Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What does a brewery look like via Magical Sight?

A few months ago, someone on the Warhammer Forums posed a question asking what the winds of magic look like via the Magical Sight skill. There's a couple minor references in passing to it in various 3rd Ed supplements (page 15 of the Tome of Mysteries, and at points throughout Chapter 3 of the Tome of Magic), but the core book and skill descriptions really aren't helpful at all. I made up an answer on the spot, and then promptly forgot all about it. Yesterday someone reminded me it was a really good answer.
Read the original thread, or just the text of my post repeated here: Magic is described as "winds" so I would have it twist, flow, and move. Each order has it's own color, and associated properties, which I would draw in to the description. Bright Order magic flickering like flames. Jade Order magic taking organic shapes, then drifting like discarded leaves falling ever slowly to earth. Amber magic skittering about like a busy little chipmunk, then suddenly standing stalk-still when it realizes it's being watched.  Amethyst magic forming little skulls or ghostly hooded figures, then slinking off to hide in the shadows. Each order has it's own glyph or sigil, too. Some are basically arrows, so they may blow in a particular direction ceaselessly. Others are represented by concentric circles, so they may orbit or linger more.

For the chaos gods, their magic would seem tainted, but maybe not obviously so. One cool way to do it would be to always start describing it as the nearest "proper" form of magic, and then describe how it's been twisted and distorted almost as an after-thought. Or, if you prefer, more over-the-top. Nurgle magic vomits and oozes, or flits about like ghostly flies. Slaneshi magic keeps making eyes at you, and has some hypnotic rhythm to the patterns of its movements. The magic of Tzeentch the great deciever constantly reimagines itself, cycling through colors and forms in a ways that other magic cannot. Magic done by Beastmen seems feral and adversarial, even long after it's casting. Magic of the Skaven hisses and runs away when directly observed. Ork magic bumbles and cavorts in an unpredictable fashion. I'm just making this up.

One thing I would bear in mind is that magic doesn't really create magical energy, so much as it gives form to and strengthens the magical energy that is already there. On the typical city street of the empire, there will be little wisps of half a dozen different winds blowing at any time. The dead rat in the gutter has beads of Amber on its fur, but as time passes they fade and an Amethyst mist gathers about it. The watchman passing by carries an old lantern hanging disused from his pack. It's not lit at the moment, but has been a thousand times before so with Witchsight you can still see it glow or smoke ever so slightly. His coin purse has only ever held brass or silver coins, but when viewed with Magical Sight it may seem faintly embroidered in gold or yellow. Magic blows, drips, and oozes throughout the Old World. Wizards don't walk around with Magical Sight turned on at every single moment of the day, and at least part of the reason is because it would be terribly distracting to do so.
I think. Like I said, I'm mostly making this up.
I wish they'd reminded me of that post a couple days earlier, because in Sunday's game I sure could have used my own advice and descriptions. One of the PCs in my group (Lina the Bright Wizard / Mystic) activated Magical Sight during an improvised scene. She was in a completely mundane place (a brewery), there were no enchantments in play, the location was only mentioned briefly in passing in the scenario notes with no expectations the PCs would find it, we were late in the session, and there was a totally unrelated potential fight scene across town I was hoping to get to before the session ended. So my response was "Nope, Magical Sight reveals nothing. The place is clean."

Technically accurate, but good only in the sense that it didn't slow down the plot any further.  Here we have a wizard, using their signature ability to see wonderful magical things normal people can't. It's a great opportunity to give that PC the spotlight. A chance to remind the players that magic is bizarre and dangerous and permeates everything in the Warhammer setting. A potential moment to be artsy and descriptive and make the game memorable. I squandered those opportunities in the most boring and workmanlike way possible. "No magic here. Move along." Lame.

Here's what I should have said: 
"The brewery is a minor source of raw magical energy of many colors and flavors. Grains and other harvested plants are brought here, softly leaking a thin haze of jade energy that has magically stained the walls and floors in ways that are only visible to wizards. The constant exposure to this energy has made the weeds along the base of the brewery's outer wall grow just a little taller than similar plants next door. After they arrive, the grains are subjected to chemical processes that transforms them. This alchemical distillation has a Gold Order correspondence, and your gifted eyes can spot tiny drops of yellow energy beading up on every dent, kink or seam of the stills and brew tanks.  Faint golden wagon-ruts appear superimposed on the spots on the floor where the wheels of commerce roll out the door with regular shipments of ale and liquor. The place is damp with energy, but all of it raw and untamed, having never known a wizard's hand."

Pointless and long-winded, perhaps, but it would have made for a better scene and a richer campaign world.

Minor The Enemy Within Spoiler Alert:
Because of the gunpowder that had been spilled inside by the villains (which the PCs didn't know about yet) I could have added to the description: "One thing does strike you as out of place. A tiny bit of Aqshy, the whispered potential of future fire, seeping sluggishly under the crack of the door. It winks at you, slowly and longingly, hoping to catch your eye and unleash the inner spark." Not that player characters ever need an excuse to burn things to the ground, mind you, but it might have been kinda cool.

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