I like to run low magic games. This doesn’t mean no magic. I prefer the Conan-style of game, in which only the bad guys have magic. I can’t honestly explain this fascination for me. My intro into fantasy (if one discounts a book of Norse mythology I perused for hours as a very young child) was the Lord of the Rings, and that is magic-rich, for good guys and bad guys.
I still intend to run low magic games, but I’m turning it on its ear.
I am hoping to run a playtest for D&D Next, and it really wouldn’t be D&D without magic, so instead of leaving the characters magic poor, I’m denying it to the rest of the world.
Yes, there will be wizards and witches, sorceresses and necromancers, but they will be things of legend. The chance of the PCs actually meeting one of these is miniscule, unless they go hunting for a specific individual. Magical figures of power will be real, but they will be more like late Howard Hughes – hiding away, perhaps despising the common folk – than the early – engaged in the post public of pursuits, Hollywood! Kings and emperors may consult these wizards, but those sorcerers who serve sovereigns pale in power to the real witches of the world, and are more academics than practitioners.
As a side effect, magic-wielding PCs will be both exceptionally special and feared. There will be social consequences if others learn one of the PCs accesses magic. And then there is the learning of new spells. These will not come easily, but must be sought, hunted, discovered. Heck, this in itself could be an adventure, or a series of them.
I’m hoping this will be interesting. I’m also hoping that I get a group together to playtest. D&D Next looks pretty hot.