24 May 2017

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Magic

Building a world after the fact.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries
Part 3 - Elves
Part 4 - Architecture
Part 5 - Magic is below.
Part 6 - Wrap Up
Fantasy worlds have magic, overt, subtle, flashy, or sublime.  With The Elf's Prisoner, magic is a known factor, with few people capable of using and abusing it.  As mentioned in previous parts, the story was inspired by the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons.  Thus, there are two main forms of magic, arcane, as cast by wizards, and divine, as cast my priests.

Divine magic comes from the deities of the world.  The priesthood of each deity is chosen, called by the god to serve.  The magic that's available is flavoured by the deity.  Mechanically, this makes divine magic closer to a power pool from Champions.  The special effect is depending on the deity; a priest of the Lightbringer must keep to the idea of enlightenment, whether through spreading knowledge or creating a light.  A priest of the Defiler must break something down, destroying or rendering useless a person or object.  While both priests may be able to heal someone magically, the priest of the Lightbringer will cause the wounder person to glow while the magic flows through while the priest of the Defiler will cause the wounded pain as wounds reform and seal up.

Because the source of magic is tied to the deity, it is possible for a spell to just not work.  The reason could be that the spell is antithetical to the deity's own belief and goals.  Or the priest may not have been as devout as he or she should have been.  Or the deity is out to sow discord.  On the other hand, some deities may provide a spell to a layman or even a non-believer; the Chaos Beast is the most likely to do so, just for the sheer fun of causing confusion and chaos as a result.  Essentially, the priest must believe that the spell being cast is in service of the god he or she follows.  Doubt could cause the spell to fail.

Arcane magic uses the inherent mana around the spellcaster.  Instead of being granted a general ability to cast with the only limitation being belief, wizards must study and create spells.  Once the spell is known, it can be used when needed.  This was a deliberate decision to separate the wizards away from AD&D's Vancian magic, where spells were fire-and-forget until memorized again.  I took some inspiration from Shadowrun's magic system, where mages of all traditions could know any number of spells, but casting them could wear them out, especially if channelling more power into the effect.  Shadowrun's spells tend to obey the laws of thermodynamics; mana cannot be created nor destroyed, just changed into different energy forms.  The Elf's Prisoner may ignore that restriction.  I'm also adding a way for wizards to ignore or reduce the effect of having magic course through them.  By using a focus, such as a staff, a wand, an amulet, or a rod, the magic is directed, allowing wizards to withstand greated energies.  It is still possible to channel too much mana, leading to the wizard turrning crispy or receiving a backlash of the spell used.

Priests may be more flexible, provided that they keep to their deity's goals.  Wizards, though, aren't dependant on being in good faith.  Wizards can also develop spells, modify them, and trade them.  I don't have a spell list of arcane spells; that would be limiting.  However, wizards who do appear will have a list of spells they do know.  Jyslyn's list so far includes a cleaning spell, an elemental manipulation spell for both water and earth, and a spell to open locks.  I also know she doesn't have a spell that directly hurts a target, though those do exist.

So how do spellcasters learn spells?  Priests are trained in the basics as acolytes, learning the prayers needed and how to beseech when needing a spell not already covered.  Wizards study magical tomes and network with each other.  The elven cities of Wildwood and the Sundered Chasm have guilds where mages learn the craft.  The Seven Dominions has colleges of magic, an academic study instead of a craft.  The Niceans have their own form of magic, which I haven't worked out yet.  It may be akin to the hermetic/shamanic divide from earlier editions of Shadowrun, where the two traditions more or less cast spells the same way, but summoning was more formal for heremetic magicians while shamans called upon the spirits of the land.  If I get to the Nicean Islands, I will have this figured out.

Magic is an area in fantasy where care must be taken.  Too powerful, and magic short circuits the plot.  Too weak, and readers start wondering why anyone would want to be a wizard.  A balance is needed to make sure the magicians don't overshadow the rest of the cast.

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