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How would conjuring fire work?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Alcatas, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. Alcatas

    Alcatas Acolyte

    Hey everybody,

    While hammering out my magic system I stumbled upon an issue that I'm having a hard time conceptualizing. Magic in this particular world, in its most basic form, revolves around the commonly used four basic element model.

    The principles behind how earth, water, and air manipulators ply their craft is quite obvious (earth dude levitates a nearby rock, water guy moves a pool of water, etc.), but how exactly would fire mages actually project flame?

    In doing some research, it seems as if you consider fire as not...fire, but as a class of plasma (lightning is also a plasma), then theoretically if you magnified ambient heat/body heat/solar energy, etc. and superheated the air you could transform air into plasma. But then, you would still need to ignite the plasma somehow, wouldn't you? I'm no physicist (not even close), but assuming this even works I'd imagine this would take really, really high temperatures to achieve (thousands of C?). In addition, once summoned in the wizard's hand, wouldn't the heat from this set aflame anything combustible in the immediate vicinity (like the caster's clothing)?

    Originally I was set on the rule that wizards/mages can only manipulate existing elements, which would render this point moot, but then I got to thinking...

    Can anyone shed light on how a fire mage would actually be able to conjure fire in their palm? Please let me know what you guys thin or if I'm not making any sense (entirely possible).

  2. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    They could draw the heat from themselves, though that obviously has risks. Aside from that...I can't really help you, sorry. I'm no physicist either. Although, maybe they could carry matches around with them?
  3. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    If you're trying to work with conserving energy the way the other elements conserve mass, Fire would work by drawing in heat from around the target and focusing it to burn one spot. (Yes, a ring of cold around a point of flame.)

    Then again, maybe the force required to move a rock is about equal to the energy to torch something anyway, so it's in balance even without that. A physicist could tell you more.

    The magic would probably put a lot of its training into controlling the heat once gathered (after all, dangerous!) so that it wouldn't spread where the mage didn't want it, and so he could douse it by either disrupting it or holding it in one place where it would burn itself out. The other magics control their elements, so fire should do more than just "create" flame. --In fact, even if it takes too much energy to create a big flame at once, maybe Fire is better at shaping and steering the fire as it grows, like the other elements do but more dangerous.

    By the way, are you sure Earth should levitate its rocks? I've always thought Earth was the slowest, clumsiest element, and its attacks should be more twist-your-footing and raise-a-wall rather than focused barrages. (Sorry, Avatar.)
    Alcatas likes this.
  4. Plasma is, strictly speaking, the fourth state of matter. If you count ionized gasses as plasma, the states of matter actually line up pretty neatly with the classic elements:

    Earth = Solids
    Air = Gasses
    Water = Liquids
    Fire = Plasma

    I always thought that was kinda cool. The old Greeks basically got it right after all.

    To create fire, you need three things: Oxygen, heat and fuel. Oxygen is all around in the air, so that's easy. The tricky part is heat and fuel.

    In order to magically conjure fire (as opposed to just manipulate it) you'll probably going to at least need the power to generate or manipulate large amounts of heat. Now, heat radiates, kinda like light, so it can theoretically be directed and thus not necessarily set fire to stuff the fire wizard doesn't want to immolate. Because "cold" is really just absence of heat, a side effect of this power might be to cool things as well, so you might actually make frost magic a side effect of heat magic.

    Now, to make fire you need to apply heat to fuel in an enviroment with oxygen. One straightforward method might be to simply direct a beam of heat at an enemy, causing him to burst into flames. It would be kinda like having an invisible death ray.

    If that is too overpowered, my suggestion would be to make it relatively easy to control fire that already exists but difficult to manipulate temperatures. So, a novice mage might need to carry a lighter around in order to light fires manually and then take control that fire. (Same way the X-Men character Pyro does.) A more accomplished mage might carry around a source of fuel, say a bag of sawdust mixed with gunpower, or a flask of kerosene, being able to generate enough heat to light it on fire when needed. A master fight simply point at anything nearby and have it go up in flames.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
    Nighty_Knight and Alcatas like this.
  5. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I believe Nicholas Cage explained fire in magic very well in "Sorcerer's Apprentice". They manipulate fire by means of friction. Rubbing the air molecules together. It's also explained in a manga who's name I forget, but to use fire in that world they have to knead the atmosphere. That's how they make fire. Projecting it could fall under a combination of both. The molecules rub together at a fast rate and the atmosphere is kneaded into a push and pull on the fire which takes it to the target.
    Alcatas likes this.
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello Alcatas, and Welcome to Mythic Scribes!!

    After reading this thread about how conjuring fire attacks would work, I thought that you might find this other thread interesting: Pure Heat Attacks.

    Elemental Magic is cool, sometimes I think that it would be fun to write a story with that kind of Magic...
    Alcatas likes this.
  7. Agitating air molecules would produce heat, but not fire. Air is not itself flammable, which is sort of a good thing for life on earth.
    Nighty_Knight likes this.
  8. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Well, if it got hot enough, the air could react to nitrogen oxides but that would be rather unhealthy for everyone present. Nitrogen dioxide is highly toxic. Could be useful in a battle situation though, if the mage's own soldiers are far enough away.

    Fire is the result of chemical reactions that give out energy. Usually, the reaction with oxygen and a combustible substance. Under normal circumstances, there's an energy barrier keeping these reactions from happening. It has to do with the properties of oxygen molecules but I don't think you'll have to describe it down to the subatomic particles.
    The fire mage simply has to give the activation energy necessary to start the process. At least, as long as you have oxygen and material that can be oxidized present. Human skin could be used for this purpose but with unpleasant side effects of course. ;)
    This way, fire magic is a relatively realistic power to be worked without too much effort, the processes that are started give energy after all. Maybe the mage could even use some of it to strengthen themselves.
    Fire without any fuel isn't possible on earth. You'd have to do this the pure "it's magic" route and there's nothing wrong with that. We're writing fantasy after all. ;)
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  9. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    I think perhaps what is needed is a spark, which could come from such a thing as steel and flint bracelets or rings struck to produce the spark. Your mage's power then would come into force with keeping that spark bright and growing to create a ball of flame to throw, or whatever else you are aiming for.
    Alcatas likes this.
  10. mbartelsm

    mbartelsm Troubadour

    Why not make fire an element itself? in real life, fire is not more than light and heat produced by a chemical reaction. In your world fire can be fire, you could think of it as heat and/or as flames that are composed of the element of fire. Nothing stops you from messing with the laws of physics, after all, it's fantasy

    For example, my universe is composed of seven elements (Lightning (electricity), Wind (gases), Fire (heat and flames), Metal, Earth (stone), Wood (meat, wood, dirt), and Water (liquids)), these elements come in different colors and shapes (for example copper and iron) and combinations of them make impure objects (steam is fire and water, lava is fire and earth).
    Alcatas likes this.
  11. Alcatas

    Alcatas Acolyte

    Thanks everyone for the responses, lots of great ideas and I will definitely be implementing quite a few of them!

    I realize I could kind of gloss over the specifics of how this would all work, but I'm trying to have a "physically" accurate fantasy world modeled after our own earth and so was curious as to how this would all function theoretically.

    Which brings me to a follow on question - many people (including the avatar creators) group fire with lightning. As Anders and I have mentioned before, this is logical in the sense that both can be considered as plasma. However, if heat manipulation is the true essence of flame manipulation, how would this skill translate to shooting lightning bolts?

    As far as I know, lightning (the cloud to ground kind) is an electromagnetic discharge between two points of different electric charges.

    The closest thing to a classic lightning bolt appears to be a spark. From wikipedia: "The most spectacular form of ESD is the spark, which occurs when a heavy electric field creates an ionized conductive channel in air". Thus, what needs to happen to replicate this, and how would you change the electric charge of your target so that your spark/lightning bolt can roast your enemy? In addition, can you manipulate heat through the manipulation of electromagnetism? Would this basic, fundamental ability allow "fire mages" the ability to control flame, heat and electricity?

    Whew, all this science is making my head hurt :) As always, any help/insight is always appreciated!
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  12. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Heat and lightning are very different uses of forces, although Avatar and many games like to link them. Heat works on molecules, electricity on free electrons-- the main connection is that extremes like serious lightning and plasma-level heat generate/change a lot of the other as a side effect. If you want the "fire" element to include lightning, you might be saying it's misnamed and actually gives control over other energies too, such as cold (lack of heat) and magnetism (polarized electricity).
  13. Alcatas if you watch Avatar the Last airbender tv show you will find an interesting discussion on how firebenders conjure fire.
  14. Tenebroscus

    Tenebroscus New Member

    It's quite simple actually, fire users don't actually create any fire at all. They are heat and oxygen manipulators. They use a piece of equipment that makes a spark or existing ember or flame and then takes all of the oxygen they can in the immediate atmosphere and feeds it directly to that source. This enlarges and fuels the source to their required size where they then use their heat manipulation to control the flame, with any burnables it interacts with being the variable for how long that fire actually lasts or the strength of their actions.

    If it's just a spark then they can create a blinding flash of light and enough heat to make people uncomfortable. An ember could be turned into a fire bullet of sorts. A lighter can be a jet of flame. A campfire can be a pillar or explosion of flame. A volcano, well, probably a tiny armageddon. Direct solar exposure I increases their power, being heat and all.
  15. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

    An old discussion come back to life—or maybe it caught fire! As long as it is here, I'll mention the method of fire-conjuring in my world. My mages simply reach into another world, find a flame, and bring it back. It won't 'stay' as such things always pop back to their origin eventually but it can be used. This is a little magic, not something one would use for attacking normally, but convenient when one needs to light a lamp or a campfire.
  16. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    Volcanoes don’t have fire or flammable material. It’s sulfur compounds and molten rock.
  17. Tenebroscus

    Tenebroscus New Member

    It's the heat I'm talking about. Just imagine manipulating the heat of a volcano to fuel your pyromancy.
  18. Scott Casey

    Scott Casey New Member

    I think fire conjurers can manipulate more than fire, I think fire mages can manipulate wind in order to feed a fire, and maybe telekinesis to create energy under the fire as to create a barrier of protection from heat. And I've always heard a fundamental rule of conjuration, is that you cannot create or conjure it from nothing, I feel as though the fire mage would need a hand full of wood dust to then have a catalyst and a conduit to project heat into/ onto; rather than just summoning it raw. Also from personal experience I've found that if you manipulate heat it then creates smoke, then if you think about the smoke igniting or lighting on fire that usually causes it to combust, creating a a stream of fire down to the source of the smoke. The mage would just need a form of smoke and wind.
  19. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Scribe

    But oxygen is combustible. And with something to burn, gives it a fuel source. So Friction+O2+fuel source=fire

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