Point – Counterpoint: Magic Is too Common
Viri the Bard of Valiant has started a new series, Point – Counterpoint. Her first article takes the position that Magic Is too Common. My own veiwpoint is that the commonality or non-commonality of magic should be dependent on the setting and characters played.
Viri points out that in the D&D supplement Waterdeep, magic became so commonplace that it was sold in shops. That objection has merit if your character is a human thief. However, if you are playing in a Harry Potter-like setting, having magic available in shops that are only accessible by magical folks is completely reasonable.
I will agree with Viri, that the proliferation of magic makes it seems less “magical”. I watch the PITs playing Kingdom Hearts and I shudder to think of Donald Duck and Goofy as being magic users. My boys play in the online Pirates of the Caribbean game and again there are too many magical items available (that is my own opinion based on watching them play). The proliferation of magic in RPGs is a metaphorical arms race, “Mr. GM, why does her elf get a +3 bow of purity? My Gnome needs something at least that good.”
The way I and my fellow GM, Bill (he runs the weekly AD&D game) handle this is first make sure magical items are rewards by the PC’s deity, meaning that item CAN be taken away by that deity. Helping the deity’s agenda in unique way gains assistance. Hindering the deity’s agenda will have repercussions.
The second thing we do in any game we run is to determine if magic is even in the universe in question. In our Stargate game there is no magic, all “magic” is technological. In Necessary Evil, yes there is magic but it is rare. In our D&D games we follow the LOTR/CoN guidelines, there is magic but in needs to enhance game play for role-playing sake, not because it’s COOL.
The solution to common place magic is squarely in the hands of the GM. However it is incumbant on the GM to remember that is his/her job to find the balance between fun for their players and avoiding a Magical Arms Race.