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So, I don't normally make threads on discussion boards, but I have had this idea knocking around in my decrepit and not very well lit pile of mush known as a brain. These will probably sound like dumb questions, but what is fate, magic, and the gods, in the context of fantasy? I've seen these ideas used to do everyting from explain phenomena, provide escapism, or as simple literary devices. But what do you guys think? What do you guys think of when you hear these words used in the context of a fantasy setting? These have been common elements in stories since language was a thing, in all parts of the world, in all kinds of different ways, and they are always big in fantastic stories.
Why are people attracted enough to these concepts and ideas to keep using them over and over again? What's the appeal, where's the draw? I mean, it isn't like I don't have my own reasons for liking these things, but for being nothing more than mental constructs these ideas have managed to find and solidify a hold in human thinking from inception, and while I generally think of myself as pretty smart, I don't think that my reasons are sufficient enough to speak to generations of people that have also enjoyed talking about and playing with these concepts. I want to hear everyone's thoughts on this, and if you just want to tackle one idea or all three, feel free to go for it. While I'm asking this for fun, sure, I want to get some more info and ideas on this because I think understanding this phenomenon better will help make me a better DM, since this is kind of pertinent to the game. Thanks in advance.
Edit: I will try and keep from responding until there are a at least a couple pages' worth of posts. Also, even though I am generally argumentative, I will be keeping that to a minimum in this thread, if I engage in it at all, My purpose here is primarily information. I may ask people to expound or elaborate though. Polite disagreement is of course allowed and respected as always. If you think you can provide a counter-point to someone's ideas, please be ready to do so with evidence and a cool head. As Nietszche says, those who can't put their thoughts on ice shouldn't enter into the heat of debate. If I feel like there is so much debating (regardless of how constructive it is) that it is getting in the way of my primary purpose, I may issue a gentle reminder that the purpose of this thread is information. Again, thanks in advance.
Fate and the Gods put me in the mind of the Qunari from Dragon Age, they have a purpose, they understand that purpose, almost from the moment they are born, they are never lost.
Frankly I'd be keen for some of that. Fate gives us hope that no matter what, we were meant to be somewhere, be what we are, and that let's us push our failings onto an external force.
Gods give us hope that something out there actually gives a damn what we do, that we exist in more than our body, but have a place to go to after, if we work hard enough to get on a Gods good side.
Magic is the same as wanting a wish, we want the power to change things, another thing many of us lack, we feel stuck and helpless, or powerless.
I read books because I see those things and it makes me feel... stuff. Gooey stuff.
Lets see...fate...fate is a funny thing in games. Some people like it and some people hate it when it's invoked. I, personally, am not big on fate in games yet I am big on having fate mentioned in my world because people are big on fate. Hence, it makes sense for people in my world to talk about fate all the time depending on their religion, etc. I even make a point to have prophets sometimes make major sweeping predictions that turn out to be untrue. In my game, the players know that not even the gods themselves can predict the future. Of course, the gods have access to a much wider range of information so they can seem as if they know the future but in reality they are just revealing otherwise unknown information.
Fate is a fickle mistress...it can easily be placed on someone's shoulders with the glory of Supermans cape or with the weight of a shackled stone. However, those results are from the people in the campaign world...not from an invisible hand guiding everything. This is going to be coming up in my own game soon, I imagine, as one of my players is going to find themselves the center of a attention regarding an old prophecy entangled with a weapon they recently recovered and went out of their way to purify and inquire about. This is going to put a lot of church attention on him (he's a paladin himself that is also devoted to a major god) for good or for ill. So the theme of fate, destiny and all that jazz along with duty (the constant theme of a paladins life) will be knocking pretty heavily at his door.
In general, fate is there to be fulfilled or bucked...it plugs a person into a "larger plan" or they get to jam a wrench into those gears. That is what people latch onto. It is the ultimate influence because it is a MAJOR choice...and D&D is all about choices. It is the ability to step up and say "Yes, I am capable of fulfilling this monumental thing" or "No, I am capable of making sure this thing DOES NOT happen". That right there is a player throwing their weight around and it is very gratifying indeed. After all, in fiction we wait, as an audience, with baited breath when the moment of "fate" comes and we are eager to see if it is fulfilled or derailed...and either outcome is potentially awesome.
Magic on the other hand has always seemed like the ultimate science to me. Magic is a thing unto itself like music or mathematics that exists as if waiting to be uncovered...and so often it just seems like if we could just understand how to uncover it we could have that power right at our fingertips. That is the appeal of magic that I've always seen. Magic is that thread woven through regular life that, if we just squinted hard enough, we could see and grasp. It is a mystery but it is one that is understood to be conceivable...old sages and young savants have mastered it, again like music, but to the layman it remains completely out of their grasp. They can appreciate it on a visceral level...they can wonder at its majesty and artistry...but they have no way to conceive of HOW it comes together into existence.
In my campaign setting, magic IS a science alongside engineering and the like. It is also an artform. I have a system for magic in the game that has it explained and codified (more or less) and it's that system-like approach that makes things like magic academies and spellbooks necessary. Students have to learn the proper sequences of runes and be able to fully realize, memorize and compartmentalize those sequences in their minds. It has to become reflex-memory like playing a song without looking at music and without actively thinking of the notes. Wizards use their spellbooks like a musicians notes...they keep their known spells in there so they can reference them because of the absolute precision involved. This has had good results in-game because it means the player playing an arcane spellcaster is explained how things work...while the other players generally can't be bothered to have that extra info crammed into their head. The magic player themself feels like they have an understanding the others don't and it draws them further into their studies. It also gives GREAT material for NPC interactions. On the flipside, the divine casters are gifted their miracles (I don't call them spells) by their gods or divine source and there is no explaination needed or asked...they are given it because of their faith. There is no science to it (even though in the context of the world I have it explained) and there is no formula...it is merely a blessing with nothing else required. In this way, it "feels" more like the power of faith since faith doesn't need to be dissected academically...and in this way BOTH the arcane and divine spellcasters at the table feel like they (or at least their characters) have a deeper understanding of something that the others do not.
The gods are, in a game, two things...the ultimate parental force and the ultimate adversary. Having gods means there is someone whose approval a player can meet on the highest level...it also means there are evil gods that players can oppose at the highest level. This is very satisfying indeed because its mucking about on the grandest stage. Might you be a bit player, sure! But you're not a part of the audience! I'll have to expand on this a bit but...well, I'll let this all simmer.
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