Monday, July 22, 2013

Cantrip Town

At The 9 and 30 Kingdoms, there's an ongoing discussion of classless magic use, prompted by Talysman's proposal of a system where any character has the potential to cast a spell, provided they have access to spellbooks, scrolls and instruction.

Charles Angus pointed out that this might fundamentally change the nature of the setting, now that every barmaid can cast clean and any huntsman can throw down a goodberry.

Talysman's response was that the opportunity to learn magic doesn't necessarily have to be widely available, even if the potential is - magic can be hoarded, spellbook creation is expensive, and those who hold power are not likely to share it.

But, what if the fact that most people have access to cantrips and 1st-level spells didn't necessarily lead to them using them all the time?

Almost every setting posits the existence of powerful magical beasts, which could (and do) destroy towns and hamlets basically at will. Small villages are too far-flung for the local lord to provide the martial force necessary to defend them, and any ramshackle militia is going to get annihilated by the dragon or the necromantic cult.

Perhaps the villagers use their minor magical abilities to protect themselves, by building up wards and circles to protect themselves. Maintaining these is a daily ritual, and far more important than simply keeping a clean bar, or repairing a sprained ankle. Allowing villagers this sort of magical power has historical precedent, as well - in this conception of potential magic, throwing salt over your shoulder isn't just a superstition, it's an actual minor hex, which actually makes the house slightly safer against daemonic assault.

Perhaps much host of commonly described vampiric weaknesses - garlic, inability to enter a house uninvited - are not natural conditions of vampirism, but universally applied orisons that anybody knows to cast. This could also account for cultural differentiation in monster weaknesses - the Chinese vampire actually is the same vampire, but faces a culturally distinct set of hexes and charms.