Thursday 1 July 2021


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With Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland I put most of what could be considered magic into the form of Arcana or Oddities, items granting weird abilities. The big inspirations were D&D's more memorable artifacts. Portable hole, immovable rod, decanter of endless water. Those are the sort that always stuck with me.

I wanted those weird abilities to be in the hands of every character, not just those that chose to be a wizard.

Generally I'm becoming less interested in magical characters, but more so in magical worlds. Stuff that isn't on your character sheet, you've got to go out and find it.

But I want to go further than just magic items.

And not just places explicitly rich with magic. Islands in the sky, talking mountains, the forest of living shadows. That's all fine. But rather than big splats of magical paint being thrown on the map, I'm enjoying settings that apply magic like a gentle wash over their world. It might pool here and there, but it soaks into everything.

Like a slightly altered source code to that of our own world. Different rules for for a different reality.

Undeath is a great example. Fantasy settings often have Necromancers, but aside from them there's a common assumption that the dead have a power that lasts beyond life. Spectres linger halfway between realities, vengeful spirits haunt those that wronged them in life, and those killed in a place rich with death can find themselves unable to rest.

It can be more subtle. Artisans so skilled that, despite no magical training, they can create goods with truly miraculous properties. Seasons that follow the mood of the realm, rather than a traditional calendar. Particularly stagnant pools serving as pockets of frozen time, where visions of the past can be caught by those with a strong enough stomach to dive below. And that old fairy tale favourite, where love is a force that can conquer anything, with rules and powers of its own.

Bastionland has elements of this. None of the parts of the world really hold up if you approach them through a mundane lens. The infinite, ever-changing city. The wilderness manifesting our shameful past. The tunnels beneath time and space.

This sort of magic appeals to me a lot more than a canon of spells sorted into levels.


  1. I love magic like this, where it permeates all of the world. Feels almost like a fairy tale/folk tale. Makes me really curious to see how you will approach the wizard.

  2. Totally agree. More power to hedge magic, faerie magic, a gentle layer of pervasive weirdness.

  3. That's how Tolkienian magic feels, isn't it? Or maybe that's even subtler than what you mean.

    I prefer that kind of vibe, rather than the common "magic as a substitute for advanced technology", which in my opinion often leads to settings that make no sense, because they usually fail to show how the society would be shaped by all that commonly available magic.