Vancian Magic (was Re: Roleplaying, was RE: I'm back!)
Ian W. Riddell
iwriddell at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 23 08:45:55 EDT 2002
This system of magic is very similar to the one used by Paul Levitz in his
long run as writer of "Legion of Super-Heroes" for the White Witch. She
could only use spells that she had prepared before she needed them. It made
for some interesting moments as she tried to decide which spells she would
need to "bring along" on a mission and as she tried to creatively use the
spells she had brought in unusual ways to make them meet the challenges at
>From: Jon Noble <jon_p_noble at yahoo.com>
>Reply-To: dwj at suberic.net
>To: dwj at suberic.net
>Subject: Re: Roleplaying, was RE: I'm back!
>Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 19:09:03 -0700 (PDT)
>--- Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:
> > >> There was no
> > >> explanation of how magic was supposed to work -
> > we
> > >> guessed "Vancian magic" and were right.
> > >
> > > Ah? I'm probably showing huge gaps in my knowledge
> > of fantasy basics, but im
> > > curious... What's that?
> > I was wondering that. I'll take a guess (and try to
> > get it in before someone
> > posts the right answer).
> > I think it means the system Jack Vance used in a
> > long series of books ostensibly
> > set in the very distant future. I've read a couple
> > of these books, and don't
> > like them very much, but Vance actually explains the
> > system in "Rhialto the
> > Marvelous". This is an attempted reconstruction,
> > not a quotation, of the
> > passage concerned:
> > | Magic spells consist of coded messages inserted
> > into the sensoria of
> > | beings able and not unwilling to manipulate the
> > material world.
> > | Since these beings are alien to us, and may not
> > even be sentient 
> > | by our standards, magic holds considerable dangers
> > for the tyro
> > | practitioner.
> >  I'm pretty sure Vance used the term Sentient,
> > but he doesn't seem to mean
> > the same by it that I do - to me a being that can
> > receive and respond to a coded
> > message is sentient. Presumably he means
> > intelligent/rational/thinking...
> > Is this what you meant? Do tell...
> > Philip.
>You are right in the reference to Jack vance's "dying
>earth" books (particular favourites of mine) as the
>basis for the magic system used in D&D - and hence our
>term for it (I can no longer recall if this term was
>used elsewhere). In game terms it refered to the fact
>that a magic user "knew" a limited number of spells,
>which he could add to from various sources such as
>more advanced mentors or defeated opponents, in order
>to be able to cast a spell the magic user had to
>impress the spell into his mind where it remained
>until released. The number of spells he could hold in
>his (or her) nmind depended upon the magic user's
>ability and experience. None of this was actually
>explained in the rules.
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