Magician's Nephew

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A venerable trope of IF, Magician's Nephew features a powerful magician, eminent scientist or similar who has conveniently painted himself out of the picture, requiring the player to come and untangle the mess he left behind. Usually the PC will be young and inexperienced; he/she is often a distant relative of the magician, but may also be an assistant, old friend or anyone else with a good enough link to have a reason to be there, but at sufficient remove to have little idea what's going on. (If combined with amnesia, the magician can be his own nephew). The player will then have to piece together the absent genius' past and explore the nature of his creations.

Characteristics

  • The game may start with an enigmatic invitation from the absent genius, often with a cryptic hint or two.
  • The player is likely to find a great number of notes, diaries and so on; usually these will be fractured, incomplete and hidden in a great many different places.
  • The gameworld will usually have a classic case of ghost town. The magician's experiments are likely to be responsible for this.
  • The game is likely to also be a Family Home Mystery.

Classic Examples

Advantages

  • The trope allows a plausible excuse for the player to tinker with powerful (and interesting) magic or science, without any significant previous knowledge of the subject.
  • Well-suited to the exploratory style of IF, which slowly reveals critical information rather than textdumping it all on the player at once.
  • Because of the existence of many other games of this kind, IF players will already be familiar with the style of play suitable to the genre.

Disadvantages

  • The trope has been used in many well-loved games, and new examples will inevitably have a lot to live up to; it may also be difficult to find new and compelling angles on a thoroughly-explored scenario.
  • Players may doubt the credibility of a Nobel laureate writing notes to the effect of Must refine essence of Q. I am so close, I can feel it. P.S. must hide red key somewhere else - I think Greta knows about the firepl- (illegible) and then hiding them in a secret compartment in the henhouse roof.