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A New Meta-Magic and Game Dynamics

By:

Magic is more prevalent than you might think. Magic is simply the imagining of the Universe in a slightly different state. This results in the Universe being modified to match your imagination. If you can imagine something you can do magic. But only for a very short period of time. This is because there are entities in the Universe dedicated to making sure that everything in it continues to obey a specific set of rules. You might think of these as the 'Laws of Physics'. If something breaks 'The Laws of Physics' these entities move in and dismantle it. Very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that it never really happened!

Meta-Magic

This is a planned magic system which I am building for a campaign World that I am calling Aä. My motivation is to try to remove many of the annoying arbitrary features of most established magic systems and to encourage and facilitate the invention of new spells during gameplay. I also wanted to provide some explanation as to why things work the way they do and provide history and mechanisms that remind us of  things in our real world (such as ley lines… see below).

Magic is a common phenomenon in Aa. In fact, it is so ubiquitous that any sentient being is capable of it. Fortunately, the aptitude to master the academic and intellectual requirements are so demanding that only a few species are able to make use of it and of those the number of competent individuals is very limited.

What magic users are adept at is creating a field that blocks the agents from the area the mage is trying to modify so that he can proceed to build or modify the Universe within without the rude interruptions of the reality agents. When the mage has finished they can close down the field. The agents will then move in and destroy anything they don't like. If what the mage has built does not break the 'Laws of Physics', of course there will be nothing to destroy. This means that certain creations that are able to exist in the non-magical world, once created, can persist after the field has been withdrawn.

For example: A mage creates a ball of fire. He can move it around his environment and even use it to set things in his environment on fire since he controls its temperature. But once the anti-agency field is withdrawn the fireball will disappear. Why? because fire needs fuel to burn so fire without fuel is an impossibility and the agents kill it.

Second example: A mage creates a body of oil which he jettisons towards a target. As the oil leaves the orb above his hand it is ignited. The speed at which the oil moves away from the magician is greater than the speed at which fire spreads through oil so the orb of oil is never ignited. But the stream of oil shooting away from the magician is inflamed. The only aspects of this event that the agents could object to is the unnatural animation of the oil, it's ignorance of gravity and its spontaneous ignition so the anti-agency field need only occupy a volume to accommodate the body of oil and the ignition point. The stream of lit oil is perfectly natural as it is moving under normal inertia and the fire is a natural phenomenon of oil.

So there area number of things that must be learned in order to perform magic. The caster must be able to create the field. They must also be capable of imagining what they want. A vague imagination will create nothing more than an unconvincing illusion whereas a detailed knowledge of the object may  allow it to survive the withdrawal of the anti-agency field. In fact, if the mage wants the object created to persist they must have a knowledge of the object down to the molecular level.

Spells

Learning a particular phenomenon down to the atomic level is particularly demanding so magicians use mnemonics, recipes or stimulus to aid in remembering all the detail that must go into the magical effect. These are known as spells. Many are named after the wizard or witch who did the initial research combined with a description of what the spell does such as Longbottom's Prestidigitator.

Spells that are so simple that they do not require mnemonics of any kind are known as cantons.

Spells may take various forms. The only requirement is that they provide instruction in a professional short-hand on how to achieve the magical effect:

  • Scrolls
  • Songs
  • Music
  • Equations
  • Pictograms
  • etc.

Variables

The ability of a magician depends on the following:

  • Their ability to create and hold an anti-agency field
  • Their ability to create and hold a persistent anti-agency field
  • The length of time they can maintain the field
  • The ability to resist intrusion from another mage
  • The size of field they can produce
  • The ability to change the shape of the field
  • Their ability to imagine the necessary detail of the universe within the field
  • Their ability to split of a fragment of their own soul (or somebody else's) and place it in the field

Knowledge

There are various types of mage (a term used in this article to describe any type of magic user):

Those who devote study to the nature of magic, to the 'Laws of Physics', and to the knowledge of why things are the way they are are known as wizards. They are generally very old before they are able to cast high level magics but they are the most potent users of magic in Aä.

Witches are country magic users and pass on folksy magic spells to their students. Because they are rarely highly educated they are not able to cast persistent magics but make up for this with their ability to manipulate the bodies of animals and people alike.

Monks are able to cast spells with almost the same freedom as wizards but see themselves as agents of their God. Their spells are therefore limited to those they believe their God would wish them to cast.

The fields of study:

  • Anti agent field casting - temporary and persistent fields and dispelling them
  • Forces - the ability to apply a physical resistance or force to a material body
  • Meta-physics - The ability to spontaneously create or manipulate an object at the molecular level
  • Soul casting - the ability to place a micro-soul into a persistent field to imbue it with intelligence

Mechanics

In order to cast a spell a mage must cast an anti-agent field. Within that field he must imagine all the properties of the required spell down to the atomic level. He then withdraws the field and his concentration and if all has gone well he witnesses the result of the spell.

The ability to create an anti-agent field depends upon the Mage's concentration save (if their are distractions) and his fundamental intelligence and his degree of study in field casting as well as any negative factors such as someone trying to prevent the field from being created.

The ability to cast a recorded spell depends on the quality of the record, the Mage's intelligence, the degree of schooling in that spell type and any negative factors.

Recording the spell depends upon having training in the appropriate school and the time taken to record the spell takes the spell difficulty level minus the intelligence minus the training level. The quality of the record depends on the intelligence and the training level.

If the mage wishes to have his spell creation have some ability to think or act on simple conditions he can imbue it with a splinter of his own soul. This, however will cost him some of his casting abilities for a few days and so cannot be done frequently.

Example: To create a golum of moderate intelligence (1000 XP) create the golumn's form in your choice of material (this doesn't have to be part of the spell) then create a persistent anti-agent field around it place the micro-soul inside. The micro-soul is instructed to animate the material accordingly in response to instructions.

 Mana

The ability of a caster to perform magic is also dependant on another variable that is not under the influence of the magic user. When casting spells the Mage is able to modify reality because of the strength of what is called the local mana field. Mana is like brain-food for Magicians and all living things generate it. Similarly all worlds generate their own mana field in varying degrees upon their surfaces. It is therefore not uncommon for magic using cults to build their standing stones, henges, temples and churches where the World's Mana field is high. This gives the local mages more potency to their spells and ultimately, their power over non-magic users.

This results in an interesting phenomena on the landscape of Aä. Because the hot-spots of mana move over the landscape, religious buildings that seek to take advantage of it tend to be 'strung out' over time as the spot moves across the surface of the world. So students may see a standing stone in one particular place, followed by a more elaborate henge , followed by a temple, then a church all aligned on the landscape. Such lines have become known as lay-lines and as one might expect, fore-armed with this knowledge, the lay-line will have an old end and a new end which can be identified by the architecture or artefacts strewn along its length. Any mage will have the sensitivity to discern the strength of the local mana field without the need to cast a spell as easily as someone might tell the ambient temperature.

Game Mechanics

Cast a spell

1st round: Cast anti-agent field (maximum size and available shapes pre-determined by character stats

2nd round: Create change within the field (must have required knowledge of changes and ability to read the spell)

Cast a spell in another mage's anti-agent field

1st round: Challenge field (Highest mage concentration check wins) (If the challenger wins the field is then theirs and they can make changes within.

Dispel another mage's anti-agent field

Dispel field (Highest mage concentration check wins, effect is same as spell failure)



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