Magic & Spirits

Magic of the Pillars is not powered by the will of the caster – the adept’s will is what enables them to command the appropriate spirits to achieve a desired outcome. E.g. A battlemage does not summon fire from thin air to hurl at his enemies: he summons a fire elemental and channels the elemental’s power. It is the same for any kind of spirit – elementals, ‘ancestors’ or demons – they are commanded or coerced to exert their influence in the world.

Because spirits are generally invisible on the material plane this concept is largely unknown by any except magic users. To an uneducated peasant the battlemage above has not interacted with another entity – he has simply created fire and destroyed his enemies with it. Most adepts do little to change this misunderstanding, preferring to be thought of as powerful individuals rather than a conduit.

Arcane

“The parallels between the power of the Prime, once wielded with such disregard by our people, and the energy contained in blood are obvious. I have not come before this conclave to suggest otherwise. I come to you with a warning – do not let our people walk this path again! We drew too deeply once before and became the doom of the world. Put these wilders down now before they destroy what remains of our people.”
    – Keeper Solennus, speaking at the Conclave of Steel, 1057 Sundering.

Arcane magic is different, in that it is fuelled by the essence of the adept – usually by the primal energies contained in blood.. Since the essence of all three Pillars flows through all living things, blood has quintessential qualities and is as close to touching the Prime as can still be had. Many Elves have taken up its use for this reason alone. The initial mastery of Arcane magic focuses on the power of the adept’s own blood. Many who seek an easy road to power fall victim to their own base urges at this level, or draw too deeply and perish.

Order

“Like any tool, an Ancestor spirit will perform it’s chosen task admirably. The true mark of a craftsman, however, is choosing the correct tool. It is perhaps the greatest weakness of the Congregation that we become too easily hidebound, locked by tradition and rote into using the same hammer for every task. The same weakness that has brought us here today.”
    – Magister Ligenn, on trial for heresy, 4th Year of the 23rd Dynasty of House Liann(2182 Sundering)

Order magic draws upon the processes by which all things in the world take their shape or form. Spirits of Order are able to strengthen or align the patterns that all things have – physical or mental. Order is a dominant force in the world and is easily thought of as ‘the good guy’ or as being pure, light, and all things nice. This is, however, rather wrong. Order is structure and purpose. It is rules, laws, traditions and maintaining the status quo. At its strongest, Order is stasis and soul-destroying stagnation.

Order spirits are commonly known as Ancestors, primarily due to how Men first encountered these entities. Attracted to ritual and patterns, these spirits will often take on the form of a being that is being prayed to – thus becoming the ghost or spirit of an honored – and deceased – forebear. Oaths, in particular, attract the attention of Order spririts – many hauntings are actually spirits eternally locked into the pattern of a strong oath, forever unable to fulfill it.

In general, Order mages do not identify or relate to specific spirits of Order. Through rote and ritual, specific patterns of speech or action that the spirits are compelled to obey by their very nature, the adept creates a ‘spiritual picture’ of what is required to be done. The spirit that responds will conform itself to that picture, taking on the qualities assigned by the adept’s ritual. Thus when a priest calls upon Saint Ordelaus the Melancholy to calm an angry mob, she is not summoning the ghost of the saint himself. Whichever spirit is drawn to her prayer will assume the qualities and patterns that the rite invokes, for however long it takes to complete its task.

The primary sources of Order magic, and adepts, are the “Congregation of the Choir of the Seven Saints” in Carathan; and the various orders of Swordmasters and their schools that are found throughout the southern Satrapys. The Congregation is a monolithic religious entity devoted to the worship of the seven daughters of Carathas plus the seven thousand seven hundred and seventy seven identified Saintly Companions. The Swordmasters themselves are not religious orders, but many retired warriors become scholars or travelling sages dedicated to spreading the ascetic traditions of their brotherhood.

Congregation Order mages can often be found carrying around a tome of Litanies from the saints that best represent their goals and endeavours. These weighty books are a focus – a way to structure and organise one’s thoughts before interacting with magic – but their use is entirely customary and has no game mechanic attached to it. Adepts of the Sword Schools often wear a ‘hamoor‘ – a gilded polyhedral amulet engraved with the teachings of the School’s masters.

Creation

“Seek not the counsel of the shaman. What trust can be placed in a man who calls a spirit ‘friend’? What faith can be held in the primitive wisdom of he who worships fire and dirt? Seek out the shaman only to cast him from your sight. Offer him not water or shade.”
   – Hadisha Aguilar, addressing the Council of Khans, 1833 Sundering

Spirits of Creation embody elemental forces – fire, earth, air, water – and they are able to create and manipulate the element they represent. These spirits, or elementals, are generally curious and sociable, albeit in a very atavistic manner. Attracted to physical strength and personal presence, elementals will often further enhance these primal qualities in adepts they trust. Creation magic draws upon two main forces – the strong energy of a pure element (represented by damaging Feats like Elemental Burst), and the subtle weaving of all four elements (represented by Feats of healing or influence).

A shaman generally prefers to form bonds of friendship and camraderie with particular spirits, who will aid and travel with their chosen adept for long periods of time. The elementals will come and go as they please but will always return when called. For many human shamen, having lived on the fringes of society for most of their lives, these spirits may be the only companions they know. There is, in a fashion, a symbiotic relationship. The spirit, through the will of the adept, is able to experience the prime plane and exist in physical form for a short time (something most elementals crave but do not have the power to achieve) whilst the shaman is able to draw upon their magic.

There is a distinct rivalry between the various elementals. It will often be the case that a spirit of a particular element will refuse to help the shaman while a competing elemental is ‘active’. Because each elemental has their own distinct personality a shaman must work hard to master all of the techniques available to them, and only the most dedicated and charismatic can juggle all four elements.

Elemental magic has only become prominent in the last twenty years, since the rise of the Battlemaster. Those acolytes that survived the Battle of Northwatch have helped to spread shamansitic teachings to the Empire and are responsible for training nearly all Carathan adepts. Some hermetic shamen still survive on the fringes of society and a few will pass on their wisdom when sought out. The other primary source of Creation learning is the Dwarves – the duerfolk have clung to the elemental ways for thousands of years and will willingly pass their teachings on – if they can be found.

It is common for northern shamen to tatoo themselves with the names of their spirit companions, usually in intricate and colourful designs that show the spirit’s nature and personality rather than actual text. Adepts in the south are still outcast and do not mark themselves, instead creating songs and dances that portray their companions to other shamen the may meet.

Chaos

“There can be no common ground between men of faith and the infernalist. We seek to build and prosper – he seeks to destroy. We seek knowledge – he seeks to destroy. We seek laws and stability – he seeks to destroy. There is no endeavour of the infernalist that we should not oppose. Root him out with fire and sword wherever he may be found, or face the destruction of all you have built.”
  – Lord Inquisitor Arrenhal, 17th year of the 18th Dynasty of House Orwen(2722 Sundering)

Adepts of Chaos represent both the end of all things and the beginning. Their magic is the forces of entropy and decay, change and disorder. It is the end of the life-cycle, but also the opportunity for new life to begin. Without entropy all things would remain static: unyielding and eternal; but there could be no new life, no change, no inspiration or invention. Chaos mages know this truth better than anybedy else. They work towards the disorder and decay of the world not out of malice but out of necessity.

Chaos spirits, as might be expected, are unpredictable and dangerous. They constantly strive to enter the physical plane, to unleash their energies on the world. Unrestrained, a Chaos spirit is a terrible danger as even the weakest demon is capable of killing the sick or elederly, causing accidents through undue decay, or disordering events to a harmful degree. There is an apocryphal anecdote of Siberrus – a Chaos adept of antiquity – who summoned a tiny imp to bedevil a rival. The spirit  was released to work it’s mischief and, over the course of a year, it weakened the keystone of an important bridge. When the stone gave way the bridge collapsed, killing not only the rival but Sibellus’ wife, children, and three hundred others. The lesson offered is that even the most insignificant spirit of Chaos must be mastered.

A Chaos spirit will promise an Adept anything to win it’s freedom and a mage must possess a razor wit and a strong personality to see past the lies. Most dealings with such spirits are a bargain of sorts between parties that dare not trust each other, both seeking an unfair advantage over the other, the prize potetentially being reality itself. Contrary to the teachings of Order, however, a spirit of Chaos has little use for a person’s soul – the infernal, soul-trading bargains made popular by scripture and Order mythology are just that: a myth.

Due to the actions of powerful Chaos adepts at key moments in history, as well as the antithetical relationship between Order and Chaos, adepts of this Pillar are villified and feared, more so than almost anyone else. Persecuted for a millennia by the Congregation, hunted and executed by the Satrap Swordmasters, Chaos adepts  must study in secret. They are extremely reclusive, operating in small cabals numbering no more than three or four students. They have their own language and covert signals with which to identify each other on the rare occasions that they venture away from their havens.

Each sect of Adepts is as different from each other as the spirits they work with. The masters of the northern Chaos Marches are a death cult, practising human sacrifice. They actively summon Chaos spirits into the world, binding them into humans and animals, and setting them free to wreak havoc upon the hated Carathan Empire. By contrast the Imperial sect that enjoys the protection of the Battlemaster are loremasters and warriors, working their Chaos magic only when absolutely neccesary. What few Adepts survive in the Satrapys are reclusive and subtle in the extreme.


One Response to “Magic & Spirits”

  1. Cool…
    All makes sense to me and fits into your campaign background.
    How are you going to manage some of the normal powers attributed to more powerful undead that don’t fall into those available under the “Sphere of Order”? Things like befuddlement/mind control, cold attacks or life force drain?
    Two options as I see it… Either you say they don’t have these powers in your world, or you develop a special branch of the Arcane Sphere only available to undead, necromancers, certain witches etc. I think it would fit into your thoughts on Arcane being powered by life essence or blood. I also think it will give you a basis for the development of vampires…
    Just some thoughts…
    D

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