Magic in Echoes is meant to be strange and dangerous. I want to recapture a bit more of the spirit of Vancian magic – each spell is a strange entity, seared into the mind and unleashed into the world, not just a dusty formula dutifully memorized each morning in triplicate.
These are my first cut at basic moves around the arcane and the divine. Like the fighting move before, these are only the basics – anyone can be caught in a frantic scrabble with a monster, or accidentally (or intentionally) read a spell, or beg the gods to intervene. Class playbooks would have improved modes of action – fighters taking the fight to monsters, wizards preparing spells, clerics channeling divine miracles – but everyone can fall back on some dangerous basics.
I’ve gone back and forth on whether a high-mortality game of repeating character instances needs the rigorous dispassion of the ideal old school referee, or the player action focus of PbtA moves. I think the case can be made made either way, but this time I’m interested in playing with the move structure. So here are some basic moves for a game that tries very hard to kill characters.
It crept through the land slowly, like a cancer, eating away what it could before anyone noticed. Barrows with an extra room, then caves that went deeper, into caverns no one knew was there. By the time the first… things… crept out in the darkness and began taking, it was too late.
The local princelings sent soldiers, at first, but they quickly learned to stay out of the Delves. Now hastily constructed keeps dot a new borderland, and good folk flee, those who can, anyway.
But some folk have found themselves called by a quiet voice, and by unknown arrangement find themselves standing with total strangers at the mouth of something possibly worse than hell. Sword, or wand, or holy symbol, or lock picks in hand, they stride in, boldly, to certain death, each man and woman of them.
And the next night, when the moon hides its face, rather than look upon the creeping doom of the world, they find themselves meeting old comrades, changed somewhat, and they step cautiously in, knowing that their first death awaits them again, and wondering what will be their second.
I occasionally wonder how D&D would run using Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, either played “straight” or as Chuubo-verse kids engaging in some kind of bizarre “field trip”. Should a dungeon be pastoral or road of trials? Which is more techno, spelljamming or Sigil? Is spending treasure in the downtime between adventures an Obsessive action, or a Ritual?
On the topic of other online discussions of D&D-centric theory, this was an interesting breakdown of styles or flavors of D&D, partially correlated to editions, that have come up over the years. Like all broad categorizations, there’s sure to be some over-generalization, and lots of fun things in the interstices. There’s undoubtedly some interesting examinations of the causes and effects between emerging and evolving styles of playing D&D, and changes to editions, though I’ll leave that to people who actually know something.