A Brief Overview of Magic in the Shattered Worlds
With the exception of the Chyn’tah race, anyone with the will and discipline can become a mage. But, in spite of its potential to heal and protect existence, the pursuit of Magic is a profoundly dangerous endeavor, both to the would-be mage and to the already fragile continuum of reality.
The governments of most shards impose restrictions (akin to regulating the use of nuclear material in modern day) to minimize the potential for mayhem by mages, and Palaethos is no exception. So it will help to understand the way magic works.
[NOTE: For those familiar with it, this system draws heavily upon the Mage: The Ascension RPG]
The act of working magic is nothing less than temporarily rewriting the laws of reality by sheer force of intellect and will. There are no “magic words of power” that enact wonders if pronounced correctly... the mage must literally reconfigure the individual threads of reality to create a desired effect.
Consider a large and richly embroidered tapestry. Casting a spell is the equivalent of selecting a dozen threads from that tapestry and replacing them with different threads without compromising the integrity of the weave.
As such, the study of magic is actually the study of the metaphysical DNA of reality. These archetypal ephemera have many names depending on the traditions that pursue them, but the most common term is Arcana. Through study and mastery of a specific Arcana, the mage can affect its threads in the tapestry of reality. My studying multiple Arcana, the mage can weave more complex magics that affect a broader range of phenomena.
Reality is not a static condition or state... rather it is a continuum in constant motion according to very specific criteria. It is a river, not a mountain. So the moment a mage affects a change to those criteria, epic forces begin to work against them to restore the natural order. This is why nearly all magic fades with time and effects of any significant duration require great power to enact.
Now, to extend the metaphor a bit, not only is magic a river, but it is comprised mystical currents of great power channeling through it. If the mage is not meticulous in their reweaving, they can cause a backlash of magical energy called Dissonance. The backlash is often localized (grounding into the mage themselves), but it can encompass a larger area. The scope and severity of the discharge depend on the magnitude of magic being worked and the aptitude of the mage with the Arcana being worked.
The potential for cataclysmic catastrophe is minimal... but persistent through every act of magic.
There are nine Arcana that comprise existence and define the scape of a mage’s power. The sequence of their presentation also represents the flow of the existential river from the highest supernal source down through manifested existence and then returning back again.
-Prometha - the essential “stuff”, the medium through which reality is created
-Locus - the idea of space, distance, and one’s orientation therein
-Tempira - space engenders time and creates a continuum through which it can be experienced
-Corpadra - minerals, chemicals, elements... all inorganic tangible material
-Potentas - the energies that define the interactions of matter
-Vitari - matter infused with energy can engender life... from single-celled bacteria to the grandeur of the Dragon races
-Cogitra - as life becomes complex, sentience is awakened and with it the intricate alchemy of memory, perception, and emotion
-Umbrata - the echoes of the previous Arcana resonate in the ephemeral realm of spirit, creating a distorted dream realm of what might have been, what could be, and the anthropomorphic entities that inhabit those possibilities
-Desorna - the final threshold of all things as they release their essence into the Void to be subsumed back into the primal source to be cast anew into existence
As mages advance in their studies, their ability to influence the Arcana grows. From novice to master, the general progression of effect is:
Perception > Manipulation > Creation > Destruction
So a mage young in their power over the Corpadra Aracana could sense the mineral composition of a rock. Later, they could manipulate the properties of the rock, altering its shape, density, or color. Ultimately, the mage could (temporarily) create a sword or disintegrate a wall.
Improvised and Practiced Magics
For a mage new to their power, all magic is improvised. They manipulate the strands of magic on the fly in order to evoke the effect they seek.
But there are magics that have been worked for centuries, the same strands altered in the same way by generations of mages. These spells – called Rotes - have acquired a place in the flow of reality. While they are still an aberration in the continuum of reality, their familiarity to the reality weave makes them easier to cast with a (slightly) lower chance of catastrophic mischance.
Throughout their career, a mage will cast both improvised and rote magics... but the prudent mage, no matter how powerful, knows to take extra care when “winging it”.