coniunctio
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Sun 13 Sep 2020, 19:23

In some of these cases it seems to me that the 'magical power' is more to do with mana personality, charisma, force of will, pursuasion, suggestion, manipulation, a compulsion (all having an invisible force of projection of power or hypnosis over the subject) that is experienced as unexplainable other than as magic by that subject or others watching the result. Not the shooting of fire balls and magic missiles. Gandalf is careful with his acts of compulsion and attempts to mobilise as opposed to the will to dominate and tyrannise. But he is conscious of the possibility of becoming the latter. His flash of light in the Goblin cave could have been little more than a parlour trick with magnesium or his skill with fireworks than any magical act but it was enough to have a profound shock on the goblins as night going creatures. The power of the voice or gaze and the malice behind it seems to be the force at work in a lot of Tolkien's scenarios. Melkor, Saruman, Grima. It has a profound effect on the subject who cannot stay grounded in their own sense of self.
 
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 04:17

In some of these cases it seems to me that the 'magical power' is more to do with mana personality, charisma, force of will, pursuasion, suggestion, manipulation, a compulsion (all having an invisible force of projection of power or hypnosis over the subject) that is experienced as unexplainable other than as magic by that subject or others watching the result. Not the shooting of fire balls and magic missiles. Gandalf is careful with his acts of compulsion and attempts to mobilise as opposed to the will to dominate and tyrannise. But he is conscious of the possibility of becoming the latter. His flash of light in the Goblin cave could have been little more than a parlour trick with magnesium or his skill with fireworks than any magical act but it was enough to have a profound shock on the goblins as night going creatures. The power of the voice or gaze and the malice behind it seems to be the force at work in a lot of Tolkien's scenarios. Melkor, Saruman, Grima. It has a profound effect on the subject who cannot stay grounded in their own sense of self.
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Well, I don't think we have to make excuses for Gandalf's power. We already know that he is Maia in nature and is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with the Balrog of Moria. It's perfectly possible to imagine him summoning lightning to slay a few goblins, and perhaps cast a glamour to slip into the tunnels unnoticed. But, again, Gandalf is not a mortal Man. We have few examples of Mannish users of magic.
  • Tolkien wrote of Beorn (in Letter 144): "Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a Man." Most of Beorn's followers in TOR seem incapable of changing their shape, but they can potentially acquire Virtues to enable them to perform such acts as learn to speak with animals and spirit walk in bear-shape.
  • Though I wouldn't characterize Bard as a magician, he has inherited the ability to understand the speech of birds (or at least thrushes).
  • We learn that the Nazgûl became kings, heroes and sorcerers in their day, though we have no examples of any sorcery they performed as mortal Men. Similarly, the Mouth of Sauron is said to be a sorcerer of Black Númenórean descent.
  • In the Barrow-downs Tom Bombadil gives Frodo and his companions blades "forged many long years ago by Men of Westernesse". Magic was in those knives that could do harm to the Nazgûl, though for all we know, the Dúnedain might have received assistancefrom the Elves of Rivendell in the crafting of those blades.
  • While attempting to open the West-gate of Moria, Gandalf says, "I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs, that were ever used for such a purpose." That certainly suggests that there were some Men (and Orcs!) capable of wielding magic.
  • Tolkien's essay on the Drúedain ancestors of the Woses (Unfinished Tales) attributes them with certain powers of a magical nature involving animating stone, foresight, etc.
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Personally, I don't think that Wormtongue employed any magic against Rohan's King Théoden except possibly alchemically-derived drugs or poisons provided by Saruman.
#FideltyToTolkien
 
TheGrandFalloon
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 19:02

So I've read through "Magic For The One Ring," and shared it with the interested player, and I think we're going ahead with it. There's plenty of room for debate about whether there's a place for mortal Magicians, but if there is, I think they look just like this.
There are really only two direct attack spells: "set some guys on fire for 3 damage per round" and "blast the snot out of one dude." They both cost a point of hope, and the Blasting Spell also causes a point of Shadow. By far the most dramatic spell in the book, not going to unbalance anything as far as I can see.
Mechanically, my biggest concern is "Rekindled Heart," which could easily turn the magician into a big Hope battery.
 
gyrovague
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 20:21

I do not believe that Wormtongue used any magic, either Saruman's or his own, in order to manipulate King Théoden--unless we possibly include using alchemical concoctions to ply him with subtle drugs. Rather, Wormtongue's gift, it seems to me, was a talent for glibness and persuasion.
I find this intriguing, largely because it has always seemed readily apparent to me that Theoden is under the power of a spell, and the somehow Grima was involved.

I can't imagine how you would ascribe Theoden's state...a strong, confident leader greatly reduced not just emotionally but physically...to non-magical "glibness and persuasion". On the other hand, Tolkien-esque magic is very much about amplifying natural abilities, so giving somebody who is naturally glib and persuasive the ability to take it to supernatural extremes seems perfectly in line.

Furthermore, Gandalf "dispels" the effect using his staff, and Wormtongue explicitly wanted Gandalf to be forced to leave his staff behind, as if (as I interpret it) he recognized that Gandalf would be able to counter the spell if he had his staff in hand.

As for alchemical concoctions and drugs...since there's zero reference to anything like that, and no other evidence anywhere in the books that Gandalf has the ability to negate the effects of such things, I'm curious why that seems more plausible to you than magic.

You give other examples, such as Bard, of Men using subtle magic. Why does this one cross the line for you?

Caveat: one option is that Saruman himself cast the spell, which then made Theoden especially susceptible to Grimas manipulations. Or even that the spell worked itself over time, and Grima's only job was to make sure that things that might disrupt the spell (e.g. Gandalf) be kept away from Theoden.
 
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Falenthal
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 22:09

I do not believe that Wormtongue used any magic, either Saruman's or his own, in order to manipulate King Théoden--unless we possibly include using alchemical concoctions to ply him with subtle drugs. Rather, Wormtongue's gift, it seems to me, was a talent for glibness and persuasion.
...one option is that Saruman himself cast the spell, which then made Theoden especially susceptible to Grimas manipulations. Or even that the spell worked itself over time, and Grima's only job was to make sure that things that might disrupt the spell (e.g. Gandalf) be kept away from Theoden.
That's how I've always understood the "enthrallment" of Théoden: the works of Saruman's magic (we know he did visit the court of Edoras personally in the past), that Gríma was to mantain and profit for the benefit of Isengard. There surely is magic abroad, as only Gandalf using his staff was able to break the spell (neither Eómer nor Eowyn could, as beloved as they were to Théoden). But I never understood it was Gríma's power, he was only the tool to take advantage of the situation and plant seeds of distrust that weakened the bonds in Rohan.
 
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Voronwe
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 22:44

So I've read through "Magic For The One Ring," and shared it with the interested player, and I think we're going ahead with it. There's plenty of room for debate about whether there's a place for mortal Magicians, but if there is, I think they look just like this.
There are really only two direct attack spells: "set some guys on fire for 3 damage per round" and "blast the snot out of one dude." They both cost a point of hope, and the Blasting Spell also causes a point of Shadow. By far the most dramatic spell in the book, not going to unbalance anything as far as I can see.
Mechanically, my biggest concern is "Rekindled Heart," which could easily turn the magician into a big Hope battery.
The problem for many people (me included) is the same once and again and again: it is not a game-balance-thing, it is not about a character/avatar being more of a badass because he/she can cast fire spells at their enemies while his/her companions have to whack them with their weapons, it is because it doesn’t fit anyhow anyway anytime in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. OK, OK, call us Tolkinites or Integrists or Purists or whatever do you want to, the thing is that fire-casting Men SPOILS the game for us, as it is not Middle-Earth anymore. Because, repeat after me, there is absolute no ground at all in lore and canon for fire-casting Men among the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth, and it goes totally against the nature of magic and human nature in Middle Earth.

You want fire-casting Men in your game? OK, this is a free world and if all players in your group are good with it, of course go ahead. But no, there is absolutely no room for (serious and sincere) debate about whether there’s a place for Mortal Magicians, not in any sense or path that could lead you to justify fire-casting Men.

All this said with all due respect to every opinion, of course. ;) I apologize if I’ve been too direct here, but I do really hate reading/listening to people using (i) natural innate powers like Beorn’s or Barding’s or Woses´ or (ii) Ainur powers like Gandalf’s or Saruman’s or Sauron’s or (iii) Evil Men communing with Sauron like the Nazgûl or the Mouth of Sauron to justify good, free, not corrupted, not-in-commune-with-the-Devil fire-casting Men.
 
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Mon 14 Sep 2020, 23:07

I do not believe that Wormtongue used any magic, either Saruman's or his own, in order to manipulate King Théoden--unless we possibly include using alchemical concoctions to ply him with subtle drugs. Rather, Wormtongue's gift, it seems to me, was a talent for glibness and persuasion.
I find this intriguing, largely because it has always seemed readily apparent to me that Theoden is under the power of a spell, and the somehow Grima was involved.

I can't imagine how you would ascribe Theoden's state...a strong, confident leader greatly reduced not just emotionally but physically...to non-magical "glibness and persuasion". On the other hand, Tolkien-esque magic is very much about amplifying natural abilities, so giving somebody who is naturally glib and persuasive the ability to take it to supernatural extremes seems perfectly in line.

Furthermore, Gandalf "dispels" the effect using his staff, and Wormtongue explicitly wanted Gandalf to be forced to leave his staff behind, as if (as I interpret it) he recognized that Gandalf would be able to counter the spell if he had his staff in hand.

As for alchemical concoctions and drugs...since there's zero reference to anything like that, and no other evidence anywhere in the books that Gandalf has the ability to negate the effects of such things, I'm curious why that seems more plausible to you than magic.
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I could well be wrong, but if there was magic involved in the enthrallment of King Théoden then I suspect the magic was actually wrought by Saruman. There is no direct evidence of Gríma possessing any sort of magical ability, nor any reference to such power on his part. I think the notion of drugs or poisons was first suggested to my mind by some line in either the Bakshi or Jackson films; I think I also remember it from some character history of Gríma Wormtongue on YouTube.
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You give other examples, such as Bard, of Men using subtle magic. Why does this one cross the line for you?

Caveat: one option is that Saruman himself cast the spell, which then made Theoden especially susceptible to Grimas manipulations. Or even that the spell worked itself over time, and Grima's only job was to make sure that things that might disrupt the spell (e.g. Gandalf) be kept away from Theoden.
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Well, Bard's magic was an inherited gift and not something that he could control. I just don't see any strong evidence that Wormtongue was capable of working magic (at least on his own). In game terms, Saruman might have provided Gríma with a potion or a Ring or other Wondrous Artefact that allowed him to more easily manipulate the king.
#FideltyToTolkien
 
gyrovague
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Re: Mortal Magicians

Tue 15 Sep 2020, 00:09

That's how I've always understood the "enthrallment" of Théoden: the works of Saruman's magic (we know he did visit the court of Edoras personally in the past), that Gríma was to mantain and profit for the benefit of Isengard. There surely is magic abroad, as only Gandalf using his staff was able to break the spell (neither Eómer nor Eowyn could, as beloved as they were to Théoden). But I never understood it was Gríma's power, he was only the tool to take advantage of the situation and plant seeds of distrust that weakened the bonds in Rohan.
Yes, I agree that's probably the best explanation. But it's clearly an instance of Theoden being under the thrall of "magic", not just Grima's agile tongue (or drugs).

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