The thread at the heart of The Dee Sanction is the conceit that witchcraft is okay, providing you’re benefiting in some way. In reality, this is a historical fact and not something that I’ve made up.
The court of Queen Elizabeth, for example, was sufficiently in debt that the monarch encouraged alchemy, astrology and other occult practices that might bestow wealth or good fortune. Knowing the right day to do something or having the means to exercise the power of the Philosopher’s Stone to transmute base matter into precious metal was O-K.
Cursing your neighbour’s cow or spoiling the harvest was not okay; let us be quite clear about that. I mean, the fact that the cow was looking pretty ropey and you didn’t get the best weather this season has nothing to do with anything—it’s fine to drown or burn the old, warty crone.
Within the backdrop of the game, in 1563 the Queen passed an Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcrafts. It muddied the water a bit, making the punishment for particular acts of magic more severe than others, but in many cases drawing the line before a death sentence. Most lucky witches could look forward to a long time in prison.
In 1564, the Queen passed an amendment—the Dee Sanction—that permitted the practice of magic in defence of the realm. Indeed, it supported the potential for a pardon of those thrown in prison if they worked off their sentence in service to Her Majesty. That capacity for reprieve fell within the jurisdiction of Walsingham and Doctor Dee. They controlled those fortunate malefactors as agents, bound to a covert intelligence service.
Throughout the decades that followed—despite both Dee and Walsingham’s apparent rollercoaster ride in and out of favour—this potential for absolution persists. The focus and mission might shift and change, but the goal remains; use magic for the good of the Queen, and you might earn your freedom.
Every day during August, I’ll be writing something new on The Dee Sanction and aim to connect the word prompt of the day with the development of the game. Check out the concept, the list and the graphics over at AUTOCRATIK.