I recently was cleaning out my storage unit (my parent's attic) and there I came across a ton of my old gaming stuff. Old notes, adventures, GM Binders, Character sheets, and my Dragon Magazine collection. Of Dragon, I have a fairly large collection. I even bought the first 50 issues, which ran before I started gaming, on ebay several years ago.
Finally I came to Westeros material. The first article was more a recap of ASIF than anything else. The second article dealt with the Night's Watch. It included things like the Night's Watch Ranger prestige class. The Third article discusses translating some of the characters from Westeros to D&D and also has an interesting side bar on how to deal with the low level of Magic in Westeros should you choose to use it as a setting for your game. The fourth and final article is the one I want to discuss today, it is an article about the author of ASIF, George R. R. Martin, and includes excerpts from an interview conducted by Dave Gross.
It was late at night when I was flipping though issue 307 and the article with the interview was near the end of the magazine. I was just about to put it down and head to bed I saw a quote on page 99 from GRRM. It was simple and yet so compelling that I did not put the magazine down, but instead read the article before going to bed.
"I think magic should be magical. It should be mysterious and wondrous."
Like I said, simple. But it's simplicity is overshadowed by the truth of it. Magic should be magical and wondrous, but it most games it just isn't. Gaming has become so saturated with big spells and powerful magic items that magic such as Tolkien's Gandalf wields seems almost pathetic. GRRM mentions Tolkien in the article. He says that he believes the Lord of the Rings author did it, "better than anyone." GRRM sites Tolkien as an influence on his own series and how he chose to deal with magic. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading A Song of Ice and Fire, there is very little magic to speak of. That rarity is what makes it special.
Obviously translating what GRRM or Tolkien do in their works of fiction to the gaming table is difficult. When one of the PCs is the Wizard it can take some of the aura and mystique away from magic. But remember just because the character wields magic doesn't mean he understands it all. Magic shouldn't be a science, there should always be a feeling of mystery about it that seems beyond the mortal and mundane.
Yes, I am advocating low magic gaming. I don't hate high magic games. I ran one recently and had a great time, it might have been the best campaign I've ever been a part of. Yet there is a lingering feeling of over saturation. A feeling that magic, the number of people that wield it, and the number of magic items in most games has gotten out of control. Let's get back to basics.
Keep it simple, keep magic magical.