Magical Tension

Been re-reading The Dresden Files, since I’m up at all hours with the newborn anyway.

In Proven Guilty, Harry sets up to do a ritual to use a wizardly tool to look in Chicago for fear and terror. Butcher spends some prose on describing the fact that the thing about ritual is it helps you put aside all the myriad petty distractions endemic to just being human, and focus on the magic.

That got me to thinking about certain discussions in GURPS, where you get people noting that Tactical Shooting has these non-Combat bonuses that can add up to +10 to the skill roll for knowing things like range (up to +3), shooting environment, and how much risk (emotional or physical) is tied up in the shot.

The usual argument goes “I’m going to play a character that can just switch off, and so I always get that non-Combat bonus!” Wacky fun ensues as it’s pointed out that the way to model that is to just buy higher skill.

Why is this even relevant?



What got me thinking was that it would be logical to say that, for example, a mage has been through some Wizardly version of Kolinahr.

So clearly, a mage that had no emotions, no distractions to put to the back of the mind, would just be that much better at ritual magic than a regular human mage. Just like a computer, or, say, a Terminator, will not feel pity, or remorse, and will not stop, etc.

Bullcrap. Both at a metagame and metaphysical level


That which is achieved with no work is not valued. That which one works to achieve is prized, regardless of the amount of money involved. I have seen this personally. I taught a martial arts club at my work for a few years. For a while, it was completely subsidized by my company, including a quarterly fee of about $75.

Attendance was good at first, but dropped off. People would come and go.Very irregularly.

At some point, they had to stop subsidizing in full. That cost was passed on to the practitioner.  Since we met at work for three hours a week, and a quarter is 13-ish weeks, that meant they were paying perhaps about sixty cents per class.

Attendance suddenly became very regular. You see, they were paying for it. The students modified their behavior because of a notional fee of less than one dollar per hour.

Does this have anything to do with magic?


What if one of the necessary elements for magic of any type, ritual or no, Ritual Path or spell skills, was in fact that tension between distraction and focus. That ritual is powerful and aids your spellcasting because you are waging preemptive war on your distractions. That tension, between focus and chaos, is the waterwheel through which whatever magical forces flow.

This is one of the reason fae, reasoning but ruled by passions suitable to their (in the Dresdenverse) Winter or Summer alliegence (or the tension of being unaligned) are such powerfully magical creatures. The distractions they must suppress to actually bring their power to impact the world, are large, and so their impact is large.

Computers? No distractions. No power. No magic. You can’t have a computerized ritual. Because there’s no tension there. The magic requires that balance, the focus, the suppression of random chaos, in order to be brought to order.

You can’t really ballroom dance if your partner provides no tension. Hard to dance with jelly-limbs. Sort of like that.

Anyway, it was a thought.

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