How Magic Works

From: Hibbs, Philip (
Date: Mon 16 Feb 1998 - 20:36:53 EET

I recently posted this to the Rules List, and as magic theory is being
discussed here as well, I repeat it with apologies for duplication.

By Sandy Petersen

I. How does Magic work in Glorantha?
        This question contains a number of false assumptions. First,
everything in Glorantha is magic. Birth is magic - there are gods,
spirits, nymphs, and entire cults devoted to this one act. Death is
magic. The fact that you can see things far away is magic. Your heart
steadfastly pumping, pounding, till you die, is magic. A sorcerer's
power to drain another's soul is just another aspect of Gloranthan
reality. The use of the term "Magic" in the RuneQuest game has masked
the fact that much of this kind of power works perfectly well on Earth.
When you don a witch's mask, the impulse to cackle is all but
irresistable. Hearing a certain inane melody rouses me to tears,
because I associate that song with a period in my life. An angry glare
and body language can Demoralize an adversary as readily in a Dallas
alleyway as in Boldhome. "Psyching" oneself up for a race demonstrably
increases both speed and stamina. Much Gloranthan "magic" is no more
than the recognition and utilization of these effects on a regularized
        Obviously, there are more impressive powers available for the
studious or talented. But these powers have little in common except that
all are unavailable to the common ruck of humanity. The underlying
principles of sorcery are quite dissimilar to the foundations of spirit
or rune magic. At this time, there is no functioning equivalent to the
Monomyth to explain magic relationships.
        Each type of magic uses its own unique approach in drawing upon
its power source. In all cases, the magic-wielder must train his soul
and intellect to understand and internalize the nature of his reality.
This discipline, whether formal or inherent, hampers the wielder in
comprehending any other power source. Hence, it is impossible for a
shaman to learn the higher arts of sorcery, though he might learn a
cantrip or two by rote. Similarly, no sorcerer or formal rune priest can
gain a fetch. This is not to say that there is no overlap between the
varieties of magic, but that the overlaps themselves are based on
differing interpretations of reality. For instance, a priest might
worship Orlanth with a cult structure. A shaman in the wilds of Prax
might contact Orlanth and gain storm powers, but the shaman is dealing
with Orlanth as simply a powerful spirit. The priest's attitude is quite
different, and this is why he gains so many more aspects of power from
his god, at the cost of certain freedoms.

Part 2 to follow: Shamanism or
| Philip Hibbs +---------------------------------------------+
| What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy perfect symmetry? |


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