Rant 07 - Magic System

Today's topic is the magic system I'm gonna be following in Little Tentus. As the Cast page indicates, magic is a big part of the character's lives, but it's not as simple a system as you see in most games and literature.

At the bottom of the page is a little image that shows the basic layout of the 12 magic classes. Each class can be mixed with another class to form a new class (for example, Earth and Storm equally mixed create the Sandstorm class). Such mixings are not as powerful as a single "pure" class, but they do have their benefits- they are capapable of either very special tasks or they have more rounded capabilities- it depends both on the mix and the user.

On top of that, the mix does not have to be equal- it is actually more common for magic users to be primarily one class with lesser talent in the other. An Air mage with Fire as their secondary talent is officially classed as a "Foehn mage", and can sometimes cast fireballs, even though Air mages shouldn't be able to handle fire.

This means there are really 276 magic classes: 12 pure classes, 132 equal mixes, and another 132 unequal mixes. For simplicity's sake, I'm only going to go over the 12 pure classes and their general characteristics.

As immediately noticeable from the image below, the last four magics (necro, mind, order, and soul) are separated out from the other eight magics. This separation has been an eternal problem for theorists in Yggdrasil, because it seriously disjoints all systems that need to cover both the 4 and the 8. While the 8 magics (usually called the "outer magics") are directly related to each other and aspects of the world, the "inner magics" are only loosely connected to each other and mainly deal with the inner world. Additionally, mixes between the inner and outer magics tend to be less successful than outer mixes.

The solution usually agreed upon is as seen below- the inner magics are held within the outer magics, and can be rotated and repositioned in relation to the outer magics as needed. The configuration below is most common because Necro mixes best with fire, Order with water, Mind with air, and Soul with Earth. (Many mages personally disagree with this statement, because the typical personalities of these mages often clash- Mind mages and Air mages are usually at each others' throats in a week).

As the descriptions above indicate, all magic has been turned to combat in some way or another. This is a problem on several layers- magic is massively more powerful than conventional strategies, and is not unlike nuclear warfare: everyone loses. Also, some magics are just not as suited for combat as others. A Water mage is a great healer, but they just can't kill as easily as Storm mages. Finally, mages are pretty predictable and (in certain ways) limited, so a smart person can outmaneuver any mage with relatively little information. This means a fighting force of mages needs to have a representative of each class, which is extremely difficult to gather and maintain.

Part of the problem is there is no pan-magic institution. No place can teach all magics, despite a great number of attempts- a diverse collection of mages simply can't be trained when clustered together. As a result, there a number of magical institutions that teach a single class of magic, such as Thorheim (the dominant Storm mage school). There are a few schools which offer two or three class, but these classes are always neighbors, and these schools are much smaller in number. The location of magical schools are determined by the class- Thorheim is located on the southern tip of the Raging Teeth, a mountain range which butts into the sea and is known for it's storms.

There are a few doctrines which barely have schools at all- Necromancers have no schools at all, but rather a master-apprentice system that is carefully shrouded in mystery. Similarly, Soul magic is taught by a single master guiding a handful of students, constantly on the move. The process is relatively short and removed from society: Soul students have been known to cause city-wide riots and orgies, at the expense of their own lives.

Results of these differences are remarkable. Earth mages will group together to summon earthquakes and landslides of tremendous size, while Fire mages will go into battle alone, so engulfed in their fire and fury that they are unable to even hear orders. This is where Air mages come into play- a commander with an Air mage at his side should be able to to communicate with all his troops flawlessly, even if he has to use the powers of Mind magic to force other mages to listen. Necromancers hardly ever work with other mages, preferring to operate from the shadows (a necromancer can walk up to someone through the spirit realm and pull out their soul, but once detected they're pretty helpless).

So, part of the definition of a mage is a magic user who can be used for destruction and construction- neither evil or good, though many would claim that Necromancers are inherently evil and Order mages are inherently good. (This is NOT true, many Necromancers actively fight to undo the malignant workings of the undead. Simultaneously, many Order mages malpractice deliberately, which is is devastating for their subjects).

But there are other magic users, that come in a variety of flavors:

As indicated, most magic users don't get along with the other types of magic users. Mages especially brindle at those who artificially acquire magical powers. It is important to note that people who use magic items are not considered magic users, even though sometimes they can appear to be so. Summoners are something of an in-between in this regard- they have to have an item that is bound to the summon through magic to do the summoning, but because they're the one performing the summon magic they're considered magic users.

There is far more to the system of magic which Yggdrasil abides by, but I'll save it for another article later on- this one is quite long enough already. :)

Magic System