Sources and expressions of magic

Can we talk about magic? Not mechanical aspects of it in games, just the ideas related to it. Specifically, where the "energy" that allows it to happen comes from, and how it is actually done.

Most games don't really get into these aspects too much. What mana is and where it comes from isn't really touched on and how exactly the wizard goes about casting the spell is generally not very expanded upon either.

Take summoning for instance; when a wizard summons something is that something being created out of thin air or literally being transported from some place to his location. How much control over this action does he have? Can he summon in the same particular demon or skeleton multiple times? Does he just grab a fire elemental from the plane of elemental fire at complete random? Is it possible that he might accidently grab something entirely different from that realm? And by what power does he do this? Does he have a covenant with that creature? Some agreement? Is there a cost, beyond just mana or whatever, and if there is a cost, who is paid it and why do they want it?

I don't really have a coherent question here, I just want to talk about the sources of magic and how its performed because I think thats neat.

I go with the classic demons and shit. Gives reason to why all my settings powerful wizards are either dead, or bat shit insane

When it comes to summoning I think it should be something in the middle,
It's like the universe is a computer and the spell itself is an algorithm that if made complete does a single thing that you tried.
But if rendered incomplete the spell just completes itself using whatever sounds natural.

So if you're trying to summon a fire elemental in a volcano, that would be easy, even if you mispronounce it's name you'll probably hand up with just another fire elemental with a similar name.
Botch the same spell in an underwater cave, and suddenly your hand is on fire, because the cosmic computer thought it looks pretty close.

>So wizards are basically I.T. guys

Demon summoning should involve taking a demon out of his nap
Elementals probably can be made like Golems, with the wizard imbuing the 'soul'

It comes from farts. The more farting that goes on, the more powerful magic is. That's why the setting's wizard guild heavily subsidizes bean crops.

I take all my inspiration regarding magic from a mixture of mythology and Warhammer.

Two planes: A physical and an ethereal one. The ethereal realm is the older one and made up from the stuff the old greeks called aether, the divine spark that creates motion in all things. Wherever the aether calmed, it solidified until it became matter, and thus reality happened. Pure aether doesn't really exist anymore, so the ethereal plane is an almost reality where spirits and demons and shit exist in near-corporeal consciousnes.

As a result from everything having been aether at some point, everything has residual energy left, a form of inherent anima, but also there is ethereal energy streaming through reality like the winds of chaos. Spellcasters tap into this energy and will it into a spell. Once the spell is cast, the energy dissipates back into the stream. As such, magic is a mixture of lifeforce, psychokinesis and electricity or nuclear energy, as the accumulation of ethereal energy in one place may create an imbalance which leads to lethal radiation.

In my setting, academic and religious spellcasters overlap in many areas and are actually often the same, as both channel it through their willpower and simply use different methods and tools to focus.

So on the topic of summons, it goes a fair bit like this:

As all things are aether being depowered enough to solidify into reality, so is the process of summoning just a concentrated effort to gather aether in one place and solidifying it into reality. Depending on how well the spellwork is done and how strong the summoned creature is, the summoned creature may exist indefinitely. If not, the summoner may have to refuel his creation. As mentioned before, there are pre-existing entities in a state of almost reality floating in the ethereal plane who sometimes manage to manifest in reality. These entities may be pulled in by a summoner and reinforced with additional aether. Once secured in reality, these entities usually continue refuelling themselves with aether, as they have a sapiece of their own.

To secure a summon it may require either a charm such as an amulet to which it is then anchored, a husk such as the bodies of the dead or a craftrd shell such as golems, or simply solidifying so much aether that a new, complete physical body is created. Things like fire elementals obviously are too elusive to maintain their existence in reality, and as such will usually be anchored to an item (preferrably heat resistant) or must receive a continuous influx of aether to replenish itself.

On the topic of mana: It's essentally what I would call aether. It's just a different name for the same shit.

Lastly, magic and aether have lasting effects on the human and objects that they pervade. Imagine being a conductor - eventually, you will burn out because the constant flow of electricity within you has created a chemical reaction that alters your nuclear make up. It is similar with aether and ethereal energy.

As a body conducts magic, its core make up is being altered. Luckily, if the alteration is small enough, the body will return to its original state and recover. It is fairly easy to tell when you are reaching critical levels, as casting magic is always bound to physical stress and exhaustion. Blowing up or dissolving are common for people who go far beyond their limits, but fortunately for beginners they can't even muster the willpower to reach such a level yet.

Overall, all things are aubject to that one otherworld. There are no godly planes like warcraft from where different types of magic spring forth, there is just my non grimderp version of the warp. From the otherworld, magic streams into reality, becomes matter, then dissolves again and streams back into the otherworld.

I like the way it works in Elder Scrolls. Magicka is literally light from stars that is processed by mortal souls to produce the equivalent of mana, and reshaped by the will to perform magical feats or spells. Of course there's more setting-specific shit there, like that the reason it is this way is that the universe was created in a kind of dimensionally complex bubble in an endless plane of pure and infinite creative potential called aetherius, and that the stars are holes in the outer membrane of this (not an uncommon idea irl) created when innumerable minor deities left the universe shortly after its creation to avoid being trapped there and drained of their power, and the "starlight" draining in is actually that creative potential that comprises Aetherius. The sun is also a much larger hole left by a much larger and more important deity.

Really though, I don't think this gets addressed much in games, whether TT or vidya, but novels usually explain the inner workings of magic to at least some degree. The one common thread I've noticed is that in almost all settings that explain it, magic is mortals somehow harnessing the same force the gods used to create their world. For instance in a (pretty conventional) world where the gods spoke things into existence by describing them, magic is often simply a matter of describing something but altering the description in the language of the gods, or in a setting where the world was painted into existence, painting in a specific way can have a similar effect, and this can also serve to explain how runes and sigils work.

In many real-life occult systems, magic is supposed to work in one of three ways- By petitioning the gods to perform a miracle on your behalf, usually offering some kind of sacrifice and prayer to grease the wheels; by summoning daemons (by literally calling them, no actual magical exertion involved there) and binding them with words somehow fundamental to their being and then commanding them to do your bidding before they are released; or by channeling the energy of nearby elemental spirits that are invisible to most. In a religious context, some individuals are given free, nearly unquestioned access to the first method- Elijah is an excellent example, as is Jesus. Elijah (and his successor, Elisha) in particular performed what were, for all intents and purposes, conventional fantasy rpg spells, like summoning animals, lobbing fireballs, resurrecting a boy with their own life energy (rather than simply asking god to do it), multiplying flour and oil, and so on- They just happened to also have a direct line to God in addition to his favour.

I think the last common "method" is just the force of will or intense emotion or whatever enabling certain individuals to channel their life-force to perform magical feats. I think this is the least imaginative method, but it also makes the most sense in a setting that tries to be fairly realistic and secular.

Have you ever heard of the "Laundry" series by charles stross?

I personally like it to be "magic" that works because "magic"

I sort of feel that once it's all mapped down and explainable it's stopped being "magic"
and becomes physics, and well I'm playing make believe to get away from that.

>I'm playing make believe to get away from that
Where did the bad natural law touch you, jimmy?

Well, Satan, the big problem is having a unified energy source, at least in my opinion. I think that's a mistake, because it lends a certain quantifiable nature to magic. You need to de-centralize magic, which gets into a bit, but I think needs expansion. I also agree with to an extent, magic needs to be mystical in order to make it magic, or it's just fantasy science and superpowers.

Magic, in my ideal vision of it, ought to be a heady mixture of supernatural symbolism, force of will, pact-making, binding and control of spirits, exploitation of naturally magical items (special herbs and flowers, rocks, liquids, metals, the wolfsbane and silver and such ingredients), words of power, chants, incantations, gestures and other many disparate things. They all work within their own context, but it's supernatural. To summon a spirit of fire, you'd get objects relating to fire, you'd get symbolically important items like igneous rocks, you'd get candles and stuff, you'd probably have words of power to call upon the spirit and bind it.

It is the underlying and overlying web of effects that at points interlock and enmesh within the mundane world. That's what makes the fantasy world fantastic, it does have this overtly strange 'system' and I think for them, it ought to be as weird as it is for us. But it's always been there, in the folklore and superstition and even religion, they see a lot more of it probably, but true magic is a cause of concern or awe or wonderment. Because even to them, it's magic. If it really was just every day, they wouldn't call it magic.

For my setting, magic comes from the soul and the ability to impose your will upon the world around you. However, mortals can't simply point to something and go "I command you to burn to ashes!" so the magic takes the form of rituals and symbols and various practiced acts to focus the user's will to enable it to act.

While it is a practiced thing with various schools of thought ranging from academic to religious there are groups that will disagree why it works the way it does;

For some, it's because the gods allow humans to impose their will on the mortal world and through prayer and piety god will allow you to do so. For scholars and scientist they learn and study the nature of a thing and learn to manipulate it such as creating various things and making two different substances work in ways they would not do on their own. For the martialist the study of their body and weapons and the practice of punching, kicking, swinging their weapons, and exercising allows them to perform superhuman feats.

Also, I disagree with because knowing how it works doesn't automatically kill the mysticism of it. The How and the Why are two different things and people will forever fight over why things are the way they are nevermind the fact that there are people who are not in the know so a layman doesn't understand the strange mathematical formulas that this wizened teacher is showing to a group of students unless they had gained all the pre-requisite knowledge. They're not going to know the shaman's mysteries until they have a vision quest and they're not going to be able to know how to wield such a sword without practice.

For narrative purposes I suppose you can do whatever you want, magic is only as mysterious or explained as the story needs it to be. Roleplaying games are simultaneously the story and more than just the story.

>because knowing how it works doesn't automatically kill the mysticism of it
So what's the mysticism for you?

The manner in which it is understood, the various ways people try to explain the mystery.

I look at modern science and technology and think of how esoteric some of it is and try to imagine what it must be like for someone not in the know.

I suppose for some people using unix and command line is nothing but to someone who's never done anything more than dig around the settings of their phone let alone using command line you'll see the question marks when you try to show or explain how to run a command. Not only that, there are actually several ways of doing the thing I want to do as well and some people will know all of them, many will known only a few and there are various books that detail these secrets.

Many of the sciences are equally mystifying to me, match can achieve a point where you stop using numbers and it branches into other subjects and how they work together. I'd like to think what it would be like (using DND here) if you had spells that branched across several schools or needed knowledge of multiple schools to even perform.

That for me is the mysticism. Just sayinig "oh they wave their hands and do this and it works just because it works" just doesn't do it for me. Then again, I can only speak for myself.

>I look at modern science and technology
Don't, you go straight into science magic

And? I just said it's what I like. I grew weary of just magic working because it just works but I understand that it has it's place depending upon the story you want to tell.

Keep in mind I'm phoneposting because poor wifi where I'm at, so I might be brief or vague in some areas. Feel free to ask questions, though.

In my fantasy setting, everything came from the dead bodies of the only perfect beings to ever exist - twins, born from Nothing, or the Void, into Something. All-powerful, all-knowing, whatever. They got mad and killed each other made everything. Their essence is magic - magic is the something from nothing, it's every atom of your being. Magic, inherently, wants to *be*, so it is, even if it wasn't before. You can imagine the philosophical repercussions behind asking if the Void decided something had to *be*, and if it wanted to *be*, was it not alive in the first place?

Anyway, I think I'm trying to say magic is supposed to be an unanswerable question. You can quantify some of it, yeah, because if you push something heat up something a whole lot you can expect a specific response (usually), there's always questions you can't answer. And what about the exceptions? What if, when you heated up that paper 100 times, it burned, but one time it got soaked instead, or turned into a fire demon and tried to eat your hair, or whatever? There's probably some metapbor for life and death and the reason why we're alive in there somewhere but I don't care to find it. it's magic, it's a living metaphor.

Shitnuggets, I always see typos after I post
> They got mad and killed each other, and they [their dead bodies] made everything [or became everything, more accurately].

The world is filled with mana (the quintessential elemental) through water, either liquid, solid or vapor. The water has mana because the moon transmits it through gravity*. The moon is hollow, a giant geode which converts solar light into mana. Solar light is purified prana, the primal element which makes life possible. The Sun is a cosmic refinery which converts raw prana into all elements. Raw prana comes from creatures with souls having feelings, both negative and positive, The more intense, the more prana is created.

I got sidetracked, haven't I? Mana is an element whose purpose is to change the other elements, the chances of something being this instead of being that. If a creature manages to metabolyze and/or ┬┤manipulate mana, it can affect itself and its environment in otherwise impossible ways. Alchemists do this indirectly, using mana-rich substances which catalyze the physical and symbolical** properties of other substances into physical effects. Wizards don't metabolyze it, but can manipulate the surrounding mana as to change atributes and conditions of elements, animals, people etc. A giant's metabolism absorbs mana from the air into its lungs as to give no fucks to the square-cube law. An undead does something similar so it can speak despite not breathing and even not having lungs, tongues etc.

*I still haven't decided if gravity is a function of mana or prana or both, need to get around to read obsolete theories of gravity for that.

**For more details, consult Abu Nagarjuna's "Micro-Alchemy: Investigation through Prophetic Amplification into the Reactions Between Material, Elemental and Abstract Components of the Anticoncepcional Amaranthine Formulas".


The last method is much more broad than you give it credit for.

The "spirit" can be almost anything as everything has some supernatural force in them. Sure it often manifests as spirit or voice but it can also be force. Many animal parts for example are powerful in themselves.

You also missed the part where some people are just blessed with power and there is no need to explain it. Commanding blood to stop flowing is something many healers supposedly had and while some got it from God or the devil many just had the skill without need to explanation.

What you're describing in your second paragraph is actually a concept in real-life occultism as well, the idea of "induction"- that, like a magnet magnetises iron around it, objects related to a spirit or force can draw that spirit or force near and be used to direct it, or confer their properties to surrounding objects or beings.

Also etymologically "magic" ultimately refers to priests working rituals to commune with gods. To the people at the time that actually belonged to those cults it wasn't anything mind-boggling or bizarre. It's not a big leap to think that the manipulation of energy might be called "magic" simply because it's the manipulation of energy rather than matter in any given setting.

>two perfect beings that arise from the void and fuck/slay each other to create the world, their power becoming the magic everything draws from
Hellenism did it first I believe. There might be something else predating that though.

I think there you're getting into shit like the horseman's word, the idea of certain inflections that some people have and other people don't that can only sometimes be taught that beings or objects thought to be without conscious thought (like horses, blood, trees, etc) will respond to and obey.

>What you're describing in your second paragraph is actually a concept in real-life occultism

That's sort of a major inspiration for it, real world magic in folklore which was always seemed to so disparate and symbolic. Magic in our real folklore and mythology always has rules but doesn't always give a reason, sometimes it's just magic and I like the otherness of it. I think that's important.

>Also etymologically "magic" ultimately refers to priests working rituals to commune with gods. To the people at the time that actually belonged to those cults it wasn't anything mind-boggling or bizarre.

And that's how I think wizards ought to be. I never touched on wizards because I wanted to talk just about magic, but being a wizard, to me, I think should be a somewhat partly spiritual experience. The pursuit of wisdom and understanding of the world and universe on a supernatural level, wizards are part priest, part scholar, part madman, part hermit, part scientist. There's a lot wrapped up in that figure. It wouldn't be strange to the wizard, they're mired in that world, but to the regular person? The farmer who sees the wizard tower over the hills on a clear day, it's weird to him and his family and he warns his children from wandering too far into the hills. Or they visit him every month because he seems to know lots about strange things like making miraculous medicine or diagnosing animals and more. The wizard and his magic are inextricably bound, as other as it is, he is. The gods and spirits are lofty to the layman.

I think my favorite commentary on magic comes from "The Magicians" - the book, not the movie.

"When confronted by the elderly woman who said that the earth was carried around the sun on the back of a giant turtle, the scientist asked, 'but what is the turtle standing on?' the elderly women leans close and winked, and whispered to him, 'Ah, but it's turtles all the way down!'"

"Magic is like that. We have spells we can cast, and can use it for many thing, and can difine it's effects and power...but we cannot tell you what magic ~is~. There are those who strudy magic itself of course, but in the end, it really is turtles all the way down. Except, when you go down far enough, those turtles start to grow long necks, and have very sharp claws and teeth, and look much more like dragons than they do turtles."

"So, you will not find a class in this school to tell you 'what is magic'."

> Hellenism did it first I believe. There might be something else predating that though.
Wasn't aware of that, but it doesn't surprise me. I'm sure more than half the shit in my setting has done before/by someone else/better.


I think when talking about magic it is more related to the fact that the people didn't see any distinction between natural and super natural. It was clear to everybody that there were invisible forces at work and many of them had personalities and motivations.

There were rites involved in every part of life and people viewed them vital to success. If you didn't do anything you lived on blind luck and goodwill of the unknown and no one wants that. People needed to be in control.

If anything blood stopping and horse whispering were much more grounded to experience than some other rituals like thanking spirits when you went got fish. The witches and magicians were just specialists of the unseen, something that could be achieved via blind luck, training and force of will or aid from beings of the other world.

If your magic doesn't have a chance to horribly maim, kill, scar or drive you insane, then you're doing something wrong.

Mutations are also acceptable.

Why would it do that?

The world is peaceful and its inhabitants kind. Surely magic is the same.

Nice this is pretty much spot on with how I do it in my setting, with a bit more emphasis on deities and worship, as well as corruption (mana/aether from the other side without control)

That's just a pointless nerf in exchange for superpowers, and that's boring and everyone does it. It's the actual time it takes to learn a spell, its components, gather its ingredients, perfect its words and shapes and gestures so that they actually work is the catch for wielding such power. No one gets power over night in any way. Even heroes have to learn how to use their own abilities.

Its not a nerf if everything is built around it.

I'm of the school of thought where magic is demanding. There is no such thing as effortless use of magic. While a true master magician may be able to cast a spell or manipulate matter with arcane powers without breaking a sweat, it is only because he/she/it has spent incredible amounts of time attuning themselves to the use of magic, and mastering the study.

In any setting that isn't completely gumdrops and rainbows, magic should be demanding. Magic without a cost, or risk is generally a setting breaker when you look at it.

And even if the use of magic is done through using mana or some ever present magical element that saturates the world there still needs to be a physical/spiritual gateway/toll between the user
and magic.

If a fool tries to do something incredible but lacks the training, knowledge, or skill to safely do it it makes sense that the life is drained out of him by the spell long before any mana from the world is used.

A good system of magic I can think of is thinking of a magician as a dam. The magic is always there, huge amounts of it, but magicians are naturally attuned to sense and harness magic with ease. However when they do harness it, it is never them simply forcing their will on magic and making things happen. Rather they act as a sluice in the dam that is hold back all the magic. They have to have the knowledge, instinct, training, skill, and talent to know just how wide to open that gate to let the magic flow out. Most likely their body would be the conduit, although using foci could also be possible in settings. However uncontrolled or poorly calculated uses should result the conduit getting damaged.

The use and command of magic depends greatly and all are with benefits and disadvantages.

Firstly, spells. I like the idea of spells. I love the thought that mastering the pronunciation and phrasing of some archiac words allows a person to suddenly do the impossible. However the way I view spells is that the actual words have very little to do with it. There is no universal thesaurus that binds ancient words to certain magical effects. Wingardium Leviosa is nothing more than funny words. However the point of spells to make the caster/magician fully realize what they are trying to do. My view of it is based on the idea that language can precede thought.

In the course of the discovery and study of magic, those who came later were always focused on preserving all of the information that came from their predecessors. Thus many spells tend to be in ancient languages or have heavily ancient roots. Perhaps they are the actual spells used by the magicians of the ancient times or are simply the roots used to form new ideas, definitions of actions caused by magic. So the spell itself, and the process of learning a spell is all about completely understanding what it can do/how you can use it. The more you understand it, the more it becomes entrenched in your brain and so when you finally raise your hand and open up the sluice gate on the dam of magic, the first thing that comes to mind when you want to do a certain action is that spell. You bind that spell to your mind so that you can more effortlessly, and quickly shape, change and harness the magic.

Rituals are of a similar vein, where most symbols, rites, etc hold no actual power. drawing the Ehrlman's canticle with the 3rd and 6th engrams of warding doesn't on it's own cause magic.

Rather it is the time in devising, or more often learning the same motions, repetition that makes a magician began to unconsciously weave in their own innate control of magic with said actions.

Only when someone has internatlized the meanings, the elements, the costs and the demands of Ehrlman's canticle can they draw out all the lines while simultaneously lacing said markings with their own power or magic to make the ritual manifest.

A person with no magic skill or training shouldn't be able to perfectly replicate any drawn ritual and see results. Equally, if a person who is greatly steeped in training and studying completes a ritual but it is not 100% accurate to the textbook due to extremely minor aesthetic differences it still may work the exact same with no danger to the user.