Saturday, May 31, 2014

Playing a Magic-User in RIFTS, Part 18: An Overview of the Three Galaxies

As noted in the Interlude, I'm bringing this series to a close as its useful life has run out.

This week, as an end-cap, I'm going to bring some notes about playing a Magic-User away from the core milieu of the game and bring my notes instead on the wider Megaverse over the next few weeks.

  • The Three Galaxies has a norm of institutional magic use, such that de facto techno-wizardry is the norm (and by that, I mean that is it normal to view magic and science as separate, but complimentary, disciplines). Magic-users are core parts of all of the agencies of the Three galaxies, either as full agents or as associates/auxiliaries. Each of the major powers (and, by extension, many minor ones) recognize the power and advantage that magic use grants to those that employ it, so anti-magic sentiment is rare out of institutions and almost as rare out of populations. The sentiment of the Coalition States, therefore, is one of the things that would mark it as a minor power (if recognized at all) in the wider scheme of things.
  • Institutional magic use also means institutional magic development and refinement. Unlike most of Rifts Earth, magic-users in the wider Three Galaxies are far more likely (regardless of the form of their magic) to enjoy the benefits (and pay the costs) of a formalized and systematized pedagogy. There will be "Harvard men", "Oxford men", etc. because institutions leave their marks upon those that pass through them and those marks become tells to those who are aware of them. Relationships between educational and training institutions and various agencies of Megaversal powers will form and normalize, much as they do in real life between our universities and governments or corporations. (e.g. The Consortium of Confederated Worlds' service academies will include magic-users, and those magic-users who come out of those academies will go on to join the CCW Fleet, and then those who survive will go on to political or corporate positions- and the potential for being a skilled magic-user will be one of the paths out of poverty for CCW residents seeking to better themselves using socially-accepted means.)
  • Institutional magic use also means institutional awareness of the power that magic provides, and that it can be taught/bestowed upon others, so therefore magic will be treated like any other science or technology which poses a probable threat to a government: it will be regulated, restricted, confined, controlled, and otherwise fettered to minimize that threat while maximizing its benefit to the government. (Or, in actual anarchies, the nation.) Magic use outside of the boundaries set by the government will be like political groups outside such boundaries: they will go underground, act in secret, and operate in a conspiratorial manner. (Much like being a magician or psychic in Coalition territory.)
  • Magic use in the Three Galaxies, while diverse in an absolute sense, will be homogenized in actual play due to players being in regular contact with the major institutions and their institutional cultures- which, as noted above, will include their magic societies. Local variations will not vary much, if at all, from examples found on Rifts Earth; it's going to be different sets of trappings, but the substance (and therefore the mechanics) will be the same. Shaman are Shaman are Shaman, as it were- and it is still quitely likely that the Kreegor will brutally exterminate them with superior magical prowess coupled to overwhelming conventional firepower should they decide to do so (which further homogenizes the Three Galaxies' magical community).
  • The minor players, where not already given useful examples in the product chain (e.g. Splugorth), will conform to varying degrees to the examples of the major powers because it is necessary to do so to maintain some form of autonomy apart from them; if they are not lost colonies, auxiliary or vassal states, or otherwise derive their origin from a major power then they will do so because--admitted or not--the example of the major powers is better than their own development and they adapt to survive.
  • One consequence is that magic-users, in general, will be encountered more often. The bulk of these encounters will be with the tradesmen or technicians of the magical community; their skills and knowledge are narrowly focused, and shallow in depth, but often honed to a professional grade of competency because they--despite being magic-users--are still ensconced in the same level of socio-economic reality as the mundane population. The magic that they work is the means by which they make their living, and as such they either the ambition or the ability to fully manifest the potential that magic-use in general permits to mortal users. This is the realm of NPCs. The technician who oversees the Rift Drive on a United World of Warlocks starship is a magic-using engineeer specialized in the practical aspects of Rifts and dimensional magic theory; he's, at best, Scotty- and not at all Saruman.
  • Another consequence is that non-users will not take magic as seriously as they should most of the time because the users that they encounter do not wield world-smashing powers, or even city-smashing powers, or have the potential for such; no one worries that the dude making custom bikes in a workshop out of the way of the main street in town is going to unleash nuclear forces that can't be handled- that's what the magic-using technicians and tradesmen are at. As a consequence, the perception of difference between magic and science is somewhat blurred; the conditions for full and proper techno-wizardry are there, but the breakthrough cognitive thought just hasn't happened yet. (Not unusual in real history; the Greeks has steam and hydralic technology, but did not think to use it to do real labor due to the massive slave and servant population.)
  • Warfare, therefore, will account for what the known norms of magical practice allow for and will--in all competent actors--be planned for as best as that actor's resources allow. As with warfare, so with personal combat; if you're in an environment where your opposition can freely move at short-range with portal mechanics, you're going to train to deal with that and have counters ready to go.
  • The Three Galaxies is a setting where magic-use is open, wide-spread, and institutionalized magic makes possible. Play accordingly.

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