Magic in Verintos
The Magic of Verintos
Please note that information contained in this article is largely written from an out-of-character perspective and may not be routine public knowledge. Also note that this system is all-inclusive, covering all forms of magic that are not directly divine in origin (as gods tend to operate outside the ruleset in place for mortals), including those of elves, drow, dragons, the fae, etc.
1: The Source Of Magic
a: The Ten Sources
2: Tapping The Sources
a: Racial biases
3: Known Dangers
4: Public Opinion and Law
a: (Location-specific notes – coming soon!)
5: The Academy
a: Notable positions
b: The Mage’s Tourney
The Sources of Magic
One of the primary questions regarding the science of magic is, quite simply, how and why it functions. This is particularly important given that on Earth, our most common frame of reference, magic does not truly exist. Why should it exist on another world and not this one? There must logically be a force present and active on Verintos that is not so on Earth.
While the original creation of magic has long since been relegated to myth, one thing is certain, and that is the power sources that magic is derived from. Known collectively as ‘The Sources’, these ten power foci are non-physical artifacts theorized to have been created by the gods prior to the inception of life itself. These foci act as warping points for the general laws of reality known as physics, and allow mages to transcend the limitations placed on them thereby.
The Ten Sources
The ten sources are broken into four loose categories:
A: The Four Elements – These elemental forces deal not solely with the physical representation of their element – but also with related symbolism.
i: Air – “Movement is an art unto itself.” – In addition to control of winds and other forms of gas manipulation, the air school is the facilitator of travel within the kingdoms. They are the maintainers of what few Portals still exist within the world, and are more commonly brought in to enhance the speed of couriers or convey messages over great distance without physical intervention at all.
ii: Earth – “Stability is the greatest foundation.” – The earth school is primarily focused on the maintenance of natural cycles and flows that are outside the human and humanoid realms. Occasionally called ‘druids’, the earth mages are called upon to commune with animals and plants to remove invasive growth patterns into human(oid) society without causing undue harm to the non-human growth pattern in question.
iii: Fire – “Energy unleashed brings destruction.” – Fire magics are noted as being extremely dangerous, due to the fickle nature and destructive tendencies of flame itself. Primarily combat-oriented, flame magicians are also often renowned artists, using colored and cold-burning flames to demonstrate the less-destructive sides of their abilities.
iv: Water – “That which lives, flows.” – The water source, perhaps surprisingly, is the focus with the most direct impact on the concept of health. This may be due to the fact that most living beings – and certainly those able to access the magic – are primarily comprised of water. In addition to basic hydromancy – that is, the manipulation of water itself – most water mages learn various forms of healing arts, including such mundane-seeming activities as potion-brewing and poultice creation. As such, water mages are often the most competent physicians and healers of the land.
B: The Three Facets – The facets are primarily focused on the balance within an individual of mind, body, and soul. Unlike the Elements and Poles, the facets do not stand ‘opposed’ to one another, but instead work in an interlinked harmony. It is very common for one specializing in one of the facets to have a minor understanding of the other two.
i: Body – “From strength comes wisdom.” – While some healing is involved, the primary focus of the body or ‘physical’ school is focused primarily on the enhancement of physical abilities within one’s own body. (An Earth example of this would be the chinese concept of ‘qi’, which is often cited as the source of seemingly supernatural power for martial arts experts; in Verintos, such a force provably exists by means of this Source.) This is also the only school to focus heavily on training with various forms of weaponry as well, and often physical magi will take on the roles of soldier, either blatantly or subtly using their powers in service to their lords.
ii: Mind – “Thought before action.” – Mind mages, also known as psionicists, are the masters of delving into the mental processes of themselves and others. This includes psychiatric work, truth verification, and telepathy. They serve in a wide variety of means, and are often found in advisory positions to high officials.
iii: Spirit – “All paths deserve respect.” – The spirit school is by far the vaguest and most least-defined – and that’s the way they like it. Serving as a sort of catch-all for magics that do not fit well in other schools due to their individualistic nature, the Spirit school is comprised of a mish-mash of widely varied techniques and talents. Particularly notable among them are creativity mages (musicians and scroll-writers) and those who commune with the non-physical beings of the world, (the divine, noncorporeal, and the dead). Spirit mages often serve as counselors to the poor, bards, and writers.
C: The Two Poles – Representative of the dualities of the world, the two polar schools have a tendency to focus on large-scale, big-picture issues rather than focusing on manipulation of the world around them (as the elements do) or within themselves (as the facets do). Sometimes this earns them the derisive title of ‘mages of morality’, regardless of their side.
i: Darkness – “That which is unseen is unremarked upon.” – Reflecting the mindset of such as Machiavelli, the darkness school acknowledges that there is a great deal of dirty work, unpleasant things that must be done as part of life. They take it upon themselves to handle such matters and spare others the duty. Shadow magic often relies on trickery and deception, including many forms of illusion; the dark mages are often found in unpleasant jobs such as assassin, executioner, spy, or less controversially, undertaker.
ii: Light – “Illumination is necessary for perception.” – The light school is comprised mainly of those who work in the realms of purity and innocence, as well as those with a simple fascination for light itself. There is a firm, virtually unanimous belief amongst light mages that deception for whatever ends is erosive to society as a whole, and a strong tendency to attempt to educate those around them on any and all topics. As a result, light mages are renowned scholars and debate-artists, and are often trusted with very delicate matters of child-rearing.
D: The Singularity
i: Time – “Existence is Eternity is Existence.” – The time mages are the most highly feared and specialized group of mages. Maintaining a VERY low population by turning away most interested candidates at some point during the exhaustive year-long audition process, the enforcers of temporal causality have incredibly high standards for even joining. They have no career outside of their magic and are very rarely seen. Those that have had any dealings with them refuse to speak of it on pain not merely of death but of being flat erased from having ever existed to begin with. (As the power level of these mages is easily in the ‘extreme’ range, I recommend that these be restricted by and large to game-master control.)
Tapping the Sources
While the power source of magic is definite and known, the method of its individual use is rather less so, and is often based more on subjective experience and intuition than on a single delineated path.
Amongst humans, the most common method appears to be the ‘mana bank’ method. These mages tap the main Sources subconsciously as they sleep rather than directly, replenishing their own personal ‘carrying capacity’. This method allows a mage to work magics from the source(s) they tap most often quickly and easily, but at a relatively high cost in terms of the amount of energy consumed. In the long run, this method tends to be somewhat restrictive, and is viewed by many to be wasteful of a resource whose limit is currently unknown. Mages using this method are often called ‘Evokers’, and these mages have the largest amount of variety amongst the expression of their magical skills.
Ritual sorcery is a bit different. In a ritual, the sources being tapped are not done so ahead of time but in the working of the spell itself. Great care must be taken when doing so; if a source is improperly ‘protected’ within the ritual diagrams, it is possible for an outpouring of energy related to that source to break through the ritual barriers and cause devastation on the caster, other ritual participants, and even the surrounding area. Such a ‘toxic spill’ of magic can have long lasting effects on the environment and any beings unlucky enough to be caught in it. Rituals as a result are very, very highly structured and offer little in the way of personal deviation from the norm, as they deal primarily with very impersonal forces.
Other notable systems of magic tapping include the light-weaving of the elves. This magic is somewhere between the two above mentioned; through a great deal of dedicated time and effort, the elven society has managed to refine a single form of ritual sorcery to a much more quickly accessible tool. The more elves are involved in a lightweaving working, the more potence is added; this stands in mild contrast to both ritual sorcery – where too many cooks can spoil the stew quite easily – and sharp contrast to evocation – where combined effort is virtually impossible due to the personalized nature of the energy used.
Also worth noting is that there are those very rare few that have been touched by the gods. The powers exhibited by these, while often seemingly magical in nature, are not technically ‘magic’ as they do not draw on the spheres directly but instead on the very power source of the god who granted it. These powers can operate in completely unpredictable ways that seem to defy the very laws of reality itself, and may or may not be passed down through bloodlines. The most potent and well-known example of these abilities, due to its far-reaching historical implications, is the ‘wish’ ability granted by Trepas to the fae, allowing them to restructure reality itself. Whether this ability still functions now that Trepas has been eliminated is uncertain; if so, it is likely it draws on her successor’s power directly.
Most of the races of Verintos have a bias in some way to the way they perform magic, be it in preferred sources or methodology for tapping the sources for their power. Please note that these are only base biases for the race, and most of them can be overcome by a mage willing to put in the energy and time to do so. Such mages are often well-regarded by their peers for standing up to such a challenge, and expanding magic beyond its stereotyped limits.
Any race that is of mixed descent, such as half-elves, will generally have a milder form of the biases of both parental units. An interesting statistic, however, is that more half-breeds go -against- their initial biases than pure-breds. The causality of this trend is unknown; speculation on its origin has often focused on the concept of rebellion against cultures that do not integrate them well.
Humans – Human mages have a mild tendency towards favoring evocation over ritual sorcery due to their short lifespan. Amongst the Sources, there is also a very mild bias towards Water and Light magic. The exception to this is the Brailek, who have a strong tendency towards ritualized magic and favor the Air Source.
Elves – Elves have a large bias towards light magic, as well as towards favoring the racially developed lightweaving methodology over the more commonly used forms of evocation and ritual.
Drow – Unsurprisingly, drow have a long-standing and very heavily noted bias in favor of darkness magic, with a more mild bias towards Mind magic. Their bias towards ritual and evocation magics is largely unknown at this time, though there is a rumor that they have developed a shadow-weaving technique based on a negative polarity version of the Elves’ lightweaving ability.
Firegnomes – despite their name (given due to their typical hair styles), Firegnomes do not have a bias towards or against the Fire school. There is generally a mild bias towards the Spirit school (innovation amongst them is highly valued) and a mild bias against the Body school (as most gnomes realize the consequences of their small stature). They have no bias towards ritual or evocation, using both in equal measure.
Minotaurs – Minotaurs unquestionably have strong biases towards the Body sphere, and a very strong bias against the Mind school – this is not due to intellectual incapacity, but to a more shamanistic respect for the boundaries of another creature’s integral being and soul. Recent evidence has indicated there may also be a mild bias in favor of the fire school as well; further studies are being conducted in this. Minotaurs have a strong bias towards evocation over ritual sorcery, which is often seen as overly dramatic and unnecessary.
Werewolves – Werewolves have a strong bias in favor of the earth school – being arguably closer to and more in tune with the ever-shifting cycles of nature than any other race – and against the air school – most werewolves being territorial, transportation is of little use. Spirit mages often have a special place in werewolf society, as communication with the dead is not demonized but celebrated as a means of accessing ancestral wisdom. Werewolves are also the only known race with a bias relating to time magery, and it is extremely negative. The precise cause of this bias is unknown, but many packs have laws that allow for ostracization and excommunication of those found to be tampering with the flow of causality; there has, as a result, never been a werewolf chronomancer known to history. Werewolves also have a moderate bias towards ritual sorcery and against evocation, as it is often considered unwise to utilize such potency without what they consider to be proper preparation.
Zarkul – The biases of this race are unknown due to extreme rarity and lack of generally accessible information.
Faeries – Aside from the wish spell noted above, Faeries have a generalized inclination towards spirit magic and away from earth magics. Theirs is the realm of the insubstantial, the rumored, the personal and the unseen. That having been said, statistically more of the fae will fly directly in the face of their racial bias than any other race; obeying rules is not their MO. Most commonly fae will favor evocation over ritual for that precise reason – unless, of course, they don’t.
Dragons – Dragons are hands-down the most potent mages known to exist in the mortal realms. They are invariably specialists, favoring one source to the extreme while abhorring its opposite and disfavoring other sources as anything but supplemental to their own sphere. These biases are determined -not- by personal choice but by the very nature of their being; a ‘shadow dragon’ will -always- be a master of the Darkness sphere and will -never- utilize light magic. These biases are so pronounced and have been reinforced by intermarriage over the years to the extent that the various dragon lineages have taken on physical characteristics related to their sphere. (It is currently unknown if there are any remaining Chronodragons left in existence; legend only speaks of one and does not denote its death.) They are extremely biased towards ritual magic; however, their mastery of it and extensive specialization in their respective spheres has been refined over the years in such a way that often it is hard to distinguish whether they are using ritual or evocation, a problem further compounded by having a personal ‘mana bank’ that is over ten times the size of that of the average human.
Aside from the potential social impact of being an acknowledged practitioner of the arts (see Public Opinion and Law below), there are a number of dangers inherent in the use of various forms of magic. This list is by no means all-inclusive, but focuses instead on those most commonly found.
The bane of evokers, ‘burnout’ occurs when a mage attempts to tap more energy than he has available. The results of this are extremely unpleasant. First, the spell itself will be affected by the sudden lack of fuel mid-way through. How this manifests varies widely based on the magic in question as well as the extent of the shortfall of energy. An example follows.
An evoker of the Fire school wishes to fling a fireball. He intends to make the fireball a 1 foot diameter – a fairly hefty amount of energy to maintain as it moves through the air. However, he misjudges the amoutn of mana he has remaining to him; it would only be sufficient for a fireball 10 inches in diameter. The result is likely that he will get a fireball 10 inches in diameter as that is the maximum capacity of his energy, -and- the fireball may well vanish before it reaches its target as the control is diminished first directly by the improper evocation and then indirectly by the incredible headache caused by the backlash of trying to utilize energy that is not there.
Another similar example would be if such a fire mage intends to make a 1 foot diameter, but only has energy for a fireball 1 inch in diameter. In this case, the fire mage may well end up dying of severe burns as the fireball, well beyond his ability to control, expends its energy in whatever way it sees fit before vanishing. (With Fire, this most often comes in the form of an explosion.)
Currently, there is no instrument for precisely measuring the amount of thaumic power left to a mage, making the management of the personal mana bank more of an art than a science, dictated by feel and experience and learned skill. Inexperienced evokers are likely to experience mild forms of burnout many times before determining their limits.
Before progressing further, it is important to note that the word ‘daemon’ does not have an inherently negative connotation. It is merely the term for a creature that is not naturally part of the physical world. Some of these creatures are ambivalent or even benevolent; however, these ones are far less encountered than the rather more malevolent ones.
Daemons occupy a substrate known by various terms – the astral, ethereal, or mana plane. They share this space with other non-corporealized creatures, such as the spirits of the dead. The conduits formed by ritual magic from Source to end-user run through this plane, and appear to its denizens in a similar way to neon lights in a dark modern city street. Dissimilarly, however, we do not eat neon.
Daemons are thaumivores; they survive on the ambient mana in their plane. Concentrated mana, such as that utilized in magical workings, could therefore be considered a delicacy or super-food. Evokers are far less likely to be a target for daemons, as their mana has been ‘personalized’, ‘naturalized’, and is drawn slowly through the astral over the course of a full sleep cycle, and utilized internally when the time comes. Ritual mages, particularly those participating in highly power-charged rituals, are far more likely to see or be approached by a daemon.
There are laws in place, set forth by the gods, that daemons must follow when working with humans. These laws are not within the scope of this document however. Mages are advised to be EXTREMELY careful should they choose to truck with such beings, as simple words exchanged with a daemon may be considered binding agreements, and many daemons have become masters of semantic trappery.
The lightweaving of elves (and presumably the shadowweaving of their drow counterparts) is not without its own dangers. When performing a lightweaving, elves commune with the other elves in the weaving. This is a very fine art. If the threads of consciousness are woven too closely, there is the danger of the blending of aspects of two different personalities close together in the weave. While this is very dangerous, it is most often reversible if it is observed before the merging becomes too deep.
Similarly, if the threads are woven too sparsely – as will often be the case in workings where there are relatively few elves combining their efforts to make a massive impact – then the far more dangerous possibility of Fraying occurs. The elves on the outermost edges of the ‘weave’ may find their threads slipping away from those of their fellow elves. It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for such an elf to reintegrate themselves; help from within the weaving is almost universally needed to prevent the Fray. As such, in large groupings, there will often be one or two elves near the figurative ‘center’ of the working whose purpose is to keep watch over the edges and draw in those who are in danger of being lost.
Should a thread come fully undone before the working is completed, the elf in question can suffer from a wide variety of ailments, ranging from a headache from a mild working to complete brain death in a potent one. A death in this manner is considered one of the most horrific fates known to elvenkind, and the body of the one who has been lost is immediately given a coup de grace. Elves who have given their lives in workings mass workings are often treated posthumously as great heroes, having given the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of others.
This is less a byproduct of magic and more the byproduct of power of any sort on the human psyche. Power tends to corrupt, and mages are not only exempt from this rule but often seem to embody it. As more and more power is amassed, it becomes easier and easier to distance oneself from the ‘mundanes’ of the world and to see them as inferior. This is particularly pronounced in the case of daemon-influenced mages, who often take on aspects of the rather alien being they are working with over time.
Public Opinion and Laws
The opinion of magic throughout Verintos varies widely, with some cultures having embraced it for centuries while others have viewed it as far too volatile to be safely utilized. In some areas, these commonly held ideas are being challenged and changed, while in others, use of magic is inquestionably bad or good. A mage traveling from one place to another is advised to be highly aware of the reactions of those around them, and to utilize tact and caution when in locations where their art is not taken well.
(More details on this, including the current position of notable societal groups, will come at a later time.)
Very recently, the Kingdom of Verintos founded the Academy of the Mystical Arts. This institution researches and teaches about the details of the magical arts that have, to this point, largely been spread by loose oral tradition and informal apprenticeships. Aside from the initial construction of its campus, the Academy is entirely self-funded, taking fees from students coming to learn as well as fulfilling contracts to utilize their skills – often using these contracts as teaching tools for said students.
The school is headed by the Council of Ten, comprised of the most renowned/potent mage willing to accept public office as represenative of their favored Source, as determined by means of The Mage’s Tourney and subsequent school-wide election. A councilman’s term lasts three years, but may be renewed indefinitely by the winning of subsequent elections. Each councilmember has a second, in the event of their own death or resignation; in the event that the second is also killed or otherwise incapacitated, the Grandmaster acts as pro tem council member. (There exist circumstantial laws for the event of this happening to multiple members, but such have never needed invocation.)
The Council of Ten is assisted by the Grandmaster – most often a generalist of rather lower power, selected directly by the Council of Ten – who chairs meetings, casts the deciding vote over deadlock, and is the first point of contact for kingdoms and other large bodies looking to solicit high-profile magical services. The grandmaster also holds a very unique ritual spell, passed down by means of sealed scrolls from one to the next (kept by the Librarian in confidence); the ‘Null’ spell, which delineates an area and temporarily voids it of -all- mana, preventing any form of magic from being utilized until the spell expires. This ability is used as a matter of policy for council meetings to prevent any form of magic-based deception; it is also used during public gatherings, including the Mage’s Tourney. Due to the incredible sensitivity of this position, Grandmaster is a lifelong title, and may only be replaced on the death of the prior grandmaster.
In order to assume the office of councilmember or grandmaster, the elected person -must- forfeit any other office they hold in any other domain, and swear allegiance first and foremost to the preservation and policing of magic and the study thereof. The oath is not formalized, but instead to be written personally by the potential councilman, and may be challenged publically by the standing members if it is not found to be complete or true.
Other notable positions include the Librarian, whose duties include the maintenance of the ever-growing bodies of literature; the quartermaster, responsible for the logistics of maintaining food, drink, and lodging; and the enforcer, the only official part of the school’s structure that requires deliberately NOT learning magic, in favor of acting freely and without encumbrance during the use of the Null spell.
The Mage’s Tourney
Held once every three years, the Mage’s Tourney allows the various school members so inclined to utilize their skills in a competetive environment. Various events ranging from artistic exhibition to outright combat are held in a similar manner to the Olympics of Earth, creating the largest magical spectacle on the planet. This Tourney drives much of the school’s economic success as well, allowing potentially interested applicants to get a view of what power they might one day command and advertising well the potence of the school’s resources to potential employers.
Participants in events deemed dangerous by the council must sign a waiver releasing all parties – the school, the kingdom, and other participants – from responsibility for injury or death caused, and observers are warned by means of a large sign on entry that events within may be considered by some to be highly violent, aberrant, or disturbing. In short: Viewer discretion is advised.