Friday, July 18, 2014

Starfall: Magic

Soundtrack: [1], [2]
Between the threads of reality flows tremendous power. The potential to guide natural forces, affect minds and actions, and sew destruction.

Bardic Magic

“It is thought that words have power.  They can bring things to life.  If you tell a story over and over the same way . . . something might happen.  The World Spirit or any of the other innumerable spirits might take it as truth and make sure it becomes truth.  This is why there are so many versions of Father Sun and Mother Moon.  The only thing that is consistent is the World Spirit.”
- An old shaman

Bardic magic is best described as audible art elevated to magical levels.  When a practitioner becomes so skilled that his music, poetry, and prose approach perfection, he finds that he can work actual magic on his audience.  Craftsmen and visual artists seem capable of something similar, but bardistry holds a special place in society; it is the foundation of the world’s history.


Bardic magic draws upon the practitioner’s connection to the audience via his art.  This connection allows him to affect the minds of others and even alter the odds of an event occurring.  Thus, the bard resides somewhere between the shaman and the mystic.  In order to tap into this connection, he must perform flawlessly with such emotion and power that his music or recitation goes beyond merely entertaining – it must move people.

Capabilities & Limitations

Bardic magic is relatively limited in scope, but what can be accomplished with that magic is impressive indeed.  Bards can alter the thoughts and feelings of entire crowds, control spirits, and even write the future itself.  This can incite riots, prevent wars, win the heart of a princess, or eloquently lecture an adversary on his inadequate ability to cast insults.

Bardic magic suffers a few major limitations.  It cannot create enduring magical artifacts like potions, charms, or magic items.  It cannot affect that which cannot hear, although the effects of bardistry may – e.g., inciting a mob to attack a deaf monster.  Lastly, it is noisy, completely nullifying any attempts at stealth; indeed, by definition, a bard must vocalize or play loudly enough to be heard by his subjects.  In situations where stealth is required, bardic magic is impossible, as it also is when the caster is gagged or, possibly, bound.

The Cost

Bardic magic is easier to learn than mysticism, but does not approach the ease of black magic (see below).  One must first master an audible art form – spoken word, singing, a musical instrument, etc.  He must master it so thoroughly that he can sway the emotions of an audience without magic.  This is no mean feat, but it merely requires years of playing and perfecting an instrument, rather than learning an entirely new way of thinking.  Once accomplished, the bard need "only" learn to reach out through his art to touch his audience. This has much in common with mysticism, but its highly specialized nature helps mitigate the decades of training mystics undergo.

Black Magic

"Black magic" is best described as the channeling and shaping of the raw chaotic energies of the Maelstrom. That foul force that has insinuated itself into the fabric of reality ever seeks to twist, pervert, and corrupt the world, typically through witches’ best intentions. While it may sound torturously difficult serve as a conduit of demonic energies, the chaotic force wants to be unleashed on the world. It wants to warp creation. It wants to consume everything. For that reason, it has proved alarmingly easy for most practitioners.

While it is easy to unleash the chaos of magic, the difficulties lie in controlling that chaos so that it doesn’t pervert and erode the practitioner’s body, mind, or soul, and in producing the desired effect instead of whatever random outcome with which the Lords of Chaos wish to blight the world. Most witches will tell you that they harden themselves against such evils through various ceremonies, rituals, and initiations, but the truth remains that few witches are anything less than eccentric, and most are distinctly antisocial.


As with everything that calls from the Maelstrom, black magic is inherently evil, chaotic, and corrupting.  This is both its advantage and its cost.   The energies themselves naturally want to mutate and corrupt the world.  They do not abide by any natural laws and are quite capable of producing any imaginable effect – and many beyond comprehension.  All of this combines to create a source of magic that is naturally easy to unleash and inherently dangerous to both the caster and the world around him.

The power of the Maelstrom varies from place to place and from time to time, much as the power of nature does, but in distinctly alien ways.  Where the ebb and flow of natural power is linked to the seasons and purity of the wilderness, the potency of chaos varies with the subtle shifting of stars, degradation of nature, and latitude.  The lattermost is the reason many believe there is a gaping wound in the world far to the north beyond the Sea of Ice.

Capabilities & Limitations

Chaotic magic is capable of anything.  Not just what is imaginable, but even such arcane concepts as absolute nothingness and impossibility.  It can make anything truth to the world.  It is bound by no physical laws and does not suffer the constraints of green magic.  It does, however, have an easier time increasing the amount of chaos and entropy in the world than creating order.  This more readily lends it to destructive and maddening uses over restorative ones.

The Cost

As with all power, black magic carries a cost, and being such a powerful source of power, that cost is far from trivial.  Tritely put, the cost is the caster’s immortal soul.  No matter how well a caster is able to control and focus the powers of chaos, his will eventually slips and those powers eat away at him, corrupting him thinking, his morals, his body, and even his very soul.  Over time, black magic practitioners develop depraved, macabre, eccentric personalities; twisted anatomies; rotten organs; and tainted spirits incapable of rejoining the World Spirit.  What’s worse, black magic is highly addictive.  The feeling of truly godlike power coursing through one’s body leaves its imprint so strongly on the psyche that even the most willful eventually crumble before the temptation to fell that rush again.

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