Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Magic in the World.

(While many of my posts dedicated to this nebulous and poorly-defined setting have included mysticism or magical elements, I haven't yet gotten around to explaining how it actually works. Or even delving if it does work in a fashion which allows for explanation. It was always present at the edge of my consideration, but finally I decided to do something more with it after I read this post.

Found within is a pretty neat way to advertise oneself while also engaging with others who are interested in the same topics as you, just by writing a specialized blog post. It's a fun community-building mechanic, and I decided I'd throw myself in with the rest of 'em. This month's topic is, of course, "Magic", and the carnival is being hosted by Kobold Press. Check out their published books sometime, if core materials for your game of choice aren't quite cutting it.

Without further ado, here is another manuscript picked up off of the scattered mess of papers found on the desk in Roberick Bertrum Litte's subscalanean abode.)

"Pontificating blowhards, and elitist know-it-alls more arrogant than Ivory Tower alumni alike, will try to tell you that there are sharp divides between different forms of magic, whether they call them "schools" or "domains", or what have you. They will argue which ones come from rigorous arcane study and which ones must be earned from the gods. Which are inherent gifts or curses of the individual, and which are obtained from one's environment. They will exalt the benefits of their own path while belittling or outright demonizing all others. The worst part about it is that they are all right- but only barely."
- Elrusyo, "hedge magician" pen pal & outside contact of Roberick Litte.

A holistic approach to understanding the various forces, practices, and phenomena collectively known as "magic" is about as difficult to formulate as it would be to explain the third dimension to a group of flat pictures who can't stop fighting one another long enough to act as a good audience. But despite these odds, the attempt has still been made, and to a degree, the challenge overcome. It would appear that, even including systems of magic which operate under the belief of one incredibly narrow specificity (i.e., that all of a practitioner's power derives from a single boulder out in a field), all traditions seem to share the concept and acceptance of a plane or similarly distant yet permeating place in which the powers dwell. For some this is the land of the gods, while for others it is a roiling chaos of nondifferentiated cosmic soup. But the act of engaging with it, regardless of medium, seems to be enough to effect some sort of change upon that plane, insofar as some of that energy and potential is siphoned off.

The skeptical reader may now be thinking that this is all beginning to sound very much like a fairtale-esque case of "belief makes it real". And the skeptic would be correct.

(The skeptic should also be wary if they are reading this article within the walls of Deneroth, because the University enforcers can sniff out a curious mind from up to forty yards away.)

Belief is an immensely important element of engaging with magic. Without it there is no magic to speak of, after a fashion, and the mind is like a blank spot- a hole in the tapestry of the universe's mysticism. But belief is not all that is needed. One needs to be dedicated to a form of practice which evokes magic in any of its forms. This is most obvious in the case of rigorous study of the "laws" (more like gentle, self-enforced suggestions) of magic by wizards, or by the equally dedicated and self-effacing devotion of one's body and soul to their deity of choice. But the need for a system and skill is still present elsewhere. Even among those hot-blooded "sorcerers" of the Occident who claim to be able to evoke power by virtue of being themselves, there is a requisite belief in the self, and ability to empower and manifest the self. Much like a braggart about one's own deeds, a sorcerer out of practice is much more bluster than blaster.

This, coupled with the general belief that magic is unique to the sentient mind or things invested with power by the sentient mind*, suggests that all effects are indeed being drawn from the same source. To borrow from the metaphors of oracles, it may very well be that all forms of magic access the same place from which knowledge and godheads may (or may not) arise.

Observing upon the existence or nonexistence of the gods is something for an entirely different article, however. I have only just recently been forgiven by the Tower censors for including in one journal the various unflattering limericks which refer to Laizij, our eternal scholar and university patron.

What I openly wonder now, is how exactly all of these different-yet-similar means of drawing power from this "plane" interact. What would happen if two practitioners tried to draw out the same motes of force? Could they bereave one or the other of that power and leave their evocation wanting? Could they cancel one another out, as the sensationalist talk of "antimagic" from the northeast would suggest? Is the font of magic instead so vast as to make individual magic-users like rafts adrift in a sea, utterly unlikely to ever encounter or ram into one another?

Could this sea ever be drained?

* The recent reports of levitating sheepdogs in the southern reaches of our nearby Akell-Ar Valley are as of yet unsubstantiated. An attempt by one Eneko Sehi to have an expedition and study funded, while demonstrating a promising degree of initiative, has been met with red tape by the Committee for the Preservation of Esgodarran Wildlife.*

* Note that there are no native Esgodarrans present on the Committee at this time, nor have there ever been, nor do any current members of the Committee speak the indigenous dialects.


  1. So ultimately it is the blood, sweat, and tears dedication to an idea that gets you magic. Anything less than total dedication and your power wanes almost immediately.

    1. There definitely is less room for dabblers compared to settings where something not unlike multi-classing is common in-universe. The greatest of mortal magic is still probably a lot less flashy than what's possible in other universes, as well. I'm not sure yet what to do about waning dedication and how quickly ability decays when out of practice. Perhaps I should also explore what it means to be a hedge magician next- whether it is indeed a means of obtaining weak, generalist magic, or if it is more like a philosophical stance on magic at large.

  2. So this is the look at magic from our resident intellectual-- Ritte. What does magic look like from, say, the Fokari point of view?

    1. That's probably an entire blog post, or several. For the Fokari, it would likely be something intrinsically tied to their belief system and worldview, though not necessarily a power gained from the worship of any and all deities.

      For example, a shaman could negotiate with friendly or antagonistic spirits or ancestors alike, while the common tribesfolk would have a vague understanding of what actions appease a geographic location. Performing these actions, especially in or around a notable landmark, bestows an effect which Little might describe as a little more like "good luck" or a minor "blessing" than outright magic. But it would be the same as what the shaman does, in the mind of a typical Fokar. Just on a far smaller scale.

      Their fear of outsiders wouldn't make magic through other means impossible to comprehend the existence of, but it would certainly make such a thing disconcerting or threatening to the People of Clay. And it would be understandable for them to try and rationalize the (admittedly very unlikely) appearance of a foreign magic-user in their lands as being due to the influence of one or more of their less friendly mythological figures. Perhaps a hyena spirit who introduces chaos into the world through great and random boons, so that it has something to cackle about for a while.