(Oh and yes, I have seen the X-files again.)
Here, fantasy meets sci-fi. Aliens have built automatised outposts for the research of this planet. To minimise the chance of influencing the local primitive civilisation, the outposts are well hidden in wild outlying regions. There, pretty much all higher beings are caught by the robotic staff, stunned, examined, and given a small implant for tracking before being released. Satellites in the planet's orbit keep watching them.
But as time has passed, the rare sentient visitors of these places have learned to interact with the implants in a useful way... and now they call it magic. Basic abilities may include: sensing other implant-carriers ('magic-users'), always knowing one's location, attunement to magical ley-lines or sources of power, even manipulating one's metabolism to a degree. Some may develop a supernatural feeling for their surroundings.
The adherents of this school are the equivalent of fantasy rangers - hardy travellers, scouts and even spies. They travel and share knowledge of the the ways of the world. Over the cunturies (or millenia?) of alien research, this has created quite a tradition. Those wishing to wield this magic go on a questing journey, performing rituals (all for colour), and braving dangerous locales to finally meet a higher being... so majestic and splendid that mortal minds cannot grasp it, collapsing at the instance. But if they are worthy, they recieve a gift, a true boon to a traveller.
To choose a student seems to be easy - those that have the 'gift' can learn the tricks, others can't. The loose organisation has but noted that sometimes not so fine candidates recieve the gift, so they try now to keep the important locations a secret, a lost battle apparently. But at least the beings (gods?) pose a challenge that keeps the weaklings at bay - no one that travelled with company has ever recieved the gift. Obviously, one must travel alone, and survive the dangerous journey there and back on his own.
Option 1: Magic has something to do with it, and study of magic can improve and widen these abilities.
Option 2: No magic, it may be a peculiar feature of their anatomy, or the tracking system is dysfunctional, and leaks important information the implant-carriers have learned to use.
In both cases, this 'magic' is only a support for something these people know to do, albeit an important one. Their abilities can be easily hidden, making them great nature guides.
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? Responses (4)
This is an awesome idea to explain the magic. I am also an X-Files junky so I might be biased.
Perhaps some have learned through accident about the implant and are able to kill, steal, and reimplant it into those of their choosing. The type of murder and the specific mutilation afterwards would be a great little mystery for the players as well as introducing them to the possibility of this idea.
Updated: Minor edits done.
A wonderful example of this type of magic can be found in Babylon 5's Technomages - though it's not magic (wink wink), it looks like magic but it is technological.
At the upper end of the power level, technomages could bring spheres of nothingness that acted like short-lived tiny black holes.