Anyone seeking to learn magic must be familiar with its nature, and with its rules. The same goes for anyone seeking to write stories with characters capable of wielding this powerful and dangerous force.
In short? There wasn't any. With the exception of a very few events between the last Resonance Event and the modern age, the Earth has been devoid of magic for thousands of years. The few minor surges gave birth to a handful of magical creatures, humans with great and seemingly impossible powers - events that gave birth to many of humanity's most popular myths and heroes over the course of the last millennia.
Each of these, however, was a very temporary effect. The last of the magic creatures and mages died around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Before The Event, the Earth had become a place truly devoid of magic in any tangible form.
Magic, Present Day
If the 19th and 20th centuries were a great drought, producing a barren desert where magic was concerned, the second decade of the 21st century proved itself to be monsoon season. Nearly every form of magic from legend and fiction has returned to the world in a flood, pouring through the Nevus and into our world from worlds beyond along with the myriad creatures and monsters we now find ourselves sharing our home with. It is once more possible for humans to become mages, and more besides.
A few rules to note!
For the sake of clarity, Magic and Abilities are used synonymously on this site. With the exception of Metahumans, all classes and races are considered to have magic if they can cast spells, read minds, influence the world around them with thoughts, etc. It is all synonymous on this site in order to quell confusion. When creating a character with abilities of any type, please follow the guidelines listed on this page. Note however that not everyone's magic is structured in the same way. See below!
Magic items are now to be considered the same as abilities, and must be listed in the personal items section of your character's app/profile (subject to approval). New (meaning after your character app has been approved and moved to the approved section) magic/abilties/magic items are to be submitted for approval in the Help Area.
COMMON LIMITATIONS OF MAGIC
- Low-level spells and abilities may be used many times within a short period of time (for instance, an hour) without serious negative effects on the caster. Low level spells may be varied - a talented magus might be able to cast minor spells of many different types, especially if a ritual is involved. Ritual magic need not be listed here.
- Medium level spells and abilities may be used only a handful of times (no more than 5) within the same span of time. It is at this level that a magus' abilities tend to narrow to their specific specialty or theme. A magus with a fire specialty, for instance, will nothave a mid-level spell of some other element, because refining spells to this level requires a much greater focus of training.
- High level abilities may be used no more than once or twice in that same span, and even then should come with serious detriment to the user. These spells are the ultimate expression of a magus' specialty.
THE USERS OF MAGIC POWER
For details on the categories of people capable of using this force, see the articles on the Magi and Altered Humans. Refer to the Humans article regarding Ritual Magic and generation of mana via components and times of power.
WHAT IS MAGIC?
From the lectures of High Artificer Mallus Crudus to the Order of the First Light initiates at the Library of Alexandria , in the 52nd year B.C.
In order to understand what Magick is, children, we must first turn to the force known as Mana. The texts tell us that Mana, which was taken from us in the great Universal Resonance, is the very force of existence. It is the wellspring of power from which all was originally created, the very Light the God of Abraham is said to have called forth from the darkness, yet even he must be a creation of this, the very first and most primal force of our universe. It is creation and destruction all at once, the fuel for all that we see, a source of power beyond our limited comprehension, and yet it is this force that our forebears learned to command.
We brothers and sisters of the Order took this greatest of powers and tamed a portion of it for our use, and through it learned to control all the forces of the world. The lightning and the thunder, the flame, the oceans… All was born of this power we call mana, and all remains tied to it, at once feeding it and drawing upon it, and using this connection we found the power to control that which it touches. Magick, then, is this very ability – the ability to strengthen your connection to mana to such a degree that you can influence the flow of it through the world, using it to bend the world around you to your will.
Of course, even mages are, as all humans, creatures of finite power – Even our Great Founder himself could not command the whole of Mana, and most brothers and sisters of our Order were limited to using its power to command only a fraction of the world’s powers – a magus might hold great command over flame, for instance, and yet have not the power to budge the pen I hold in my hand. Others could work no change on the world around them, yet were able to draw Mana into their very bodies, empowering them to great feats of strength and speed, or greater powers still. Vast and unknowable as it remains, Mana could enable a magus to perform feats as unique as the magus who works them. It is this great power of will that truly defines what our Order is – the will and the power to, as brothers and sisters, bend the world to our will. While individually we might lack the power to command all aspects of Mana, together our power is infinitely greater.
The passing of the last Age of Magic closed the wellspring of our greatest power to us, but that will remains, and it is that will that shall sustain us in the centuries until the great spring is reopened. We will preserve the secrets of our power, and when the time is once more upon us, we will claim our rightful place as the ones to whom this world, and all within it, bow. From the humans to the mountains, as it was in our glorious past, all shall know our power, our rule, and our protection.
From the notes of Sword (Second Class) Alistair Greene, Order of Light New York Branch, March 13th, 2014
I’ve been a mage now for one year, three months, 23 days, and six hours as of this writing, and I’m only just scratching the surface of all it can do. The Order has some old texts about it, but they talk about it as though Mana is some kind of god, or the Force from the Star Wars movies – the world isn’t supposed to work like that, but my brain also isn’t supposed to be able to channel about a megawatt of electricity through my hands, so I suppose there’s not much point in complaining about how things are ‘supposed’ to be. Here’s what I’m hypothesizing so far:
For the last fifty years or so, we’ve all been looking for a Unified Field Theory, something to link Einstein’s theory of relativity and the emerging field of quantum mechanics. Two theories we know both work, but there’s no way to bridge the gap – I think that’s because this entire time, we’ve been missing one huge piece of the puzzle. The ‘dark energy’ everyone’s been looking for, that we could never find – because it wasn’t here. There’s been a theory for a long time that the universe operates in some kind of cycle – that the Big Bang was just the beginning of one more cycle, but I’m starting to think the real cycle is the one we’re in right now. That this Nevus the Resonance Event brought isn’t the first, isn’t even the second or third, but just one more in some kind of universal waveform that has, for whatever reason, been at some level in its cycle that tore all of that energy out of our universe and into another, or perhaps thousands of others, who can really know? But one year and almost four months ago, we hit the other end of that cycle, and everything came flooding back – including, as it turns out, that mysterious fifth galactic force that we were missing. Electromagnetism, gravity, strong force, weak force – and what we’ve started to call ‘mana’.
Of course, that’s where things start to break down – there’s precedent for interaction of each of these forces within living creatures, our entire nervous systems work off electromagnetic signals, after all, but the others are so much more passive. There seems to be a scale there – the strong and weak forces, of course, exist only within atoms, gravity is a passive force, keeps the atoms tied together, electromagnetism defines interactions between them. Mana seems to do a little bit of all these things. It’s as overt as electromagnetic forces – made obvious by a mage like myself who uses mana to control electromagnetism – but also has a clear aspect that’s ‘behind the scenes’, deep within the quantum foam where we just can’t fathom what the hell it does. I don’t believe it could have left us entirely, it seems too integral to the structure of the universe, but whatever remained was so faint, we couldn’t detect it, nor make proper use of it. Perhaps if a trickle did remain, however, it explains some of the bizarre and almost supernatural things that happened even while the world was without the powers that returned to us… or perhaps those things were just as crazy and unreal as we all thought before.
Unfortunately, beyond that, the force itself is a black box. Because of how it interacts with the human body – or, at least, the twenty to thirty percent of humanity that seems to be most sensitive to it, we can actually exert a conscious control over some of it, and that is what has given rise to the various supernatural and ‘impossible’ things that have happened since the Event to previously ordinary people. I’m including here those humans with more limited abilities, their powers have been – at least in my observations so far – clearly related to Mana as strongly as ours, but they lack the particular neural affinity that enables them to direct it in less specific fashions, whereas metahumans seem to almost have had mana instantaneously forced upon them, reawakening some long-buried genetic affinity – more on this in another journal. Currently, I don’t know what it is that causes someone’s predisposition to mana, or the degree to which they are, but I suspect a genetic tie. The Order seems to believe that it has to do with whose ancestors once held the power, and lost it long ago, which might well be accurate, but with thousands of years of interbreeding, almost everyone should have at least one ancestor who had a power – needs more research to confirm.
What I do know is that somehow, my body produces a much larger ‘imprint’ on the mana field (or fabric, if you look at it the way Einstein looked at gravity, and I’m more and more inclined to these days) than an ordinary person, and this is either because of or the cause of my ability to exert such influence. Chicken, egg. I’m still exploring all that allows me to do, and I feel I’m still growing stronger, as most of us are, even the more experienced ones – but I’ll be keeping notes as I do.
ARCANE MAGIC — SORCERY
'Incantations of the Mundane'
It began in 2017, a trivial dabbling at first, but building upon each success it was soon discovered that magic was NOT exclusive to 'Altered'!
The diversity of human beings has always been one of their greatest strengths. They study, they learn, they adapt. Magic is just something else in the world to control and while Humans (and other beings) may lack the ability to physically 'produce' mana, they can still generate it through other, more archaic means.
Even among Magus and other magically endowed beings there are spells that require components to cast them. This basically means that even though they are able to produce mana to empower the spell, they still require more energy or rather different forms of energy generated through the combustion of rare components. Often these spells are referred to as 'Ritual Magic' because the incantations often require a lengthy ceremony and many ingredients or components that will generate the required mana to cast the spell.
Humans through the study of arcane texts or instruction by a Magus or the like are able to perform 'Ritualistic Spells'. They also have an affinity for ARTIFACTS. To sum it up, Humans are granted more leeway when it comes to wielding and utilizing magical items.
Once upon a time there were instances of magic upon Earth. In these brief moments the arcane spells were documented in ancient texts and tomes. Many of these were kept hidden and archived by factions like the Order of First Light and Pharos but many more remained hidden or in the clutches of private collectors.
For your character to possess knowledge of 'Ritualistic Magic' they would have had to of somehow been immersed in some kind of arcane field. These a very uncommon individuals who are almost always academics or affluent individuals with time and means to acquire and study such things. Your character needs to somehow obtain access to magical tomes to teach themselves how to properly cast magical spells which means it would take years of study. In our timeline, Humans learning the art of casting spells after the Resonance Event would mean that one would not achieve the ability to successfully use magic until at least the latter half of 2013.
THE NATURE OF 'ARCANE MAGIC'
Ritualistic magic is meticulous and time consuming. The components one needs are often very rare and everything tends to be time sensitive. The production of magic in a ritualistic manner is thus never a trivial component for a story but often a plot device it will center around. One of the main reasons that Humans are allowed to cast magical spells is to promote realism and enrich our setting but in no way is it meant, nor is it allowed for Humans to start casting spells at the same frequency as a Magus. These spells range from minor magical manipulations to grand incantations which must be cleared with site administration. Humans meddling with powerful spells are always the making of an entertaining story but we need to be aware of what's going on to ensure that magic-using Humans don't get out of hand. It is not our intent for the world to become entirely magic-using. There is only, and in the future WILL ONLY be a very small percentage of Humans utilizing magic at a level that would make them dangerous.
WHAT KINDS OF SPELLS CAN A SORCERER CAST?
Typically the kinds of spells that Humans strive to master are CURSES, the ALTERATION and GENERATION of matter and energy, and TRANSFORMATION. It is very practical magic. Some Humans, such as those born with 'sensitivities' might embark on learning how to SCRY. Scrying is a form of 'Ritualistic Magic', the obtaining of ingredients and the utilization of components such as a bowl of water, a mirror, or crystals.
The MAJOR RULE about Humans casting spells is the power and amount of times they can use them. Humans cannot perform spells as frequently as a Magus (Once a day or even per week depending) nor with the same level of certainty. Humans usually have a maximum of THREE to SIX incantations that they can consistently perform with a high success rate but of these they are often only prepared to cast a few of them on the spur of the moment at any given time.
WHAT POWERS A SPELL?
MANA & COMPONENTS
Magus are able to summon mana, Humans cannot. In order to cast a spell they need to generate the necessary mana through the preparation of specific components, specific times and sacrifice. Sometimes they have to spend their own life-force and they never get it back. Thus, many Human practitioners of magic tend to age quicker.
There are of course ways to protect one's life force. Human practitioners (depending upon the spell) will sacrifice animals or even humans to generate the necessary 'essence' for the spell. There also certain kinds of relics and mystical items one can acquire to help pay the toll of the incantation.
PERFECTION — WHAT SEPARATES A SORCERER FROM A MAGUS
To be believable, for the Human Practitioner of Magic, there's always a chance of screwing up a spell. This is often a great plot device for a story. This is also one of the main things that separates a Magus from a Arcane Practitioner. Magus have the 'strength' to control mana. Even if they mess up their spell they can still sloppily get the results they desire. A Human or creature unable to produce their own mana HAS TO BE PERFECT! One little misstep can be hazardous. Not may their spell fail but the results could be deadly. We can liken a Sorcerer to a 'bomb-maker' where no matter how adept they may become in their craft there is always the risk of blowing themselves up.
Unlike Magus, those lacking mana are not bound to specific fields of magic. They can cast whatever type of spell they choose.
A classic example of a Human Practitioner of magic would be the stereotypical 'gyspy' peering into her bowl of water to spy fortune's from blood and coin. While the vast majority of these 'fortune tellers' will remain charlatan's or deluded individuals, a few will legitimately possess the where-with-all to master their art. This due to the fact that they are descended from a long line of gifted ancestors who have passed down the practice by written word and/or oral tradition. Remember though, the more complex the spells, the more information a person would require, thus oral tradition can only take a person so far. An exceptional 'fortune teller' type practitioner could even touch upon 'curses' and 'transformative' magic. We also must not discount that the 'gypsy-witch' type will also rely on paying for the power of a third-party entity. A powerful and usually malevolent spirit from another world or dimension.
A FINAL REMINDER — THE LIFE STYLE OF A SPELL CASTER
If your character is going to practice ARCANE MAGIC their life style HAS TO REFLECT IT. Perfecting Arcane Magic or Sorcerey is a LIFESTYLE (just as it is for stage magic). It requires dedication and constant practice. To successfully perform magic one requires a certain mind-set. The gathering of components isn't as easy as going to the super-market and buying some herbs. Every ingredient for a spell must be procured at a specific time, in a specific manner and stored in a specific way. Casting a spell requires extreme concentration. Also, depending on the nature of their environment Humans that dabble in magic may be not be the most popular. When people mess with things that they probably shouldn't others tend to keep their distance.
If your character is not meeting the above requirements or something comparable then they are not balanced enough to practice magic. A Human character practicing magic IS NOT about turning them into a Magus. It's to provide members with more versatile Human characters and add another dimension of magic to the site.
TECHNOLOGY vs MAGIC
There are good reasons why the groups with the most powerful mages do not tend to also have the most advanced weapons... It's a matter of practicality, not just of preference.
Excerpt from an interview with Alistair Greene, from 'Combat in the New Era', 2017 documentary by Richard Wainman, courtesy of The Military Channel
"People ask me all the time - okay, well, not ALL the time, but pretty frequently, why the Order doesn't use more heavy weaponry. Now that we've broken away, formed ARMA, I get the question more often. Because most people always thought that it was a pride thing with the Order, looking down on technology and non-magical weapons, but that's not actually the case at all.
See, myself, I used to be an electrical engineer, before Resonance hit. One of the guys who work for me is a computer guy, runs IT - we don't have anything against tech. And since younger people are statistically more likely to have developed powers, that means there's a lot more people who had grown up in the last two decades always having computers and cell phones running around with powers than there are people who grew up without those things. We - myself in particular - have no issues with tech at all. But... there's a deeper problem at work here.
Technology, at its heart, is based on a set of very specific rules. Once humans learned what those rules were, we were able to set ourselves up to take advantage of those rules. Water flows downhill. Electricity moves from high potential to low. A transistor can be used as a gate to switch electricity depending on the voltage applied to the terminals - that sort of thing. And the more and more advanced our tech got, the more important it was that we calculate those rules exactly. Old car engines had a lot of slop in them for instance, the new ones have much tighter tolerances, your cuts have to be more exact, so exact we had to make machines to do it for us. You get the idea? We have to know - know EXACTLY - how the rules work.
Magic screws with all that. Oh, sure, magic has rules of its own - but those rules are different from the ones we humans spent the last three hundred years working out. Worse, magic has the somewhat unique ability to screw with all the other rules we THOUGHT we had worked out. See, magic is the fifth fundamental force. The one that ties the other four together, the one we've been looking for since Einstein. And it can influence the others in ways we could never have anticipated. I can make electricty not flow from high to low. My first apprentice, Alia, could make water flow uphill all day. See, us magi, and to a lesser extent HwAs and metahumans, we're wrenches in the works of everything engineers like me designed before the Nevus appeared.
So maybe if you're following, you get the problem. The reason the Vanguard rolls with Bradleys and missiles and night vision scopes and we don't is because they can carry the damn things and have them work. Me? My particular power comes with a high probability of blowing out any electronic device within ten meters as soon as I start casting. Now, I'm sort of an extreme example, but just the act of casting spells produces waste energy - chaotic mana. Things get 'funny', and shit breaks. If you don't believe me, try and make a phone call the next time you're around a mage who's casting spells. See how long your connection holds. We're bad luck, anytime you're relying on precision with a mechanical or especially an electrical system. Oh, we can still use cell phones or computers, but not when we're getting our mojo on - just not good planning. I keep my phone in a special pocket, shielded. Even then I go through three or four a year.
The problem isn't as bad for non-mages with powers - Empowereds, that is. They really only have an issue if their power happens to interfere with a device in particular. Say, someone with pyrokinesis is probably going to have issues with mechanical devices due to heating, that sort of thing. But people with purely physical abilities are usually closer to alright. There is some evidence that stuff breaks with them more often than usual, too, but not so much that it's obvious.
We don't carry the fancy guns because we can't rely on them. That's why you see us and the Order running around with swords and that sort of thing. Me? I've got my 1911 Colt, and that's about as modern a weapon as I need. Nice pump-action shotgun if I've got a real need. Sometimes I think it's one of the universe's many ways of keeping things balanced. Good news for the city? Most spells don't hit bystanders as easy as stray bullets, or the freakin grenades the Vanguard throws around. I like to look for the silver lining in these things."