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Magic as a Narrative Tool (Guide)

From Hofborg

While magic is generally discouraged in character for our guild setting, the players agree that its not a question of high magic or low magic, but rather magic should be used in a narratively satisfying way. Since magic is bending the rules of the world to your whim you must always be giving something in return for this power. There are several things you can give to varying degrees:

  • Energy, such as the exhausting of personal reserves
  • Time, both casting time and time for preparation
  • Possessions such as reagents
  • Incurring future problems

Magic can be used when it:

  • Makes storytelling interesting for everyone
  • Furthers the plot without diminishing it
  • Allows for creative problem-solving that aligns with your character and the theme of Hofborg

Theory: ND-TLM by SisterGrimz

My approach to Hofborg is ND-TLM (Narrative-Driven - Thoughtful, and Logical Magic).

ND-TLM has three objectives:

  1. Make storytelling interesting and fun for everyone
  2. Further the plot without diminishing it
  3. Allow for creative problem-solving that aligns with your character and the theme of Hofburg

These objectives can be achieved by following our rules for RP Etiquette

God Modding - Forcing an action upon another character or environment.
Example: Dr. Example punches the hapless fool with enough force to break their nose.
Correction: Dr. Example attempts to punch the hapless fool with enough force that it could break a nose.
Meta-Gaming - Using OOC (out of character) information against a character IC (in character)
Clarification: Just because a person’s character's sheet says something doesn't mean your character knows it.
Power Gaming - OP (Overpowered), or God-like abilities being used in a way that takes from the RP.
Clarification: Try not to ruin the fun by making characters that can solve everything. Let there be room for drama.
Let's take a closer look at Power Gaming
Usually, you can figure out if you are Power Gaming if you take a look at how much narrative weight something has. You want to try and have scenarios where your victories are earned, not given. This does not only apply to the character itself but as well as the group. To help create a balanced narrative, you can defer to thoughtfulness and logic. Every action will have a positive and negative reaction. Don’t defer to magic because it’s easy; use it because it’s interesting.


Nothing can be gained without giving. You come across a tall ledge. You need to get up. How do you do it? The ledge is meant as an obstacle to be overcome for the group.

Magic - Levitate

One person can cast levitate on the group, but at what cost? Do they lose the object they use as their magic focus? Causing a future event where they have to find a new one? For the rest of the event, can they still use magic? A group of people can cast levitate on the group, but at what cost? Is that all of their big spells for the day? Are they all now tired and need to be protected? How long does it cost to cast the spell? Did they prepare beforehand?

Knowledge - Dwemer Tech

If one person can fix an elevator leading up the ledge, the entire group needs to be meaningfully involved; this can be achieved by having the repairs trigger a robot response that tries to kill the party; the group has to work together to survive. Or acquire parts. If the group knows about the Dwemer technology, have those people work on the elevator and make the process quicker.

Physical - Climbing

Perhaps an individual is strong enough to climb the ledge and then help others get over it. This would require planning and teamwork.

The goal is to sell the effort in a way that is believable because it is grounded in cause and effect, where the narrative work put in equals the narrative output.

The effort to use ability + Things of importance lost + Preparations + Future problems =Completing a task of a certain level