Monday, March 17, 2008

Magic: Material Components - Magical Catalysts

This post is one that won't give any new information, but will provide some clarifications on just how wizardry behaves in the setting. At first blush, there are a couple of counter-intuitive things that have been turning people off, and this post is going to serve as a reminder to myself to frame wizardry in a slightly different light.

First, an important distinction to make is that while I've been calling Aarnian magic "magic," I'm using the term in a very broad way. The word "magic" usually refers to something poorly understood, if it's understood at all. The process of understanding something, turning it into a science (as the Aarnian wizards have done with Aarnian magic) usually invalidates it from being called magic in the first place.

On the surface, Aarnian magic resembles classical fantasy magic, but when one takes a closer look, all the magic in Aarn could be redefined as psionics. It's powered by dreams, powered by the threads of an adjacent reality, and the fey could be considered inter-dimensional aliens. However, Aarn is a fantasy setting and not sci-fi, so I've used fantasy terms.

In effect, I'm calling it "magic" for flavor purposes, but very few other settings have approached magic from this same perspective. Magic is not something separate from what is real, or logical, or scientific on the planet Aarn. It's simply another fundamental law of physics, one that we happen to not have here in real life.

As for the magical energy itself - it flows through and saturates Aarn. There is ambient magical energy everywhere, flowing through everything, especially living things that have souls.

While the energy is everywhere, it is hard to control. A wizard's primary skill is harnessing and shaping that energy - that's the purpose of the spellweave, to keep the energy in check during the casting of the spell.

On the other hand, a wizard's material components - the physical objects required to cast the spell - do not power the spell. The components act as a key that tells the spell what to do. The amount of magical energy these components have in and of themselves is very small. Instead, the auras of the components simply resonate with one another in a specific way.

The resonating auras act as a catalyst, telling the rest of the ambiant magical energy what to do, and what spell effect to power. In a balooning chain reaction the spell is formed, and it's the wizards's job to guide the chain reaction and insure it actually does what he wants it to do once it manifests. The wizard must provided the appropriate spellweave to harness the chain reaction into the spell he wants to cast.

Because the components act as a guide - perhaps as a template or mold for the ambient magical energies, they are not destroyed by spellcasting, and can be used over and over again.

The few times that components are destroyed, such as in the creation of a potion, or the casting of a cheap scroll, they aren't destroyed because they are consumed by the magic for fuel, or as some kind of equivalent exchange - losing something to gain something.

Instead, they're simply destroyed because the chain reaction produced is too destructive for the components to survive with their auras intact.

In the case of scrolls that require a material component, the components are destroyed because runes self-destruct when they are used, and the auras of the components are connected to those same self-destructing runes, and are caught in the resulting chain-reaction of self-destruction. Very messy.

In the case of potions, the "material components" (which refer only to the objects that provide the resonance, and not to the water and its flavorings) have their auras and material composition changed beyond use by the boiling water and the chain reaction of magical energy.

Once the chain reaction has been started however, the components are no longer needed. As long as there is more water for the effect to "grow" into, more doses of potions can be made using the single helping of material components. Unfortunately, the more water, the slower the chain reaction spreads, and the harder it is to control it. Creating a single dose of potion can take only a few minutes. Creating a cauldron filled with 100 doses of potion can take hours, or even days.

Further, as the chain reaction spreads, it needs to be constantly monitored and guided by the alchemist. If his concentration waivers the batch of potion can self-destruct, or worse. This effectively limits the time that can be used to make a single batch of potion, preventing an alchemist from boiling an entire lake and using a single helping of material components to create a billion doses of potion. Alchemists have to sleep sometime, after all.

To keep these sorts of things in mind, I'm going to be more careful of my language in the future. A spell's "material components" will now be called "catalysts" in order to drive the point home of what they do - and what they don't do. This will also help distinguish the difference between the catalysts in a potion and, say, the water itself. The water is also technically a "material component" but because it doesn't resonante with any magical auras to produce the magical chain reaction, it's not appropriate to call it the same thing.

Also, as I've been doing in this post, catalysts that are destroyed in the process of making a potion or casting a scroll will be "destroyed" and not "consumed." "Consumed" gives the complete wrong kind of idea, and I blame it on a lot of the cognitive dissonance that exists in some of the previous wizardry posts, especially the potion one.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Magic: Limitations of Magic and Magical Items

Aarn is certainly a high-magic setting, I will not deny that. However, a major goal I've had since the beginning is for a character without magic to survive and remain competent. Magic, while powerful, is largely in the setting for flavor and for convenience. It is a utility, as much as a utility as rope is to a dungeon-delver.

Magic can enhance characters' abilities, and can help characters deal more damage and absorb more damage. Magic can do many things. However, it is not as important as a character's skill. No shiny magical armor or flaming sword will make a farm-boy become an epic hero overnight. He'll get creamed no matter how powerful his equipment if he rushes into danger carelessly.

When it comes to a character trying to avoid magic, their physical abilities quickly climb into the superhuman level of ability. Many things in the setting strive to be realistic, but I suppose a man must be allowed his guilty pleasures; imagine a completely non-magical adventurer who can leap 20 feet in the air, effortlessly fell a tree in one swing with their sword, plow through a battlefield like a runaway train, tossing his or her enemies aside as if they were tissue paper.

It is not the job of magic to further enhance the abilities of this dreadnought warrior. It is the job of magic to allow jacks of all trades to compete on the same level.

As an example, spells that increase someone's strength do not add a modifier onto the ability score. It simply doesn't stack. Instead, the spell will change the ability score to a set amount. A character with a strength of 3 and a character with a strength of 1 will be given the same maximum strength, 4, if they have a spell cast on them that will raise strength to 4. Further, characters with a strength of 4 or higher won't be affected by the spell at all, even though it is still technically affecting them.

Magic, because it doesn't stack with natural abilities and only supplants them, can be seen as an unnecessary distraction to more serious warriors. Having a handful of magical items, such as a suit of armor that allows them to have a wider range of motion, or a sword that deals more damage with every swing will certainly help them. But not having these items will not handicap them either, and they have natural skills they can learn that produce much of the same effect.

Further, all characters will have a magical resistance skill. This skill represents how toughened and resilient their magical aura is. How much punishment the aura is used to taking. The higher this skill, the easier it is to not only resist magical effects and magical damage, but also elude magic that can detect life, detect thoughts, etcetera. For all its bells and whistles, and its "ooh" and "ahh" effects, magic is capricious and can be nullified somewhat effectively if one is properly prepared.

And that's ignoring the aforementioned wizards whose specialty is nullifying and countering others' magic, including their magic items.

I'm also contemplating adding another skill which represents a character's ability to use magical items. The higher the skill, the more items they can use at once, and the more powerful those items can be. It would essentially act as an item-wealth level-limit, as seen in many, many other rule settings. I may or may not include this option depending on how much it is needed once I reach the play testing phase.

Magic: Soulbonded Artifacts

Perhaps the most dramatic kind of enchanted object in Aarn, a soulbonded artifact can only be created by a divine caster. In order to create the artifact, the divine caster must know a certain kind of spell which is a genesis whose effect acts like a boon. The power of the spell is such that it can only be activated via ritual. The ritual itself is costly, and so is learning the genesis, but the effect is arguably worth it.

One of the prime material components for the ritual is a non-magical object that will become the soulbonded artifact. This object can be any kind of tool, weapon, armor or even machine. The larger and more expensive it is, the more the rest of the ritual will cost in both power points and other material components, which somewhat limits what can and cannot become a soulbonded artifact.

During the process of the ritual, the divine caster selects a sentient target; the target can be the divine caster him or herself, or someone else, but must be a willing participant of the ritual. Once the ritual is complete, the target will permanently have the physical object magically tied to his or her soul. This object will at first seem perfectly normal, but the target of the spell will always know where the object is.

Over time, the soulbonded artifact will become more and more magically powerful as the target of the spell puts his own experience points into leveling up the artifact. Like all boons, the magic of this artifact is extremely hard to dispell - a successful dispelling attempt will only briefly render the object magic-neutral. Like rubber however, it will recover over a period of a few hours to its previous magical strength, the bond disrupted but not actually broken.

Very powerful soulbonded artifacts can be magically dispersed and then recalled at will, can be summoned to the owner of the artifact regardless of the distance, or even allow the owner to spy on distant locations and "hear" what it hears, "see" what it sees.

Some channelers have a skill that is similar to this, but the artifacts they create are more temporary constructs made out of their own magical aura, instead of an artifact bonded to them artificially. Often the channelers need a physical object to act as a base before they can produce these effects, but the physical object isn't required at higher levels of power. More detail will be put into this channeling skill in a future post.

Magic: Infusions and Wands

Another way a spellcaster can produce magical effects in inanimate objects is by using infusions. An infusion as mentioned before is somewhat different than other sorts of enchantments. Like all enchantments though, an infusion requires time and resources. A divine caster must know the spell effect he or she wishes to give to the object, and a wizard must build the material components into the object. If the material components are perishable, they must be periodically reloaded into the enchanted object like ammunition.

Infusions are a popular method of enchantment because objects infused with magical effects can have quite advanced abilities. A runecrafted fire-sword is always on fire, which can be somewhat inconvenient. A fire sword created with infusions can be turned on and off with the press or a button or the utterance of a command word, which greatly increases its value.

Infusions can also store complicated spell effects that can be unleashed similarly, with the press of a button, flip of a switch, command word, or in some very advanced models, the simple power of thought.

The limitation of an infusion however is the fact that infused objects have a limited supply of energy. They can usually be turned on and off, but when on, they exhaust magical power. Thankfully, the power will recharge slowly over time from the ambient magical energy on Aarn. A magic user of any kind can also speed up this process. A wizard can increase the rate of recharging by concentrating on the item in the same way they concentrate on preparing a spell. A channeler can increase the rate of recharging by setting aside some of their energy, limiting their own magic in the process. A divine caster can transfer his or her own power points directly into the item.

Between all the different types of magically enchanted items, infusions are one of the safest. Dispelling one, while ruining the enchantment, won't cause an explosion or light show. Further, if the material components are damaged in an infusion created with wizardry, the infusion will begin to work again once the components are replaced, without the enchantment itself being damaged. Attempting to change the shape of an item with an infusion, or breaking the object itself, will still produce such an explosion however.

Wands are the standard method of carrying infusions, especially when the infusion is a spell that needs to be used at range. Importantly, any spell may be infused into an object, and most infusions are simply spells that could be cast otherwise, but are tied to an object that anyone may use. They are extremely useful for people who don't want to bother with scrolls or potions, but they are also very expensive due to their high demand and powerful nature.

That is not to say however that wands are the only type of infusion. A large amount of adventuring and survival gear is constructed with infusions, such as binoculars, rings that clean someone and improve their hygiene with the twist of a facet, fire starters, extremely accurate compasses, and one sort of enchanted auto-map item that produces a magical image of the area the person is in.

Infusions however cannot create anything sentient, nor can they create something that moves on its own in any type of self-directing way. One can use an infusion to create a propeller for a boat, but one cannot use an infusion to create a golem in the way that an animancer can.

Magic: Potion Mechanics

After reading my previous post, I wouldn't be surprised if you were asking yourself; "If there are scrolls whose creation doesn't require the destruction of material spell components, what use is potions? They store spells for use later in the same way as scrolls, but use up material components in the process when created. Wouldn't all wizards just create scrolls then?"

Well, for one thing, potions can be used by anyone, scrolls cannot. That may answer the question of why potions exist with scrolls as competition, but it doesn't answer why a character in the game would want to be an alchemist and create his or her own potions.

The answer is this: Potions can be created in bulk. While the creation of a potion will always destroy the material components used, an alchemist doesn't need to sacrifice a new batch of material components for every single dose of potion made. Alchemists can create potions using a cauldron to create dozens of doses of potion at a time.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of resource management involved here. If an alchemist only wants to make a single dose of potion, he or she must still sacrifice the material components. It's an all or nothing deal. Because of this, alchemists who aren't adventuring will usually create a large amount of their potion at once in order to save on material component costs, and then sell the leftovers.

What prevents alchemists in the field from carrying a cauldron around with them all the time and creating that many potions at once are five major limitations:

1: Weight and bulk. Potions need to be carried in something, and they need to be brewed in something. Carrying around the equipment required to create potions in bulk is heavy and awkward, and so is carrying around the potions that have been created.

2: Water. The wizard must have access to enough water to fill whatever container he or she is brewing the potions in, and it's unlikely that when potable water in a dungeon is precious the party will allow the wizard to use an entire bath's worth of water to create a hundred "cure minor wound" potions at once, saving on material component costs. The more skilled the alchemist however, the less water they need to use to create a single dose.

3: Time. It takes far less time to brew a single potion than it takes to brew a dozen or more. Brewing an entire cauldron at once can take hours or even days, days the party is unlikely to allow the alchemist to sit around doing practically nothing. There is also a point of diminishing returns, where the amount of money saved by making the potions all in one batch simply isn't worth the time it takes for the water to absorb the magical energy.

4: Danger. As I'm sure many of you have noticed by now, working with magic in Aarn is a volatile and dangerous process, especially if you don't know what you are doing. A cauldron that is not carefully tended to during its entire brewing time poses the risk of exploding catastrophically instead of nicely becoming a magical liquid.

5: Economics. Potion vendors in a city are unlikely to pay top dollar for potions created by an alchemist in the field. Unless the alchemist is their usual supplier, the shopkeeper will be very suspicious of the potions - they could have been created with tainted water! Or substandard material components. Or simply been created by an incompetent alchemist.

There is also the fact that while normal people will buy potions, the demand isn't high, and vendors are unlikely to want to act as a middle-man and add even more potions to their own already-overflowing stock. If an alchemist wishes to sell his bulk potions, he will either have to become a regular supplier for a vendor, or learn the skills of a vendor and sell his potions himself. Neither of these are viable options for the adventurer-on-the-go, though it can present itself as an excellent source of side-income during downtime between adventures.

Something to remember however, is that all skills in this game can be learned by all characters. A character can become a competent alchemist without dramaticly sacrificing battle prowess, other spellcasting, or whichever other skills a character wishes to learn. Jacks-of-all-trades are quite welcome in Aarn.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Magic: Runecrafting and Scrolls

Runecrafting at its most base form involves two different skills. The first skill is the skill to read magical runes, and is useful for all characters because it lets them know what runes do, and it allows them to activate scrolls. The second skill is the ability to create the runes, and this skill is more expensive to learn, especially because it has the first skill as well as some kind of magical aptitude as prerequisites.

The different types of runecrafting are modeled after the different types of magic. There are permanent runecrafting effects which crudely simulate the spell effects that channelers can learn, and there are spellrunes which are one-time-use items which store wizardry and divine spells.

Any magic user can create a permanent rune, and channelers who are proficient in the runecrafting skill can emulate effects or even elements that they do not have for the purpose of creating the runes. Wizards and divine casters can also emulate any channeler effect, regardless of the spells they know or the material components they have access to. Once created, runes that emulate channeling act as a sinkhole for magic, and the shape of the runes themselves tell the magic how to behave. As mentioned previously, these permanent effects cannot be turned off nor controlled, though they can be carved or painted onto anything in order to enchant it, even living creatures. The more dramatic the effect or the larger the object, the more difficult it is to properly craft the runes and the longer it takes because of the larger amount of magical energy involved.

Unlike other systems, the runecrafting skill and the time it takes to create the runes are the only things required for a spellcaster to create this kind of magical effect. However, there is a drawback to these effects that can help prevent characters from abusing the skill - the runes, while "permanent" can be dispelled by other spellcasters. Not only that, but disrupting the shape of the rune will also end the magical effect. A permanent rune whose magical effect is disrupted either by destroying the rune itself or by dispelling the magic will release a great deal of magical energy, damaging whatever it was painted on or carved into. This damage will be substantial, but not lethal in the case of creatures, and the damage will also not destroy objects to the point of uselessness, but the damage will make the objects more fragile - easier to sunder or destroy through other means.

Using runes to store wizardry or divine spells requires more effort and can only be done by a wizard or a divine caster. These "spellrunes" are for the most part magically inert, but store energy that can be unleashed later. Like runes that emulate channeling, spellrunes release a great deal of magical energy when destroyed. They also will release this energy when the spell is cast, which will usually be more intense than what is released when they are simply damaged - so casting a spellrune will destroy whatever the runes are written on along with the runes themselves. Because of this, most spellrunes are written on cheaply produced scrolls, though they can be written on anything one is willing to lose.

In order to create a scroll, divine casters write the required runes while focusing their own magic into them, while adding a trigger allowing someone to activate the spellrunes later. This means that divine casters need to provide their own power points in order to produce a scroll, just as if they were casting the spell then and there. This perhaps goes without saying, but in order to create a spellrune a divine caster must also know the spell in question. They also cannot create a spellrune that provides boons, which are permanent effects and not spells.

Wizards when creating scrolls have two options - they can create the spellrune using material components, or without material components. In both cases, they need to have a spellbook that contains the spell they wish to reproduce in runes, or they must have the spell memorized. Creating the spellrune will also take as much time as it takes to prepare the spell using spellweaving.

For creating a scroll using material components, a wizard uses the components to directly focus his or her magical energy into the runes in a method similar to divine casters. Once they create the spellrune and provide some triggering mechanism, the scroll can be activated at any time with no further cost.

On the other hand, creating a scroll without the material components can be very useful for spells whose material components are rare and not readily available. This method is usually used by wizards who write and sell scrolls for a living. While more common and cheaper than other types, this kind of scroll has a hidden cost - the material components must be provided by whoever will use the scroll. Not only that, but the subsequent release of energy will destroy the material components along with the scroll! Very few wizards who wish to cast scrolls they themselves created will use this method because it will destroy precious components they already had, and could have used at no cost to themselves to create the other type of scroll.

An adventurer wishing to use a great deal of scrolls should try to either buy wizardry scrolls that were created with components, or buy scrolls created by divine casters. These "self-contained" scrolls are usually rarer and more expensive than the alternative, but are actually less expensive in the long run. Because "cheap" scrolls not only need the scroll-user to provide the material components, but will destroy those components in the process, the cost of buying the spell components could quickly eliminate any savings one might get from buying the cheapest type of scroll.

It is essentially the difference between selling one-time-use guns that are already loaded, and selling the same kind of one-use-guns which aren't loaded, while the ammunition can be either cheap or expensive depending on the type of gun. Further compounding this, the ammunition also has other uses where it can be used over and over again (mainly as components in wizardry spells).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Magic: Divine Magic

Divine magic is seen by most people living on Aarn as the power of the gods personified. It's true that gods will often grant their followers divine spells, but there are many other ways to learn and harness divine magic.

Those who use divine magic are exercising their primal, faithful creativity. They change the world the same way the fey do, using the fey's very own power borrowed from the astral sea. Divine casters are those who have learned to harness, enhance, and control dream magic in the real world.

Divine magic can be granted by the gods or it can be granted to mortals through fey. There is a lesser known but third path to this kind of magic; especially faithful, strong willed, or simply air-headed mortals think enough in the terms of dreams that they can cast these sorts of spells without the aid of a patron. The spells themselves need no preparation, but must first be learned through meditation, prayer, or service to whichever cause the divine magic caster follows. By spending XP the caster will learn the desired spell through dreams or visions. Divine spells cannot be taught in the same way as wizardry, though a mentor can help a pupil learn a specific spell by guiding their prayer or meditation.

In order to cast their spells or use their abilities, divine spellcasters must spend time sleeping, meditating or in prayer to gather enough energy from the dream realm and bring it into the mortal realm. As they grow in skill, the amount of power they can collect also increases. The mechanics for how divine spells are cast are similar to the psioncs of Dungeon and Dragons' 3.5 edition, with individual spells learned permanently, each spell using up a certain number of power points with each casting.

Regardless of the method used to cast the spell, all divine effects fall into one of seven categories; Curses, wraths, boons, blessings, visions, geneses and remedies.

Curses - A curse is any negative effect that either transmutes the target's body in some way or causes a negative effect that is not directly damaging. This involves things as subtle as altering someone's luck for the worse, temporarily making someone less skilled, draining someone's strength or abilities, changing their gender, changing them into an animal, or even something as dramatic as changing them into solid stone.

Wraths - A wrath is any effect that directly causes physical damage to a creature or object, such as a flame strike, a bolt of lightning or a simple smite. Unlike a curse, the lingering effects of a wrath are not magical and cannot be dispelled.

Boons - A boon is an expensive in XP terms but permanent effect that does not drain a divine spellcaster's resources. Monks are divine spell casters who use boons exclusively.

Blessings - A blessing is the opposite of a curse. It is a positive effect that temporarily changes someone or a group for the better in some way. Protection and shield effects also fall into this category.

Visions - A vision is any effect that reveals something the caster did not already know. Visions can be of the future, of distant lands, flashes of inspiration, lost ancient knowledge, other people, or effects that detect or identify magic, undead, or other creatures.

Geneses - A genesis is any effect that creates something. This includes effects that make food or water, create temporary weapons or armor, or summon creatures.

Remedies - A remedy is any effect that cures, heals, purifies, recovers or restores. The most powerful remedies can even bring someone back from the dead.

Importantly, there is no time limit for how long one can wait before casting a remedy that brings someone back to life, but the target must be willing to return. Once 50 or more years have passed, the target will probably -not- be willing to return - they've already spent 50 out of 100 years on line in the half-hell of Immigration, and probably don't want to have to start all over again after another (comparatively) brief stay on Aarn. Souls that are already in hell are sometimes more likely to return, but it's very rare that anyone actually wants to bring someone back who's been dead for more than a century.

While all divine effects fall into these seven categories, there are four distinct ways to cast a divine spell, which are as follows.

Manifestations are the most difficult way to cast divine spells, and by extension they are the least powerful. A manifestation is an instant creation of a spell effect purely through the power of thought. Manifestations require no material components, require no spoken word, no gestures, and in fact only require conscious thought to activate. Despite their inability to create the most powerful divine effects, they are by far the most suited to combat situations.

Incantations, also known as words of power, are slightly easier to produce than manifestations. They are one of the most common methods of divine casting despite their difficulty, if only because of their utility. Incantations only require the utterance of a handful of almost arbitrary words which vary not only from spell to spell, but from person to person. They require no gestures or material components or focusses, and their effects can linger for quite some time.

Songs and chants are quite easy to cast, but their effects only last as long as the spellcaster remains chanting. Wraths and other instant effects that are chanted or sung into existence do not take effect until after the chant stops, and the amount of time spent chanting helps determines the power of the spell effect. This is arguably the easiest way to cast divine spells, though it is not very practical.

The power of songs and chants can be further enhanced by dancing or gesturing energetically during the chant, though this can leave a divine spellcaster very vulnerable during combat. A number of people can also join in on the dancing or chanting in order to further boost the power of the spell, even if they are not divine spellcasters themselves. When a number of people join together to enhance the power of a divine spell, one of them is the spellcaster and must know the spell and have enough power to cast it by him or herself. The others simply supplement the spell's power through their creative participation.

The final method of divine spellcasting is the ritual. It superficially resembles wizardry, but has been in existence for much longer. Like wizardry, rituals require material components that vary depending on the spell being cast. The spells created by rituals cannot be stored to be used at some other time, and once the ritual is completed the spell is instantly cast. Rituals can take a number of minutes to a number of hours to prepare depending on how powerful they are, and they're by far the least practical method of divine spellcasting. Rituals cost gold for material components which are consumed or destroyed symbolically during the ritual. They also cost time and energy, and are easily disrupted. Rituals are however the most powerful form of divine spellcasting, and the preferred method for doing so when the spellcaster isn't in combat or in immediate danger.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Magic: Wizardry

In today's post I will go over wizardry in the setting of Aarn, and describe how it affects the world, and the basics of how it works.

As mentioned before, wizardry came into existence at the same time as mankind. Despite only being as old as man, it has been adopted by the other godtouched races as a staple and a matter of course. The valdrex use it extensively, the merfolk occasionally use it to enhance their natural monster-like biomechanical creations, and even the dragons toy with it when it suits their fancy.

In the world of Aarn, wizardry is literally another branch of science. It is magic approached carefully, empirically, and experimentally. Wizardry is as much a science on Aarn as physics is in our world. It is used as both a tool for experimentation and also to learn about the planet itself. Using wizardry, mankind on Aarn has a knowledge of atoms, elements, chemistry, astronomy, gravity, and many other modern ideas that may seem out of place in a fantasy setting.

(As a side note, however, Aarnians' only have a casual understanding of several principles of mechanics, such as steam power, gunpowder, combustion engines, magnetics and electricity. Aarnian scholars know of these forces, but poorly and as an academic footnote. Magic here has acted as a crutch - why learn the mechanics of wires and electromagnets when an electricity or gravity spell can work just as well, if not better?)

Wizards are treated by society the way we treat engineers, scientists, mechanics and computer scientists. In fact, I've kept the analogy of wizards-as-computer-programmers-and-developers in mind throughout the entire production of the setting. There are wizards who like hackers use their powers for laughs and for personal power. There are wizards who like corporate programmers are hired as specialists for security, maintenance or troubleshooting and repair jobs. There are also wizards who like technology developers push the boundaries of what is currently considered possible, developing new and better techniques to approach old jobs. This also means that wizardry in general can be learned by anyone with the time and resources. Just as people in real life can become "script kiddies," there are amateur wizards who have only learned a handful of weak utility spells, and have concentrated most of their character development on other skills and abilities. In fact it is recommended for all adventurers to know at least a spot of wizardry.

Like any science, there are several different branches of wizardry that were briefly mentioned in the last post. The most common is spellweaving, which is quite similar to dungeons and dragons' wizardry. Spellweaving involves using material components as a springboard, the components' auras affecting the magical energy being harnessed by the wizard. Once the auras of the components are resonating with the wizard's own aura, a spell can be woven. This usually takes several minutes, and the more powerful the spell, the longer it takes to prepare. Once prepared, the spell is stored in the aura of the wizard, and can be activated with a few simple gestures.

Unlike wizards in dungeons and dragons, spellweavers in Aarn can prepare their spells at any time, though they still are limited in the number of spells they can have stored at once. In theory however, a wizard with a full aura can still prepare spells - as long as the spells are then cast immediately and not stored. Not only that, but expending spells that are stored can free up room for new spells to be prepared immediately afterwards, also unlike dungeons and dragons.

Spellweavers do not use incantations, and casting a silence spell on one won't impair their spellcasting or ability to prepare spells. Any words the spellweaver speaks while casting or preparing the spell is a kind of meditative mantra that aids his or her concentration. Their spellbooks aren't strictly required, either. Spellweavers can spend XP to permanently memorize how to cast a spell, and never use a book for it again. Without spending the XP however, the books are required for spell preparation. Spellbooks are like cookbooks. They are scientifically and clearly written guides for how to weave the magic and the material component into the spell. Any wizard can use any other wizards' books, provided they have the material components for the spell available.

Although I have stated in the past (such as in the constructs post) that material components used in spellweaves are consumed, I'm currently reconsidering that decision. As it stands, wizards only need to buy the material components once for a spell they wish to cast, in order to buy the proper components for the first time. There may be an upkeep cost paid every week or so if the spell involves material components that are perishable however, but this upkeep will not be affected by how many times the wizard does or doesn't cast the spell.

An important tool for any spellweaver is his or her staff. In other settings, staves are simply larger wands - this isn't the case in Aarn. Aarian wizard staffs actually expand and stretch the aura of the wizard, allowing them to prepare more spells than they otherwise could. A wizard must attune himself to his or her staff in order to use it, and it's a highly personalized item. Breaking or destroying a wizard's staff is quite dangerous - doing so will instantly release every spell currently stored in the staff in a titanic explosion of energy. With this in mind, they are made extremely hard to break. Usually taking the staff from the wizard is enough to cut him or her off from the spells stored in the staff, and many adventuring wizards forgo staves completely due to the danger of carrying one around in melee combat.

Another skill that spellweavers have is the ability to dispell other magical effects. Unlike other systems, dispelling or counterspelling magic is its own skill, separate from casting in and of itself - that importantly doesn't involve casting spells. A skilled spellweaver can see the ripples in the magical aura of the spell, interact with those ripples with their hands or a special telekinesis spell - and then disrupt the magical effects. There are spellweavers in fact who never learn any spellcasting at all, and only learn how to untangle the magical ties of the spells and magical effects used by other mages.

Another quite common branch of Aarnian wizardry is alchemy, the art of making potions. Superficially, the processes of alchemy and spellweaving are quite similar. Alchemy requires recipe books, involves recipes that can be memorized, and needs material components. Unlike spellweaving however, the spell itself is stored in a liquid inside of a flask, and the material components themselves are ruined or consumed in the process of creating the potion.

Alchemists can make limitless numbers of potions - they're limited only by how many flasks they have and material components they're willing to use. Once created, the potions are stored in physical space, so alchemists are also somewhat limited by their strength and how many potions they can fit and organize onto their person.

A potion itself comes in three varieties. There are salves that are rubbed onto a weapon or body, there are elixirs that are consumed, and there are grenades which are thrown and unleash a magical effect once the flask breaks. Needless to say, all potions are one-use only.

Potioncrafting is in fact related to the same skill as poison-making and poison-management. All alchemists are skilled at poisons and antidotes, though not all poisoners are skilled at alchemy - alchemy is simply throwing a magical understanding of material components into the mix.

Of course, there are also methods for wizards to harness magic that aren't exclusively in their own magical domain. Wizardry invented the concept of using runecasting for scrolls, and while divine casters can create their own scrolls as well, it is the wizards who create more of them, and more often. Wizards can also create runecrafted objects, but they prefer to use imbuing effects for enchanting items, due to that system's higher flexibility. I'll go into more depth in how magical items are created in a future post, but it's worth mention here regardless.

Finally, there is elemancy - but as a reminder, this isn't the way I originally used the word. Now, elemancy refers to wizards who use their love of material components, spellweaving, alchemy and other skills combined with the natural abilities of magical channeling. Elemancers largely use their powers to create and dominate elementals, undead, monsters and constructs. They deserve their own post as well, and will get one sometime soon.

I'm also considering allowing elemancers to use channeling tokens to power their spells instead of material components, but this isn't final yet and requires more thought.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Metaphysics: Magic

My magic system may seem a bit disjointed at first, compared to some other magic systems that you may be used to. There are a handful of magical tropes that I play with and alter, a few I take out and make their own thing, and still others that I discard entirely. Gone, for instance, is the seemingly ever-present divide between psionics and magic - psionic powers exist in my setting, but simply as an expression of magic and not as something distinct and separate.

The three major ways to use magic also, while differing in their execution, have clear and intentional lines of overlap. Wizardry is more scientific, channeling is more natural, and divine magic is more creative and ephemeral. However, all three tie into and tap the same substance, the same power, the same drive and the same force - the natural ability of the fey to alter the material world through the power of dreaming.

It is well established that only godtouched, fey, and certain artificial creations like monsters, undead and constructs can use magic. However, all creatures that have living souls have their own magical essences. The auras discussed in the previous post are an imprint of the soul, a representation of the energies of the dream plane, replenished whenever a soul dreams. While a soul's aura is only visible to the naked eye while using magic, it is always there.

Further, either through the fey's presence on Aarn for so long, as some side effect from the end of the war of the gods, or through a fundamental property of the astral sea bonding with the material plane, material objects that aren't alive also seem to have their own magical essence. It is far less dramatic than the essences of living souls, but important enough to be used in spellweaves and rituals none the less. This could simply be the objects affecting magical energies from other, living sources - similar to how a rock in a stream will create eddy currents, but the effect is largely the same regardless.

The essences themselves have consistent patterns to them. A rock of a certain shape, element and size will always produce the same signature. A plant's leaf, bat droppings, even a hand-made carving of a specific kind of wood will displace, radiate and resonate with auras in predictable ways. These patterns can be brought out and represented visually by simple, abstracted patterns called runes. Importantly, each individual sentient soul has its own unique rune, a self-representing symbol that never changes, and is in fact a permanent identifying characteristic of that soul's unique self. These personal symbols tend to be used in Aarnian society as signatures and are often used as identification, and as the focuses for scrying spells.

Runes are used by both divine casters and by wizards. They can be etched into physical objects or tatooed onto flesh to create permanent or semi-permanent magical effects. They can be used by wizards and divine spellcasters both to create scrolls - a physical storage of a single casting of a certain spell (though this is far more common with wizards than with divine spellcasters). They are also used by wizards in their spellbooks as a magical shorthand, the runes representing which material components are required for a spellweave, alchemic potion or elemantic construct.

Despite this flexibility, runes are somewhat limited. When they are used in the case of scrolls to cast a stored spell, they are not only destroyed but they tend to physically damage whatever they were written on. When they are used for permanent or semi-permanent effects, the effects only last as long as the runes remain intact, are always active in the mean time. Destructive effects on weapons usually require a very resilient scabbard, for instance. Importantly, the runes also cannot create any spell effects more complicated than simple channeler powers.

This does mean that while characters with magical tatoos can impersonate channelers, their magic's effects are not as easily controlled, not as flexible, and cannot be turned on and off, making them poor impersonations at best.

A step up from using runes is directly using the material components that the runes represent. All branches of wizardry - spellweaving, alchemy and elemancy use material components directly, and rituals are the branch of divine magic that uses them. There is also a magical technique called infusion that allows crafters to put material components directly into the construction of an object. This allows the object to have more permanent, more easily controlled, and more complicated spell effects than rune crafted objects. Due to this the technique of infusion is largely preferable to rune crafting, but both kinds of enchantment have their uses.

The most raw and direct method of using magic however is easily some of the other methods of divine casting. Manifestations, incantations, chants and songs, and chants and songs that also involve dancing are the four methods of casting divine spells outside of lengthy and costly rituals. Divine spells are learned permanently and do not need to be prepared, but they do use up an exhaustible supply of power which must be replenished by dreaming. It is a more powerful and dramatic method of casting than any wizardry effects, but it is also much less flexible.

Channeling, of course, has already been discussed in depth. It is the natural way in which godtouched creatures can use magic, and a character is either born with it or he/she is not. One important aspect of channeling, that I don't believe I've mentioned in previous posts, is that while all channelers have elemental affinities, all non-channelers do as well. Similar to aura color, a godtouched's elemental affinity is considered an astrology-like predictor of personality in Cerenbaun society. In fact, it can easily be treated as their direct counterpart to our own astrology. The study of elemental affinities is a personality-based pseudoscience with much more detail and expectations than the behavioral traits associated with simple aura colors. I may or may not develop an astrological system based on the 14 elements, but this is a low priority considering some of the other things I have to work on in the near future.