Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unique scrolls in fantasy RPGs

I never was too keen on generic magic items, to the point that I ended up running a low-magic fantasy campaign specifically to get away from them. Ring of invisibility, bracers of defense, wand of paralysis...it all struck me as way too goofy. Same with scrolls — the charm of fantasy falls flat when I describe how the wizened mage hands the characters a scroll of water walking. Eh.

The obvious solution is to come up with unique names for spells, magic items, potions and scrolls. Which I've resolved to do, starting with scrolls. In particular, I like the idea that they're part of some larger body of research or some school of magic. So it's not a magic missile scroll, it's Vendamyr's Annotations on the Application of Force. A piddly light scroll becomes Deleterio's Bright Idea. Protection from evil becomes A Survey of the Nether Voids and Their Denizens, by the Arch-Wizard Foclis. And so on.

Not all generic names are bad. Renaming just a few injects a lot of character into my milieu, and it also has a powerfully beneficial effect on my creativity.


Gothridge Manor said...

I agree with you on this one. And I'd never considered doing it with scrolls but I will now.

Anonymous said...

You can also make scrolls unique by the material they are made of. Perhaps the College of Golden Magics always uses saffron colored parchment for its scrolls.

And they do not have to be scrolls either: the spells could be carved into wood or bone, stamped on coins, pressed into clay tablet (which must be broken at the end of reading the spell) or other stranger materials.

Supah said...

I sometimes agree with you, Pat, and that's never more so true than here.

Magic items have more character when they're rare and named. Sometimes, that's exactly what you want.

But having magic items rare and named means that you're in a low magic and probably survival level fantasy world. And sometimes that's exactly what you don't want. I also love ridiculous, high level fantasy games with weird magic effects everywhere.

All depends on the mood, I guess...

David The Archmage said...

I would like to point you this this post, and the one it links to: http://towerofthearchmage.blogspot.com/2010/04/fairy-tale-spell-names.html

Funky names really do add a lot to the world, way more than another fireball or cure light wounds spell.