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Paths to Power

Paths to Power

bequeathed by Leon of the Seeker

As long as Humanity and their precursors have walked this world, they have sought means of controlling the world around them without recourse to the more mundane ways of wielding such influence. Many and diverse are the methods by which Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Vetch, Trolls and other species may gain some measure of supernatural power. All have their individual benefits, and all have their downfalls.

The Elemental Route: Magic

Perhaps the best-understood means of achieving supernatural power, magic use has spread from its earliest proponents among Dragons and Elves until Mages can be found of almost every species. The Elemental Lords and Ladies are more “distant” masters than Gods or Demons, and a mage can easily be forgiven for thinking that they are not tapping power from alien intelligences from beyond the Veil. As any mage who tries casting without a proper focus or – in these modern times – trespasses in the Elemental Planes, or tries to develop Paraelemental casting, knows, though, this is not the case. Mages exist only at the sufferance of the Elemental Powers, and their power is easily taken away. Fortunately for the mage who wishes to be left out of internecine warfare between the Elemental Powers, mages are not expected to make war on their opposition element, even when a Mage favours one type of spell above all others.

There are six elements, as well as the paraelemental practise of ‘Grey magic’ (for which, see below):

Elemental PlaneElemental Lord/LadyThemesOpposing Element
AirArielMotion & ChangeEarth
EarthGromeMaintenance & StationAir
WaterStraashaDefence & HarmonyFire
FireKakatalCombat & ViolenceWater
LightElberethPerception & CommunicationDarkness
DarknessNoirObfuscation & MisdirectionLight

A new mage makes a ritual entreaty to the Elemental Powers (note that this ritual is, in essence, the only limiting factor on how many mages exist in the world – there aren’t enough Ley Nexii in the world to mass-train Elementalists) to empower a “Focus” – a material object linked to the mage themselves and the Six Elemental Planes. Foci tend to be small trinkets capable of remaining in contact with the mage.

Through personal research or tutelage, a mage will be able to delve deeper into the various elemental lores, and through them learning the practical ability to cast spells. To cast a spell, a mage carries out the required verbal and physical actions needed for that particular spell while in contact with their focus. Most spells contain a verbal component, usually consisting of ‘By my power over the element of…’ or something similar, which serve both to focus the mind and to aid in shaping the elemental energies being drawn forth. While the spell is being cast, a tiny (usually about half an inch in diameter) portal to the Elemental Plane being called upon opens over the mage’s focus, and the energy flowing from the plane into the world is shaped by the mage into a spell – interacting with the world until its energy dissipates. Elemental spells are ranked according to difficulty of casting – some Mages’ Guilds use the phrase ‘Circle’ to denote a given difficulty of spell.

For reasons that escape most mages, contact with large amounts of metal prevents spells from being cast – the energy ‘grounds’ itself through the metal and vanishes into the world. In practise, the major restriction this places on a mage is an inability to wear heavier armour, or large amounts of armour at all.

Casting is a strenuous process, and takes great reserves of mental fortitude. The mage must hold the Gate open for the required amount of time, yet prevent any Prime Material matter (such as the mage themselves) from being pulled through to the Elemental Plane. Mages usually find they can cast more and more spells between resting as they become more experienced, but pity the mage who overextends their limits. Mages commonly refer to this inner reserve of strength as “Mana”, originally an Elven term first coined to describe the transmigration of elemental energy into newborn Elven souls.

It is impossible for a mage to accidentally overexert themselves – in this case they would not have the mental fortitude to pull open a Gate in the first place. However, in times of dire need, it is possible for a mage to deliberately cast a spell while their Mana reserves are too low to sustain the spell, in a process known as Overcasting. In this case, the spell will work, but the mage will be unable to keep control over the Gate, and will be bodily sucked into their own focus, being crushed by the forces involved and dying in the process, essentially using their own body as fuel for the spell.

The only multi-Elemental form of Magic that the Elemental Lords will allow a mage to learn willingly is “Grey” magic, occasionally called ‘Metamagic’ – the practice of opening the Gate to all six Elements at once. Invented by Human mages working for the Dwarven Roma Emperors in the great Imperial Age, Grey magic is specialised towards interacting with other active spells – either reinforcing the elemental energies and thereby extending spell durations, or snuffing them out in a “dispel”.

A popular form of spell that bears its own discussion is the process of summoning the denizens of the Elemental Planes to this world. Elementals vary in size from the smallest Elemental sprite, through the Elemental types usually summoned by Mages, up through the ranks of Elemental Titans and Collossii (thankfully, a rare, but increasingly common sight in these modern times) and reaching their apex at the Elemental Lords themselves. Mages can essentially temporarily replace themselves with an elemental in a process known as ‘embodying’. The mage briefly enters the appropriate elemental realm, protected from the effects of the realm itself, and an elemental appears in their place, controlled by the mage‘s will. When the spell ends, or if the elemental is destroyed, the mage reappears in their place, none the worse for wear. It was once common practice for a mage to summon an Elemental, magically immunize their own bodies from that Element and command the Elemental to take them into the Elemental Plane. This rather foolhardy form of fast transportation, called “Gating” as the mage effectively vanished into their own spell-Gate, has now expended the Elemental Lord’s notoriously thin supplies of tolerance – mages attempting it are set upon by Elemental Titans and devoured, or (some say) taken to the Elemental Lords themselves to answer for their trespass. It is said that Ariel has bargained with mortals to allow this, but at what cost is unknown…

Since the end of the Age of High Magic, hundreds of spells were lost when their creators died, towers fell and learning vanished from the world. Rumours of undiscovered spells transcribed in lost tomes or other, stranger recording methods are a favourite topic of mage conversation – particularly the spell for “Permanency” – the very high-Circle Grey spell that bound another spell into an item or creature forever, allowing the construction of “Magic Items”, creatures such as Golems and permanent enchantments upon oneself. Perhaps it is best that it remains lost.

The Road of the Soul: Spiritualism

Seen in some places as a socially-acceptable alternative to Magic, Spiritualism relies on making a pact with a powerful being of the Spiritual Planes – also called a “God” – to serve that being’s interests on Urth in exchange for the priest gaining some measure of command over the servitor spirits of that deity, being able to order them to perform tasks. The degree of authority a priest has may increase with their standing in the eyes of their deity.

To cast a “Miracle”, many priests find mentally focusing in on their own soul helpful, using it to seek out a spirit devoted to the God the priest worships. Once one is found, the priest commands it aloud to perform its task, and the spirit (if the priest has the correct authority in the celestial hierarchy) will do so. Each priest has a limit on how many of these favours they are allowed to call in a day, and must petition their Deity at Dawn to have this “allowance” replenished. It is possible for a Miracle to transfer extra allowances of Spiritual Authority from priest to priest – these “Power Melds” are usually used by priests of members of the same pantheon.

By and large, Spiritualism is a smoother process than Magic use and Spirits are usually dedicated to their tasks. The downside of Spiritualism is that it requires devotion to a particular deity – each God places restrictions known as ‘strictures’ on how its priests act, which can affect the way that they live, socialise and carry out their duties. In many ways, the powers granted by the Gods are no compensation for the life of service that the priest willingly enters into. Breaking the strictures of a god carries severe penalties, usually involving the reduction of spirits available for use by that priest, and in extreme cases, known as ‘Spirit-Wracking’, making casting even a single miracle extremely painful and dangerous.

The Gods are organised into distinct societies – three groups of seven Gods each with the twenty-second God (The Circle of the Balance) being a member of all three groups – properly called Pantheons. Worse still, each God has an adversary in the form of a particular member of the opposite Pantheon, and many priests are expected to further their own God’s cause at the expense of the opposition, as long as such actions fit with the interests of the God, of course.

Where once there were many dozens of Gods, following a series of metaphysical catastrophes there are only twenty-two. As such, it is possible to make a short list of deities, their areas of influence and their opposite numbers. For more information, contact a member of the relevant temple.

Seal PantheonSword PantheonBone Pantheon
The Circle of the Balance – God of Neutrality
Astalon – Goddess of Law & TruthVivamort – God of Undeath & VampiresOlympia – God of Heroism
St John – God of Healing & WorthinessMallan – God of Power & RulershipThe Rat Lord – Goddess of Community through Pragmatism
The Light – God of Restraining PowerMorpheus – God of DreamsTeletos – God of Ritualism
Humact – God of Honour & DeathAzrael – God of Self & DeathThe Seeker – God of Knowledge & Learning
Ishmund – God of JusticeSordan – God of Pain & SensationGedhrent – God of Demonslaying
The Triplicity – God of Protection & CommunityThe Crofter – God of LaboursThe Dominion of Vortex – Goddess of Deception & Manipulation
Morvana – Goddess of Selflessness & CommunityBast – Goddess of Cats & SelfishnessCyranis – Goddess of Peace & Harmony

In 1300 a major spiritual shift saw similar miracles being combined into eleven different domains, which were shared by the various gods, with each god granting access to one major and five minor domains. Priests of specific gods had access to selection of those domains granted by their deity.

The Ley Lines: Geomancy

Geomancy is the manipulation of Ley energy to produce changes to physical reality. Only able to be used on the Prime Material or Planes directly powered from it (such as the pocket worlds constructed in the Age of High Magic), Geomancy is capable of virtually any result, but concurrently is the most dangerous form of power still practiced today.

Ley lines crisscross the Prime Material plane, the energy that makes up the Plane flowing down them from unknown origin to equally unknown end. At places where ley lines cross – a ley “Nexus” – the energy wells up and may be used by those schooled in Geomancy, who may order it to produce localised changes in reality, alter the shape of the world around the Nexus, produce enchanted items, divert the ley line through the Veil to construct a pocket dimension or any other imaginable end. The greatest practitioners of Geomancy in ages past were the Dwarves, who built their Empire along Geomantic lines and used it for vast landscaping projects in the Underdark.

The processes behind each ritual are unique, and the ritualist must be careful to match his or her ritual to both the intended result and the nature of the Ley Nexus being used. Some rituals – such as the Empowerment ritual to create a magical focus – are almost routine, following tried and tested formulae handed down through the centuries. Ultimately, it is in these unenlightened times almost impossible to tell how much of a recorded ritual script is showmanship, how much is simply there “just in case” and how much is actually necessary to the ritual. It is not advised for beginners, and experimentation with the forces that create and maintain the world in which we live is a delicate art indeed.

Usually (though by no means always), a Ritual calls upon some outer power, be it an Elemental Lord, Demon or God, to lend its support to the ritual. This can help focus the energies, is good manners if one is intending to affect the entity‘s focus of power and may – in disastrous circumstances – save the ritualist’s life if the being called upon is lenient and the ritual goes horribly wrong.

It is best to work from scripts passed down from the Age of High Magic, or to learn the Art by careful observation of other (successful) rituals. If you choose to tread this route, good luck. And may the Ley Lines be forgiving. Geomancy is dangerous – a failed spell or miracle does nothing, but a failed ritual will tend to severely injure those involved. At best.

The Demonic Track: Diablerie

Sometimes called Demonology (which is technically a more general term relating to the study of demons), Diablerie is a form of ritualism where the prospective demonologist performs a rite to attract the attention of a Demon from the planes beyond the Spiritual Planes in which they dwell, and bargains with it for granted powers. In return for upholding their side of the bargain (and the things asked for by the Demons are left to the reader’s imagination), the Diablerist is often granted supernatural powers, sometimes resembling either Elemental magic, Spiritual miracles or both. Detailed knowledge of demonology and diablerie is rare, and the practise is usually frowned upon.

The Way of Metal: Hextech

Hextech is a new art created in the Mists of 1299. Before this, there was no Hextech anywhere in the world. Hextech has existed for a few decades in Byzantium, which was itself created in the same Mists, but is still a new technology even there. There is no ‘ancient Hextech’.

Hextech is usually composed of a combination of ‘elemental metal’, which contains elemental power of one element or another, alchemical metal, which can be distilled from silver by alchemists, and more mundane materials, in order to create devices capable of replicating large numbers of primarily elemental abilities.

The Elemental Metals are as follows:

  • Etherium – Air
  • Bronzite – Earth
  • Viridium – Water
  • Bloodstone – Fire
  • True Gold – Light
  • Darksteel – Darkness

Hextech devices are created by drawing up a design schematic and then combining the required amounts of elemental and alchemical metals. The skills required to build Hextech devices have a large overlap with those needed for construction and smithing.

All Hextech items have a limited working life, which can be extended by regular maintenance. Hextech devices channel magical energy along the precisely delineated paths of elemental metal in their construction, and are powered by their alchemical metal content, plus potentially mana crystals or other power sources. Although Hextech items cannot produce spiritual effects, a skilled Hextechnician might be able to work out ways to create effects that appear superficially similar despite the different method of execution underlying them.

Runemetal, a very rare and magically inclined form of metal, may also be used to power Hextech items, as it is much more powerful, albeit also much harder to acquire, than alchemical metal. The other rare metal which should be mentioned is Cold Iron. Where the elemental metals and Runemetal work to enhance magical abilities, Cold Iron actively works against elemental effects. Woe betide anyone using Cold Iron in an elemental metal construction. Cold Iron inhibits and blocks magical abilities, and also has detrimental effects on geomancy practised in its vicinity. This metal is also useful for killing elementals, elemental elves and others bound to the elements. The most common source of Cold Iron in Albion is from the Peaks, a blasted wasteland where Cold Iron periodically falls from the skies and poisons the very air.