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  1. #1
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 12:30 PM 12/29/2002 -0600, Kenneth Gauck wrote:

    > > The contention that one can somehow divorce the Renaissance
    > > from gunpowder, exploration and the printing press is like
    > > saying that nuclear power, the space race and electronics are
    > > incidental to the 20th century. You don`t get the shifts in social
    > > and political systems, the changes to the economics that fostered
    > > them, the rise of nationalism, etc. without those processes.
    >
    >In a fantasy game with magic, you contend here, we are unable to imagine
    >magical substitutes or fantastic substitutes for technology.

    That`s a bit of a leap from what I was actually suggesting there. Fantasy
    substitutes for Renaissance features is a whole different beast from what I
    had thought was the theme of the previous thread; defining what the
    Renaissance was and its affects. We can certainly discuss fantastic
    replacements to real world conditions, though, since it is even more
    relevant to BR. In reference to the ideas described in the previous ("What
    is the Renesance?") thread, however, I`d note that without many of those
    features we don`t really have a Renaissance. We have a few historical
    points of comparison, but describing the Brecht as "early Renaissance" when
    very few of those Renaissance features exist in the campaign setting isn`t
    very meaningful. We can use it analogously (which is all I think the BR
    writers meant, really) but to read much more than a cursory resemblance
    into the cultures of Cerilia to Renaissance cultures is probably taking
    things too far than is warranted by the analogy alone.

    Magic is problematic as a motivating force for a Renaissance-like period in
    Anuire. Gunpowder, for instance, brings down castle walls quickly enough
    that it makes the feudal manorial system obsolete. Magic could certainly
    occupy a similar role. In BR, however, magic is mostly available to the
    aristocracy. Commoners can not by definition have the kind of access to
    magic in a way that would supplant gunpowder without some very serious
    revision of the setting or rules.

    Further, in 3e magic has a much different take on it than it did in
    previous editions. One of the things many folks expressed a concern about
    when 3e came out was that it would ruin the "low magic" nature of the
    setting because there are fewer restrictions on who can create magic
    items. In previous editions it was entirely possible (and often described)
    for someone to set up a sort of pre-industrial magic manufacturing factory
    that cranked out scads of magic items that anyone could simply pony up and
    buy. 3e, of course, has a much more direct cost in XP for the creation of
    magic items, so the bottomless number of them imaginable has some sort of
    restriction.

    Another problem with magic as a substitute for gunpowder in a
    Renaissance-like culture is that magic can be countered by other magic in a
    much more dramatic way than gunpowder is countered by opponents with
    gunpowder. Magic tends to have a binary success/failure and quicker (often
    instantaneous) results. That`s quite different from the science of
    siegecraft that develops with gunpowder in which engineers could determine
    to the day, sometimes the hour when a defender would fall.

    You absolutely could premise different influences in place of historical
    ones. I would contend, however, that those influences would affect the
    development of a culture differently. If you put magic in place of
    gunpowder, for instance, you get an entirely different set of social values
    than those that ended up creating the Renaissance. Castle walls might come
    down as readily or more due to magic than they would because of gunpowder,
    so certain social changes would probably still take place, but they would
    differ pretty significantly from those of the Renaissance. If magic is to
    replace gunpowder, for instance, I`d suggest that in many ways Cerilia`s
    cultures are going to remain medieval rather than Renaissance. Because
    true magic is available to a limited few. Those people will gain more
    equanimity with feudal lords, but since they are already blooded nobles
    that subtle change won`t affect the overall culture as drastically as the
    democratizing influence of gunpowder on Western Europe.

    Another issue to be considered when replacing gunpowder with magic is this:
    Magic isn`t invented/dispersed the same way gunpowder was. That is,
    gunpowder arrives in Europe from China by way of the mid-East and several
    wars of aggression from that direction. Most Cerilian cultures brought
    some sort of magic with them when they migrated, but the really
    big-bang-for-your-buck magic, true magic, is something that hits the
    continent in a very different way. There are a few issues here:

    Elves. If we`re replacing gunpowder with magic then the elves are in the
    position of the Islamic cultures who brought gunpowder to Europe. Lots of
    folks might not like that, but to me it`s just weird enough to work.

    Timing. True magic is "invented" by humanity 1,500 years in the past. If
    magic is to replace gunpowder as a Renaissance-esque influence on Cerilia
    then that`s an awful long gap before the Renaissance features start to take
    effect. It took several centuries (and the development of a few
    significant other technologies) for gunpowder to take hold of Western
    Europe the way it did during the Renaissance, but 1,500 years is a much
    longer period of time, especially considering that magic just whips into
    place. There are no real reliant technologies. So if magic is to replace
    gunpowder then why didn`t the Renaissance effects in BR take place a
    thousand years ago?

    Gary

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  2. #2
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    It would have been nice if the writers had thought through the social, political, economic and technological implications of personal and realm magic. Why don't we have more magocracies? Considering the incredible power afforded by high level magic, why aren't most of the domains ruled by sorceror-kings? Why don't we have lightning cannon and flame rifles to replace gunpowder-based arms? Why aren't there units of troops routinely teleporting into the palaces of enemy regents?

    The easy answer is that the wirters were either unwilling or unable to account for these possibilities. I can understand unwillingness; after all, BR is set up to resemble certain historical analogues and accounting for the developments afforded by magic might ruin everything. Inability I don't buy: they could have thought through the whys and wherefores of Anuire resembling a Renaissance culture (yes, even without gunpowder, the printing press and exploration on the order of the historical models.) GMs become master of damage control and spin-doctoring so I don't understand why the designers couldn't shore up their analogy with a few excuses and substitutes.

    Why not substitute the surge in neo-classicism with the rediscovery of potent schools of magic practiced by the great empires of Aduria or the former Empire of Anuire? That way you could preserve the romantic but innaccurate notion of the Dark Ages by saying magical knowledge had all but been lost in the barbaric days of the Bloodtheft Wars or Civil Wars. "Enlightenment" would be synonymous with the study of magic and Castiglione's ideal courtier would study arms and spellcraft rather than arms and letters. The new "Prince" of the age would be a canny, educated warrior-mage unlike his unenlightened, iron-clad forerunners. This is just ONE spin on the whole historical analogue of the Renaissance: they could have come up with dozens of reasons to make Anuire like that era. Unfortunately, they didn't.

    By the way, excellent examples of well thought out magic-based cultures exist in the old D&D setting of Mystara. The Principality of Glantri was a magocracy which resembled a Renaissance culture more than Anuire does. Likewise, the Empire of Alphatia represented a magic-based culture which had, very reasonably, built up a mighty hegemony across the world using their mastery of the arcane arts. Both societies made sense on a cultural level as well: the citizens' system of belief was strongly influenced by their relationship to magic. Another fun example is the Charonti from TSR's "Jakandor" Odyssey series of products: here we have a culture that, devestated from plague and ruin for centuries, has solved their labour problems by the wholesale exploitation of undead. They're not evil either: the use of the dead is woven into every aspect of their culture and the dead are considered honoured members of society.

    You see? Fantasy rpg peculiarities like magic CAN be woven gracefully into a setting without sacrificing probability. I love the BR setting and think rpging in near-earth cultures is fun: I just wish the writers had been a little more imaginative than to say "Anuire is a Renaissance culture" and leave it for us to figure out what they meant.

  3. #3
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 10:48 PM 12/31/2002 +0100, Arsulon wrote:

    >It would have been nice if the writers had thought through the social,
    >political, economic and technological implications of personal and realm
    >magic. Why don`t we have more magocracies? Considering the incredible
    >power afforded by high level magic, why aren`t most of the domains ruled
    >by sorceror-kings? Why don`t we have lightning cannon and flame rifles
    >to replace gunpowder-based arms? Why aren`t there units of troops
    >routinely teleporting into the palaces of enemy regents?

    I think the problem is that when BR was written it was all put into the D&D
    framework. D&D is a pretty particular system with some pretty serious
    faults, most of which are exacerbated when one makes a campaign setting
    that differs from the core campaign settings, Greyhawk and Forgotten
    Realms. Those settings are n many ways logically presented given the D&D
    rules, but trying to make up a campaign world that differs from those
    settings while still using the same basic rules is probably not logically
    supportable. Later BR supplements, IMO, started resembling FR and GH more
    and more because the rules didn`t vary significantly enough for there not
    to be very similar paradigms when subjected to extrapolation.

    The more I think about this kind of thing the more I want to just toss out
    many of the standard, D&D mainstays in BR and go with something that
    supports the background of the setting. At least nowadays we have D20 with
    the various incarnations of that system of rules to serve as an example for
    how something like BR might be developed. The most obvious thing here is
    probably the magic system. Spellcasting in the traditional D&D sense might
    not be the best way to go for BR.

    The D&D character classes _can_ be used in BR, of course, but again I think
    many aspects of them are more geared towards a FR/GH campaign world, not
    necessarily one like BR. We really, really, really need some sort of noble
    PC class if nothing else. Aside from that, while there could still be
    things like paladins, bards, etc. I`m starting to lean more towards the way
    D20 Modern handled this sort of thing; basic "core" classes that have
    generalized "progress trees" followed by a set of campaign specific
    prestige classes.

    Then there`s the domain level.... That`s a different can of worms.

    Gary

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  4. #4
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    Funny you should mention problems with the AD&D system being at variance with some of its campaign settings. I'm actually using the rules from TSR's Alternity because I find them much more flexible and conducive to roleplaying. There are rules in Alternity's GM book for playing D&D as well as a Dragon Magazine article called "From Dungeons to Drivespace" for converting monsters, etc. However, the most useful material I've found so far is at alternity.net under fantasy resources: a contibutor called Red Dragon has undertaken the task of writing a whole fantasy rpg variant for Alternity. It's almost entirely finished but I have to say I'm very impressed with his character generation, equipment, magic and vehicles documents (just to name a few.) I'm particulary grateful for his fantasy "progress levels" which project magical-physical technology beyond the middle ages and renaissance into the future of a fantasy world: I have other GM buddies that have pirated this material to represent artifacts from advanced fantasy civilizations like Greyhawk's Suloise Imperium.

  5. #5
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 02:33 AM 1/1/2003 +0100, Arsulon wrote:

    >I`m actually using the rules from TSR`s Alternity because I find them
    >much more flexible and conducive to roleplaying.

    That`s interesting. Do you make any particular changes to bloodlines and
    how they work in that system?

    I like many aspects of the Alternity rules, but I prefer to use them in a
    sort of futuristic sci-fi mode, a la Traveller. When it comes to fantasy
    settings the level based system of D&D (or D20, really) is usually what I
    prefer, but it would depend on the campaign, of course.

    >I`m particulary grateful for his fantasy "progress levels" which
    >project magical-physical technology beyond the middle ages and renaissance
    >into the future of a fantasy world: I have other GM buddies that have
    >pirated this material to represent artifacts from advanced fantasy
    >civilizations like Greyhawk`s Suloise Imperium.

    Ooh. I`ll definitely take a look at that. Something like PL is one of the
    things that I think we should have in D&D/D20, and in a system of domain
    rules like BR in particular. Got a specific web address so I don`t have to
    hunt it up? TIA.

    Gary

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  6. #6
    > I think the problem is that when BR was written it was all put into the D&D framework. D&D is a pretty particular system with some pretty serious faults, most of which are exacerbated when one makes a campaign setting that differs from the core campaign settings, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms. Those settings are n many ways logically presented given the D&D rules, but trying to make up a campaign world that differs from those settings while still using the same basic rules is probably not logically supportable. Later BR supplements, IMO, started resembling FR and GH more and more because the rules didn`t vary significantly enough for there not to be very similar paradigms when subjected to extrapolation.>

    > The more I think about this kind of thing the more I want to just toss out many of the standard, D&D mainstays in BR and go with something that supports the background of the setting. At least nowadays we have D20 with the various incarnations of that system of rules to serve as an example for how something like BR might be developed. The most obvious thing here is probably the magic system. Spellcasting in the traditional D&D sense might not be the best way to go for BR.>


    > The D&D character classes _can_ be used in BR, of course, but again I think many aspects of them are more geared towards a FR/GH campaign world, not necessarily one like BR. We really, really, really need some sort of noble PC class if nothing else. Aside from that, while there could still be things like paladins, bards, etc. I`m starting to lean more towards the way D20 Modern handled this sort of thing; basic "core" classes that have generalized "progress trees" followed by a set of campaign specific prestige classes.>

    I generally use the Rules from the Wheel of Time RPG game for my home setting and Birthright. You would be surprised how much easier it is to get the feel when only 1-2 classes have magic. That game is designed for a low magic (occurace) world -- but high power when used.

    There is a mechanic in place that can be nerfed into Domain rules magic - via the power stones used in WoT (angrael).

    The RPG strips the NEED for magic to survive out of the game and balances classes with the ASSUMPTION that opponents are not using magic either. It also has a humanocentric character creation. I have started my own conversion for Anuire but it is still in a zygote stage. My plan is to retool BR d20 using concepts from the WoT game that work well and emulate the desired feel. Not everything is perfect for BR and some things will need to get the boot (BR needs to need armor, which is largely unnecessary in WoT, the magic system needs to be scaled back a notch to balance it a little). I will see how much interest I have in it after the conversion comes out.

    It would be really keen if WoT engine was OGL but that whole license thingy....

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  7. #7
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    Gary,

    I've pretty much stuck with the bloodlines the way they are so far; however, I am considering changing the way bloodtheft works to put it more in line with the Alternity game mechanic. Anything that's "pure Birthright" material I try to leave alone as much as possible to preserve the feel of the setting. Despite all the online discussion of gunpowder I'm not even touching on that in the campaign until I've read that Dragon article.

    Have a look at www.alternity.net, look on the left side of the page under "Resources" and click on "Fantasy." You'll see a bunch of posts organized from newest to oldest: Red Dragon's stuff dominates the area but his core rules and equipment will be one of the earlier posts (I think it's in Book I, Part I or maybe II.) If you're into Spelljammer check out his Alternity version: it looks like a real labour of love. You might want to take a peek at "Dungeons to Drivespace" as well: someone posted it in fantasy recently.

    Eosin,
    I'm not a real Jordan fan but you make the 3E/WOT approach to magic sound really interesting: does the setting toss out all the old D&D spells and replace them with home-growns or does it just tweak spell acquisition to make it harder to get them?

  8. #8
    The RPG rules for WoT use a familiar but entirely new approach to spell
    casting. I know lots of people who do not like the setting but do like the
    rules. The focus shifts from magic items and abilities to the character. To
    me it is a pleasant relief. I thnk, that for Birthright, you would have to
    tweak the spell/weave system but it can be done fairly easily. It is the
    most creative application of the d20 rules I have seen and is the best d20
    rulebook I have read (other than the Book of the Righteous by Green Ronin).

    I have a netbook (Under the Dragon`s Banner) on my website that provides
    some insight into the game mechanics-
    http://www.mabinogin.com/Downloads.htm. It has several PrCs, magic items, &
    spells. Not everything is well balanced - but I did what I could to get
    everything as close to balanced as I could before it was released.

    I think the engine is the best fit for BR while still remaining d20,
    hopefully the d20 Team will change my mind.

    The interesting thing about WoT RPG is that it was not designed in house on
    purpose - WotC used the talent from Last Unicorn (?) to build the game
    before they knew all of the "Rules" that WotC had about d20. So they handled
    something`s very differently than one might expect. WotC then tweaked the
    final product in editing (some problems there but nothing new to gamers).
    Ryan Dancey explained the evolution of the d20 sub-stems on a post at the
    GamingReport a long time ago, he compared SW, WoT & CoC. Noting how each was
    handled differently and the results they got from that.

    Anyhow, the most disappointing thing is that unless one wanted to start from
    scratch the rules are closed due to the licensed nature of the product. You
    would have re-write all of the rules if it was going to be adapted to BR. I
    have a large chunk of character creation done but it got bogged down because
    I had to re-write the rules rather than copy and paste. The conversion part
    is easy and enjoyable, the paraphrasing part is laborious and boring unlike
    with the SRD where you select the text you want and drop it in.

    Later,

    Eosin the Red.



    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Arsulon" <brnetboard@TUARHIEVEL.ORG>
    To: <BIRTHRIGHT-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM>
    Sent: Wednesday, January 01, 2003 6:16 AM
    Subject: Re: Renaissance-esque influences on BR. [2#1182]


    > This post was generated by the Birthright.net message forum.
    > You can view the entire thread at:
    http://www.birthright.net/read.php?TID=1182
    >
    > Arsulon wrote:
    > Gary,
    >
    > I`ve pretty much stuck with the bloodlines the way they are so far;
    however, I am considering changing the way bloodtheft works to put it more
    in line with the Alternity game mechanic. Anything that`s "pure
    Birthright" material I try to leave alone as much as possible to preserve
    the feel of the setting. Despite all the online discussion of gunpowder
    I`m not even touching on that in the campaign until I`ve read that Dragon
    article.
    >
    > Have a look at www.alternity.net, look on the left side of the page under
    "Resources" and click on "Fantasy." You`ll see a bunch of posts
    organized from newest to oldest: Red Dragon`s stuff dominates the area but
    his core rules and equipment will be one of the earlier posts (I think it`s
    in Book I, Part I or maybe II.) If you`re into Spelljammer check out his
    Alternity version: it looks like a real labour of love. You might want to
    take a peek at "Dungeons to Drivespace" as well: someone posted it in
    fantasy recently.
    >
    > Eosin,
    > I`m not a real Jordan fan but you make the 3E/WOT approach to magic sound
    really interesting: does the setting toss out all the old D&D spells and
    replace them with home-growns or does it just tweak spell acquisition to
    make it harder to get them?
    >
    >
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  9. #9
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    At 10:49 AM 1/1/2003 -0600, Eosin the Red wrote:

    >The RPG rules for WoT use a familiar but entirely new approach to spell
    >casting. I know lots of people who do not like the setting but do like the
    >rules.

    I`m one of those. I particularly like the "weave" magic system. It`s a
    far cry more intelligent and well articulated than the free-for-all of
    D&D`s magic system. It is, however, a little specific to that
    setting. Certain analogies exist in BR, but there would probably need to
    be a few serious changes and additions to those rules in order to make them
    fit into the BR system. Something like that is what I`d like to see for
    BR, though, despite it being quite a bit different than the core D&D rules.

    Gary

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