The Nature of Magic Edit
"Magic" is a catch-all term for the various forces of Power that may be drawn upon within the supernatural world. Before the Dawn does not follow any specific canonical framework for magic, as magic can be accomplished via varied means and come from varied sources, from the natural world to the extraplanar. Therefore, this page does not attempt to define magic in a thematic sense--magic is complex and cannot be easily encapsulated--but to offer ways to approach writing magic onto a character sheet.
Varieties of Magic Edit
Sources and Types of Power Edit
There are nearly innumerable possible sources of magical power and varieties of applying it. As such, we will not attempt to offer an exhaustive list. Instead, we will provide a few examples, as noted below:
- Primal forces of nature (Such as druidic magic and witchcraft)
- Powerful spirit sources (Such as divine or infernal powers)
- Extraplanar energies (Power from other dimensions)
- Will-working and mentalism (Psionic effects)
- Sorcery and wizardry (Channeling personal power)
- Chi mastery and personal energy manipulation
Magical Foci Edit
Magic is a potent force, no matter where it comes from. Whether fueled by a primal force of life, an arcane spiritual power, or another form of mystic energy, magic tends to be powerful and difficult to control without some kind of aid. The following are examples of elements used to focus magic, making it easier to accomplish and control various effects.
Blood and Personal Tokens Edit
Common in many forms of thaumaturgy, many magical effects are accomplished by linking them to an intended target with a token, such as an item of personal significance, a lock of hair, a drop of blood, or similar. This allows spells to "lock on" to a specific intended target, which can make finding and tracking it much easier.
Circles of Power Edit
Magic circles are used to focus power into specific shapes, usually to channel significant energies. They are often particularly useful for protection or containment effects, often able to enclose a particular kind of being inside. Some circles depend on intricate patterns and specific designs to work, whereas others are merely temporary vessels for a magic-user's power.
Incantations are verbal foci used by spellcasters to help shape a magical effect. They often work in tandem with particular ritual gestures and may require the use of other foci as well. Incantations follow, broadly, two major categories: They may serve to shape the thoughts of the caster, aiding them in focusing their will to create a given effect, or they may be invocations to other powers, asking or commanding their intervention in the spell. Incantations are often done in ancient languages, sometimes because this is psychologically convenient for the caster and sometimes because it is necessary to complete a particular invocation.
Potions are very common in alchemy as a medium of enchanting a magical effect into a form that can be rendered airborne, imbibed, or in some cases combusted. However the potion is activated or consumed, this is what enacts the spell effect, usually consuming the potion in the process. A major strength of potions is allowing a complex effect to be prepared ahead of time, then rendered portable for quick enactment at the time of need.
Runes and Sigils Edit
Sigils work similarly to circles of power, giving magic a shape to inhabit and thus a physical location to center upon. Sigils are also often used in enchantment as a way to "anchor" a spell to an object or being. Runes are similar to sigils, though they tend to be alphabetic in nature as opposed to pictographic, but they often function similarly. Notably, in many cases runes may also function similarly to incantations (as discussed above).
Spells and Rituals Edit
Spells and rituals are perhaps the most famous method of enacting magic. They may require particular reagents, additional foci, incantations, or somatic components to complete them, but spells and rituals essentially require the completion of a specific set of instructions to achieve a specific outcome. In some cases, a spell or incantation may be a much more loose focus for a more complex effect, but in that case the magic must be more directly controlled by the caster's own will.
Tools, Staves, and Wands Edit
Staves and wands can be either fairly simple vessels that allow greater amounts of power to be channeled safely or more complex devices that allow for specific effects, such as a wooden rod that is prepared and enchanted to specifically enhance quick evocation, such as throwing fireballs or blasts of force. Notably, not all tools are wands or staves: jewelry, such as rings, is quite popular, and more unusual objects, even tattoos, can also be highly effective foci for magic.
Forms and Forces Edit
Much as it comes from many sources and can be focused and cast in many ways, magic also takes many varied forms, manipulating an array of forces to innumerable different effects. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, merely a representation of some of the major forms and forces of magic.
Alchemy is the process of combining various reagents to accomplish a specific task, such as transmuting elements or brewing potions. It can be highly scientific and exact or more like cooking and heavily influenced by the personality of the alchemist. As a form of magic, alchemy is most commonly performed by brewing potions, which has the effect of preparing an effect in advance for quick activation at a later time.
"Charms" is a bit of a catch-all term for magic that can be done more quickly and on the fly than enchantment yet tends to be subtler and less flashy than evocation. Charms tend to be smaller scale effects, such as quick illusions or mental projections, localized perception and detection spells, short-term (or actively sustained) utility effects, or more subtle and complex manipulations of the energies used in other magic, such as the elementalism common in evocation.
Enchantments are, broadly speaking, spells that are designed to last a while. This may mean imbuing an object with special magical properties, attaching an effect (such as an illusion or ward) to a particular location, or even casting a lasting spell over the person or mind of another being. Enchantment may be done with an array of different foci, including alchemical potions, though some combination of runes, sigils, and circles of power are often used for the most potent and stable enchantments.
Evocation is the kind of magic performed by true spell-slingers: force manipulation, elemental control, making things go "boom," and other big, flashy effects are very common effects in evocation. While subtle applications of evocation are certainly possible, it tends to boil down to fairly immediate cause and effect, a force being applied to achieve an immediate and direct result. Foci tend to be easy to use and quick, such as wands, staves, enchanted objects, or incantations.
Psychic Powers Edit
Psychic powers are extremely varied, but they are most commonly characterized by only limited use of foci. In general, these effects can accomplish what of what magic can do, though usually in a somewhat more specific, narrow way; psi-powers cannot usually be altered the way spells can be, though within their particular effect they can be as potent or used with as much finesse as any sorcery. When foci are used, they are almost always objects of merely psychological significance, and often psychic powers are controlled by will alone.
Thaumaturgy refers to the practice of using a focus to link a spell to a particular target. This may then be paired with whatever spell effects (such as charms, enchantments, or evocation) are designed to be used upon the target. Perhaps the most classic pop culture example of thaumaturgy in this respect is the "voodoo doll," where a token is used to create a focus object that represents the target, and then whatever is inflicted upon the token will be mirrored back onto whatever target the token represents.
Magical Effects Edit
Divination is used to discover or perceive information that is not readily apparent, including scrying, dowsing, reading the past, or telling the future. It may incompass "The Sight," or special senses available to those with magically enhanced perceptions, such as reading auras, tracking magical energies, sensing spells or magical effects, or perceiving extraplanar energies.
Examples of divination:
- Basic - Use a thaumaturgic tracking spell to locate someone in the city. Perceive ambient magical energies or planar breaches. Read the auras of others nearby to determine basic disposition and active magic.
- Enhanced - Use a thaumaturgic ritual to quickly locate someone within the hemisphere and track recent movements. Perceive the details of spells cast recently nearby by examining ambient energies. Detect likely sites to open planar rifts or doorways. Read the auras of others nearby to determine emotional state and passive magic, perhaps including mystic potential or the nature of a creature. Read the imprints left by the aura of someone who was recently in an area to determine basic disposition and previously active magic.
- Supernatural - Use a thaumaturgic ritual to quickly locate someone anywhere in the world, track recent movements, and read lingering aura traces from afar. Perceive the details of spells cast at some distance and discern elements of the caster's identity without additional effort. Detect sites for planar openings, as well as have a clear idea of what lies on the other side of the potential doorway before it is opened. Read the auras of others even at a distance to determine emotional state, magical potential, and perhaps surface thoughts. Easily read even fading mystic residues to determine presences or magics cast in an area.
Elementalism is used to conjure and control the elements of nature. These are often perceived to fall around a classical schema, breaking down into categories such as air, wood, fire, water, stone, earth, metal, and so forth. A number of advanced effects are possible, but the general idea is bending the elements to one's will. Generally, it is easier to make the elements behave more as they would do in nature--summoning lightning from a storm is much easier than from thin air, and whipping up a storm during monsoon season is much easier than during a dry spell. Typically, the larger the effect, the less fine control is easily possible, while smaller effects can be more intricate and complex.
Examples of elementalism:
- Basic - Conjure and control an element (light or douse a small fire, summon or shift wind, move a mound of dirt, magnetize metal, summon or control a small water source); agitate elemental conditions (summon lightning from a storm, enhance a breeze to a strong wind); sway living elements (cause tree branches to move, cause seeds to grow, make flowers bloom), etc.
- Enhanced - Summon and manipulate an element (light or douse a large fire, cast a fireball, whip up or redirect a gale force, split open the earth, shift large metal masses, bring forth and direct a large water source); create elemental conditions (summon lightning from a clear sky, call forth a storm); command living elements (cause trees to move, cause saplings to leap to maturity, spread flowers across a barren valley), etc.
- Supernatural - Master an element (create or douse an inferno, command an entire firestorm, whip up or control a large hurricane, reshape the earth or cause a large-scale groundquake, master the shape and state of larger masses of metal, summon or direct a very large water source); master elemental conditions (control weather across a region, command lightning against targets from a distance without a thaumaturgic focus); master living elements (summon groves of trees from barren soil, command the movements of forests, spread flowers across an entire town), etc.
Healing magic is simple enough to understand, though its potency and methods vary widely. Many different possible foci and methods may be used, though enchantment and alchemy (often via herbalism and potions) are common. Healing can range from simple cures and accelerated natural recovery to instant restoration of damage, replacement of limbs, or even resurrection from the dead.
Examples of healing magic:
- Basic - Cure minor illnesses or restore superficial injuries instantly. Repair serious injuries at many times normal speeds. Increase chances of full recovery and reduce recovery time for serious illnesses or toxin exposure.
- Enhanced - Cure serious illnesses or restore serious injures near instantly. Restore extensive damage, such as missing limbs, over a few days time. Restore those who have just died to life if their souls have not departed. Expunge toxins or similar agents instantly.
- Supernatural - Restore a seriously maimed or dismembered person to full health instantly. Dispel any toxin or illness instantly. Restore the dead so long as enough of their body remains to be healed and their spirit has not departed. (Restoring a dessicated corpse or conjuring spirits count as necromancy and spiritualism.)
Kinetomancy is essentially the same as telekinesis: manipulating kinetic and physical forces via magic. This can allow levitation, gravity manipulation, flight, force blasts, remote manipulation, kinetic shields, and other such effects. Range is usually limited to line-of-sight without some particular focus or method to allow long-range manipulation.
Examples of kinetomancy:
- Basic - Exert physical force up to "Basic" level (the equivalent of normal human strength or simple weapons), whether lifting or attacking. Create shields that will withstand Basic-level impacts and partially resist Enhanced impacts.
- Enhanced - Exert physical force up to "Enhanced" level, whether lifting or attacking. Create shields that will withstand Enhanced-level impacts and partially resist Supernatural impacts.
- Supernatural - Exert physical force up to "Supernatural" level, whether lifting or attacking. Create shields that will completely withstand even Supernatural-level impacts for at least a time.
Illusionism is the art of deceiving the senses, conjuring up the perception of that which is not actually there. These can range from small displays, which are clearly not real but may be pleasing to look at, to complex glamours that can ensnare the senses and leave a victim completely convinced of an entirely false reality. They are most commonly cast by charm, psi-effect, or enchantment and may draw upon any combination of foci.
Examples of illusionism:
- Basic - Conjure a small illusion, such as a simple object or a fairly straightforward glamour not much larger than a room or that is not extensively interactive. Usually effects only one to two senses convincingly. (Books that cannot be opened and read, simple invisibility screens.)
- Enhanced - Conjure a larger illusion, such as an object with detailed or moving parts or a moderately complex glamour not much larger than a building or that allows for moderate interaction. Usually effects several senses at once, perhaps all. (Books that can be opened and read, a reasonably convincing "holodeck" style room.
- Supernatural - Conjure complex and expansive illusions, such as fully interactive doppelgangers that don't require direct supervision. Usually affects all senses, even supernatural senses, to a nearly infallible degree. (Intricate glamours, sufficient to convince a person that they are living a whole alternate life, or merely Enhanced-level illusions expanded over an extremely large area.)
Mentalism covers effects of the thoughts and psyche, such as telepathy, mental influence, and mental warding. Note that for the purposes of this taxonomy, some classically "psychic" effects do not fall under this category. For example: "ESP" would be a kind of Divination, Telekinesis would fall under Kinetomancy, and fooling the senses would be an application of Illusionism. For our purposes, mentalism refers strictly to effects on and between minds and thoughts. Method and focus are often psychic in nature, though of course they can be achieved via many means.
Examples of mentalism:
- Basic - Mental influence akin to simple compulsion or hypnosis that can be resisted by those of moderate to strong (Competent) willpower. Defense against such influences. Telepathy with a willing or unshielded subject at close range or via a strong personal connection or thaumaturgical link.
- Enhanced - Mental influence akin to overt domination, such as holding another in one's thrall. Such powers can only be resisted by mystic defenses or exceptional (Expert) personal willpower. Defense against such influences. Telepathy with a mind of up to Competent willpower or Basic mental defenses at up to regional distance or via strong personal connection or thaumaturgical link.
- Supernatural - Mental influence akin to mass hypnosis or extreme domination that can be partially resisted by those of Expert willpower or those with Enhanced level mystic wards. Defense against such influences. Telepathy with a mind of up to Expert willpower or Enhanced mental defenses at up to continental distance or via strong personal connection or thaumaturgical link.
For the purposes of this taxonomy, "necromancy" strictly refers to the physical practice of animating and manipulating formerly living entities--dead things. Trafficking with spirits would fall under Spiritualism, Healing is a separate ability, and shaping dead flesh into other things would be considered Transformation. These can all be played as linked abilities of course, but for the sake of writing them up they should be identified separately. Necromancy, like most magic, can be potentially accomplished using nearly any focus and method, but spells and rituals are perhaps the most common.
Note that some versions of necromancy are similar to enchantment and may be placed upon the target, then left to their own devices. Other forms may require the magic to be actively kept up, often using a specific focus such as the beat of a drum.
Examples of necromancy:
- Basic - Animate a few small undead creatures at once without great effort. Using a focus and ritual, summon a zombie or two at a time. Complete powerful necromantic rituals that a mere ritualist could not.
- Enhanced - Animate a few zombies at once without great effort. Using a focus and ritual, summon up to a few dozen zombies. Complete and create powerful necromantic rituals that a mere ritualist could not.
- Supernatural - Animate up to a few dozen zombies at once without great effort. Using a focus and ritual, summon a mass zombie horde. Complete and create necromantic rituatals of legendary or mythical power.
Spiritualism, also known as ectomancy, governs all forms of trafficking in souls, consorting with spirits, and commanding spiritual energies. This includes the summoning, containing, trapping, binding, and/or exorcising of various spirits and spiritual beings (ghosts, non-corporeal demons, and so forth). Common foci are magic circles and sigils used along with specific spells and rituals to achieve the desired effect. Some forms of spiritualism are known to require rare and difficult to obtain spell components and reagents, making it a potentially expensive practice.
Examples of spiritualism:
- Basic - Summon a minor spirit or interact with ghosts without great effort. With use of specific ritual or focus, summon and contain an average strength spirit. Exorcise minor spirits without a ritual.
- Enhanced - Summon a major spirit (or multiple lesser spirits) or interact with or (temporarily) banish most ghosts without great effort. With use of specific ritual or focus, summon and bind a number of average strength spirits or one greater spirit. Exorcise average strength spirits without a ritual.
- Supernatural - Summon major spirits or command average strength spirits without great effort. Interact with, command, or (permanently) banish most ghosts without great effort. With use of specific ritual and focus, summon and bind a number of greater spirits. Exorcise above average strength spirits without a ritual.
Transformation involves any magics that physically change one object or being into another shape or form. Transfiguring straw or lead into gold, changing a prince into a frog, or even simply altering a person's features or adding an animal's wings or claws to a human are all possible applications of transformation. It ranges across all methods, and virtually any focus may be possible--however, enchanted animal skins and belts are common examples of specific transformation ritual foci. Notably, these are often enchanted so that the bearer does not need to use magic to utilize them.
Examples of transformation:
- Basic - Change one small object into another (a pencil into a knife, a teacup into a ball) or make minor alterations to a living creature without great effort. Using rituals and foci, achieve a full body human or animal transformation, alter an object's mass and properties extensively, or transform living matter into non-living matter.
- Enhanced - Change a larger object into another (a chair into a table, a motorcycle into a block of cement) or make extensive alterations to a living creature, up to full-body transformation, without great effort. Transform living matter to non-living matter without great effort. Using rituals and foci, convert matter from a non-living to a living state (a staff to a tree, a wax figure to a living creature), or transmute matter into energy (or back again).
- Supernatural - Transform objects extensively (altering shape, size, and properties extensively), fully transform multiple living creatures, or transform matter between living and non-living stats without great effort. Using rituals and foci, freely transform substances between matter and energy, alter the properties of matter so that they are not bound by the laws of physics, or transmute mass quantities of substance, such as turning a mountain into gold.
Transportation covers a wide variety of magics, all pertaining to movement through space and time. These magics may enhance speed, dilate time, open Ways or portals through other dimensions, or allow for instant teleportation. It should be noted that these magics do not allow for enhanced reflexes or "super speed" effects, beyond simply getting quickly from Point A to Point B.
Examples of transportation:
- Basic - Travel up to a few miles in seconds.
- Enhanced - Travel up to a few hundred miles in seconds.
- Supernatural - Travel up to intercontinental distances in seconds.
Warding magic allows the user to create barriers or wards, preventing transportation through a certain area. (This applies to physical transportation. Wards against spirits or mental energies would be handled by Spiritualism and Mentalism, respectively.) Method and focus vary widely for these abilities, though in many case they are activated in specific, well-learned patterns by will alone.
Examples of warding:
- Basic - Without great effort, create a ward of Basic strength level that will keep out humans and beings of lesser power. With time, ritual, and focus, create wards of much greater power (seal a house or safe room).
- Enhanced - Without great effort, create a ward of Enhanced strength level that will keep out beings of moderate power. With time, ritual, and focus, create wards of much greater power (seal a fortress or, at the high end, a city).
- Supernatural - Without great effort, create a ward of Supernatural strength level that will keep out beings of greater power. With time, ritual, and focus, create wards that will keep out virtually anything (seal a dimensional barrier, such as the gates of Hell).
Drawbacks and Consequences Edit
Some forms of magic can be highly intoxicating, particularly to undisciplined human practitioners. As a result, they can have a seductive, even addictive nature. This has led to some very dark behaviors and even, in the seedier parts of the mystic community, trafficking in magic not unlike street drugs. Magic addiction is not to be taken lightly, as it can be just as destructive--if not more so--than drug or alcohol addiction.
The Price Edit
It is often cited that "magic always comes with a price." While this is perhaps a more complicated fact than the statement implies, that does not mean there isn't truth to it. Some forms of magic carry overt side-effects or costs that are unforeseen, unintended, or highly dangerous. Other forms simply require a great deal of work or even sacrifice to accomplish. However, even in the cases of more above-board and straightforward magics that seem to have little cost, there is always that old axiom about the responsibilities of power.
Rule of Three Edit
Some forms of magic and magical traditions follow a system of karmic debt and surplus. This is often called the "rule of three," indicating that whatever effects one performs with magic are karmically visited back upon one, but threefold. (Thus, if one uses magic selflessly and kindly, one tends to accrue good karma, while if one is selfish or cruel, that will also eventually come back on one.) This does not hold true for all magics in all cases, and the "number factor" varies, but much magic does seem to have some sort of karmic factor associated with it.
Selflessness Clause Edit
Some traditions of magic, particularly those of very "white magic" or similar, go farther than the rule of three, forbidding magic-users from any selfish casting at all. This might be, in some cases, more of a rule or tradition (perhaps to avoid the karmic backlash alluded to above), while in other cases it is a mystic imperative. Either way, there are definitely magics that seem to function best when used only selflessly and at need, making selfish or frivolous use of magic a very dangerous proposition.
Technological Disruption Edit
While many forms of magic seem to be entirely compatible with the modern world, some more primordial forms of spellcasting carry a potent disharmony when it comes to technologies. The result is that, around practitioners of such arts, technology tends to break down more quickly, fail more frequently, and generally become unreliable at best or, at worst, useless (or even dangerous). Many theories have been fielded as to why this might be, but a prominent one is that because magic alters the fabric of reality, it is also affected by changes to said fabric. Technology, by dynamically affecting the way that reality is experienced for many living creatures, has a similarly dramatic effect on the world as magic--and magic takes up to a few generations to accept a new technology as a normal part of the world. (This, it may be supposed, is likely a direct result of the collective unconscious of such practitioners of the art, who tend to be long-lived and quite set in their ways.)