|Art by Ephraim Moshe Lilien|
Man, Myth & Magic is a fantasy role playing game set in the ancient world. A world not seen from our modern perception; but rather through the eyes of the people who lived it. A world filled with magic and sorcery, demons and monsters, and incredible powers and forces that hold the key to the domination of mankind.The game is Man, Myth & Magic and it's a “role playing game of man's greatest adventures.” This does not mean that MM&M is misogynistic – two character classes are available only to female characters – but that player characters may only be human (with one arguable exception). The setting is not some fantasy realm populated by elves, dwarves, and whatnot; it is the ancient world seen “through the eyes of the people who lived it.” (I feel that RuneQuest did a better job of evoking the ancient world paradigm, but that hardly invalidates MM&M.)
An important aspect of the 'ancient world paradigm' is magic – perhaps the most important aspect with regard to RPGs. (After all, it is Man, Myth & Magic.) Book II devotes a half-page to an essay on magic which states “...some magic worked, at least some of the time...Why magic worked is another question; and one that doesn't have a single answer.” The essay then discusses five 'reasons' why magic worked:
- Magic as Coincidence
Somebody laid a curse and the next day the victim walked over a cliff. The fact that the victim was blind drunk at the time cut no ice with anybody; it was the curse that did it.
- Magic as Science
“Magical” swords made from Damascus steel were a case in point. You forged as good a blade as you could, then heated it until it was red hot then plunged it into the body of the nearest human being. According to the theory, the victim's soul passed into the sword and made it work better in battle...Swords treated this way were harder and stayed sharper longer. (The reason was the absorption of carbon molecules by the heated steel. When it was finally discovered you could get exactly the same effect by plunging the blade into a water barrel full of old cow hides, people became a lot less wary of blacksmiths.)
- Magic as Psychic Phenomena
The human mind has always been full of odd powers which surface now and then...
- Magic as Trance State
If a person in a trance state – perhaps augmented by “psychedelic mushrooms” – believed he was flying, then “the experience was valid enough,” especially if other mushroom consumers imagined he was flying.
- Magic as Lost Knowledge
...it has to be admitted the Ancients knew a thing or two that we've forgotten. Those old Egyptians, for example, knew how to grow multicoloured cotton...Maybe in that body of lost knowledge there were more dramatic discoveries.The essay neglects to touch upon the power of suggestion as a 'reason' for why magic worked. Even in our enlightened age, believers in such practices as Santería and Vodou feel the effects of magic because of their belief; magic is part of the cultural construct in which they live.
Thus we have a rationale for the 'why' of magic, yet the 'how' of magic eludes us. Perhaps that's the point; if it didn't elude us, it wouldn't be magic. Regardless, we have a better appreciation of the ancient 'mindset' toward magic – not as a rubric of duration, effects, and saving throws, but as mysterious circumstance, awesome and frightening.