When it comes to magic, there’s a spell for everything. What isn’t covered in the gulf between ablative barrier and zone of truth falls neatly within the purview of wish, meaning that magic is capable of anything you’d care to imagine. However, we must not make the same mistakes that so many wizards have made before us. Rather than asking what magic can do, we must first ask what it should do.

What I’m really talking about can be summed up by the disclaimer at the beginning of the Jade Regent Adventure Path. If you’re unfamiliar, suffice it to say that it’s a Pathfinder adventure structured as a Marco Polo style “grand caravan to the Far East.” The disclaimer comes in the form of a little text box in the player’s guide titled “Troubles with Teleportation.” Here it is in full:

One of the key themes of the Jade Regent Adventure Path is the concept of the mythic, heroic journey. Numerous classic stories have covered this topic—the Lord of the Rings, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, and The Odyssey all spring to mind. In all of these stories, the journey itself was as important as the events that play out at the conclusion—had the protagonists skipped the journey, not only would they have missed out on a lot of the best parts of the story, but they would have found themselves ill-prepared to deal with what waited for them at the story’s climax.

Jade Regent fits right in among these storylines, with the overland journey aspect playing a key role in the campaign’s development. As a result, don’t expect to be able to skip past the significant long overland journey sections with spells like teleport, wind walk, or shadow walk. You can certainly still use these spells when you become powerful enough to use them for other purposes, but don’t plan on using these powerful effects to “fast forward” through adventures to get to the end!

I was impressed by this passage for two reasons. Firstly, that a designer could knowingly allow himself to write a sprawling narrative that could be undone by a single spell. Secondly, that the fix lay in respecting players enough to say, “Please don’t do that thing.” It was a revelatory moment. I realized that as a GM I shouldn’t allow myself to be handcuffed by all the ways in which players might causally dismantle a world. Magic, after all, isn’t the only force capable of doing anything. Players can ruin the cosmos just as surely as a mad god or a planar rift. But if there’s a level of trust between the two ends of the table (lawful railroading GM and chaotic campaign-breaking players) then perhaps all that can be avoided. Perhaps the game can simply exist comfortably…unlike Fighter in that corset.  


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