Musical Magic

We’re in America, and the time period is a confused mismash of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

We have Elves and Dwarves, we’ve always had them, and they’re fully integrated into society – in fact suburbs often have a human house in one lot and giant Elven tree with a house in it on the next, and half a given suburb has a Dwarven suburb right under it. Hell, the first lady is an elf. The Civil Rights movement was only ten years ago though, so the Drow and Duergar (along with African Americans) are still considered exotic or inferior depending on who you ask (they don’t have special magic powers or anything, they’re just black Elves and Dwarves, but Hollywood does like to play up the old magic stereotypes the same way they sometimes have African Americans with jungle magic).

There are four dominant types of magic in this era, forming two opposing pairs. The music magics: disco and metal, arose from the power vacuum after the death of Elvis, The Archwizard of Rock. Disco magic is good at maneuverability, misdirection, dazzling effects, brief bursts of mind control, and warping the world around the caster when the target glances away (yes, like the Old Spice guy… but with more glitter). Metal magic is good at raw power, elemental damage (though much to their chagrin the most powerful fire spell known to man is Disco Inferno), necromancy, and size-altering transformations that make weapons huge and any ornamentation into huge skulls. Tension is high between practitioners of the two magic schools, and though they’re capable of and often forced into working together, both shun anyone who attempts to practice both.

The other opposing pair is hippie magic vs The Man. Hippie magic is about sharing, communing with nature, and lots and lots of drugs. A hippie might coat all your weapons in flowers so thick you can’t use them, ask a passing squirrel to run an errand for him, or send a foe on trips to horrifying alternate planes of existence. Anyone can learn hippie magic – you don’t need an inherent gift like the musics, you just need to come to a guru with an open mind. The Man is the personification of the establishment, and its powers can only be accessed through contract. The granted powers are mysterious: agents are always where they need to be, when they need to be there, with the equipment they need, and often with backup ready at a moment’s notice. The actual overtly obvious parts of The Man’s magic – most notably telekinesis and ESP – are minor in comparison to their organizational powers. Unlike the musics, which are a natural struggle created by a power vacuum, nobody knows exactly why hippies and The Man are opposing forces.

Nonmagical characters are usually either martial artists or halfway to Rambo. Military and law enforcement establishments have way less personnel than makes sense, as one good guy with a gun or a black belt can clear out way more crime than makes sense.

There are monsters, aliens, and Soviets taking over office buildings, which need adventurers to clear out. There are draconic, alien, Soviet, and government plots that need exploring and thwarting (and just because one of you works for The Man doesn’t mean you won’t run up against plots by other agents – The Man is too mysterious for that). There are crimes to stop, and crimes to commit.

Ritual/group magic:

Metal – it’s called a jam session, and it’s pretty easy to do. You just get a bunch of metalheads together and they go all out, and God knows what’ll happen but it’ll be awesome.

Disco – it’s called a dance off, and it has a formal structure. Each participant must outmagic (and outdance) the last, and they get to use their normal effects, boosted by how many turns went before them. When someone fails to outperform the last person, the ritual fizzles, and you’ll need a new dance off

Hippie – they’ve got a dozen of these, it involves circles and drums and singing. You know what hippie magic looks like. It’s very powerful in a very straightforward way, but getting a bunch of hippies to try to do the same thing is like herding cats

The Man – their entire system of magic is a shared ritual in the first place

This. Classical is that long-lost art people have forgotten. An imitation of it can be performed in the modern age, but it lacks a crucial component that makes it powerful.

As-is, Classical magic is subtle. It influences events without anyone knowing. A Classical mage could make sure he’s gets somewhere on time, cause others to get caught up in traffic, make sure he’s got just enough change to pay a taxi, subtle stuff.

But the real Classical magic, the ancient stuff, could cause empires to collapse, kings to fall ill, and once-inseperable lovers to quarrel… and kill each other, as well as quite the opposite.

OP here – I considered putting some Science! into my initial writeup but the most entertaining period-flavor-Science! is from the 50s, so it’s a slight stretch out of the main time period. It’s probably still worth it. Here’s what I’m talking about:

I don’t know exactly how you’d do it, but you have to take that tone and apply it to all of scientific endeavor. Maybe the principle is that you can make any high-tech gadget you want so long as you can talk your way through its construction from basic principles using the above tone.

Musical Magic

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