Hello, everyone! Welcome to Day Twenty-Seven. Today is a day for magecraft, it seems! I’ll be walking us through two connected areas of magic’s integration with society in the Twin Spirals, and then the myriad pitfalls of shapeshifting when magic and science are the same thing. Designate a claw-trimmer and let’s jump in!
Snippet #1: Enchantment (Worlds: Any)
Most folk understand what enchantment is at the simplest level: a magic-wielding entity–usually a mage–creates a sustained arcane effect tied to a certain object or location. They may have the perception that in most cases enchantments aren’t applied to living people except for malign purposes, but not really understand why. The answer to the first runs simple, and the reader may have guessed it already depending on which of these archives they’ve read: placing enchantments on living flesh mutates and weakens that flesh with raw magic exposure.
Or rather, it can. All developed enchanting traditions draw a distinction between self-sustaining enchantments–some schools view this as the “truer” kind–and time or use-limited enchantments. This distinction is intuitive, but its implications may not be. A limited enchantment exhausts its charge and collapses; this includes everything from a lightning spell placed on a sword prior to battle, to warming dinner plates to keep an evening’s meal warm that much longer, to the all-wards a mage places upon their companions.
Limited enchantments add no extra wrinkles nor dangers because they function just the same as any other single-action spell. The magic invested in them isn’t raw magic at all, but a continuous energy pattern dedicated to a particular purpose. Thus, if a mage just wants to increase an ally’s strength or speed–or both!–for a few minutes, there’s no risk of mutation. If not for this principle, arcane healing would be impossible.
The trouble with self-sustaining enchantments, then, is that no mage can channel a limitless amount of magic in one casting–not that the current in any one place is limitless either! The enchantment must refresh itself from local supplies of current. It may do so two ways: first, it may pull a continuous stream of raw magic which creates all the usual dangers for any object or creature in the vicinity. Unnerving, but possible to counteract with warded amulets.
Certain areas of any arcane college are off-limits to non-mages because of the feedback loop created by enchantments and the enchantments needed to ward against those enchantments. Not ideal, and often silly-sounding when discussed, but workable. Alternatively, a mage might craft an enchantment to refresh itself at a set interval. This mostly avoids a continuous bleed of raw magic, but adds two serious concerns.
First, the interval can’t be changed without recasting the enchantment and wasting any of its store power. So even if the interval is timed such that the enchantment will try to refresh itself in an area with no current–which might have catastrophic consequences depending on what the enchantment actually does–the mage cannot change it without wasting their work.
Second, a continuous refresh means that the enchantment is always fully active. This allows no chance for its spellcraft to decay, or worse, fail entirely. An enchantment which refreshes by interval becomes less stable over time, the inconsistencies in its energy pattern becoming more pronounced until it collapses entirely.
Few enchantments have ever outright detonated; sans outside interference, all have been interval-refresh enchantments. Uses might exist for this method, but most mages prefer to keep matters simple.
Snippet #2: Arcane Entertainment (Worlds: Any)
Give a sapient species the power to reshape reality and they’ll use it to put on a play just as often as they use it to move mountains. While the crotchety old hands at this arcane college or that isolated enclave might scoff at “frivolizing the arcane,” working as an entertainer is both more fulfilling for many mages and less dangerous for all concerned. The mage can rely more on illusions and other low-power, low-complexity forms of spellcasting. The audience, meanwhile, are in far less danger of being blasted to superheated vapor by a miscast!
There’s a final point, and harder to quantify: sapient beings quickly become leery of any power they don’t understand, especially a power greater than themselves. If they live long enough, mages come to wield power akin to a demigod’s, and understand the universe on many levels a non-mage just can’t reach. It’s easy to view them as some terrifying other, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that this be avoided. A war between mages and mundane folk would most likely annihilate a species. Mage-entertainers help to soften ordinary folk’s perception of the Gift, reducing the likelihood of such wars.
There are two common kinds of mage-entertainer. First are illusionists, who provide scenery, special effects, and numerous other flourishes for plays as their most frequent purview. Most illusionists are invokers for the simple reason that there’s no better way to create illusions than casting magic directly via one’s imagination–if an illusionist can conceive of a sight, a sound, or anything else, they can create it.
The Teman master illusionist, Kyerosk Milowicz, had such skill that he could use kinetic energy spells–everything from footing to flight!–and illusions in tandem to simulate an entire stage where none actually existed. It took a courageous team of actors to work with him, but no other production matched the ethereal feel created by his gauzy, vision-like stages.
Manipulators are the other primary class of mage-entertainer; they perform absurd feats of spellcraft and control with existing mundane objects. This may range from creating shifting mazes of metal and (carefully secured!) glass in the midst of a specialized park to running contests of skill for ordinary people: arcane-enhanced archery ranges, athletics courses, acrobatic trials, and so on.
Snippet #3: Shapeshifting (Worlds: Any)
For certain spirits, particularly demons, shapeshifting comes with existence itself: the same will and imagination which allow a burgeoning demon to assume a full physical form allow them to change that form however they like. It’s not only intuitive, but often produces better results than the demon themselves expected–even spirits have a subconscious, and a demon’s intuitive power use allows this deeper area of being and the conscious mind to work in harmony. Some demons put no conscious thought into their true forms at all.
All this exists in stark contrast to the painstaking work a mortal mage undertakes in clawing their way to something half as good. First, the mage must study anatomy in considerable depth, coming to understand the body’s inner workings well albeit not perfectly. Learning the processes of growth and mutation, as well as their potential problems, goes a long way to ensuring the spell’s success. They must refine the mere process of spellcasting to great lengths; the reader may remember that a mage’s own body acts as the conduit to bring the current into the physical world.
One should consider just how disruptive to the current it is to have that conduit changing shape and size even as it flows! Even those mages with the know-how often lack the control to cast a shapeshifting spell to completion. The unpleasant or even painful sensations of bone crushing or extending, skin stretching and tautening, chemicals shifting to create different pigmentation: there’s good reason shapeshifting is among the few forms of spellcasting other than battle-magic itself which mages consider inherently dangerous.
For this reason, those who attempt it usually rely on charms or other forms of stored enchantment to shift back and forth. They lay the spell in beforehand, and thus needn’t worry about what happens should they lose control. This limits them to just a few forms–moreso, that is, because a mage must study every species they mean to shift into. Knowledge of human anatomy lends itself only to becoming a different-looking human or changing one’s gender; both desirable for many mages for many reasons, but hardly the whole school of shapeshifting.
In order to become a member of a different species, especially an animal species, the mage must understand biology well enough to account for the inevitable or else lose things they might rather keep. A wolf’s brain simply doesn’t possess the same cognitive power or structure as a human. The color-blindness might be considered novel, or a liability, but either way, the shapeshifter must account for these changes in their preparations. A larger wolf-body might allow them to conceal a human brain within it; some shapeshifters go as far as to work out a simulated brain of pure magic.
In cases like the latter, it’s no surprise that ambitious shapeshifters become very, very odd people.
There we go, Day Twenty-Seven is over and done! It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, but fear not–I’ll still be posting before I leave for dinner with my family. Friday’s entry might be especially delayed since I’ll be staying overnight. Until then, please leave me any thoughts you have to offer in the comments, drop a like, and share this lore with anyone you think might like it. You could also follow me on Twitter!