he Imperial Age setting is designed to encompass a wide range of sub genres within a period setting. Some Game Masters will wish to incorporate the use of magic (or magick, to use the spelling proffered by Aleister Crowley) into their Imperial ■ Campaigns. The Imperial Age: Magick does not attempt to present a single magic system. Rather, it is meant as a tool kit for GMs to design the magick system that best suits their campaigns by mixing and matching numerous elements.
Modelling the esoteric occult beliefs of real world late 19th century practitioners of magick during in a game book would be a monumental task. Couple that with the depiction of magic from fiction set in the Victorian age, with faeries and other Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, and the task becomes down right impossible. Even though one might consider attempting the impossible entirely appropriate for a book that j claims to be about magic, it is surely beyond this author's modest skills.
Therefore the efforts of The Imperial Age: Magick will be far more limited. This book is about creating a period feel for magick in an Imperial Age campaign, whether that involves faerie court intrigues in London, the private wars of occult secret societies, or even Oxford Dons fighting eldritch horrors; all within the context of the familiar and accessible d20 Magic System. The goal is to create a system that is specifically and inherently Victorian in tone, as opposed to Gygaxian, Modern, Egyptian, Atlantean, or whatever else has been presented elsewhere. To achieve that much-desired feel we are going to begin with a set of assumptions about what magick is.
1. Magick has rules. One of the hallmarks of Victorian scholarship is the attempt to classify and systematize the world; it is during this era that we get Darwin's Origin of the Species and The Oxford English Dictionary, after all. It takes very little time spent reading the occult literature of the day to see that trend in the discussion of magick. It is particularly noteworthy of English or Western Occultism that efforts were made during the Victorian era to systematize and structure the occult inheritance of the past. Within the context of the game, this idea of magical rules is expressed in the Four Laws of Magick, while the implication of levels of learning, already inherent in the d20 system, will be expressed through Magick Mastery feats (although a more traditional advanced class is also included as an option).
2. Magick is inherently about language. The origins of Victorian magick are found in John Dee's efforts to communicate with angels some 300 years earlier and the Enochian system that arose from it. Given this, combined with the Hebrew-based Jewish mysticism found in the Kabala and the Tarot, it is not surprising that any Victorian book of magick is filled with table after table of letters, numbers, and arcane symbols and sigils. In campaign terms that means that any practitioner must be educated, whether formally or informally, and have lots of Knowledge and Language skills; in fact, such are prerequisites for even the most basic of magical ability. This also relates back to some of the Four Laws of Magick already mentioned.
3. Magick requires effort. Victorian occult literature makes it clear that the work of the practitioner is exactly that - work. The traditional fantasy spell caster that can toss around a certain number of fireballs every day by simple virtue of class and level is inappropriate in most Victorian settings. There may be some creatures, such as fey or demons, that can effortlessly cast spell after spell, but even these creatures should pay some sort of costs. Magick is neither innate nor easy; it is both an art and a science whose results are the product of study and struggle. Several options are presented to reflect this effort within the mechanics of the game.
4. Magick works because it works. While it may seem somewhat contradictory to the aforementioned efforts to systematize magical studies, almost all the late Victorian writings on magic emphasize results over explanation. Aleister Crowley himself says:
"In this book it is spoken of the sephiroth and the paths, of spirits and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things, certain results follow; students are earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity to any of them."
Again, from its origins in Dee's Enochian tables, the discussion of western occult magick is largely involved with communicating with other worldly beings. These beings may be demons, angels, faeries, the dead, or even from spirits somehow created by the practitioner himself. In this respect western occult magick is closer to divine magic in standard fantasy roleplaying games than it is arcane, in so much as magic is accomplished through the agency of another being. No matter how a GM, or a practitioner for that matter, explains magick, the most common, and perhaps best, explanation is "it worked because it worked.."
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.