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General Putting The Awe Back In Magic

The burgher himself unlocked her shackles, making a grand show of producing the right key from the thick ring at his belt. The oldest, most ornate, and most worn of the bunch.

He gave it to two of the younger men and waved at them to free the prisoner, taking himself well back and away to watch them struggle with the old locks.

And as the heavy metal cuffs fell from her wrists to the stones underfoot with a clang and a rattle, he sneered and announced, “I’ll believe in this mighty magic when I see it, and not a moment before.”

His words were meant for the watching men of the town, not the freed captive, but he turned when they were done to see how she took them.

The young woman of few words met his bristle-browed gaze with a slight smile. Then she shrugged, turned away from him and the men of the town in a swirl of dark tattered robes, and murmured something swift and liquid under her breath, words they couldn’t quite catch—or that were in a tongue unknown.

And the air around her swiftly-weaving fingertips was suddenly alive with sparks, racing motes of light that spiraled down to the floor in front of her worn-toed boots like fireflies caught in a whirlpool.

And then burst with the roar of a dozen lions into a raging pillar of white flames taller than the loftiest towers of the Castle, a pillar that cracked and melted—melted, by All The Gods!—flagstones it spun across as it marched away from her to strike the towering black gates.

And with shrieks as ear-piercing as they were brief, those thick armour plates and the man-thick timbers that wore them were gone, locks and hinges and stout door-bars and all—simply…gone.

Leaving only an empty doorframe, its arch scorched by the vanished whorl of flames.

As the men of the town all stared at it in disbelief, a few shards of blackened stone, cracked away from the massive blocks of the arch by the heat of that brief magic, plummeted from the arch to shatter on the blackened flagstones. Clack, clack…klak.

“Well, now,” the burgher stammered, his voice seeming far away. And shorn of all bluster. Everyone turned to hear his verdict.

And blinked at what they beheld. Despite his paunch and wrinkled old age, the leader of the town had somehow taken himself half across the chamber in a trice, to the grudging shelter of the lee of an old stone pillar. “Well, now.”


o.l.d-page-129.jpg

Magic.

The ‘not real’ part of our fantasy roleplaying games, and fiction.

Yet also an essential part; we feel vaguely cheated when it’s not there, even if it’s scarce or long-fallen from old days of greatness. The element that makes so many monsters dangerous and feared, and that keeps many imaginary worlds from being ruled by the brute who commands the biggest, nastiest gang of brutes (er, king with the biggest army).

Yet the very same precise codification of magic, its workings, and the details of its clashings that make it understood and somhow more “fair” around the gaming table has, by the nature of exhaustive explanation, robbed magic of its chief glory: awe.

That’s a shame, because awe is one of the emotions (or moods, if you prefer) that we get to feel least in our lives, especially in this age of information, when most people can swiftly learn a lot about anything and so strip away its mystery, the lure of the unknown, in short order.

Obviously magic, like everything else, will have more awe clinging to it when it’s mysterious rather than known to nigh-everyone in full detail. When the game master’s descriptions of what a spell looks like when it manifests, and what it does, are attentively listened to by everyone around the gaming table—because everyone’s eager (nay, desperate) to learn all they can.

Rather than just flipping to the right page of a rulebook to read all about it. Which points at this: one road to this sort of mystery that’s available only to game masters running their own rules systems or substantially modifying published rules systems is to keep the practical details of magic (how spells are cast, the gestures and ingredients and incantations—verbal, somatic, and material components in D&D) secret. Things to be observed when others cast magic, and noted down in one’s own magical workbooks, or said by NPCs who are paid much in coin and service to do so, or paid even more to train a PC in how to cast and wield a lone spell.

This precious secrecy will tend to make those who can cast spells do so in private, or in public only in emergencies or for a lot of compensation.

It also, at a single stroke, makes magic, and its lore, the most prized treasure in a game.

Another way of making magic more awe-inspiring is to have it vary in effects from place to place, or by who or what is involved.

If a stranger wizard casts a recognizable spell and it shakes the valley rather than snapping in midair like a firecracker, there’ll be instant awe. Or at least respect, if not fear.

If a spell that’s supposed to force open a door is cast with the aid of a grimy old bone carving that looks small in the caster’s palm, and destroys the door and the wall around it rather than just cracking the door open, again there’ll be a reaction that could soon be awe.

And if a spell cast in a sinister ruin deep in a gloomy forest either sputters feebly or splits the heavens with a deafening roar, rather than conjuring its usual merry lantern-flame, awe won’t be far off.

Theatrics help with awe. Tomes rising out of chests with menacing slowness, all by themselves, and opening as eerie glows kindle about their pages, said pages turning by themselves as deep, booming voices speak from those same books, demanding to know who disturbs them.

Voices that speak suddenly out of empty air to herald the awakening of magic. For example: “Ah, more intruders. Let the deaths begin.”

Another way of making magic feel special and more precious is to keep it scarce. Or needing as a focus or consumed component in its castings something rare (the grave-dust or a bone from the grave of a truly good person, or a dead mage) or valuable (a gem of a certain type, size, and flawlessness). Or draining the life-force of the caster or a slave or pet or willing third party. Or leaving the caster vulnerable, by rendering them unconscious or physically weak, or revealing one of their most precious memories, for every spell cast, as vivid holographic moving images in midair, brightly glowing, for everyone on the scene to see.

Magic should have a cost. Perhaps not a price in coins, but it must be paid for. My players will not soon forget the wrinkled old near-skeleton who sat on her throne shrouded in cobwebs—until they approached, and she cast a spell that flung open many doors that her courtiers were hurled through unwillingly, into her presence. Courtiers who began to shrivel into lifeless husks with every spell she cast—‘hung,’ waiting spells unleashed by a lone word each—as she grew younger and more alive and vigorous with each casting, the adventurers suffered under the clawing damages of her magics, and her court died around her to pay for it all. The thief of the party had hopes that she could be outlasted; the party could run her out of courtiers to drain. Hopes that were dashed when the floor beneath the heroes’ boots opened up to dump them into caverns below where dragons were magically chained—dragons that withered even as they attacked the PCs, their life-force stolen by the queen on her throne above.

The throne, of course, was itself magical, and in the end soared into the skies to enable her escape from the adventurers, to scheme and ready herself for their next meeting.

The awe came back then, when the queen’s magic whisked dead dragon after dragon aloft to follow her. The thief wanted to grab and ride the last one, to go along, but the rest of the PCs were a trifle saner, and grabbed him and held him back.

So I could dole out more awe, on a game night to come.
 
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Ed Greenwood

Comments

jgsugden

Hero
...Descriping the magical scene is great in a book, or short story. But some of us dms don't have the mojo to do so. And in a world where magical users are as common as beat cops. Would the magical description be all that varied? ...
When you lack the talent to do it, steal it. Steal from the novels. Watch other DMs and steal their material. Watch Critical Role or other online games and steal, steal, steal.

It doesn't take amazing skill to give a good description. Just the ability to read and a little organization.
The first time I cast fireball is awesome. The 47th time, not so much so.
The mechanics may get old, but the story doesn't need to get old. Your first fireball with a character is special, but other fireballs can also be special.

I just do not get this mentality I see from some people on the boards that both argue: a.) You don't need to try to tell 'Critical Role' style stories when playing D&D, and simultaneously arguing b.) The game gets repetitive and boring. So many of the problems people have with D&D fall away when you focus on it as a ROLE PLAYING game rather than a role playing GAME.
 

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Doug McCrae

Legend
I just do not get this mentality I see from some people on the boards that both argue: a.) You don't need to try to tell 'Critical Role' style stories when playing D&D, and simultaneously arguing b.) The game gets repetitive and boring. So many of the problems people have with D&D fall away when you focus on it as a ROLE PLAYING game rather than a role playing GAME.
D&D is far more repetitive than most fiction tho. Gandalf uses quite a bit of magic in The Lord of the Rings, but he doesn't cast the same spell over and over because it would be boring. I don't think I want to see a sleep or fireball spell ever again.
 

pemerton

Legend
I just do not get this mentality I see from some people on the boards that both argue: a.) You don't need to try to tell 'Critical Role' style stories when playing D&D, and simultaneously arguing b.) The game gets repetitive and boring. So many of the problems people have with D&D fall away when you focus on it as a ROLE PLAYING game rather than a role playing GAME.
D&D is far more repetitive than most fiction tho. Gandalf uses quite a bit of magic in The Lord of the Rings, but he doesn't cast the same spell over and over because it would be boring. I don't think I want to see a sleep or fireball spell ever again.
A ROLE PLAYING game is not (in my view) about elaborate GM descriptions. That's not a game - that's monologue.

Central to a RPG is the collective generation of a shared fiction, driven by the players declaring actions for their PCs. It's the fiction that is key. If your fiction is repetitive, in my view description won't save it. The main way to avoid repetive fiction is for the GM to frame different situations. Conversely, recurring situations - eg similar traps, similar architecture, similar combats - will produce repetition.

If the fiction is not repetitive, then it will be interesting even if some of the elements (eg particular spells) are similar or recurrent. That was my expereience particularly GMing 4e D&D.
 

Haffrung

Explorer
One straightforward way to make magic more magical is in spell naming. For the most part, D&D's spell names have always been generic.

Light
Sleep
Magic Missile
Haste
Water Breathing
Hold Person
Cure Light Wounds
Lightning Bolt
Blindness

Those utilitarian naming conventions foster a utilitarian attitude towards magic and spellcasting.

Now look at Ars Magic.

Lungs of the Fish
Infernal Smoke of Death
Arc of Fiery Ribbons
Enslave the Mortal Mind
Purification of the Festering Wounds
Whispers Through the Black Gate
Arm of the Infant
Incantation of the Milky Eyes
Endurance of the Berserkers

The latter feel more magical and strange.
 

jgsugden

Hero
D&D is far more repetitive than most fiction tho. Gandalf uses quite a bit of magic in The Lord of the Rings, but he doesn't cast the same spell over and over because it would be boring. I don't think I want to see a sleep or fireball spell ever again.
Go back and check your Gandalf magic. A google search will reveal that he doesn't actually do that much magic in front of people, and the stuff he does is mostly parlor tricks. He does do some evocation style magics - but not a lot.
A ROLE PLAYING game is not (in my view) about elaborate GM descriptions. That's not a game - that's monologue.

Central to a RPG is the collective generation of a shared fiction, driven by the players declaring actions for their PCs. It's the fiction that is key. If your fiction is repetitive, in my view description won't save it. The main way to avoid repetive fiction is for the GM to frame different situations. Conversely, recurring situations - eg similar traps, similar architecture, similar combats - will produce repetition.

If the fiction is not repetitive, then it will be interesting even if some of the elements (eg particular spells) are similar or recurrent. That was my expereience particularly GMing 4e D&D.
D&D is an RPG. A role playing game. Characters play roles in stories.

Let's think about what you just said as it applies to other stories.

TV: Would you rather watch a show that eratically jumps around from storyline to storyline and situation to different situation - but that is visually boring and has poor dialogue - or would you prefer a well written show with snappy dialogue, evocative scenery and a single continuous storyline that progresses for a whole season?

Books: Would you rather read a bunch of short stories with poor dialogue and little description or a novel with well written characters and engaging descriptions?

I've been doing this for 40 years. In my experience, consistently, the DMs that kick butt are the ones that learn to tell a good story and use those skills to not only create an engaging environment for the PCs, but in fact engage those PCs in developing the story as well. They can get your blood pumping around a simple goblin encounter - even if you've been having those for forty years.

I'm just suggesting that good storytelling makes for better stories, and that D&D is telling a story.
 

Hoffmand

Explorer
When you lack the talent to do it, steal it. Steal from the novels. Watch other DMs and steal their material. Watch Critical Role or other online games and steal, steal, steal.

It doesn't take amazing skill to give a good description. Just the ability to read and a little organization.
The mechanics may get old, but the story doesn't need to get old. Your first fireball with a character is special, but other fireballs can also be special.

I just do not get this mentality I see from some people on the boards that both argue: a.) You don't need to try to tell 'Critical Role' style stories when playing D&D, and simultaneously arguing b.) The game gets repetitive and boring. So many of the problems people have with D&D fall away when you focus on it as a ROLE PLAYING game rather than a role playing GAME.
Some people care about the war game others unraveling was the plot and story. I don’t care about combat. I care about why we combat and when if at all. And I like it when entering and winning the combat may be the wrong choice.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Go back and check your Gandalf magic.
The Fellowship of the Ring

Chapter 2 The Shadow of the Past

I [Gandalf] have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.​

Chapter 11 A Knife in the Dark

As Frodo lay, tired but unable to close his eyes, it seemed to him that far away there came a light in the eastern sky: it flashed and faded many times. It was not the dawn, for that was still some hours off.​
‘What is the light?’ he said to Strider, who had risen, and was standing, gazing ahead into the night.​
‘I do not know,’ Strider answered. ‘It is too distant to make out. It is like lightning that leaps up from the hill-tops.’​
Frodo lay down again, but for a long while he could still see the white flashes​

They are witnessing Gandalf battle the Nazgûl at Weathertop.

Chapter 1 Many Meetings

I [Gandalf] added a few touches of my own: you may not have noticed, but some of the waves took the form of great white horses with shining white riders; and there were many rolling and grinding boulders.​

Chapter 2 The Council of Elrond

I [Gandalf] was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old.​

Gandalf is describing the events witnessed by Frodo and Strider in Chapter 11.

Chapter 3 The Ring Goes South

Picking up a faggot he [Gandalf] held it aloft for a moment, and then with a word of command, naur an edraith ammen! he thrust the end of his staff into the midst of it. At once a great spout of green and blue flame sprang out, and the wood flared and sputtered.​

Chapter 4 A Journey in the Dark

In the wavering firelight Gandalf seemed suddenly to grow: he rose up, a great menacing shape like the monument of some ancient king of stone set upon a hill. Stooping like a cloud, he lifted a burning branch and strode to meet the wolves. They gave back before him. High in the air he tossed the blazing brand. It flared with a sudden white radiance like lightning; and his voice rolled like thunder.​
Naur an edraith ammen! Naur dan i ngaurhoth!’ he cried.​
There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light.​

I [Gandalf] once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs, that was ever used for such a purpose [opening portals]. I can still remember ten score of them without searching in my mind.​

He [Gandalf] held his staff aloft, and from its tip there came a faint radiance.​

Chapter 5 The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm

I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many...​
The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces.​

Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he smote the bridge before him. The staff broke asunder and fell from his hand. A blinding sheet of white flame sprang up. The bridge cracked. Right at the Balrog’s feet it broke, and the stone upon which it stood crashed into the gulf, while the rest remained, poised, quivering like a tongue of rock thrust out into emptiness.​
The Two Towers

Chapter 5 The White Rider

‘Did I not say that I wished to speak to you?’ said the old man. ‘Put away that bow, Master Elf!’​
The bow and arrow fell from Legolas’ hands, and his arms hung loose at his sides.​
‘And you, Master Dwarf, pray take your hand from your axe-haft, till I am up! You will not need such arguments.’​
Gimli started and then stood still as stone​

He [Gandalf] lifted up his staff, and Gimli’s axe leaped from his grasp and fell ringing on the ground. The sword of Aragorn, stiff in his motionless hand, blazed with a sudden fire. Legolas gave a great shout and shot an arrow high into the air: it vanished in a flash of flame.​
Very nearly it [The One Ring] was revealed to the Enemy, but it escaped. I [Gandalf] had some part in that: for I sat in a high place, and I strove with the Dark Tower; and the Shadow passed.​
Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapour and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin.​

Gandalf is giving an account of his battle against the Balrog.

Chapter 6 The King of the Golden Hall

He raised his staff. There was a roll of thunder. The sunlight was blotted out from the eastern windows; the whole hall became suddenly dark as night. The fire faded to sullen embers. Only Gandalf could be seen, standing white and tall before the blackened hearth… There was a flash as if lightning had cloven the roof. Then all was silent. Wormtongue sprawled on his face.​

Chapter 10 The Voice of Saruman

‘Come back, Saruman!’ said Gandalf in a commanding voice. To the amazement of the others, Saruman turned again, and as if dragged against his will, he came slowly back to the iron rail, leaning on it, breathing hard.​

He raised his hand, and spoke slowly in a clear cold voice. ‘Saruman, your staff is broken.’ There was a crack, and the staff split asunder in Saruman’s hand, and the head of it fell down at Gandalf’s feet.​


The Return of the King

Chapter 4 The Siege of Gondor

It seemed to Pippin that he [Gandalf] raised his hand, and from it a shaft of white light stabbed upwards. The Nazgûl gave a long wailing cry and swerved away​

Shadowfax bore him [Gandalf], shining, unveiled once more, a light starting from his upraised hand.​
The Nazgûl screeched and swept away, for their Captain was not yet come to challenge the white fire of his foe.​

Chapter 7 The Pyre of Denethor

He [Gandalf] beheld with the sight that was given to him all that had befallen​

Chapter 4 The Field of Cormallen

As if to his eyes some sudden vision had been given, Gandalf stirred; and he turned, looking back north where the skies were pale and clear. Then he lifted up his hands and cried in a loud voice ringing above the din: The Eagles are coming!​

Chapter 6 Many Partings

For they [Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Celeborn] did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro​
 
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Jeremy E Grenemyer

Feisty
Supporter
"Voices that speak suddenly out of empty air to herald the awakening of magic. For example: “Ah, more intruders. Let the deaths begin.”"

I am stealing this.
 

pemerton

Legend
Let's think about what you just said as it applies to other stories.
So here's what I said:

A ROLE PLAYING game is not (in my view) about elaborate GM descriptions. That's not a game - that's monologue.

Central to a RPG is the collective generation of a shared fiction, driven by the players declaring actions for their PCs. It's the fiction that is key. If your fiction is repetitive, in my view description won't save it. The main way to avoid repetive fiction is for the GM to frame different situations. Conversely, recurring situations - eg similar traps, similar architecture, similar combats - will produce repetition.

If the fiction is not repetitive, then it will be interesting even if some of the elements (eg particular spells) are similar or recurrent. That was my expereience particularly GMing 4e D&D.​

I stand by that.

TV: Would you rather watch a show that eratically jumps around from storyline to storyline and situation to different situation - but that is visually boring and has poor dialogue - or would you prefer a well written show with snappy dialogue, evocative scenery and a single continuous storyline that progresses for a whole season?
Well, why would I want to watch a show with eratic jumping, no clear storyline, poor visuals and poor script? Contrast, eg, Pulp Fiction which has deliberate jumping, emerging storyline, compelling visuals and clever dialogue. Would I prefer that, or your single continuous storyline? It depends on how good your storyline is!

I don't see how this really bears on my post, though. I was posting about elaborate descriptions and repetitive fiction. Repetitive fiction in TV shows - eg Law and Order - can be comforting but not generally quality. And everything else being equal, good TV or movies relies on the visuals and the situation rather than description or narration.

Books: Would you rather read a bunch of short stories with poor dialogue and little description or a novel with well written characters and engaging descriptions?
Again, why are you asking me would I rather engage with crap or something good? That's a question that answers itself.

But would I rather read overwrought descriptions or tight writing? The latter, please. Do I want my characters to be described, or to emerge via situation and events? The latter, please.

I've been doing this for 40 years.
That's good to hear. I'm in my 38th year of GMing myself.

In my experience, consistently, the DMs that kick butt are the ones that learn to tell a good story and use those skills to not only create an engaging environment for the PCs, but in fact engage those PCs in developing the story as well. They can get your blood pumping around a simple goblin encounter - even if you've been having those for forty years.

I'm just suggesting that good storytelling makes for better stories, and that D&D is telling a story.
And in my experience, GMing is not storytelling, and playing a RPG - when it is fun - is not being a member of the GM's audience. The heart of RPGIng is action declaration and resolution. It's that, not description, that in my experience drives good RPGing.

To relate this to the OP, if someone feels that they want more awesome magic in their game my advice would be look at your framing and your action resolutoin. I wouldn't suggest upping your number of adjectives.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Doug McCrae

A further comment on your epic list of Gandalf's magic: the situations and outcomes are not repetitive.

* He has an insight about Gollum's fate. In a RPG, and dependng on system details, this would be the use of magic to either introduce some narration of one's own, or force the GM to introduce some backstory. It means, for instance, that Gollum is not going to die offscreen.

* The Eagles are coming is similar but more immediate - this could be a more powerful ability not just to centre a NPC but to establish them as an immediate ally, or in some systems it might be a more dramatic GM establishment of consequences reflecting the more dramatic stage of the action.

* Gandalf battles Nazgûl, but differently each time: he uses his power unleashed on Weathertop to protect himself and drive them away; he uses his white light to protect the soldiers returning to Minas Tirith; he helps Elrond use the power of the stream to stop them catching Frodo. The fight against the Balrog resembles the fight on Weathertop - and we only get it described after the event.

* He uses his staff to make light in Moria, and then to create flame on Caradhras. He uses more powerful magic fire against the wolves. And he uses fire to protect himself from arrows.

* He fails to use opening magic but successfully uses closing magic in Moria.

* He uses other binding/loosing magic to cause Legolas to drop his bow, to paralyse Gimli, to cow Wormtongue, and to summon Saruman and break his staff. These are different contexts in each scene. Breaking the bridge beneath the Balrog could be seen as the most dramatic manifestation of this sort of power.

* His telepathic powers - to struggle with Sauron, and then to talk to the Elf-lords - don't figure a great deal compare to his other categories of power. But they don't involve repetition.
 

Great. So the wizard gets to do seven awesome things before breakfast and the best the fighter can hope for is for the DM to say, "Okay, you cut his head off, I guess." when he gets a crit.

Hard pass.
 

pemerton

Legend
Great. So the wizard gets to do seven awesome things before breakfast and the best the fighter can hope for is for the DM to say, "Okay, you cut his head off, I guess." when he gets a crit.

Hard pass.
Well, isn't the key here to let the fighter also enage the fiction? This was one of the (many) strong things about 4e: because powers are a stable, commensurable resource across classes, the GM can adjudicate a player's use of his/her fighter's powers to engage the fiction just as can be done for a wizard.

I think it's in the nature of the respective fictions that a fighter's contributions are likely to be physical and immediate rather than flagrantly supernatural, but that shouldn't matter given how important the physical is in typical D&D fiction (emulating heroic fantasy in this respect).

EDIT: combat is to some extent the least promising starting point for thinking about this in the D&D context, because D&D mechanics - at least the 4e ones that I have in mind, but I think 3e and 5e also - impose many more constraints around how combat action resolution is narrated than around out-of-combat.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Fighters are a free as anyone else to narrate their successes and failures beyond just rolling the dice. Fight scenes in novels are cool, fight scenes in RPGs can be that cool.
 

pemerton

Legend
Fighters are a free as anyone else to narrate their successes and failures beyond just rolling the dice. Fight scenes in novels are cool, fight scenes in RPGs can be that cool.
If the action resolution supports it. in this respect I'd contrast (say) 4e D&D or (from a completely different perspective) Prince Valiant with (say) Tunnels & Trolls or AD&D.
 

Imaculata

Adventurer
I tend to ask my players to describe what their spells look like, and they are free to add their own flavor to it. Npc's and monsters will also react realistically to scary looking spells. That is how I add the awe back in magic.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
If the action resolution supports it. in this respect I'd contrast (say) 4e D&D or (from a completely different perspective) Prince Valiant with (say) Tunnels & Trolls or AD&D.
That's a fair point. You can still narrate action from a binary result system and a damage roll though, it's just perhaps more work than some other systems that give you more to work with. 5E certainly doesn't give you a lot of intuitive tools in that regard due to the levels of abstraction involved in the combat mechanics.
 




pemerton

Legend
I tend to ask my players to describe what their spells look like, and they are free to add their own flavor to it. Npc's and monsters will also react realistically to scary looking spells. That is how I add the awe back in magic.
That's a fair point. You can still narrate action from a binary result system and a damage roll though, it's just perhaps more work than some other systems that give you more to work with.
I personally think it's a weakness in a RPG to rely on free description/narration to generate the action, momentum and drama of action resolution.

That's what the mechanics are for, in my view. To drive the action.
 

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