Magic in Desolation
Magic exists in nearly all fantasy worlds. It is magic that helps set the fantastic apart from the mundane. In some worlds, magic is pervasive and embedded into everyday life. In others, it is a strange and mysterious force that can only be tapped into by a select few. In the world of Desolation, magic falls somewhere in between, taking many different forms and being viewed in many different ways.
Before the Apocalypse, the Empire took special care to find and train those with great magical potential. They sought talented people from all walks of life. They believed magic would make life better for all, making it one of the foundations of their society. To the Empire, magic was both an art and a science — but more than anything else, it was a tool.
Outside the Empire, people looked at magic with wonder, reverence and fear. Many tied it into their religion and faith. They believed that such power could only come from the gods, so those who could use it must be holy men. Others saw it as a dark art that was not to be tampered with.
Asking where magic came from is like asking where the mountains came from or why there is air. Magic is simply part of the world, but it can only be accessed by tapping into an invisible energy field. Sorcerers have described this as a “curtain draped across the world, woven of magical energy” that they call the Weave. Each magical tradition has its own belief regarding the nature of magic and the Weave, but all draw their spell casting abilities from it — whether they realize it or not.
Regardless of the tradition and their beliefs, all magic works in essentially the same way. It allowed the user to gather power from the Weave and process it through his or her body and mind to create a magical effect. Different traditions allowed the caster to create specific effects by drawing power from the Weave in different ways. There was one constant: Burn.
Burn is known by different names — the price, drain, the weaver’s fee, bleed, and more. It is the cost every user must pay when casting a spell. It is a painful process that occurs when the power from the Weave is filtered through the caster to create a spell. The more powerful the spell, the more energy needed, and the more extensive the Burn.
No one is immune to Burn, but it can be mitigated. Experience is a caster’s greatest ally against Burn. Constant training, preparation and knowledge can help improve the casting process by increasing efficiency and refining technique, or even raising a caster’s tolerance to Burn. Before the Apocalypse, there were items a caster could use to help deal with Burn. They are now rare and highly coveted.
Magic in the After
Something happened to the Weave during the Night of Fire. When the world was reshaped, the Weave was changed as well. One of the few remaining scholars has compared the Weave to a briar patch that surrounds a small pool of water. When someone casts a spell, they must reach through the briars and pull out some of the water. Before the Apocalypse, the thorns were small. But now, the briar patch is thicker, the thorns are bigger and sharper — and the water is boiling.
When the Apocalypse occurred, magic users were especially unprepared for the sudden and extreme change in Burn. It is estimated that more than half of the Empire’s Council of Magores fell in a single minute during the Night of Fire, consumed by the power of their own magic. Before dawn, nearly all spell casters were either dead or unconscious — and in the coming days, unconsciousness often equaled death.
Life for magic users is difficult after the Night of Fire. Their skill was now a double-edged sword they were afraid to wield. What once set them apart from everyone else was now something they feared. It was like telling a blacksmith that every time he swung a hammer it might explode.
On top of this, the respect and awe magic users once received turned into distrust and anger. Nearly everyone blamed the Apocalypse on magic. Different people blamed different traditions, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter who was casting the spell. Magic and those who used it were turned into pariahs. People needed someone to blame, and casters and holy people were the easiest targets.
Holy people suffered somewhat at the hands of the masses, but in addition to the need for blame, people also needed hope and guidance. The holy people provided this, and the spell casters did not. Magic users, no matter how well intentioned, learned magic was not welcome in the world after the Apocalypse.
A terrible number of people were stoned, burned and hanged as spell casters — regardless of whether they deserved it. Most of these people were incapable of casting a spell, but possessed skills and knowledge above the norm, such as midwives, healers, herbalists, engineers and other learned people. In their efforts to protect themselves, the masses destroyed those they would need the most.
And now magic, like most other professions that require great skill and training, is dying a slow death. All the great teachers are dead. All the great libraries are lost. All those with potential are untapped. Without great effort, the art will be lost in a generation or two.
Sample Tradition: Primal Magic »