From the Ground Up – The Nature of Magic – Spellcasting

This weeks Topic covers the nature of magic as used by the spellcasting classes and beings in the world. We’ve set the stage, now, for a world properly structured, infused with a number of types of magic, and populated with all sorts of creatures and plants. Today, we move forward with examining the way that people would interact with magic. 

The Lore of Magic

In D&D, the form of magic that many people are familiar with is the Faerunian concept of The Weave. Its extremely pervasive because it is extremely versatile. Its an almost limitless tool to explain how the world connects to the magic. An interlocking fabric of magic overlaying everything in the real world speaks to the innate concept of how we feel about magic in the real world. It makes the most sense to us. 

But, what are the alternatives to the weave? What options do we have available to us? 

Honestly, there are many. Among the many out there, my favorite is the Dark Sun system, where you pull magic from the life around you in order to create whatever magical result is desired. That, though, is not something I want to import because of the nature of the system and the inevitability of the dark sun setting then being mine. What I have settled on, however, are varying degrees of magic, depending on what the nature of your manipulation is. Unlike in the weave paradigm, you aren’t using different conduits to interact with the same substance. In the method I prefer to use, each magic is the manipulation of its own separate substance. 

This methodology of magic, separated from both the Weave and the Dark Sun version of magic, seems to be the way magic works in the D&D players handbook. Its broken down into a number of magic categories

Arcane Magic – That used by Wizards
Divine Magic – That used by Paladins and Clerics
Primal Magic – That used by Druids, Rangers
Ki – That used by Monks
Inherent Magic – That used by Sorcerers and Bards
Otherworldly Magic – That used by Warlocks

I like these classifications, because it gives inherent flavor and thought to each class and how they come about their magical powers. It makes sure that each way of using magic feels organic and different, maintaining a common thread through the spells and powers that they have. Monsters, too, use this same classification, enabling them to tap into each of the different powers depending on their nature. 

Arcane Magic 

Arcane magic is the closest thing to The Weave in this setup. The power used by wizards is study, diligence, and repetition, allowing each mage power over the various foundational magics within the world. They can create fire out of nothing, summon beasts to aid them, and beguile the mind. Each spell is the culmination of dozens of hours of research, thought, and experimentation, peering into the space between the known and the unknown to come out with a greater mastery of the underpinning forces of the world. Arcane Magic is the thinking mans magic, and is often some of the most powerful magic that a mortal can learn. 

Divine Magic 

In dire contrast to Arcane magic, Divine magic is the power of Faith. When a practitioner of divine magic casts a spell, they are making their god aware of the dire need they have, and their god, even as mighty as they are, deems the task worthy and the spell accomplishes that to which the prayer was uttered for.  When a task needs to be done, the Divine caster simply asks their deity to perform this small miracle for them, this wonder of power and a signal of their might, and it is done. Paladins use this almost exclusively for war, and Priests, while also martial, tend to use this mostly for the benefit of others. The Paladin demonstrates the gods might and wrath via prayers to direct their gods fury, Priests often demonstrate their gods beneficence and splendor through their devotion and supplicants . 

Primal Magic

Primal Magic, compared to the two aforementioned magics, is much more innate. it is the basic and instinctual magic of the world, tapped into by a beings pure connection with their natural surroundings. While Divine and Arcane magic are magics of learning and asking, Primal magic is the magic of being! Practitioners of primal magic are people who are able to tap into the fundamental magics of the world, pulling on ley lines, elementals and spirits, harnessing them, often with their blessing and permission, and utilizing them to their ends. Many times, those who tap into primal magics are those closest to nature, those who revere and respect its institutions, and who in turn have gained its respect.

Ki

The Magic of the Internal Balance, Ki is unique to monks and other enlightened beings. Far from the flashy and powerful magics previously, the magic of Ki is that it is subtle and unassuming. The speed, grace and agility that one is granted by tapping into ones Ki is often effortless and seamless to the person viewing it. While there are people who can tap into their Ki to create great and devastating effects, it is not the norm. Ki represents the inner peace capable of all of is, and the power it can have once unleashed. 

Inherent Magic

Similar to Ki, but with a different methodology, Inherent magic is that of the Sorcerer and the Innate spell caster. Dragons, Demons, and Divine creatures all have inherent magic. In the case of Divine magic, it is actually the focused and allowed tapping of the Inherent Magic of a Divine being for a specific called upon use. Inherent magic is often flashier and more powerful than Ki. tapping into your inherent magic is more taxing, often more untamed and significantly more showy than other magics. This isn’t due to the caster being a showboat, though it is possible, but more likely because the caster, to all other forms of magic, would be a novice right up until his dying day. A Wizard knows how to comb through the universes power to create a Fireball, a Divine Priest begs that his patron deity will allow him to smite his enemies with a fireball. An inherent magic user simply tears a fireball into existence from sheer force of the magic within his being! 

Otherworldly Magic

Otherworldly magic is similar to that of the Divine, but combines it with Inherent. Otherworldly is the gift of a patron, either malevolent or benevolent, of the use of their inherent power however the user sees fit. Often this is of dire consequence to those opposite the wrath of a wielder of Otherworldly Magic. This takes the middle ground between the Faith based, begging to be answered divine magic and the wild impossibility of the Inherent Magic. Instead, its a learned, faith based method of magic that allows better and stronger sculpting of that same magic over a period of time, with study and application of education. While they seem similar, the powers of the Divine and the powers as a gift from the otherworld are miles and miles apart!