Isaac Bonewits did a wonderful job in his book Authentic Thaumaturgy describing to gamers and roleplayers how magick works in the real word and the means to adapt real magick to work in their games.
But what about the opposite side? Can we adapt roleplaying to work with real magick? This article will explore the possibility that roleplaying can be an adjunct to any system of magick.
In any school of magick, one of the critical tools the student can bring is a trained, honed will. Being able to focus their desire and turn it into a reality is not a skill taught every day to the mass of Western Society. It is nearly an obsessive level of desire, forcing ones Will on the world around them to bring forth that which they desire. One way to train this Will is to have very clear and immediate visualizations of that which you want throughout the process.
One thing that I say whenever I discuss magick with others is that a magickian must hold the goal firmly in mind when doing any spell process to bring that goal to fulfillment. Keeping in mind the goal of having a job when the magickian submits a resume, applies for a job, talks to recruiters and actually does a ritual to raise energy to push into a spell magnifies that possibility of getting a job from a chance to a near certainty. But in order to hold that visualization that clearly, the magickian MUST be able to see it in their mind. You don’t see the steps to the goal, you see the goal finished.
Role-Playing games help the visualization process and gives the magickian and role-player lots of practice with those very tools.
The actual process of role playing is pretty easy to understand. The player is given a character, generated by various means in the system they use. They are given a set of rules that various aspects of the play obey, like how combat works, how magick works, how character interactions operate and so on. Then the play begins.
Note that there is no script provided. There is a backdrop world, but no specific sets that the characters interact upon until the person running the game (called the Game Master in many systems) tells them about the environment. Until that point, the world is wide open and brand new. It can be anything from a medieval world to a star faring race to a technological world where humanity is controlled by machines. Once the Game Master starts telling the players (and thus their characters) about the world and the situation they find themselves in, there is nothing.
If the Game Master is a good one, s/he can spin the description like a story, spinning myth and fact and rumor together to make a tapestry of information for the characters to interact within. The really good Game Masters can do it so well that the players can see their characters within the world itself, as though they were watching a movie of the mind. They know what a Troll looks like, how the starship console is laid out, the buttons they need to push and where they are when they go to shut off the world obliterating doomsday machine that the robots are preventing them from reaching. They can hear the moans of the injured, see the rain slick walls, smell the funk of an underground mine and feel the weight of the Earth pressing down on them.
And this very description and visualization is the key to good magick.
The player gets tons of practice sculpting scenes in their mind. Believe it or not this is one of the most difficult skills I had to learn when I was roleplaying. To be able to hear the GM describe the basics of a scene, take the knowledge you have of your character and the world in general, along with the imagination you have and to be able to accurately reproduce the same scene the GM has in their head. I had to learn how to keep track of all the various opponents and characters as well as what I was doing simultaneously so I didn’t accidentally kill someone I didn’t want to in the process.
Roleplaying also helps increase the players skill of communication with others. That’s a more important skill than you may realize simply because many people don’t learn to speak clearly anymore. And being able to speak clearly is necessary to clearly communicate your desire to the Gods, to the æther and to the Spirits you may be interacting with in any spell process.
One thing I have noticed when I’m roleplaying is that the characters become more and more real as I play them. They may start out as a nebulous collection of stats, but the more I play them, the more real they become to me. They take on a life of their own and I start learning about the character from the character themselves.
I have a theory about that which is supported by nothing but Unverified Personal Gnosis. When you hold something as real in your mind for long periods of time, it starts becoming real. Roleplaying and playing a character is an investment of HUGE amounts of your belief and your personal energy into that character. Most players almost obsess about the background and life story about their character, some going so far as to draw pictures of them. Because of that massive investment of time, the character does become a real living being in another universe. All the things that occur to that character during the flow of the game is what happens to that person. Because of that, many GMs are very careful with characters and killing one in the course of the game is a big deal. But it is also interesting that occasionally, the character will tell the player what it is doing.
It’s a phenomenon that many authors report happen as they are writing their books. They create characters and write about them. They also spend time talking and thinking about that character, just like when gamers roleplay. They write plots, and they spend time developing the world that the character will interact in. ALL of the authors I have talked to and read interview from have stated that occasionally at some point they will try to make something happen to the character, but that the character itself will change the author’s mind and tell the author that it won’t do that, but that it will do something else. It’s pretty freaky when that happens. I’ve had it happen occasionally when I write fictional works.
I associate this with the character being real in that other universe, and telling the player that it has desires and wants itself. Therefore the personality and mind of the character is shining through and due to the connection that the player has with the character, they can “hear” that character. (Incidentally, and in no way related to this article, I find that this is one of the greatest powers we humans have, the power to create with our thoughts and desires. In effect, the character and the world that character is in has been created by the mind of the game master and player.)
I started thinking about this not too long ago (which is how I got the idea for this article), and I realized that if we can roleplay situations into our character’s lives, then the best thing we can also do is to take situations in our life and use the roleplay environment as a vehicle to bring change into our lives, but roleplaying the situation to successful conclusion in the game.
Example: For my own spiritual development, I have decided that I need to learn to speak to astral entities on a regular basis. I may determine the best way to do so is to contact those entities through the roleplay game and learn about them THERE, in a safer environment to begin with. Creating a character that is very much like I want to be in reality and then putting that character into situations helps me figure out how to get through those situations as well as magickally giving me more impetus to correct them here. It is a third person spell in a very real sense, which I see as the ultimate in sympathetic magick.
Then I had a startling idea. Why make a fictional character? Why not simply use myself as the character in the here and now? Take myself and write the roleplay as though I was playing a character who had the exact abilities and fears, life story and world environment as I do? Then write the situation and all the factors leading up to it and roleplay out the solution I want to happen in that game? That should make it a heck of a spell to acquire that result I want.
So I’m starting an experiment, I have started a roleplaying game called “My Life”. In it any situations I come up against that I need help with will be roleplayed out as though I am a character that I’m playing in a game.
There are several friends I have who are doing similar things, mostly by committing to changes in their lives and doing positive reinforcement and affirmations. That’s powerful magick. I’ve seen it work miracles in the past. This experiment is the same basic thing, just slightly sideways. Instead of putting my will out there as a spell, I put the same will I would use in a roleplaying game into the character, make changes in his life, and thus the change should carry over into my life.
Magick should be like this. It should be about pushing a desire you have into an event or a series of events in which you gain something, be it a resolution or a physical thing. Most spells give you a formula to follow to do this, roleplaying it out does the same thing, simply in a different format.
Try it for a few months and see if there is a change in your life. I’m going to hazard a guess that there will be.