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[SYSTEMS] MAGIC - TINI HOWARD/JONATHAN HICKMAN, PART 1
Don't eat the food.
Before we dive in, a heads up- this coming Monday, 01.31.2022, we’re going to have a major announcement to make about the future of all things 3W/3M. We’ve been teasing this for some time, but mark your calendars now, as it’s all about to happen.
See you Monday.
But right now, here’s Part 1 of Jonathan’s responses to Tini’s [SYSTEMS] MAGIC work. Jonathan in bold. Enjoy…
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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.
Agreed, and like I said in the first post of this, the real benefit here that Tini’s system has is that it exists almost entirely in the past and future -- not the present.
Which is so much fun when you get to lean into it.
And going off of what we did with Al’s Religion system -- in this universe, religion is basically a lie agreed upon to try and understand/comprehend/explain the duality of science/magic and the vacuum that lies between them.
More Greek and Roman than most modern sets. Which, of course, lends itself to fables and myths that bridge that chasm.
Okay, moving on...
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:
This should be good...
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.)
This IS good. More below...
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.)
Right. So, the big question of why these cycles ascend/descend and experience birth/death has always been the ‘real question’ hanging out there.
Like, you look at it, and visually you can understand the cyclical nature and it’s easy to comprehend the where the stories come from and how the contrast between the two (and its ensuing ‘end of all things’ and ‘birth of a new age’) lead to dramatic narratives, but if you look under the hood, there’s is that question: Why is this all happening?
There are lots of ways to handle this. But on the extreme ends of a workable solution are two pretty standard ways you can take things.
One. It’s all a McGuffin. You don’t need to know because that’s not the point and while it might occasionally get winked at, you will never ever (regardless of how much the writer lies to you about it) see the actual engine of the car.
Two. It’s all there. And while it might not be the focus of the story, the mechanics have been worked out to such a degree that -- should you need to -- you can explain exactly how everything ‘works.’
What Tini has provided here aligns itself with the second option (and is generally how I tend to do things).
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.
Well, look at this, I think somebody went to the Jonathan Hickman school of diagrams...
And graduated with honors.
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 murmuredfrom 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.)
So one of my favorite things is connecting two parallel ideas that you didn’t know were parallel until you discover the ‘one thing’ that unlocks how they actually align and harmonize.
When you’re doing it by yourself, it’s hard not to believe that your brain wasn’t actually doing the hard work the entire time -- like a background operation of connectivity (and I know this is an actual scientific thing but let’s not ruin the mood here, because...) while it feels like divine inspiration or serendipity, you know that it’s possible it’s not.
However, when it happens across multiple ideas and multiple creators, you’re obviously tapping into something outside that (unless, of course, you’re talking about humans being the blood cells of the super living organism ‘society,’ but again, let’s not be a buzzkill here). Normally people ascribe this to seeded and/or nested ideas, or the zeitgeist, or just luck, but either way, it’s always cool to experience.
Anyway, I look at this diagram and I see three ‘forces’ of magic exerting themselves on the universe. Yes, they subdivide, but three is our number, and we’ve seen it regarding magic before...
The ACADEMY has three branches:
The Sinjiro of the Broken Path
The Knights of Khorless Way
The Pacigisto Warlords
Perfect. Next, we’ll break it down further.