Wow, it’s been a stupid long time since I posted anything on here, and I imagine most of you are no longer reading. But if you are, I’m here to announce that I’m back and blogging about Action again-at least as much as I am able to.
There will be some design changes coming here soon-a whole new look. In the meantime, I want to address the last comment I received in its own post.
M.H. Boroson wrote: Hello Ian Thomas Healy! I have read your ebook (one of the rare ones that was worth the price), but it left me wondering: what about wizard battles? Yes, yes, fireballs and lightning bolts are essentially shootouts, but there’s voodooesque spells as well, and spells that cause opponents to shrink or turn into a thousand butterflies, and much more. What advice would you have for the writers of cinematic magical battles?
Interesting idea, that. Let’s remember that the basic requirement of any combat situation is that your protagonists are trying to (a) kill or (b) defeat without killing their opponents. Whether they use bullets, blades, parahuman abilities, or magic is just special effects. Make sure you have the proper intent behind your characters first of all.
For magical spells such as you described, the first question you have to answer is can such a spell be dodged, blocked, or parried? If your shrinking spell can be defended against in some way, then it’s a ranged attack and therefore falls under the category of a Shootout.
Example: Warren the Wizard casts his Shrinking Spell upon Wanda the Witch. Wanda throws up her Impenetrable Shield of Butterflies, protecting her against Warren’s spell.
Now, if your spell cannot be defended against, then it just changes the complexion of the combat. Perhaps the setting is altered, or the nature of the combat changes from a Shootout to something else.
Example: Warren casts his Shrinking Spell upon Wickersham the Warrior, who winds up the size of a mouse. Suddenly, Wickersham isn’t any longer a threat to cut Warren into Wizard Giblets, and Warren can do his best impression of stomping on a cockroach. The combat has changed from a Fight or a Shootout to a Chase, with Wickersham doing his best to avoid getting trod upon.
Hope that helps!