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.

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