Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #118 - RPG Blog Carnival - Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe



This month's blog carnival topic: Occult Mysteries and Magic. In this usage occult is meant to convey the meaning of hidden and secret rather than the more commonly used current day meaning of things related to magic and astrology and the like. So really this month's topic is "secrets."

When it comes to hidden lore and magic a GM is faced with a real catch-22. If they use it, then it ceases to be hidden and secret; if they don't ... what's the point? To that end GM's need to be prepared to bring that which is hidden and secret into the light and make it known. In doing so you are going to fundamentally change the state of the game world, even if only a little.

Secrets and hidden knowledge work best as a plot point in a campaign, or even as a MacGuffin. The One Ring was the latter, a secret (forgotten) treasure of immense power and evil that drove the whole story of the Lord of the Rings before being destroyed. Consider the Mummy from that other film franchise (the good one with Brendan Fraser, not the crappy looking Tom Cruise one) his very existence was wiped from history and his resting place hidden to keep him bound forever in cursed undeath. Once that secret got out the plot advanced and bad things happened until the heroes ended the threat (in this case with other lost lore).

Alternately secrets can be something of a player motivation and/or reward. Perhaps the wizard wants to uncover the secrets of a long lost form of magic. That will drive the characters to quest for it and eventually be rewarded with that knowledge (or given reason to keep that knowledge buried). Or maybe a player gives his GM the gift of a mysterious background and leaves that up to the GM to develop and reveal as they like. Perhaps that character destined for greatness, or the lost child of a powerful figure, or maybe they just need to learn who the six fingered man was so they can avenge their slain father.

Regardless of how you use them in your games the thing here is that what starts out secret, hidden, or lost, will be revealed, in part or whole, to at least the PCs. They may choose to keep that secret from the world for its own sake, or they may reveal them for the betterment of their world. The choice will remain in the hands of the PCs and you the GM.