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Pen & Paper Roleplaying Central => Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion => Topic started by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 01:45:20 PM

Title: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 01:45:20 PM
For one of my games I'm going for a non-Vancian magic system, part of the changes I'm doing is dividing the magic into White (No corruption), Gray (Moderate Corruption) & Black (Full Corruption).

This means White gives you zero corruption points, Gray gives you half the corruption points and Black Gives you all the corruption points. White = Zero Corruption, Gray = 1/2 Corruption & Black = 1 Corruption.

This is (or was) going to be tied to the type of spell: Healing, Protecting, etc spells = White, while Harmful spells = Black & Gray fell on the gray zone inbetween. But...

What if you use human sacrifice in your healing spells?

So, Magic is but a tool, Type of spell does matter, but Intent and means also matter, maybe even more in most cases.

So my question is this:

What type of spells would you guys say ARE definetely Black magic regardless of the intent/means?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: horsesoldier on June 11, 2021, 01:50:51 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 01:57:29 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.

Thanks, I had thought of the first two, but the rest are a welcome addition I hadn't thopught about.

A couple of questions:

Delaying natural healing... What if allowing the healing is bad because it would mean you heal wrong or have to undergo a very dangerous procedure?

A hand becoming a Crab claw... What if they asked you to do it?

One more
Free will... What if they asked you to manipulate their free will to kick a habit? To quit smoking for example?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: HappyDaze on June 11, 2021, 03:27:40 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.
When you say "Raising the dead" are you talking about bringing the dead back to life (via resurrection, reincarnation, etc.) or about the creation of undead?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: horsesoldier on June 11, 2021, 03:41:38 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.
When you say "Raising the dead" are you talking about bringing the dead back to life (via resurrection, reincarnation, etc.) or about the creation of undead?

I would say both, but that would depend on the world building at hand.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: horsesoldier on June 11, 2021, 03:50:07 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.

Thanks, I had thought of the first two, but the rest are a welcome addition I hadn't thopught about.

A couple of questions:

Delaying natural healing... What if allowing the healing is bad because it would mean you heal wrong or have to undergo a very dangerous procedure?

A hand becoming a Crab claw... What if they asked you to do it?

One more
Free will... What if they asked you to manipulate their free will to kick a habit? To quit smoking for example?

My idea of black magic here is corruption of natural order and corruption of man, something akin to man being made in the image of God and corrupting that is a bad thing.

Corrupting of natural healing would be interference with the natural order. What I had in mind was a curse to keep a wound perpetually festering, for example. If simply delaying healing so that it can heal from the inside out and avoid a cystic tumor or whatever, that's different, as you're helping along the natural process.

Corrupting the body into an unnatural shape, that would be a violation against the image the creator has for man.

And for the manipulation of free will, well, for someone to truly change they have to desire the change. Doing a men in black style mind wipe on an addiction would do the trick, but my reasoning here is that the means are more important than the end. My idea was to focus on things that are evil on a fundamental level, not on the basis of results. So that men in black mind wipe, that would veer into grey territory.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 03:56:59 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.

Thanks, I had thought of the first two, but the rest are a welcome addition I hadn't thopught about.

A couple of questions:

Delaying natural healing... What if allowing the healing is bad because it would mean you heal wrong or have to undergo a very dangerous procedure?

A hand becoming a Crab claw... What if they asked you to do it?

One more
Free will... What if they asked you to manipulate their free will to kick a habit? To quit smoking for example?

My idea of black magic here is corruption of natural order and corruption of man, something akin to man being made in the image of God and corrupting that is a bad thing.

Corrupting of natural healing would be interference with the natural order. What I had in mind was a curse to keep a wound perpetually festering, for example. If simply delaying healing so that it can heal from the inside out and avoid a cystic tumor or whatever, that's different, as you're helping along the natural process.

Corrupting the body into an unnatural shape, that would be a violation against the image the creator has for man.

And for the manipulation of free will, well, for someone to truly change they have to desire the change. Doing a men in black style mind wipe on an addiction would do the trick, but my reasoning here is that the means are more important than the end. My idea was to focus on things that are evil on a fundamental level, not on the basis of results. So that men in black mind wipe, that would veer into grey territory.

Thanks for claryfying your thoughts, I fully agree and further it ties perfectly into my setting.

As for the Resurrection thing, I think it would depend on who is being resurrected, why and by what means.

On the other hand making undead, living dead, etc is black period.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 03:57:30 PM
Raising the dead
Manipulating free will
Causing decay, blight
Poison
Delaying/impeding natural healing, causing deformities
Curses/hexes/evil eye
Unnatural application of natural law--a hand becomes a crab claw or something like that

That's what comes to mind for me. Their various permutations can cover a lot of different possibilities.
When you say "Raising the dead" are you talking about bringing the dead back to life (via resurrection, reincarnation, etc.) or about the creation of undead?

As for the Resurrection thing, I think it would depend on who is being resurrected, why and by what means.

On the other hand making undead, living dead, etc is black period.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: ScytheSong on June 11, 2021, 04:25:41 PM
As a side note, the traditional Roman Inquisition definitions of "White" versus "Black" magic (Sorcery vs. Witchcraft in some sources) was whether you were using natural processes (White) or compelling/contracting with spirits (Black) to perform the effect. So, using astrological connections, synecdoche, herbalism, potions, or alchemical processes were all white, while casting a spell, a curse, or a hex by invoking either God, the saints, and angels, or nature spirits, or pagan deities, or demonic forces would all be considered black.

I don't know if this will help or muddy the waters further.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 04:29:09 PM
As a side note, the traditional Roman Inquisition definitions of "White" versus "Black" magic (Sorcery vs. Witchcraft in some sources) was whether you were using natural processes (White) or compelling/contracting with spirits (Black) to perform the effect. So, using astrological connections, synecdoche, herbalism, potions, or alchemical processes were all white, while casting a spell, a curse, or a hex by invoking either God, the saints, and angels, or nature spirits, or pagan deities, or demonic forces would all be considered black.

I don't know if this will help or muddy the waters further.

Thanks, it does both: It helps and also muddies the waters. But I think it does more of the first and much less of the latter so it balances to a win.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: FingerRod on June 11, 2021, 04:59:29 PM
I recently started work on shaping magic for a future campaign and came up with six categories of magic that would be black, evil, etc.

Paralyze
Animate Dead
Speak with Dead
Curse
Life Transfer
Decay

Some of these do not fit classic tropes, which was okay by me. These are categories of spells, so you could have multiple types of spells fitting inside each grouping.

Super interested in where this conversation goes because I am still in the early stages and collecting ideas.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Pat on June 11, 2021, 05:00:58 PM
What type of spells would you guys say ARE definetely Black magic regardless of the intent/means?
Charm, dominate, magic jar, anything related.

Pretty much anything else should be fine.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Mishihari on June 11, 2021, 05:28:01 PM
With respect to the question about a healing spell that requires human sacrifice, I'd say that black trumps white.  If any effect of the spell is black or grey then the whole thing is.  Raise dead but gives someone a bloody nose?  Still black. 
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 05:28:50 PM
I recently started work on shaping magic for a future campaign and came up with six categories of magic that would be black, evil, etc.

Paralyze
Animate Dead
Speak with Dead
Curse
Life Transfer
Decay

Some of these do not fit classic tropes, which was okay by me. These are categories of spells, so you could have multiple types of spells fitting inside each grouping.

Super interested in where this conversation goes because I am still in the early stages and collecting ideas.

I agree with all but one, why paralyze?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 05:30:33 PM
With respect to the question about a healing spell that requires human sacrifice, I'd say that black trumps white.  If any effect of the spell is black or grey then the whole thing is.  Raise did but gives someone a bloody nose?  Still black.

Yeah intent and means do weight a lot. Means having the more weight IMHO in determining if it's black magic or not.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: FingerRod on June 11, 2021, 05:45:31 PM
I recently started work on shaping magic for a future campaign and came up with six categories of magic that would be black, evil, etc.

Paralyze
Animate Dead
Speak with Dead
Curse
Life Transfer
Decay

Some of these do not fit classic tropes, which was okay by me. These are categories of spells, so you could have multiple types of spells fitting inside each grouping.

Super interested in where this conversation goes because I am still in the early stages and collecting ideas.

I agree with all but one, why paralyze?

That is one I am on the fence with as well. It is a bit of a stretch, but life is about growth and vitality. It moves forward. Taking away that freedom, or the natural law of growth and movement is what is in violation. It is certainly thin.

Types of spells to fit in the category are similar to your hold spells, suffocation, etc.

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Mishihari on June 11, 2021, 05:45:59 PM
Hmmm ...  It might be useful to have black=harmful, white = non-harmful with altruistic intent, and grey be non-harmful with harmful intent.  Frex, an orc is attacking you.  Roasting him with fireball is black magic.  Paralyzing him temporarily to protect yourself is white magic.  Paralyzing him and then killing him makes it grey magic.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 06:23:48 PM
Hmmm ...  It might be useful to have black=harmful, white = non-harmful with altruistic intent, and grey be non-harmful with harmful intent.  Frex, an orc is attacking you.  Roasting him with fireball is black magic.  Paralyzing him temporarily to protect yourself is white magic.  Paralyzing him and then killing him makes it grey magic.

So Frex the Orc is about to kill a child, your only chance to stop him is magic missile, so it is still black magic?

I err on the side of why are you harming : Should you kill the children eating monster? Can you kill in self-defense?

This is why I started thinking of means and intent as having way more weight than most spells. And why I'm asking what spells should be considered black magic always.

You're going to cast a healing spell, but you use human sacrifice to power your magic... Is it white magic? It's altruisticand doesn't inflict harm (the spell doesn't)
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Mishihari on June 11, 2021, 06:28:52 PM
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 06:40:58 PM
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.

I agree that healing the murderer is white magic, I disagree that doing so by powering your spell with human sacrife is still white magic.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ghostmaker on June 11, 2021, 06:48:48 PM
I would recommend balancing this crunchwise as well. You don't want to cripple spellcasters who are trying to do the right thing.

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 08:34:03 PM
I would recommend balancing this crunchwise as well. You don't want to cripple spellcasters who are trying to do the right thing.

Correct, I want to nerf them just a little bit, but since I'm removing the no armor, no weapons restriction too.. And since those weapons can be shotguns, handguns... Even if I constrain them to small/medium weapons I think it balances out.

Plus evil spellcasters might be more powerful, but they will also be more rare, you see they hunt other spellcasters to feed from their power...
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: robertliguori on June 11, 2021, 08:51:09 PM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality.  Physics can be gamed and forced into extremely intuitive scenarios, as when we see a metal boat the size of a city block floating along merrily, or see planes flying through the air.

It's considerable less whimsical and inspiring when "Ta-dah! Technically not murder!" is performed.

My own intuition is to lean heavily into purely magic-as-physics, then see what falls out of that.  Any kind of corruptive magic system means that people, regardless of actual intention, can fall into a circumstance where their ethics disagree with the nature of the world, and unless they are being rigorously monitored, Mr. "No, it's a sacred rite of our people that when you get too old to fend for yourself or recognize your family, you get sacrificed to cure a permanent disability among one of your descendants." will end up with all the corruption points and have whatever happens there happen.

And, conversely, the utter asshole who cultures a line of cancer cells, spreads them around, and uses magic to magically heal and reinforce the cells inside his political enemies, killing them with the horrible plague that strikes the city he's in, is just using mundane healing magic, and is a horrifying murderer, but not corrupt, any more than someone who heals someone else who goes on to murder a third party would be.

And, while we're on the subject, let me tell you about my quote-vegan-unquote necromancer from 3.5 D&D, who started his career by solely using the corpses of animals (since they definitely didn't have souls and didn't get proper burials, he clearly wasn't violating any ritual taboos, and it was really hard to claim that he was harming the animals when he'd picked up the bones from a knackery and the one doing the complaining was literally wearing that animal's skin).  However, when druids complained several levels later into his necromancer career, he instead moved to the ultimate in green necromancy; he'd commission statues, cast Stone to Flesh on the statues, which turned into corpses, then animated the corpses, creating undeath ex nihilo, without death actually ever being involved in the process, and very definitely with no harm done to anyone.

He was, of course, thoroughly Evil in alignment; casting Animate Dead is an Evil act, even if what you do with the undead is purely good.  Likewise, a powerful cleric casting Holy Word in an orphanage as a way of screening out the bad seeds before they're adopted is both channeling the pure force of magical Good, and murdering a bunch of (non-Good-aligned) children.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 09:00:41 PM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality.  Physics can be gamed and forced into extremely intuitive scenarios, as when we see a metal boat the size of a city block floating along merrily, or see planes flying through the air.

It's considerable less whimsical and inspiring when "Ta-dah! Technically not murder!" is performed.

My own intuition is to lean heavily into purely magic-as-physics, then see what falls out of that.  Any kind of corruptive magic system means that people, regardless of actual intention, can fall into a circumstance where their ethics disagree with the nature of the world, and unless they are being rigorously monitored, Mr. "No, it's a sacred rite of our people that when you get too old to fend for yourself or recognize your family, you get sacrificed to cure a permanent disability among one of your descendants." will end up with all the corruption points and have whatever happens there happen.

And, conversely, the utter asshole who cultures a line of cancer cells, spreads them around, and uses magic to magically heal and reinforce the cells inside his political enemies, killing them with the horrible plague that strikes the city he's in, is just using mundane healing magic, and is a horrifying murderer, but not corrupt, any more than someone who heals someone else who goes on to murder a third party would be.

And, while we're on the subject, let me tell you about my quote-vegan-unquote necromancer from 3.5 D&D, who started his career by solely using the corpses of animals (since they definitely didn't have souls and didn't get proper burials, he clearly wasn't violating any ritual taboos, and it was really hard to claim that he was harming the animals when he'd picked up the bones from a knackery and the one doing the complaining was literally wearing that animal's skin).  However, when druids complained several levels later into his necromancer career, he instead moved to the ultimate in green necromancy; he'd commission statues, cast Stone to Flesh on the statues, which turned into corpses, then animated the corpses, creating undeath ex nihilo, without death actually ever being involved in the process, and very definitely with no harm done to anyone.

He was, of course, thoroughly Evil in alignment; casting Animate Dead is an Evil act, even if what you do with the undead is purely good.  Likewise, a powerful cleric casting Holy Word in an orphanage as a way of screening out the bad seeds before they're adopted is both channeling the pure force of magical Good, and murdering a bunch of (non-Good-aligned) children.

How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: robertliguori on June 11, 2021, 09:11:39 PM
How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).

Yup, children under 7 in human years and equivalents in for the various nonhuman races are under the age of accountability in my campaign, which means that they are neither good nor evil, which means that Holy Word and Holy Smite and similar spells will kill them dead.  The real point I was getting after was that I don't think there are defined always-good or always-evil spells, and I do think that magic is a tool.  It's just that, when the only spell you know is Summon Thumbscrews, then the actual times that you will be able to use your magic for ethical reasons will be very, very rare.  (Unless you're a smart-ass who spams the spell and uses the torture implements to crack walnuts, say.)

But, since I bring it up, is your position on intent symmetrical? Is raising the dead to defending the living and flinging horrible torturous death-curses at Evil doing Good with Evil means, just like blowing up orphanages with holy magic is doing Evil with Good means, and thus makes you Good by default?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 09:34:37 PM
How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).

Yup, children under 7 in human years and equivalents in for the various nonhuman races are under the age of accountability in my campaign, which means that they are neither good nor evil, which means that Holy Word and Holy Smite and similar spells will kill them dead.  The real point I was getting after was that I don't think there are defined always-good or always-evil spells, and I do think that magic is a tool.  It's just that, when the only spell you know is Summon Thumbscrews, then the actual times that you will be able to use your magic for ethical reasons will be very, very rare.  (Unless you're a smart-ass who spams the spell and uses the torture implements to crack walnuts, say.)

But, since I bring it up, is your position on intent symmetrical? Is raising the dead to defending the living and flinging horrible torturous death-curses at Evil doing Good with Evil means, just like blowing up orphanages with holy magic is doing Evil with Good means, and thus makes you Good by default?

In my game non-humans aren't ppl, therefore not children but spawn.

No, the end doesn't justify the means, never not IRL nor in my games.

Since an orphanage is full of the innocent blowing it up (by whatever means) would be evil (this extends even to your world where non-humans are ppl.

Let's use a different example, lets say that by exterminating all huwhite ppl the world would trully become paradise and everybody would join hands and sign kumbaya.

Does the end (paradise on earth) justify the means?

Now do it the other way around, do the means justify the end?

Lets say you were capable of harnesing the divine power and were able to eradicate all huwhite ppl by snapping your fingers (so no suffering or fear for them). You did it using God's power, does it make it Good?

IME when the players start doing those things you describe have happened in your game it's the fault of the GM for not making clear the rules of his world and not enforcing the alignment.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: robertliguori on June 11, 2021, 09:57:41 PM

In my game non-humans aren't ppl, therefore not children but spawn.

No, the end doesn't justify the means, never not IRL nor in my games.

Since an orphanage is full of the innocent blowing it up (by whatever means) would be evil (this extends even to your world where non-humans are ppl.

Let's use a different example, lets say that by exterminating all huwhite ppl the world would trully become paradise and everybody would join hands and sign kumbaya.

Does the end (paradise on earth) justify the means?

Now do it the other way around, do the means justify the end?

Lets say you were capable of harnesing the divine power and were able to eradicate all huwhite ppl by snapping your fingers (so no suffering or fear for them). You did it using God's power, does it make it Good?

IME when the players start doing those things you describe have happened in your game it's the fault of the GM for not making clear the rules of his world and not enforcing the alignment.

I don't think that I'm seeing you flip it the other way around.  If destroying innocent lives is Evil, regardless of the method used, then saving innocent lives is Good, even if you use necromancy and curses.  Just as shiny divine energy cannot redeem senseless slaughter, nor can gothic aesthetics condemn magic used to help and preserve others (with the proviso that the gothic magic can indeed have side effects that need to be considered).

I also think you're getting into some philosophical definitional questions, but I say it depends on your framework.  In the standard of most games, there literally does not exist an authority that can say the future with any accuracy, since the future of game worlds relies on dice and player decisions, so I'd fight the hypothetical about ethnic cleansing being known to cause utopia, even before we look at how often that has historically worked.  But absent the hypothetical-fighting, it comes down to your moral framework, of either doing the most good, or embracing rights absolutely.  If you could preserve the lives of hundreds of trillions by killing billions, then you clearly should, just as we accept that we need to go to war to stop an aggressive enemy and accept that we will be killing a measure of that enemy's civilians, the truly innocent among them, as collateral of the violence we need to stop an aggressive nation from waging war against us.

But plenty of moral systems do not accept the idea of necessary sacrifice or the greater good, and condemn any such calculus.  If you believe that killing the innocent is always wrong, and that, e.g., the bombing of a tank factory in WWII is unjustifiable because the people making the tanks for your enemy are not combatants (and would probably be jailed or shot for not supporting the regime controlling them), then you would condemn the bombing, even knowing that more soldiers (yours and theirs both) would die if the factory stood.

When I use D&D good-as-planar-force, I myself emphasize that Good and Evil are bits of physics.  They're not sentient, they can't plan or look ahead, and it's all about what decision you make in the moment.  In my campaigns, the forces of Good and Evil don't care how many lives you saved by killing an innocent crucial to the evil plans of the Dark Lord; what matters is that you killed an innocent.

But (also IMC), actually using the planar energies utterly swamps the residue left from deeds, unless the deeds are truly epic in scope.  For most of the examples (clerics and aligned outsiders), you either need to keep a code of conduct or lack free will and aren't really capable of attempting to do Good with Evil and vice versa, but in the specific case of wizards who use aligned spells, they can pretty easily disconnect their actual alignment from how those around them tend to perceive them.

Now, D&D is also quite different than most moral settings in that D&D is explicitly mirrored.  Good is the metaphysical opposite but balanced pole of Evil.  What one can do, the other can do in reverse.  In that model, you need to take into account that if bad ends corrupt good means, so therefore should good ends redeem bad means.  In settings and moralities without that cosmic balance, you can say "No, bad ends or bad means make it bad, full-stop."

But when you just call specific magics evil (or, as you point out, good) without looking at what they actually do, and who they actually do it to, you end up disconnecting the actual essence of Good and Evil from what people tend to consider them.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ghostmaker on June 11, 2021, 10:11:59 PM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Mishihari on June 11, 2021, 10:16:42 PM
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.

I agree that healing the murderer is white magic, I disagree that doing so by powering your spell with human sacrife is still white magic.


Just to be clear, I wasn't arguing the latter.  That comes under my point that if any part of the magic is evil, then the spell is black.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Mishihari on June 11, 2021, 10:19:05 PM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 10:34:59 PM

In my game non-humans aren't ppl, therefore not children but spawn.

No, the end doesn't justify the means, never not IRL nor in my games.

Since an orphanage is full of the innocent blowing it up (by whatever means) would be evil (this extends even to your world where non-humans are ppl.

Let's use a different example, lets say that by exterminating all huwhite ppl the world would trully become paradise and everybody would join hands and sign kumbaya.

Does the end (paradise on earth) justify the means?

Now do it the other way around, do the means justify the end?

Lets say you were capable of harnesing the divine power and were able to eradicate all huwhite ppl by snapping your fingers (so no suffering or fear for them). You did it using God's power, does it make it Good?

IME when the players start doing those things you describe have happened in your game it's the fault of the GM for not making clear the rules of his world and not enforcing the alignment.

I don't think that I'm seeing you flip it the other way around.  If destroying innocent lives is Evil, regardless of the method used, then saving innocent lives is Good, even if you use necromancy and curses.  Just as shiny divine energy cannot redeem senseless slaughter, nor can gothic aesthetics condemn magic used to help and preserve others (with the proviso that the gothic magic can indeed have side effects that need to be considered).

I also think you're getting into some philosophical definitional questions, but I say it depends on your framework.  In the standard of most games, there literally does not exist an authority that can say the future with any accuracy, since the future of game worlds relies on dice and player decisions, so I'd fight the hypothetical about ethnic cleansing being known to cause utopia, even before we look at how often that has historically worked.  But absent the hypothetical-fighting, it comes down to your moral framework, of either doing the most good, or embracing rights absolutely.  If you could preserve the lives of hundreds of trillions by killing billions, then you clearly should, just as we accept that we need to go to war to stop an aggressive enemy and accept that we will be killing a measure of that enemy's civilians, the truly innocent among them, as collateral of the violence we need to stop an aggressive nation from waging war against us.

But plenty of moral systems do not accept the idea of necessary sacrifice or the greater good, and condemn any such calculus.  If you believe that killing the innocent is always wrong, and that, e.g., the bombing of a tank factory in WWII is unjustifiable because the people making the tanks for your enemy are not combatants (and would probably be jailed or shot for not supporting the regime controlling them), then you would condemn the bombing, even knowing that more soldiers (yours and theirs both) would die if the factory stood.

When I use D&D good-as-planar-force, I myself emphasize that Good and Evil are bits of physics.  They're not sentient, they can't plan or look ahead, and it's all about what decision you make in the moment.  In my campaigns, the forces of Good and Evil don't care how many lives you saved by killing an innocent crucial to the evil plans of the Dark Lord; what matters is that you killed an innocent.

But (also IMC), actually using the planar energies utterly swamps the residue left from deeds, unless the deeds are truly epic in scope.  For most of the examples (clerics and aligned outsiders), you either need to keep a code of conduct or lack free will and aren't really capable of attempting to do Good with Evil and vice versa, but in the specific case of wizards who use aligned spells, they can pretty easily disconnect their actual alignment from how those around them tend to perceive them.

Now, D&D is also quite different than most moral settings in that D&D is explicitly mirrored.  Good is the metaphysical opposite but balanced pole of Evil.  What one can do, the other can do in reverse.  In that model, you need to take into account that if bad ends corrupt good means, so therefore should good ends redeem bad means.  In settings and moralities without that cosmic balance, you can say "No, bad ends or bad means make it bad, full-stop."

But when you just call specific magics evil (or, as you point out, good) without looking at what they actually do, and who they actually do it to, you end up disconnecting the actual essence of Good and Evil from what people tend to consider them.

Okay, you're thinking strictly on D&D "morality" terms, I'm not, I'm creating a world where there's one God, there's Demons and the Devil. Morality isn't subjective but objective, at least for God and those who follow his commands.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 10:36:42 PM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Yes, you're involved in a fight of Good vs Evil, you're on the side of God and fight against the enemies of good. God is judging you. which is why there's grave consecuences to dabling on black magic.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 11, 2021, 10:37:50 PM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.

It's not about MY morality, it's about the game world, and about giving it internally consistent rules.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: ScytheSong on June 11, 2021, 11:32:35 PM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Yes, you're involved in a fight of Good vs Evil, you're on the side of God and fight against the enemies of good. God is judging you. which is why there's grave consecuences to dabling on black magic.

So, to move on from my original white/black as seen by the Catholics, this gives me some ideas for a mechanically White, Grey, and Black magic in your universe.

First, White Magic is easy: does it have, at its base, the practitioner submitting their will to God? If it is a prayer at heart, it's White. "Bless this endeavor, Lord", "Heal my friend", "Smite these Demons" all work as white magic. If white magic is attempted in an unholy effort, there's a chance that it will either not go off or do something unexpected that conforms to God's Will (and probably tally as Grey or Black depending on the caster's intent).

Grey Magic is like the White Magic of the Inquisition. If it's based on "natural" processes, it's Grey. Alchemy, potions, spells that rely on correspondences or whatever your magical "physics" and are neither submission to God's Will or consorting with demons fall into this category.

Black Magic retains it's definition for the most part. If the magic-user is exerting their will over the wills of spiritual beings, or especially if they have entered into a pact with a demon (or demons), their soul is tainted and their magic is Black.

This will give the "Cleric" type magic user mostly White magic, the "mage" or "hermetic" type mostly Grey, and leave most of the Black magic for the bad guys. I'd suggest that there be a relatively easy way to clear "Grey" stains from your soul, but "Black" redemption needs a larger effort (look at Faust, for instance).
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 12, 2021, 12:26:30 AM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Yes, you're involved in a fight of Good vs Evil, you're on the side of God and fight against the enemies of good. God is judging you. which is why there's grave consecuences to dabling on black magic.

So, to move on from my original white/black as seen by the Catholics, this gives me some ideas for a mechanically White, Grey, and Black magic in your universe.

First, White Magic is easy: does it have, at its base, the practitioner submitting their will to God? If it is a prayer at heart, it's White. "Bless this endeavor, Lord", "Heal my friend", "Smite these Demons" all work as white magic. If white magic is attempted in an unholy effort, there's a chance that it will either not go off or do something unexpected that conforms to God's Will (and probably tally as Grey or Black depending on the caster's intent).

Grey Magic is like the White Magic of the Inquisition. If it's based on "natural" processes, it's Grey. Alchemy, potions, spells that rely on correspondences or whatever your magical "physics" and are neither submission to God's Will or consorting with demons fall into this category.

Black Magic retains it's definition for the most part. If the magic-user is exerting their will over the wills of spiritual beings, or especially if they have entered into a pact with a demon (or demons), their soul is tainted and their magic is Black.

This will give the "Cleric" type magic user mostly White magic, the "mage" or "hermetic" type mostly Grey, and leave most of the Black magic for the bad guys. I'd suggest that there be a relatively easy way to clear "Grey" stains from your soul, but "Black" redemption needs a larger effort (look at Faust, for instance).

That almost is what I envisioned, almost.

My idea was to have the "cleric" perform miracles, it's not magic, it's channeling the divine power or asking God to perform a miracle.

Besides this I had thought to have magic, where white magic is done by harnesing the background preternatural radiation left over after the creation. Gray magic has a little of this and a little of something other, maybe some blood magic done with the caster's own blood or willing donors? And Black magic comes from the devil or is done by blood magic by torture and human sacrifice.

This has the side effect of nerfing the cleric and the MU but it's compensated by removing the weapons and armor restrictions.

As an example the cleric can make holy water just by praying over it for a certain ammount of time (haven't settled the exact time yet).

There's also no need to prepare prayers/spells, it's cast at will. And both have access to all levels, limited by their own power not by slots, no fire and forget either, both can cast any number of spells their own power allows.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: HappyDaze on June 12, 2021, 12:38:53 AM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.
They did it with using the Force in D6 Star Wars, and for many, it is considered a great way to do it.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: HappyDaze on June 12, 2021, 12:41:24 AM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Yes, you're involved in a fight of Good vs Evil, you're on the side of God and fight against the enemies of good. God is judging you. which is why there's grave consecuences to dabling on black magic.
Are this god's views directly communicated to its chosen, or is there no direct conversation with the divine and people are left to interpret signs of its favor/disfavor?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 12, 2021, 01:14:58 AM
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?

Yes, you're involved in a fight of Good vs Evil, you're on the side of God and fight against the enemies of good. God is judging you. which is why there's grave consecuences to dabling on black magic.
Are this god's views directly communicated to its chosen, or is there no direct conversation with the divine and people are left to interpret signs of its favor/disfavor?

Yes directly communicated, but most choose not to hear.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 12, 2021, 01:16:41 AM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.
They did it with using the Force in D6 Star Wars, and for many, it is considered a great way to do it.

But it's not a God, therefore some don't see an issue with it. I just want to make something different, and yet there's charges about MY morality. When all I want is some internally consistent logic/mechanics. To the world I'm creating.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Manic Modron on June 12, 2021, 02:48:39 AM
Maybe borrow/steal from Ars Magica a bit.

Divine Powers are White magic:  Adjuration (control, banish the supernatural), Blessing (protective and inspirational aspects), Cursing ( smite those who oppose the Divine Will), Intervention ( sometimes God needs to step in a bit more directly), Transcendence (overcome the limitations of the material), Understanding (moments where the Divine Plan is clear), and Wonders (conjure holy items, creatures, and the elements).

Infernal powers are black magic:  Consumption ( draw on life of others for your own use), Diablerie ( dealing with things from outside God's Creation), Effusion ( unnatural dominance of the natural world, without the ability to create), Malediction (direct damage to either fate (misfortune) or the world (withering and blasting curses)), Phantasm (Illusions and hallucinations), Psychomachia (control of thoughts and emotions).

Any other effects would be Grey, neither gifted from Heaven nor sold by Hell.  Dealing with spirits, fae, elementals, ghosts, magical beasts, alchemy, wisdom gleaned from the stars and the potency of herbs.   Okay, sometimes sold by Hell and maybe guided to by Heaven, but depending on neither.  Just things you can learn if you pay attention or have the right teacher.

Regardless, I'd leave motivation out of the equation for what magic is what.

Calling down divine fire to lay waste to a horde of undead, but catching some humans in the blast isn't Black magic even though you have killed innocents.  It is manslaughter, reckless endangerment, inappropriate use of Divine Resources, etc..  It is certainly going to get a very stern angel coming down to Have Words With Thee and possibly getting your Theurgy License revoked, but it is the act that is evil, not the magic.
 
Using a Phantasm or Psychomachia to trick or force a crime lord into confessing in court or make a serial killer walk off a ledge to a Disney Villain Death might do a lot of good, but you are still damned because the tools you are using are breaking Heaven's laws just by picking them up.  To avoid cries of "foul!" and "I didn't know!" there is probably a section of an angelic choir dedicated to making sure that somebody about to learn Black magic is told at least once that it is a horrible plan.

Telling a salamander to go into an orphanage and burn everything that it can perceive is certainly murderous, but more like assault with an arcane weapon and less like possession of contraband. At least on a cosmic level.  Individual countries might have anti wizarding laws on the books, but nobody is going to hell just for calling up a sylph.  Using it to crash a ship onto a reef is probably not going to look good in your record, though.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: HappyDaze on June 12, 2021, 02:50:08 AM
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.
They did it with using the Force in D6 Star Wars, and for many, it is considered a great way to do it.

But it's not a God, therefore some don't see an issue with it. I just want to make something different, and yet there's charges about MY morality. When all I want is some internally consistent logic/mechanics. To the world I'm creating.
Just sort through the input you're getting and ignore anything that doesn't fit with your world. If anyone is unintentionally addressing your personal morality, it's probably just because they don't have all of the information about your game world that you do and they're either seeking more information or are just filling in the holes as they see them (and not necessarily correctly). If they are intentionally trying to have a discussion on your personal morality, just ignore that input.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Manic Modron on June 12, 2021, 03:07:47 AM
You could twist some Grey effects to be controversial or distasteful, but still not have them be genuinely Black. 

The classic fireball might just be an expression of magical principles in most settings, but once the way to do it is to summon a salamander, twist its head off and chuck it like a grenade, then it might say something about the kind of person who uses it on the regular.

You get one sort of wizard who thinks that elementals aren't real creatures anyway and another sort who look at you like you just strapped a bomb to a Labrador retriever and threw a stick where you wanted it to explode.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 12, 2021, 12:56:55 PM
You could twist some Grey effects to be controversial or distasteful, but still not have them be genuinely Black. 

The classic fireball might just be an expression of magical principles in most settings, but once the way to do it is to summon a salamander, twist its head off and chuck it like a grenade, then it might say something about the kind of person who uses it on the regular.

You get one sort of wizard who thinks that elementals aren't real creatures anyway and another sort who look at you like you just strapped a bomb to a Labrador retriever and threw a stick where you wanted it to explode.

You're thinking of a classical D&D fantasy type of game, this isn't going to be that. Think Conspiracy X but only with supernatural enemies. And you're on the team that knows monsters exist and are hunting them.

Which is why I either manage to create a coherent system of White/Gray/Black magic or I make all MU NPCs (With the exception of the Cleric).

It's also a monoteistic world. You have God and against him Demons and Demonspawn. You're on the side of the angels.

It might not be something most find fun or it might be a hit who knows?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Manic Modron on June 12, 2021, 07:35:17 PM
My intent is to brainstorm out of generalities, not make assumptions.

The overall takeaway is the same.  White magic is the stuff that directly supports God's aims.  Black magic is the stuff that is antithetical to those aims.

Set your campaign with a few key Virtues.  As examples, lets say Truth, Courage, & Love.  White magic clears away illusion and reveals lies, bolsters the resolve of champions, as well as protecting people and showing them the Light.  Black magic then spreads deceit, undermines the will of others, & strips away life and brings Darkness.  Grey magic is just tools and guns.

Hang your own trappings on whatever you need, but if you want a coherent system, I'd say keep it simple.  Otherwise players will probably be more inspired to find moral loopholes the more fine your lines are.

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: amacris on June 14, 2021, 04:40:41 AM
You're thinking of a classical D&D fantasy type of game, this isn't going to be that. Think Conspiracy X but only with supernatural enemies. And you're on the team that knows monsters exist and are hunting them.

Which is why I either manage to create a coherent system of White/Gray/Black magic or I make all MU NPCs (With the exception of the Cleric).

It's also a monoteistic world. You have God and against him Demons and Demonspawn. You're on the side of the angels.

It might not be something most find fun or it might be a hit who knows?

I think it's awesome that you're doing this. Objective "God-given" morality is great for gameplay -- it creates interesting mechanics and allows for a certain moral clarity of action that can be really refreshing if you've spent the last 50 sessions in ambiguity. I wrote some rules for ACKS/BX magic that translates the spells into White, Black, Grey with penalties / corruption for mis-using Grey and Black. Hit me up on DM if you want me to send them to you.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 15, 2021, 06:50:49 PM
You're thinking of a classical D&D fantasy type of game, this isn't going to be that. Think Conspiracy X but only with supernatural enemies. And you're on the team that knows monsters exist and are hunting them.

Which is why I either manage to create a coherent system of White/Gray/Black magic or I make all MU NPCs (With the exception of the Cleric).

It's also a monoteistic world. You have God and against him Demons and Demonspawn. You're on the side of the angels.

It might not be something most find fun or it might be a hit who knows?

I think it's awesome that you're doing this. Objective "God-given" morality is great for gameplay -- it creates interesting mechanics and allows for a certain moral clarity of action that can be really refreshing if you've spent the last 50 sessions in ambiguity. I wrote some rules for ACKS/BX magic that translates the spells into White, Black, Grey with penalties / corruption for mis-using Grey and Black. Hit me up on DM if you want me to send them to you.

Thanks, IMHO I think there's already a lot of that "polyteism" and nothing is evil/good in the market, It still might flop, it might not, who knows?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Spinachcat on June 23, 2021, 11:56:15 PM
I've seen some OSR games or supplements breaking down D&D spells into White / Gray / Black. Unsure which one offhand unfortunately, but I remember having some issues with some of the categorization.

Especially because it appears White = Good Magic and Black = Evil Magic which is perfectly fine, but lots of magic spells don't fit easily there and its weirder when the Evil Wizard heals his minions with white magic and the Good Priest drops an evil fireball on the goblin horde.

Perhaps the answer is removing Good & Evil from the White & Black definitions of magic BUT...black magic has tremendous association with evil.

Warhammer went with "all magic is from Chaos", aka if its not blessing from Sigmar (or the neutral gods of the Old World like Morr), then its Chaos tainted.

DCC RPG seems to operate from a similar idea.   

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 24, 2021, 12:15:40 AM
I've seen some OSR games or supplements breaking down D&D spells into White / Gray / Black. Unsure which one offhand unfortunately, but I remember having some issues with some of the categorization.

Especially because it appears White = Good Magic and Black = Evil Magic which is perfectly fine, but lots of magic spells don't fit easily there and its weirder when the Evil Wizard heals his minions with white magic and the Good Priest drops an evil fireball on the goblin horde.

Perhaps the answer is removing Good & Evil from the White & Black definitions of magic BUT...black magic has tremendous association with evil.

Warhammer went with "all magic is from Chaos", aka if its not blessing from Sigmar (or the neutral gods of the Old World like Morr), then its Chaos tainted.

DCC RPG seems to operate from a similar idea.

And what makes you think that my cleric performs magic? Miracles, performed by God by intersecion of the Cleric. So it's not magic, also what makes you think I'm going to give the Cleric the exact same "spells" that the OSR uses?

So one problem solved.

I agree that the evil wizard healing his mininons might sound like something good... Until you realize that to do it he stole the life of innocent people so his minions could keep on serving him in his evil plots.

Type of spell matters, but it also matters intent and means to power the spell. The second and last maybe more than the first.

So it's a bit more complex than it sounds. It's not put all the healing spells in the good side and all the fireballs in the evil side.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: tenbones on June 24, 2021, 03:12:05 PM
Let me take it from a different direction - I think while you don't want Vancian magic, the responses are diving directly into Vancian frameworks. Specifically by saying what kind of magic is Black Magic... the very framing that we seem to be debating is the specific effects.

You might want to consider thematics over effects. For example - Can Black Magic *Heal* where *Heal* is the effect? Can Black Magic *Raise Dead*. Conversely, can White Magic *Heal* and *Raise Dead*? Then we shouldn't be debating the effects, rather the thematics and what Black Magic (and any other school/form) has as a thematic quality.

In this case I'd say Black Magic is inherently "entropic" - therefore it can never create something out nothing. It *always* subtracts. So in this case it can *Heal* - but only by draining something else. It can *Raise Dead* only by killing something else. So it depends on how far you want to extend the metaphysics of it. You might figure out what realms or modes of magic exist to produce what discrete effects.

So if Mental qualities is something you're going to have - perhaps Black Magic only "corrupts" Mental States. Removes senses. etc. But it can't for instance instill positive things - like love. That would be the province of another school (Like Enchantment or something).

OR maybe you can do it with Black Magic but it has to cost something.

Raising Undead is a hallmark of Black Magic but it's not creating something so much as it's instilling entropic energy to animate something already dead. Soul capturing, Possession? I'm tossing stuff out there. Life-force draining and redistribution.

Perhaps direct damage by way of casters using their own life-force?

I kinda feel that the gotcha for Black Magic is there should be a pain-algorithm. So it's nasty in effect, but inefficient in doing pseudo-positive things. So it might drain you of health, but produce +25% more in damage. While "healing" via life-drain is only 50% effective because inherently Black Magic is entropic not regenerative.

Anyhow - that's how I look at it.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 24, 2021, 04:24:26 PM
Let me take it from a different direction - I think while you don't want Vancian magic, the responses are diving directly into Vancian frameworks. Specifically by saying what kind of magic is Black Magic... the very framing that we seem to be debating is the specific effects.

You might want to consider thematics over effects. For example - Can Black Magic *Heal* where *Heal* is the effect? Can Black Magic *Raise Dead*. Conversely, can White Magic *Heal* and *Raise Dead*? Then we shouldn't be debating the effects, rather the thematics and what Black Magic (and any other school/form) has as a thematic quality.

In this case I'd say Black Magic is inherently "entropic" - therefore it can never create something out nothing. It *always* subtracts. So in this case it can *Heal* - but only by draining something else. It can *Raise Dead* only by killing something else. So it depends on how far you want to extend the metaphysics of it. You might figure out what realms or modes of magic exist to produce what discrete effects.

So if Mental qualities is something you're going to have - perhaps Black Magic only "corrupts" Mental States. Removes senses. etc. But it can't for instance instill positive things - like love. That would be the province of another school (Like Enchantment or something).

OR maybe you can do it with Black Magic but it has to cost something.

Raising Undead is a hallmark of Black Magic but it's not creating something so much as it's instilling entropic energy to animate something already dead. Soul capturing, Possession? I'm tossing stuff out there. Life-force draining and redistribution.

Perhaps direct damage by way of casters using their own life-force?

I kinda feel that the gotcha for Black Magic is there should be a pain-algorithm. So it's nasty in effect, but inefficient in doing pseudo-positive things. So it might drain you of health, but produce +25% more in damage. While "healing" via life-drain is only 50% effective because inherently Black Magic is entropic not regenerative.

Anyhow - that's how I look at it.

Looks like you understood where I'm coming from and also like you found a workable solution.

But... Wouldn't that make Black magic less powerful than the White kind? Where's the temptation to use it if you can use White magic and it's more effective?

Also what about Gray magic?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: tenbones on June 24, 2021, 05:23:02 PM
I suppose it depends on how you want to break down the "schools".

Black, White and Grey seem overly broad to me, imo. But it depends on what kind of magic you want to emphasize.

Typical magical cosmologies will have Postive (White) Negative (Black), then have the Four Elements in between. Of course there are others that go to the abstract leveraging the Kabbalaistic sorts of systems where you have specific "domains"- Mind, Spirit, Forces, Material etc. And then you specify how White/Grey/Black interact with each and those interactions are modes which produce effects.

Mage conceptually does it in an interesting way with its Spheres. I think their system sucks over all in expressing it.

Talislanta 4e does it pretty well. You have Modes which dictate mechanics, and the Schools have access to specific modes, which are granted bonuses and penalties to those kinds of effects.

Savage Worlds approaches it purely from a game-mechanic perspective by giving your the mechanics of an effect, then your school (Black, White, Gray in his example) apply "Trappings" which directly affect the Effect. Their spells are discrete powers that may/may not exist in the Spell lists of the respective school.

So it means you have to codify what kinds of effects are possible, then denote how each school interacts with those effects. It can be a lot of work but I think it's worthwhile if you put some effort into thinking about what kind of magic you want in your world.

1) Decide what kinds of effects do you want possible? Elemental effects? Abstact effects (Mental, Spacial, Chronological?)
2) Or do you want to do it by category - where broad effects are possible under some kind of taxonomic divisions. Law/Chaos - where between each category you have distinct schools that have effects which differ based on things that create order vs. things that create entropy. You'll have to denote how those distinctions matter in your setting.
3)  Magic the Gathering isn't a decent system to riff off of structurally. Chaos/Power, Life/Nature, Entropy/Death, Mind/Arcane, Order/Purity.  And of course they have a big catch-all neutral for "technology" which is neutral, but has a lot of ties to the abstract Mind/Arcane.  You can easily break these down into setting-specific camps and determine the types of effects you want and apply bonuses and penalities according to the school in question and the order of magic they practice.

Just some food for thought!

As for the temptation to go Black. Well the "traditional" idea is that Black Magic should cost you something yet give you instant results. Or something to that effect. As Yoda says - the Dark Side is the short-cut to power, not wisdom. But again the problem with this model is that it assumes certain undeniable realities of a binary Black/White system in terms of a mortal's interactions. You may not want that.

Me? I like magic being dangerous, but the question we're talking about it whether the mere practice of it is some kind of existential spiritual threat unless <X>. Where <X> is "sanctioned" method to engage with such forces. Sanctioned by who? Gods? The limits of magical ignorance? Physiological/Psychological limits of mere mortals? All of the above?

There's a lot of rabbit-holes you can go down with it. I think it might be better to approach it from a game-mechanic perspective and tweak to the narrative realities, unless you want to really ponder what magic really means in your setting. I go through this shit all the time with my own stuff, heh.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: tenbones on June 24, 2021, 05:36:50 PM
Gray Magic

What does that mean without some kind of moral authority guiding the intent of the forces? One interesting idea that comes from R. Scott Bakker (philosopher and fantasy writer) is that "reality" is comprised of the most powerful being's Subjective Will. So the fantasy setting of his novels - Mages have figured out the secret methods to work magic - which is to rearrange reality, but because their understanding of reality is imperfect, it causes their spirits to slowly decay. The reason for this is that the God's subjective reality - which creates the world, is so vastly powerful, it becomes OBJECTIVE reality to lesser creatures (like mortal men).

Get your head around THAT as a fantasy setting magical cosmology. Then he has Aristotelian (Effect's based) and Platonic (Vancian) magic working side-by-side, as mere descriptors of how mortals are playing with the tools of the Gods and ruining their souls. And only one school in his setting is capable of working magic without scarring their soul, and it's a school that is largely subtle and psychic in nature. And none know why this effect exists or why the respective schools can only work magic in the way they do.

It's pretty fascinating stuff.

He has one over-arching explanation for Magic. It's based on meaning. The larger reality is that the Gods create reality from their own subjective power and construction of their reality which we all live in. Mortals practice magic that describes (or rewrites) their objective reality via three methods relating directly to meaning -

Representational Logic - Sorcery that describes the Effects which are discrete to the capacities of the Sorcerer. Think of it as magical logic problems and utterances combined with thought constructs of insane structure. This literally describes the effect (and is powerful as fuck).

Anagogic Logic - An inprecise method of not fully understanding the forces which describe a specific effect. This would be a Vancian spell. Where the Logos version of Representational Logic would understand the forces of fire, and create specific effects on the fly, the Anagogic sorcerer knows how to cast Otilukes Flaming Sphere - which doesn't understand where the sphere, or the fire comes from, just the specific rotes and actions which allow the spell-effect to take place. They can't pull off the stunts that a Logos-based sorcerer does. Nor do they know how the Logos based sorcerer does that they do.

Impetus Based - The foundation of any effect comes from the psychological impulse to extract meaning from reality. In Bakker's setting - these practitioners cut to the heart of meaning for their effects which do not warp reality as much as reveal or create effects that are subtle and powerful. Less flashy, but ultimately it's working in context with the Subjectivity of Reality as laid down by the Gods. So lots of psychic effects, subtle manipulations, etc.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 24, 2021, 06:29:49 PM
I suppose it depends on how you want to break down the "schools".

Black, White and Grey seem overly broad to me, imo. But it depends on what kind of magic you want to emphasize.

Typical magical cosmologies will have Postive (White) Negative (Black), then have the Four Elements in between. Of course there are others that go to the abstract leveraging the Kabbalaistic sorts of systems where you have specific "domains"- Mind, Spirit, Forces, Material etc. And then you specify how White/Grey/Black interact with each and those interactions are modes which produce effects.

Mage conceptually does it in an interesting way with its Spheres. I think their system sucks over all in expressing it.

Talislanta 4e does it pretty well. You have Modes which dictate mechanics, and the Schools have access to specific modes, which are granted bonuses and penalties to those kinds of effects.

Savage Worlds approaches it purely from a game-mechanic perspective by giving your the mechanics of an effect, then your school (Black, White, Gray in his example) apply "Trappings" which directly affect the Effect. Their spells are discrete powers that may/may not exist in the Spell lists of the respective school.

So it means you have to codify what kinds of effects are possible, then denote how each school interacts with those effects. It can be a lot of work but I think it's worthwhile if you put some effort into thinking about what kind of magic you want in your world.

1) Decide what kinds of effects do you want possible? Elemental effects? Abstact effects (Mental, Spacial, Chronological?)
2) Or do you want to do it by category - where broad effects are possible under some kind of taxonomic divisions. Law/Chaos - where between each category you have distinct schools that have effects which differ based on things that create order vs. things that create entropy. You'll have to denote how those distinctions matter in your setting.
3)  Magic the Gathering isn't a decent system to riff off of structurally. Chaos/Power, Life/Nature, Entropy/Death, Mind/Arcane, Order/Purity.  And of course they have a big catch-all neutral for "technology" which is neutral, but has a lot of ties to the abstract Mind/Arcane.  You can easily break these down into setting-specific camps and determine the types of effects you want and apply bonuses and penalities according to the school in question and the order of magic they practice.

Just some food for thought!

As for the temptation to go Black. Well the "traditional" idea is that Black Magic should cost you something yet give you instant results. Or something to that effect. As Yoda says - the Dark Side is the short-cut to power, not wisdom. But again the problem with this model is that it assumes certain undeniable realities of a binary Black/White system in terms of a mortal's interactions. You may not want that.

Me? I like magic being dangerous, but the question we're talking about it whether the mere practice of it is some kind of existential spiritual threat unless <X>. Where <X> is "sanctioned" method to engage with such forces. Sanctioned by who? Gods? The limits of magical ignorance? Physiological/Psychological limits of mere mortals? All of the above?

There's a lot of rabbit-holes you can go down with it. I think it might be better to approach it from a game-mechanic perspective and tweak to the narrative realities, unless you want to really ponder what magic really means in your setting. I go through this shit all the time with my own stuff, heh.

The setting in very few words: Monsters are real, this includes anything not human. God is real (in singular), so is Lucifer and other demons. Clerics don't work magic, they manage to work miracles by interceding so God does X. Black magic is evil (maybe all magic if I can't find a way to work around it)

Now, if I'm to include some magic user as a PC I need to find a way to separate magic not into schools but into types: White, Gray Black, where Black magic comes from Demons or torture and human sacrifice, White magic uses "natural" energies and does not harm except in self defense or protecting the innocent. Gray magic somehow is in the middle of that (I might do away with Gray magic altogether since it's the hardest to get right).

So any person could do Black magic but it leaves a taint, it corrupts your sould making you more likelly to do the bidding of demons. The more you use it the bigger the taint (some spells have a bigger taint perse). To cleanse yourself you have to do X (Pray, penance, a quest,etc) but beyond a certain point you can never fully clean the taint if at all.

White magic on the other hand has no such cost, but it's less fast/powerfull since it has restraints in the means to power it and the uses.

You are playing as monster hunters.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ghostmaker on June 25, 2021, 10:00:14 AM
Geeky, it might not hurt for you to dig out the old Dragonlance books and see what the three orders (White, Red, Black) were limited to in terms of spells.  Could be useful.

I believe the Black Robes also advanced faster than their other counterparts.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 25, 2021, 10:47:49 AM
Geeky, it might not hurt for you to dig out the old Dragonlance books and see what the three orders (White, Red, Black) were limited to in terms of spells.  Could be useful.

I believe the Black Robes also advanced faster than their other counterparts.

don't have them, and don't have the money to buy them right now. But it's something I will do as soon as I have some extra cash.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: robertliguori on June 25, 2021, 11:57:51 AM
I think you're going to need more theology to flesh out your setting, but from what you're saying, I think what you need to do is to define your poles better.

So, in a polar system, white magic is magic that is directly aligned with God and God's will.  This is a bit more complicated than just not using violence in self-defense, since (I assume) the setting includes angels and smiting and so on, but the point is that it is magic that specifically fulfills the will of God directly.

And, accordingly, black magic is magic that specifically thwarts God's will, or aligns the user with Satan.  This is again set directly according to what God wants, just in the opposite direction.

And in this polar structure, grey magic is magic that is not aligned in either direction.  Alchemy, or herbalism, or simple elemental magic that is of the physical world and has no moral dimension, does not lead you directly to demons and Satan, but it does not lead you to God, either, and if you practice it too deeply, you can end up thinking that you have this wonderful structure that can solve all your problems and has no need of God, which is deeply hazardous.

In this setting, most D&D magic is Grey, and the big deciding factor is how you use it.  Disguise magic is morally neutral, in a spherical vacuum.  If you habitually use disguise magic to make yourself look prettier, you might be making yourself prey to the sin of Vanity, which will start tainting your magic disguises.  Conversely, a village wizard using disguise magic to give himself a different appearance every morning when he wakes up to amuse the villagers and reassure them that yes, he is a practicing wizard what does real actual wizard magic and not a charlatan, would be simply Grey, and that wizard using their magic to swap appearances with an injured witch-hunter convalescing nearby, and lead away a pack of blackguards seeking to murder the vulnerable witch-hunter, might be a White usage of normally-Grey magic.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on June 25, 2021, 01:37:11 PM
I think you're going to need more theology to flesh out your setting, but from what you're saying, I think what you need to do is to define your poles better.

So, in a polar system, white magic is magic that is directly aligned with God and God's will.  This is a bit more complicated than just not using violence in self-defense, since (I assume) the setting includes angels and smiting and so on, but the point is that it is magic that specifically fulfills the will of God directly.

And, accordingly, black magic is magic that specifically thwarts God's will, or aligns the user with Satan.  This is again set directly according to what God wants, just in the opposite direction.

And in this polar structure, grey magic is magic that is not aligned in either direction.  Alchemy, or herbalism, or simple elemental magic that is of the physical world and has no moral dimension, does not lead you directly to demons and Satan, but it does not lead you to God, either, and if you practice it too deeply, you can end up thinking that you have this wonderful structure that can solve all your problems and has no need of God, which is deeply hazardous.

In this setting, most D&D magic is Grey, and the big deciding factor is how you use it.  Disguise magic is morally neutral, in a spherical vacuum.  If you habitually use disguise magic to make yourself look prettier, you might be making yourself prey to the sin of Vanity, which will start tainting your magic disguises.  Conversely, a village wizard using disguise magic to give himself a different appearance every morning when he wakes up to amuse the villagers and reassure them that yes, he is a practicing wizard what does real actual wizard magic and not a charlatan, would be simply Grey, and that wizard using their magic to swap appearances with an injured witch-hunter convalescing nearby, and lead away a pack of blackguards seeking to murder the vulnerable witch-hunter, might be a White usage of normally-Grey magic.

D&D magic is a convoluted mess.

Trust me I'm not fleshing out everything here because it would be a lot to read.

I've already said (probably in the opening post IIRC) that type of spell matters, but how you power the spell matters too and why you're casting the spell matters too.

My not-Cleric doesn't cast spells, he works miracles God willing.

All this is to try and include a MU Class as a PC.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Thondor on July 06, 2021, 07:10:52 AM
So a few different aspects have been talked about as possible conditions for making magic black. Why not combine these into how you define an individual use of spellcasting? If two or more are "black marks" then the spell use is black, if only one then it's grey, and if none are then it's white.

Aspects:

Source of power: using the alignment of the stars, or the full moon, a piece of wool cloth crafted for a loved one wouldn't be black. But drawing on an infernal deal, or a blood sacrifice would. (A human sacrifice could be 2 black marks automatically.)
If a source of power is black it could increases the potency of the effect by 50%.

Emotional State / Speed of Casting: a calm carefully considered spell, made in a peaceful situation is white -- someone being healed may be in distress, but if conscious are willing to have the mages minstrations. A rushed spell or one made due to a fear or anger (the fear or anger help to quickly cast the spell) is black -- because you haven't carefully considered the outcome, and been confident that you are acting according to God's will.
If emotional state is black you can cast very quickly.

Intent and Immediate Outcome: Is your intent "good" / holy? Is the outcome "good" / holy? If not then it's intent is black.

Spell Effect: some spell effects could always be black. Like creating undead (corruption of the natural order), or destruction, or . . . you've had a lot of suggestions for these.

What's key with this method would be that you define fairly clearly what is black, everything that isn't defined as black is white/neutral. Having a single aspect of the spell usage be black makes the usage grey. While if two or more aspects are black then it is black.

This may be more complicated than you want, but it felt like a useful synthesis of some of the discussion.


 
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Steven Mitchell on July 06, 2021, 08:31:36 AM
I second Mishihari's suggestion of the Lord Darcy books.  Mainly because there is a lot of in depth discussion of not only black/white magic in them, but the two main characters frequently discuss the "why" aspect of it as well.  One of the secondary characters in a longer story is a monster hunter from Mexico!  It often gets into where to draw the lines on "intent".

I may be misremembering, but here are some of the key principles best I can recall:

1. White magic can't directly attack anyone.  What it can do is set up a kind of judo affect where attacking a white magician is a bad idea--the outcome is some mixture of disabling the attacker (e.g. paralysis) or even shielding/reflecting hostile magic on the caster.  Some white magic can make you very confused in a variety of ways. 

2. Thus the primary motivation for black magic is that it lets you act on your (frequently misguided) passions--hate, revenge, lust, jealousy, greed, etc.    It's almost a tautology in how it is comprised, where it is not necessarily clear which way the cause and effect run.  Do you hate someone and then succumb to using black magic because you can't control your hate?  Or do you slip into using black magic (similar to being "curious" about crack cocaine) and then you start expressing your hate with the magic because it is black?  Either?  Because black magic rebounds on the caster, too, AND it is addictive.  Black magic and misguided passion create a negative feedback loop, where one reinforces the other as they spiral out of control.

3. What's the appeal of white magic, then?  It can build things.  It becomes a replacement for science in some cases (e.g. advanced tech in terms of the setting).  It can discover and analyze--including finding black magic. 

4. Charms and enchantments kind of bridge the gap between white and black, with the dividing line between what is already mentioned.  A charm that makes your right arm stronger is probably white, though exactly how you went about it could make certain forms black.  White mages can turn invisible (with difficulty) and levitate (difficult) or fly (really advanced).  Black mages can do those things too. 

5. There are certain things that "magic" can't do, period, white or black.  It can't remove a possessing spirit, for example, which requires a priest performing the appropriate ritual.  There is a kind of "psychic surgery" that is performed by very skilled priests who are also magicians.  In fact, the whole idea of priest versus magician are not opposed but largely orthogonal.  Priests have certain inherent powers (akin to the "miracles" I think you are describing).  Magicians manipulate highly advanced constructs that requires a solid understanding of mathematics, "science", etc.  A "healer" can come from either or both, but the effects are different.  A journeyman magician healer is subordinate to a priest or a senior magician.  They can't heal a patient.  They can bandage, clean, etc., that is make up the conditions to keep infection out if it hasn't already occurred.  Occasionally, a priest shows great aptitude for magic and is advanced on both paths. 

6. A person can leap hard into black magic, and quickly become entrenched.  Or they can edge into it, and be "saved" if caught in time, and they are willing to back out.  The hard drugs metaphor is I think a really good way to visualize it. 

Really, the whole series is a case book study of how to make a world to showcase how white "building" and "knowing things" is very powerful. Whether or not that makes a good basis for a game or not, I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Wrath of God on September 13, 2021, 05:52:46 PM
I think nice example is used in Dresden Files urban fantasy - where wizards have code of seven condemned kinds of magic, which are bot capital legal offence, and also soul/mind corrupting ones even when done in good faith and justified reasons.

In DF those are:

1. killing other humans (become grey when you kill supernatural post-humans, or when you cause death indirectly, become ultra black when you rip vital life directly from bodies)
2. transforming humans in other beings (transforming yourself is grey as you kept more control, but still imbalance between mind and body is not healthy)
3. invading minds of others (includes telepathy and so on of most kinds, the more invasive the more black, mind-probing is sort of grey, reason for it is - two minds interacting with each other - which is only way to do psychomancy will invariably influence each other in abberant way)
4. enthralling others (as above, though there are ways to do it without psychomantic effect on yourself, like with truenaming it's still destructive for your thrall, here law forbids even direct enthrallment of spirits for same reason)
5. necromancy of all kinds (including ressurections) - mostly because contact with energies used for it, is corrupting for wizards (and because no one really knows whether ghosts consist real souls within)
6. chronomancy (avoiding paradox - though uncertain whether it cause harm on user, potentially enforced to avoid alternate reality hopping)
7. seeking beyond outer gates (calling demons in limited fashion can be accepted as long as you not bind them by force, but calling monstrosities from Cthulhu land gets your head guillotined faster than you can say Yog-Soggoth)

Quote
So Frex the Orc is about to kill a child, your only chance to stop him is magic missile, so it is still black magic?

May be. Fabric of reality may be thing precious enough to limits uses even when it costs human lives to do so.

Quote
You're going to cast a healing spell, but you use human sacrifice to power your magic... Is it white magic? It's altruisticand doesn't inflict harm (the spell doesn't)

Well in vain of classic Catholic way of constituting elements of sin - we have matter of sin, knowledge about sinfulness and freedom of will - as three elements included in building moral weight to judgmenet. If some are lacking there is no mortal sin for instance.
In terms of magic we can take: matter of spell itself (specific pattern of mystical energies that may be in accord or against with natural law), method of spell (how you mantain enough energy to control this pattern), intention of spell (be it wicked or virtuous). If all dots are fine - you get White. Two - you get Grey. One dot or neither - Black.

Now the pattern I think could be nice shown on base of WoD Spheres of Magic. Like in Christian morality you have sort of three levels - Perfect Nature, Fallen Nature, Against Nature.
Comparing it to WOD - Against Nature is like Qlippoth, it's basically high end Chaos Magic breaking utter discord on reality. Life becomes Undeath, Fate is replaced by utter Randomness, continuum itself breaks. Fallen Nature is still wrong, but not trying to distort reality altogether. The intention system could be based on some Virtue/Vice system, when practicing Vices and Virtues may a) influence how Reality shall read magician actions (even sort of despite character self-delusions or how else we call Player's Choices, these days), but also linking how non-magicians can interact with magic - having specific Virtue Vice high can make you vulnerable or invulnerable to specific spells and even specific magicians. And to blood sacrifices I'd add other debaucheries as illicit methods - profanations, sexual debauchery, corruption of just works of other men and so on, sort of in line with Chaos Gods of Warhammer insanities.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ocule on September 14, 2021, 12:57:10 AM
For one of my games I'm going for a non-Vancian magic system, part of the changes I'm doing is dividing the magic into White (No corruption), Gray (Moderate Corruption) & Black (Full Corruption).

This means White gives you zero corruption points, Gray gives you half the corruption points and Black Gives you all the corruption points. White = Zero Corruption, Gray = 1/2 Corruption & Black = 1 Corruption.

This is (or was) going to be tied to the type of spell: Healing, Protecting, etc spells = White, while Harmful spells = Black & Gray fell on the gray zone inbetween. But...

What if you use human sacrifice in your healing spells?

So, Magic is but a tool, Type of spell does matter, but Intent and means also matter, maybe even more in most cases.

So my question is this:

What type of spells would you guys say ARE definetely Black magic regardless of the intent/means?

I think the real question here is what is corruption and why can magic corrupt. What is black magic and white magic also in metaphysical terms.

Like mythos any spell even healing runs the risk of sanity and other terrible costs. In lankhmar it’s more intent based. In warhammer all magic can corrupt but undisciplined magic is the most open to corruption. Even if altruistic.

So in your setting what is black magic and why does magic corrupt. Also what is the corruption?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on September 14, 2021, 01:17:11 AM
For one of my games I'm going for a non-Vancian magic system, part of the changes I'm doing is dividing the magic into White (No corruption), Gray (Moderate Corruption) & Black (Full Corruption).

This means White gives you zero corruption points, Gray gives you half the corruption points and Black Gives you all the corruption points. White = Zero Corruption, Gray = 1/2 Corruption & Black = 1 Corruption.

This is (or was) going to be tied to the type of spell: Healing, Protecting, etc spells = White, while Harmful spells = Black & Gray fell on the gray zone inbetween. But...

What if you use human sacrifice in your healing spells?

So, Magic is but a tool, Type of spell does matter, but Intent and means also matter, maybe even more in most cases.

So my question is this:

What type of spells would you guys say ARE definetely Black magic regardless of the intent/means?

I think the real question here is what is corruption and why can magic corrupt. What is black magic and white magic also in metaphysical terms.

Like mythos any spell even healing runs the risk of sanity and other terrible costs. In lankhmar it’s more intent based. In warhammer all magic can corrupt but undisciplined magic is the most open to corruption. Even if altruistic.

So in your setting what is black magic and why does magic corrupt. Also what is the corruption?

In my setting:

White Magic is harnesing the wild energies leftover by the creation of the universe.

Black Magic is making deals with the devil so you get the spell to work (sacrifice, torture of people and animals).

Grey Magic I'm having trouble in defining it.

Corruption therefore comes because of making deals with the devil and or because of the type of spell (For example entrhalling someone corrupts, never mind the source of power)
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ghostmaker on September 14, 2021, 08:05:19 AM
So I've been reading Stross's Laundry Files. Here's a wrinkle to toss in: what if corruption isn't a result of magic use but a side effect?

In Stross's books, trying to do sorcery without an intermediary implement runs the risk of drawing microscopic extradimensional critters to you -- as a result, too much magic done from the hip can give you brain damage, as those critters try to take bites out of your brains. Eventually you develop something like Alzheimer's.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: King Tyranno on September 14, 2021, 08:56:14 AM
The thing I've always noticed with binary magic systems divided into good and evil is the same issue with pretty much any Star Wars RPG with Jedi. That the evil spells are always cooler and more useful. It doesn't matter what penalties you put on the evil spells. They always end up used more. And the good spells get ignored.  Evil magic is always stuff like fireballs, lightning, and other attack spells. Cool stuff. But good magic is just support buffs and heals. Now heals should be useful right? But in practice, every player I've had in my group would rather memorize and use the fireballs over the healing spells. DnD solved this by dividing the spells into classes. The healer playstyle is Cleric. Most of the "support" spells get bundled into divine magic for Clerics. And Wizards get the all powerful archmage playstyle and get the fireballs and lightning. That's a decent way to sort things out. If you just have wizards who can choose heals or attack magic. 99% will pick attack magic. Whereas someone looking to be a support character is more likely to pick a Cleric that can't do attack spells anyway. If I may, I will suggest an alternative.

Instead of dividing into binary black and white. Why not divide into elements? Specifically look into Chinese medicine and acupuncture as they have a lot of info on the elements and how they affect both the body and nature. Maybe add some buffs or debuffs based on how much of one element you use. A magic user who uses the fire spells a lot gets buffs to using fire magic. But this causes debuffs to charisma, stealth, and any kind of speech skills as the magic user becomes more temperamental and quick to anger. While Metal spells increase constitution but lower dexterity and so on. It's still different from Vancian magic whilst not dividing into easy binaries. A metal spell is just as useful as a fire spell. And you are more encouraged through mechanics to specialize into something different than just the side with all the cool spells or the naff side with the boring spells.

Also it avoids the issue of characters trying to bring nuance into a binary system. Alignment can already be an embuggerance to that as is.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: David Johansen on September 14, 2021, 09:39:08 AM
We all know the real difference is that your eyes glow red when you cast evil spells.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Ocule on September 14, 2021, 10:20:48 AM
Hmm so white magic draws on ambient energy/mana/yourself

Black magic deals with demons, human sacrifice, curses and other unsavory things.

How about this, White magic deals with angelic beings, benevolent spirits etc

Black magic draws from demonic sources, fallen angels etc.

Grey Magic doesn't use a middle man and exposes the caster to the raw unfiltered energies of the universe. This is where we will find alot of common folk magic, etc.

You'll have to figure out how they consider fae magic, animist magic, nature magic etc. The source for this is ceremonial magic based on Goetia

Thats just one take, Star wars is based on whether it's from serenity or passion.

Dresden files has a list of very solid "this is black magic even if used for a good reason" laws of magic

Warhammer tends to color all their winds of magic but all magic is corrupting except divine magic. Dhar is "dark magic" but is actually magic formed from combining different magic together to produce an effect, and is highly corrupting due to it's chaotic nature. Also anyone who deliberately uses chaos magic and consort with daemons.

DCC i believe is in the boat of all arcane magic is corrupting.

Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on September 14, 2021, 07:53:41 PM
The thing I've always noticed with binary magic systems divided into good and evil is the same issue with pretty much any Star Wars RPG with Jedi. That the evil spells are always cooler and more useful. It doesn't matter what penalties you put on the evil spells. They always end up used more. And the good spells get ignored.  Evil magic is always stuff like fireballs, lightning, and other attack spells. Cool stuff. But good magic is just support buffs and heals. Now heals should be useful right? But in practice, every player I've had in my group would rather memorize and use the fireballs over the healing spells. DnD solved this by dividing the spells into classes. The healer playstyle is Cleric. Most of the "support" spells get bundled into divine magic for Clerics. And Wizards get the all powerful archmage playstyle and get the fireballs and lightning. That's a decent way to sort things out. If you just have wizards who can choose heals or attack magic. 99% will pick attack magic. Whereas someone looking to be a support character is more likely to pick a Cleric that can't do attack spells anyway. If I may, I will suggest an alternative.

Instead of dividing into binary black and white. Why not divide into elements? Specifically look into Chinese medicine and acupuncture as they have a lot of info on the elements and how they affect both the body and nature. Maybe add some buffs or debuffs based on how much of one element you use. A magic user who uses the fire spells a lot gets buffs to using fire magic. But this causes debuffs to charisma, stealth, and any kind of speech skills as the magic user becomes more temperamental and quick to anger. While Metal spells increase constitution but lower dexterity and so on. It's still different from Vancian magic whilst not dividing into easy binaries. A metal spell is just as useful as a fire spell. And you are more encouraged through mechanics to specialize into something different than just the side with all the cool spells or the naff side with the boring spells.

Also it avoids the issue of characters trying to bring nuance into a binary system. Alignment can already be an embuggerance to that as is.

I get what you're saying but that would break my setting.

Edited to add:

In my game those who delve into black magic are hunted down by the PCs.

So it's not just about the penalization, that's there to provide what I think would be good RP for the MU and his budies.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on September 14, 2021, 07:55:17 PM
Hmm so white magic draws on ambient energy/mana/yourself

Black magic deals with demons, human sacrifice, curses and other unsavory things.

How about this, White magic deals with angelic beings, benevolent spirits etc

Black magic draws from demonic sources, fallen angels etc.

Grey Magic doesn't use a middle man and exposes the caster to the raw unfiltered energies of the universe. This is where we will find alot of common folk magic, etc.

You'll have to figure out how they consider fae magic, animist magic, nature magic etc. The source for this is ceremonial magic based on Goetia

Thats just one take, Star wars is based on whether it's from serenity or passion.

Dresden files has a list of very solid "this is black magic even if used for a good reason" laws of magic

Warhammer tends to color all their winds of magic but all magic is corrupting except divine magic. Dhar is "dark magic" but is actually magic formed from combining different magic together to produce an effect, and is highly corrupting due to it's chaotic nature. Also anyone who deliberately uses chaos magic and consort with daemons.

DCC i believe is in the boat of all arcane magic is corrupting.

The thing is I have my not-Cleric class already getting it's "powers" from God. If I'm gonna allow a MU I need to make them really different.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: GeekyBugle on September 14, 2021, 07:57:41 PM
We all know the real difference is that your eyes glow red when you cast evil spells.

This is THE truth.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: tenbones on September 15, 2021, 04:59:50 PM
For one of my games I'm going for a non-Vancian magic system, part of the changes I'm doing is dividing the magic into White (No corruption), Gray (Moderate Corruption) & Black (Full Corruption).

This means White gives you zero corruption points, Gray gives you half the corruption points and Black Gives you all the corruption points. White = Zero Corruption, Gray = 1/2 Corruption & Black = 1 Corruption.

This is (or was) going to be tied to the type of spell: Healing, Protecting, etc spells = White, while Harmful spells = Black & Gray fell on the gray zone inbetween. But...

What if you use human sacrifice in your healing spells?

So, Magic is but a tool, Type of spell does matter, but Intent and means also matter, maybe even more in most cases.

So my question is this:

What type of spells would you guys say ARE definetely Black magic regardless of the intent/means?

Intent should have no bearing on corruption. White/Gray/Black as you've posited them here (which I think is perfectly fine) are indicative of *methodology* as a well as fundamental source.

This assumes there are something akin to absolutes of good/evil represented by the presence (or lack thereof) of corruption. So that's how you should design around it. Black magic should be *useful* and *alluring* if only for the purposes of acquisition or effect (or both). You need to decide within your setting what the "standard' is in terms of Magical availability - this will help you dial in whether Black is easier to progress in, and White is merely the standard progression. Or will you do it by power-level, where Black is efficiently attained but White is more powerful pound for pound.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Panzerkraken on September 15, 2021, 06:02:40 PM
Not directly tied to an answer, but as food for thought, Tenbones' description brought to mind Lois McMaster Bujold's more recent works (the Penric books/novellas) where the magic system is tied to the amount of chaos intrinsically applied in its use; she describes "Upstream" (or was it Uphill?) magic as magic that moves towards Order (healing, repairing, creating) while "Downstream" magic is injecting chaos into an action (destroying, heating, etc). Uphill magic is a LOT harder to do, and in the setting the caster has to absorb the chaos into himself, then dissipate it later to restore himself to a balance.

I could see that in what you've described as a sort of balancing act, with Corruption replacing Chaos in the equation. A "White" sorcerer would never use corruptive magic, their effects are all tied to healing, repairing, and ordering of things. Used in their methodology, they have a "Casting Difficulty" of x2, and a "Corruption Mod" of x0.  A "Black" sorcerer would never use White magic, and their effects will all be focused on destruction, disordering, etc.  They would have a "Casting Difficulty" of x0.5 and a "Corruption Mod" of x1. A "Grey" sorcerer might sit permanently in the middle (Diff x1, Corr x0.5), or be able to use "Pure" effects on a sliding scale depending on what Difficulty they were willing to accept. ("Quicker, easier, more seductive, the Dark Side is...")

All of that was sort of to frame that I think the Effects should be the deciding factor of the White/Gray/Black scale, not the specific spell. While a Black Sorcerer might throw a Fire Bolt, a White Sorcerer might prefer a Cold-based spell with the same damage degree, simply because frozen things are more ordered than heated ones. While a White Healer might just use golden light to heal, the Black Priest may perform a blood sacrifice (causing a death) to cause someone to be healed of damage (with the death there's more corruption/evil/chaos in the world, so it's a win for that side..) I think you could get away with giving the entire list to all grades of magic, and then tailoring the effects to match the particular style of the caster.
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: palaeomerus on September 15, 2021, 09:31:46 PM
We all know the real difference is that your eyes glow red when you cast evil spells.

So it's like hot sauce in a Warner Brothers cartoon?
Title: Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
Post by: Slipshot762 on September 16, 2021, 04:09:08 AM
We all know the real difference is that your eyes glow red when you cast evil spells.

So it's like hot sauce in a Warner Brothers cartoon?
Let's just say that the somatic component of fireball is a cheek spreading pantomime whilst the verbal component is yelling "BAZINGA!".