Thursday, 4 April 2013

Noircana - a campaign toolkit?

Imagine a world where magic bleeds out raw, and infuses all within. Where arcane is mundane and lines between living and dead thin. A civilisation of sorcerers all the way up, from the newborn to gods that pass unseen, a landscape gone mad, and now MAD - with Mutual Assured Destruction.

Conventions, contracts and pacts abound, but out where the rules don't apply there's radicalism and exponential growth. Ever more subtle forms of power and means to exercise it. Mysteries in mysteries, but faint trails back to puppeteers for any who dare look, and know how - or can learn.

A world where wealth is redefined and anything really will be possible. If it isn't already...

This is one possible take on a project JD and I have been talking about here at his blog, The Disoriented Ranger. It's essentially a themed toolkit for tactical roleplaying*, but could also go beyond, into other game types too: imagine a wargame where units are unnecessary and battles fought with arcane power only, but orders of magnitude greater.

It started with JD's subsystem for personal magic weapons and my mind still on Read Magic. One of the major ideas we've been discussing is the near-universal magic item, formed naturally, and the concept of a magical signature unique to a particular source, and linked with that the idea of casters having a magical fingerprint and leaving it behind.

Not a noircrawl so much as a noircana to deepen a campaign, building on lesser-used spells like Detect Magic and maybe leading to whole new sets like those in Space-Age Sorcery. It plays to dark classics, but also more recent reference points like The Matrix and the so-called singularity. Hereticwerks and others already work with material like it.

For a GM, a noircane world might sound too complex to run, but it could be approached as a simple variant on a standard fantastical landscape. If you use magic now, you know how, and the noircane vibe can be turned up only as much as you feel comfortable with.

Sources of power could affect settlement patterns, as with springs, but GM and players could work that out together. Everyone's a user, but just as laws keep order with no magic, they could with: check your staff in at the town gates, no unsanctioned casting above a given level within the borders of the kingdom etc. Things would get done more subtly. Laboratories would be everywhere, new forms of magic would be developed and the world would be full of hidden depths and constantly changing. Hallucinogenic on the fringes, but relatively safe in the usual places, so long as people just keep their cool...

If you have any thoughts, it would be good to hear them - either here or over at JD's. If you want to join in, do. I'll have a simple system for those signatures ready to post soon.

* What's tactical roleplaying? There's a starter ruleset here.

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