The Chronicles of Foxton
How Magic Works
I thought I’d give a brief rundown on how magic works in Temoris. If I’m unclear at any point, let me know and I’ll try to break it down – all this stuff exists in my head and it’s intuitively obvious to me, but I realize that it’s not nearly so obvious to everyone. =;)
Magic comes from “The Flow,” which is an invisible energy field that surrounds the planet and permeates all matter. All Thaumaturgists can manipulate this energy, but they all do it in a different way. Wizards use precise scientific formulae to do it – a Wizard knows that if he concentrates while saying a particular word and making a very precise hand gesture, the exact result he desires will happen.
On the other hand, a Wild Mage manipulates the Flow intuitively – she can “feel” the energy and shape it according to her desire, with no real understanding of how she does it. She doesn’t use a precise word or a practiced hand gesture – she just does what “feels right” at that exact moment. Most of the time it works just as she imagines it; other times, not so much. =;)
Wild Mages can’t practice “regular” magic – it feels too prescripted for them and they are unable to master it. On the same lines, Wizards cannot learn wild magic – ever. Neither type of Thaumaturgist can figure out how the other one does what they do, and there is some small amount of hostility/jealousy between them because of that.
How Does Magic Work?
Thaumaturgical magic (whether practiced by Wizards or Wild Mages) is somewhat limited in what it can accomplish. First off, its effects are rarely permanent. Almost all spells wear off after one day; most spells last considerably shorter than that. The energy used to create them dissipates back into the Flow – so if you create a magic rope to tie someone up, it will vanish after a certain amount of time. If you hypnotize someone into being your friend, the effect will fade before too long – even if the person’s willpower is too weak to let them escape your spell otherwise.
There is a very powerful spell (called “Permanency”) which can be layered on top of another spell to make it last forever, but casting a Permanency spell comes at a high price – it drains a little bit of the Thaumaturgist’s life-energy forever.
Thaumaturgic magic is a well-studied phenomenon, and people have a pretty good idea of what it’s capable of and what it’s not capable of. So, what exactly can it do?
1. Magic can directly affect a person’s mind, making him believe something that isn’t true (“I’m your friend”) or act in a way that is contrary to what they would prefer (“Don’t move”). These are called Ensorcellments.
2. Magic can create and shape energy. This is usually used as a weapon. There are only two types of energy that Thaumaturgical magic can shape – these are known as “Force” and “Fire.” Force creates a wave of pressure; this wave can be shaped in many ways. For example, it can create a pushing or lifting force, or it can create a razor-sharp magical dart. Fire isn’t really “real” fire (closer to hard radiation, but not exactly), but it burns flesh and can start fires, so it’s close enough for the layman. These spells are called Evocations.
3. Magic can be used to trick the senses. This does not directly affect the mind, but it creates a false image that people can see. More powerful spells can fool the ears, nose, and even the sense of touch. These are called Illusions.
4. Not only can magic trick the senses, it can be used to enhance the senses – even allowing the Thaumaturgist to perceive things that others cannot. Powerful mages can look into the future or the past, for example, or to see things that are otherwise invisible. These types of spells are known as Oraculars.
5. Magic can enhance the properties of something that already exists. It can make a sword sharper or a warrior’s sinews stronger. These types of spells tend to fade very quickly – usually within minutes – because changing the properties of something is very hard to do. These spells are called Imbuements.
6. Magic can transform one thing into another, or give something properties that it would not normally have. Giving a person wings in order to fly like a bird, for instance, or making an object super-slippery, or making a person shrink to the size of a Hobbit, or reshaping a piece of raw steel into a sword. Like Imbuements, most of these spells don’t last very long. They are called Transmutations.
7. Magic spells can summon things. This does not create something out of nothing – things summoned are things that already exist somewhere else. They appear (“Poof!”) magically, and disappear the same way when the spell expires. You can summon creatures or inanimate objects. Most creatures summoned are magically predisposed to treat the caster favorably, but not always. However, there is a limit to the types of creature a Thaumaturgist can summon — generally speaking, they can only call real creatures that exist in the world. It’s much, much more difficult to summon creatures from another plane of existance (such as angels or demons). These spells are known as Summonings.
8. Magic can be used to protect as well as attack. Spells which defend the caster or another person are known as Wardings. Technically speaking, Warding spells should all fall into one or another category – a spell that creates a semi-transparent field of force should be classified as an Evocation; a spell that protects the mind of another person from magical influence should be an Ensorcellment. However, as an artifact of convenience, Thaumaturgists classify all defensive spells into this school.
9. Finally, magic can be used to accelerate the forces of entropy. Spells can sap a person’s energy, or willpower, or life force. Magic can also imbue a rough kind of “life” into a corpse, animating it so it follows the caster’s commands in a cruel parody of existence. Most of these types of spells, known as Necromantics, are forbidden almost everywhere. Necromancers are considered blasphemous by most civilized people, and their craft is taboo. I can’t emphasize enough how much people hate Necromancers and the Undead – and with good reasons.
What can Thaumaturgic magic NOT do? The two big ones are that it can’t create something from nothing, and it cannot heal damage. There are other things as well, but they’ll come up on a case-by-case basis.
Design Philosophy of Spells
Now, keeping all that in mind, let me tell you a little bit about the design philosophy behind my magic system.
Temoris is a world of high fantasy and powerful magic, but it’s not a superhero world. What this means is that all spells are limited in some way, and that not all powers are available to use as spells.
Spells are limited by their point-cost. At the first rank of power (known as First Arcana), a spell could do up to 1 1/2d6 of killing damage, and no more. Adding advantages on top of that reduces the number of dice – so you could cast a 1 1/2d6 ranged killing attack, or a 1d6 ranged killing attack that’s particularly good at going through armor (compare the First Arcana spells Wizard’s Arrow and Galvanic Bolt).
Spells are also limited in how they are designed. All spells require the caster to be able to speak clearly, and to be able to freely move at least one hand. All spells are tiring to cast (they cost Endurance). All spells have a range limited to about 30 meters – no more, often less.
Spells are also limited by their concept. A fireball? No problem. A magic shield? Easy-peasy. A giant hand made of stone that reaches out of the ground and grabs someone? Probably not possible, since Thaumaturgical spells don’t do anything that directly manipulates the earth. On the other hand, you could create a ball of Force that encircles and binds a person. So a lot of it has to do with the special effect you choose.
Finally, not all the powers, skills, talents, and perks in the HERO book are available for spells. Faster Than Light Travel, for instance. :) Other powers are possible, but are going to be heavily limited. Duplication, for example, might require an extensive lab and 6 months of time to grow your “clone.” Other powers are limited to mighty wizards, who have great power and skill and years of practice.