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I’m writing this post at 5am. It’s scheduled to go live at 11am. I should have had this done days ago. I almost did, too; I have three or four lengthy posts in half-written states. After getting Monday’s map done on Sunay, I fully intended to spend Monday night getting one of those posts finished so that it would be posted today.
Then, of course, Monday night happened in Manchester. I’ve spent most of today (well…yesterday, at this point) focussed on that, to be honest. Even though it didn’t directly affect me, it happened about 4 miles from my house. The person who is apparently responsible for the attack lived a few streets away from me, and was arrested a few hundred yards from where I work. It’s a surreal moment, and I’ll admit I haven’t really been concentrating on getting things written for the past 24 hours or so.
So rather than finish one of those posts I’ve started on, I went digging through my stack of notes and eventually found something complete enough that I can share.
A while ago now – probably about the time I designed the original Charken & Chain’s Counting House – I started thinking about infrastructure in fantasy worlds. It started with wondering about how banks could function in a multi-dimensional, multi-planar space where magic is real and can be wielded with consistent, expected results. I also started thinking about how data/information could be stored and communicated.
The image of the vast, cavernous magical library is a standard of fantasy. It’s an image that I love, mostly because I just love being surrounded by bookes (there’s a reason I used to be a bookseller). But in a fantasy world, is it really needed? Similarly, we’ve all played games where somebody approaches the characters and offers them a mysterious letter or parcel, or read novels where people have to venture across thousands of miles to deliver a message to prevent the coming apocalypse, or whatever.
Really, though, how likely are these things to actually exist? Look at the world we actually live in; people don’t really send personal letters any more, contracts are increasingly signed and delivered digitally, and many people have replaced entire book (and CD, and DVD) collections with pocket-sized harddrives and SSDs.
Why wouldn’t the same thing happen in a fantasy world? If we can accept that the players can go to a decent sized town or city and expect to find people selling magic items, potions, and the like, should we not also expect that there will also be people offering magical services to go with those goods?
I could go on for thousands of words about this – and I’m tempted to – but instead I’m going to give you a list of potential magic services that you could include in your game. There aren’t mechanics or anything like that – instead I’m hoping to provide you with ideas, inspiration, and maybe a jumping-off point for your next adventure.
Let’s do this thing.
- Scroll of Holding. A magic item that is probably quite common. It looks like a blank scroll, and those who write on it find that the ink vanishes quickly and leaves no trace. Anything written on it is stored in the scroll, and can be viewed at will. Much like retrieving the contents of a bag of holding, the user must be at least partially aware of the content they wish to view.
- Rod of Recall. Allows a user to insert a memory into it (probably over the course of attuning to it). The user can recall the memory perfectly from the rod, or allow somebody else to experience the memory as it was originally encoded.
- Autoharp. A self-playing musical instrument (usually a harp, but could be anything) that can be loaded with a selection of musical pieces by playing them into the instrument. The instrument plays itself, and will replay whatever music is stored in it exactly as it was originally played.
- Extra-Dimensional Chalk. A magic item in two pieces; one is a seemingly normal stick of chalk, and the other is a plain slate or blackboard. The two are intimately linked; using the chalk to write something on a surface causes the text to appear on the slate. Does not appear to be limited by distance, and possibly functions across planes of existance. As a bonus, the chalk may be infinite.
- Tablet of Telecommunication. Paired obisidan tablets, rectangular and roughly palm-sized, that allow two users to communicate over great distances, transmitting audio and a dark, oily reflection of whatever is immediately in front of one tablet onto the surface of the other, and vice versa.