In response to "A Kind of Magic" from The Escapist forums:
Great article. The Mass Effect mention was surely warranted. It can safely call itself 'hard' sci-fi while there are people casting magic spells around, because those spells are called 'biotics' and work by 'generating mass effect fields'. It's even better because the basic physics behind the titular mass effect fields - that they are used to change the mass of an object so that it can travel faster than light by traveling so fast that the universe shrinks around them - is what scientists believe is the most likely way to travel faster than light. And when I write it like this it looks a lot less likely than just punching people from across the room.
It's true that magic and technology are just two sides of the same coin as far as using them as plot devices (or gameplay elements) is concerned. I mean, if the answer to an unexplicable event is 'MAGIC!' or 'SCIENCE!' is there a difference, if the person shouting that has a long enough beard?
And of course there are the dudes that take this metaphor to the next level, like that character in that series that was almost Babylon 5 but not quite that actually wore robes and talked in riddles because he was totally a technowizard. (SFX: Daft Punk soundtrack) And on the opposite hand we have the Force, a mystical and ancient force of the universe that's caused by microorganisms in one's bloodstream (naturally).
I always liked better magic that is just poorly explained science, and only recently I've realized what I lose by taking that approach and turning magic into just another science. I still choose that approach, but it's now an informed choice.
In response to "Pages of Power" from The Escapist forums:
I've always had a mixed mind on Sanity meters in games, though. I'm not sure if it's the mechanic itself, or if it's just that it's never satisfactorily explained. On one hand, there's the "this knowledge is so dark and forbidden that it actually stains the soul or warps the mind," which does lend an air of mystery... but it can make the mechanic feel forced. After all, the author is never called upon to actually display knowledge that would have this effect on anyone, it's just a mystical side effect of the knowing.
A better way to deal with this would be working on the emotional impact of the knowledge itself. Knowing that these things exist, and are far more common than you thought, is sure to leave you sleeping poorly, looking over your shoulder, and fearing the dark. Paranoia is far more familiar than "insanity." In fact, most of the time stories reference "insanity," they're really talking about paranoia...
As you become more familiar with the contents of the grimoire, you realize these contents also fill your own waking world. You're aware they exist, you're aware of how powerless you are against them, and you're scared out of your mind that they're coming for you. Part of you wants to shut your eyes, lest you should learn something even more horrible... but another part of you has to keep going, thinking that surely it's more terrifying not to know, and maybe there's still a chance you'll learn how to fight it...
That kind of conflict is more believable than "you're going crazy," and I don't know that it would be any harder to implement...
The Great Old Ones like Cthulhu are visages of the unknown cosmos, the darkness behind the veil and the night sky. They were not demons or gods or creatures of magic.
Lovecraft makes this very much clear.
They may be interdimensional beings of pure malevolence, but they are not magic.
The Necronomicon is not a book of magic, at best it is a man trying to grasp the natural horrors of the universe in the only way he knows how, and this is why all those Occultists are doing it wrong.