Author Topic: The Art of Illusion  (Read 3285 times)

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Offline Delbareth

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The Art of Illusion
« on: April 27, 2011, 03:45:11 AM »
Hi!

One of my player and I were discussing endlessly around the topic of illusion this night. So I would like to have your point of view. :)

As said in another thread a long time ago, I wrote a complete set of rule to describe the sorcery. It's base on quantitative values given for various major arcana (Time, Space, Power, Controle) and minor arcana (Illusion, Mentalism, Biomancy, etc...).
Each minor arcana describes exactly what could be done on that field and at which level. For instance, Mentalism enables :
  • at low skill : emotion reading and modifying...
  • at medium skill : confusion, thoughts reading, desire modifying...
  • at high skill : thought alteration, memories reading, mind control...

Concerning the illusion arcana, I needed to explain what were these illusions. For me the illusion of an object is an artifical creation of light which imitates the object (obviously it's not solid). In so doing, the light is "real" and if camera would exist they would see the object. You can also make illusion of sounds by creating air vibrations and so forth... These illusions has a physical range (not a magical range). They can be seen or heared from far. The Space arcana only describe the distance spellcaster/illusion. Moreover "real light" or "real sounds" are not affected by magic resistance (IMO).

Another way to describe illusions is to suppose that the object only exists in the mind of people observing the scene. In this way, the "object" is not here : it's a magical phenomenon which prints the image in the surrounding minds. For such illusion, the Space arcana describes the area of effect and the magic resistance of the victims is taken into account.

As you can see, two very different ways for illusion description. I would like to know which one is your favorite? I mean which one fits with what you think an illusion should be.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2011, 04:07:57 AM by Delbareth »
Delbareth
Les MJ ne sont ni sadiques ni cruels, ce sont juste des artistes incompris.

avisarr

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2011, 12:32:07 AM »
I think both types of illusions can co-exist in the same system of magic. One involves magic creating light and sound (and possibly even heat and smells). The other simply places images in the victim's mind.

I don't really have a preference. I've used both types before in games. Although I don't tend to use illusions very much.

Offline Delbareth

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2011, 06:27:23 AM »
In fact I did'nt want to confuse my explanation but I already did implement the "mental illusion" in the Mentalism Arcana, as well as illusion of smell, heat and taste (plus negative illusions and alteration illusions to be exhaustive) in the Illusion Arcana. :)

But the question was motivated by curiousity, since in my opinion, illusion in the common sense are really light or sound creation. I thought it was obvious since my friend told me he thought something completely different.


To complete my questioning, I would like to ask you an open question : how would you manage the sens of touch? Would you allow it? If yes, how?
Because it was the starting point of our divergences in our discussion...
Delbareth
Les MJ ne sont ni sadiques ni cruels, ce sont juste des artistes incompris.

avisarr

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2011, 11:22:10 PM »
With the first type of illusion (the artificial creation of light and sound), yes, I think you could also create the sensation of touch. However, that would be more advanced. Pretty much, the most senses you try to fool, the more advanced the illusion is and more difficult to cast. So, a simple apprentice could maybe create a simple visual illusion only. However, a powerful arch mage could create a detailed visual illusion with sound and heat and even touch and smell.

I think an illusion could be have a tactile (touch) component because there are other spells that do the same thing. Bigby's Hand spells, various shields and force fields, telekinetic thrusts and that sort of thing. There are lots of spells that can create a push or a physical barrier or whatever. So, having an illusion incorporate that makes sense. Of course, it would have to be fairly sophisticated... whereas a force field or a telekinetic thrust is rather simple and brutish, an illusion would have to be very detailed (high resolution) with different kinds of touch - the softness of skin or fur or feathers, the slipperiness of oil, the rough texture of stone and so forth. And touch would have to be perfectly syncronized with the visual and auditory components. So, I think touch would be a very advanced component of an illusion spell.

With regards to the second type of illusion (everything taking place in the victim's mind), touch would, of course, be possible. All five senses could easily be fooled if you're just sending "fake data" to the victim's mind.

Offline Delbareth

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2011, 01:04:04 AM »
I completely agree with you only if the sense of touch is limited to the sensation of the softness or the roughtness.
Because if you follow this idea, the sens of touch is also what makes the object more "real". The illusion of a sword would be a really cutting sword. And as "touch illusion" repeals fingers (otherwise they would pass through the objet), you can also imagine that you can make an illusion of a ladder and this ladder really help you to go up. Obviously the mental illusion do not enable that since it's only "in the mind" and not "in the world". But what happen if somebody think he climb a false mental ladder? ???

In other word, if you add the sense of touch, illusion spelll can cover a very large field of spell : you can mimic matter creation and then make weapon appears, or bridges, rope, large walls, water... And as one of the main principle of illusion is that you can change it easily (an illusion of a guy has to move to be realistic), you can even change what you have created very quickly.

This is VERY powerful and possible just because we add this small "sense of touch". You could create a illusion of a dragon making real wounds but impossible to wound because not affected by real physic and biology. And if you want you could change it into 20 swords spining and whirling endlessly, cutting through the flesh of too slow oponents.

I would like to add the sens of touch to make silver coins heavy in hand like gold coins, or to foul somebody after having stolen his weapon... But this is too powerful. :-\
Or perhaps the Power of the spell would have to be much different between pushing back fingers touching a false sword, and pushing back a foot standing on a false stair. ???
« Last Edit: May 06, 2011, 01:05:35 AM by Delbareth »
Delbareth
Les MJ ne sont ni sadiques ni cruels, ce sont juste des artistes incompris.

avisarr

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2011, 10:43:05 PM »
I think that there are several different ways you can rule on illusions and probably each game master and each group have to decide for themselves what kinds of limitations they are going to put in place.

For the record, I think one (extreme) way to run illusions would be to actually grant advanced illusions the ability to have a tactile (touch) component. And the more advanced the illusion, the better the tactile sensation. You're right that if it is pushed all the way, you then run into certain questions... can an illusionary sword cut? Can an illusionary ladder support weight? Well, if you say yes, then the illusion has become something like the holograms on the Star Trek holodeck. You can see it, hear it and touch it. But the sword isn't metal, the ladder isn't wood. It's just photons and force fields. Is this within the realm of magic? Sure. A spell can conjure up a blade shaped force field that can cut. Magic can support the weight of a man. I guess the real question becomes "is such a spell really still an illusion?"

I'm not really arguing for or against giving illusions that kind of power. This is just a thought experiment... a "what if" scenario. I've seen all kinds of complicated situations arise with illusions. I guess the best you can do is put down firm ground rules about exactly what an illusion can do ahead of time.


Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2016, 09:35:48 AM »
Concerning the illusion arcana, I needed to explain what were these illusions. For me the illusion of an object is an artifical creation of light which imitates the object (obviously it's not solid). In so doing, the light is "real" and if camera would exist they would see the object.

I tend to prefer such illusions over "mind-affecting", although both principles could exist within the same game world/system. It still makes me wonder how many purely/mainly optical implications come with such a spell.
For example:
- Do illusions cast shadows? If so, an illusion would not just "create" light, but also "block" light. If no, I assume illusions to be slightly translucent - easily spoiled if the illusion is between a light source and the onlooker.
Lets say someone casts an illusion of four walls and a ceiling around me, with no (illusion of) window  - do I see the inner walls of the "room", or is it pitch black "inside"?
- Do illusions really "create" light? Would an illusion of a torch illuminate an otherwise pitch black room?
- Do illusions reflect light? Could I create the illusion of a mirror, an optical lense, a knight in literally "shining" armor? Would an illusion change colour if it was not seen in white llight, but in colored light?

No clear preferences from my sight...only towards a more generic magic system, where illusion, darkness, blindness, light sources and so on are not different spells on a list, but rather possibilities within some kind of...uhm, well, magic continuum.

Edit: My problem is that while it might sound rather cool to have flaws to illusions - or rather magic in general -, I find it hard to roleplay because of player knowledge.
For example, I came up with the illusion of a tree that is perfectly symmetrical, or an object that seems to bee seen from the front even if you change angle and walk around it (like in early "3D" computer graphic based on bitmaps). I think those might be very conceivable flaws, within my game mechanics.
However I'm afraid that players will all too easliy conclude that it might be an illusion, taking this as a rather "mundane" explanation, since they "know" the mechanics behind it.

Well, having said that, I concluded to be less afraid, and in turn proactively foil such thinking ;-)
Like involving trees that ARE (or at least appear) perfectly symmetrical, but still are (or at least appear to be) trees, as far as any player can tell.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2016, 09:01:16 AM by Drul Morbok »

Offline tanis

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2016, 12:20:30 AM »
My thinking is, I suppose, somewhat parallel to Drul's here.

My background is in philosophy (primarily), so I'm thinking in terms of the way Kant talks about categories. To grossly oversimplify it, our minds require categorization to make sense of the world, but our categories are themselves developed through a synthesis of external influences and internal processes. As a result, our individual phenomenal realities are inherently constrained by the human mind's interpretive capacity. In short, we participate with the external world in building a narrative about the world conducive to, but also consisting of, creating useful categories and then applying them to the world around us.

Bringing this back to the topic at hand, I'd be inclined to argue that schools of magic such as divination and illusion don't so much represent real distinctions between different kinds of spell as categories that are useful in magic pedagogy and scholarly classification. You might still find mages devoted to practicing within certain domains or "fields of study", but at its core, the uses to which magic is put and the language used to invoke it don't directly correspond to unique interactions with a hypothetical magic field, but rather are tools which allow us to conceive of an intended result so that, through some other, more fundamental and direct, method of interaction with the field we can give some sort of organization to whatever energy or what-have-you that we're making use of, in order to encode it into a semantically meaningful command. Effectively, the schools are semi-arbitrary.

I know that's probably a bit confusing, but I think perhaps an analogy would help: a computer as classically defined by Alan Turing (i.e., a Universal Turing Machine) works by manipulating symbols. But mere symbol manipulation is inherently meaningless, and is not, in principle, any different from random noise. In other words, it doesn't actually encode information. It's only by organizing the symbols we want the computer to manipulate in ways that we can interpret as semantically meaningful - something which we map onto an inherently meaningless process - that the computer is able to "encode" information. Similarly, a book doesn't so much contain words expressing information, as it consists of ordered arrangements of ink and paper that we can interpret as information.

So, perhaps, not just the languages used to invoke magic, but the categories themselves, are merely tools for organizing mages' thoughts, a cognitively necessary means of handling and shaping an intangible force that does not of itself admit to such categorization. And if so, why shouldn't sufficiently "difficult" or "complex" magic from the "School of Illusion" be functionally identical to magic from the "School of Evocation/Conjuration"? Because by this theory, those schools don't reflect a true distinction in the nature of magic, only an instrumentally useful way of grasping and manipulating magic for beings whose minds work linguistically, such as ours, and according to some sort of non-correspondence (e.g., Derridean or Wittgensteinian) theory of language.

I hope I didn't just write a bunch of gibberish for you guys, but I couldn't really think of a better way to express what's inherently a fairly complex idea. Anyway, at least I can add "philosophized at length about how magic would function in a purely imaginary tabletop setting" to my list of accomplishments. XD;
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2016, 02:34:07 AM »
Yeah, do not confuse the territory with a map thereof :D

Offline tanis

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2016, 06:11:33 AM »
Exactly.  :D
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2016, 10:58:13 AM »
BTW: My background is computational linguistics. Right now, I’m earning my money mapping free text user entries to medical classifications (ICD, OPS), and in general, our costumers are utterly uninterested in the distinction between sense and meaning of their search entries :D

But this is where my studies started, at Gottlob Frege i.e. formal semantics. I guess as a result, I try to keep my game world somewhat aware of its status: People in my game world do not believe in what I might call „initial creation“, as might be understood in „In the beginning was the Word“, but rather in „continuous creation“, making their central mantra „in the becoming is the Word, and the Word is in the becoming“.
Another central saying is „We do not believe in a Creator – we are being believed by a Creator, and therefore we exist, and the limits of His language means the limits of our world“. In general, I do not judge faith as right or wrong, but here I allow myself to say that they are 100% correct :D

Offline tanis

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2016, 09:37:11 AM »
Oh wow, and here I was worried that what I was writing would be too technical! XD

I'm more interested in metaphysical questions, especially those of a more existential bent, but I'm definitely interested in linguistics as well (it's actually one of my other majors in college). I see your society is Wittgensteinian. That's actually a pretty interesting idea, given how different that perspective on language is from most common sense conceptions of language, such as, for instance, St. Augustine's.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline Drul Morbok

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2016, 02:48:23 AM »
Well, people in my world are in closer dialogue with their creator than most earthlings are, so they tend to be slightly more aware that existence is merely a state of mind - and not necessarily one's own mind ;-)

Normally, when I start at Frege, the names most likely to follow are Russell and Gödel rather than i.e. Wittgenstein...but I'd apply what you said about schools/categories of magic also to schools of thought like metaphysics, mathematics, linguistics, (formal) logic, theology..and of course roleplaying :D
E.g. not sure if it's literally true, but I heard that when Gödel worked on (or published) his incompleteness theorems, he was accused of doing theology rather than mathematics. This in turn inspired me to have people in my game world have a commandment "Thou shalt not make unto thee any Image displaying thyself and the Image".

Offline tanis

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Re: The Art of Illusion
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2016, 02:52:02 PM »
I'm quite fond of Gödel, but I'm less fond of the Vienna Circle and the Analytic and Logical Positivist projects.

However, having said that, Frege's logic is one of the most important developments of the Modern era. My comment about Wittgenstein had more to do with your implication that, "The limits of my language are the limits of my world.", is well-accepted by the inhabitants of your world. Also, Wittgenstein's idea of language games was a huge influence on later linguistics, especially, though certainly not only, in the case of French Post-Structuralism.

As to what the Vienna Circle thought of the Incompleteness Theorem, well, a sizeable number of them and their intellectual descendants never really accepted the implications, and have been trying to squirm free of them ever since, so I suspect it wouldn't be unreasonable to suspect that sort of hostility. I mean, the Incompleteness Theorem did sort of mathematically disprove the possibility of their entire intellectual and philosophical project. XD;
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.