Post:Introductory Magic Theory - 11/06/2014 - 12:23

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Introductory Magic Theory · on 11/06/2014 12:23 PM CST 3597
A Note on Nature and Supernature:

The physics of Elanthia are different than our own. While magic and all its effect would be called supernatural in real life, in Elanthia what we call magic is the product of systemic research into a quantifible, empirically valid energy source. Magic is a natural science in the Five Provinces and is treated like one by most magicians.

The line between nature and supernature, thus, blurs considerably. In formal use by Elanthian scholars, the term supernatural or supernature is limited to interactions with other planes and gods. In common use, it's still often said by the great uneducated majority that magicians perform supernatural feats by conjuring fire and blessing the dead.

A Note on Terminology:

"Magician" is the common word to refer to those who have Attunement and practice magic. "Mage" is typically reserved for someone who's career focuses on magic (Clerics, Moon Mages, and Warrior Mages). "Wizard" refers to an extraordinarily advanced mage, though is sometimes used mockingly among less skilled magicians.

"Attunement" is the psycho-physical quality that makes someone a magician. "Mana" is the energy source of magic, which has four different "Realms" or "Frequencies" called Elemental, Holy, Life and Lunar. Mana is manipulated to create "spell energy" that is used to empower magic.

"Spell patterns" are the forms and equations that a magician does to form a spell, while "spell matrix" or "spell matrices" refers to a particularly advanced and convoluted spell pattern. A "Confound" is a non-magical quality that changes or impacts the result of a spell.

"Sorcery" is a spell that breaks the rules of magic, while "Necromancy" is a specific type of Sorcery that deals with the animation of the dead and other unseemly forces.

Mana:

Mana flows across Elanthia in distinct units called "streams" or "lines." Mana streams form the building blocks of magic, or perhaps the girding might be a better metaphor. Mana is bent from its natural flow to produce patterns and matrices to form a spell.

Mana, as a form of energy, cannot be created or destroyed, nor is it spent in creating spells. Once the spell is complete, the mana streams revert to their natural pattern with their natural energetic qualities.

When mana is bent, it produces a second form of energy called, simply, spell energy. This is the actual, volatile substance that is produced and spent to form spells. This distinction is mostly academic except for the case of magical devices: devices do not bend mana or have a cluster of mana lines following them around, but instead have a resevior of spell energy that they draw upon.

Mana is aspected into four (and an unofficial fifth) frequencies or realms. The frequency of mana determines the shape and nature of the patterns that are produced in it and what kind of spell effects are possible. The classic example is to imagine that one frequency is "red" and one is "green," now try drawing an emerald.

The frequencies (or realms) of mana are sometimes grouped from "high" to "low," or "physical" to "otherworldly." For introductory purposes, we will simply list them alphabetically.

Elemental
The mana of the physical world, including the six elements (the classic element + Electricity and Aether) and sound.

Holy
The emanations of the Immortals and potentially other divine beings.

Life
Energy that is extruded by the forces of life, growth, death and decay.

Lunar
Strange power that radiates from the movement of the moons and planets.

And a fifth...

Arcane
A blasphemous combination of mana types, used to further the ends of Sorcerers and Necromancers.

Mana does not combine well across frequencies. The old movie saying "Don't cross the streams" applies in force. A normal magician is attuned to only a single frequency of mana, and while exceptions exist (Necromancers) these exceed the bounds of an introductory post.

Attunement:

Attunement is at once both a skill and a quality. It is the raw ability of a magician to perform magic. While different types of spellcasting exist in the world, all of them have at their heart Attunement as the essence of the magical act.

When a person Attunes, they are taught (or, extremely rarely, naturally express) to manipulate their brain and nervous system in subtle ways. This is crudely metaphoric to humanity's natural capacity to hear subtle distinctions of sound and language, which gets pruned past a certain point if not practiced and expressed.

The skill of Attunement is somewhat misnamed. While there is a small element of skill involved, in practicing the techniques that brought about and deepen Attunement to begin with, it is largely a marker of physiological growth. As the magician gains Attunement skill, their nervous system become more and more sensitive to the mana streams.

Attunement the quality (or the "mana" bar on StormFront) is a measure of the magician's immediate connection to mana. Spellcasting is a tiring, subtly injurious behavior. This "injury" is the equivalent of eye strain or a heavily exercised muscle and regenerates on its own. The more the magician casts spells, the more blunted his attunement becomes until he simply cannot manipulate mana until he rests.

The physically dangerous aspect of Attunement is due to the role of the nervous system in the casting process. Spell energy does not simply well up in the air, but when spell energy is created the magician himself is connected into a circuit with it. This is especially the case when a magician harnesses raw mana to aid a spell; that energy, unbound to any spell pattern, is stored in the magician's nervous system and brain.

When spellcasting goes bad, it's often the nervous system that takes the brunt of the damage. Unskilled use of complex patterns or attempting to hold excessive amounts of spell energy causes the energy to ground through the magician, doing what would normally be irreparable damage. Thankfully, Empathic talents and alchemical remedies both exist to heal what the body cannot.

Spellcasting:

Spellcasting is a deceptively simple behavior, something that can be done by the most novice magician yet isn't mastered even at the peak of human potential. At its heart, it involves manipulating mana into a meaningful pattern and then letting go.

The manipulation of mana, through the magician's Attunement, is performed psychically. The magician concentrates and projects his will outward to manipulate mana into the desired shape. While all magicians learn bodily gestures and sometimes chants to aid in spellcasting, these take the role of mnemonic devices and concentration aids. A sufficiently skilled magician can manipulate mana -- at least small amounts in simple patterns -- with a nigh-instant expression of will.

There are two measures of a spell pattern's difficulty, complexity and mana requirements. These are often bound together (more complex patterns require more mana streams to "draw" all the components), but are not necessarily. Complexity of the pattern tests the magician's actual skill at creating that kind of pattern (Utility, Debilitation, etc.) while infusing mana into the pattern tests both his skill and how much Attunement he has to "spend."

Not every spell is made equal. The typical spell takes roughly twenty seconds to fully visualize through mnemonics. Battle spells are streamlined patterns that the magician is drilled on to produce in less than half the time. Ritual spells take both enormous amounts of mana and longer to sort out. Targeted spells require the addition of a targeting matrix, essentially a magical reticle, which the spell is woven around. The result of this is that targeted spells are always constructed "at" something, rather than arbitrarily in the air like most spells.

Each spell has three qualities, which the magician has some limited control over influencing.

Potency
Spell energy directed toward Potency increases the raw power of the effect. Buffs buff more, fireballs burn hotter.

Duration
Rather self-explanatory, energy spent toward duration increases the time the pattern hangs there doing whatever the spell is designed to do.

Integrity
A more subtle stat, Integrity reflects built in redundancy and strengthening of the pattern, preserving it against dispellation or helping it survive the passage through a hostile ward.

The final important thing to understand about spellcasting is the existence and pervasiveness of Confounds, or non-magical influences on spellcasting. Mana manipulation in its naked form is a relatively limited affair. However, mixed with a Confound, the range of magic expands and casting becomes a more conceptually complex beast.

For example, we will take Moon Mages. Lunar mana by itself can disrupt space, but only due to the Moon Mages' unconscious connection to the Plane of Probability can Moon Mages grasp the hypermath and correct for imperceptible errors that is required to produce stable (relatively) safe teleportation effects.

-Armifer

This message was originally posted in Abilities, Skills and Magic \ Magic - Suggestions, Discussions and Thoughts, by DR-ARMIFER on the play.net forums.