Magic in Cradle (Or Making Aria Work For You)

Originally I was going to start trying to fill in some gaps and add on to my previous post about how magic is going to work in Cradle.  But I’ve hit kind of a drought creatively (which happens way more than I’d like), and I realized I need something to kickstart it. Usually the best way for me to do that a cheatsheet, flowchart, process, etc. There are plenty of blogs out there with advice on where to start with a setting’s metaphysics, sample questions to answer, etc. Hell, even World Anvil has prompts to answer for just this purpose. Instead, for this I’m going to turn to an old standby for me – Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth.


(For those that don’t know, Aria was an rpg from Last Unicorn Games published in the mid-90s. It’s out of print, but I still have my  copies of both books, Aria Roleplaying and Aria Worlds)

Aria is extremely dense and and steeped in its own terminology. Both books share more with textbooks than rulebooks, with systems for pretty much everything. It’s kind of like a sociologist and a lawyer got together to dissect Joseph Campbell’s work and turn it into an rpg. In some ways it was ahead of its time, injecting concepts like narrative aspects, “interactive history” for zooming the scope of the game out to generational play and even playing the societies kind of like characters.

The Origin Template
Elements of the Origin Template

For my purposes, I just want to revisit Chapter 3 of Aria Roleplaying – Reality & Magic. It covers pretty much everything you can think of regarding building a magical system from soup to nuts. Magical sources; their origin; form; if it’s inherent or has to be created; how volatile it is; how the magical energy (called Omnessence in the rules) can be gathered or stored; the fundamental aspects of what it can and can’t do, how difficult it is, etc.

Not coincidentally, I used Aria Roleplaying to build out a magic system over 20 years ago that is serving as the inspiration for Cradle’s magic.  The notes are lost to time, which is probably fortunate because at the time I slavishly defined everything using Aria’s system. This time around it’s my hope that delving back into Aria’s framework will help me tie all of the ideas I have together.

Next up, I’ll start walking through Magic & Reality to get Cradle’s magic fleshed out.

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