Magic in MK2K:
What makes someone a mage?
Can I use magic without being a mage?
What's the nature of magic in MK2K?
Types of Magic
What can magic do?
Magic is carefully regulated, for obvious reasons of safety. Magically adept children are identified at an early age and fitted with restraining bands (called leashes on the Street) that keep their talents from manifesting. Once they are old enough, they can join any of numerous mages' guilds and begin learning to use their abilities, or they can choose to keep the restraint and not develop their magic.
A restrained Talent, as those with magical aptitude are called, may
choose to join a guild at any time in his life, and thus be free of the restraint.
Enforcement of the magic codes is conducted by the Imperial Bureau of Magic
Regulation (BMR). The BMR works with the local police Magic Affairs section
in much the same way that the Bureau of Illicit Substances works hand-in-hand
with local Narcotics officers. A Magic Affairs section is required to remand
suspects to the BMR for prosecution if a BMR agent requests it.
Some people manage to get their restraints removed -- illegally -- without
joining a guild. These rogues are called wolves on the Street, to distinguish
from dogs who are still "on the leash". Rogue mages are generally
very powerful but very undisciplined; those that are not captured find their
way into one of the numerous mage-gangs that live in the inner cities of the
Empire. In these surrogate families they can receive some training in the use
of the powers and become less of a danger to themselves and their friends, though
the criminal nature of these gangs generally means that they end up causing
a lot of damage to other people and property. Gang wars are commonplace, with
members of different magical alignments staging feuds with each other -- the
Pyros may have a vendetta against the Mentalists, for example.
While the idea of the restraining bands makes some folk uncomfortable, it is generally viewed as a necessary sacrifice of freedom in order to protect everyone. Just as you have to be trained in the use of a handgun before you are allowed to own it, mages must be trained in the use of their power before they can be allowed to wield it. Fortunately, the wide variety of guilds available means that there are plenty of options for mages, and no one has to feel like they're forced to go along with a particular guild's way of doing things -- there are probably two or three others that teach the same magic in different ways.
Most mages' guilds use the same system of ranks to classify their members. These ranks take into account inherent talent, learned skill, and overall power level, and determine a mage's place in the guild's hierarchy.
Neophyte: A probationary member of a guild. At this stage young Talents are introduced to the basic concepts and philosophy of magic used by the school, and evaluated for their worthiness and compatability with the school's practices. They are also usually assigned menial chores within the guild, as an exercise in humility. It is not uncommon for a Talent to become a neophyte at two or more guilds before deciding on the one she wishes to follow.
Apprentice: Here the program of study begins in earnest. There are four degrees of apprenticehood, usually called zelator, theoricus, practicus, and philosophus. The names of the degrees reflect the apprentice's level of knowledge: the zelator has enthusiasm but little else; the theoricus has learned the basic underlying theory of magic; the practicus has begun learning how to put that theory into practice; and the philosophus has a more in-depth understanding of the school's philosophy of how and why magic is to be used. Apprentices are also taught the importance of maintaining a healthy body and mind, though the exact nature of this training varies widely between schools. Each degree takes about a year to complete, though particularly talented individuals may progress more rapidly.
Actual spells are first taught in the third degree, beginning with simple cantrips. A graduating fourth-degree apprentice is roughly equivalent to a 1st-level caster in D&D terms.
Journeyman: At this point the mage has become skilled enough at his craft that he is able, without the need for guidance, to carry out his duties with relative skill. The important qualifications are the ability to (1) perform ritual magic, (2) craft minor talismans and enchantments, (3) write magic scrolls, and (4) demonstrate expert knowledge of magical theory. A journeyman should be able to do these things with little difficulty. Each degree of journeyman must also be able to prepare, in one sitting, a certain minimal number of spells for instantaneous casting (usually at least seven for the first degree, nine for the second degree and twelve for the third degree).
There are three commonly-used degrees of journeyman: Adeptus Minor, Adeptus Major, and Adeptus Exemptus. To become an adeptus minor, or minor adept, one must display mastery in two of the four qualifications mentioned above, and a good working knowledge of the other areas. The adeptus major, or major adept, must display mastery in all four areas. To become an adeptus exemptus (also called an exempt adept or senior journeyman), the mage must then compose and present a thesis based on original magical research, essentially creating a new spell. At this point the journeyman is exempt from periodic testing, and is licensed to conduct independent magical research without the supervision of an advisor; she has essentially "graduated" from the guild's school.
A minor adept is equivalent to a 2nd- or 3rd-level caster in D&D, while a major adept equates to a 3rd- or 4th-level caster. An exempt adept is equivalent to at least a 5th-level caster; most mages never develop their talents much beyond this. About 2% of the population of Metamor City, or about 300,000 people, are registered as mages of exempt adept status or higher.
Master: While an exempt adept can practice magic on his own without supervision, he must be certified as a master before he may instruct others in the practice of magic (though senior journeymen often teach guild classes under the supervision of a master). The requirements for mastery vary between guilds, but they always involve a high degree of skill in enchanting and magical research.
Senior journeymen are eligible to become masters when they reach a level of proficiency equivalent to a 10th-level caster in D&D terms. There are typically three degrees of mastery, equivalent to 10th-11th, 12-13th, and 14th-level casters; the names of these degrees can be quite esoteric, and are usually based on the philosophy or iconography of the school in question. In practical terms, these are equivalent to associate faculty, junior faculty, and senior faculty within the guild's school. There are about 35,000 master mages registered in Metamor City.
High Master: This is the highest rank a mage can achieve, equivalent to a 15th-level caster or higher in D&D terms. High masters are the leaders of mages' guilds, deans of the guild schools, and may even found guilds of their own. A high master wizard is an extremely dangerous person to anger; a group of them working in concert could take down an avatar, or even one of the pantheon. There are no degrees at this rank -- they are members of a very select group, all of whom are given great respect. There are only 38 of them in Metamor City, and probably no more than 300 in the entire world.
What makes someone a mage?
A mage is someone whose brain is, for whatever reason, "wired"
in a way that allows him or her to shape mana fields at will (see the section
on the nature of magic for more details). This inborn predisposition is called
magery. Mages come in two basic levels of natural talent: the wizard
and the sorcerer.
The sorcerer is the more naturally powerful of
the two mages. Magic is an instinctive thing to a sorcerer -- he doesn't study
it, he just whips up spells out of thin air whenever he wants to. However, because
he discovers his talents by trial and error, he doesn't know very many spells
compared to a wizard of comparable experience. Also, like a wizard (and unlike
a psi), he still needs to use magical words, gestures
and/or reagents to cast his spells. Sorcerers tend to use a lot of flashy, powerful
spells from schools like Evocation and Abjuration.
Complex spells that require intricate knowledge of the way mana interacts with
nature, such as most Thaumaturgy, Alteration
and Enchantment spells, are generally beyond them.
Mind-effecting Enchantments, however, can sometimes be carried out by sorcerers
through the magical equivalent of brute force -- essentially battering down
the shields around a person's mind and imposing the sorcerer's will on the subject.
Whatever the spell, sorcerers are usually very powerful but lack finesse. Sorcerers
are called bloods or bloodies on the Street because their magic
comes from inborn talent (i.e., it's "in the blood") rather than a
A wizard doesn't have the same raw talent as a
sorcerer, but is more disciplined. Wizards learn their magic from books, and
they can learn a lot of it -- even a journeyman wizard may know more
than two dozen spells. However, a wizard has to prepare her spells ahead of
time -- in essence, locking away a portion of her mind with the spell stored
inside it -- if she wants to be able to cast it instantaneously later on. Because
their magic is researched and executed with a scientist's precision, wizards
are capable of far more subtle spells than most sorcerers; even low-powered
spells can accomplish a lot through careful finesse. Like the sorcerer, the
wizard depends on a combination of words, gestures and magical reagents to form
the mana fields that make up her spells. On the Street wizards are called bookies
or bookworms because of their dependence on spellbooks.
Wizards have an additional advantage over sorcerers in that they can perform
ritual magic more effectively. Ritual magic is slow, deliberate, and
involved. It often takes minutes or even hours to perform such a spell properly,
depending on the kind of spell, but it doesn't require any prior memorization
-- it can, in essence, be done "cookbook" fashion, following step-by-step
instructions written by someone else. Wizards, who spend their lives with their
noses in arcane texts, are much more comfortable with ritual magic than other
people, and are less likely to screw it up. A sorcerer, on the other hand, doesn't
have much of an advantage over a mundane when attempting to perform ritual magic;
sorcerers just aren't familiar with the way wizards' spells are put together.
Wizards are far more common than sorcerers -- about one in every five people has the potential to be a wizard, but only about one in twenty have what it takes to be sorcerers. Far fewer of both types have the time, energy and discipline to advance beyond apprentice status in the magic arts.
Can I use magic without being a mage?
Yes, but your options are limited. Mages are the only folks who can do "instantaneous"
magic, and most of the world's higher-level ritual spells can only be cast by
wizards -- either because of the mental difficulty of weaving the complicated
mana-fields involved in these spells, or because the wizards who created them
deliberately wrote down their instructions in code.
Most kinds of ritual magic, however, can be done by just about anybody
-- the texts are usually clearly written out in step-by-step fashion. However,
a non-wizard (even a sorcerer) is much more likely to make some small mistake
that will fizzle the spell or produce an unexpected result. Most modern magic
texts recognize this fact and warn the user of any stages in the ritual where
they will have to be especially careful.
Non-mages can also use potions, charms and other magic items
that have been created by wizards. Even these can backfire sometimes, though,
so the user is always advised to read the directions and follow them thoroughly.
Those who don't often end up ... changed.
The final type of magic that is usable by non-mages is the scroll. Magic scrolls are single-use spells with instantaneous effects, like a wizard or sorcerer's spells. The spell in a scroll is released if it is read aloud in its entirety. The text may or may not have anything to do with the spell itself -- it could be plain Common, a whimsical limerick, ancient Elvish, or a collection of nonsensical syllables. When the entire scroll has been read, the spell is cast and the scroll goes blank, ready for re-use. In addition to their value as emergency spells, scrolls are also used to sell the commercial spells that wizards record into their spellbooks. Once the spell has been transcribed, the scroll goes blank -- copyright protection for the commercial spell industry.
What's the nature of magic in MK:2K?
Warning: Complex, pseudo-scientific discussion of magic theory follows. If you're not interested in the nitty-gritty details of how magic works, skip to the next section.
Over the centuries, wizards have succeeded in elevating the study of magic
to nearly the level of rational, objective science. Universities offer degrees
in Manology (the study of magic), and virtually all wizards are manologists
as well. (To clarify, a manologist is someone who studies magic theory. A wizard
is someone who has actually learned how to use magic.)
Central to understanding magic is the concept of mana. Mana is the fundamental
essence of magic, just as mass is the essence of gravity and charge is the essence
of electromagnetism. Magic, as many manology textbooks define it, is an effect
produced in the material world as a result of mana in motion, or as a result
of the transformation of mana from one state to another.
Mana is not native to the Prime Material plane; it has its origin in the Aether,
a transitive plane of reality that is coterminous with all other planes (i.e.,
it touches every other area of reality). Little is known about the Aether, but
it is assumed that its overall mana stores are so large as to be considered
infinite for a wizard's purposes.
Mana is drawn from the Aether and into the Prime Material plane in several
ways. When something pulls mana out of the Aether and into the material world,
it is said to generate mana (an old term carried over from the early
days of manology, when it was thought that mana was native to the material plane).
All forms of life generate mana; the healthier and more vibrant that life is,
the more mana is generated. Mana is also generated by weather patterns, ocean
currents, earthquakes, fires, and other climatic phenomena. Mana is even generated
by death, decay, and (perhaps most importantly, from a historical standpoint)
the shedding of blood.
Mana has a natural tendency to stay with the matter that generated it; if that
matter moves on, so does the mana. This leads to mana conduits (sometimes
called ley lines) in the natural world, as various sources of mana are
joined together in life's web of interconnecting forces. When two or more conduits
cross, they create a node -- a place where mana "pools", slowed
on its journey to wherever it was going. If a node becomes large enough and
strong enough, it can form a nexus, the most powerful manological phenomenon
in the material world. Nexuses come in two types: mana springs, where
mana flows into the material plane in great abundance; and mana wells,
where mana is drawn out of the material plane and goes someplace else. The nexus
at the heart of Metamor Keep is a mana spring. The nexus at the heart of Elderwood
is a mana well, with its far terminus in the Second Hell. Obviously, a mana
well on one end of the channel means a mana spring on the other, and vice versa.
When mana stays in one place for a long time, its nature
changes to match its environment. This produces what is called aspected mana.
Just how many different types of aspects there are is still subject to debate,
but the six types that everyone agrees on are the four elemental aspects
-- Earth, Water, Air, Fire -- and the two vital aspects -- Life and
Death. Some theoreticians argue that there are as many as ten aspects, while
others argue that these additional "aspects" are the synthesis of
a combination of more fundamental aspects. Whatever the case, two things are
known: Aspected mana is more potent per unit measure than generic mana, and
it is also more limited in its applications.
Through the force of conscious will (a process that is still not fully understood, but believed to be connected to quantum mechanics and the principle of the Influential Observer), a wizard can set mana in motion in a well-defined pattern called a magic field. Depending on the type of mana used, the amount used, and the design of the pattern, a magic field can produce many different kinds of effects on matter and energy (see Types of Magic).
All magical fields decay over time. Mana can only remain in motion for a certain period of time before it loses momentum and "falls out" of the field, passing back into the Aether. The persistence of a field depends on the amount of mana originally put into it, the complexity of the field pattern, and the presence or absence of external mana sources that could continue to feed into the field.
The Mana Cycle
While the amount of mana in the Aether is assumed to be unlimited for practical purposes, there do seem to be limits on how readily it is drawn into the Prime Material Plane for the working of magic. Historical manologists have discovered that there is a periodic cycle in the accessibility of mana -- and, thus, the strength of magic in general. This cycle seems to have a period of about 4,000 years: mana levels increase for 2,000 years, hit a peak, then decrease for 2,000 years until they reach a minimum value and begin to rise again. Magic reached its height in ca. -9300 CR, about 300 years before the Elvish city of Jagoduun was destroyed by black magic and a rift was opened to the "Underworld"; peak levels were reached again in ca. -5300 CR at the time of the war against the Great Darkness, and again in ca. -1300 CR. (Each of these later peaks, however, was less than the one seen in -9000 CR, because the rift to the Underworld was draining mana out of the Prima Material Plane and causing a general decline of magic that was superimposed on the 4000-year cycle.) By 699 CR, at the time of the Battle of the Three Gates, magic was at the lowest level it had ever been in the history of MK Earth; if it were not for the fact that Metamor itself was home to one of the strongest mana springs on the planet, Nasoj's infamous Curse probably would not have worked at all.
The rift to the Underworld was sealed in December 707, at the same time that the natural mana cycle began its upswing. Since that time magic has grown increasingly stronger with each passing year; by the present day, 1999 CR, magic is already the strongest it has been since at least -4000 CR, and it will continue to grow even stronger until it peaks in roughly 2700 CR. This increase in mana levels has had a number of important effects, including:
Types of Magic
Perhaps the easiest type of magic field, an illusion field lays over top of an object or region of space and alters the light that passes out of the field, creating an image that can be seen to outside observers. The field does not affect the matter inside it in any significant way.
While illusions are easy to do, however, they're not easy to do well.
The process is made much more complicated if you're trying to replicate a specific
object or person in intimate detail; this requires in-depth knowledge of the
object or person's appearance, which is often difficult to come by. The best
illusionists are those who are gifted with eidetic memories, either through
natural talent or through the use of magic memory-aids.
This is a protective magic field. Abjuration fields block the flow of other
forms of magic, and the more powerful fields can be tuned to block energy or
matter. Some actually negate the magic fields of other spells, while others
only repel them -- and still others reverse their polarity, causing the offending
spell to bounce back at the caster! Shield spells, wards, and magical dispelling-spells
are all examples of spells that use abjuration fields.
This type of magic field opens a channel through the Aether from one place
to another, draws an object (or creature) through the channel, and spits it
out almost instantaneously on the other side. Living creatures "summoned"
in this way retain a magical conduit to their original location -- a result
of the mana they naturally generate -- and will be snapped back like a rubber
band to their original location when the conjuration field decays, usually
leaving them none the worse for wear.
An evocation field draws mana from the body of the caster -- or from the Aether, in the case of really talented wizards -- and transforms it into energy or matter (in accordance with the First Law of Manodynamics, which states that mana and energy and matter are all different forms of the same stuff and can be transformed from one type to another). Evocation is used for creating magic missiles, fireballs, and little trinkets that a wizard whips up "out of thin air". Because large atoms are much more difficult to construct out of mana than small ones, most material items formed in this way are made from the lighter, "fundamental" elements -- carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and the like. Pulling mana out of the Aether to create gold is too taxing for all but the strongest wizards, and it would be a waste of reagents in any case. Evoking energy blasts is much easier.
Aspected mana really shows its potential in evocation spells: it is much easier
to transform fire-aspected mana into a fireball than to do so with generic mana,
and you also get a lot more "bang for your buck". Ditto with producing
fog from water-aspected mana, or lightning bolts from air-aspected mana.
Also known as "miracle-working". Thaumaturgical fields surround the body of the subject and allow it to interact with the world in a way that defies the mundane laws of physics. Water Walking, Water Breathing, Feather Fall, and Flight are all classic examples of spells that use thaumaturgical fields.
Necromantic fields -- now called vital fields by those who wish to avoid
the unpleasant connotations of the traditional term -- are fields that channel
life- or death- aspected mana into or out of the subject. They can be used to
heal, to harm, or to direct the soul of an individual from one place to another.
They are very dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced magic user, and even
more dangerous in the hands of a trained Necromancer with evil intent. Some
governments and magery schools prohibit their use entirely, though they are
legal (within certain carefully-defined limits) in Metamor City.
Alteration fields induce physical changes in the matter they affect. Matter that is shaped by an alteration field enters an excited state (analogous to the excited state of an electron during fluorescence), and it will naturally return to its original shape when the magic field decays. This is why most changes induced by alteration spells, such as Alter Self or Enlarge, wear off after a certain period of time.
If considerably more mana is placed into the field, and the field is shaped
properly, the matter it affects can be forced to stabilize in a new resting
state, which negates the matter's tendency to return to its original state.
This is called spell permanency, and matter altered in this way will
not go back to its original shape on its own -- it is permanently transformed
into its new shape. Polymorph Self is the classic example of a permanent alteration
Enchantment fields bind themselves to objects and won't let go as long as they have a continuing source of mana. Enchantment fields come in two flavors, Object-Affecting and Mind-Affecting. Object-Affecting fields serve to bind another kind of magic field permanently to an object, such as an amulet or a magic weapon. The second field might be an abjuration field (Fire Resistance), an illusion field (Hypnotic Pattern), a thaumaturgy field (Feather Weight) ... many different options are possible. If a source of mana is attached to the object and the enchantment field is properly attuned to it, the spell can remain operational as long as the mana lasts.
Mind-Affecting enchantment fields serve a very different purpose, but their underlying patterns are very similar. A Mind-Affecting field binds itself to the mind of a sentient creature and induces certain patterns of thought, as determined by the caster. Most Mind-Affecting fields don't permanently alter the mind of the subject, and the effects will fade when the field decays. Some very powerful mind-affecting fields, however, can actually induce permanent changes in the structure of a subject's thought patterns, much like an alteration spell can induce permanent changes in the structure of matter. These spells are very dangerous, and their use is always highly regulated.
This is the most poorly-understood class of magic: the attempt to see beyond the barriers of space and time. Current theory suggests that divination mana fields create a "tunnel" between two points in the space-time continuum that allows a flow of information from Point B back to Point A. Depending on the type of field, it may focus on another point in space at the same time (usually called scrying), a point in the past (called augury), or a point in the future (called true divination, or simply divination). A person who specializes in this type of magic is called a seer.
Studying divination fields is extremely difficult because usually only one side of the field can be examined (i.e., the side where the seer is physically and temporally located). Most of what is known about this type of magic comes from the study of scrying, where researchers can be present at both ends of the field; it is hypothesized that augury and divination work in the same fashion, but no one has yet come up with a way to test it. It has been demonstrated, at least, that augury can be used successfully under controlled laboratory conditions; such has not been the case with true divination.
Seers make use of a wide variety of objects to focus their abilities. In the case of augury, all that is usually required is the object for which the augury is being performed; the seer "reads" the object through the use of ritual magic, seeing visions of its history. Scrying typically requires a reflecting surface of some kind, usually a crystal ball, a mirror, or a still pool of water. (The Lothanasi, however, have a system of scrying that uses a ring of concentric magic circles to focus the mind, disconnecting the caster from her body and projecting her mind to the desired destination; no scry-glass is needed.) True divination uses an amazing variety of tools and techniques, from cards to palm-reading to animal bones; every culture has developed at least one distinctive method, and often three or four. Such tools usually reveal not a single, predestined view of the future, but a set of general rules and likely possibilities. Complete visions of future events are rare, and do not seem to be under the control of the spellcaster at all.
Divination is often considered more of a calling than a vocation; most true arcane seers are sorcerers whose abilities usually work spontaneously. They study no theory to learn the use of their powers, and cannot explain how the magic works in any meaningful fashion. Augury and scrying are better understood, and most wizards learn at least a few useful spells that empleeoy this type of magic.
In recent years it has been hypothesized that most "seers" throughout history were not mages at all, but psychics. Psis who possess powers of extra-sensory perception (ESP) are known to exist, and these espers bear a great resemblance to the seers of history. Espers can see the past, the present, and/or the future; their abilities often manifest spontaneously, with little understanding of how they work; and (most compellingly) they are hereditary, being passed down from parent to child. Psi abilities also show a strong sex-bias toward females, and historically most seers have been women; futher, a male psi can pass on his abilities consistently only to his daughters, and this too seems to fit with what is known of seers of the past. Many researchers now believe that the Felikaush, the greatest line of prophets in history, were actually a line of espers -- Felix of Lee had six daughters and one son, and only the son lacked his gift. It is impossible to prove, of course, since the Felikaush died out roughly 1300 years ago, but it is a compelling idea nonetheless.
What can magic do?
This question, often asked in introductory manology courses, is usually answered
by wizards with a grin and the question "How much mana do you have?"
There are few mundane laws that magic cannot overcome if you have a properly
designed magic field and enough mana to power it. Magic has laws that govern
its behavior, as well, but these seem to be more "flexible" than the
laws that govern the behavior of matter and energy.
The biggest hurdle that is faced in most spells is the Law of Conservation.
This law states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only
transformed from one form to another. The First Law of Manodynamics offers
an "out", though, because mana can be formed into both matter and
energy, and vice versa. Thus, if you want to turn a 100-kg man into a 2-kg Chihuahua,
you can do it -- the extra mass gets converted into mana and shunted out into
the Aether. If you want to turn that Chihuahua back into a man, you draw mana
out of the Aether again and convert it back into matter. This is often tricky
work, though, and in general the less matter or energy that must be converted,
the easier the spell is to cast and the less mana it uses.
Another problem faced in the use of magic is often called the Dragon's Dilemma. In short, a creature the size of a dragon "shouldn't" be able to fly with wings of that size -- mundane physics would predict that it would be unable to generate enough lift to counteract its weight. The reason dragons can fly is because they have a thaumaturgy field around them at all times, enabling them to do what would otherwise be impossible. A wizard attempting to give a human wings, or make any other physical alteration that violates these sorts of biophysical limitations, must take this into account and include a permanent thaumaturgy field that compensates for said limitations. Any spell that requires a permanent thaumaturgy field in order to give the desired result will require significantly greater amounts of mana to produce, and the permanent field will need some sort of sustaining mana source. Usually, this mana source is an amulet or other enchanted item with a direct channel to the Aether, enabling it to function indefinitely. A very powerful wizard can create a channel to the Aether that is focused on the living individual itself, just as dragons and Elves have natural ties to the Aether.