Monday, September 26, 2016

World Building Part 4: Do you believe in Magic?

Part 1: The Setup
Part 2: Airships and the basics
Part 3: Species and Purpose

In this post I want to dig into the basics of magic and how it is used in a setting. Now for those following along I have already laid out that the world has certain features that are somewhat magical in nature. So I already have a few givens about the magic in the world. Namely that it is fairly ubiquitous and that it is a natural phenomenon. From there I move into further defining and explaining what magic is and what it does in the setting. Some of my influences:

Sanderson's First Law of Magic
Sanderson's Second Law of Magic
Sanderson's Third Law of Magic
Fate System Tollkit's discussion on magic

There are other source I use and other axioms I hold to, but I keep coming back to these for their practicality and ease of use. For my setting I have a bunch of schools of magic, however all of those schools stem from the four primary elements(Fire, Water, Air, and Earth) and the four secondary elements(Metal, Wood, Void, and Spirit), in fact all magic stems from the elements in some way. Because magic is a natural force and a major part of the world, magic acts closer to law than to some capricious poorly understood mysticism. This is even explained in a fair amount of detail in the airship post. Airships run on magic and are the technology of the humans.

So keeping in mind my existing setting material and the biases and axioms I am working from here is the basic rundown on how I see magic working in my setting. I will delve deep and extrapolate further as we goo along in this process, but here are the basics as I see them.

The world is alive. It has a soul and it created all the things upon and within it. It fuels all the worlds magic and the elemental forces the stem from that magic. The primordial elements are eternal and unchanging, flowing throughout the world in eddies and upwellings. the people of the world have learned to channel these elemental forces and they call this knowledge magic.

Magic in this world is a natural force, more akin to gravity or electromagnetism than to something outside of the natural order. Magic stems from the primal elemental forces that represent the spiritual energy of the planet itself. Though it is impartial to how it is used it does have a will of its own and seeks to maintain an equilibrium upon the planet.

Magical effects can manifest through a number of methods: Mechanical, Internal, and External. Mechanical magic is primarily done through the creation of a Lens out of the raw elemental material. The Lens can only contain one effect, though it can have massive power. the Airships and Battle Machina of the Human Empire are all powered through the use of Specialized Lenses. There are also single use magical effects that are constructed to have a single given effect per use. they are much cheaper to use and much easier to use. These were historically used through potions and scrolls, though in recent year the Njan have developed a new single use technology, the Caster Gauntlet. It is a single Lens in the palm and a a slot on the back of the hang for an elemental bead. Each bead contains one spell that can be cast only once. These are very valuable and dangerous items, Caster Gauntlets, and may very well change the face of warfare.

External Magic is what is generally known as spells. there are four main schools of magic, each focuses on the use of one Prime Elemental force: Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. Masters of a school can summon, shape, and direct the element of their school. Most Combat Magic falls into this category as External Magic Allows for impressive displays of raw power. Masters of the External arts can create objects out of their chosen element, summon elemental spirits to aid them, and even summon the element itself to cause great relief or destruction.

Diagram of the Elemental nature of the universe
Internal magic is much stranger than the other two, focusing on techniques to use elemental power to enhance and alter oneself. Their are currently eight known schools of internal magic. those who use internal magic can perform superhuman feats and perform acts that would be impossible otherwise. Rather than channeling external elemental forces to gain an effect, users of Internal magic channel their inner reserves of power in order to shape the energies within and around them. Magic that strengthens inherent ability and magic that allows one to affect the minds and bodies of others are all internal magics. Internal magic is limited by one's biological elemental nature, so each species is only able to learn three of the eight schools of internal magic.

Magic also expresses itself in other, less directed ways throughout the world. When the elements are out of balance(not sure how that happens yet, but it sounds like a cool idea) great storms can occur. The elemental spirit of the world will occasionally manifest a wild elemental spirit that can use great magics to enact is will. And then there are the demons.

Demons are the antitheses of the elements, the antitheses of balance and harmony. Everywhere they go they sow chaos and destruction. No one is sure where the come from, but it is known that they wish to destroy the whole of the world and everything upon and within it. They are naturally anti magic and can grant that power as a gift to those who side with them. the elemental forces just fall apart when they focus upon it. Internal magic is usually better than external magic when dealing with demons. Pray you never have to deal with them.

OK so those are the basics of magic and its role in the setting. What do you think? Things I would like to work on in the future for this would be the names, powers, and limitations of the known schools of magic, a name for the world, which I still don't have, and maybe a bit more on the nature of elemental spirits and demons. I would love to hear any comments you might have on the setting and how it is going. Critique is also welcome.