Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anatomy of a Horror Setting #2-1: A New and Magical Setting

Don't let the title fool you. If the idea of a magical setting, or more precisely a setting including magic doesn't sound very horrific, then just follow the next batch of articles and see how terrifying it can be. The darkest abilities and misuses of psychic powers are in some fashions just the tip of the heinous and gruesome iceberg compared to the depravity and stark evil of horror-based magic. The magic horror setting is also a much different animal than the psychic horror setting. The rules are very different and need to be worked up right from scratch. It may be a personal bias, but the first difference is that the setting should not include innate magic abilities. They're great in the realm of fantasy, however they represent a level of power not really conducive to the mood of terror.

Level of power, especially in certain veins, can also be damaging to the horrific tenor desired in a good dark setting. The more widespread and far-reaching magics have to be handled differently to avoid turning it into something too fantastical--in this sense kind of light--or too comic-book-like. It can be a fine line to tread. All of the right elements can be there for the horror, but on which side of the line the final product will fall is all about the execution. Sometimes it comes down to putting the right kind of flourishes on things, other times it requires a heavy limiting hand. As before it requires asking a lot of questions and picking the best answers to maintain the exact mood that the setting will require to convey what the story, book, game, or movie needs to have.

Some of the questions maybe can't even be articulated as questions, they exist simply as choices. Leading the pack is which schools or archetypal forms of magic will be a part of the setting. The smaller the scale of the setting in terms of what medium it is being created for the less kinds of magic will be required. It might be untrue though that the larger the scope the more will be necessary. A setting might only need one or two styles. There is something of a tangled snarl here. Inextricably bound up in the 'schools' of magic are the process types. These types are all about the requirements and procedures of creating magical effects. It is hard to decipher where one ends and the next begins. Form follows function in some examples and in others the function stands on its own.

Mood: leering.
Music: March of the Black by Queen and Dance of Death by Iron Maiden.

Queen: II
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Iron Maiden: Dance of Death

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