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Author Topic: Magic in Barovia?  (Read 4363 times)

Maiyannah

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Magic in Barovia?
« on: November 27, 2022, 11:22:04 AM »
So when I was entering the server, so as to not be entirely ignorant and out of place, I did some background reading before I really got into it with Arthiel.

One of the things I read was that in Bavoria, all magic outside of healing magic is the subject of a great amount of superstition and fear.

Despite this, there have been several instances in the outskirts where people have quite openly and flagrantly displayed either arcane/magical items, or the spells.  In one case, it was even in the view of one of the guards.

So I was wondering a few things:

1] Is my understanding correct?  If not, could someone clarify the matter?

2] If it is a correct understanding, why are such displays accepted?

3] What would be the expected response to such?
« Last Edit: November 27, 2022, 11:24:35 AM by Arthiel »
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2022, 11:29:33 AM »
1) You're correct.

2) Mostly, casting around Barovian NPCs is handled by the OCR system. It takes a DM to get involved to bring a peasant lynch mob to bear, but it has happened in the past.

3) The OCR system makes NPCs react angrily and eventually become hostile. In 99% of cases that's probably enough. If you feel concerned that people are serially abusing magic in public spaces, feel free to contact the DM team about it with examples and screenshots.
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Maiyannah

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2022, 11:34:17 AM »
I suppose I'm thinking more in terms of my character than the NPCs; I don't think its reasonable to expect the NPCs are going to react like that when, from a player perspective, I know it involves DM involvement.  I would certainly contact them if there were something just egregious going around though!
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inkcorvid

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2022, 11:41:14 AM »
If you're playing a Barovian PC, it's totally reasonable to react to spellcasting by screaming "WITCH!" and totally freaking out. There's a witch in your midst, using vile hell-magic bought from demons to corrupt your unborn children into monsters. This is something almost every Barovian knows to be true. No one would do such an evil thing so brazenly without being monstrously evil themselves. You are in danger.

If you're playing an outlander PC, it might not be too unreasonable to privately conclude that Barovians are an open, tolerant sort of people who are largely fine with magic and witches, so long as you don't do it in their face. Most of them have a witch friend or dozen. It's more that casting in front of someone is rude, a social faux pas, than it is a threat or moral failing. Even though that's somewhat at odds with their characterisation in the canon.

Without magical buffs and magical items, it's nearly impossible to dungeon, so almost every single Barovian PC is going to be the exception to the rule that Barovians react to any hint of magic with unimaginable terror. But nearly every Barovian NPC is going to be the former rather than the latter.

Though note also:
  • Vallaki, as a town, canonically has a thriving mage scene. In Wachter Province, they just straight-up drown witches with the blessing of the House of Wachter and root out any suspected witchcraft with brutal prejudice. But in Vallaki, there's a lot of secret dabbling happening beneath the surface, out of sight of their suspicious neighbours.
  • Magic isn't illegal in Barovia, because Count Strahd uses it as a tool by which he keeps order. Count Strahd is widely suspected to be a witch, and known to employ his own tyrant mages, which is part of why people fear and despise both him and magic: they're living in an evil magocracy.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2022, 11:51:04 AM by inkcorvid »
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Maiyannah

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2022, 12:20:51 PM »
Well, to me, being in a professedly-superstitious place with witchhunts, it is a bit of an immersion-break to have people casting spells in plain view of others, but rather than just assume they're being dumb or out of character, I prefer to check my assumptions first.

Arthiel's kind of grown a policy of turning a blind eye to those whom are smart enough to keep the magic arms and spells to the dungeons, but avoids those whom are more open with it.  She's an outlander (from Faerun), but she's not blind to the local population, and been around long enough now to get the basics.

That does bring up a good further question: what magical items would be acceptable and not?  I can imagine, as an obvious example, a healing potion is likely OK - but I would not expect that a potion of invisibility would be as easily-accepted.
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ladylena

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2022, 12:24:30 PM »
You're right. Magic in Barovia is not accepted. It's like the medieval witch hunts, but not quite that bad. Healing magic is good, but kinda iffy. Arcane magic is really iffy, it's the cause of caliban.

If you cast magic around NPCs they will react automatically, and if you do magic infront of a PC garda they may also react. I've seen people punished for it. I am playing a native mage from Vallaki, and it's something that you can do, and it's a fun different type of character to play. Something so secretive that if it got out it could ruin everything, or change nothing at all, or even open new realms of rp!

Now, it's not Tepest. Tepest is where all magic is illegal and it is the inquisition into the witch hunts. Barovia is the secret mage place, Tepest is the banned mage place. And Dementlieu is the learned mage place. (aka: Barovian witches are hush hush about their magic, tepest witches do so in absolute secrecy or get killed, and Dementlieu sees wizards as being ok, but not sorcerers)

Now that being said, there is nothing against playing a Barovian who has had a particularly bad run in with magic and as such sees it as a threat more than others. Each character is going to be unique. Even my mage would react badly to seeing a necromancer summon the dead, or conjure a demon.

If you think the garda are too permissive with magic, play a harsh garda! I remember in the past there were garda who would not allow people to sell obviously magical items (scrolls, wands, staffs, glowy items).
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2022, 01:45:29 PM »
Despite this, there have been several instances in the outskirts where people have quite openly and flagrantly displayed either arcane/magical items, or the spells.  In one case, it was even in the view of one of the guards.

If it's in front of the guard NPCs, commoners, Radu, nobles etc, each spell cast is scripted to add to the Outcast Rating of a character, which makes the NPCs hostile & fearful to them once it goes over a certain number when they encounter any NPC from that area.

So don't worry, anyone casting in front of guards / garda, commoners etc will quickly find themselves ostracized from society without needing DM intervention.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2022, 03:55:11 PM »
NPCs react appropriately, and escalate appropriately over time, to OCR events like vraja use.  PC behaviors are another matter though.

I play a native Barovian and make it a habit to try and react with a certain amount of fear of other people's use of vraja by using RP and emotes (e.g. walking around and backing away slowly, making "bad juju" hand gestures, talking about curses and bad omens, appearing startled, looking cautious, etc.).  Other native Barovian PCs might show some overt hostility, but it is difficult to do this effectively when you are essentially thrown together with outsiders and have to tolerate the fact that they do magic if you want to adventure together.  PCs basically have to fake fear and hostility, but tolerate it to a certain extent, otherwise they are basically forced to not interact with everyone else who might use magic (which reduces the player pool you can interact with significantly).

Many PCs do try and RP both the use and reaction to use very effectively.  However, I agree that it would be nice if all vraja-using PCs were just a tiny bit more self-aware of their surroundings and RP'd the use of magic more sensibly and consistent with the setting (e.g. out of view, in secret, all hush-hush, looking over their shoulder, etc.).


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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2022, 05:00:41 PM »
The biggest issue, and one that really does break immersion quite a bit, is the fluffy snowflake carebare attitudes that many players have toward their own characters and what should or should not be acceptable.

My native Barovian will "tolerate" witchcraft to a degree, simply because she has little ability to do anything about it. But she certainly doesn't like it and acts appropriately. Others in the garda faction are more lenient and less lenient.  My outlander characters are usually somewhere in between blatant magic users who are smart enough to move out of earshot of any guards to secretive about their abilities within Barovia.

The main crux of the issue is that after a time, it becomes very very difficult to hide magic from others and eventaully word spreads so many people have taken to just ignoring the setting and casting freely within Barovia.

Personally, I hope their OCR goes up to an outrageous level and they're eventually cast right out of our lovely homeland.

Skelni

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2022, 05:40:30 PM »
You're right that magic isn't liked. People should be more responsible with it. It is immersion breaking when it happens so often.

Ultimately it's down to the players to portray that better. And many choose not to. It sucks but that's how it is. Until folks show more restraint with it, it won't really become the vilified thing it's made out to be.
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ladylena

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2022, 06:20:56 PM »
Next NCE concept: Tepestani inquisitors on the witch hunt to end all witch hunts; outlanders.

But in all seriousness I think part of the issue is a lack of native characters and a surpluss of outlander characters. It can be hard to solidify the setting when there are vastly more outlanders than natives playing. Best thing we can do is to play more natives and help bring the server back to canon setting material.
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Maiyannah

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2022, 09:59:05 PM »
Next NCE concept: Tepestani inquisitors on the witch hunt to end all witch hunts; outlanders.

But in all seriousness I think part of the issue is a lack of native characters and a surpluss of outlander characters. It can be hard to solidify the setting when there are vastly more outlanders than natives playing. Best thing we can do is to play more natives and help bring the server back to canon setting material.

I would agree with this.  I don't think it's the only thing, but the outskirts is like 95% outlanders for instance, most of them are, entirely-justifiably IC, probably not going to have a problem with it, until some commoner comes around and screams to the Garda about witchcraft anyways.

I feel outskirts would benefit from, if not native PCs, some wandering NPCs that would freak out with the aforementioned outcast system consequences if people were openly casting.

I also wanted to post again to reiterate a question I had below that I think got lost:

What kind of items would be accepted and what would not, when it comes to those superstitions?
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Skelni

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2022, 10:18:24 PM »
What kind of items would be accepted and what would not, when it comes to those superstitions?
So long as it isn't something directly harmful (fireball scroll) or obviously distracting/worrying (a charm that makes a bunch of colorful displays?) you would probably get a stink eye from some people at most. A slap from a garda at worse. I have seen people literally summon creatures out of nowhere with a bauble at some point for Garda PCs to just go "eh".

Anything that is clearly evil in it's intent (think about stygian contracts and such) will probably have everyone concerned.
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2022, 10:36:10 PM »
There's a difference between what should be and what is unfortunately. Here's the detailed canon writeup from the Gazetteer:

Quote
Though Barovians believe in magic, the vast majority of them have never seen it in practice, at least outside of the local cleric. Most folk regard magic as a secret as old as time and riddled with spiritual risks too terrible to contemplate.

Arcane magic is practiced only in secret in Barovia, as the common folk believe that all such power is a gift granted by demons. These fell blessings can be bestowed in the womb (sorcerors) or deliberately sought out by the deranged (wizards), but it makes little difference to the fearful peasant mind. Even bards must be careful not to reveal themselves as anything but wandering performers in this land. Since popular opinion holds that arcane spellcasters are unquestionably the minions of evil, the agents of the boyars and burgomasters rarely discourage violence against them. Villages are rife with tales of suspected spellcasters lynched in full view of idle Barovian soldiers.

Magic is thus not tolerated at all and should not be done publically. However, this is a persistent world, and it's hard to enforce that 24/7; we've taken steps though to regulate the outskirts during the day some more with the extension of Radu's sight, and may take further steps (adding more NPC guards patroling, perhaps commoners, etc.) to further reinforce that Barovia is not a generic fantasy setting.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2022, 10:55:00 PM »
On the flip side, eventually powerful mages get tired of stupid peasants and will snap, proving them right that magic should be feared. PCs casting in the outskirts doesn't have to be as immersion breaking as people make it out to be, it can be an opportunity to engage in an in character dialogue about it.

A character that's spent 99% of their lives in a high magic world like Faerun isn't going to learn to be ashamed of casting magic openly in only a matter of weeks/months until something bad happens to them because of that behavior. I feel it's an important social conflict for mages to have to go through in developing their character, especially in terms of networking with other mages. 

Skelni

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2022, 10:58:01 PM »
we've taken steps though to regulate the outskirts during the day some more with the extension of Radu's sight, and may take further steps (adding more NPC guards patroling, perhaps commoners, etc.) to further reinforce that Barovia is not a generic fantasy setting.

I think this'd do wonders way beyond just being regulation for any spellcasting or whatnot. Players like to see liveliness out there in the skirts. Just having some garda occasionally walk by every half hour or so is interesting to spectate.
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2022, 11:07:42 PM »
[...] and may take further steps (adding more NPC guards patroling, perhaps commoners, etc.) to further reinforce that Barovia is not a generic fantasy setting.

This sounds interesting.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2022, 02:28:38 AM »
More guards patrolling in the outskirts would be nice, and it makes sense that they would. Usually this left to guard PC's but they can only do so with a single guard having a few NPC's patrol around that would also respond to horn blasts would make it quite interesting.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2022, 07:30:57 AM »
Oooh yes please EO! Seeing npc garda patrolling would be amazing. It may even encourage people to play a garda knowing they will have some npc support.

Barovia has a lot of potential for rp and plot around mages, and general conflict too. We just need to remember that, and be willing to rp out the consequences
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2022, 07:34:26 AM »
IMO the most immersive way to 'enforce' that atmosphere is to have active 'witchhunters' PCs, but since magic is 'essential' for adventuring in POTM it's a little hard on the incentive department, so...

Maybe create some kind of witchhunter class that is prohibited to use any kind of magic but gets juicy bonuses for keeping mundane? (SR, ab/dmg or some specific anti-mage things like spell failure infliction or something). This might incentivize more characters to fill that concept and make casters a little more careful of showing their talent.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2022, 07:48:02 AM »
Garda characters (like myself) try to enforce the setting by chasing away magic users and punishing them with bounties and fines etc. But it's a thin line where if you are too aggressive, the magic users will just kill you.

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2022, 08:09:49 AM »
As a native Barovian PC player I basically call myself an NPC PC because you will see my character getting afraid, uncomfortable when she sees magic and she will also remove herself from the situation fast as long as she can. But the reason I can do that is because I am playing a non adventurer and haven't gone dungeoning, nor will I unless it somehow is a story reason.

But most native players of course do not want to submit themselves to this kind of torture so they will be the exceptions, those who come to be okay with magic, be magic casters themselves, or at the very least tolerate magic. Cannot ask all Barovian PCs to scream witchcraft sadly, even though in a perfect world we'd have more commoners and native PCs than outlanders around.

So it is dependent on which PCs are around at what time. Guards enforce as best as they can but there's always the fear aspect, the magic user can kill you. My peasant is not gonna pick up a sword to try and kill the magic user either, she's afraid of death. So we have to tread carefully when reacting certain ways. And guards sadly cannot be online all the time.

However in the end, Barovia is a land where magic is not openly accepted, and it is still feared. We have to keep up the suspension of disbelief and continue that way. I hope the patrolling NPCs or commoners will be true, so that we can support that notion further.

Maiyannah

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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2022, 08:32:50 AM »
Garda characters (like myself) try to enforce the setting by chasing away magic users and punishing them with bounties and fines etc. But it's a thin line where if you are too aggressive, the magic users will just kill you.

Kinda odd thing in this situation is at least some of the outlanders would probably help out a guard if they were being assailed out of their general sense of good or whatever - Arthiel would likely come to their defence for instance - but diagetically the garda have no reason to believe or trust that.

Hmm, that might be an interesting dynamic to play off of a bit.

[edit]: I do notice player garda have been out there more regularly the past couple days.  I do appreciate that.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2022, 08:36:05 AM by Arthiel »
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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2022, 08:42:57 AM »
you might not know it, and things in the past have followed a strange wave in fashion and customs, but nowadays garda are rather vanilla and well liked all around. In the past the average life expectancy of a garda was 2-3 months.


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Re: Magic in Barovia?
« Reply #24 on: November 28, 2022, 08:55:32 AM »
you might not know it, and things in the past have followed a strange wave in fashion and customs, but nowadays garda are rather vanilla and well liked all around. In the past the average life expectancy of a garda was 2-3 months.

yeah this is very true. I have some very fond memories of really harsh garda. One time a guard gave a cultist of Nerull a iron boot (clamped his foot in a brick mold, poured that hot iron on in). I also remember the time when the garda would use the torture chamber. I think there was a dip in such things because players for a while seemed to be very much attached to the characters and perhaps some struggled to differenciate IC and OOC, and so it became safer to not do such things, to make players more comfortable on the server.

Ravenloft, gothic horror and even straight up horror, can be difficult to achieve if we focus too much on comfort, it's a setting that's not supposed to be comfortable for the characters that are stuck in it... Even my native mage is only just recently starting to be open to outlanders that she's got magic, she's still terrified that the man she loves will find out she's a witch though, because to her that would be the end of her living a normal Barovian life. Horror has consequences for every action, be they good consequences or bad. Like a character decided to help a garda take out a criminal by using magic. A good deed, but surely one that will go punished for using such devilry around so many innocent people. We can do things as players to bring the setting back to core, like our self proclaimed "PC NPC". I've always felt that those of us playing natives are taking up the mantle to help keep the setting true, even if it may rob us of potential rp, but to me that potential loss is well out weighed by being able to help keep the setting real.
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