here...

(2) Carry the magician (and their equipment) across a 50' wide ravine or similar obstacle.  They are spirits, after all, levitating and having the physical strength to carry perhaps even two such characters with quickness and ease.

(3) Smash open a locked door or, possibly, move through walls to open a door barred from the other side.  One can imagine a sorcerer being employed in a castle siege or similar event.

(4) Strike with great accuracy, automatically scoring 1 hit of damage per round against a single target within range; representing sorcery and witchcraft in the classic sense.

Obviously, there are many more possible...

Historically, magicians conjured and commanded 
powerful spirits to work magic, and Brausntein! takes this approach...

Such power has its risks, however, as players might roll more duration and/or LUCK cost than ever needed.  Sure, you open that heavy iron door, but now you're drained and vulnerable.  This applies to combat as well, where murdering enemies comes at a hefty personal price.  These are the dark arts, after all!

Of course, Braunstein! allows players to spend LUCK improving various die rolls, expanding both the duration and killing power of magical attacks where needed, however, this is even more draining and requires some very hard choices...

This approach is distinctly historical, as this is how magic was conceived.  But it also speaks to that age old question of how anyone could capture, much less contain and roast at the steak, genuine witches and warlocks!  Obviously, these sorcerers, although magically gifted, were nonetheless still limited and probably couldn't regenerate LUCK under constant torture.

Braunstein! is a historical game with an optional magic system, historically sound and suitably understated.  As a literal footnote on the last page of its slim (18-page) rulebook, it nonetheless provides the framework for a surprisingly varied system...   

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