SPOILERS for PHOENIX RISING
This page will contain multiple entries of information which may be directly or indirectly spoilery, or simply too detailed and nitty-gritty of the world to just put into the front page.
World Notes: Magic on Zarathan
Magic follows many esoteric rules and comes in many different guises, even though – at its core – it is the same basic power being used. Nonetheless, Magic can be divided into a relatively few broad categories, as detailed below.
General Notes on Magic
While there are – as detailed later – many different types of magic, there are some generally applicable facts about magic as a power which are known or at least suspected. Perhaps the most basic and important for those unfamiliar with magic is this: magic is a force of nature, and as such it follows rules as strict as those of physics. Its rules are not the same rules as those of normal physics, but they are just as regular and fixed.
The general laws of nature – those known on all worlds, whether that world be Zarathan or Earth or any of the countless worlds beyond the sky – are the “default” of the world. Magic – in its various incarnations – can change or get around these laws of nature in various ways, but any such change is itself something of an effort. Magic exists naturally, but any channeling of it to perform feats outside of normal nature requires effort, and specifically effort of focused will.
Of course, will alone is not enough, or many people would never die, or produce very interesting effects when trying to avoid death. To be a magician (of most sorts) requires that the person have an inherent connection to that essential power. Everyone has some small connection to it (which is repressed almost to nothing on worlds like Earth) but to be a useful magician requires a strong connection to those forces. And, of course, there must be a reasonable amount of magical energy permeating the world around the would-be mage. This is why – with some very limited exceptions – there is no active functional magic seen on Earth in the era of Digital Knight and Phoenix Rising; the Great Seal cut off the conduit of magic between Zarathan and Earth.
While magic follows rules, the laws of Magic are not generally known; the only likely exceptions known are the Archmage of the Mountain, Idinus of Scimitar; the mysterious mage called Khoros; and The Wanderer. The vast, vast majority of magic-users do so using practical rules which may sometimes seem like magical theory, but have for the most part the same connection with the true foundations of Magic that Aristotolean physics has with the physics of the natural world as known on modern-day Earth. Still, such rules and a vast assortment of well-known spells, rituals, and so on make magic use a popular goal of many people on Zarathan, and are systematic enough to be taught in a few specialized areas.
It is important to note that the “normal” wizard/magician encountered in Zarathan is a blend of several, or even most, of the categories below. Like all “jack-of-all-trades” types, such a magic-user is not nearly so competent as any of the specialists in their own particular specialty, but isn’t limited as much as the specialists are, either.
Types of Magic
From the point of view of the common person, there may be little visible difference between the types of magic when performing a given feat (lighting a fire, say); the specific techniques and mechanisms are however terribly important to those who have to deal with them.
Following is a list of the most important subtypes of magic as seen in Zarathan (and sometimes mentioned in Phoenix Rising). This is NOT an exhaustive list and it should be remembered that different methods and approaches can be used separately or in combination.
Mages who are masters of Summoning are adept at calling forth beings or being-like forces and either bribing, convincing, or coercing them into performing various services for them. While the act of Summoning may involve forces superficially similar to those performed by practitioners of other forms of magic, a number of definite differences exist between Summoners and other magicians. Major summonings can take weeks to prepare for and require special rituals to focus both the power and attention of the being(s) to be summoned. Minor summonings can be performed reasonably quickly – a matter of an hour or so of preparation and performance – but even these carry some dangers. A Summoner may have the Summoned being perform a service immediately, or wait until the service is needed; in such a case, the magician will either have to restrain the being (who cannot return to their normal plane or source of origin without having either performed a required service, slain the spellcaster, or been freed by the caster) or convince them to stay; though the being involved cannot, as noted, “go home” without the Caster’s leave, they CAN leave the physical area of the Caster unless carefully constrained and, with sufficient distance, break the bonds of control. A Summoner might call up a number of minor elemental manifestations of Fire and bind them to wait for his signal, at which point they would fly out and burn a target at which he was pointing. They would then be free to leave. From the point of view of an outsider, this would appear to be a casting of a Firefinger spell. Summoning mages often can imitate the abilities of other forms of mages through such means.
Drawbacks of Summoning as an approach include the negotiations involved and the dangers inherent in yanking something out of its home to your parlor. Even a nice spirit can get rather peeved over such treatment. Thus Summoners are, most commonly, of three types: 1) Evil and quite willing to coerce, enslave, and use other beings; 2) Reluctant to call upon their powers except in time of great need, in order to avoid annoying their spirit allies; 3) Rich and/or charismatic, and thus able to keep good relations up even when taking advantage of the spirits.
Summoners require considerably less in the way of magical potential than other magic-using types, but need dominant personalities — both in will and charisma — to have a decent chance of surviving their careers. Summoners can sometimes make or acquire items which act as a Summoning Focus, and which allow much quicker summoning of the being/force to which that Focus is attuned. Summonings divide well into two categories:
1) Essential Forces. An Essential Force is a small spirit representative of some power or concept — a hearth spirit, a fire elemental, etc. Essential forces tend to have a power limited by what the skill and power of the Summoner can manage; they draw some of their strength and reality from the Summoner. Some “Essential Forces” are actually beings, members of a race of beings like themselves, but not specific individuals; that is, an Eonwyl might be considered a summonable being representative of the forces of nature, as they are mystical creatures who are the symbols and representations of the world-goddess Eonae; however, the Summoner couldn’t specify a given Eonwyl at the outset.
2) Individual Beings of Power. These are specific individuals or, rarely, extremely powerful representations of an essential force, which are of great power relative to the Summoner in general. Such beings can only be summoned in one of three ways: Either through a long and arduous process involving the classic elements of summoning, such as ritual circles/pentacles and invocations, through a device or spell specifically crafted for that Being, or through prior arrangement with said Being. Dark Summoners are often known to use the first method to summon powerful demons and either bind them to service or make a bargain in exchange for such service. Less nasty Summoners get the service of such beings either through being very good at negotiations, very lucky, or very blessed. Some Summoners who worship a specific deity or pantheon and are useful, powerful, devoted servants of that deity or pantheon may gain some Channeling abilities and be given permission to summon some given being or beings in emergency situations.
The Elemental magician can call up the powers inherent in the primordial elements, drawing on the Elemental concept/power to aid them. Some magical theorists view them as Summoners who summon forth only the power of the great Elementals; others see them as Channelers/Blessed Casters who are essentially priests of the Great Elementals. The Elementalists themselves say that the difference between their power and others is that they call only the POWER and ESSENCE of the Elements and their Representatives, and not the actual elemental beings themselves; and that they are not at the beck and call of the elements, but rather the reverse, so they are not Channelers.
Most Elementalists deal with one or two Elements; few attempt more than two. Most commonly the Element chosen is Fire; the least common, Spirit. Indeed, Spirit Elementalists are almost unheard of — a class unto themselves. As might be expected, any Elemental magician is adept at producing effects linked to their Element or Elements, while very weak in other areas. Elementalists need a fairly high Magical potential, but other than that most of their requirements come from the elements they choose. The more elements an Elementalist chooses to work with, the more diverse the effects they can create and the less vulnerable they become to the other Elements. However, this also greatly slows up their progress, since they are then dividing their work between more than one focus. The strongest ground for stating that they are NOT the same as Summoners is that they do not have to spend time preparing for every effect. Some summoning-type rituals may be used on rare occasion, but a Fire Elemental Magician doesn’t need to do a special ritual before calling down a flamestrike on his opponents.
A Shaper is one who shifts the workings of the very world around them to suit their purpose. Shapers change one creature to another, crystal into wood, up into down, and so on. To do this they must expend both their own power and that inherent in the world around them; their own strength is required because they pay the price — bear the weight — of shifting natural law. The power for the actual CHANGE comes from the magic of the exterior world; the cost the magician pays comes from pitting his or her spirit and will against the Reality of the world. Shapers require not only strong wills, but strong bodies to withstand the stresses of changing the world through their own efforts. A weak Shaper may have great skill, but won’t be able to do very much without risking injury or death. They also all must have very high magical potential, since it is their own abilities which cause the changes.
A Shaper therefore has a limited number of times that he or she can work magic in any given time period, dependent on the amount of power reqired for their effects and their condition at the time, though they can train to increase this to some extent – essentially by being more efficient about their work. In addition, a Shaper must understand things about the world which impinge on the modifications that they’re going to make; for instance, changing one lifeform to another requires knowing quite a bit about both lifeforms. Thus a Shaper can only produce effects in areas he’s educated in. Because of this, Shapers tend to be very keen on learning about everything and anything.
A mindweaver works with the powers and quirks of the mind, taking concepts and giving them the appearance of reality. At higher levels of power and skill, such a magic wielder can actually give a concept more than mere appearance, but a form of reality. This requires an iron will and, in addition, a vast ability to imagine, in accurate and consistent detail, the concepts they wish to give form to. A good illusion-worker can also benefit from a powerful personality, as this will help him to impress his targets with the importance and power of his spells, thereby making them more effective.
Nowhere is the power of belief more strongly demonstrated than in the field of illusion. This is not illusion in the mundane sense, which deals with mere optical trickery, but in the mystical sense. Illusionists are touching on some of the forces that Shapers deal with, but much of what they do is based rather in convincing the target to do much of the work for them. Thus a mindweaver expends less of his own energies, but must work harder to produce real effects. But a victim who is convinced of the reality of the illusion-worker’s powers can die or be defeated just as readily as though the mindweaver were a master Shaper.
A Mindweaver doesn’t have the same additional limitation of power that a Shaper does, since much of the work’s being done by the target. However, they do require some knowledge about the subject of their illusion in order to be truly effective. A mindweaver’s spells are limited also by the intellectual capability of the creator of the illusion; to maintain more than one illusion, or to produce truly complex ones, draws upon mental resources which only the most brilliant and focused individuals possess.
As their name implies, Channelers funnel powers from some other source or being through themselves to produce their effects. A Channeler has somewhat less control over their powers than the other magical types, because their magical source always has a mind of its own. A Channeler on good terms with his Source can rely on the effects, and is in fact at little or no risk of miscasting under almost any circumstances. An out-of-favor Channeler, however, may find it almost impossible to get even the simplest effects to manifest, at least until they’ve managed to atone for whatever it was that got them in trouble.
A Channeler’s power is circumscribed by the abilities and preferences of the Source; a Channeler who happens to be a priest for a God of Fire will be exceedingly unlikely to either be able to cast Ice Storms or even WANT to.
On the positive side, Channelers do not require any actual magical power of their own; the work is all done by their Source. The Channeler’s main focus is to fulfill the requirements of their Source. Most Channelers are, of course, priests or other servants of gods, and the gods usually have clear rules of behavior and specific missions for their priests to follow. A Channeler also benefits from being properly trained and in good mental and physical condition, especially if they are likely to try to channel powerful effects; it is something of a strain to act as a living conductor for the power of the Gods.
Alchemy is the study of the interaction of magic and matter. Alchemists, like Summoners, are magicians of studied progress rather than of quick action; an Alchemist can never produce a noticeable effect without preparation first. However, they can do things that other mages either cannot do, or have to expend considerably more effort in doing. Alchemists make magical substances – and items — which can be used by them or by others, thereby making it possible to give a non-magician a magical edge.
This they do by first extracting the five elemental facets of magical power and binding them to an earthy base, in effect creating a solid essence of magic, called “Lurlonioron” (“Creator’s Stone/metal”) in the Ancient Sauran tongue, and “alchemist’s base” in common parlance. This “alchemist’s base” is then used as a source of mystical power that the alchemist focuses on the materials with which he works, bringing out their magical natures and allowing them to fully manifest, or transferring those magical tendencies to some other item or material as needed.
Since this is all done using the Alchemist him or herself as a channel for the power and as a director of the power as well, Alchemists who wish to survive and prosper in their profession tend to be exceptional individuals. Like Shapers they must have a high magical potential, and also like Shapers they need to understand a great deal about the concepts, symbology, and operations that must be used in their work, and have foresight, caution, and the wide worldview needed to understand the interactions of many disparate powers. As the channel for great energies, they need both a strong body and focused, steady mind, and since much of their work depends on delicate operations, they cannot be clumsy, but rather must have very accurate hand-eye coordination.
A Spirit Mage is, as noted earlier, technically one of the Elementalist group, but so rare and powerful a group are they that they deserve a separate entry. Spirit Mages have dared to tamper with the force which may actually be, rather than merely a fifth element, the primary element from which all others spring. They work at the boundary of Magic and the Mind and require extremely high magical potential just to begin work in this area, as well as careful training in mental disciplines to control their mental states. Hand-in-hand with this goes an extremely high will, for the shaping of the forces of the spirit is not something done easily by anyone. A strong body is also essential, for a Spirit Mage must endure some of the greatest physical strains on their bodies of any of the magicians.
Spirit Mages divide very sharply into two classes: those who manipulate, but do not abuse, spirit powers and use them for what would be considered “good” ends, and those who use their knowledge of the spirit energies for evil. The latter are better known as Necromancers — mages of death.
Often a Necromancer will end up being a Channeler as well, because they can make great use of the energies of a powerful being who will permit it. Such a patron usually demands a great price, however… and it is usually the case that such a Necromancer eventually finds that he has become a pure Channeler, his skill and ability to actually manipulate the forces of life and death himself burned out and destroyed by his Patron. This is not always the case, however, and those Necromancers who do manage to keep their own souls while destroying or using others’ are some of the most terrifyingly powerful beings in existence.
Spirit Magic is in some ways either closer to the powers of the Mind or to the powers of the Gods, in that it is far better at penetrating normal mystical defenses than any other form of magic. Spirit Mages of a given level of skill are nearly always superior to any other form of magician overall. The dangers inherent in their profession — of backlash from spiritual and mental forces, of attack by those who hunger for such energies, or by other Spirit Mages of the opposite stripe — and the extreme requirements of becoming a spirit mage keep their numbers extremely low.
Spirit Magic is also closely related to the “Ki” or “Chi” power used by certain esoteric sects of martial artists; there is some debate, in fact, as to whether such power is actually Spirit Magic merely being used in a native, non-spellcasting fashion. Certainly both types of power-wielders can produce remarkably similiar effects in some ways.
Symbolists are magicians who utilize the power of imagery, symbols, and so on to call forth the powers of the symbol. They differ from Summoners in that Summoners basically see a fire as a fire, a unicorn as a unicorn, and so on. A Symbolist might see a fire as a symbol of life, thereby immersing someone in fire in order to heal them! This is a simplistic example, but the idea is clear. The Symbolists use the power of conceptualized symbols, often those of great antiquity and perhaps even archetypal significance, as the core of their powers.
They differ from Mindweavers in that while both use images, for a Mindweaver the image is the final result; for a Symbolist, the image is merely a trigger or a focus. There are a number of different kinds of Symbolists — not surprising, since symbolizing concepts and feelings is one of the most varied activities of all intelligent races. The most common are Runemasters, Sympaths, Astrologers, Musicmages, and Cartomancers.
Runemasters use abstract written or carven symbols to work their magic — runes, in other words. These runes can be very personal, or very well known; most often they are symbols or runes from ancient or at least well-known civilizations.
Sympaths are practitioners of sympathetic magic — where one gets a given effect by performing some act that can be seen to be similar to the desired effect. The classic voodoo doll is one well-known example; another is that of sprinkling water from above in an attempt to call a rainstorm.
Astrologers utilize the symbols inherent in the constellations above their world; in our own world, for instance, an astrologer might call upon the constellation Orion, the Hunter, for a spell intended to aid one in a hunt or search, and upon Hercules for strength, and so on.
Musicmages, as their name implies, use song and music and the emotions and images these can evoke to produce their effects.
Cartomancers use cards or other image-covered materials– usually a form of tarot cards — for their magic. There are multiple tarot-type card traditions known on Zarathan; the most well known is called the Mirror Tarot, a variant of which is used by the priests of Terian in their readings (as shown in Phoenix Rising)
Symbolists are quite powerful and, in the minds of some, are a form of Channeler, drawing upon the massive power of the collective unconscious and focusing it through the matrix of the imagery they use. They must have considerable knowledge and skill with respect to their symbolic modality in order to produce any useful effects. A Musicmage, for instance, must have a good deal of training in music before they can even begin to use their magic! Many other forms of magic use Symbolism to one extent or another, and the fact that few forms of magic, if any, are completely free from Symbolic influences is indicative to some theorists that the Mind truly is the key to Reality.
Symbolic magic relies on drawing, carving, etc., the symbol or symbols associated with the spell onto a surface, paper,making a doll, etc., as appropriate to the spell. In general, some part of the work can be done beforehand, but then the paper/etc. must be applied properly and the magic activated; a familiar version of this is seen in a number of anime/wuxia flicks when the priest whips out a scroll, recites or swiftly sketches symbols on the paper, and smacks it onto the target (a demon’s head, a tree, a wall, etc.).
Casting such spells in active situations such as combat requires not only considerable knowledge and training, but concentration. Lots of concentration.
On the positive side, Symbolists can often create new or combined effects by carefully unifying various symbols into a whole.