The Psychopomp, or My Take on Fall of Magic

We finally managed to play Fall of Magic with the Blog crew. We did have an outside ringer to play this with four players.

What is Fall of Magic? Its actually an interesting concept. The main draw is the scroll, which depicts a map, or more like an itinerary. The idea is that you start from a certain point and you unroll the scroll as you move forwards, thus revealing new places and more information. The plot hook is that there’s a magus, who is on his way to the well of magic, because magic is failing (as per the name). The players represent the maguses entourage. Its a journey, and in fiction journey’s represent personal growth, so in my mind that should be represented in some way, although I chose to take a different route.

2016-02-16_3543

This is written from my point of view, so that if Ville or Lauri wants to write about this, they’ll have an angle as well, although the other characters clearly had an impact on what I did. I’ll try to keep away from spoiling things, but I might do so accidentally, so sorry about that beforehand. In a way, I can’t spoil things, because there isn’t anything set to stone. The scroll is there for inspiration and to help with pacing. It probably also enables players to make sure their characters get the spotlight regularly.

On the other hand, what I can accidentally do, is guide your thinking. Humans are more susceptible to suggestions then we like to think, so even bringing up certain ideas might be replicated in other games, because that’s what you expect. Its not wrong. Art is about remixing previous ideas, but still. I don’t want you all to have a talking Raven in your games, eating eyes out of corpses (which I did with regularity).

Our cast of characters:

Paulus – The Magus
Caspian – A Raven (literally), my character
Kabu – A swineherder, Ville’s character
Vago – A knight, Lauri’s character
River – A fugitive, Janne’s (our ringer) character

I’m not sure whether the Raven in the list of classes (not that they have any mechanical meaning) is supposed to be taken literally, but I’ve always liked those and they have a lot of symbolism attached to them, so I decided to take it that way.

What do Ravens do? They are psychopomps in Celtic lore. Psychopomp is a being that facilitates the crossing of the soul into the next world, such as the Grim Reaper in western pop culture. That seemed appropriate. Caspian was there to see that Paulus’s journey to death went well.

I can’t find the source now, but I have a vague recollection that according to some Greek philosopher (maybe even Aristotle, not sure) ravens live thousands of years. My recollection was that human lifespan (according to this philosopher) was 9*9 = 81 years, while crows live for 9*9*9 = 729 years, while ravens live 9*9*9*9 = 6561 (sorry if that’s wrong, I made the calculations in my head) years. Now that I’m checking on this online, I was wrong and the actual lifespan is 8640 years, although I’m pretty sure the list I was reading back in the day was cleaner, so perhaps there are different versions of this.

fal

Anyhow, Caspian was ancient. I never specified how old exactly, but I did reference Paulus’s and Caspian’s last meeting having taken place four centuries earlier. This evolved into the idea that Caspian wants the Magus to die and go away, but has been unable to convince the humans of the negative side of Magic and the existance of the Magus. I don’t know the exact mechanics of this and why Caspian couldn’t just see the whole to its end anyhow, but I don’t think that mattered. People have imaginations and I don’t think it needed spelling out.

I tried to foreshadow some things in the game, but that didn’t play out well. I wasn’t able to bring those things into the game later and while the other players did pick up on it, they didn’t think to use those things either. Perhaps more thorough notes would have helped.

My role in the game was more like a support character. Caspian didn’t really have an arc, but I did try to facilitate the arcs of the other characters. An important job, but not one most players would be willing to take. Not that I

The scroll is very cool. At first it might seem like a pretty expensive prop, because how many times are you likely to use it? I’d say its pretty reusable. You don’t need much in the beginning to take the whole journey into very different direction. You’ll mostly go through the same places, but since not much what happens in those places is set in stone, the meanings will change. Its also highly collectable, if you are into collecting RPGs. The art is great and the font works as well.

2016-02-16_3546

There are things on the map I don’t like and it seemed like the other players agreed on this at least for one place, which seemed to break the feel set in the other parts of the map. The world isn’t defined that strictly, but somehow that one place just felt wrong.

I’m not sure about the rules. They seemed pretty superfluous. You can get tags for your character, but only Lauri had any and they didn’t come into play in any way. There’s some other stuff too, which might be more meaningful, if players were given reasons to care, but I didn’t have the reasons, so I didn’t care.

In the end, the game is not really a game and just a resource to give some direction for the narrative, which is basically what you want. Some of the things might not work for you (and didn’t for us). The whole experience would have probably been better with the scroll only, leaving the rules out of it, or leave most of them out. The rules on sequencing how you move on the map is important, but everything else just felt unnecessary.

Not that the experience wasn’t good, its just that most of the rules didn’t make it better.

Leave a Reply