[SYSTEMS] MAGIC - TINI HOWARD
Don't drink the water
Okay, time for the fun stuff. Tini Howard constructed our magic system and did a bang up job.
What’s really interesting about this one which separates it from the previous two by Al and Ram is that those are talking about something that exists in the now...and this one refers to either a lost age, or an age that is emerging (actually, both, as you very well know at this point).
This one comes at you kind of fast...
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This is a fairly high level description of the forces of magic: how they came into being, how they’re accessed, and what sort of things they have control over. It isn’t a cultural or religious document, and it doesn’t get into the idea that people might believe Gods or entities create or govern this power - or that they actually do (they might, if you have Gods.)
But magic - at least, as I envision it here - isn’t something that comes from gods or anything like that. It’s just a set of cosmic forces, different from the laws of science that govern your system during the eras of high science.
WHAT IS MAGIC, WHAT IS SCIENCE?
This might be obvious, but it might not be, so I’ll state my take on it outright and see if that works with your established world:
Science and Magic are just the names for the two opposing forces that govern all things. Science’s forces are not unlike the ones we think of in our own world now - physics, gravity, relativity (or the lack thereof), so that during a high Science cycle, the forces in charge of the Universe are measured things that produce readings on instruments. The inherent forces that keep the universe moving are measurable, quantifiable. They respond in predictable ways to scientific instruments observed by strict, careful scientists.
In a high-magic cycle, those forces weaken gradually, and in their place rise different cosmic forces. Instead of being governed by things like physics, biology, mathematics, etc, the forces in power are not so measurable. They are fickle - in whatever way you might need for your story, or region, or what have you. Some of these forces might only respond to monks of a certain order, and some of them might only respond to those born of a certain line. Some of them might be utterly random, and some might come to anyone who can say the magic words. They respond to different stimuli, based on non-quantifiable acts like devotion or practice. (Those are pretty broad ideas, and I mean them to be for the sake of your cultural writing: monks who fast, psychonauts who eat drugs, and witches who brew spells are all accessing the same font of power. And in a High Magic society, those practices become more streamlined, because as they are studied more and more in a more structured society, the cultural practices fall away in favor of efficiency and magic reaches the apex, etc.)
Lastly, and this is not strict - I imagine they cosmically feed one another. Use of magic causes an inherent breaking down of the ‘laws of science’ more and more until magic is at its apex, and the forces of science and reason can begin to make order of it once more.
Most of this is not largely known by anyone - I can’t imagine most individuals having the ability to zoom out and conceive of their own system to this capacity. (Archmages, maybe do. We’ll get to them.)
THE THEORY OF MAGIC, SMALLER, LESS COSMIC VERSION
In the same way that science codifies and labels things as individual and different - elements, species, forces, etc - and marks them as separates, in a magic cycle the barriers between things are less stringent. The relationship between things where their traits are mutable and undefinable, that is where power lies in a high magic cycle. Not in the knowledge of separating things, but in the knowledge of the relationships between them.
Magic is Synapses where Science would be brain cells.
It’s not about ‘the energy in everything connected to one another,’ it’s not the Force. It’s about a few specific relationships in particular. These ones:
Each ‘minor’ elemental force and their relationships with the ‘major’ elemental forces. The inherent push-pull duality in these nine relationships creates the forces of magic.
At its height, during the apex of a Magic Cycle, these are all schools of the same magic. Archaeology and such done during a Science cycle would reveal that during the height of things, individual magi operate as brilliant masters of multiple schools (like an incredibly high level wizard, or a Maesters with his full chain.) The height of a magic cycle should be an era of ARCHMAGES, incredibly powerful people who master all of the disciplines of magic, giving them an i bend reality to their whims - which, of course, leads them to become terribly corrupt…
During a Science Cycle, these schools of magic each become highly fragmented mystery cults. During the zenith of a Science cycle, there should be no schools or institutions that teach this kind of magic in a structured way, but the magic and the study of it still exists, and is practiced in mystery traditions and hidden in cults, buried in the pages of stories and murmured
from mother to daughter in kitchens. Still, magic persists even in the most scientific of times, brewing secrets, hiding in shadow, and staying alive until such time they can once more thrive.
(In contrast, there are benefits to the Science Cycles when most of these groups are fragmented into cults and mystery traditions. It’s even possible some of these magical traditions may have several different mystery cults warring over the true interpretation of their message, or whatever, but they’re all just using the same time of magic - you know how religions can be.)
Lastly, obviously, these are not Good Names, these are The Obvious Names. Rename them whatever you want or need.)
There are nine types of magic, which we’ll call schools in the non-literal sense. They exist outside of mortal definition, as nine forces that are borne from the connections between each larger planet and each smaller elemental moon. As mentioned before, magic is not about defined elements, but the relationships between them.
This is what the magical powers are, and what they would remain - both at their weakest points (as they would be when the story begins) and at their zenith, what I imagine the story would be building to. Obviously I’m not writing the story, but the thought I had in mind when I designed this was that it would be highly fractured at the beginning: so much so that these mystery cults, scattered across a planetary system and separated by fragmented traditions and long-term games of historic telephone, wouldn’t even have any idea about one another, and if they met, wouldn’t assume a relationship. It would be like a Celtic Druid meeting a Zulu Sangoma - we may recognize them both as holy men, and the two of them might have much to talk about, but they’d be likely to view one another as enemies before anything else, if they came upon one another. However, in this setting, I would assume their power came from the same source, and in a high-magic society, they would both simply be users of particular schools of magic, (or even possibly, wise men who would continue in their magical study to become archmages.)
There are THREE Elemental* forces tied to each planet: FIRE, WATER, and EARTH.
*This is a shit name. EVERYONE uses the name ‘elemental magic’ and they always mean the most basic, dumb type of magic - like fire people throwing fireballs and water people throwing ice. That’s not what we’re going to do here, but the forces are elemental in nature, so I’ll call them that for now. If you need help with a better name hit me up.
Each one governs the creation, destruction, and preservative forces of the universe in and around those spheres of influence. Which are as follows:
FIRE: SACRAL MAGIC
(Physics, change, gravity, inertia, temperature and any other force of nature.)
As the people of Fire Planet are strict and disciplined, the magic honed and developed on that planet is the extension of that. Inner fire becomes outer fire. Internal focus, denial, discipline, and structure are the hallmarks of their connection to the magical forces of the world.
Sacral magic controls areas of great change, so it, and not ‘earth’ magic, is what one uses to control forces such as the weather or the seas. While the schools derived from Earth and Water do not teach the literal manifestation of rocks and water, Sacral magic does indeed often produce fire - more the result of high speed friction and physics than any sort of magical flame.
At the height of a science cycle, practitioners of all of these arts are rare, but each tradition of magic persists among hidden buried traditions and mystery cults. I’ll include some loose cultural examples of archetypal mages that might be found amidst these hidden traditions.
HIDDEN TRADITION: Druid types, monks, weather callers, dowsers, mad scientists harnessing lightning, secret orders of monks.
WATER: IATRAL/PSYCHAL MAGIC
(A tradition divided amongst itself, water is the school of life. The traditions tend to rise fractured, one focusing on the healing and crafting of the body and the other on the healing and crafting of the mind. Such highly personal magic suits a very religious culture, where trust in the higher power’s control over your very body and mind is...encouraged.)
In the way that the Water Planet is unfocused on a moon and instead highly devoted to the dangerous fluidity of their own planet, they have developed two distinct schools of magic in one. Even in a science cycle, their two schools of magic do not interact - but as they both exist on one planet, and as the schools are those of the body and mind, it is a fertile ground for the first illicit sharings of information as the Science Cycle rises…
As a magic cycle rises, they might be a bit of a test case - either one of the first places for the schools to begin joining (and indeed - they may even have record and memory of a time their schools were one, it might be simply a known heresy which seems limited to the planet’s politics, but is instead Cosmically Real. )
Magical forces seek balance the same as scientific equations, so as Fire magic encourages devotion and inner discipline to access higher powers in the same way pressure may make a diamond, water magic seeks different fuel entirely. Perhaps the sacrifice of the body and mind in madness or self-flagellation, or, if they’re really feeling like religious zealots, someone else’s blood might do just fine.
The highly sectarian religious groups - as well as the planet’s natural lessons of fluidity and change - lend themselves to two distinct schools of magic:
WATER ONE: Iatral. (Body) Magic of the body and healing. Iatric magic users are everything from healers to bioengineers, rebuilding bodies, creating golems, connect large biotechnical systems as bioengineers, and heal wounds.
HIDDEN TRADITION: During the height of a science cycle, these would be your ‘local healers,’ your witches in the woods, your midwives. They preserve the art of healing magic. Or...they’re face dancer-style killers who take on the shape of others. Or both!
WATER TWO: Psyche. (Mind) This is the magic of healing minds from trauma and misery, but opening one’s mind up to others for tweaks offers them a powerful and dangerous sense of mental control. One can see how this is one of the most dangerous magical arts possible - but also quite valuable. Think Eternal Sunshine memory tourism and Black Mirror time prisons.
HIDDEN TRADITION: Assassins, fortune tellers, grifters, psychics, babbling mad oracles who scry into gazing pools. I imagine there’s something to the idea of crossing traditions to be touched on in the sacrificing of physical parts for mental powers - like Odin losing an eye for wisdom, or prophets cutting out their tongues.
(A FORBIDDEN JOINING: It seems to me that powerful mages who controlled both the body and mind like puppeteers would be quite dangerous. Makes sense to not let people learn both. Those almost seem tailor made to be your necromancer types, your misunderstood dark mages, who are tapping into something ‘forbidden’ that is actually cosmically true.)
EARTH: ARCHAIC MAGIC
(The material, the eternal, that which persists and cannot be created or destroyed - they manipulate matter, where Fire governs natural forces and Water the body and mind. With two moons - order and chaos - and a natural sense of bureaucracy, it makes perfect sense: matter must be conserved, and the equation must be balanced.)
They are rich. Of all the magic traditions, the water traditions have their medical usefulness and the fire tradition has the power of force to get their way, but money makes each and every world go round, and the Archaesans can manifest just about anything - for a cost.
But they are also strategists, engineers, brilliant generals, fortress builders, and while they don’t use their “earth magic” to make seeds grow from gardens, their ability to synthesize perfect soil and perfect water makes them expert farmers. (Just one more reason they are so rich.)
HIDDEN TRADITION: Archaesans are also master chemists, drug synthesizers, alchemists, or even genies who spin straw into gold and grant wishes of jewels.
ONCE THE HIGH MAGIC PART OF THE CYCLE REACHES ITS APEX, and these traditions unify, they fragment again almost immediately - but it doesn’t seem like a fracturing. Ideologically - technically it is - by nature of being sorted and separated it is a step away from the apex of a Magic cycle. But timeline-wise, it still allows for hundreds of years (or whatever) of mono-culture magic-school stories where the knowledge itself is taught in various schools, like D&D or Harry Potter or whatever. And those names of those schools have their roots tied to the larger/major elemental forces, and whether the magic they manifest is creative, destructive, or both.
Beneath are what I imagine the schools might look like, being as they are derived from those nine relationships between those forces as seen above. I didn’t add in any cultural flavor, I tried to keep it rather flat for you to hang story on, but there are just ideas for what you could do with any of these ideas, and it would make thematic sense to me, a magic nerd.
So, you may not ever even get to this stuff. Or you may decide you want to incorporate it into the ‘fall of the science cycle/rise of the magic cycle’ stuff above. But my thought initially was that these schools only appear after the apex of magic, and not before. But again - it’s your book. Feel free to use this stuff, or if it’s too granular, don’t.
ORDER: -techt. (Sacritecht, Iatrotecht, Psychetect, Architect.)
-Techts are builders, constructors, healers, makers.
ORDER OF FIRE: SACRITECTS
The Sacritects are precise scientists who are able to micromanipulate forces to create weapons, from handhelds to nuclear weapons, minature deployable gravity wells and singularities, you name it. They can stop a heart with an electric shock from as far away as they can see, or increase the friction on a whole fleet of warships as they enter an atmosphere so they go up in flames. hey might also be massive colonizers - that kind of control over the forces of things makes me think one could terraform a planet in a heartbeat.
ORDER OF WATER: IATROTECHTS/PSYCHETECTS
Iatrotechts are necromancers, golemancers, hospitallers and hospital ships, as literal builders of bodies. The clone planet from the Star Wars prequels, where they built the clones, those long-necked aliens - they’d be iatrotechts too. Psychetechts build minds from the ground up, heal trauma, and teach others their ways in order to spread word to the masses. At their worst, they become New World Order types who seek to remake the minds of the masses in their own name. Both are tamperers - but both generally stick to methods with predictable results.
ORDER OF EARTH: ARCHITECTS
Exactly what it sounds like. Builders, fortress designers, armorers, builders of magical weaponry, alchemists, mad scientists, etc. Planners of great battles, master designers and engineers.
CHAOS: -ficer (Sacrificer, Iatrificer, Psycheficer, Archaeficer)
- Ficers are branding themselves really well. Sure, they want to make anew, after they’ve destroyed what is currently present. Destroyers, bombs, assassins. The ‘Evil’ side of each elements’ magic.
CHAOS OF FIRE: SACRIFICERS
If the orderly version of these guys are weapons, I’m not sure what the chaos version is, but I’m imagining an inherently unstable molecule of a person who has to be handled like sentient radium lest they break down the forces of physics around them. But there’s much wisdom to be gathered at the edges of society...
CHAOS OF WATER: PSYCHEFICERS
Psycheficers are madness wielders. They can break the mind, show things that aren’t true, make people hear things that aren’t there. Again, perhaps not made for polite society.
CHAOS OF WATER: IATROFICERS
Minds intact, their bodies likely twist with the strangeness of their chaotic life magic. Among them are cancer mages, spreaders of death and disease, like the god Chernobog. Plaguelords. These folks like genetic tampering as much as their orderly brethren, but likely utilize methods with more chaotic (read: magical) results. (You know how Leda fucked a swan who was secretly Zeus, and the genetic result was the world’s hottest woman? I’m just saying.)
CHAOS OF EARTH: ARCHIFICERS
Matter destroyers. Like human black holes. Illusionists, who create visions where there are none. Warpers of reality.
HEAVENS: - ist (Sacrist, Iatrist, Psychist, Archist.)
-ists are terribly boring to most folk, as their nature is stagnation and preservation. They choose to dispense knowledge and preserve tradition, or remain still and silent in meditation and have others come to them.
FIRE OF THE HEAVENS: SACRISTS
Physicists, brilliant sort of spelljamming cosmic spacetime magicians who can track trajectories and understand the movement of the heavens. Galileo, Carl Sagan, and Merlin.
WATER OF THE HEAVENS: PSYCHISTS
Psychonauts who push the limits of their minds by eating drugs and other mind expanding practices.
WATER OF THE HEAVENS: IATRISTS
Those who seek higher knowledge through physical transformation.
UNION OF EARTH AND SKY: ARCHISTS.
These are the mountaintop gurus. The Yodas, but also sometimes - a consciousness trapped in a gem, or something like that - they get very funny about matter.
So this is a beginning - let me know if you need more, or you want me to walk you through any of it.
Awesome stuff. I love it when someone throws their back into something and absolutely doesn’t care about how much they’re pouring out or how fast they’re going...and, you know, it’s on us to catch up.
Which we’ll attempt to do in the next one of these.